I am happy with my readings of April, but I am awfully late on my book reviews 😱 I also did not finished my book for the #22tlreadingchallenge, but it’s okay!
Mystery Writers of Japan Award – Project
Read all the available winners of the MWJ award for fiction (in chronological order).
To be honest, I have been a bit disappointed with this project so far. After a strong start (Seishi Yokomizo in 1948 and Ango Sakaguchi in 1949), the award winners have not been as good as I expected. As a result, I have been a little bit demotivated in April, but thankfully the last book I read was excellent, so I’m looking forward to continue now.
『人喰い』by Saho Sasazawa (笹沢左保) was a nice mystery, easy to read and rather short. Nothing special though, just a good mystery, and I feel like I was expecting more for a prize winner. Still, the book was entertaining all along, so nothing to complain about here.
『細い赤い糸』by Takashi Asuka (飛鳥高) turned out to be a good mystery too, with an interesting idea and structure, but you don’t get to see where the book is getting to until roughly 40~45% into the story. As a result, the beginning felt frustrating and not very interesting to me. I even almost gave it up, which I am glad I did not because the second half gets better and the end is great. The first half can feel rushed through and a bit sloppy, so again, even though the idea that holds the whole story together was excellent and exciting, I also find that the book is weaker on other aspects, which makes it strange that it should have won the prize.
Finally, 『影の告発』by Takao Tsuchiya (土屋隆夫) was an excellent detective novel with an engrossing police investigation. Again, nothing too original or special, just a solid detective story that is super efficient in keeping the reader guessing and engrossed until the end. There is room for the reader to make their own deductions, and if you like cracking alibis, this book is for you.
20th Century reading challenge
Read a book set in each decade of the 20th Century in chronological order (publication date does not matter).
For the 1930s, I chose the tragedy of the Dust Bowl because this is something I knew almost nothing about before. The obvious book was The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, but I also wanted to read Whose Names are Unknown by Sanora Babb. Just like The Grapes of Wrath, it was written in the 1930s but not published at the time because of the success of Steinbeck’s novel and because the two books tell similar stories.
The Grapes of Wrath is obviously an excellent novel, all the more shocking to me as I didn’t know the extent of the human displacement and tragedy the Dust Bowl led to. The end though… so abrupt 😔 This made me want to immediately jump into Whose Names are Unknown, but it took me almost the whole month to read The Grapes of Wrath and we were already reaching the end of April. I’ll keep Babb’s novel for later and move on to keep track with my reading challenge.
This is my favourite book of the month.
Read one book per month in your target language (I chose Korean). Check out the prompts here.
하지마라 외과의사 by 엄윤 is the book that I did not finish.
One thing that surprised me is that it was much easier to read than I thought it would be for medical non fiction. I half expected to give up the book because of the language difficulty, but it turns out that non fiction is easier to read than fiction and the author also systematically gives the English equivalent to all the medical terms. You also don’t need to understand all the medical procedures in detail, and most of the book is based on dialogues with patients, which is rather easy to follow.
The reason why I did not finish the book is because the author really rubbed me the wrong way all along. It is very hard to continue reading a book when you dislike the author. Each chapter is devoted to a topic and then illustrated by confrontations with patients. The author is trying to make a point, showing that patients can be difficult, but most of them are in financial difficulties, some are clearly depressive, some are uneducated, most are worried for their health, and some are in a state of extreme poverty. I am not criticising the author as a doctor, but as a writer. I am not saying that the doctor should show more understanding and sympathy for these people, but the writer could have. I was shocked more than once while reading, and felt bad several times when the author displayed his thoughts during the dialogues with the patients. I also disliked the tone of the book generally speaking and the language…
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Investigative journalism is a genre I discovered recently and that I enjoy listening to more than reading. So when I decided to read Empire of Pain, I chose to listen to the audiobook rather than to read the book. It was so engrossing. The opioid epidemic was not something I knew much about, so listening to Patrick Radden Keefe’s book was truly horrifying.
This is my second favourite book this month.
Empire of Pain is a runner for the Booktube Prize, which I like to follow every year and try to read along when there are titles that trigger my interest. Next I’ll pick Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown, the story of four Japanese-American families during WWII. That’s perfect, because I’ll be reading two books about WWII in May (one Japanese and one American) for my 20th Century reading challenge.
Empire of Pain is on my tbr. I also recommend Say Nothing by the same author. I found an interesting and engaging read about a topic I knew nothing about. Keefe is great at weaving narratives together to form a multifaceted story that packs an emotional punch.
Your mystery prize winners project seems to be hit-or-miss. I totally admire your effort, though! There are bound to be terrible books in the bunch because literary prizes can sometimes be arbitrary and the judges can change, which means the quality of chosen work can fluctuate. 🤷♀️
I’m currently reading a short story collection, 애쓰지 않아도, for an online book discussion on a booktuber’s channel and it’s okay so far. Part of my new year resolutions was to attempt to read at least 4 Korean books, which I haven’t made a lot of progress on. How do you usually prioritize what you want to read? Do you plan things out? 🤔🤓
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Hello! Thank you for your comment.
I have read Say Nothing too and loved it, that’s why I jumped into Empire of Pain without hesitation, even though it was a topic I knew nothing about. Another book similar to Empire of Pain that I absolutely loved is Bad Blood by John Carreyrou about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.
It’s really not too late to read 4 Korean books this year. I find that I struggle a lot to find Korean books that are both interesting to me and easy to read. The Twitter challenge I am doing this year is really useful because it forces me to look for new books every month.
I usually plan in advance what I want to read the next month, but I often end up adding books I bought on impulse, or not reading books I had planned to read because of lack of time. But the multiple challenges help me stay focused. I will continue doing reading challenges next year too for sure!
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