August Books List / Reviews

Thursday 1 September 2016

August Books List / Reviews
A round-up of the books that I read last month:-

(1) The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko 
Fantasy / Horror: "A small number of Muscovites with supernatural powers – those who are Other, owing allegiance either to the Dark or the Light – co-exist in an uneasy truce, each side keeping a close eye on the other’s activities around the city."

I watched the film adaptation of The Nightwatch a few years ago and when I mentioned it to a friend recently, he recoiled in horror and urged me to read the book, so I did. The Nightwatch is a fast-paced, urban fantasy set in the real world of 90s Moscow, Russia but with a dark supernatural twist. The age old war between Good and Evil (or Light and Dark) has been relatively at peace thanks to a mutual treaty, until now. Cue vampires, powerful magicians, and the people, 'Others', who police either side; The Nightwatch and The Daywatch, all brought together in a complex mission to try and stop the end of the world from happening. 

I have to say that I enjoyed the book a lot more than the film as several key points are different, which I feel made the story more gripping. I do wish I could read this in Russian though because some of the language does seem to have gotten lost in translation which made the book come across as a bit disjointed in places. [3/5]

(2) The Consolations Of Philosophy by Alain De Botton
Non-fiction / Philosophy / Self-Help: "Singlehandedly, de Botton has taken philosophy back to its simplest and most important purpose: helping us live our lives."

If you're interested in some of the main theories that have arisen from the minds of great philosophers such as Socrates and Nietsche, but don't want to study for a philosophy degree or spend years reading dry academic tomes, The Consolations of Philosophy, is the easy shortcut book for you. Here, Alain de Botton, has not only cleverly condensed multiple theories into snappy, easy to read chapters, but he's also directly related them to 'everyday problems' that most of us have or are experiencing such as anxiety, failure, unrequited love etc - funnily enough these are the same problems that the great philosophers were trying to answer back in their time! In a nutshell, the author has brought a tiny amount of philosophy to the masses, and done a lot of the legwork for you.

Obviously though, the fact that these chapters are so short illustrates the main problem with this book as it still leaves many questions unanswered, however as an introduction to these ideas, it's ideal for beginners to philosophy and accessible to many which can only be a positive thing. [3/5]

(3) A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Non-fiction / Essays / Feminism: "The essay is generally seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy."

I may not be the biggest fan of Virginia Woolf's literature (I don't hate it, I just have to be in the right mood to read it), but my god, the woman can write a powerful essay to command the attention of anyone lucky enough to be in attendance. Her seminal piece, A Room Of One's Own, clearly demonstrates the many injustices that women were facing at the time (social status judgements, the traditional roles of women at home, lack of recognition when they did something creative etc), and describes these with such venom that I was thoroughly captivated throughout.

The book however is not simply just about women, but also comments on the creative process of writing and the importance of having creative freedom in your work. My favourite quote was, “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind." [4/5]

(4) On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Contemporary: "Why do we fall in love with the people we do? Why do we visit our mistakes on our children? What makes life truly beautiful?"

The politics and quarrels of families always provide entertaining reading fodder, but in On Beauty, these often 'normal family issues' are given a more intelligent and thought-provoking spin. Zadie Smith utilises her excellent writing ability to explore the issues of race, age, gender and society's expectations which her characters are dealing with, and examines how even academics can be petty and stupid when they think no-one's looking or judging them. 

On Beauty was a real page turner for me. I loved the drama of the Belseys and Kippses who seem to despise and envy each other, but I also enjoyed the deeper socio-political themes that ran throughout and the humour that popped up every now and again. [4/5]

(5) Confessions Of An English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey
Non-fiction / Autobiography: "Confessions is a remarkable account of the pleasures and pains of worshipping at the 'Church of Opium'." 

Thomas de Quincey's 19th-century memoir of being addicted to opium (or the laudanum preparation) is a chaotic mess and not in a good way. Admittedly, I knew this was going to be a difficult read because of the archaic language as this was published back in 1821, but I wasn't prepared for how unstructured and frustrating this brief autobiographical account was going to be. 

Quincey's prose is mostly boring and pompous, with a sheer desperation for wanting to impress the reader. What stops me from giving this an even lower rating, are the 20 or so 'good' pages towards the end which actually focus on his addiction (and describe in horrifying detail some of his nightmares and afflictions), which are so much more engaging than the dreary, tedious, ramblings that dominate the majority of this short book. [2/5]

(6) The Waste Land And Other Poems by T. S Eliot
Poetry / Literature: "Published in 1922, The Waste Land was the most revolutionary poem of its time, offering a devastating vision of modern civilization which has lost none of its power as we approach the end of the century."

Although there are other poems in this brief collection, it's The Waste Land that provides the main body and is probably T.S. Eliot's most famous poem, if not one of the most famous and revered poems of the twentieth century.

Haunting, depressing, grossly complex and riddled with numerous themes, The Waste Land is an epic beast of a poem that demands to be read several times before you can really start to figure out what it's all about, and even then, I felt like I was only scratching at the surface. Definitely requires some additional research to fully get to grips with it, but well worth the extra effort. [4/5]

What have you been reading lately?

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  1. I've done loads of reading this month! I have my next few months worth of books planned out but I just added Night Watch to it! It looks good!

    1. Well done Sally! The Night Watch is a cool read, let me know what you think of it if you pick it up! x

  2. Sadly haven't read any of these but just finished reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt and I can't recommend it enough!!!

    * Electric Sunrise - Fashion and Lifestyle Blog *


    1. Ooo I read that a couple of years ago and loved it! x


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