Men Without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami 

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

Drive My Car ★★★★☆ (4/5)

  • It wasn’t that they were especially laid back. In reality, they were probably tense too. Nevertheless, they seemed to be able to separate their tension and who they were in a natural—likely unconscious—way. They could converse and act normally even while focused on the road. As in, that belongs there and this belongs here
  • Yet he continued to return to his core principle: that, in every situation, knowledge was better than ignorance. However agonizing, it was necessary to confront the facts. Only through knowing could a person become strong.
  • But the place you return to is always slightly different from the place you left
  • If we hope to truly see another person, we have to start by looking within ourselves
  • at a certain point a lot of things didn’t seem like that big a deal anymore. Like the demon had left me all of a sudden

Yesterday ★★★☆☆ (3/5) 

  • As time passes, memory, inevitably, reconstitutes itself
  • Music has that power to revive memories, sometimes so intensely that they hurt.

An Independent Organ ★★★★★ (5/5)

  • If, for some reason, the ominous dark clouds of impending friction appeared on the horizon, he knew how to skillfully back out of the relationship, careful not to aggravate things, and also careful not to hurt the woman. He did this swiftly and naturally, like a shadow drawn up into the gathering twilight
  • His friends all insisted that, when all was said and done, having children was a wonderful thing, but he never could buy this sales pitch. They probably just wanted Tokai to shoulder the same burden they dragged around. They selfishly were convinced that everyone else in the world should be obliged to suffer the way they did.
  • He wasn’t a poor loser, had no inferiority complex or jealousy, no excessive biases or pride, no particular obsessions, wasn’t overly sensitive, had no steadfast political views
  • ‘Some people are polite, and some are quick. Each one’s a good quality to have, but most of the time quickness trumps politeness.’
  • If you took away my career as a plastic surgeon, and the happy environment I’m living in, and threw me out into the world, with no explanation, and with everything stripped away—what in the world would I be?
  • You can’t control your feelings, and it’s like some outrageous power is manipulating you
  • As long as it all makes sense, no matter how deep you fall, you should be able to pull yourself together again

Scheherazade ★★★★★ (5/5)

  • Ten years earlier, she might well have been a lively and attractive young woman, perhaps even turned a few heads. At some point, however, the curtain had fallen on that part of her life and it seemed unlikely to rise again
  • I’m not stranded on a desert island. No, he thought, I am a desert island. If he could fully grasp that concept, he could deal with whatever lay ahead. He had always been comfortable being by himself. His nerves could cope with the solitude
  • The other thing that puzzled him was the fact that their lovemaking and her storytelling were so closely linked, making it hard, if not impossible, to tell where one ended and the other began
  • She worried that the odor might fade as the days went by, but that didn’t happen. Like an undying memory of singular importance, the smell of his sweat had permeated his shirt for good.
  • Perhaps he would never see her again. That worried him. The possibility was just too real. Nothing of a personal nature—no vow, no implicit understanding—held them together. Theirs was a chance relationship created by someone else, and might be terminated on that person’s whim

Kino ★★★★☆ (4/5)

  • Among human emotions, nothing was worse than jealousy and pride, and Kino had had a number of awful experiences because of one or the other. It struck him at times that there was something about him that stirred up the dark side in other people
  • Still, Kino could detect a glint of desire in her eyes, like a faint light deep down a mineshaft
  • You’re saying that some serious trouble has occurred, not because I did something wrong but because I didn’t do the right thing?
  • He couldn’t think of anywhere he wanted to go. The world was a vast ocean with no landmarks, Kino a little boat that had lost its chart and its anchor

Samsa in Love ★★★☆☆ (3/5) 

  • The pungent fragrance recalled something to him. It did not come directly, however; it arrived in stages. It was a strange feeling, as if he were recollecting the present from the future
  • If you think of someone enough, you’re sure to meet them again

Men Without Women ★★★★☆ (4/5)

  • Then, without a word, as if he were gently placing a fragile piece of artwork on the floor, the man hung up. I stood there, in a white T-shirt and blue boxers, pointlessly clutching the phone.
  • Conversely, ever since then, M has been everywhere. I see her everywhere I go. She is part of many places, many times, many people
  • She was always traveling in her own private time zone
  • You are a pastel-colored Persian carpet, and loneliness is a Bordeaux wine stain that won’t come out. Loneliness is brought over from France, the pain of the wound from the Middle East
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A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle 

★★★★☆ (4/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • Why do people always mistrust people who are different? Am I really that different?
  • The stranger was dark, dark as night and tall as a tree, and there was something in the repose of his body, the quiet of his voice, which drove away fear.
  • A cherubim is not a higher order than earthlings, you know, just different.
  • Unreason has crept up on us so insidiously that we’ve hardly been aware of it. But think of the things going on in our own country which you wouldn’t have believed possible only a few years ago.
  • It’s the same sound, isn’t it? The strange ‘cry’ of the ailing mitochondria, and the ‘cry’ picked up in those distant galaxies by the new paraboloidoscope—there’s a horrid similarity between them
  • a world which has become so blunted by dishonor and violence that people casually take it for granted
  • Namer has to know who people are, and who they are meant to be
  • If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate
  • Meg, when people don’t know who they are, they are open either to being Xed, or Named
  • It is not always on the great or the important that the balance of the universe depends
  • Pride has always been the downfall of the Deepening Ones
  • Distance doesn’t seem to be any more important than size. Or time. As for caring—well, that’s outside the realm of provable fact.
  • When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. A fara or a man or a star has his place in the universe, but nothing created is the center
  • It is the pattern throughout Creation. One child, one man, can swing the balance of the universe
  • You are created matter, Sporos. You are part of the great plan, an indispensable part. You are needed, Sporos; you have your own unique share in the freedom of creation

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan 

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • This was still the era—it would end later in that famous decade—when to be young was a social encumbrance, a mark of irrelevance, a faintly embarrassing condition for which marriage was the beginning of a cure
  • Was she obliged on the night to transform herself for Edward into a kind of portal or drawing room through which he might process?
  • She should not start what she could not sustain
  • History, properly capitalized, was driven forward by ineluctable forces toward inevitable, necessary ends, and soon the subject would be understood as a science
  • A ruthless personality, naked opportunism and luck, Edward had argued, could divert the fates of millions
  • He did not spell it out for himself, but her reticence suited his own ignorance and lack of confidence
  • it was not yet customary to regard oneself in everyday terms as an enigma, as an exercise in narrative history, or as a problem waiting to be solved
  • Anyone over forty would have fought or suffered in the war and known death on an unusual scale, and would not have been able to believe that a drift into irrelevance was the reward for all the sacrifice
  • it remained a paradox to them that so momentous a meeting should have been accidental, so dependent on a hundred minor events and choices. What a terrifying possibility, that it might never have happened at all
  • For example, she did not mind making her bed every morning—she had always done so—but she resented being asked at each breakfast whether she had.
  • Had it taken her this long to discover that she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires? All these years she had lived in isolation within herself and, strangely, from herself, never wanting or daring to look back
  • For the first time, her love for Edward was associated with a definable physical sensation, as irrefutable as vertigo
  • She had to know he was with her, on her side, and was not going to use her, that he was her friend and was kindly and tender. Otherwise it could all go wrong, in a very lonely way
  • The feel of it crawling across her skin in thick rivulets, its alien milkiness, its intimate starchy odor, which dragged with it the stench of a shameful secret locked in musty confinement—she could not help herself, she had to be rid of it
  • His trousers felt heavy and ridiculous in his hand, these parallel tubes of cloth joined at one end, an arbitrary fashion of recent centuries
  • He was aided in his surrender by the clarity that comes with a sudden absence of desire
  • We can never just be. We can never just be happy. There’s this constant pressure. There’s always something more that you want out of me. This endless wheedling
  • Whatever new frontier she crossed, there was always another waiting for her. Every concession she made increased the demand, and then the disappointment
  • Even in their happiest moments, there was always the accusing shadow, the barely hidden gloom of his unfulfillment, looming like an alp, a form of perpetual sorrow which had been accepted by them both as her responsibility
  • She tore through her sentences, as though speed alone would generate sense, as though she could propel him too past contradictions, swing him so fast along the curve of her intention that there could be no objection he could grasp at
  • Occasionally, he would come to a forking of the paths deep in a beech wood and idly think that this was where she must have paused to consult her map that morning in August, and he would imagine her vividly, only a few feet and forty years away, intent on finding him
  • Love and patience—if only he had had them both at once—would surely have seen them both through

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

★★★★☆ (4/5)

A magical read, refreshing the spirits. Reminiscent of childhood classics, the age of high fantasy and innocence where the mind knows no bounds, distances are illimitable and within a blink of an eye one can traverse through the plains of cosmos.

A selection of my favorite passages from the book

  • one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.
  • Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable
  • I think that with our human limitations we’re not always able to understand the explanations
  • a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.
  • She tried to gasp, but a paper doll can’t gasp
  • Oh, no! We can’t stop here! This is a two-dimensional planet and the children can’t manage here!
  • We are such stuff as dreams are made on.
  • All through the universe it’s being fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it’s a grand and exciting battle
  • And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not
  • “Are you supposed to ask questions?” Charles Wallace demanded severely. The boy went white, just as the woman had
  • Only a fool is not afraid
  • For you, as well as for the rest of all the happy, useful people on this planet, I, in my own strength, am willing to assume all the pain, all the responsibility, all the burdens of thought and decision
  • I’ve been trying to explain to you in the simplest possible way that on Camazotz individuals have been done away with. Camazotz is ONE mind. It’s IT. And that’s why everybody’s so happy and efficient
  • “We do not know what things look like, as you say,” the beast said. “We know what things are like. It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.”
  • We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal
  • You mean you’re comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?
  • You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you
  • Little Megaparsec. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. We will try to have courage for you. That is all we can do.