Welcome to my bookshelf


I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

AHHHH

Currently Reading: The Machine Crusade
Pg 201: "Words are magic."

Oh no! I just wrote a very good post and it totally disappeared before I could publish it! I hate it when things disappear into the netherworld of the internet. Errrr. I'll try to reproduce it, but I know it won't be nearly as good.

I had been saying that this is one of the truest quotes I've come upon lately. It is amazing what human minds can create using only words. All these books that I just adore are really just a clever grouping of various words. These words transport me to far off places and reveal amazing characters or friends. I am envious of those who can write. I have always wanted to be a writer, but have found that my milieu is numbers instead. Oh well, I'll leave the words to the masters.

Words can also be magic in the damage they cause. We can hurt not only others, but ourselves as well by inappropriately choosing the words we use. Novelists are lucky in that they have editors. People who can evalute how the words are being used and can give suggestions as to how to use the words more efficiently or effectively. I wish I had a mental editor who would sort out my word choices before I speak them, orally to others or inwardly in my thoughts. Many conflicts could be avoided.

I find that I save my worst words for myself. I have recently made a bracelet that says "I am good". I have been using that word inappropriately for too long and actually had to look up its definition so that I could redefine it for myself. Unfortunately, I had been using it erroneously for quite some time. This constant reminder is a help and really an editor for me. When I find myself trying to use it incorrectly, I stop and think about what the bracelet actually symbolizes.

Of course this discussion must include a list of favorites. My favorite word is lugubrious. Yes it's a downer, but I just love the way it sounds and the way you have to move your mouth when you say it. What's your favorite? The ubiquitous ubiquitous or maybe something easier to spell. It's an interesting question to pose. I asked my students once and was totally amazed by their answers. Even if you don't love to read, you still need words.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ah ha

Currently Reading: The Fourth Hand
So I was confused about the title because Patrick only had three hands. His original two and then the new one that had been transplanted. Unfortunately for him, the transplant didn't hold and he is left handless again. I wonder what or from where the fourth hand will be. This is always a good thing. Anticipation keeps you reading. The plot is advancing quite well and I am truly enjoying the book. Not as deep and philosophical as The World According to Garp or A Prayer for Owen Meany, but a good story nonetheless. Stay tuned for future updates or try it for yourself. Definitely one to recommend.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do or Do Not

Currently Reading: The Fourth Hand
More John Irving! I finished The Butlerian Jihad and am excited about continuing the series. I love returning to familiar settings and memorable characters. This newest reading is goo too though. The main character, Patrick, has his left hand bitten off by a lion and is going to undergo a hand transplant. What is interesting though, is that the book seems like it will be more about a personality or life attitude transplant. I could so with one of those. I need a defining moment to help me see what my life is truly about and what is really important to me. I think I know some things, but maybe a big push is needed. It's easy to think about making changes or improving things, but actually doing it is another thing. I have the word ACT writen by my desk at work and I am trying hard to follow my own advice. I spend too much time thinking and too little time doing. Like Master Yoda says, "Do or do not. There is no try." It's time to stop trying.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sore Fingers

Currently Reading: The Butlerian Jihad
Pg 519: "Most traditional governments divide people, setting them against each other to weaken the society and make it governable."

Our system of government is two partied and it seems like we become to polarized based on these labels. There is no room for middle ground and even moderates have to choose a label. Any independent candidates find themselves unable to win elections because they can't get enough votes. People tend to be straight ticket. This is getting to be a serious issue more and more. As a resident of Texas, I am experiencing this first hand. The governor is up for re-election and there is a serious fight going on for the position. It's funny because the worst slurs are being tossed about between the two potential Republicans. It is like the democratic candidate doesn't even count, which may be the case in this radically red state. I know who I'm voting for, but it almost seems like it isn't going to count. The party line is dictating what most people decide and so those of us in the minority party are significantly outnumbered. Sometimes it seems like things would be better if we allowed for more parties like in England. Some argue that this causes no consensus to occur, but I feel like all the middle men are better represented. There is more give and take. No super-majority or whatnot. I know that I am just one voice, but when many "one voices" act together, maybe we can get some change. We were promised change with this last presidential election, but that change seems stymied by the other party. Why does change have to be one or the other? What happened to the idea that nothing is black or white? I want more gray!!

In the book, the humans are pitted against the thinking machines and yet it is not too easy to see who is the enemy and who is not. The variety of human feelings and ideas causes smaller conflicts to arise, but the main governments are truly in charge. They are the only ones getting any results. So this argues against multiple parties, but it is not really parties pitted against each other. Because people have only a couple of options, they find themselves alone and unsure. Each group needs a leader who can work with the others rather than just fight. So I guess at the end of the day, we need more productive compromise. It is possible to please most, even if pleasing all is unthinkable.

As to the title, this is a long book and I have a paperback copy. My thumb and pinkie are having a hard time holding it open. Makes those larger, overpriced paperbacks seem more and more likable. Speaking of easy to hold books, I'm thinking of getting an iPhone so I can get the Kindle app. It would be awesome to have everything, notepad, phone, books, games, etc., all in one place. I carry around too much as it is. Any thoughts regarding the pros or cons of this purchase?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss

Currently Reading: The Butlerian Jihad
Pg 168: "Religion, time and time again, brings down empires, rotting them from within."

This is a sentiment I totally agree with. While an atheist myself, I can appreciate religion as a cultural norm, but it is so frustrating that it dictates everyone's life in total. Hate these people, vote for this person, eat this food, don't eat that, fight them, bow now, you are not worthy, this idea is evil. Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful creator, make such pathetic followers? What's the point? People are always saying, "It was God's will". Who would will some of the crap that goes down? Why would you preach goodness and bloodshed in the same sentence? Ugg. It is way too complicated. Why can't we just live life for itself? Why does it have to mean something? And yet on the other hand...

Pg 359: "Religion, often considered a divisive force among peoples, is also capable of holding together what might otherwise fall asunder."

Some people need a list of rules to follow and the promise of a bountiful future. Life can be too horrible to contemplate on your own. It is a way to create communities who value family and sharing. It can also bring about peace rather than war. It seems as if it is often the leaders who dictate what religion means and what their adherants should do. So this becomes a problem of blidly following charistmatic leadership and not making your won decisions.

So if nothing else, choose your leaders wisely and think before you act. Is it a reasonable action? Will it harm others? Will it make anything better? If you don't agree with the leader, find a new one. Please don't blindly follow hate, stupidity, or ignorance, even if it is coming from someone "appointed" by your diety of choice. Of course the safest thing is to be a Humanist. Look to Vonnegut for more on that. There's a man who knows what's up. (Look at me following a charismatic man.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Variety is the Spice of Life

Currently Reading: The Butlerian Jihad
Finally, some real science fiction. I must admit, I am a big fan of robots, spaceships, and lasers in any form. This book is interesting because it is part of the Dune series. When Frank Herbert started his tale, the humans had banned all self-thinking technology and so the books don't contain much of the typical sci-fi gadgetry. Oh it's there, but the story is really about the characters and morals, not the wonderment of the future. In fact it paints a pretty gloomy picture of what lies ahead. This book is a pre-cursor to the original series and explains why they banned the AI in the first place. It's good to get the background knowledge and I am finding myself appreciating the original stories more now. Of course I've barely started, who knows what will be revealed. See, no expectations this time.

In case you haven't noticed yet, my book choices cannot be pigeonholed. I read almost anything from classic literature to popular detective tales, contemporary fiction, and of course the occasional memoir. I even like nonfiction stuff. I like to learn and find that I learn from both the real and imaginary characters. Because in all honesty, no character is completely fictional. Hope you don't mind the varied choices.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Expectations

Currently Reading: Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
So you think Philip K, Dick and immediately sci-fi and robots come to mind. Oddly enough, this is nothing like anything I've read of his before. It's good and all, but nothing crazy has happened. Mid twentieth century normalcy. It's interesting.

I find myself having all sorts of expectations about everything. Today I had another expectation let down. Maybe I shouldn't say let down, but I did have an experience that was not anything like what I thought it would be. But that was actually a good thing. Sometimes we need to embrace the unexpected and stop having preconceived notions. I tend to make up expectations that others have of me. It makes me resentful and angry though most of the time they aren't even true. Just another of life's lessons I guess.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Affairs of the Heart

Currently Reading: The Water-Method Man
What is it with dysfunctional men and affairs? Or rather, men writing about dysfunctional men and affairs. Saul Bellow, Joseph Heller, and John Irving to name a few. Now I know that I am naive when it comes to relationships, but these guys are crazy. They cheat on their wives, leave their wives, and cheat on their girlfriends. Is this real? Does this really happen day in and day out?

What I am rather enjoying about this book is the letters. I love it when authors include letters that their characters write. Sometimes it tells us more about the characters than the dialogue itself. Inner thoughts and all. Letter writing is fairly cathartic. You can get all your thoughts and feelings out of your mind and sometimes it helps you see things in a new light. You can see where you are being irrational and perhaps allowing your emotions to cloud the facts. An assignment I am repeatedly getting from my therapist is to write letters to people. Don't send them or anything, but get the poison out. I enjoy the freedom it allows. No interruption from the other party.

A problem that is constantly occuring in our tech-savy times is that email, blogs, twitter, and facebook pages are allowing us to share our thoughts instantaneously. This can lead to serious misunderstanding and hurt feelings. I work at a high school and kids are constantly coming to class distressed over something someone posted about them. Maybe if we took the time to write our comments and review them, more feelings could be spared and less conflicts could occur. Just an instantaneous thought.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Binding by the Book

Currently Reading: The Book Thief

Pg 427: "It's my heart that is tired. A thirteen-year-old hear shouldn't feel like this."

Books are the things that bring happiness, wonder, and substance to Liesel's life. Through her love of reading, she is able to make the lives of her neighbors just a wee bit better. When the air sirens go off, the whole neighborhood gathers in the deepest basement. To keep their minds off the fear, Liesel reads to them from her books. They begin to enjoy coming together and use the promise of the next chapter as evidence they will be around longer.

The power that lives within the covers of a book in unmeasurable. No, not all books can affect lives, but to each person, there is that one story or even just one passage, that touches them in a way that causes thought and change. Heck, Mien Kampf is an example of a life altering book throughout this story. It was read and believed by many, but also destroyed and used by Max to tell his own tale of survival and hope. His legacy for Liesel.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight

Currently Reading: The Book Thief
This is another tome about the struggles the Jews faced as German citizens in the late 1930s and early 40s. What makes it unique is that it is narrated by Death, who is following a young German girl and her experiences. She is not a member of the party and is part of a family hiding a young Jewish man. It shows that not all the Germans were living the good life and exuberantly shouting their "Heils". Her life sucked pretty badly. Not enough food, hard working conditions and abuse by the Nazi soldiers. Sometimes we want to blame all the Germans, forgetting that it was the powerful few who were the real evil-doers in this situation. Hmmm...blamming the whole group for the sins of a few, sound familiar?

The young Jew, Max, has many vidid nightmares throughout his days of hiding and in one of them, he is in a boxing match with Herr Hitler himself. This becomes a metaphor for the fight that all the Jews, and normal German citizens, had to endure throughout the Holocaust years. Man your stations and bring all your weapons to bear, be they guns or wits. Even when he thinks he is winning, Max is knocked down again and again. Hitler is a wily opponent.

I am finding myself in a fight as well. Not nearly so precarious, but serious nontheless. Stephanie versus the eating disorder. I have taken up what stations I can, but seem constantly thwarted by my enemy. Unlike Max, my enemy is within, the evil thoughts in my head. I am ready to change, ready to get healthy, but I still can't shake the thoughts that say gaining weight is evil and wrong. I now find myself at rock bottom and need to reach out to others for help. I need someone to tell me what to do since I cannot trust my own thoughts and feelings. This needs to become a tag team effort.

How odd to read about people who are seriously starving when I am doing it to myself. It makes me feel pretty pathetic. Isn't it interesting how our problems seem so big to ourselves, but in the grand schemem of things, we, as American citizens, have it pretty good? Take advantage of it Stephanie!!! Ugg.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Disappointment

Currently Reading: Audrey Hepburn's Hair
(Well Maybe not currently, I should say finished)

Pg 129: "Self-improvement. No matter who or what we are, we're always working on ways to become somebody else."

Don't you hate it when you come away from a book disappointed. I mean, all the people quoted on the jacket loved it. Why not me? Perhaps I've been spoiled. I love books that take place in Japan, old school Edo or modern Tokyo. Some of my favorite modern ones include Out and of course Issac Adams' series. This one was a let down. Maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance, but it felt too superficial. It didn't really evolve its characters in a meaningful way and I ended up not caring what happened to them. I was glad to be done and I hate that. At least now I am on to something a bit more likable, The Book Thief. More on that later.

I did like the quote though. Too true. I know that I am not satisfied with myself and am constantly thinking of my faults. What can I change to make myself a better person? Although it does seem as if I have lost a bit of myself in the process. I now find myself faced with a crucial question. Who am I? This blog is part of my quest for self-discovery. I need to embrace my faults and recognize my awesomeness. We all possess some awesomeness.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pop Culture

Currently Reading: Audrey Hepburn's Neck

I am totally missing most of the references in this book because I have never seen an Audrey Hepburn film. It's interesting how contemporary authors make more pop culture references than others. Maybe this is just because I notice them more. Maybe I missed all the references in Dickens and Bronte because I just wasn't part of their time. We are molded by the cultures in which we live. I recently finished Plan B by Jonathan Tropper and felt quite special because I caught all the Star Wars and Vonnegut references. And of course who can forget Arthur C. Clarke poking fun at himself in the Rama series. His characters have read 2001: A Space Odyssey. Too cool.

The fact that we find our identities being influenced by our society is both good and bad. I am finding that society has steered me wrong in some aspects and now have to pay people to help me fix this. It's hard to decide what to keep and what to throw out with the trash. Toshiyuki is struggling with his identity in this book as well. He is a product of post WW2 Japan where the traditional values of old Edo are mixed into the modern Tokyo landscape. Make momma happy and don't fall for the Western tricks, but how hard it is when he is bombarded by advertisments and saucy American girls. We'll see what he decides in the end.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Artists

Currently reading: Loving Frank
So many of us find ourselves intrigued by the artistic mind. Poor Mamah is in love with Frank's artistic mind, but is finding herself hemmed in by his inability to live in the real world. He is in debt and making rash decisions. I commiserate with her. I am so rational and practical that it almost limits my ability to live in the moment and take life as it comes. I have to plan and plan. There is no room for spontaneity. It is irresponsible to forget about our place in society and live only for ourselves. How can one find a balance? There are those who say we should look out for ourselves and that worry about others makes us "bleeding hearts". We can see this argument again and again in the national health care debates. Why should we have to pay for those shirking their responsibilities? The opponents to this, what I believe to be necessary legislation, make the argument that they pay their bills and shouldn't have to pay for others. This is a fine argument if you are well off and in charge of your life, but what about the people who can't change their circumstances? What about the kids? Children are the ones suffering most in Loving Frank as well. Both Frank and Mamah have left their families behind. Fine for the spouses, but it is really the kids who suffer most.

Welcome to my bookshelf

Hello to all my fellow bibliophiles. I love to read and am constantly found with my nose in a book. I want to share my thoughts with the world and recommend some fantastic tomes. This bog is about what I am reading and my thoughts at the time. Hope you enjoy.