Here by Richard McGuire
I really love the premise: taking one fixed spot on earth, examining the many years of lives (from prehistoric to contemporary) and living by visually presenting the slices in time: one might see a Native American couple making love and a modern American, white family squabbling on the same or adjacent or consecutive pages, all “cut up” and scrambled, seemingly not following rhyme or reason. But, of course, there are certain patterns and events clustered by the nature of the happening (holiday celebrations, fighting, loss, new births, etc.) However, aside from admiring the beautiful and pristine, almost too clinical, artwork and having some moments of revelation (finding out on what ground the current house was built, for example,) I was left not all that impressed or emotionally affected which I definitely was hoping for!
The Three Body Problem (三体）by Liu Cixin（刘慈忻)，translated by Ken Liu
This is a rare experience for me since my encounters with Science Fiction tend to be on the “soft sci-fi” end: where the details of the science employed by the authors are often quite flexible to suit the narrative needs of the tale. This is Hard Science Fiction and I was absolutely fascinated (even while I didn’t quite understand them) by the explanation of the Three-Body physics problem, the unfolding of protons into various dimensional modules, and how radio waves are delivered and received, etc. However, what compelled me to keep on reading was the realistic and unflinching depiction of the story’s backdrop (from Cultural Revolution era to contemporary China,) the underlying multiple and somewhat conflicting philosophies about human nature, the life story and struggles of one of the main female characters, and the kinship I feel with a specific type of online gaming.
The author honestly and boldly laid out the views of his characters (and one can choose to side with or against whichever view) and the translator faithfully captured and presented the analytical and yet deeply emotional landscape of the story.
Let’s celebrate this book’s 2015 Hugo Award win for being a solid hard science fiction and for being the very first Hugo novel winner penned by an Asian author.
Artwork by Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and more.
I decided to use a large cover image here because this hardcover, full-color, glossy heavy pages tome absolutely deserves this “in your face” treatment.
I read the first twenty installments (24 pages each) of Gaiman’s game changing graphic novel series (from 1989 to 1991) in sequence and absolutely loved every page and moment of it! Dark, haunting, gruesome, poetic, enigmatic and yet lucid all at the same time, wrapped in such a handsome package.
Even if so much within is extremely disturbing, Gaiman’s stories and the art and layout design make reading this volume a blissful experience.
The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
The third, the final, and my favorite installment of the Magician’s trilogy. A total love song to traditional children’s fantasy stories for grown-ups who have still yet to grow out of being enchanted completely by those tales (me). Thankfully, Quentin finally stopped being the annoying whinny young man that he was in the first two volumes, so my irknedness level was way down, making the reading experience a complete delight from beginning to end. Lots of quotable little observations about fantasy story-making and world-building and about being a creative and self-reflective and forgiving (to self and others) human being.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
audiobook read by Karen Chilton
It took me a long while to finish listening to this. My heart would shrink a little when the thought surfaced that it’s time to listen to the next chapter or section. Why would I want to torture myself knowing more aspects of how UNJUST the United States Criminal Justice System has been to our black fellow citizens — especially black men, especially black young men? Why would I want to hear more stories that confirm how color-blindness, racial indifference, and lack of information of myself and millions of kind-hearted Americans contributed more to the creation of a lower racial “caste” in our society (convicted felons for minor or nonviolent drug offenses) than overt racists. Why would I want to feel powerless when informed of the institutionalized sanction so our law enforcers may commit atrocious acts (seizing and keeping of properties of those who might or might not have committed a crime, for example and the incentives to use military grade weapons and tactics against unarmed individuals.)
But I kept at it. And kept learning. And kept finding more supporting evidences from the chatters and opinions in social media and other information sources. And kept talking to whomever would listen. Until the book was done.
And I promptly bought the paperback copy of the book so I can refer back to it whenever I need.
The book was published in 2010. And in 2015, we read about president Obama’s bipartisan-sanctioned plans for Justice Reform and listen to reasons behind his granting clemency to unjustly sentenced minor drug offenders. It will be great to see new policies that address the long-time injustice in the Criminal Justice system.
Watch Obama’s speech at the 2015 NAACP Annual Convention.
A collection of videos about this topic can be found on CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/14/politics/obama-naacp-speech-philadelphia-justice-reform/
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle ( (ねじまき鳥クロニクル) by Haruki Murakami
translated by Jay Rubin
read by Rupert Degas
I felt so lost when the recording of this book ended. A small part is due to the sense of irritation by the vague and unresolved ending. But that was easy to get over with: as a reader, I never need tidy endings. Indeed, if all the loose threads and baffling aspects all get tied up and connected neatly, I would probably have been quite disappointed.
The real reason of the sense of loss is that now I no longer “live” in that hyperrealistic, half-true and half-dreaming world Murakami created for his readers. Starting with a very small story of an insignificant person, the narrative slowly opens up and expands to encompass both History (especially the Sino-Japanese War) and the unexplainable force of the entire Universe.
My admiration of Murakami’s philosophical exploration of what it means to be alive and to be connected to the rest of the humanity did not sway me from questioning one assertion of his ideology: That BOTH the Chinese and the Japanese were engaged in fighting a Senseless War. In theory, I believe that War is evil and senseless. But, growing up Chinese (and with my mother’s entire family in Fake Manchu murdered by the Japanese) made me also realize that China’s RESISTANCE against Japan’s INVASION into our country might not be so senseless after all. On a scale of Japan on one side and China on the other, the weight of who’s responsible of all the senseless killings and deaths should definitely tilt heavily on the Japan side.
I finished the book back in April. Three months later, I can still hear and feel some of the scenes and dialogs in my mind. However, I will not recommend to listen to this particular audio recording: I found Degas’ voice acting as the young girl, May, more distracting than enhancing and I wish that he could have pronounced the Japanese names with more accurate intonations. One day, I will go back and read the book itself and who knows, I might be able to teach myself enough Japanese to read in its original form!
by Ralph Ellison, Audiobook read by Peter Francis James.
This is a book that I wish I had read it in a class, with a passionate teacher and a group of classmates that would share their reactions and opinions with me. So many ideas bounced in my head as I listened to an excellent rendition of the book by Peter Francis James and I immediately wanted to re-read it and to jut down the numerous memorable quotes since, alas, many still applicable when it comes to race relations in the United States. Shouldn’t this be required reading in ALL high school English classes across America?