June Reading Update

As I mentioned in my May Reading Update, I technically had finished reading I Am Livia in June but had finished it so early in the month I was able to add it to my May update. Including that title, I finished 3 books in June and am still a couple of books ahead of schedule for my 2014 goal of reading 30 books.

In addition to I Am Livia, I read Milan Kundera’s The Joke and George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.

I previously had read Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Curtain and loved them both. I found a copy of The Joke at our local used book store and since I liked the other Kundera titles, I decided to give his first book a try. I’m glad I did. I think it’s safe to say I am now officially a Kundera fan.

Given the title, it’s not surprising that The Joke is a very funny novel. Set in post World War II, Communist Czechoslovakia, The Joke is comprised of several sections told from the points of view of various characters. Ludvik Jahn, the main narrator, frustrated with his girlfriend, dashes off a quick postcard to her with the eponymous joke. Unfortunately, the joke, made at the expense of the communist party, lands Ludvik in trouble and the bulk of the novel deals with the fallout of his offhand remark. The Joke is a lively, fast-paced and funny book. Parts of the story have to do with Moravian folk culture, which I knew nothing about, so I’m sure I missed out on some humor and insights in those parts, but Kundera provides enough context that I was never totally lost.

Apparently, there were older translations into English that Kundera was unhappy with. Luckily, the version I picked up was the “Definitive Version” published by Harper Perennial, the translation of which was overseen by Kundera.

I wasn’t quite as impressed with CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. In mid-June, Flavorwire posted a list of 25 Books Guaranteed to Make You Laugh. Considering I had a five hour plane flight to Las Vegas coming up at the end of the month, I thought something funny would make for good airplane reading. CivilWarLand appealed because I’ve had Saunders’ Tenth of December on my to read list for a while. I liked the stories more than not, especially the title story and the ending novella, The Bounty. I was entertained and amused by the other stories but found something repetitive about them. Overall, a decent read and I’m still would like to get around to Tenth of December one of these days.

June Reading Update

June Reading Update

I finished 17 books by the end of June: