I, Claudius

by Robert Graves

My love for historical fiction coupled with my fascination with anything to do with the Roman empire (high school European history, yeah) led me to this awesome read: I, Claudius. Based on recent research, this novel is almost always included in best historical fiction lists, and it’s not hard to understand why. It is now one of my favorite historical fiction reads, ever.

The book is written as an autobiographical account of Tiberius Cladius Drusus Nero Germanicus, or just Claudius. He was also known as “Claudius the Idiot,” “That Claudius,” “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius,” descended from the great Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar after him.

To be honest, I don’t know much about Claudius. Perhaps there’s abundant material in history books about him, and I only haven’t had the chance to look. My high school European history was relatively limited to the conquests and travails of the more popular Julius Caesar, and Roman history in general. So reading this book raised a lot of questions on accuracy and truthfulness as to events, people, and places, which I found, strangely enough, very appealing.


Number 4

It's my fourth time to moderate a face-to-face (F2F) discussion for my book club, and I need these images. For visual aid, and to satisfy my maarte ways.


Boy, Snow, Bird

by Helen Oyeyemi

From the blurb at the back cover, Boy, Snow, Bird hinted a retelling. Consider this: the main character, sixteen-year-old Boy Novak – and that’s a girl for you – runs away from her abusive father, hops on a bus that takes her far, far away, and finds herself in a quiet town where she subsequently marries a local man, Arturo Whitman. There’s a catch, though: Arturo is a widower and has a young daughter, the beautiful Snow. Everything would have been fine and dandy until the birth of Boy’s first child, Bird, who is as dark as night. Boy then realizes that the Whitmans are light-skinned African-Americans who pass themselves off as white – including her stepdaughter, Snow. With this factual backdrop, the story of Boy, Snow, and Bird unfolds.

Perhaps it’s presumptuous of me to think that it would be a retelling of a particular fairy tale. But what’s wrong with that idea? Boy was described as a young wife to a widower and a stepmother to a beautiful white girl, Snow. The blurb strongly suggested a “wicked stepmother” situation and I believed it. Plus, the story concerned itself much about mirrors and reflections, two things that were given prominent focus all throughout. So, wicked stepmother + beautiful white stepdaughter named "Snow" + the proliferation of mirrors = a retelling? Why not?


The Sleeper and The Spindle

by Neil Gaiman

When I read Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples a few years back, I declared it to be one of my most favorite short stories ever. In fact, if I were to name just one favorite Gaiman short story, that would be it. I’ve always enjoyed reading Gaiman’s retellings (Snow, Glass, Apples is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, told from the point of view of the Wicked Stepmother) so when this book came out, I was ecstatic.


To Kill A Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

Perhaps To Kill A Mockingbird is a little dated in terms of social issues and setting, but I don’t see why it would fail to be any relevant now than it was before. I only read this well-loved masterpiece last year, in preparation for reading its companion (not sequel) novel, Go Set A Watchman, and I finally understood why many people love this book.

It was very simply written, but perhaps that’s the best part of it: it doesn’t need to be couched in exquisite, difficult language in order to be appreciated or for its message to come across. Rather, the straightforward writing will easily engage you, make you feel involved with the lives of Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch. Those are the best books, really: simple, articulate, and (or should I say, "but"?) packs a wallop.

Oh, Atticus. I have heard so much about him being a favorite lawyer (are there many?) in literature, and so finally reading about his legal heroics in this book makes me proud. Sure, the local legal scene is quite different from other jurisdictions, but Atticus did the legal profession everywhere very good. He deserves to be called one of the most memorable literary characters of all time. He is definitely one of my favorites now.


My 2015 in Books

Goodreads has this nifty little year-end feature called "My Year 2015 in Books" where you'll find your reading stats for the year, from shortest book to longest book you've read, total pages you've read, etc. I checked it out and here are the results:

And then the rest of the feature goes on to list all the books I've read in 2015. Pretty cool, really.

So I only read 32 books this year. I really don't mind. I'm fortunate enough to be able to have the extra time to read at all, and to be fair to myself, I really did make sure to find time to read. It's something personal, something I felt was non-negotiable because it's the only time I have for myself. Most of my waking hours are devoted to my family and day job, so being able to find time to read was something I felt I needed to do for myself, even if it's just a few pages of reading time every night. Sure, there were times I slowed down because the book I was reading practically bored me, but I always do my best to finish the books I've started. Which reminds me, I'll have to go back to a couple of titles again next year.

Here are the books I've read this year: