Books I've read / 3

Jul 2, 2023

My new short review of books I’ve recently read.

Post cover

You can find previous posts about books on the links below:

I did not plan it initially, but in the end it turned out that half of the books in this post are from Belarusian authors and about Belarus. Maybe my mind is subconsciously trying to do something about the feeling of homesickness as I can’t visit my homeland.

In any case, reading all these books pleased me. Below I will share my thoughts on these books, maybe it will also motivate someone to read them.

Here is what I have read in recent months:

  1. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. “Lokisaŭ” by Artur Klinaŭ
  3. “Carpe Jugulum” by Terry Pratchett
  4. “About Haskell in a human way” by Denis Shevchenko
  5. “People of the marsh” by Ivan Melezh
  6. “The Compleat Discworld Atlas” by Terry Pratchett
  7. “What are you looking for, wolf?” by Eva Viežnaviec
  8. “Native roots” by Maksim Haretski
  9. “AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide” by Joe Baron, Hisham Baz, Tim Bixler, Biff Gaut, Kevin E. Kelly, Sean Senior, John Stamper
  10. “Chernobyl Prayer” by Svetlana Alexievich

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez

Book cover

I once already read this book as a teenager, when I was fond of themes of mysticism and esotericism, but recently suddenly decided to reread it. I think everyone knows about this book and its author, so I won’t go into too much detail.

As for my thought - this time I paid more attention not to mystical details and symbols, but rather to the relationships between generations and how the social environment shapes people as individuals, and at the same time, how society itself is formed from individuals.

It is interesting that in this reading I was not at all close to the idea of fatalism and predestination, which can be traced in the history of the main character’s family. I believe that such fullness of concepts and ideas is what makes this book so multi-layered and brilliant in its own way. Surely if I decide to re-read this book in the future, I will again discover some new things for myself.

“Lokisaŭ” by Artur Klinaŭ

Book cover

This is the first Belarusian book on this list, and it belongs to modern Belarusian literature. It contains mystical and esoteric things like previous book, but all this is saturated with our modern Belarusian flavor - with its official senseless ideology, and hidden historical legacy and history, which the official authorities are trying to cancel, prohibiting or simply ignoring. But anyway they do all that shit not very well and not successfully.

The plot tells about a character who comes to a small Belarusian town in the hope of buying a house there and living a quiet life. But suddenly he is faced with many obstacles that the locals create for him. Some of these things look strange and mystical. The character tries to figure everything out but plunges into it even deeper.

During reading, for some reason, I suddenly felt strange mystic and dystopian vibes of the Russian movie “Apiary” - probably due to a similar mixture of insipid realism of the hinterland and some otherworldly inexplicable things. And I liked that.

Another point that I liked in the book is the numerous references to various political, economic, cultural, and social things from the Belarusian life of the last decades. This immerses you well in the context and makes it easier to believe in everything that happens in the book.

I can’t call this book a masterpiece, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. I hope to find something similar in future.

“Carpe Jugulum” by Terry Pratchett

Book cover

This is another book by Terry Pratchett from the Discworld series. And this time the main topic of the book - vampires! The story takes place in the kingdom of Lancre and tells about the struggle of local witches with a clan of vampires who want to enslave all the surrounding lands.

In general, the book is filled with typical Pratchett’s humor, with many references to well-known “vampire” stories and ridicule of popular culture stereotypes about vampires and their servants. An interesting feature of this book is that the main character has a split personality, and the plot involves two independent individual identities, but locked in the same body.

I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett in general, but his “witch” series has always been something special to me because of his way of showing female characters and telling their stories.

“About Haskell in a human way” by Denis Shevchenko

Book cover

This book caught my eye by accident. It was published by the author online for free and in the public domain, so I decided to read this book and to learn a little more about this language. Before that I didn’t face Haskell except for a few speeches at conferences and a bunch of memes on the Internet. Therefore, it was almost my first full-fledged acquaintance with the language and its ecosystem.

Overall, I got a pretty good impression of the language, especially its type system. This is truly a brilliant feature! Before that I did some programming in other functional languages like Clojure and Racket, and while I still like them, I sometimes missed the power of types that I discovered in Haskell.

Going back to the book, I would recommend it to those who want to get started with this language, although if this is your first programming language, most likely the book may seem difficult to you. (I wonder are there people who started their programming journey with Haskell?)

I want to note that the book is written in Russian, probably for some it may cause inconvenience. But since the book has been shared for free, it is possible that there are already translations into other languages. I also want to note that the book is not yet finished, but I hope the author will continue to work on it and I will gladly finish reading it.

“People of the marsh” by Ivan Melezh

Book cover

This book is a classic of Belarusian literature, and although I read it when I attended school, since that time I have almost forgotten everything, so I rediscovered it for myself.

The book describes the life of ordinary Belarusian peasants during the formation of Soviet authority, hard daily work on earth, and their life, sometimes on the verge of survival. The book also describes the complex process of communist’s power formation - how society tried to adapt to the new orders and rules, and the story of a particular simple rural guy among all these things. How he has to become the head of the family without a father and take responsibility for his relatives while still a young teenager, and how he overcomes all these hardships.

Despite the fact that many years have passed since the time described in the book, many of the topics in the book still remain relevant for Belarus. It stubbornly refuses to let go of its Soviet past, and rethink its place in the events of those years, and its current relationship with them.

I also want to note that while reading the book, at times I felt a pleasant nostalgia for my childhood that I spent in the countryside. All these descriptions of the nature of Belarusian Polesye, as well as scenes of rural life - it’s one more powerful side of this book.

“The Compleat Discworld Atlas” by Terry Pratchett

Book cover

This is the second Discworld book after “The Compleat Ankh-Morpork” without a solid plot or story. And the content fully corresponds to its title - the atlas describes all the regions, continents, and different places on the Disc, as well as the countries, nations, and cultures that inhabit all this space.

As a fan of this universe, I was interested in learning a lot about the world where all the stories of the books unfold. While reading, the thought came to my mind that I would like to travel across this world myself, for example in a video game or a tabletop role-playing session.

I would also like to note the excellent design of the book with many cool illustrations and maps.

“What are you looking for, wolf?” by Eva Viežnaviec

Book cover

I can say that this is one of the best books I have read in a long time! This book tells the life story of several generations of women from a small Belarusian village over a century, as well as the society and the world around them.

Although the book is rather small, it is compensated by the density of ideas and meanings. While reading, I often had a feeling of some kind of resemblance to Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, but with such our Belarusian flavor - a minimum of mysticism, but with a lot of gloom, cruelty and some kind of doom hopelessness.

Seems I heard in some podcast about Belarusian literature that this book has been the top seller for months, and I want to say that it is really deserved!

“Native roots” by Maksim Haretski

Book cover

This is not a huge book, but rather a short story. The story is about a medical student who is studying in the city and receives a letter from his parents who live in the countryside. Among other things, they write about strange inexplicable mystical things that are happening in their new home. And he decides to visit his parents as he’s curious about what’s going on there.

The whole story is filled with the mention of various mystical things with a Belarusian flavor. Something of this happens with the main character himself, something - with relatives, friends, or neighbors.

Through these scenes the author well shows the attitude of simple rural uneducated people to life and the world around them, their “philosophy”, and also compares this with the approach of a more modern generation - educated and trying to explain everything rationally. But the main idea of the story, it seems to me, is the importance of connecting with one’s family, roots, native land, and culture.

“AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide” by Joe Baron, Hisham Baz, Tim Bixler, Biff Gaut, Kevin E. Kelly, Sean Senior, John Stamper

Book cover

I decided to read this book because I’m preparing to the AWS certification. In general, it turned out to be useful for me, because it talks about many services that I have not worked with before. Also it includes practical tasks for working with these services. And there are tests at the end of each chapter consisting of questions that can be faced on the real exam.

But I want to note that this book is not enough to prepare for the certification, and you need to use some other resources too.

“Chernobyl Prayer” by Svetlana Alexievich

Book cover

This is the hardest book I’ve read in a long time. Seriously. I can’t remember when the last time I cried so much over a book. The author of the book - Svetlana Alexievich - received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2015 for her fiction and documentary prose, which describes the late period of the USSR and post-Soviet life. And after reading this book, I can say that this award is absolutely well-deserved!

This is a collection of revised interviews and stories of people who participated in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, suffered from it, or were witnesses to this terrible time.

And although it would seem that all these tragic stories have long been known, as well as how the Soviet government showed itself to be deceitful, powerless, and rotten during the liquidation of the disaster, it was still very difficult to read all this. The strength of the book is that all of these stories are presented, not as soulless news bulletins or disaster damage statistics, but as personal stories of individual ordinary people, just like the rest of us.

For me, an additional effect was probably the fact that I myself come from Gomel, and that I personally lived among the consequences of that catastrophe when I was a child.

I’d like also to add that the HBO series “Chernobyl” is partly based on this book. And I can recommend it for watching.

In the end

I realized that I would like to read something similar to books of Eva Viežnaviec or Artur Klinaŭ. So if anyone can recommend something to me, I would be very grateful. Also, if you have any thoughts or comments about these books or my post - feel free to write to me!

Also, if you are interested in reading my posts, you can subscribe to RSS or find my other contacts on this page.