Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Man Who Lived Underground


The Man Who Lived Underground
by Richard Wright

Fun to read a short story for a change… this one, The Man Who Lived Underground, is contained in the book Eight Men by Richard Wight.  Set in the 1940’s, a young black man, Fred Daniels, is forced, while under attack by three policemen, to sign a confession saying he was guilty of murdering a woman.  He escapes into the sewer system and sets off on a number of adventures, which eventually lead him back to the police station, bringing himself face-to-face with the men who held him and brutally beat him into submission.  The man is looking to find reality in an unreal world full of racism, poverty, and inequality…similar to what we still find today in society.  And seeing that Wright’s work from over eighty years ago is still appearing in today’s world is more than a tragedy! A somber view for us all to grapple with each day we live. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When Breath Becomes Air


When Breath Becomes Air 
by Paul Kalanithi
I may have found this year’s best read in When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. When a reader connects to a story, either through great writing and/or connection to the topic, that’s a success.  The book is the real-life story of the author, a neurosurgeon trained at Stanford and Yale, who experiences the most tragic of fates as he serves his residency at Stanford University: learning that he has terminal cancer at thirty-six years old.  The story opens my own family wounds, losing my sister to cancer just a few years ago.  Linda was at the top of her field as a tile maker, in many ways similar to the skills needed to be a surgeon: precise and tactical in approaching the work.  Dr. Paul, only a year from completing his residency, is a workaholic, gaining accolades for his work.  After learning of his diagnosis, Paul decides to use the disease to teach himself and others the struggles one faces with each step of fighting cancer, including the decision of whether he and his wife should have a child (which they do). This is a book that teaches the lessons of life, a life no one wishes on anyone.  Life is never what we think it will be and reminds us how fragile life can be and that we should do all we can while we are able.  Each decision, the highs/lows and the importance of a support system (family/wife) are captured. Cancer is ugly, no matter the fighter and no matter the outcome as the unknown always sits in the mind of the patient.  How courageous that Paul leaves us with the gift of “how to determine” what makes a meaningful life along the way of his battle.  Family, work, life and death all rolled into one truly thoughtful and reflective book.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Love, Stargirl


Love, Stargirl
by Jerry Spinelli

A heartwarming older children’s book in Jerry Spinelli’s Love, Stargirl, the sequel to the original.  A year after leaving Arizona, Stargirl, a.k.a. Susan, is now a 16 year-old living in Pennsylvania (parts unknown).  Stargirl spends her year planning the next winter solstice by writing daily entries (January 1st through end of December) in the form of a letter to Leo sharing her “love” for him.  In her new town, she meets a six-year old, an older woman who is an agoraphobe, her pet rat Cinnamon, the ‘harem girls,’ Alvina (the grumpy eleven-year-old), the old gentleman who visits his wife’s grave every day, and Perry (the mystery boy who may take Leo’s place).  Stargirl is unique and different from most girls her age – she is creative and lives to see the best in others while she is being homeschooled by her mom. The year of the LONG letter to Leo is reflective, speculating whether or not he still has feelings for her, and asking if they will ever meet again.  Her weekly preparation for the winter solstice brings her to a place of contemplation and speaking to Leo as if he were there.  The book ends with her big event – bringing all of the people she has met over the year to the early morning sunrise where lots of questions are answered: who is Perry really and will he replace Leo? Will Alvina stop being an angry youth? Who is Neva? And will Betty Lou finally leave her home?  With a surprise visit from the old sage Archie from Arizona, answers are found in a secret letter from Leo.  Asking questions and a willingness to listen to them can bring surprising answers.  Kids’ books carry such good lessons.  We need to listen to them more.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Captain of the Sands


Captain of the Sands
by Jorge Amado

What happens when the weather on Memorial Day weekend isn’t very good?  Time to read more #RAFavBooks – one each of the past six days!  There are three more days in May, so we will see if it continues!  This time a young-adults book written by a Brazilian author, Jorge Amado, called Captains of the Sands.  The book explores a young group of homeless / orphaned kids, aged seven to thirteen, living on the streets of Bahia Brazil.  The ‘gang’ go by the name Captain of the Sands and are aptly led by Pedro Bala to steal, gamble, and beg, always barely escaping the city police.  Each chapter features one of the boys and their individual stories, from falling in love, to coming down with smallpox, to deciding to join the priesthood under the leadership of Father Jose Pedro (who befriended the boys).  Later in the book, Pedro falls in love with Dora, also an orphan youth, who is captured by the police during a raid on the boys.  Pedro is jailed while Dora is placed in a reformatory and slowly becomes ill while the two are separated.  Pedro escapes but not in time to save Dora.  The chapters conclude with the group growing apart and moving in their various directions in life.  A great series of stories capturing the tales of delinquent youth who rely upon each other to make it when their lives would otherwise be nothing but despair.    

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century


Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century
by Maira de los Reyes Castillo Bueno

As the student staff at NYU continues to diversify, I am reading more and more “heritage books,” historical biographies of the lives of people from homes of their ancestors.  Race, ethnicity and culture have been the foundation of many of the books in the past few weeks.  Today is no different. I venture to Cuba through the book about and written by Maria de los Reyes Castillo Bueno titled: Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century. Reyita tells her life story to her daughter, Daisy.  As a 94 year-old Cuban woman, Reyita describes growing up in a turbulent Cuba.  The stories go deeply into family (grandmother’s struggles as a slave, her mother fighting for independence), and then into the political movements within Cuba – the deaths during the massacre of 1912, her life on the plantation, the dictatorships of Cuba, and the national rise of communism.  Reyita’s personal struggles as a black woman and her desire to marry a white man (which she eventually does) play to the core of this story.  As she notes, "I didn't want a black husband, not out of contempt for my race, but because black men had almost no possibilities of getting ahead and the certainty of facing lots of discrimination."  Reyita struggles with living in poverty, family battles, and plain-old discrimination. Through it all, she illustrates the importance of commitment to her faith in God and is seen by some as a “visionary,” where she ‘sees’ images and can predict future behavior. The book captures the role of women in Latina society as the cornerstone of the family.  Reyita stays faithful to her husband and lives a long, long life with family at the center. Interesting to note the importance of a text like this in understanding the culture of gender, race, ethnicity, and religion, all of which play a role in Cuban society.  This is a quick read and celebrates not only Reyita’s life but also the 118 people, including great-great grandchildren, in Reyita’s family. A tell-all tale of the secrets within a mother’s heart.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States


A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States
by Gordon Hirabayashi

As the bombs hit Pearl Harbor, the United States leadership holds Japanese Americans responsible, fearing they will turn on US Mainland.  What happens next is the tale of one individual who refuses to quietly accept the fate of being stuck in a place, yet he is unable to change his heritage as an American with ancestry from Japan.  Gordon Hirabayashi is studying at the University of Washington when he and his fellow Japanese family and friends are forced to go home and stay inside each evening at 8pm.  Gordon refuses to accept the removal of rights he had as outlined in his story:  A Principled Stand – The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States.  The story captures his life: marrying a Caucasian woman, refusing to accept discrimination, and fighting back through the courts, an effort which ultimately lands in the Supreme Court.  He is jailed for ten months and it isn’t another forty years until he has this historic case overturned in the Supreme Court.  The fear of a group of people can lead to some pretty extraordinary behaviors.  Gordon, a brilliant young man committed to peace and non-violent response, was stuck in the crossroads of “McCarthyism” at its best.  Hirabayashi’s book is a very important tale to be told so we hopefully don’t have to repeat history…but aren’t we starting to have that with our current political leaders in DC?  Pick this one up.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Afeni Shakur - Evolution of a Revolutionary


Afeni Shakur - Evolution of a Revolutionary
by Jasmine Guy

Born Alice Faye Williams and later known as Afeni Shakur, Jasmine Guy’s book Afeni Shakur – Evolution of a Revolutionary reviews her life.  Guy meets her later in her life, after the very public death of her famous son Tupac and develops a relationship.  The book is a series of meetings between the two women in which Guy asks permission to capture her story.  Afeni agrees, and the book is published.  Afeni, a one-time Black Panther, endured marriages, drug abuse, an abortion, recovery from addiction, and matriarch of her family.  The story is a gut-wrenching tale of how early abuse led a woman to the brink of despair, yet she survives.  The reader learns much about a culture of poverty, abuse, and family fame – which was cut short by murder.  Guy has presented the gritty and hard-core life of a survivor who makes her way to redemption, and we learn how through her early years of life.  Not what I expected but glad I read it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Passing

Passing
by Nella Larsen
Went on a road trip up north listening to Passing by Nella Larsen, which is a quick listen – only four hours.  This is a powerful novel written at a time of significant racial discord in our country.   The main character is Irene Redfield, a mixed-race woman who lives in Harlem.  The book is broken into three parts. The first is the "Encounter," opening with Irene receiving a letter from a former friend, Clare Kendry, whom she met again at a restaurant while visiting her hometown of Chicago. The two women had grown apart when Clare moved away after her father died.  During their meeting, Irene learns that Clare "passes" for white and is married to a white man, who is unaware of her being half-black.  The meeting leaves Irene shaken and wanting to avoid Clare, but with further outreach from Clare, they have other meetings. In the next encounter, Clare’s white husband, John Bellew, shows up. Irene and two of her other friends are shaken by John’s racist remarks but do not let him know that Clare is also black.  The women want nothing to do with Clare, fearing for themselves and Clare. Clare later sends an apology letter to Irene, which she destroys.  In the second part, "Re-encounter," Irene receives another letter from Clare, which she at first ignores, but Clare then shows up at her home.  Clare gets involved in Irene’s committee work at the "Negro Welfare League" (NWL) by showing up at an event, which leads to a rebuilding of the friendship.  In part three, we find Irene’s relationship with her husband is strained and she is suspicious that her husband and Clare are having an affair, which leads Irene to not warn Clare that her husband (Jack) has become aware of her race.  In the final scene, there is an encounter where Jack shows up at a party among Irene’s friends and confronts Clare, calling her a "damned dirty nigger!" At that moment, Clare, who is near an open window falls out from the top floor of the building where she is pronounced dead. It is unclear if she has fallen, jumps, or is pushed by either Irene or Jack. Clare’s anguish ends the book.  Wow, what a story!  Irene’s dire fear is real and leads her to question her own decision making.  Compelling read which captures the hidden experience of light-skinned black people in the 1940s.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Diviners


The Diviners
by Libba Bray

What happens when you play with an Ouija board? You awaken a spirit!  And this time it is “Naughty John” who comes out of the board and creates mischief in NYC during the 1920s.  This is how the story of the The Diviners by Libba Bray begins.  Evie O’Neill, a seventeen-year-old growing up in a rural city in Ohio, is dispatched to her uncle’s home in NYC after she creates havoc among her friends and her mother grows weary of her antics.  Evie is overjoyed and begins her ventures by exploring the “underbelly” of the city (drinking and cavorting with the burlesque shows) until her uncle Will, an educated professor and curator for the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, threatens to send her back home.  Will is called upon by the NYPD to assist with a series of mysterious murders which appear to be connected to the occult.  Evie shares her special powers (the ability to see the memories of others’ lives when she touches an object of a deceased person) with her uncle and she joins in the search for the serial killer.  Evie’s desire for the headlines causes problems for Will and her ability to help effectively.  In the end, Evie is able to assist her uncle with foiling the destruction of the world by the evil spirit “Naughty John”…but, bad news for readers: this is a serial book.  Ugh!  Yes, more books after this one and the story doesn’t end.  While I really enjoyed the book, I’m not a fan of the never-ending storylines.  What happens to Evie’s supernatural abilities?  Will she fall in love with the half-man, half-robot of Jericho, a young man whom Will has adopted?  What about Sam Lloyd, the man who robbed Evie when she first arrived to NYC but later teamed up with the group to defeat the evil serial killer?  And Evie’s friend Mabel?  I hope all of these get answered in future books…but, if not, just read the first book.  Evie is a great character and worth the read.  One of the best lovable heroines in a long time!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Empathy Exams



The Empathy Exams
by Leslie Jamison

I had to check with my wife on whether she had ever heard of a “standardized patient” (an actor who plays the part of an ill patient for the benefit of training doctors), and she confirmed there is such a role.  Enter into the book The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison, a series of short essays all focused on attempting to understand empathy.  Jamison’s essays explore: the medical practice rooms; a study of people who claim to have a disease called Morgellons (a controversial condition involving skin lesions and the belief that the skin is infected by bugs and other objects, like string); living on a dangerous border-section of Mexico; falling in love with a jailed murderer; and women and pain.  Can we feel someone else’s pain?  Jamison’s essays certainly show that we can.  Depth, clear writing, and fragility, all captured in this well written series of essays.   

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name


Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde pens her autobiography in Zami, A New Spelling of My Name. Lorde is the youngest of three daughters growing up in a very racially divided US in the 1930-1940s.  Lorde, an African American, shares the experience of living in Harlem and going to school in an all-white community. There are various examples of racial hatred towards Lorde, such as when the family’s landlord hangs himself for renting to a black family, her Catholic school teachers (nuns) mistreat her for not being able to read (especially when her glasses break), and being kicked out of a restaurant while on vacation in DC for entering a “whites only” diner. After high school, Lorde abandons her family, moving in with one of her high school friends. She gets pregnant by her boyfriend, has an abortion, leaves the area to Mexico and then starts experimenting sexually with other women.  Lorde’s journey includes it all – discrimination, the experience of getting her period, rape, sexual exploration, death of her father, losing a friend to suicide, and finding herself through relationships with women.  The story ends with reflections on her mother.  So where does the name “Zami” come from?  It is a Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers.  Carriacou is the Caribbean island that her mother immigrated before coming to the US.  Lorde is ahead of her time.  This is a book that reflects the “authentic self” of an author. Highly recommend.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Born to Run


Born to Run 
by Christopher McDougall

I always enjoy reading an ‘investigative report’ book.  In Born to Run, the author, Christopher McDougall, goes to a world-renowned sports doctor seeking answers regarding his injured foot that is prohibiting him from running. McDougall presents a compact history of amazing athletes, those who were marathon winners through the secret tribe, the Tarahumara Indians, who reside in the Copper Canyons in Mexico.   McDougall seeks to solve the mystery of what makes runners successful.  Diet?  Running footwear?  Training?  Body type?  He interviews scientists, athletes, running aficionados, doctors, and the companies who make the billion dollar products to help runners do better…but do they really?  This is one of the most thorough and helpful data-based books that illustrates that running without footwear may be better for your feet!  Try telling that to Nike or New Balance.  McDougall meets with the extreme runners, who run forty hours through the desert, all the way through the ultra-marathons and Olympic marathons.  He introduces some pretty interesting characters he meets going across the globe.  The last chapter brings McDougall to recovery, training for his first ultra-marathon with a new diet and wearing cheaper sneakers, which are shown to be better for feet than heavily padded & expensive two-hundred-dollar sneakers.  A well-researched book, worth the read, especially for wannabe or veteran athletes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction


A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
by Eugene Peterson

Finished reading a spiritual book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, by Eugene Peterson.  The author draws upon readings from the Bible, mainly the Psalms, to connect to various values that he believes makes for a better Christian.  Some of the values include: Discipleship; Service; Joy; Humility; Obedience; and Blessing.  Each chapter draws from the reading and then applies to each of the other chapters to explain the importance of each value.  The lessons shared offer an insight into being saved from the evils within our society, as per the author.  The book is clearly for those who believe in a Christian perspective and may not be for everyone.  The sixteen chapters are only about ten pages each and provide lessons & real-life experiences that attempt to validate the “WHY” in being a better person.  This is a relatively quick read and probably could serve as a daily reflective tool in making a better connection to your spiritual side, if so inclined.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Chasing Vermeer


Chasing Vermeer
by Blue Balliett

Once we hit reading day at NYU, I am able to kick it into high gear reading RA Favorite Books.  Today, I was able to start and finish Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett.  This is a young adult book that follows two sixth graders attending a high school on the University campus in Chicago. Their teacher, Ms. Hussey, a recent addition to the teaching ranks, provides a new approach to engage her students through inquiry and unstructured approach to the content.  She challenges her students to solve problems that exist in the world, first by deciding what problem they want to solve.  When two students, Calder and Petra, learn about a missing Johannes Vermeer painting called A Lady Writing, they decide to join forces to solve the mystery.  There are a series of intertwined storylines bringing family, friends, and lead characters all into the mystery.  A stolen painting, a missing friend, an injured older neighbor, and the mysterious bookstore owner make for a baffling “who done it” with two youngsters getting in the way to solve it.  Will they find the missing Vermeer?  Will they get hurt in the process?  What about their teacher?  Is she the person who stole the painting?  So much to unravel, but a fast-paced storyline makes this one easy and quick to digest.  If you have a younger sibling or relative, this would be a great purchase to engage them in solving mysteries! 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Boy Erased


Boy Erased
by Garrard Conley

Garrard Conley’s memoir, titled Boy Erased, shares his story of being sent to a gay conversion therapy institution as a nineteen-year-old growing up in the south.  Garrard grows up in a very conservative town with parents who are very religious, his father being a Baptist minister.  The story begins with Garrard contemplating how “far” to go with his girlfriend, Chloe, but he is constantly struggling with a nagging feeling within, saying it doesn’t feel right to be with her.  He eventually cuts off all communication with her shortly after evading a night that had the potential for them to have sex at her house.  Garrard then goes away to college and is raped by an older student, David.  After feeling rebuffed by Garrard, David later calls Garrad’s parents to share that their son is gay while also telling most of the students at the school.  Garrard’s Mom comes and picks him up from school the minute they find out.  She and her husband decide the only recourse is to have God “get this evil” out of him.  They enroll him in a “ex-gay conversion” therapy institute.  Garrard captures the horrific experience and the way he comes to terms with his sexuality and escapes the ultra-right staff at the “Love in Action” – LIA, where counselors and ministers worked to guilt those who were sent there to escape their evil ways.  Frightening to think this is real and not fiction.  I hear the book will become a movie with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in the fall.    

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Bridge to Terabithia


Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson

While I was reading tonight’s book, my son mentioned this was one he was required to read in middle school.  The story of Jess Aarons and his new neighbor friend, Leslie Burke, is captured in Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.  Jess is one of five children (he is the only boy in the family) and is pushed hard by his parents who struggle financially after his father loses his job.  The book is set in the farmlands outside of DC in a very rural & poor area.  Jess is on summer vacation and wants to be the fastest boy in school when he returns for fifth grade.  During one of his early morning practices, he meets a new neighbor, who looks like a boy – but isn’t. Leslie Burke, a tomboyish girl, ends up being the fastest student in school at the first day’s race during lunch period.  Jess and Leslie begin to build a bond of friendship quickly.  Leslie and her family have moved to the rural area to leave the hustle and bustle of the city.  The Burke’s are well-off, educated people, and Leslie serves as a motivator and educator for Jess, showing him anything is possible.  Their friendship includes dreaming and building a hide-away in the woods called “Terabithia,” a place where they pretend they are the royalty of the land.  For their first Christmas as friends, they exchange gifts. Jess giving Leslie a puppy, and Leslie giving Jess a paint set so Jess can hone his skills as an artist.  What happens as the year concludes is (***spoiler alert*** - if you haven’t read it, stop reading!)…the climax of all climaxes…Jess is invited to attend an art gallery with the art teacher who sees Jess’ real abilities as an artist.  When he comes back from the greatest day of his life to his family, all home, gathered together – which is odd since it is a work day. And that’s when we learn of an accident involving Leslie.  This is a heartwarming story of young friendship, coming of age, and facing the realities of life…it is never fair!  Every child should read this book…in fact, adults would benefit as well.  It teaches you to hold on to each friendship tightly as they can disappear in an instant…

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Undoing Project


The Undoing Project
by Michael Lewis

How wonderful to have a friendship built upon that which is deeply explored and understood. So begins the friendship of two icons in the field of behavioral analysis, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.  Their work on judgement and decision-making are lauded as the model from which all other theorists build.  The book The Undoing Project was written by Michael Lewis, AKA the author of the famous baseball book on how to use sabermetrics to field a baseball team.  Lewis reviews forty years of history between the two men, from Kahneman’s life during Nazi Germany as a Jew, to the University days of studying, then teaching, and finally conducting research on why people behave as they do.  The two men, who were complete opposites, became friends, which led to partnering on projects that suggest we should distrust human intuition and instead build models of how our behavior will respond to changes in society.  They are known as the “fathers” of behavioral economics, and I believe they have made a major impact on the field of neuroscience.  We learn of the fragility of friendship and how two men, so smart and driven to be the best thinkers, develop a depth of friendship unknown to most, but struggle to hold on to it due to their own egos.  There are significant questions to consider about how we “mis-think” the obvious and are fooled into believing that which seems to be true.  Kahneman is so smart, presenting baffling questions that most of us fail to comprehend.  So much in this book.  The first few chapters explore the stat nerd who was first hired to be an NBA Executive with the Houston Rockets after being fired in early career work as a consultant.  Lewis continues to present cutting-edge logic to his readers in this epic book.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Road to Character


The Road to Character
by David Brooks

“Should I work to cultivate my resume virtues or my eulogy virtues”, writes NY Times author David Brooks in The Road to Character. I could argue that this is the book of the year, but it was written in 2015. Nonetheless, I think it is a book every person should read.  Not only does it provide rich historical perspectives on people worth emulating, but it also highlights the virtues every person should seek to embody through the way one lives their life.  Brooks chooses outside people, some well-known and some with lesser “brand name” recognition, to illustrate his points.  In each story, he provides context of how the person developed the character trait worth cultivating. The readers learns that these traits are grown out of habit and hard work in an effort to create an inner character that becomes a guiding force.  There are eight chapters following the biographies of people who overcame weaknesses in earlier life to become the esteemed person worthy of following at the end of their life.  The people include:  Frances Perkins, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dorothy Day, George Marshall, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, George Eliot, George Lewes, Augustine, Samuel Johnson, Michel de Montaigne, Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath.  He ends his book with a Humility Code, a proposition of 15 statements on how we should live – here are my favorites:

·         Live a life of purpose, righteousness and virtue

·         Remember we are flawed, so stop the selfishness and overconfidence

·         We do sin, but recognize it, feel ashamed of it, and then rectify it

·         Have an accurate assessment of your own nature and place in the cosmos

·         Pride blinds us to the reality of our blinded nature

·         No struggle is more real than inner campaign against our own deficiencies

·         Character is a set of dispositions, desires, and habits that are slowly engraved during the struggle against our own weakness

·         Character endures over the long term

·         No persona can achieve self-mastery on his or her own

·         We are ultimately saved by grace

·         Defeating weakness often means quieting the self

·         Wisdom starts with modesty

·         A good life is organized around a vocation

·         The best leader attempts to lead along the grain of human nature, not against it

·         The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich and famous, but that person will become mature

Such great lessons.  A book so worth reading, if nothing else for role models who we can try and learn from. Maybe next year’s speech at the end of the year will come.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Spring RA Book Club: 1Q84

1Q84
by Haruki Murakami


Christine's review:

Haruki Murakami is an intriguing writer who captivates his audience through the use of specific details and the most peculiar situations, environments, and characters interwoven into an equally interesting world. 1Q84 delves straight into the idea of a parallel world where mysterious forces of the Little People dominate a sort of mystical presence and culture around a world that seems familiar to our main characters, Aomame and Tengo but is all too life-threatening. While I cannot discern the specifics of these powers and supernatural characters, I feel that I am meant to suspend my disbelief and go with the flow, so to say, while reading Murakami's work. I am to take it at face value, accept it, and learn to understand the world from what information I am given. It was a unique way of reading this novel, one that I was frustrated as well as captivated by; I simply could not put the book down and devoured each page because the ambiguity of everything kept me craving for more of anything Murakami was willing to throw my way. I have to appreciate this style and technique of writing because it is difficult to captivate readers for an 1000+ page book, but Murakami managed to pull me in and make me feel that I did not spend hours on this book but rather minutes. Essentially, I find the writing quite masterful, but the plot to be one that needs to constantly be grappled with, understanding that most likely, there will not be a clear answer in the end. However, perhaps that is a fair lesson to the rest of us - what would life be if we had clear answers all the time?

Roza's review:

I must say that this book was nothing like I thought it would be. I was expecting science fiction, in a sense, but found much more complexity of theme while reading. Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is a book about the world and our perception of it. Murakami offers a story that engages with the surreal and the fantastical in a very natural way, making for a story that no longer needs a genre classification, but can exist as someone's story, as real as any other. Though rather lengthy, 1Q84 is worth the read. Murakami's commitment to world-building in this work more or less necessitates the story's length, as it constructs the framework for a world that is so believable, I almost think that it could really be true. Despite its less-than-brisk pace, 1Q84 is absolutely worth the read. I'll be sure to check out more of Murakami's work!

Tanya's review:

I enjoyed reading 1Q84! Murakami creates immersive, enchanting worlds. I appreciated his unique, complex characters. Although the book ends leaving several ambiguities open, overall it is a treat to step into Murakami’s imagination.

Sameen's review:

1Q84 is a tour de force of a book. At over a thousand pages, the book feels like a heavy load to lug around not only in your backpack but in your head as well. But if ever there were a moment to not judge a book by its cover, 1Q84 would be the best example. The book felt light in terms of its reading, infused with very accessible stories of long-lost love, wondrous disappearances and a great spy-tale as well. As with most Murakami novels, 1Q84 possesses an airy feeling to it that manages to make even the most complex and convoluted stories in the novel appear relatable. If you thought you'd never become attached to a highly efficient, no-holds barred, vengeful hit-woman, read 1Q84 and see how you feel after.

Sam's review:

1Q84 is a compelling story about two lonely individuals that hold on to a feeling of solidarity that they shared in their childhood for decades after they last met. Murakami captivates readers by creating an ominous and mysterious supernatural world, 1Q84, where our main characters enter. The novel simultaneously presents characters that deal with complex social issues such as domestic abuse, broken parent-child relationships, and isolation. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the novel, Murakami layers the novel with unanswered questions, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about 1Q84. 1Q84 is an excellent novel that challenges readers at every twist and turn of the plot.

Anna's review:

Similar to Murakami books that I have read in the past, 1Q84 creates an almost realistic world with just enough mysticism that it requires one to suspend their disbelief to fully dive in. I really enjoyed the separation of the novel into individual stories about both main characters Aomame and Tengo. The separate storylines helped me to become connected to each character and their story and created curiosity about their connection and when their paths would cross similar to another book club read-All the Light We Cannot See. I also listened to this on audiobook which had different readers to voice each section allowing for even deeper connection to the characters. Murakami created an intriguing world and left me with a lot of questions about how it works. While I enjoyed the novel overall and appreciated the detailed stories and interesting links between each new situation, I felt that the ending left something to be desired. Murakami spent literally hundreds of pages creating this world and the forces that control it, yet the resolution seemed too easy, too simple.

Sunny's review:

I really enjoyed reading 1Q84, particularly the aspect in which the chapters alternated perspectives. The way the two plotlines, and eventually three started out completely unrelated and then became intertwined created great suspense. This novel, while a dystopian one, held a lot of powerful insight and thought-provoking themes such as love, religion, and free will. The theme of love in its various forms stood out to me most – the familial, platonic, and romantic. The constant focus on the two moons and allusions to predetermined fate had me looking up at the moon, just to make sure there still is only one moon. The ending left many questions in the air, not too many, but just enough to look forward to a potential sequel.

Louise's review:

1Q84 was a confusing yet engaging ride. Haruki Murakami seamlessly integrates these fantastical elements of alternate universes with spot on depictions of 1980s Japan. His world building is truly unparalleled and the world he does create is the perfect setting for an adventure of this magnitude. His characters are intriguing. They draw you in immediately with their unique voices and stories and before you know it you've flipped through 200 pages chaos. I appreciated the ways in which Murakami was able to connect these unique stories with one another to create this work that is nothing short of a masterpiece. My one gripe was how he chose to end the piece. Though I was happy that Tengo and Aomame ended up together in the end, I almost didn't want that to happen simply because there was an expectation that they wouldn't. Otherwise, it was an amazing read overall!