Good Reads?

I resolved to read 25 books this year and so far, I’ve read five. That’s not that much but I’ve been struggling through books. Unfortunately, I have some books on my to-read list that don’t quite jump out at me. But I’m determined to muddle through.

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Here is what I’ve gotten through in the last two months:

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Three out of those books fall under the category of ‘feminist literature’- they were interesting reads, to say the least. While all three women are heavy-weights in the Feminist Movement arena, reading these books remind me of the importance of intersectional feminism, and how each of us has our own definitions of what it means to carry that label.

Did I agree with everything they wrote? No. Did these books kick my ‘spirit into high gear’? No. For me, these books are compilations of raw and honest essays that provide more ‘food for thought’ in areas I can relate to. These books keep the conversation going and I think that’s the biggest takeaway.

The other two were easier reads, thankfully. The David Nicholls book was turned into a movie many years ago, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. I read it on the plane ride to Miri and I found it quite enjoyable. Weirdly enough, I like David Nicholls’s other book, ‘Us’, better than this one. Still a good read in the end. I may watch the movie 🤷‍♀️

I bought My Not So Perfect Life because I wanted something light and fun, and Sophie Kinsella typically delivers on that front. It’s a chick-lit book that Kinsella fans would enjoy. I liked it. Sure, the plot got a bit too convenient towards the end, but that’s kinda what you expect from her work, so it doesn’t ‘disappoint’.

I am always happy to click READ on GoodReads and see the bar on the side move forward. I’m ‘2 books ahead of schedule’ for my 25, so that’s nice.

I hope you’re getting along with your resolutions this year, and if you’re reading anything particularly scrumptious, I’m up for recommendations. That is, once I’ve finished the other four books I have on my list.

When breath becomes air

Look around, look around,

how lucky we are to be alive right now

-Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda

I often think about life and death.

It’s easy to be reminded that every moment on this planet is fleeting when you work in a hospital. Children take their first gasps in the same place where others breathe their last. Perhaps the only other profession, or vocation really, where you see both life and death in the same day would be a religious role, be it a priest, or an imam, or a Rabbi, or whatever else in between.

I just finished When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. If you have heard about him in the last year, you would recall that he is the neurosurgeon who passed away from lung cancer, despite never smoking. The first time I ever heard about him was through his sister-in-law’s blog, Cup of Jo. I remember reading her news about her dear brother-in-law, a man so loved, a man so kind and strong, and feeling this sadness.

I read his essays, I read the one his wife wrote. And now, I’ve read his book while on the plane, flying back home for the weekend. It was an easy read, the medical terms that he used all familiar to me. I enjoyed imagining what his voice would have sounded like. I read his story about how choosing medicine was not a childhood dream, his love of literature and English resonated with me. His favourite poem, The Wasteland by T.S.Elliot, is one of my favourites. He was a man who fell in love with the human mind first and sought to learn more about it, in a more tangible form in neuroscience.

And I felt a kinship with him.

When he wrote about his fears, when he spoke about how he went through the stages of grief backwards, my heart ached for him. I cannot imagine how paralysing it must be to be placed in such a difficult situation, where everything you know, everything that you strived for had to be placed on the backburner because you needed to relearn how to sit, how to walk, how to move as you previously did.

Dr Kalanithi passed away before he could complete his book. The epilogue was written by his wife, and if you don’t shed a tear while reading that, I fear for your soul. The book is unfinished, and it does feel that way, but in a way, that is how it is intended to be. I like to think that there was no true way for that book to end, because for as long as he was alive, Dr Kalanithi would have had more to share, he would have had more advice to give, more experiences to draw from to help educate his readers. I don’t think there could have been a way for it to have ended with a certain finality because that’s not always how life works, especially when it comes to the death of someone so young.

I think of life and death every time someone gets pushed through the Emergency Room doors. I think of life and death every time I watch a child being born. I think of life and death when a patient goes in for surgery.

I think about how final every day can be, and how some days are the end for someone on this planet. One of our classes last week was on human errors, and part of it was watching this reenactment of Eastern Airlines Flight 401. This was to do with the downing of a plane due to the fixation of the pilots on an issue related to landing and caused them to be unaware that their autopilot had stopped working. The video was based on the recordings of the black box. It ends with them realising that they were closer to the ground than anticipated, and with the crash. As much as this was a lesson in human error, I cannot help but imagine how it must have felt like to listen to their last words, to listen to their errors in judgement, and to hear them be suddenly cut off when the plane crashed to the ground.

Life is so quick, it is often too fast for us to grasp. And I wish we appreciated it more.

I wish I did.

I grew up with this weird feeling that I would die young, and silly as it is, I always imagine the worst possible situation (crashing in a terrible accident, being electrocuted to death, somehow dying of a fatal disease). That flight of fantasy always ends with me thinking about how many regrets I would leave behind.

but then, those moments pass and I go back to being too complacent with my existence, and the existence of others.

I don’t know what I’m getting at. I just know that it’s good to stop and think of how quickly things can take a bad turn and how much we can lose, whom we can lose.

There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.

-Paul Kalanithi

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Book Haul!

My books have arrived and it’s the best feeling. I have this pile on my table, okay, that’s a lie, on my bed, and I cannot wait to rip off the plastic wrap and feel the covers beneath my fingers, the embossing, the raised script!

I confess, I have opened two already: the Kate Beaton one, because I wanted to flip through the comics, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s IN OTHER WORDS. I have read a few chapters of the latter and it has filled me with this joy, the bliss that only comes with reading.

I have missed reading. Somehow, even in my time between semesters, I have often forgotten to pick up a book. It’s always my laptop now, devouring every bit of social media or art in it’s visual form. I forgot to read, and that’s a terrible feeling. Forgetting something you love!

Reading has been such a great way to make friends, to build connections, to understand a someone else at a subliminal level. It is always easier to talk to someone whom I know READS the same books. You may like the same TV shows, but you can have different levels of appreciation. But I have found that when you find people who ‘devour’ books like you do, it’s this spark of connection that has proven to extend across oceans and continents.

Here are the books I purchased, and yes, it’s quite a few. I intend to spend a good amount of time burying my face in them. Much like last year where most of my purchases were done when I was away from home, I think I’ll be buying  a lot more in months to come.

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Christmas Song Book Tag

I was watching a few YouTube book tag videos and I thought it would be fun to do this one. I needed the distraction today, so I decided to actually make stuff and I’m quite proud of what comes after this. You are highly welcomed to join in and write up your own answers to the tag.

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For more information about the tag: Here’s the original video and here’s a blog post version of it with the questions.

Do tell me if you decide to do it, I’d love to read/watch your responses. 😊

 

Five Books I Highly Recommend

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I always thought I could be a librarian. Or Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail. But Life handed me a different deck of cards, but that does not mean I do not adore books. As the title clearly states, here are Five Books I highly recommend to anyone for Five Friday. (I’m trying to keep it as ‘neutral’ as possible because there are books that are targeted to a certain demographic, be it gender or age, so hopefully anyone can look these up and enjoy them)

Also, I have linked Book Depository pages for each title, so it’ll be easier if you want to buy them. They provide free shipping internationally (which is the best thing ever) and reasonable discounts on a lot of books. If you’re Malaysian, try MPHOnline; they may or may not have some of the books in stock but there’s free shipping for purchases over RM50 (plus, you can actually track your parcel!).

1. Boy by Roald Dahl

The first time I read this, I was 8 or 9 years old because it was a compulsory read for my brother’s Form 1 class (yes, he skipped 2 grades because he’s smart and all). I didn’t appreciate it as much as I did when I reread it at 11. I love this book. I want to be able to write a book like this. If you are shockingly unfamiliar with Roald Dahl, he’s a famous children’s book author (he wrote a few adult-ish books, too) with the likes of ‘The Witches’, ‘BFG’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. ‘Boy’ however, is autobiographical in nature and such an adventurous book. There is a difference between reading fiction and non-fiction, but with Roald Dahl, his life story reads like a good novel that he wrote. It’s full of lively characters, rich insight into the mind of a child-to-semi-adult. It’s also filled with pictures of him as a kid, letters he wrote to his mother and really funny illustrations. A definite must-read if you’re a Dahl fan.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

If you only know this story based on the movie, you’re probably missing out on a few things. As much as Stephen Chbosky tried to condense his book into a script, the movie did not flesh out the characters to the depth of what they were on the page. I really like the movie, don’t get me wrong, even if Emma Watson’s American accent wasn’t fantastic (she tried her best, points to her for that. And she was very passionate about the book, which I will always admire), but the book was what made me want to watch it in the first place. Perks is about Charlie, and is written is a letter form to the reader. He addresses each chapter with ‘Dear Friend’ and it’s as though he is writing to you, the reader. Charlie is what the title states: a wallflower, but as a person, he has gone through a lot of heavy stuff that most of us are lucky to never have come across. But this book is not solely about him: it deals with eating disorders, sexuality, confusion in being a teenager, mistakes we all make, and depression. I got chills reading certain parts of the book because I felt a connection to what I read. I think this book is one that every teenager/young adult should read because there is so much that you can gain from it. I may be gushing, but this is one of my favourite books.

3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

If you like mystery novels, this one will be a hit with you. I am a fan of detective stories, Hercule Poirot is my favourite of all time, but this book is not a Poirot tale. The brilliant Agatha Christie weaves a complicated tale that brings strangers to a island, invited by a mysterious person only to have a murder occur. The guests panic and try to figure it out, while a creepy poem haunts them at every turn. (I swear, typing my own version of a summary just gave me chills) I read this book at night: BIG mistake. I freaked out in my own room. And it’s not a scary book, but a definite page turner. The ending is amazing and shocking, which is why this book is known to be her best.

4. Captain Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

This book is one of my favourites from childhood. I think my mom bought it for my brother and I, but I think I favour it more. I can definitely reread this at anytime. This book is about a young, prick of a boy named Harvey Cheyne Jr. who gets thrown overboard on a trip only to be picked up by a fishing boat called “We’re Here”. No one believes his story of being a rich kid and he ends up working on the ship as deckhand under the careful watch of it’s captain, Disko Troop. This is a coming of age story, where a stuck-up brat learns to appreciate what he has and find purpose in the world. I think I learned a lot of names of fishes, proper fishermen’s tales and a good dose of learning to be humble from this book. It has a good ending that will make you smile.

5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This book is loved by a lot of people and for good reason. I first read this when I was 18, I think; a little late in the game but I think it was good to read at 18 because I kinda understood Holden Caulfield better. If you don’t know what this book is about, it’s the story of Holden Caulfield, an angst ridden schoolboy who gets kicked out of boarding school, and checks himself into hotel before he returns home. You can imagine what a young boy gets up to, alone and ‘free’ to do whatever he chooses. I found his views of people he met very interesting, and the way he perceived relationships, especially with his own family was relatable in some sense. Holden is not the best role model but reading his story was nonetheless enjoyable.

So, here are my 5 books that I would recommend to anyone. Are there any of yours in these five or do you have five of your own to send back to me? Comment or tweet me. x