Lately I've been enjoying digging through other people's bookblogs to find things to add to my wishlists, and I've been kind of missing doing my own book lists. I find I read more reflectively if I know I'm going to be writing about it afterwards, and I feel like if I'm benefiting from other people's reviews, it would be good to contribute in my turn. My non-work to-do list is down to a bare minimum, so I feel like I can afford to add something back, provided it's low-stress. So here goes, with no promises as to how long I'll keep this up: my first six books of 2013.
1. Angel Kyodo Williams, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace
. A mixture of memoir, Buddhism 101, and commentary on some ways that Buddhist insights can be applied in the context of POC experience. What Williams writes about Buddhism was not new to me, but the memoir sections were engaging. I'm not qualified to comment on what she says about Buddhism as a way of addressing one's experience of racism; if someone made equivalent suggestions about how I should deal with my experience of patriarchy, biphobia or ableism, I think I'd feel that the experience was being trivialised, but different oppressions are experienced differently by different people.
2. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol.1
. This didn't quite do what it said on the tin. It's a collection of Wittgenstein's notebooks rather than a coherent body of writing, which I wouldn't necessarily mind, as I've enjoyed reading his notebooks before; and it also consists largely of Wittengenstein struggling with the concept of concepts, as it were, which is no surprise coming from Wittgenstein, but not really what I'd call philosophy of psychology. Much of the content eventually made its way into Philosophical Investigations
3. S.S. Varma and Danielle Audouin, Yama et Niyama, Yoga Pratique
(Yama and Niyama, Practical Yoga). An introduction to yama
, which are often referred to as the ethical foundation of yoga. As far as I can see, it is only available in French, which is a shame, because I would like to recommend it to non-French-speaking practitioners as well. It's the best explanation of these two concepts I've seen, with a clear account of what the difference is supposed to be (the traditional translations of "restraints" for yama
and "observances" for niyama
never quite worked for me as a way of making sense of which practice belongs on which list). It also has some useful practical suggestions.
4.-6. Kurt Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House
; Deadeye Dick
. Amazon had a Kindle promotion on 10 Kurt Vonnegut books, so I promptly bought nine of them - I'd already read the tenth, which was Timequake
. Welcome to the Monkey House
was my least favourite of these three; it's a short story collection and seemed rather bitty, as if the stories were ideas that Vonnegut couldn't be bothered to develop into full novels. Deadeye Dick
was okay, but didn't really grab me, despite being very obviously a creation of the Cold War, which formed the background to my childhood. I liked Bluebeard
best of this batch, a modern take on the fairytale with a twist at the end, told from the point of view of a curmudgeonly old artist. None of these had the originality of Timequake
or Slaughterhouse Five
, though, and I found it a bit depressing to be inside the head of Vonnegut's point-of-view characters for so long - something about the combination of nihilism tinged with misogyny, I think. Neither of those have bothered me in my previous forays into Vonnegut's writing; possibly it just isn't a good idea for me to read three in a row, although since it's been an expensive month already, I probably will persevere until this month's salary comes in, at least ;-)ETA:
I meant to include Bechdel scores for the fiction on the list, but got interrupted before I finished the post. So here you are:Welcome to the Monkey House
: Some of the individual stories pass, including the eponymous one; not all of them do, but that may not be a realistic expectation.Deadeye Dick
: Fail; there are several named women, but none of them are shown talking to each other.Bluebeard
: Fail; there are named women, but they only talk to each other once in the presence of the viewpoint character, and then it's about marriage. It's made clear, though, that they do talk to each other about other things "off screen", and the novel does actually draw attention to some key gender issues, such as the different ways in which men and women are affected by war.