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July & August Reading

August 30, 2011

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!

Shanghai Girls

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!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2011 9:16 am

    A couple of years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber (of Phantom of the Opera fame) wrote a musical version of The Master and Margarita. I never saw the show or heard any of the music, but it closed pretty quickly. Perhaps the story doesn’t resonate now?

    Also, I also thought Crime and Punishment was surprisingly readable (although it helped that I was reading it in a class where the teacher loved it, which probably helped too).

    • August 30, 2011 6:11 pm

      Maybe it resonates if you are more familiar with the nuances of russian history.

      For crime and punishment, I suppose having a good translation helps?

  2. Serendipity permalink
    August 30, 2011 11:08 am

    I loved The Help but I didn’t like the author’s attitude towards the story in her authors notes. She felt a bit closed minded to me.

    • August 30, 2011 6:12 pm

      So often I end up hating the authors in their little notes or interviews in the back! I should just skip it!

  3. August 30, 2011 4:23 pm

    Did you know that there’s a new book out by Lisa See that’s a sequel to Shanghai Girls? Follows Joy after she goes to China with her mother following. Can’t wait to pick it up!

  4. August 30, 2011 6:21 pm

    Never read any of them. I do have Jack Welch’s book and will hopefully get to read it in the coming days. I may have to check out Bill Bryson’s book. It looks interesting. I will let you know what I think!


  5. August 31, 2011 10:50 am

    I love all of Bill Bryson’s books! He’s hilarious.

  6. September 1, 2011 3:59 am

    I read that BIll Bryson book not too long after I came by from my own 3 month backpacking Europe adventure… and laughed out loud through at least half the book! Everything he writes is SO true!!! And yes, all his books are great!

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