Friday, July 19, 2013

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

This book started out slow and I got lost in all the characters but it eventually picked up and I could not put it down. I just finished it this morning and secretly read it at my desk when I was waiting for my computer to turn on. It reminded me of a few things.

When we are teenagers, we live in a bubble and can be naive and reckless. We act fearless but we are fearful and trying to figure out who we are and where we belong. Honestly as an adult I know I still haven't figured it out yet. Pessl captures that so well with the crew of the Bluebloods. But also teenagers are smarter and more perceptive than we give them credit for.

Things are not always what they seem. Sometimes the truth is painful and learning it makes you lose everything. It can set you free from anxiety but it can never go back to the way it was.

"Sometimes it takes more courage not to let yourself see. Sometimes knowledge is damaging - not enlightenment but unleadenment. If one recognizes the difference and prepares oneself - it is extraordinarily brave."

I read this quote 144 pages in and after finishing the book I realize it was clearly foreshadowing.

I recommend this book also because the writing is quite unique. Pessl has written it like a thesis with a lot of literary and well thought quotes and references that give insight into the story. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A super delayed catch up post

I was re-reading this blog recently and it made me realize how much I enjoyed reading and reflecting, which I insist upon continue doing on this blog again! Books have taken me on so many adventures for free (thank you public library!).

It has been nearly a year since I posted on this blog so I wanted to name the books and series I have read.

My co-worker is a big fan of Nora Roberts and let me borrow a bunch of books by her. I really enjoyed several of them, but the trilogies became quite formulaic and the excitement started to wear off. There were a few books by her that I quite enjoyed:

Northern Lights: A well-written story about a cop in a small town in Alaska. I felt like I learned a lot about the state and want to visit it someday.

Angels Fall: Also about a small town called Angels Fist. Also, well-written and worth taking a look at.

Some of the trilogies were very cliche about three women and three men who get together and how difficult that is. I was more interested in her supernatural trilogies like the Sign of Seven series and The Stunning Key trilogy. Sometimes I got frustrated with Nora's books because I felt petty and that the characters would often lack depth or strength. It certainly put me in an off-mood that I am unable to read some of her books now. However, I like how she portrays small towns and places that are often overlooked. My co-worker told me because Nora Roberts wrote about a small town in Maryland and apparently tourism boomed there afterwards. That is pretty cool.

I also jumped back on the self-discovery books and read The Happiness Project and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. For me, it's always good to go back to these type of books and remember my purpose and to always move forward constantly making things better and more interesting for myself. I had been at a point where I needed a reminder that only I can change myself.

I am on the hunt for some new books. I follow this site called and read an interview with a person who seemed to have the same test in books as me. She recommended a book called Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I hope is good! 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I could not put this book down.  It's a heart-wrenching story about tissue research intertwined with the effects of poverty and racism. I am not a science person but I really enjoyed reading this book. Bioethics is truly a fascinating field. 

Some catch up

It's been a long time since I wrote in this blog, so I thought it would be good to reflect on some of the books I have read in the past 6 months.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: I am not a science person, but this story of poverty, race, sexism, ethics entwined with the history of the HeLa cells is too fascinating. I could not put it down.

India Calling: Amazing. Any person of Indian origin that has lived abroad will find something to relate to in this book. It is not fiction, but one person's real account of growing up  in the US and moving to India as an adult. He talks about the changing India and it's just completely relatable. A lot of what he says made complete sense to me.

Suburban Sahibs: This book is about being Indian in Jersey and looks at real live families and their stories as immigrants settling in the area. Worth the read as well.

Divorce Islamic Style: Recently, I went to Italy. I picked up this book from the library because of the interesting title but it turns out it is originally written in Italian and takes place in Rome! I have a general fascination with the lives of immigrants and this was an interesting fictional perspective of being Middle Eastern Muslim in Italy. I liked Amara Lakhous's writing style so I plan to read his other book.

Water For Elephants: This was well-written but the ending was underwhelming for me. It does give a nice insider view of circus life.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I am weary of anyone who gets treated like a god. The way people worship expensive Macs and how some people treated Steve Jobs as a divine being bothered me. I barely knew anything about him other than that he was the founder of Apple. I only ever read/heard in the media of how private he kept his life and when he criticized another company like Flash or Microsoft.

With this book, I developed a new-found respect for Jobs. Very few people match his passion and his biography portrays his strengths and flaws. The guy lived on LSD as a student and is a Buddhist/Hare Ram Hare Krishna follower.

Worth the read.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

This story is incredible. What's even more incredible about it is that is true. Roberts is a fantastic writer. The novel is about him - he is an escaped convict from Australia and somehow ends up in India. When his visa expires, he lives in a Mumbai slum establishing a free medical clinic and then gets entrenched in the Mumbai underworld.

Roberts writes beautifully but there is one quote that I want to share (more can be found here).
"At first, when we truly love someone, our greatest fear is that the loved one will stop loving us. What we should fear and dread instead is that we won't stop loving them, even after they are dead and gone."
There are very few people in the world I trust and love unconditionally. At many points in this book, I actually cried. To be loved wholeheartedly is a blessing.

Lin (Robert's adopted name in the book) goes to his friend's Prabahakar's village and meets his family. He is so overwhelmed with how welcoming they are and how they don't question anything about his past. I have never had that experience. I generally get bombarded with questions on all the things that stress me out like education (took the long route), work (job hunting fun times), marriage, etc. I finally reached a good point on all of those but the constant barraging always appeared like they didn't have faith in me. I wanted one person to just say I know you will figure it out even though it might not seem like it. South Asian people generally treat guests way better than their own family.

It doesn't matter where you live or what you do, when you feel like part of a community it makes all the difference. Lin lives in the slum and he becomes part of its diverse family. For once, he feels like he belongs. How much each neighbor cares for each other is quite amazing.  I suppose when you are working towards a common goal of satisfying one's basic needs of food and shelter all the other differences like caste or religion don't seem important.  When the basic needs are fulfilled however, humans tend to find other things that separate each other...

This book is definitely worth the read.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Small novels are the perfect novels for long train rides to work. Even though I am tempted to take longer reads they are just way too heavy to carry when you need a free hand to hold onto a pole/bar. Anyway, this book was really good. For the simple reason that truth is often stranger than fiction. This is a memoir about a girl and her very unique and crazy parents. It's a wonder that she and her siblings are even alive and doing remarkably well now. There were two thoughts that came to my mind while reading this.

I am very blessed to have my parents. I know I don't acknowledge them enough though. Jeannette's parents basically leave their kids to fend for themselves, even though they always stay together as a family. Her parents' goals are not to provide them with the best they can offer them, but are just kind of there. There are several times where I think the kids take better care of their parents... It makes me wonder what is the "coddling line"? Parents cannot take care of every detail of their kids' lives, there has to be a point where they let go. I think a major goal of parents should be to teach their kids to be self-sufficient. It's something I don't often feel I know how to do. I don't blame my parents in any way of course; I think I am one of those people who needs to be "thrown into the water to learn how to swim". I never felt I learned to be somewhat self-sufficient until I was on my own in college and now working.  If parents or someone always takes care of you - when is the point that a person will learn to take care of him/herself?

The second major thought that occurred to me is poverty a choice or circumstance? Jeannette really tries as an adult to get her parents off the street (they are homeless), but they refuse. They actually like living on the streets. It's hard to believe but as I read that novel I understood why the characters felt that way. They are free-spirited and being constrained to a certain location and to daily mundane routines would never work for them. I see many homeless poor people while walking to work. They solicit for money, etc. Is it by circumstance they end up there - could there be no other option than to resort to begging? However there is one guy who is my favorite. He shouts "Good morning!" to everyone that walks by in a loud, cheery voice. I think he sleeps on the bench in that park every day but he is happy and he doesn't ask for a penny. Is he there by choice?

Poverty is not a passive event. Or is it? I am not quite sure after reading this book. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

I haven't written in this blog for a while, life has happened. Lot has changed and much more to come! I haven't found the same pleasure in reading that I used to :( and I am determined to get that same rush again!

I moved to a new library system (that's always wierd) and am getting used to the way they operate. I suppose I have been nostalgic about the days when I was a kid, which inspired me to pick up this book. I am a huuuge fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and picked this one up by chance to see if it fell in the same category.

It wasn't that bad. The main character's only fault is that he doesn't like to read and will do anything to get out of doing it. I suppose I couldn't relate on a personal level because the protagonist seems to be pretty good at everything else! His friends never isolate him and everyone is so normal in his life. I wanted a character with more depth and slight angst and who makes mistakes, whose family is not normal, etc. Because seriously in whose life are people "normal" or "average"? I think it would have been nice if the author had linked not reading to meaning Charlie was not doing well at school either. How else would he know those big words and give awesome presentations? It just didn't fit exactly.

Maybe younger kids might find this book a fun read, but it definitely doesn't cross over to the adult reader.