As usual, I am about a year late to a tag (that’s better than average, actually), but Keiko, I do hope you get to read this when you’re back! If it wasn’t for the fact that you were the one tagging me, I would have gotten lazy and turned this tag into one about anime/manga, but I’ll stick to strictly textual works this time so as not to let a fellow literature student down.
It’s embarrassing, but despite my major and occupation, I am not that well-read at all, and don’t even have a favourite author (I’ve decided that I can’t call anyone a favourite unless I’ve read 50% of their works). I didn’t read enough during high school, and read little besides course materials throughout university. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading…except I love it just as much as I love anime and baking and tree-climbing and a hundred other things in the world. Starting to pick up books regularly again (finished 15 so far this year, yay), but it’ll be a while before I catch up on all the beloved classics and recent favourites.
Okay, that preamble was long enough. One last thing: I haven’t seen an episode of Stranger Things, so I will just follow whatever instruction I was given to the best of my abilities.
This tag was created by Sarah Elise and you can watch a video they created about it here.
1. EPIC INTRO: The opening sequence of Stranger Things is amazing and really grabs your attention. Name a book that grabbed your attention from the first page.
“This is my seventeenth straight day without sleep.
I’m not talking about insomnia. I know what insomnia is. I had something like it in college―something like it because I’m not sure that what I had then was exactly the same as what people refer to as insomnia. I suppose a doctor could have told me. But I didn’t see a doctor. I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Not that I had any reason to think so. ” (Excerpt from here)
Murakami’s Sleep was one of few books in recent years that I was instantly sold on. Instead of explaining, I’ve put the excerpt here, and will just say that I related to it in an uncanny way, despite never having been awake for an entire night. I kept expecting the same feeling from other Murakami works over the years, but those that I’ve read only granted lukewarm satisfaction. What might have added to the experience that time were the facts that it was a random library shelf find, that it had stunning illustrations, and that it was untranslated, which meant that I had to savour the words slowly to understand them.
2. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: Name a fantasy world you would like to experience yourself.
I’ve only read two of Koutarou Tsunekawa’s fantasy works, which are practically impossible to find in English, but both really delivered. Night Market is divided into two stories – “Night Market” and “The Ancient Trail of the Wind” (*unofficial translation). The first is about a man revisiting a dimension-merging night market full of demons and overpriced magical items, where he permanently traded something invaluable, and the second is about a boy stumbling into a dimension-warping trail and embarking on a quest to resurrect a friend. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t want to be in either protagonist’s shoes, but I especially want to experience the Ancient Trail that inexplicably connects random coordinates in Japan.
3. SQUAD GOALS: When Eleven met Mike, Dustin, and Lucas it was a mostly perfect team. Name your favourite bookish group of friends.
The Pickwick Club in Little Women. Technically, 4/5 members are siblings, but who says siblings can’t be best friends? (I’m best friends with mine, at least!) Until the recent Little Women movie, I had almost forgotten about what a wholesome bundle the March sisters + Laurie was. While I thought the newspaper thing was the least interesting part of the story, I really adore the members that it gathered.
4. ABC’s & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS: Joyce Byers goes mad with grief after Will goes missing. Name your favourite mentally unhinged character.
Hysteria is a play about Sigmund Freud in the final days of his life, and the circumstances that led him to hide a naked woman in his closet while receiving two important guests. Saying any more would spoil the plot, but what makes the “mentally unhinged” aspect of the play so remarkable is, of course, the irony that this all happens to Freud himself.
5. THE UPDISDE DOWN: Name a book that was the opposite of what you expected.
You see, I picked it up thinking it was going to be a guide on overcoming social anxiety, or maybe a collection of random stories from strangers, but it turned out to be about how bad we are at talking to strangers. Gladwell provides a well-researched account of the biases and false hopes that prevent us from seeing strangers for who they are (but also argues that a default to trust isn’t all that bad). A relevant read that directly addresses issues pertaining to #BLM one year ahead of 2020.
6. MAD SCIENTISTS: Dr Brenner likes to get freaky with humanity. Name the freakiest dystopian government you can think of.
It was a choice between this and A Handmaid’s Tale, and this won because it’s non-fiction. Still Alive is a Holocaust memoir, and what makes it so dystopian is the fact that only half of it describes the concentration camps. The rest is about the camps’ pervasive effects on the individual and the deadly legacy they left. Ruth Kluger contextualizes her experiences with lyrical and piercing language, and posits questions about authoritarian systems, compliance, and hypocrisy. Kluger never aims to scare or moralize, but has a way of implicating you as a reader by making you reflect on your own engagement in this non-fictional, not-so-distant narrative.
7. DEMOGORGON: Name a scary bookish creature that you would not want to come through your walls.
“…a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman—a howl—a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation“
The black cat, from the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name. It’s a short story, not a book, but that cat is certainly a thing I wouldn’t want to see anywhere, especially not if it comes through the walls. The story is short and here’s a pdf of it, if you haven’t read it before. Obviously, the narrator deserved everything he got, but I wouldn’t like anything like that in…any part of the architecture.
8. CLIFFHANGER ENDING: Name a book that left you wanting more.
Most of my favourite works of fiction have purposeful and satisfying endings, or earned themselves sequels. Let’s just say that I might be too shallow for Beckett. The fact that *spoilers* nothing happens and Godot doesn’t appear in the end is kind of the point, but I lack the mental fortitude to appreciate the absurdity of life without having my memories erased every act. Hand Godot over already…argh. This agony is part of the point too. Wow, Beckett, you’re really the worst.
Spreading the Tag
This is an old tag, so I don’t really know who has and hasn’t done it already. Feel free to pick it up if you haven’t; you’re more than welcome as long as you see this post! As usual, feel free to ignore if you’re not really feeling it.
Also, if you don’t read books all that much (like me), feel free to do it on manga, anime, TV shows, or whatever fits your blog better!
Read any of the books I picked? Want to talk about the books or recommend me something similar? Comments make me happy!