We’ve been sharing books read in 2016, per the example of New York Times Books (@nytimesbooks on Twitter) from December 20th. Included here are the remaining books from my 2016 reading list.
- “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen on 10/2/16 – 3/5 stars.
You certainly get a book in Freedom: A Novel with large doses of politics, suburban love triangles that spread across years and generations, irritatingly immature decision-making, and some flat out flat characters in a book that looks to focus on getting into the internal motivations of its characters.
The book is cynically stark in its views of politics, love, suburbia, and obviously freedom. I found that some characters were remarkably incapable of exercising freedom in their lives, relationships, environments, or accounting of their erratic behaviors. The final statement of the book…what everything adds up to, is that we’re really incapable of warming to the ones we love until we engender near-complete coldness and pain first; we must then forsake freedom and give-in to what was in our hearts all along.
The whole thing is bleak, unhopeful, cynical, and a gray view of “modern” love. My 3-star rating is mostly message and authorial voice related; the writing style, composition, construction, and narrative style were solid.
- “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton on 10/10/16 – 2.5/5 stars.
State of Fear is the typical Crichton thriller as vehicle for making an argument for a proposition that runs counter to mainstream social thought. The target here was global warming / climate change. The message is political in nature, as any self-respecting pseudo-science thriller is want to be. The book argues against mankind’s proposition for controlling climate as arrogant and self-serving; ultimately, the message of someone toward the end of his life that isn’t convinced while also not wanting to take it anymore. Crichton’s cultivation of “love interests” and “romantic tension” felt rather sophomoric and immature.
Overall, I give this book 2.5-stars.
- “From the Corner of His Eye” by Dean Koontz on 10/29/16 – 3.5/5 stars.
With From the Corner of His Eye, I found that Dean Koontz did his typically solid job building a sense of growing tension in this dark fantasy thriller. The narrative drew upon four main and overlapping threads to tell a story of good versus evil. The story drew on a highly simplistic starting point of so-called “quantum mechanics” to resolve some of the darker elements of the plot. The mystery of the darker elements combined with viewing characters from their internal dialogue and actions continued as stronger elements of the Koontz style here, as did the previously mentioned tension and resolution.
On par with many of the better stories in the Stephen King or Dean Koontz canon. Overall 3.5 stars for me.
- “The Tin Drum” by Gunther Grass on 11/18/16 – 2/5 stars.
To beat a tin drum is an idiom that I can see coming from this book, as in creating a disturbance in order to call attention to an issue.
A catch-22 is the last book I read of this nature, wherein a central metaphor came from a book to become an idiom. In American author Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, the idiom referred to a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. That idiom came with a book written in 1953 and published in 1961.
To beat a tin drum is an idiom that I can see coming from Gunther Grass’ The Tin Drum. Published in West Germany in German circa 1959, The Tin Drum was published in English in 1961. At roughly the same time, we therefore received another idiom, to beat a tin drum, as in creating a disturbance in order to call attention to an issue.
The two books diverge from the underlying similarity quickly as Grass’ novel quickly moves past a criticism of war and government, as is where Heller focused, and into a criticism of middle class moral sense. Grass draws a very moral sense from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which is problematic in some ways for my taking the criticism seriously. Reading through to the end was difficult for me because, directly, I don’t care for the criticism, the central protagonist Oskar Matzerath, nor for the narcissistic quality of Oskar as unreliable narrator.
I give this book 2-stars for tone, content, and the criticism without any constructive replacement that I’d care to adopt.
- “Watership Down” by Richard Adams in progress
It is too early in my reading to give my overall assessment, though I find the storytelling of this young adult book with adult subject matter anjoyable. I am about 60-percent of the way through the reading currently.
Matt – Thursday, December 22, 2016