July & August Reading
The Master and the Margarita
Even with the numerous footnotes explaining a lot of the phrases & people mentioned, the book was over my head, While it was certainly entertaining at times, I did not love it -it was just too crazy of a plot and I struggled to get into it. As I mentioned, I was trying to read some Russian literature in prep for my trip, and this one popped as one of the most popular novels. Wikipedia says: “Many criticsconsider the book to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and one of the foremost Soviet satires, directed against a suffocatingly bureaucratic social order.” Hmmm… If I were you, I’d trust those critics and ignore my negative review!
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
I loved this book! It was hilarious. I eventually tired of Bills attitude, but not until almost the last chapter of the book. Each chapter focuses on a particular city or country, and they are basically self-contianed little chapters, so this was a convient way to break up some of the heavier reading I was doing. My favorite chapter was Lichtenstein – I burst out laughing several times. Please read this, and let’s talk about it together, ok?
A Patchwork Planet
I picked this up as another light read – I’ve read Ann Tyler in the past and know I can breeze through her books and I usually like the characters. This book was enjoyable and qick, but not outstanding. I didn’t so much like the two main characters but I did like the more minor characters – senior citizens, mostly.
Crime and Punishment
After The Master and the Margarita, I was nervous to try another Russian novel – but this was surprisingly readable for such an old book. I mean, I know it is a classic and people love it, but I still was surprised I enjoyed it so much!
I loved this one too. It starts with two “modern” young girls living a comfortable life in Shanghai, follows them as their life falls apart, then describes their journey to build a new one almost from scratch. It was a really facinating glimpse into the world of these sisters, both as young Shanghai girls then as new immigrants in Los Angeles, all the way through their first 18 years here. I really enjoyed watching the relationship between the two sisters develop over the years, as well as the dynamic of the entire family.
This isn’t my usual type of book, but I read it in hopes of understand a little bit about something my company has been talking about the past year or so – differentiation. This is method of management where you rate all your employees as a 1, 2 or 3 and you force them to fit into a distribution (top 20%, middle 70%, bottom 10%). Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, makes a decent case for it, but I think it only works when the management has frank conversations and sets clear expectations. I’m still waiting for that. On the other hand, I know that I’d be fighting and motivated to get in/stay in the top 20%, so I do see the pull. I read most of it in an evening (skimming some sections I may or may not come back to). I do think I learned a lot about what my company management might be thinking, and also that they are doing a bad job of explaining what they are thinking! At least my manager was nice enough to mention the book so I could find out the information on my own!
That’s it for the past two months – but I just picked up The Help and am dying to get started!