Tuesday, September 23, 2014

telephone box reads: "Tempo" + Coelho + Miss Gone-OverSeas

A while ago, I discovered a "bookphonebox" in a town near here: a telephone box that some people turned into an open free book exchange by installing shelves. Since my first visit, I keep finding fascinating reads there. It's a magic little place. Here are my latest phone box reads, and an e-book from faraway:

"Tempo - The speed of life" - Robert Levine
I hadn't known about this book on life and time. It's written by scientist Robert Levine, who explored the different takes on time in different societies, and shares his studies in a trip around the world and through cultures. From the book info: "Levine, who has devoted his career to studying time and the pace of life, takes us on an enchanting tour of time through the ages and around the world. As he recounts his unique experiences with humor and deep insight, we travel with him to Brazil, where to be three hours late is perfectly acceptable, and to Japan, where he finds a sense of the long-term that is unheard of in the West."

Here are some of the things he explored: "The top five countries using the index of pace of life or time consciousness are in order, (from fastest to slowest) Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Japan and Italy. The five slowest or least time conscious countries are, Syria, El Salvador, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico. By the way the US is 16th place in world standings."

For more, try this interview link, or read into the first chapter online:

Thanks, bookbox, for this one.
And now to the next, from non-fiction and timemaps to a story set in Slovenia:

"Veronica Decides to Die" by Paulo Coelho
Some years ago, I read Coelho's "Alchemist", this wonderful tale that feels like a modern classic. So when I saw this newer book by him, I picked it. And probably expected something along the same alchemist lines. Yet the Veronica book and his rather lighthearted take on painful problems like depression, suicide and the war in Yugoslavia left me wondering: is this reflection, or satire?

Here's the book info: Coelho "addresses the fundamental questions asked by millions: What am I doing here today? and Why do I go on living? Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything she could wish for: youth and beauty, pleny of attractive boyfriends, a fulfilling job, and a loving family. Yet something is lacking in her life. Inside her is a void so deep that nothing could possibly ever fill it. So Veronika decides to die. She takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up."

Reading the book made me think of the recent blog posts about depression and suicide, following the death of Robin Williams. In the end, I gave up on this book that felt like it was an almost soap-like version of the tragedy that is depression. Here are some of the blogs in a collective links. If you want to read about the topic, I would rather suggest those than the book:
blog stream: Robin Williams/Suicide Depression

And here's a surprise find, not from the book box, but from the web:

Miss Gone-OverSeas  by Mitchell Hagerstrom

Earlier this month, I looked for the next possible books from places that I haven't visited yet (literally), and arrived in: Micronesia. Which is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The most "famous" of the islands is the Bikini Atoll, which was turned into a nuclear test zone. Micronesia's history is influenced - or rather: dominated - by colonization since the 15th century (more here at wiki)

In her book, Hagerstrom offers an unusual perspective that takes the reader back to the time of World War 2, as seen by a Japanese woman who was sold to the islands:

"In the sparse style of a classic pillow book, Miss Gone-overseas is a chronicle of wartime life that doesn't focus on the guns or bombs or military depredations, but on the pedestrian life of a lower-class Japanese woman as she reflects on the turmoil around her. Set on a tropical island during World War II, the book opens and ends with separations that become beginnings."

It's an intriguing read, and the diary-format makes it rather approachable and personal. More here at Goodreads, and here's an excerpt at Issuu: Miss Gone-OverSeas.


Currently Reading + More Reads:

For 2014, i didn't join a specific reading challenge, but i try to read books / authors from different countries and continents, and this summer I am focusing on short stories.
Here’s more about it: Reading the world

On the left is a photo of the book phone box, it feels a bit like a magic shelf. So far, I always found books there that I didn't even know about, and that I really enjoyed.

For more reading notes in this blog, click here: life as a journey with booksand a reading list by regions is online at: World Reads by country

Other book blogs: It's Monday! What are you reading? 

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