July’s Books

Books Borrowed

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed

Edmund Morris Beethoven: The Universal Composer

Amy Tan: Saving a Fish From Drowning

Joanne Harris: Gentlemen & Players

Paul Collins: The Trouble with Tom: The strange afterlife and times of Thomas Paine

Books Read

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed

Edmund Morris Beethoven: The Universal Composer

Amy Tan: Saving a Fish From Drowning

Dick Francis Reflex – re-read

Ann Brashares: Girls in Pants: The third summer of the sisterhood re-read

Margaret Drabble: The Middle Ground re-read


I don’t quite belief that I didn’t buy any books this month. I’m sure there are some hiding from Amazon or Borders somewhere. Still I don’t recall having bought any books this month. So…

Amy Tan – love her description of food in Burma:

“To my friends [American tourists in Burma], the jungle repast looked ill conceived, one dish after another, what Moff [one of the Americans] called “mystery meats,” grayish-greenish substances, some shiny, some slimy, none of it looked palatable. But as they would soon discern, the food was actually quite delicious. There were seasonal weeds, sticky rice, and the leaves of woodland trees and shrubs. There were also, in small beautiful bowls carved out of tree knots, tubers and seeds, bulbs and stems, small growths that were as delicous as pistachios and almonds, fungi of all kinds, gathered from the base of trees, left to dry, and then stored for occassions like these. The main platters held nascent reads. And at the other end of the long narrow table were bowls with roots, sliced fermented eggs, roasted larvae, and a prized chicken. The dishes had been colored and flavored with whatever dry goods were stocked in the primordial kitchen: colorful ingredients of shrimp powder and turmeric, coarse chili and curry, garlic chips in place of fresh, preserved vegetables, as well as paprika, salt, and sugar. Nest to the chicken, the most prized dish ws the talapaw, a vegetable soup prepared by the twins’ grandmother, who knew just the right amount of spices and peppers to pinch with her fingers and mix into the crushed rice, fish sauce, and green beans, ingredients that Black Spot [one of the locals] had brought her after his last foray into town. To bind all these many flavors together, a big pot of rice was set in the middle of the table.”

Ursula Le Guin – great collection of her first ten years of short stories. Typically grab you hard and start making pathways through your mind.

In fact Tan and Le Guin are similar in this respect – they take just out of your comfort zone to change the way you look at the world but not so far that you discount what they say as being too unrealistic.

One of the Le Guin short stories was a prestory about the novel The Dispossessed so I borrowed it to read on the way home. I really enjoyed it. The take home message is not to get complacent about whatever political system you live under – some human beings will always try to have power. And power always corrupts.

Beethoven’s biography reminded me of Shakespeare’s – we really don’t know enough to say very much and it is all a matter of opinion. I have previously read Beethoven’s Hair which sort of overlaps with this one. Morris has strong opinions about everything. Frustratingly, as this is part of a series of Eminent Lives, he assume you know parts of the story. As I don’t know much of Beethoven’s history, which was why I reading this book, I ended up feeling I wasn’t part of the clique and was watching from far away.

I can’t remember now why I reread the Drabble. I must have first read this when the characters were older than me by about the same difference that I am older than them now. This is another book about a woman having a midlife crisis (rather early – in her mid 30s) but I seem to have more sympathy with this story than Kidd’s character in “The Mermaid’s Chair” which I reviewed in May.

The best book I read this month was The Dispossessed and I want to buy a copy of it so that I can revisit it. Saving Fish from Drowning is a close second and I may eventually buy it to reread in the future.