Books of 2015

Books of 2015

2015 was a full year: completion of the PhD, submission, defense, exams, writing, publications, applications, resuming work and plenty of travelling. However busy, I managed to find a bit of time for reading, though not as much as in the past, nor as much as I would have liked to. I believe a researcher, an intelectual coming from any area, should make time to read and actively read, inside or outside her domain. The following list and the short descriptions (I am not going to bore anyone with detailed reviews) are meant as a memento for myself, a record of one of my favorite pleasures. The order is random.

Karl Ove Knausgaard – A Man in Love

The second book of the series titled: My Struggle. An honest and somehow tough account of the artist’s ‘married with children’ life while trying to keep up with his writing.

Michael Houellebecq – Submission

This was for me the reading event of the year. Despite common beliefs the book is not (necessarily) about Islam, but about the lack of reaction to evil and the ease with which the West submits to it. The Islam, from the book, can be replaced with any fundamentalist religion or political system. The end result would be the same. That is the horrific part of the whole story. Another exceptional delivery of the French master. 

Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood

A book about love and suicide. About hope and hopelessness, about salvation and damnation. I did not look and listen to the song this time. But I liked the novel a lot.

Haruki Murakami – After the Quake

A collection of short stories in which the omnipresent secondary character is the quake. The author captures the effect of the quake on people’s life. The stories are short, some just bits of life, some fantastic, some sad. The main idea is that ‘life goes on’.

Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

A novel about re-discovering one selves. A reversed journey into the past for healing purposes. Very good writing.

George RR Martin – Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

While waiting for the (now postponed) 6th volume of the epic Song of Ice and Fire, I had to read these 3 stories which take place about 100 years before those that caught HBO’s attention. The stories are light and fun, but nowhere near the amazing writing that Martin got us used to. It’s a book for the fans and worth a lazy afternoon.

Adriana Saftoiu – Cronica de Cotroceni

A collection of anecdotes and diary entries from the time when the author was acting counselor of the president of Romania. Interesting for the portray of Basescu in his early (and recent) years, which, pretty much confirmed my opinion of him. Despite the innuendo concerning Basescu’s relationship with minister Elena Udrea, Basescu proves to be a rather complex character. Saftoiu did not harm his image with her writing, that is for sure.

Neagu Djuvara  – Scurta istorie a romanilor povestita celor tineri (Short History of Romanians Narrated for the Youth)

For me the book was more of a curiosity: how does Djuvara see our history, but I have still managed to find some new and interesting information. The events experienced by Djuvara himself are narrated in a subjective manner, and fall more with memoirs genre than with history. All in all, a recommended book for those who wish to know the basics of our history without bothering too much.

Lucian Boia – Cum s-a romanizat Romania?

For me it is simply amazing how much and how fast Boia can right quality essays. This one explains how Romania became more and more Romanian from its unification and until today. However, one must notice how something is lost every time something is gained: more uniformity, less cosmopolitanism and diversity and also less connections with Romanians abroad.

Lucian Boia – Mihai Eminescu, romanul absolut

An essay dedicated to how Mihai Eminescu was transformed into a national myth, which was then used by all political entities and regimes.

Istvan Orkeny – One minute stories

Delicious and funny Hungarian writing about the beginning years of communism in Budapest

Henry Kissinger – World Order

Essential for those who wish to understand not only the global political systems but also how the world (still) works today.

Umberto Eco – Zero Issue

Not his best novel, but a very good story about how media manipulates news.

Adrian Wooldridge – The Company. A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea

Not what I expected, but indeed an informative history of the company. Seemed more as a collection of trivia about the topic, from its outset until present times.

Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You

As usually, his novels must be read with an open mind and a big laughter. This one imagines a world in which women discovered the perfect sex toy and do nothing all day than enjoy, being thus controlled by the creator. A welcomed pamflet of 50 shades of gray. 

Chuck Palahniuk – Apocalipse

Second part of the trilogy whose character is a dead girl whose parents seem to be Angelina and Brad Pitt. Original, witty, funny and excellently written.  

Mircea Cartarescu – Solenoid

The concluding book of the year. Cannot say whether I liked it or not. Many events were familiar due to Nostalgia and Orbitor. Not hard to read, but dense, with descriptions and a sea of words which many times seemed useless. 20-30 pages which are absolutely painful, the impressions of Bucharest are simply stunning. An ending which reminded me of the final scenes of Avengers – Age of Ultron. I will leave this one for the critics.

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