2019 in Reading: Not Bad, but…

I know I’m always super late in posting this kind of thing: a looking back to the past year of my reading activities and making some plans for the next. But no matter, since I don’t think anyone would be waiting for it. This is what everyone does every year, anyway, and I always feel I should do it, too. So here it is.

Upon making my pledge in the 2018 reading wrap-up post to read more books and fewer comics in 2019, I did and managed it. I only read 6 comic books (manga and manhua) among the 23 books I finished last year. I originally planned to read the entire volumes of Inuyasha, but then I got distracted by The Legend of the Condor Heroes, and then I was distracted, again, by something else. It resulted in my not finishing any series and only got around to read them up to volume 5 and 4 respectively. So it’s not actually about time, it’s rather about the lack of interest.

The year 2019 also marked my first time, my very first time, reading and finishing wuxia novels. I don’t mean comic books or manhua, but actually wuxia novels. This might sound weird because I’ve been a big fan of wuxia movies/TV series since I was a kid and this truly was the first time I started to read wuxia novels. Earlier in the year I finished Seven Killers by Gu Long (which I read online and was fan-translated by Deathblade). I liked the translation and the idea of the story, but I don’t know why I found the entire narrative a bit trivial. Not that I intend to compare it to any grand story by Jin Yong, but every time I picked it up and read it I was thinking, “Are you seriously writing it that way?” And don’t get me wrong, I had watched quite many of Gu Long’s adaptations in the past like The Legend of Chu Liuxiang and The Legendary Siblings but this book really put me off a little bit.

And that was not it. In mid-year I started to read Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber by none other than Jin Yong, the master of classic wuxia stories. To be honest, if we’re talking about the adaptations of the Condor Trilogy, HSDS was the one that I always liked the least. I don’t know why but I never really liked the storyline (though I loved the 1984 adaptation led by Tony Leung). There’s something I can’t explain about it that puts me off (Zhang Wuji’s fickleness, maybe? The so many girls around him? The Golden Flower Granny? Yin Li’s character?) Anyway, I decided to read the book because I was hooked by the newest adaptation coming out last year and starring Zeng Shunxi and Chen Yuqi (though the true reason I watched it was actually Lin Yushen’s Yang Xiao ;p). I’ve already finished two of the four volumes and I found them surprisingly exciting. This was really unexpected and inexplicable that I even asked myself, “How could I think this is a nice story?” Not even the Golden Flower Granny bothered me so.

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The middle of the year also saw me finding other unexpected gems and they were all included in my favorites of 2019: Circe by Madeline Miller and Raymond Carver Terkubur Mi Instan di Iowa by Faisal Oddang (The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which I finished in January, was also my last year’s favorite). I was so happy to get the chance to read them, it was the best time and the best reading experience I had last year because after that, it was quite dull. There was nothing interesting, nothing exciting. Perjumpaan dengan Pengkhianat was a disappointment, and And Then There Were None was even more so (I know some people might want to kill me but sorry, I prefer the 2015 BBC adaptation to the book).

And not even Mr. Sapardi’s newest short-story collection, Menghardik Gerimis, could cheer me up. It wasn’t bad but I expected something more from him. He is Sapardi Djoko Damono, and he is one of my favorite writers. So I guess it’s only natural for me to expect something WOW every time he releases a book (either fiction or poetry). But Menghardik Gerimis was not something to boast about, and I didn’t even care to make a review of it.

For now, I’m still juggling my newest translation gig and my attempt to finish The President by Miguel Ángel Asturias. I’m even still trying so hard to continue reading Orhan Pamuk’s A Stangeness in My Mind. It’s not a hard read, it’s just long — longer even than any Pamuk’s book I’d ever read. And again, I got distracted by this and that (Twitter and Chinese dramas mostly ;p). I do hope, however, to finish both books soon this year, because I’ve got a new (long) list to get around to.

Plan? Now we’re talking about my 2020 reading resolution. Besides finishing the two books above (and the rest of HSDS volumes, of course), I’ve been thinking to read other than my favorite writers. I mean, I usually read their books at least one a year, and I intend to break the rule in 2020. Plus, I might read more poetry books, and some books that are not of my favorite genre. Let’s just see what I’ll decide to get my hands on.

And before I forget, my blogger friends at BBI Joglosemar have just set up our own reading challenge with quite unusual categories, and since the list accords in some ways with my TBR pile I’ve been meaning to cut down, I decided to join in. Hope I’ll just have the time and mood to get through it.

So, let’s 2020 begin!


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