January Reading Recap

  • Narcissus and Goldmund, Herman Hesse – Much like the rest of Hesse’s oevre, this novel is the story of male friendship and the different types of spiritual completion. Narcissus is an academic and a man of religion, while Goldmund is a young man who seeks experiences, but only finds satisfaction through art. Everything Hesse published is set in the German intellectual tradition of his lifetime, although his moralizing may be a bit more heavy-handed than in some of the other books. It is a good read if you like Hesse, but if you’re new to his work, start with Siddhartha, then move to Magister Ludi and if you haven’t lost interest yet, then pick up this one.
  • The Bad Girl, Mario Vargas Llosa – My favorite novel this month, and also the saddest, reviewed here. It the story of a life-long relationship between a translator, Ricardo, and the eponymous “Bad Girl.” He loves her, she abuses him; she stays with him for a while and leaves him for someone with more money. but she always comes back. It is a novel about love and obsession and one that continues to cling to me.
  • The Ghost Brigades, John Scalzi – A sequel to Old Man’s War, this is a novel set in space, where humans are just one of a number of intelligent species vying for power and the human government uses the minds and experience of the elderly moved into genetically modified and advanced bodies. It is light and fun, clever and witty, as one would expect from Scalzi.

Life got a bit hectic when the semester started, so I only got through the three books this month. But I am also in the middle of reading A Cultural History of the Arabic Language and recently received a copy of Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, which will probably be the next book I pick up.

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