Books I read: February 2018

This has been a busy month, I had my comprehensive exams for my Master's degree. It was for eight subjects and lasted for three Saturdays. I still managed to read three books. How fast time flies, I'll be 25 years old by the end of March.

I wrote one book review on this blog of a YA book I read last month: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma [link leads to my review].

Here are my reactions to the two other books I read:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

With the news of Ursula K. Le Guin's death, I read The Left Hand of Darkness (I bought it in 2009 but didn't read it until now). An Envoy for a planetary confederacy is sent to the planet Gethen to invite them to join. The people of Gethen look human but they differ in gender - they have no fixed gender, they are either male or female according to their unique biology. The novel explores a society affected by the biology of its people.

The envoy Genry Ai deals with the politics of Gethen and try to convince the rulers to join the alliance. The prime minister of the country Karhide, Estraven, helps him but due to some betrayal, he is exiled. They work together for Genry's mission.

I like how it explores gender identity and imagines a genderless society. The parts I love most are the short myths and legends of this unique alien culture. However, I did find it boring and dull in some places but quite visionary. This novel, like Frank Herbert's Dune, also won both the Nebula and Hugo award.

The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimensions of Fairy Tales, Legends, and Symbols by Joseph Campbell

Borrowed this book from CPU's Theology Library. I read Joseph Campbell's The Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimensions of Fairy Tales, Legends, and Symbols (1990). Campbell widely popularized the concepts of "Hero's Journey" and monomyth, that there are similar themes in the myths of every culture. But I admit this book is quite dragging, boring, and hard to read except for the mythological tales it relates. I don't agree with his views and criticisms of Christianity.

The most accessible Joseph Campbell book I read is "The Power of Myth" which is written in a conversational language as it is composed of interviews with Campbell by Bill Moyers. "Joseph Campbell: an Introduction" by Robert Alan Segal is also a readable overview of his ideas.

What I like about this book is it explores the major themes in the mythology of various cultures throughout the development of human society. From the period of hunter-gatherers to the beginning of agriculture; to the first cities and civilizations; up to the modern times. It also explains the same mythological symbols that occur in widely different places that mean the same thing. Even if myths are centuries old, they are still beautiful and meaningful. I still love the magic of reading them. Myths touch the soul.

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