*** The Unexpected New Favorite Award ***
An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
This was a thrift store find I bought on a whim. I was greatly moved by this fictional historical memoir, written by Ishiguro (of The Remains of the Day fame). An aging Japanese man realizes his past is not creating the bright legacy he had envisioned. Subtly written, yet incredible.
*** The Finally, Finally Read It Award ***
The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
I liked the beginning of this book a lot. That made the ending somewhat disappointing. However, I had to admit it is a worthy American classic, with good writing and thought-provoking scenes.
*** The History Is Disturbing Award ***
Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron - Nicholas Fraser, Marysa Navarro
This is supposedly the best, most judicial biography of Eva Peron out there. After that masterful T. E. Lawrence biography by John Mack, I was underwhelmed by Fraser and Navarro's sources; this book read more like magazine articles than a scholarly paper. More than once, there was a statement that was an opinion, and there was no easy way for me to tell from whence the opinion originated. Writing aside, the topic matter was chilling. Eva, Juan, the political situation in Argentina at the time - all of it was very depressing. An interesting read nonetheless. Especially pertinent was reading how the Perons controlled the media and depictions of themselves.
*** The Polar History Is More My Thing Award ***
In the Land of White Death - Valerian Albanov
This little book deserves all the glowing reviews it has. If you're looking for an introduction to polar literature, I highly recommend the Russian navigator Albanov's account of his survival trek through the Arctic. The human element comes through strongly in his narrative; it's great that he did not edit out the personal side to his story.
*** The I Need to Read More Hoffmann Award ***
Nutcracker and Mouse King and The Tale of the Nutcracker - E.T.A. Hoffmann, Alexandre Dumas
(Side note: E.T.A. is such a great set of initials.)
I let myself forget the Nutcracker I knew before, and I really, really loved the Hoffmann original. Dumas's version is also great, but more polished. Read them both! What better month to do so?
*** The Unexpectedly Disappointing Award ***
Tales of Unrest - Joseph Conrad
I've come to the conclusion that Conrad wrote in two ways: sheer genius, and not. This series of depressing (unrestful) tales is not genius. It's not great, unfortunately. I didn't like any of them.
*** The Terrifying, Also Would Not Recommend Award ***
Dracula's Guest - Bram Stoker
Friends, when a Goodreads reviewer advises you to skip a story, do not try to be a completionist. Heed their advice. They know what they're talking about. You don't need to read all the creepy stories. You really don't.
*** The Beautifully Written, Tough to Understand Award ***
Memories of the Future - Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
This author was new to me; I read the book because he's supposed to be similar to Kafka. Even in translation, Krzhizhanovsky is a lovely writer; his analogies and word choices seem so fresh, even original, compared to other writers. The trouble is, I was confused most of the time. I did like the last story, "Memories of the Future," but it's very similar to The Time Machine. Would read more by him in the future (ha. ha.).
*** The Better Than the Movie Award ***
Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi
I'm not big on this fairytale, but it was certainly entertaining. Pinocchio is such a bad son to Geppetto, and still I felt sorry for him. Like most fairytales, the amount of exaggeration makes it hard to believe at times (I really think Pinocchio would have learned his lesson faster than he does!). I'll probably keep this one, though; it's definitely a classic.
*** The Childhood Heroine Award ***
Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words
Joan of Arc has always been an inspiration to me. This books is a compilation of quotes by her, which forms something of an autobiography. It's sobering to realize that the main reason we have these quotes is because she was captured and spoke the majority of these statements at her trial. I really recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about her. Reading what she did and said 600 years ago makes you feel both how long ago and recent it was.
*** The Childhood Memory Award ***
The Silent World - Jacques Cousteau
I have a vague memory of watching a Jacques Cousteau film as a child. He is probably one of the many reasons I grew up with a fascination for all things to do with the ocean. This memoir talks about Cousteau's early diving career, his various diving projects, and general opinions on topics related to diving. It wasn't gripping, but I learned quite a few things, historical and scientific, and the writing style is accessible. A good read to learn more about him.
*** The Changed My Life Award ***
Works of Love - Søren Kierkegaard
I left the sticky notes in this book - and not just the few that are pictured. It's difficult to describe a book like this without feeling vulnerable, because I can't adequately summarize it, and I can't say I agree with him 100%, and I can't tell you it's a must read. I have no idea how Works of Love affects one reader from the next. Yes, it changed my life; it made me look at something familiar in a new way.
I think of Kierkegaard as this lonely person who is thinking through everything out loud, and some of it is confusion, and some of it is inspired, and he offers it all up to the reader without apology, because he is only human and never expected to think "perfect" thoughts, only to strive for truth. I don't know if that's Kierkegaard, or me projecting myself onto the impression of him. I think he was born to write this book, in any case.
Whatever the world takes away from you, thought it be most cherished, whatever happens to you in life, however you may have to suffer because of your striving, for the good, if you please, if men turn indifferent from you or as enemies against you...if even your best friend should deny you - if nevertheless in any of your strivings, in any of your actions, in any of your words you truly have consciously had love along: then take comfort, for love abides. (p. 279)