Category Archives: Books

It grows…

Just got back from Half Priced Books… I picked up about half my reading list but then found a few more.  That’s the problem w/ me and bookstores… I always walk out the door with something I didn’t plan to get.  And just being in the bookstore triggered the memory of a book I’d heard on NPR that I made a mental note I wanted to read.  Then driving home from the bookstore, NPR was broadcasting a lecture Richard Florida gave in Seattle about his new book and he mentioned the book "Stumbling on Happiness", which I’ve started and have yet to finish, so that should go on the list too.  Interestingly, I did bring it back to VA with me in the event I finished my other book early.  It happens to have a dollar bill as a bookmark and you’d think that getting that dollar bill back would be incentive to finish the book but it’s not.  Maybe I should start using 20’s as bookmarks.  =)
 
So, here’s my revised list:
 
  • Everything is Illuminated  (*)
  • Bartimaeus Trilogy  (*)
  • Twilight
  • Perfume Dreams
  • The Last Lecture
  • Dear First Lady: Letters to the White House
  • Kiln People  (*)
  • Catfish and Mandala
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife  (*)
  • Seeing Vietnam
  • Leave it to Psmith
  • Wild Nights
  • Stumbling on Happiness (*)
  • Monkey Bridge (*)
  • The Tapestries (*)
  • That’s 17 books in the next 6.5 months if I really do intend to read them all by the end of the year.  That would be 3 books a month practically… not sure I can swing that but I’m gonna try!

    Scratch two off the list…

    I just finished "Sense and Sensibility" right before my VA trip and I finished "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain" on my trip.  I now need to buy the books on my list so I can continue.  I know I could probably just check it out from the library (and conveniently enough I’m sitting in front of one using its free wireless to get access to my reading list so I can then go buy the books), but when it comes to books, I like to buy.  There are probably only a dozen books I own that I’ve read more than once but for whatever reason, I really enjoy having a lot of books.  I probably won’t feel the same way the next time I have to move and find that I have tons of heavy boxes filled w/ books but oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
     
    Here’s what’s left on my list:
     
  • Everything is Illuminated
  • Bartimaeus Trilogy
  • Twilight
  • Perfume Dreams
  • The Last Lecture
  • Dear First Lady: Letters to the White House
  • Kiln People
  • Catfish and Mandala
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Seeing Vietnam
  • Leave it to Psmith
  • Reading list…

    Here’s what I want to read the rest of the year:
    • Sense and Sensibility
    • Everything is Illuminated
    • Bartimaeus Trilogy
    • Twilight
    • Perfume Dreams
    • The Last Lecture
    • Dear First Lady: Letters to the White House
    • Kiln People
    • Catfish and Mandala
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife
    • A good scent from a strange mountain
    • Seeing Vietnam
    • Leave it to Psmith

    Let’s see how well I do…

    Pride and Prejudice

    I just finished Pride and Prejudice this weekend.  I hate to admit it but my choice of reading often is inspired by the movies I see and enjoy.  Especially since I know that if I enjoy the movie, the books are bound to be ten times better!  I have to say though, that the 2005 version may have done this one justice.  My biggest gripe is that they compressed everything to make it appear as if everything happened in a matter of months when really is was over a year.  Things that lasted a week in the book were portrayed as lasting only a day in the movie.  That  just makes things seem so incredible… that people can change so much over night or should fall in love so quickly.  It also took away from how enduring the love of these men were that despite perceived rebuffs from the object of their affection, they remained still completely in love though hopeless as it were.  It makes the happy ending all the more gratifying.  Otherwise, I think the right choices were made in terms of what to keep and what to cut… even how it was cast.  I’m curious to watch the 1995 version to see what choices they made.
     
    All-in-all though, I love the story and I love the message… the fact that two people can misunderstand one another so completely and abhor in each other the very traits they themselves are sometimes guilty of.   I love that they both challenge each other to be better people, to be self critical and at the same time be more understanding, accepting, and forgiving of the flaws in others.  It’s so ground-breaking that Jane Austen created such a character as lively, independent, forthright and genuine as Elizabeth.  Good read.  I’ll have to read more of Jane Austen’s work… good thing I have another two on the shelf!  =)

    Last Night I Dreamed of Peace

    I just finished reading "Last Night I Dreamed of Peace".  It’s the diary of a young doctor during the Viet Nam war.  It was a really interesting read because she was very young, I think 24 or 25, and she was right in the thick of war.  As a doctor, she saw the worst side of war–the injuries, the deaths, the sadness of families losing loved ones.  What also made it interesting was that she was on the side of the Viet Cong.  I felt almost guilty about reading it.  I’m the daughter of a man who faught for the South and was imprisoned by the VC and to this day after 30 years has not set foot on the soil of his native land.  I like to think I’m pretty open-minded, so even though it took a while to crack open the book, I did end up finishing it (kind of the nice thing about feeling under the weather… you get to read and read and read, which I love).
     
    There were a couple reactions I had to this book.  As much as I thought Thuy (the young doctor) was all but brainwashed by the VC, reading the tragedies she witnessed, I found myself sympathizing for her.  No one should have to go through what she did… the daily fear and struggle to survive, never knowing if you’ll get raided by the enemy or catch a stray bullet or shrapnel or have chemical warfare unleashed on you.  It was really sad and very easy to commiserate with her.  It was also a little scary how cult-like her thinking was… very self-deprecating, self-sacrificing and almost an unquestioning devotion to the communist regime.  It was enlightening to read her own words because she obviously believed that the VC was fighting for what was right for Viet Nam.  And even though it saddened her to see so many friends and comrades fall to injury and death, the sacrifice was worth it because they were fighting for a cause they believed in.  I’m sure the people who faught for the South felt just as strongly about their beliefs.  People don’t fight wars to kill other people–they fight them to defend their beliefs and their rights.  Surely wars can’t be the only way to work out those differences, but is war ever warranted?  The United States wouldn’t be where it’s at today if it weren’t for a few key wars.  We’re in a war now that a lot of people feel we shouldn’t be in… when is it worth it and when isn’t it?
     
    I also wondered if this is a book my parents would read.  I’m sure the original Vietnamese is a lot more evocative and moving.  I wonder if it would help them understand the other side… maybe see that there were people and young kids on the other side who died needlessly as well.  Would it cure old wounds?  I do feel enriched to have read this book and I’m glad T recommended it to me. 
     

    The Golden Compass

    I liked the first book so much I finished the rest of the series.  All-in-all, I liked the whole series.  Lots of action, lots of drama. The only thing I didn’t like was that the storylines started splitting from the second book onwards.  I think at one point, you had to track 6 or 7 different plot lines.  They eventually all merged and overlapped here and there but it felt a little too fractured.  And the series got progressively more religious, which didn’t bother me too much but I could see it being a touchy subject for some people.

    Random: My favorite comment from Sindy… driving back from dinner at one of her favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants, Sindy points out some of her favorite restaurants along the way.  She then says, "I love Dick’s" as we pass by "Dick’s Drive-in" (a hamburger joint).  It tops my "I don’t want to ride the S.L.U.T." joke about the South Lake Union Transit line.  =)


    Back to books

    While on vacation, one of the few things I was able to accomplish on my "To-Do" list was to read.  I brought back two books with me — both were sitting on my "to read" pile and both were personal recommendations from friends.  I haphazardly threw in two books the night before my flight out and randomly chose one for my flight. 

    The first book was "Middlesex".  This was a recommendation from my former biz partner.  Surprisingly, I was able to actually finish it during my trip.  It meant squeezing in reading time between 12am – 3am which was my only free time what with taking care of the babies, spending time with the family, etc.  It’s a touching and slightly disturbing story about the life of a hermaphadite who was born a girl and at puberty began turning into more of a man than a woman.  Very unusual read but still quite the page-turner.  This isn’t the type of book I would normally choose for myself so I’m glad I got a chance to read something outside my typical interest.

    The second book turned out to be "The Golden Compass".  As it turned out while I was in Korea, G recommended this to me.  We were hanging out and stopped by a huge bookstore which had a fairly large selection of English books.  He recommended 2 or 3 books to me and I bought them on the spot.  One was "Slaughterhouse Five", which I read promptly but "The Golden Compass" got set aside until it got randomly thrown into my suitcase.  What’s funny is when I pulled it out after finishing "Middlesex", I read the back cover, which alluded to "armoured bears" and some other stuff that sounded vaguely familiar and I finally realized it was familiar because I had seen the movie already!  It’s funny that I’ve owned this book for over a year now and I saw the movie before I even realized I had the book!  I’m only a couple chapters in but I already feel like they did a bad job casting and costuming the cast in the movie.  That’s Hollywood for you.

    The good thing about being sick

    One good thing about being sick is getting to stay home and read all day.  Despite having the headache/migraine from hell, I finished "A Thousand Splendid Suns" these last two days.  It was equally poignant but less graphic than "The Kite Runner", which I have to say I was thankful for.  There were many parts of "The Kite Runner" when I had to just stop reading because it was just too sad and tragic.  I was able to get through "A Thousand Splendid Suns" w/o nearly as much crying… just a little towards the end.  =)  My next book needs to be something a little lighter.  Suggestions, anyone?

    Spam

    I couldn’t sleep last night so I started reading a bunch of books looking for answers, looking for inspiration, looking for something better than the Amy Tan book I can’t seem to finish or really even start.  I finally settled on "Happiness Sold Separately", a book about a married couple who struggles through infertility and infidelity. 
     
    An interesting line stuck with me:  "It seems that the spam filter for their life has broken, and all kinds of junk is pouring through…"
     
    Being an email-aholic, this metaphor really hit home for me.  I’ve never felt that way personally, but I thought it was a great way to describe life when you realize you’ve lost control of it and it’s not what you wanted for yourself.  In the midst of all the junk, it’s hard to see the things that are important, the things you need to pay attention to, the things that are real and genuine.  In life, what serves as your spam filter?  What helps you stay on your path and keeps the "junk" out?