Book Club Recommendations – Books Worth Discussing

Spending a couple of hours just in the company of a good book feels like heaven for many readers, including me. But reading doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. The most sociable readers have always the option of joining a book club either in person or online to discuss previously agreed books and have a lively, but respectful, debate.

Generally-speaking, any book is a good book to choose to read for a book club. However, some are bound to spark a more spirited discussion than others. It’s important to choose books that are interesting to muse about, that make readers think, maybe arrive at different conclusions, or look at the characters from different perspectives. I have five recommendations that I believe are good options to read in a book club.

 

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Although Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is full of fantastical elements, it focuses on very human experiences. This book, which is ultimately about memory and traumatic experiences, has as main character Piranesi, who lives in an immense house surrounded by the sea. He joins the Other twice a week to discuss their endeavours to discover some unknown knowledge. His emotions are portrayed with a meaningful subtlety. For such a short book, it provides many topics for discussion. How do memories influence our perception about ourselves? What clues about the ending did readers find? What did readers discern about what was going on in that world at various stages? Continue reading

‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell

My rating: 4 stars

Fables are never going to feature the most developed of characters. Their main aim is to convey a moral lesson after all. In Animal Farm, George Orwell succeeded in using this genre to criticise the Soviet Union, creating a thought-provoking story that can be relished even by readers who, like me, don’t tend to enjoy anthropomorphised animals in books. And, if the main text’s importance can’t be denied, the first annex featured in the Penguin English Library edition is as, or even more, interesting.

The animals at Manor Farm are exploited by Mr Jones. It is Major, one of the pigs at the English farm, that makes them see that they are forced to work until they have no strength left in appalling conditions. They are not free. Three nights after his rousing speech, Major dies and doesn’t get to witness the rebellion that takes place when the animals go one day unfed. As the animals take over the farm, Mr Jones flees.

Afterwards, two pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, start to lead the other animals. They reduce Animalism, the system of thought based on the principle that freedom and equality are essential rights of animals, to seven commandments and change the name of the farm to Animal Farm. The animals continue to work the land, but this time with much more enthusiasm, since they are doing it for their own prosperity. One day, however, the pigs start to keep the milk and the apples only for themselves, instead of distributing them between all animals. The justification? They are the brainworkers after all. Continue reading

Quarterly Favourites – January to March 2021

During the last three years, I shared with you every single month my favourites from the books and blog posts I read, the TV series, films and YouTube videos I watched, and the music I listened to. However, since I was becoming bored of writing this kind of posts every month and new beloveds have been scarce, I decided to only start publishing a post about my favourites once every three months. The first instalment of my quarterly favourites will focus on the months from January to March.

Since the beginning of 2021, I’ve read five books and decided not to finish two. I loved rereading Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a well-known dystopian novel that portrays a society in the grip of an authoritarian regime, which survives thanks to mass surveillance and a high level of gaslighting. The main character, Winston, works in the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite information so it always serves the interests of the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. When he meets Julia, his life becomes even more in danger.

Other book I highly enjoyed reading was Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. The last instalment in The Farseer Trilogy continues to focus on Fitz, a royal bastard whom we first meet as a child. Although the pacing is not always perfect, this is an overall immersive and gripping read about the difference between duty and greed for power. The ending of the series is satisfying and exciting. Continue reading

Last Ten Books Tag

A week ago, I saw the Last Ten Books Tag on Marina Sofia’s blog (I couldn’t unearth who the original creator was) and decided to give it a go, although I don’t tend to do tags very often. I always struggle to come up with answers for numerous of the questions asked on tags for some reason, so forgive me if my replies are not particularly remarkable and insightful.

 

Last book I gave up on

This one is easy! I gave up on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy early on in January after reading less than ten chapters. In 1805, Anna Pavlovna organised a soirée where various characters discussed not only their lives, but also Napoleon and his political and military movements. I just couldn’t memorise whom any of the characters were or their connections with one another. For that reason, I lost all interest in this massive novel, which I had been meaning to read for years.

 

Last book I reread

After deciding not to finish War and Peace, I figured that it was a good idea to read an old favourite. I reread Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and loved it as much as the first time around. The dystopian society it portrays is well known for its telescreens and being ruled by the Party, whose face is the Big Brother. Winston, the main character, works in the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites past information. His life gets progressively more complicated as he becomes involved with Julia. Continue reading

My Penguin English Library Collection II

It’s so satisfying to look at the colourful and stripy spines of the Penguin English Library classics lined on my shelves that I’m always eager to add more copies to my collection. I obviously have to be interested in the story as well. I don’t buy them solely for the covers and overall design by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Since I revealed the classics that I had in these editions almost four years ago, I bought a few more. I have now sixteen in total. Most of my latest acquisitions were written by Charles Dickens, but there are other authors amongst the seven books mentioned in this post.

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Despite being full of unpleasant characters, Wuthering Heights is a gripping and convincing novel, which explores obsession and revenge in a believable way. Mr Earnshaw found Heathcliff on the streets of Liverpool when he was just a boy and took him to Wuthering Heights to live with him and his children. While he was looked down on by Hindley, he grew very close to Catherine. His unhealthy fascination with her led him to seek revenge. Continue reading

‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell

My rating: 5 stars

The dystopian society that George Orwell created for Nineteen Eighty-Four lays bare his extensive knowledge about totalitarian regimes, history and political philosophy. Having read it for the first time in Portuguese more than a decade ago, I cherished (re)reading it now in English and recalling why it remains a critical book. It makes absolutely and flawlessly clear how authoritarians operate by showcasing various of their techniques, while also being a prescient novel concerning the possibility of mass surveillance.

Winston, the main character, was a 39-year-old man who worked at the Ministry of Truth in London, a city part of Airstrip One, one of the most populous provinces of Oceania, which was perpetually at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. His job was to reconstruct the past. He changed the texts of news pieces, books, posters and pamphlets so they, irrespective of what happened, continued to suit the interests of the Party, whose central face was the Big Brother, a black-haired man with a moustache.

Freedom was less than a faint memory. Houses came equipped with telescreens that could never be completely turned off. Not only did they transmit information, but they also recorded images and sounds. Through them, the Thought Police could hear and watch everything that occurred nearby. People’s only loyalty should be to the Party. Love and desire were detrimental feelings, so the only purpose of marriage was to conceive. Winston had been married for little more than a year, but his wife left him as she couldn’t become pregnant. Continue reading

Book Haul – December 2020

A long time has passed since I wrote my previous book haul. I bought some books between then and now but never in bulk. As I was reading them almost immediately after buying them, I didn’t feel like sharing them with you on a post before reviewing them. This month, though, I decided to order seven books from the UK (before the Brexit transition period ends to avoid them potentially ending up in Customs next year) and they all arrived at the same time!

 

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries is one of the four massive books that I plan to read during the first half of 2021. Set in the 19th century, it has as main character Walter Moody, who decided to try to make his fortune in the goldfields of New Zealand. He becomes involved in the mystery surrounding various unsolved crimes. Although I wasn’t impressed by the TV adaptation, I decided to give the novel by Eleanor Catton a whirl.

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

It is decided! The first book that I’ll read next year is the colossal War and Peace! Now that I’ve finally bought it (in a stunning Vintage Classic Russians edition, which sadly arrived damaged), I can’t delay picking it up anymore. As Napoleon’s army marches on Russia, the lives of a group of young people change forever. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy it as much as Anna Karenina. Continue reading

Read in Translation, Want to Read the Original

As those of you who have been following my blog for a while probably already know, my first language is Portuguese. The first fiction book that I read in its entirety in English was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, because I didn’t want to wait for the translation. It was only after 2010, however, that I started reading the original versions of English books more recurrently. Nowadays, I don’t read the translations of books originally written in English anymore. Not only is it a great way to practise my English reading skills, but ordering books from the UK is also cheaper than to buy them in Portugal.

There are three books by English authors that I read the translation into Portuguese, but that I’m eager to read the original version of.

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I read the Portuguese translation of Pride and Prejudice, titled Orgulho e Preconceito, more or less 13 years ago. The heroine of the novel is Elizabeth Bennet. Her mother is eager to marry all of her five daughters. Elizabeth is playful, intelligent and witty, but she also makes quick judgements about people. One of them is Mr Darcy. The misunderstandings between the two of them are also a consequence of his prideful nature and of the importance he gives to social status. The believable characters are accompanied by great moments of satire. Continue reading

My First Loves from Various Book Genres

‘What is your favourite book genre?’. Here is a question I haven’t got an answer for. Lately, I have been mainly reading books that can be categorised as literary fiction, a term I use despite having various reservations about it (an interesting topic for discussion which I’m not focusing on today). However, I also really like fantasy, dystopian novels and horror, for example. My reading taste is fairly varied in this regard.

When it comes to some genres, I clearly remember the book that made me want to read more of the same sort. The books mentioned below are my first loves from a specific genre, although some of them show influences from various other ones. They may not be my favourite books from that genre anymore, but I liked them enough when I first read them to continue picking up books with some of the same characteristics.

 

Fantasy

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Having the third book of the Harry Potter series as my first love in the fantasy category may seem a bit strange. But this was the first book that I read in the series. I was around 13 years old, and it was recommended and lent to me by a friend, who apparently didn’t consider necessary to start the series from the beginning. And to be honest I don’t remember struggling to understand the plot at all. After falling in love with the characters and the world portrayed, I then bought Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and from there read all the others books in order. Continue reading

Books I Recently Didn’t Finish

Life is too short to force ourselves to read books we’re not enjoying at all until the very end. Although I sometimes persevere to the last page of a book I’m not really liking as much as I was expecting to, I only do so when I sincerely hope that it will get better or the ending will surprise me. I hadn’t DNFed a book in quite some time, probably years. But this month I already didn’t finish two: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell and The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino.

I’d had The Road to Wigan Pier (more precisely the Portuguese translation titled O Caminho para Wigan Pier) on my shelves for quite some time, and to be honest I was not that excited about it. I didn’t choose it myself. It was an offer from a bookshop for buying a certain number of books there. As I was trying to read more non-fiction in November, I decided to finally pick it up. But the writing style was not grabbing my attention, and I wasn’t that interested in the subject being covered either. The book delves into the life of the English working class in the 1930s, which could be a fascinating topic if the first pages focused on just a couple of specific people and were more insightful.

The other book I didn’t finish this month, The Castle of the Crossed Destinies, is a collection of short stories based on interpretations of tarot cards. I was expecting the stories to feature characters based on the cards’ drawings, but I thought the plot would be taken a bit further. However, after reading the first two stories and flicking through the others, it felt like we were just being presented with possible meanings for the cards being picked up by random people at a hostel, which used to be a castle, instead of being told a proper story. Continue reading