Books I read in August 2023

Sep 11, 2023

#reading #bookclub #100DaysToOffload

Reading time: 6 minutes

This is the first post of what I hope will be a monthly series in which I take a look back at the books I read the past month.

In August, I didn’t really reach my goal of one book a week, which was partly due to the fact that I started some books and put them down again after two or three days, because I realised that they just weren’t right for me.

Still, I managed to read three books, which I want to briefly summarise here.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaids Tale

I saw this book somewhere online on a list of the best sci-fi novels of the 80s when I was looking for new reading material, and since the title looked vaguely familiar (there is an adaptation of the material as a TV series, but I’ve never seen it), I decided to give it a read.

I wouldn’t necessarily call the book science fiction though, it’s more of an alternate reality, what-if scenario.

Specifically, what if the radical evangelical Christians rose to power in the US and turned the country into a theocracy?

The outcome is pretty much what you’d expect: A Christian version of the current Islamic theocracies, coupled with the cold inhumane atmosphere of Catholic schools and orphanages of (hopefully) days gone by, and with a bit of Nazi Germany sprinkled on top. Women have no rights, have to be subservient to men at all times and are pretty much only there to have children (if they can, because many people became sterile in the preceding war, especially the men). The men are in charge, and anyone who is even remotely suspected of not being completely in line with the ideology is hanged or shot on sight. Love thy neighbour, you know.

The main character is the maid Offred, who is one of the few remaining fertile women and therefore lives in the house of the Commander and his wife Serena Joy, where she is subjected once a month to a bizarre impregnation ritual by the Commander and his wife and treated like dirt the rest of the time.

The book starts on a random day in Offred’s life with Offred just talking about her everyday life, and so a picture of the world she lives in, how it came about, and what kind of life she had before only emerges very slowly. This makes it a bit hard at first to get into the story, but once you’re in, you can’t put the book down and just shiver again and again at how strange and insane and yet absolutely within the realm of possibility the world described here is.

Steve Wozniak: iWoz

With this book, I had the weird feeling that I might have read it before, but I couldn’t really remember much, so I just read it again.

Steve Wozniak is the co-founder of Apple (together with the other, more famous Steve) and the one who designed the first Apple computers completely by himself.

In this autobiography he goes over his life, from his childhood, where his father, also an engineer, introduced him to the world of electronics, to his first computer designs, to his first real job at HP, his first encounter with Steve Jobs, the founding of Apple Computers and beyond.

Definitely exciting to read and you get a good look into the history of the micro computer from a very unique perspective.

But. The book reads as if he just spent a few hours recording everything he could think of into a voice recording app and then someone typed it all up, put it in the right order and called it a book. His style of speaking is very redundant and verbose (not to say rambling), and a little more care in editing to make it more concise and to the point would have helped the reading flow a lot.

Natalie Goldberg: Writing down the Bones

If The InternetTM is to be believed, “Writing down the Bones” or as it is called in German “writing in caf├ęs” (why translate a title when you can just make up a completely different one?) is one of THE books about creative writing, and what better reading is there at the beginning of a blogging challenge than such a book?

So I went for it and was not disappointed! The book is divided into many small, unconnected chapters, each of which is self-contained and they cover a range of topics, from philosophical reflections about writing to concrete tips or simply observations of the author about herself and her relationship to writing. So you can just pick it up again and again and look through it and read a chapter or two for inspiration, whatever you feel like in the moment.

Highly recommended, The Internet didn’t promise too much! I think if I come across a cheap copy of the book (I borrowed it from the library), I’ll definitely get it just to have it on the table and flip through it every now and then.

Post 003/100 of the 100DaysToOffload Challenge

This is a translation of the original German post made by DeepL and then manually adapted to (hopefully) sound a bit more human