Monthly Review: June

We are entering the last week of June and almost reached the half of the year! 😮

If I had to sum up the month of June, I would call it: “going back into my comfort zone.”

Though I am still drawing and journaling with as much enthusiasm as last month, the focus of this month is reading, so let’s talk about books!

I have been reading several books at the same time this month, but I was not convinced or as enthusiastic as I thought I would be by most of them. Though I have been quite diligent during the first half of June, I finally gave up the battle and returned to the safety of my comfort zone by reading easier and more familiar authors.

Japanese books: disappointment and frustration

I will post about all these books on my Wednesday section, but this is an overview:

  • 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎: I finally finished it and will post my review the day after tomorrow, but I can already say that I did not enjoy reading this book. It is a novel for children written in 1937 that, for some reasons, is very popular now in Japan. But, even if I can see all the qualities of this novel, it just wasn’t for me… To say it plainly, this book was the most boring reading experience of the year. I am not at all blaming the novel in itself but it addresses young readers, and I really cannot fathom why it is so popular among adults now…
  • 「在日」by 姜尚中(カン・サンジュン): I absolutely loved the first third of this book, and I don’t regret a second having bought it even if I am abandoning it now. The truth is, now that I am reaching the half of the book, I am losing interest in it. I was interested in the first generation of Korean who decided to go to Japan during Japanese rule. I was also interested in knowing how they lived in Japan and 「在日」was describing exactly that. But then, the book is not as much an essay on this part of history as an autobiography, and as the author goes on with his life (his student life, his experience in Germany, his married life…), I feel that I am not that interested anymore. The book is also hard to read, with a lot of political references so… I gave up!
  • 「光」by 三浦しをん: I like this book, I like the story, but I am not that enthusiastic about it… It is almost impossible to tell why exactly. I really think that it is a good novel, but somehow, I have to force myself a little to open it and read it. There is nothing that I could possibly criticise about the book though… well I guess this kind of things happens!

So you see, I was not happy with my readings, and last week I decided to go back to familiar places and started a book by Keigo HIGASHINO. I am convinced that achieving a good balance between challenging books and easier ones is vital to keep going. Challenging books are there to make us progress and have a sense of achievement, but regularly going back to easier books is also essential to not feel overwhelmed and regain confidence. Higashino’s novel gave me exactly what I was looking for: a book that I want to open as soon as I have some time to read and that I can read without any effort.

So now, I am happily enjoying my comfort zone again!

English book: I thought I could read in English, but maybe I can’t…

I finished The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and this is one of my favourite books ever. I was so obsessed with this story that I bought the audiobook read by Dominic West and keep listening to it.

After that, there was a novel that I absolutely wanted to read: White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I saw this title on almost every list of recommended contemporary British novels. I was very excited to read it, but the author’s writing style really took me by surprise. I am sure that her writing style is full of liveliness and vibrancy, but it is also hard to read for English learners. I mean, I can read and understand it, but I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

I just began it and judged that it was not the right time to read this book. I really think it was a problem of timing. When I first opened White Teeth, I was struggling with my three Japanese books, and I didn’t want to also struggle with the book I read in English. Also, I was at a point when I doubted my Japanese abilities because 「在日」was hard to read and 「光」is a little challenging. But then, realising that I could not even read properly in English really gave me the final knock-out blow.

So here again, I decided to go back straight to my comfort zone. I closed White Teeth and made the solemn promise that I will come back to it and read it this year, and headed to something more familiar and easier to read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. My “English reading challenge” was to familiarise myself with contemporary British authors and it is true that Jane Austen is not exactly “contemporary”, but I will incorporate classics to my list and just name it “journey into British literature” or something like that.

I read Jane Austen at school but in French translation and at a time when reading classics was more of an annoying duty than anything. So it’s time to read her major works in English!

The same kind of magic that happened with Higashino worked with Jane Austen too. I felt reassured in my abilities to read in English, I was drawn into the story right from the first page, and I can read it without efforts in English. So everything is fine.

Conclusion

I really enjoy being in my comfort zone, why do people always want you to go out of it 🤨? It is so delightful to stop making efforts for a while and just enjoy what our present level allows us to have. I retreated so far in my comfort zone that I even started a new village in Animal Crossing New Leaf, haha. I was maybe a little tired of my old one and even though parting with it was heartbreaking, starting a new one was very exciting! I sometimes wish that life would be as easy as fishing, catching bugs and trading pieces of furniture with talking animals.

My June hobby-life consisted in trying to draw my cat, reading detective novels, English classics, watching the World Cup and playing Animal Crossing New Leaf. I’m sure July will not be much different! 🙂

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