The first book of the bunch (below) took me a while to slog through because I didn’t really enjoy it, and more recently I’ve found myself too distracted to concentrate on what I’ve been reading. As a result, I haven’t been keeping up with my 4 or 5-books-a-month pace.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was, for me, a challenging book. This novel, in my opinion, is a writer’s novel, not a reader’s novel, which is probably why it won the Man Booker Prize. After finishing the book, I came away with a slight feeling of sadness but nothing else. It left no impression on me. Atwood’s descriptive prowess (which feels very Canadian doesn’t it?) is wonderful, but comes off as very academic. That being why I say this book is challenging; I don’t know how to feel about it.
The Umbrella Man and Other Stories by Roald Dahl is a fun collection of fiction from the man who brought us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The stories are mostly humorous in nature, but there are some more serious writings as well. I did find many of the stories to be predictable, but that is probably because the familiar plot devices and turns found in his stories were originated by Dahl and then re-purposed frequently by writers who came after — Which is rather ironic after having read the first story in the book, The Great Automatic Grammatizator.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a great little book, by the Merry Prankster himself, Ken Kesey. The story comes off as one that could easily be confused as being non-fiction — The Memoir of Chief Bromden perhaps? It examines both the societies found outside and inside of the ‘hospital’, while at the same time delving into the psyche of a group of men who find themselves shunned by the one society and trapped in the other. This book is a rare case where the film adaptation of the book turned out to be really good. That being said, there is so much more to the book than there is to the movie, so I highly recommend reading it.
I think The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga can be described in three words: black-comedy-gold. Witty, drôle, and smart would do the job, too. Just a really fun book about the son of rickshaw-puller and his rise to Indian high-society. If you liked Slumdog Millionaire, you’ll like this. Read it.
50 Great Short Stories? I don’t know about that — more like 20 or 25. A lot of these stories, while being well written, just don’t have anything interesting to them. They read as exercises in good writing; not good story telling. There are, however, some standouts that bring good stories to the table, such as Aldous Huxley’s The Giaconda Smile, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and Max Beerbohm’s A.V. Laider. Overall it’s a nice book to carry around in your bag for when you have some time to kill.