May Book Reviews
Carina Lim ‘21
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
Length: 436 pages (24 short stories)
Similar Books: A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a short story collection by Haruki Murakami, an author whose works are characterized by a dreamlike, ethereal atmosphere. The ambiguity behind his stories adds to ever-present narrative tension, making his works particularly enjoyable. While it’s hard to discern precise meaning or motive of these whimsical short stories, reading it without focusing too much on meaning allows one to appreciate Murakami’s masterfully written prose. Such ambiguity creates strange, fascinatingly structured stories. Murakami errs on the odd side, but I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys similarly odd but riveting prose.
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
Length: 297 (including notes, acknowledgements, etc)
Rating : 9/10
Written by Jonathan Haidt, a long-time professor at the University of Virginia, The Happiness Hypothesis is a broad, scientifically backed examination of many core ideas of morality, success, what it means to be truly happy. He draws on theories of significant philosophers in the past– Plato, Freud, and the like– and adds modern, navigable insight. Haidt provides a contemporary understanding of the human condition that should not be overlooked. Personally, I really enjoyed this book because it gave me a deeper understanding of positive psychology while also letting me see happiness from a different perspective.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Length : 199
Rating : 9/10
Published posthumously, When Breath Becomes Air was written by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal cancer months before he was about to leave residency. Having worked his entire life for an imagined future he now would be unable to experience, Kalanithi is now forced to reimagine the life he has left ahead of him. When Breath Becomes Air is a gripping and profound book on Kalanithi’s reflections on life, living, and imminent death. I really liked it, and since it’s a relatively short read, I’d recommend it to anyone who has a couple of hours to spare.
Florida by Lauren Groff
Length : 275 pages, 11 stories
Set in, as the title suggests, Florida, this collection of short stories by Lauren Groff manages to convey intense, abstract yet concisely identified feelings through portraits painted of eleven women with varying lifestyles going through varying events. Throughout these eleven separate stories, a common theme exists with the looming, hinted-at threat of the impending ecological doom of planet earth as we know it. One can look at this however they want, but something I personally found particularly interesting was that protagonists lacked names, the anonymity lending itself to a strange feeling of kinship between the reader and the characters. (This was pointed out to me by Jack Walley, to whom it was pointed out by Virginia, so shout out to you!) There are really a lot of ways to look at short story collections like these, and a trend I’ve enjoyed in the previous couple of short story collections I’ve read has been ambiguity. Ultimately, these are eleven stories about eleven different women who are, in many cases, making difficult choices when faced by an immense, ominous threats, be it personal, ecological, or physical. Would strongly recommend.