Hey! I publicly committed to read 100 books this 2022, and I was so excited so I started early (yay!). Anyhoo, here are the books I read for my December 2021 monthly wrap-up.
Anxious People (Fredrik Backman)
I was very happy to happen to read this book during the Christmas holiday, and most especially, finish it during the New Year’s Eve (spoiler alert: the time setting of the story happened during the New Year’s Eve). It’s such a comforting read: I love the development of each one of the characters, and I love the general message of the story. After reading (and crying a lot over) A Man Called Ove, it became my reading goal to read ALL Fredrik Backman’s novels. It also has a Netflix series adaptation, but I will vouch for reading the book first, or ditching the series altogether. The book is definitely better.
Stories From Around the World (Maisie Chan)
I got my copy of this book in a bookstore in Belgrade, Serbia, and the title as well as the artsy cover made me buy it. Upon browsing the Table of Contents, I saw some familiar fairy tales (such as Thumbelina, Mulan, Puss in Boots, etc.) that I may have read in primary school and forgot, or may have not read at all. I figured this can be a relaxing and nostalgic book to read. I was also educated with regards to the origins of the novels. To be honest, I have no idea that The Little Red Riding Hood is French in origin, for instance. I am giving 4 stars because I believe the selection of stories for this anthology could have been better.
A Nervous Breakdown (Anton Chekhov)
I got my copy of this book from a random seller from the internet. At first, I just want to collect all Penguin Little Black Classics book before contemplating on how to start reading these short classics, but the post-it note that the previous owner attached to the book intrigued me:
“I hope this book bring you comfort as it did to me. *heart emoji*“
Judging from the title, I was sensing a mental health-related theme of this book. Holy smokes, it was amazing, and Anton Chekhov is so brilliant!
Gooseberries (Anton Chekhov)
Not being able to get enough of Anton Chekhov (I have plans to read all of his work, btw), I found another one of his book from my Little Black Classics collection. I believe the common theme of the stories in this book is existentialism (or maybe there’s more, but this is what I centered on while reading his stories).
This book has three short stories: The Kiss, The Two Volodyas, and Gooseberries.
Here’s a history of the food Gooseberries that I find very interesting.
Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Oh my God, how come I have only discovered this book just now?! The artist in me has been struggling to follow the proper advice on how to become an artist (don’t get me wrong, I love Austin Kleon to death, but I am 100% sure that he will agree with me that there’s something special with sticking to timeless advices coming from the classics). Rilke was also able to justify the romanticism of solitude, which I could totally relate to. His views on love are, hmmm, valid, but it might take me a second read to appreciate them better.
I also love how this other review speaks about Letters to a Young Poet.
The Survivor (Primo Levi)
Confession: I feel such a fraud by constantly talking about Primo Levi during my Political Art class and lectures, but I don’t have a 100% appreciation of his work. I’m aware of The Periodic Table (like, man, who would ever thought of naming the chapters from chemical elements while talking about the Holocaust and life during the Second World War?). Hmmm, it seems like The Survivor is not his best work, but there are several poems that can still be relevant today, like his poems on gender, equality, and such. As part of a community that was affected by the Taal Volcano eruption last 2020, his poem about the girl in Pompeii was very relatable. I’m excited to reread this book for the third time and read his more phenomenal works.
I also found very enlightening insights from a KZ Prisoner in relation to reading The Survivor.
An Advertisement for Toothpaste (Ryszard Kapuściński)
As a frustrated photojournalist who wants to tell stories from around the world through photographs, I instantly fell in love with Kapuscinski. I may have not read most of his work, but starting with the four stories from this book (An Advertisement for Toothpaste, Danka, The Taking of Elzbieta, and The Stiff), I got a glimpse on how unique non-fiction writing is from a journalist’s perspective. Also, since this book focused on his accounts from his homeland, Poland, I felt his exact feeling of weirdness over telling stories from where he came from.
When I was in Krakow, Poland, I bought a copy of his book The Soccer War in a bookstore at the train station, and I’m excited to read it as well.
Reasons to Stay Alive (Matt Haig)
I finally was convinced to read Matt Haig’s books for two reasons: (1) the UK cover of the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman has a review by Matt Haig, saying ‘A brilliant and comforting read’. Well, I know that this is some kind of a cross-promotion strategy, but there is a reason why Matt Haig’s review was the one written on the cover. (2) A friend told me that he listened to the audiobook of Reasons to Stay Alive (including a side note asking me not to judge his mental health whatsoever), and he find it comforting. Needless to say, I will be the last person to judge anyone’s state of mental health because I have my own difficult set of mental health struggles as well, so I did secure a copy of this book on my Kindle, and man, I never felt validated my entire life. The book made me feel that I’m not alone, and it’s possible to be in a relationship with a person who will be supporting you into being better, 100%.
I really feels good to find many people who can relate to my impressions about this book. In fact, I found this other review of Reasons to Stay Alive also comforting.
The Midnight Library (Matt Haig)
I have been seeing this book all over social media. It’s quite popular, but it has mixed reviews as well. Since Matt Haig has become my literary best friend, I decided to read the book. At first, I found the whole idea a little ridiculous and a product of overthinking (but totally understandable having read first a non-fiction, autobiographical book by Matt Haig), but everything made sense at the end. I mean, it might make people think of all the possible regrets that we have in our lives, and that we can possibly, in a way, invalidate them (but this is just me, alright). Along the way, the ending became more and more predictable but it’s relieving since it feels like close to reality. It’s not the best book I’ve read, but it made me rethink how I view my life and how I react to the things happening, both those I can and cannot control.
But, it can’t be denied that this book has several trigger warnings. I believe this reference could orient us to the trigger warnings of The Midnight Library in case you’re considering to read it.