Reading Everything in August

No, that is not the title of a challenge…but it may as well be.  I’m up to my ears in books and it’s wonderful.

Sweet peas and ocean breezes   ♥

I spent most of my July weekends working on a large volunteer project for a non-profit.  It was a beneficial experience, but more of a commitment than I realized.  Now that that’s pretty much wrapped up, I can turn back to books.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ll be reading this month, at different levels of undivided attention and in no particular order:

  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
  • Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian
  • Drawn from Memory – Ernest Shepard (illustrator of the original Winnie the Pooh)
  • Psalms (almost finished)
  • Tesla biography (yes, still)
  • Smart People Should Build Things and The War on Normal People – Andrew Yang
  • Nostromo – Joseph Conrad
  • Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
  • Other??  There’s sure to be more.

I probably mentioned before how many, many times I struggled to start Nostromo and stick with it.  Well, I’ve finally succeeded making it past the start, and it’s every bit as engrossing as I thought it would be.  Abandoned mines, haunted Englishmen, political unrest, and questionable investors…if you’re fascinated by 19th-century South American history, this book is all about it.  Some parts are pretty funny, close to dark humor but more often like Dickensian absurdism.

Some quotes from chapter 6:

‘We shall run the world’s business whether the world likes it or not. The world can’t help it – and neither we can, I guess.’ – random American character

* * *

The parrot, catching the sound of a word belonging to his vocabulary, was moved to interfere.  Parrots are very human.

Joseph Conrad 1916

I will never get over the fact that English was Conrad’s third language.  Regardless of one’s views on his politics or perspective, the man was brilliant with words.

Tonight I think I will go read the first chapter of Moby-Dick, because it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for – the beginning of Brona’s read-along

You can read a sample of my old thoughts on the novel here.  I first read Moby-Dick back in 2010… it feels like a lifetime ago.  Since then, these are some of the milestones which have happened in my life:

  • Entering/graduating college
  • Getting my first car and job
  • Learning real faith
  • Falling in love
  • Cutting my hair short
  • Writing drafts of two books
  • Buying two Apple products (whaaat?)

I so rarely re-read books that I’m really curious how I will react to this one.  Will I enjoy it as much as I did before?  Will I notice anything new?  I’ll be posting intermittently about it, so we’ll see how it goes.  🙂

Battling Reader’s Block

Hope everyone is doing well this fine June… It feels like the month is FLYING by.  Tomorrow is going to be about 90 degrees where I live, so I’d say summer is here.

Albert Bierstadt - Matterhorn

Since I finished 12 Rules for Life, I’ve been having pretty bad reader’s block.  You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell… Current status seems productive:

  • Still slowly plugging away at the Tesla biography (it’s interesting but very brainy)
  • On track for Cleo’s read-along of The Four Loves (Lewis), though I failed to post for part 1 (will roll it up into the next part)
  • Also reading Master and Commander (O’Brian) and The Scapegoat (du Maurier), both of which are pretty good books so far

I think recent “real-life” stress has zapped my attention span.  I hate it when that happens.

There are certain types of books that can get me out of that.  I will probably keep sampling books till I find one.  Till then, it might be kinda quiet around here…

What I’m Reading (and More): May edition

Well, friends…this month’s edition of “What I’m Reading” is going to be a bit of a ramble.  You might want to grab something to snack on or drink.  I usually try to abridge, but this time I just feel the need to stream-of-conscious it….

Personal

For starters, a personal update. Though work and everything are going fine, I’ve been feeling very directionless lately and in need of a change.  The thing is, there’s so many things I would like to do – from buying a house to changing jobs – but no one thing that especially stands out as “yeah, that makes sense.” It feels like a big decision chart with lines going all over the place.
 
I’ve been through all the conventional wisdom – focus on others, not yourself; try to find what you’re passionate about; make small goals; etc.  But after all of that, I’m still in a maze, with too many ideas and hopes and doubts pulling me in different directions.  And in spite of everything being fine, that sense of possibility is making me feel like I’ve lost control of the situation and need to choose something.

First-world problems, for sure, but frustrating nonetheless.  I hope writing about it enough times might help me figure it out.

Reading

Psalms

A bit of a backstory: After finishing Revelation, I read Romans.  It’s perplexing, but I found Romans to be very heavy, difficult reading.  I didn’t want to carry that feeling into Corinthians, so I decided to switch gears to Psalms, which I’ve been meaning to re-read ever since reading Fear No Evil earlier this year.

'David' by Michelangelo Fir JBU013
Jörg Bittner Unna [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Psalms is deceptively familiar.  I remember some verses and of course Psalm 23.  But I can’t say that I actually know the book, all 150 songs/poems.   I am reading just two at a time and hoping, at this pace, to help it sink in more.  Also, I’m still using the lectio divina method of Bible reading, which works very well with smaller sections.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Not sure if this warrants a disclaimer, but here goes anyway…

I fall into the peculiar category of people who neither love Peterson nor loathe him.  I’ve seen him in a few YouTube videos, but they didn’t spark enough interest in me to want to watch more.  What is most interesting is the effect he has on other people (his fans and enemies).  I thought I’d read this book, published just a year and a half ago, to see what the fuss is about.

That said, I did come into this 400-page tome with some bias:

  • Philosophy is still a fairly new genre to me, and I’m warming to it only very slowly.
  • I actually loved the movie Frozen, particularly as it features the strong relationship between two sisters, something I relate to personally.  Due to that, I doubt the judgment (literary or otherwise) of someone who writes Frozen off as “propaganda.”
  • I don’t care for self-help books as a rule (uhh no pun intended), so it takes a pretty good one to impress me.

So I’m about halfway through 12 Rules and, consistently enough, my feelings about this book are mixed.  There are many moments of wisdom, but some parts are also quite questionable, or even laughable.  Some reviewers are turned off by the many Bible references; they’re somewhat interesting, but I don’t really like his use of them, either (though for different reasons).  It’s also both creative and tedious that he doesn’t stick to his thesis the whole time, but rather weaves other topics into each chapter.

My favorite parts thus far were his anecdotes about growing up in a small town in Canada, in Rule #3 “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”  It had all the makings of a gripping memoir, or even a coming-of-age novel.  That was the book I wanted to be reading. 

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 

 

Another tome, over 500 pages!  Actually I powered through the first 60 pages, in spite of learning science-y things (gasp) about motors and such.  The book uses original diagrams from olden times (aka Tesla’s day), which makes my amateur graphic designer heart very happy.

More importantly, however, the writing is excellent: serious, yet approachable and very informative.  Tesla’s early life was largely positive, but after the death of his older brother, his adolescence was overshadowed by his tense relationship with his father and, at one time, a bizarre transition from workaholic student to gambling addict.  I didn’t know all of this, so those first chapters were especially fascinating.

No classics?!  What is this?

Yes, apart from Psalms, I’m not reading any classics at the moment.  I’m supposed to be re-reading The Time Machine and Ben-Hur, but lost steam somehow.

Also, can you believe I’ve only read two fictional books this year, and the rest have been nonfiction?  That’s some kind of record.  My challenges are getting rusty, too.

I do plan to get back into fiction reading soon, as I’m in line for a library copy of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander…  I’m tentatively excited, because I love the movie and kinda hope the book is just like it, at least character-wise.

Other

Apart from Valkyrie, I haven’t watched any movies.  I do want to re-watch Cranford soon, though.

I also have an album review coming up later this week, since one of my favorite groups just released a new one.

Other than that… hope everyone is having a lovely week!

Things I’m Looking Forward To

So far, 2019 has been a great year for me in terms of stories to read (and watch).  There’s a few things coming up which I’m particularly looking forward to!

Read-Alongs

 

April: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
@ A Great Book Study
I’m so excited that Ruth is hosting a read-along for Mary Wollstonecraft’s classic text.  I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, but it’s good I waited… it’s going to be more fun as a group!

August: Moby-Dick
@ Brona’s Books
August will be Herman Melville’s bicentennial birthday!  A great time to re-read this novel.  This time, I plan to give a thorough review, maybe even a miniseries.

Disney Live-Action Remakes

I’m really quite excited about the TWO Disney live-action remakes coming out this year, Aladdin and The Lion King.  The animated Aladdin was a favorite of mine as a kid, and I’m pretty sure The Lion King is one of Disney’s very best stories.  I just hope both remakes stay close to the originals, like Beauty and the Beast did.

May 24: Aladdin

July 19: The Lion King

Other

I’m thinking about starting the podcast back up again.  I haven’t decided whether to do that, or focus on the YouTube channel, or some combination.  Either way… planning to make a decision in the near future.

What I’m Reading (and More): March edition

Hi readers – hope everyone is doing well!  I’ve been incredibly busy the last several weeks at work, which seems to be the new normal.  To be honest, I haven’t been reading much, but I have watched some interesting films lately which I wanted to share.

Reading

The Acts of the Apostles
Rereading Acts, one thing which stands out to me is Peter’s character arc.  He starts out as emotional and at times cowardly in the Gospels, then grows in faith and courage till he faces his fears in Acts.  It’s really moving to see him develop in this way; it’s the progress every Christian wants to make.

No-No Boy, by John Okada
This 1957 novel is about a “no-no boy”: a Japanese-American man who, under pressure from his mother, refused to fight in WWII against the Japanese and was subsequently imprisoned.  I actually live near a temporary camp where Japanese-Americans were held, and as disturbing as it is, I feel it’s important to read about this piece of local history.  It’s the only remotely contemporary novel about this topic that I’m aware of, and interestingly, it was Okada’s only book.  So far it’s very interesting, but a slow read for me (hard to get through the cussing and domestic violence…getting major Brothers Karamazov vibes).

Watching

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

A small local theater was playing Peter Jackson’s new documentary, a colorized edit of WWI footage narrated by veterans.  I thought it was a great film, both emotionally evocative and also highly educational.  If you get a chance to see it in theater or on DVD, I’d highly recommend it!

Leave No Trace (2018)

This is one I saw on DVD with my mom and brother.  Leave No Trace is an indie film about a father and his daughter who live off-the-grid in the woods, until they are found and forced to leave.  Their love for each other is put to the test when a social worker tries to get them to rejoin society.

This is a very slow-paced film and stylistically very “indie,” from the woodsy shots to the folk music.  I think it could have been 30 minutes shorter, and I wasn’t sure if the ending was actually realistic (plus it was really depressing).  That said, overall it was a fascinating film and an important conversation piece, especially if you live in the Pacific Northwest where we have a homelessness crisis.

A Sister’s Call (2018)
This is a documentary about a sister who spent years looking for her homeless brother, Call, and finally found him.  The film covers topics such as schizophrenia and sexual abuse, so be warned, it is pretty dark.  I found it hard to watch but it was certainly thought provoking.

Listening

I just finished listening to “TL;DR,” an episode of IRL (“In Real Life,” a Mozilla podcast) that Mozilla (who else?!) recommended to me. The host and the interviewees talk about how people today have trouble reading books because we are so used to digital mediums and the brevity of headlines.  It was a rather cursory treatment of the topic – and felt a bit like an extended ad for Mozilla’s “Pocket” app – but it is a topic that interests me.

I know I read differently now than I did as a kid, and ironically I have a much lower attention span as a 20-something than as a ten-year-old.  I would be curious to know if it’s reversible damage, or if my brain is now permanently wired this way…