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Books read in 2009

Thus a round-up of books read in 2009. Late in coming, I know; I blame the remodeling. O:-)

Once again, I’ve marked recommended titles with the lightbulb icon, 💡 .


I finally discovered Clamp, a famous group of women manga-ka. Indeed, I’ve added their Xxxholic series to my list of ongoing comics I read.

Byun, Byung-Jun. Mijeong. Did not like, except for the short story of a cat who fell in love with a young woman. My tolerance for the violence and grittiness was overwhelmed too often.

💡 Forney, Ellen. I Love Led Zeppelin. A comic that speaks to me and my generation!

Kariya, Tetsu. Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine. This is volume 1 of the Oishinbo: à la carte series. As much as I love reading about (or watching!) food, I couldn’t get into this series. The characters were too annoying and not interesting enough for me to continue with the other volumes.

💡 Kim, Dong Hwa. The Color of Earth and The Color of Water. Turn of the 19th to 20th century story about a girl and her widowed mother in Korea. A nice mixture of traditions and themes of individual independence.

Pham, John. Sublife, volume 1.

Urushibara, Yuki. Mushishi (Wikipedia | Animé News Network), volumes 1 and 2.


💡 Bellairs, John. The Face in the Frost. Excellent twist on battling wizards in a delightfully eccentric estate.

Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Bad: Anthropology-primatology FAIL: How could a primate have no concept of memory or knowledge of parenthood, yet still have a sense of so-called honor when battling rival tribes? The Ugly: Dated sexism; every time a female character appears, she is always a girl, with a capricious or cute manner. In a group of journalists, all the men ask questions, but the lone woman demands! Sheesh; grow up, little man. The Good (which I save for last, because it is worthwhile): the ideas of space travel, of civilizations so ancient and advanced as to be wondrous. Enough to make me curious about the remaining three books in the series; not to mention seeing if his writing actually matured (re: gender roles) over the years.

💡 Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End (reread). I had read this novel for the first time as a 13-year-old. All I got from it back then, and all I could remember, was a terrifying, oppressively depressing feeling. I’m so glad I reread it. Sure, it’s still tragic, but it’s also an incredibly thoughtful take on alien-human contact, as well as humanity’s development. Loads of super high technology, including the oldest example of virtual reality that I’ve heard of. For a book published in 1953, it’s barely dated, with only a few nods towards unequal gender roles. I hardly noticed that the Internet didn’t exist!

Gaiman, Neil. Anansi Boys. Good, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as American Gods.

Goto, Hiromi. Kappa Child. An odd yet touching combination of Japanese myth (from a Japanese-Canadian) and sexual identity.

Lee, Tanith. Mortal Suns. A more recent novel I picked up at the library after I had finished Silver Metal Lover. It was an overwrought fantastic epic which utterly fell flat on its face, for me. She has written much better than this.

Lee, Tanith. The Silver Metal Lover.

Miyazawa, Kenji. Milky Way Railroad (sometimes also called Night on the Galactic Railway). An interesting novella for children that considers the cruelty of children, and death. Miyazawa weaves both Eastern and Western perspectives by including Buddhist and Christian themes.

Miyazawa, Kenji. Matsuburo the Wind Imp, translated by John Bester. This is a collection of three short stories in a bilingual book published by Kōdansha. He seemed to have it in for foxes, in the other two stories.

Miyazawa, Kenji. Selections, an anthology of his poems. I enjoyed his mix of the scientific (often geologic, meteorological and agricultural) with the spiritual and humor. Particular standouts: “Report and “Traveler” for their terseness; “Winter & Galaxy Station,” “The Tsugaru Strait,” “Good Devil Praying for Absolution,” “The Snake Dance,” “The Prefectural Engineer’s Statement Regarding Clouds,” “(Untitled) No matter what he does, it’s too late,” “While Ill,” and “(Untitled) Neither rain / nor wind / nor snow nor summer’s heat / will affect his robust body.”

Ogawa, Yoko. The Housekeeper and the Professor (a.k.a., The Professor’s Beloved Equation). So much better than The Diving Pool. A touching story about how a single mother gets to know her elderly client, a mathematician whose short-term memory (due to a car accident) lasts for only 80 minutes.

💡 Scalzi, John. Agent to the Stars. A delightfully goofy, yet thoughtful, first-contact novel.

💡 Scalzi, John. The Android’s Dream. Superb story where Earth and humans are near the bottom of the galactic ladder (technologically-speaking). Thus it becomes an intriguing yet hilarious story involving a lot of manipulation and diplomacy. Reminds me of Stephenson’s work, but much better edited, and with more empathy.

💡 Scalzi, John. The Old Man’s War series, consisting of Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoë’s Tale. I didn’t think I could into war-based science fiction. This series taught me otherwise!

Stephenson, Neal. Anathem. when I first saw this book I thought, “Oh no. Did his editor(s) fail their role (roll, as it were)?” In some places, yes, there could’ve been some severe trimming. But overall this novel was, at the very least, a fascinating anthropological study.

Swanwick, Michael. Stations of the Tide. Meh, took me far too long to read through this novel. Afraid I still didn’t quite “get it.” I admit, I do prefer Swanwick’s short stories…

Williams, Tad. The Otherland series, consisting of City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, Mountain of Black Glass, Sea of Silver Light. Reminded me of long-standing role-playing games, but in novel format.

Winterson, Jeanette. Lighthousekeeping.


I also went through a slew of house remodeling books. Rather than listing all of them here, read about the ones I recommend.

Bastianich, Lidia. Lidia’s Italy. I often enjoy Bastianich’s television shows, where she prepares often non-fussy yet delicious-looking dishes, while at the same time describing the history of the food. This book was too much like a travelogue: Many photos of where she visited, hardly any of the dishes from the recipes! True, I’m a sucker for pretty pictures, but for something like a cookbook, I depend on such photos being relevant to the content. Show me pictures of what you’re cooking!

Art monographs

Nara, Yoshitomo. Lullaby Supermarket. A thorough retrospective of Nara’s work up to 2001. Much more informative than Nothing Ever Happens.

Nara, Yoshitomo and Sugito, Hiroshi. Over the Rainbow. Beautiful collection of their collaborative project influenced by the movie of the same name. Nara drew and painted much of the subjects (girls, dogs, etc.), whereas Sugito seemed to add subtle but mesmerizing highlights and details to landscapes, backgrounds, and what seems the subjects’ eyes.

Sowa, Michael. Sowa’s Ark: An Enchanted Bestiary. Flying pigs galore! (Without wings, too.) I particularly like “A summer night’s melancholy,” where a dog in another building seems to be sadly ignored by a purposely obscured cat.


Butterfield, Jeremy. A Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare. In spite of a disconcertingly unclear introduction (didn’t he learn that throwing around undefined terms in a preface is poor form in expository writing?), this books is chock full of interesting tidbits on the English language.

Gonick and Smith. The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. I got lost and stopped reading at z-transformations and t-distributions.

Kirino, Natsuo. Real World. The combination of gritty reality with personalities that felt superficial (not too mention blasé) didn’t work for me.

Ladinsky, Daniel. The Subject Tonight is Love: 60 Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz. It happened again: I fell into the trap of thinking that Ladinsky translated Hafiz’ poems. No, no, a thousand times no: This collection is merely Ladinsky’s own poetry inspired by the Hafiz he has read in English. To be clear, he states in the Introduction that he’s illiterate in Farsi. So the title? Misleading. The poetic content? New-age drivel. Anything else? Ladinsky does helpfully point to The Green Sea of Heaven by Elizabeth Gray, and Fifty Poems of Hafiz by Arthur Arberry as good sources of actual, translated Hafiz.

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