2016 Book List

Time for the annual book list. Reading pace slowed down quite a bit on account of a little side endeavor (school). Hopefully I’ll find my new study groove in the new year and pick up the reading pace again.

  • (F) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, 4 stars
  • (F) The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, 4 stars
  • (F) The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, 3 stars
    • Got kind of tired of the storyline and just wanted to hear the resolution
  • (NF) In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, 5 stars
    • Wildly hilarious travelogue
  • (F) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, 5 stars
  • (F) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, 5 stars
  • (F) Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams, 5 stars
  • (F) So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams, 4 stars
  • (F) Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams, 4 stars
  • (F) Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton, 5 stars
    • Y’all have you read this?? Lexie recommended the book so I picked it up. LOVED it and loved Crichton’s references to the scientific/research world
  • (F) The Lost World: A Novel (Jurassic Park Book 2) by Michael Crichton, 5 stars
  • (F) Sphere by Michael Crichton, 3 stars
    • Liked the premise of the book, but became a “meh” read later in the book
  • (F) The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton, 5 stars
    • LOVED this book. It’s a classic robbery story set with interesting characters with tons of trickery
  • (F) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, 4 stars
    • Classic scific. It’s even easier to envision a situation like this given our capabilities in biological manipulation. Don’t even get me started on CRISPR tech…
  • (F) Timeline by Michael Crichton, 3 stars
  • (NF) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, 5 stars
    • Heartbreaking book addressing life and death. Read it first as a library book but am going to purchase a copy for my own bookshelf.
  • (F) Cat’s Paws and Catapults by Steven Vogel, 4 stars
    • Great insights on how man-made and nature-made things are similar/different
  • (F) The Martian by Andy Weir, 5 stars
    • Recommended by Lexie. Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book is out-of-this-world good
  • (NF) How We Die by Sherwin Nuland, 4 stars
  • (F) LOTR Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, 5 stars
    • Obsessed with Tolkien!!
  • (F) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, 3 stars
    • I had pretty high expectations for this book because of all the press it received but was disappointed. An average story about two girls growing up and their love/hate relationship
  • (F) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, 4 stars
    • Loved this fantasy tale about 3 Londons, wizards, and magic. An all around fun story and an escape from med school
  • (F) A Gathering of Shadows (ADSOM Book 2) by V.E. Schwab, 4 stars
    • The fantasy continues with the second book in the trilogy! Schwab keeps you turning the pages !! But the book ends with a GIANT CLIFFHANGER and the third (and last) book doesn’t come out until February :/
  • (F) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, 4 stars
    • Sad yet beautiful tale

How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter

Hi Friends. I’ve been bouncing around between Jacksonville and Atlanta these past several weeks looking at condos, attending Michelle’s graduation, and shopping for a cello. So big news: Michelle graduated from law school and is now a lawyer! She has to take and pass the bar exam before she can be called an attorney. Other big news: we bought a condo in the Virginia Highland neighborhood of Atlanta. It’s a little over 3 miles from Emory. Importantly, it’s close to Piedmont Park and the Beltline thereby fulfilling my one essential requirement of nearby running trails. I’m really looking forward to only having to move once for the next 4 years.

I just finished reading How We Die by Sherwin Nuland. There were heaps of nuggets of gold in the book. Biggest take home: ars moriendi, the art of dying aka the “Good Death” or death with dignity, is not always possible. Often, biomedical science and medicine hinders one from it. But “Ars moriendi is ars vivendi: The art of dying is the art of living. The honesty and grace of the years of life that are ending is the real measure of how we die. It is not in the last weeks or days that we compose the message that will be remembered, but in all the decades that preceded them. Who has lived in dignity, dies in dignity” (268). These were some other passages that struck a chord.

Continue reading “How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter”

Cats’ Paws and Catapults

Nothing super exciting on the home front. I’ve been practicing cello like a maniac (trying to catch up on a 2.5 month loss) and reading lots of books. My “to read” list keeps expanding at a rate faster than books added to my “read” list. Most recently, I read The Martian by Andy Weir (thanks Lexie for the recommendation) and it was AWESOME. For reference, I started it yesterday afternoon and finished it this morning. But before that, I spent two weeks on Cats’ Paws and Catapults by Steven Vogel, which Katrina recommended a while back (read: Beach Week 2012).

Continue reading “Cats’ Paws and Catapults”

Books and a video

While in AUS and NZ, I had quite a bit of time to read. Here’s what kept me occupied and laughing. (When I like an author, I get a bit obsessed.)

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
  • Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams
  • Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Lost World (Jurassic Park Book 2by Michael Crichton
  • Sphere by Michael Crichton
  • The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
  • The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
  • Timeline by Michael Crichton
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Continue reading “Books and a video”

2014 Book List

Meant to post this before the end of 2014, but better late than never! A chronological list of the books I read last year and occasionally some brief notes on what I thought. I highly recommend the bolded books. Happy reading! Looking forward to more great reads this year!

  • (F) The Ocean at the End of the Lane, 4 stars
  • (F) Stardust, 5 stars
  • (F) The Interpreter of Maladies, 5 stars
    • poignant description of human nature, not always happy but a lot of Truth buried in Lahiri’s stories
  • (F) Unaccustomed Earth, 3 stars
    • stories seemed hackneyed after reading so many of them as Lahiri relies on many of the same themes
  • (NF) The Emperor of Maladies, 4 stars
    • slow at some parts but an Mukherjee is an engaging writer
  • (NF) Man’s Search for Meaning, 4.5 stars
  • (NF) Why Does the World Exist?, 2 stars
  • (F) Love in a Time of Cholera, 3.5 stars
    • Insightful piece into Marquez’s ideas of what constitutes love and what keeps a marriage together. Marquez created a striking illustration of how marriage during middle- to old-age is based more upon habit/routine and stability rather than on love or passion.
  • (NF & F) The Opposite Of Loneliness, 3 stars for F, 4 stars for NF
  • (F) The Goldfinch, 1 star
    • Interesting premise but the book was in serious need of a good editor. Tartt’s lack of consistency in her character descriptions was the most annoying part of the book. Hard for me to take seriously the “depth” of her characters because she kept changing things about them. Extraneous details with choppy logic flow, especially at the end when she tries to draw a point about good/bad/gray lines of life. The “aha” moment was didactic rather than enlightening.
  • (NF) Eat Pray Love, 3 stars
    • Gilbert’s prevailing humor made what could be dense topics into light, funny anecdotes.
  • (F) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, 4 stars
  • (F) Re-visited: Howl’s Moving Castle, 5 stars
    • Love the approach to doors and the different places to which they can lead
  • (F) The Book of Life: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy), 1 star
    • Only read this in order to finish the series. I do not recommend the series. Harkness is inconsistent and wordy. Additionally, there are major plot holes as well as spotty character/plot development.
  • (NF) Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, 5 stars
    • It’s hard to believe what we, as humans, are capable of doing, both the good and the bad
  • (F) The Dinner, 4 stars
    • Captivating plot that made for an easy read
  • (F) 100 Years of Solitude, 4 stars
    • Beautiful prose, but hard to keep track of characters
  • (NF) Blood and Guts, 4 stars
    • Gory but great read and retells the surgeries with great details
  • (NF) The Examined Life, 3 stars
    • Kind of disjointed; the stories were short and Grosz tried them together in themes of “love” or “change” etc, but it didn’t work for me.
  • (NF) Being Mortal, 4 stars
  • (F) The Rosie Project, 3 stars
    • Cliché ending
  • (F) Keep the Apidistra Flying, 2 stars
    • Very negative, but then again, it’s Orwell

Book Updates

One of my favorite parts of summer is that I have the time to read things OTHER than textbooks. Here’s an account of my most recent reads, which features:

(1) Mr g by Alan Lightman (Fiction)

(2) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (Non Fiction)

(3) The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (Fiction)

I was browsing Lilly Library’s “Current Lit” section when I stumbled upon Mr g, a novel by Alan Lightman. This piece of fiction is about the story of creation told from God’s perspective. It starts in the land of the Void, where nothing exists. And God, one day, decides to make time. Then space. Then the universe. God picks one universe, Aalam-104729, to focus on developing. The main antagonist (although I wouldn’t really describe him as an antagonist…more like an inverse intellectual equivalent) Belhor acts as the sounding board for God’s experiments in Aalam-104729. (Belhor, in the Biblical sense, refers to the devil.) This story sets the stage for Dr. Lightman to explore some big topics: what does it mean to be living, does an individual life have purpose, what is happiness, what is time, and what is infinity?

Rather than exploring these questions through metaphors, as most of the literature I’ve read has approached these questions, Dr. Lightman frames these questions in a more direct manner. He asks these questions through the conversations God has with Belhor. I think what I’m trying to explain can best be illustrated by an excerpt:

“I am not speaking necessarily of a grand meaning, I said, but of individual meaning. Wouldn’t you agree that each individual life has its own meaning, or at least a meaning as understood by the individual creature? Cannot each individual creature find some meaning for its own life?

What difference does it make? Belhor said, and he stared as if bored at the gyrating spheres flying through the Void….They come and go. How could an individual mortal life have any meaning? And even if the individual, the tiny ant, thinks its life has a meaning, it is only an illusion. It is only a sensation, an excess of electrical current in its tiny brain. What significance could that have for us?

But surely it has significance for them, I said. Each one of them tries so desperately to find meaning. In a way, it doesn’t matter what particular meaning each of them finds. As long as each of the creatures finds something to give a coherence and harmony to the jumble of existence. Perhaps it might be as simple as a discovery of their own capacities, and a thriving in that discovery. And even if they are mortal they are part of things. They are part of things larger than their universe, whether they know it or not. Wouldn’t you agree?” (157)

So there you have it: Dr. Lightman very directly attacking the question of whether or not living creatures have meaning. I thought that the novel took an overall very positive outlook on life and living. That even though we may be little with respect to infinity, we are still meaningful in this space and time. The novel was an interesting thought exercise, but overall, slightly more abstract than my usual taste in books.

After Mr g, I was ready for more concrete reading material…as in some non-fiction. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg has been getting quite a bit of attention from the media, and I thought it would be a good book to read. (And it was pretty cheap at Costco, so why not!) While I identified with many points she brought up in the book, I was not particularly fond of the last two chapters. I can’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t like about the end of the book, but it carried—what I perceived to be—a weight of blame and guilt upon the female population, while simultaneously throwing the male population under the bus for being discriminatory (consciously and unconsciously). That being said, there were a lot of take away messages for me, like being more assertive, not beating myself up right after tests, “done is better than perfect”, not being a control freak, and of course, leaning into my career. I’ll address some of these more in depth here:

(1) Being more assertive: Sandberg talks about a leadership ambition gap between males and females in the first chapter of the book. She traces some of this to the difference between the behaviors of males versus females when offered new opportunities:

“During the six and a half years I worked at Google, I hired a team of four thousand employees. I did not know all of them personally, but I knew the top hundred or so. What I noticed over the years was that for the most part, the men reached for opportunities much more quickly than the women. When we announced the opening of a new office or the launch of a new project, the men were banging down my door to explain why they should lead the charge…The women, however, were more cautious about changing roles and seeking out new challenges…I have had countless conversations where women responded to this encouragement by saying, “I’m just not sure I’d be good at that.” Or “That sounds exciting, but I’ve never done anything like it before.” Or “I still have a lot to learn in my current role.” I rarely, if ever, heard these kinds of comments from men.” (34-35)

I identified with this passage, because I am apprehensive of taking on new things. This apprehension stems mostly from the fact that I’m scared. That I feel highly unqualified to do [insert whatever new task here]. One thing that I will try to work on is accepting that I don’t necessarily have to know exactly how to do something before I accept a task. Rather, decisions of taking on new tasks/responsibilities should be based on whether or not I have the willingness to learn and the time to dedicate to the task (and of course, letting go of the fear of failure).

(2) “Done is better than perfect”: Sandberg describes her realization upon having her first child that working isn’t about how many hours she spends at the office, but about becoming more efficient. She adopted this mantra of “done is better than perfect” so that she could both do her job and spend the time she needed with her newborn. This applies to me more along the lines of: not every assignment needs to be perfect. Some just need to be done so that I can spend the time perfecting the things that matter or spend time doing things that actually matter. This is something that I will definitely try to work on during the upcoming school year.

The last book I wanted to mention is a novel by B. A. Shapiro called The Art ForgerThis excellent piece of fiction was about a talented, struggling painter who makes a Faustian bargain: to forge a Degas painting in exchange for a one-woman show in an art gallery (a show which would definitely allow her career to take-off). Aside from the enthralling plot line (I couldn’t put the book down!), Dr. Shapiro questions some aspects of the art world like what makes great art great? How can we tell the real from the forgeries? How far are we willing to go for our dreams? Anyway, this post is already too long and I’m tired, so I’ll leave it at that. If anything, this was a fun piece literature that made for a supremely relaxing and pleasant tea-and-cookies-Saturday-lazy-kind-of-afternoon.