Tuesday 20 March 2018

My Autumn Reads

The Artsy Reader Girl is the new host of the weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.
Each week she nominates a topic to encourage those of us who love a good list to get all listy.
This week it's all about books I hope to read this spring autumn.

Right now, it feels like we're a long way from autumn.
Sydney is still enjoying hot summery weather with weekend temps soaring high into the 30's (we only use Celsius in Australia so I don't know what that equates to in Farenheit).
A bushfire is destroying homes on the south coast of NSW, junior sport was cancelled and the elderly have been warned to stay inside.
It's hard to imagine the leaves changing colour or snuggling under the covers and wearing jumpers and jeans again.

But when it does, I will be ready with this fabulous list of cosy reads.

My Top Ten Autumnal Reads for 2018:

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s answer to the mystery behind one of the art world’s great masterpieces—a set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown—until now.

In The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier weaves fact and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry—an extraordinary story exquisitely told.

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry series is currently on show at the Art Gallery of NSW.
I've already seen it once and thanks to my multi-pass ticket I plan to see it a few more times before the exhibition finishes at the end of June.
Until recently I didn't know that Chevalier had written a book based around these famous tapestries.
I didn't enjoy reading Girl With a Pearl Earring, so I'm a little nervous about this one, but I hope it adds an extra dimension to my next visit to the AGNSW.

12 Rules For Life by Jordan B Peterson

What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.

Humorous, surprising, and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.

What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant, and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure, and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith, and human nature while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its listeners.

My life is not chaotic, but it is very hectic and harried right now.
A foreward by Norman Doidge is just icing on the cake.
Who wouldn't want to know what the 12 practical & profound rules for life are?

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

I thought this book was entirely set in Korea, but I found out recently that a large part of the story is also in Japan. Given my upcoming trip to Japan, this book suddenly got bumped up to the front end of my TBR pile. Min Jin Lee is also attending this year's Sydney Writer's Festival.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This story tells the extraordinary story of a geisha - summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan's dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. 

She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Her memoirs conjure up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha - dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the land's most powerful men.

This is the book that tops the Goodreads Best Books About Japan list.
I suspect it also might be the book that travels with me to Japan.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Toru Okada's cat has disappeared. His wife is growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has recently been receiving. As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.

I love this series of covers that Vintage ran for the Murakami's.
I've collected most of them over time.

The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Written in the eleventh century, this portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world's first novel. The Tale of Genji is a very long romance, running to fifty-four chapters and describing the court life of Heian Japan, from the tenth century into the eleventh.

I'm looking forward to this one a lot.

Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry

Ghosts of the Tsunami is a classic of literary non-fiction, a heart-breaking and intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the personal accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe, and the bleak struggle to find consolation in the ruins.

We will be travelling through the area most affected by the tsunami of 2011.
I would like to read this before visiting so that I can be informed and sensitive to local issues.

Hiroshima by John Hersey

When the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945, killing 100,000 men women and children, a new era in human history opened. Written a mere year after the disaster, this work offers a heart rending account of six men and women who survived despite all the odds. 

Forty years later, John Hersey returned to Hiroshima to discover how the same six people had struggled to cope with catastrophe and with often crippling disease. His long new chapter, which also considers the dramatic proliferation of nuclear weaponry since the war, provides a devastating picture of the long term effects of one very small bomb.

This is now considered a classic non-fiction title; I can't believe I haven't already read it.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Hardy's powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men - respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel - making her the object of scandal and betrayal. Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, "Far from the Madding Crowd" shows the precarious position of a woman in a man's world.

My current #ccspin book that I confidently predict I really will read this autumn since I started it last night!

The Kill (La Curee) by Emile Zola

The Kill (La Curee) is the second volume in Zola's great cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougon-Macquart, and the first to establish Paris - the capital of modernity - as the centre of Zola's narrative world. Conceived as a representation of the uncontrollable 'appetites' unleashed by the Second Empire (1852-70) and the transformation of the city by Baron Haussmann, the novel combines into a single, powerful vision the twin themes of lust for money and lust for pleasure.

Fanda is once again hosting her fabulous #Zoladdiction month in April.
If you've ever thought about, wondered about or half-heartedly dreamed of reading a novel by Zola, then this is the time to do it - in the fine company of a wonderful host.
You won't regret it.
This will be my fourth Zola - I'm well and truly hooked!

What will you be reading this autumn (or spring if you happen to be reading this from the other side of the world)?


  1. I loved The Wind Up Bird Chronicles! I need to read more Murakami. I want to read Hiroshima too but I know it's one I'll have to be in the right frame of mind for.

    1. That's why I've put off reading it too, but my first trip to Japan should be the thing to finally give me the right mood :-)

  2. The Wind-up Bird Chronicles is one of my favourite books, I really hope you`ll enjoy it. Although I have not read it yet, I`ve heard some amazing things about Pachinko.

    Carmen`s Reading Corner

    1. I have no idea how I'm going to find the time to read all these books this year, let alone before winter! But it's good to have a plan :-)

      At least I have a very strong motivation to get to the Japanese books sooner rather than later.

  3. I love all your Japanese books, especially Wind Up and Geisha. I’ve never heard about Rules for Life, but we certainly seem to need a few over here in the US, so I’m looking for that one soon. Thank you for your list.


    1. I hadn't heard about the 12 Rules or Peterson before, but we've had a run on his book at work, so I'm curious.

  4. Memoirs of a Geisha was quite the book. Hope you like it.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

    1. My understanding of it is that it will be the best book to travel with - easy to read on planes, trains and when tired at the end of each night.

  5. Oh wow, I recently purchased The Memoirs of Geisha from a book sale and I can't wait to dig into it. I have heard so many good things about it :)

    I hope you get to read all of these soon :)

    My TTT: http://flippingthruthepages.com/2018/03/fifteen-diverse-ya-contemporary-books-written-by-diverse-female-authors-on-my-spring-tbr/

  6. Ugh. I live in the Phoenix, Arizona, area where it's almost always blazing hot. Right now, the weather's more temperate, but we'll be back into the 100s pretty soon. I hate it! Thank goodness for swimming pools and air conditioning or I would never survive.

    Happy TTT!

    1. I did a google search to work out the celsius & farenheit thing & yes 100F is ghastly (that's 37 for us) & fortunately Sydney doesn't get many of those days, but Western Sydney and beyond does.
      My preferred temp is about 26-30 C (78-86 F) with low humidity pretty please. Sadly Sydney is well-known for it's high humidity. That's the real UGH for me.

  7. What a great TBR! I love Pachinko and hope you'll be able to get to it this Spring.
    Also excited that someone else is reading Far From the Madding Crowd for the CC Spin.

    1. I had forgotten that I find Hardy's language hard to get into though. His long descriptions are lovely & tedious at the same time!

  8. First of all, you're reading Dr. Peterson!! I can't wait to see what you think. No, I haven't read his book, yet, but I love to watch his Youtube clips. He's intense! His brain is on fire.

    Far From the Madding Crowd is one of my all time favorites!!!!! Again, I can't wait to see what you think.

    Someday I will read Geisha Girl. I loved the movie, but of course, the book usually brings about a different experience.

    Also, I'm going to add Hiroshima to my TBR. : )

    1. Peterson and his 12 Rules were completely unknown to me until recently, but his book has become a bestseller at work & I'm curious. The Norman Doidge intro was very interesting so far (yes, I've started it) & I've already downloaded some podcasts and a new app called Quora.

  9. Anonymous21/3/18

    What an awesome line up! I love Zola! I see some lovely books on Japan and I have some great things about Hiroshima and Pachinko. I await your thoughts on Memories. Also I am adding Tracy Chevalier to my TBR....very very intriguing premises! Happy Autumn Reading!

  10. That's a great list! I've only read Far From the Madding Crowd, which I loved, but I would like to read some of the others. I'll be interested to know what you think of The Lady and the Unicorn - I've had mixed feelings about Tracy Chevalier's books so far, but that one sounds fascinating.

    1. I'm hoping the tapestry exhibition will be enough to get me through the Chevalier, although I am also intrigued by her story about Mary Anning and fossils. I'll see how this one goes first.

  11. Lovely list! I love Far From the Madding Crowd and Memoirs of a Geisha, and can't wait to read Pachinko. Happy autumn reading!

  12. Far From the Madding Crowd is excellent, my favorite by Hardy so far. I also liked Memoirs of a Geisha -- I really hope you get to visit Kyoto when you're in Japan. I spent 2 1/2 years in Japan in the early 2000s and loved it, I would go back in a heartbeat. Kyoto was the most beautiful place I saw in Japan, one of the nicest cities I've ever visited.

    I haven't read nearly as much Japanese literature as I ought to but I also loved The Makioka Sisters. Two others I enjoyed (though not actual Japanese lit) are The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynn and The Samurai's Garden.

  13. Memoirs of a Geisha is indeed a great tale. I need to read Pachinko. I've read only one Zola book (The Masterpiece) but would like to read more. Nice list!


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