4 Good Books I Read in 2014

One of the things I list in my new year’s resolution this year was to read more books. And praise the Lord, I did. However, it doesn’t imply that I read hundreds books this year, it’s just it’s a lot more than any year in my life (for the record, I read 12 books this year, which is not bad. Right?).

And just like what everybody’s doing at the end of every year, here’s the list of four good books I read in 2014, in no particular order.

1. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

Enduring LovePublished in 1997, Enduring Love has the most gripping first chapter I’ve ever read in a book. It follows the story of Joe and how an unfortunate event of a single day changed his life and his seven year long relationship with his girlfriend, Clarissa. It’s a drama Mr. McEwan excellently wrote with mad details. His choice of first-person point of view gives the story an in-depth picture of Joe’s inner lives, including his feelings and his sometimes-flawed science-driven logic that distanced him from Clarissa and eventually drove her away.

Most events in the story is not the heroic one (if there is, all the male involved fails) and the conflict doesn’t always require the male protagonist to engage in physical combat. In fact, Joe is described as a troubled person, even vulnerable. It’s nice to know that there exist books which portray male characters in this manner. If you’re tired of reading fictions with overly manly man characters, try this one.

2. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex

Take a nice dramatic Greek family tree ride with Calliope Stephanides a.k.a Cal as you follow the trail of hermaphroditic gene that passed between Cal’s grandparents and parents and went off when Cal was born in 1960 Detroit (now, you may wonder how come a Greek family ended up in Detroit).

With Middlesex, Mr. Eugenides has given me a delightful reading experience. Cal is not an ordinary character (she/he is a hermaphrodite, for crying out loud). Using first person point of view, Mr. Eugenides makes Cal an interesting character I’ve ever encountered, not because she/he is a hermaphrodite but rather because she/he is able to tell her family “awful” history with humor.

Just like Mr. McEwan, Mr Eugenides is also a fan of details and this is the aspect I always treasure the most in prose. An event that probably takes about a minute or two to occur in reality can be expanded, say, into two page long text. And that’s what the two authors did in their books.

3. Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work

Show Your Work! is the book about self-promotion in the digital age. It’s not only for artists and it doesn’t have to be works of art. It’s for anyone and the works one shares can be anything. And if you’re doing it right, you’ll get the chance to build your own audience that really care about what you create.

You see, a lot of people claim that they are good at something but somehow reluctant or too shy to show (prove?) it. This book will make you come out of your proverbial shell and use more of your time online showing your work or the creation process instead of your selfie photos. In fact, the book has profoundly helped encourage me taking a lot more picture with my film camera, starting this very blog and many other things. Show Your Work! is the great follow-up to Mr. Kleon’s yet another masterpiece, Steal Like An Artist.

4. The Messenger by Markus Zusak

The Messenger

The Messenger revolves around the 19-year-old guy named Ed Kennedy. Ed is just another ordinary teenager, stuck in an incompetent and boring life as an underage taxi driver and helplessly, pathetically in love with his best friend, Audrey. His world turned upside down after he inadvertently stopped a bank robbery and were assigned the tasks of delivering messages. By delivering messages, Ed was meant to help people, mostly strangers, in need. Sometimes, it was easy, other times it was so complex Ed had to question his intention and courage. Eventually, Ed realized that it’s not only about helping people. It’s also about helping himself.

Overall, The Messenger is a delight to read. I like how Mr. Zusak uses fray sentences to evoke emotion in poetic ways. I also like the way I can relate to Ed’s story. Sometimes, I wish someone too would send me series of playing cards with names or addresses on them.

I actually have read The Messenger back in 2010, but I couldn’t help but picking it up again one March night. Being the best coming-of-age novel so far (at least for me), The Messenger should have had more hype than The Fault in Our Stars deserved.

So what good books you read in 2014?

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On One-on-One Interaction between Parents and Their Kids

Once upon a day, when I was riding my automatic scooter, I saw a mother and her little son sitting side by side on the sidewalk. At a very rapid motion, I could only catch a glimpse at them, but I try to break it down for you.

The two was looking up at the clear morning sky. Quite in anticipation, I might say. Then, the mother raised her hand and pointed her finger at something in the sky. I couldn’t turn my head and look at what she was pointing at, but I was sure that they were looking at a plane, for I could hear its sound.

It happened so fast but the view was clear: a mother and her son, watching a plane hovering above them. As I passed them by, I could see that the mother put her non-raised hand around the boy as he leaned closely on her, looking safe and all.

Witnessing this, I smiled. And then I cried.

And I never forget the moment since.

I never did.

***

Couple weeks ago, my friend had her wedding at a hall located in our city’s aviation center (that’s also an airport). The hall sat closely next to an airfield and when it was time for the bride and the groom to change their costumes, I took a stroll around the hall’s parking lot where you could clearly see the airfield and the planes landing and taking off, attracting bored wedding attendants like me. I brought my Yashica with me, just in case.

There were trees around, giving cool atmosphere for the cloudy yet warm weather that day. The wind breeze played with my hair and lightly stroke my face as I approached the fence separating the parking lot from the airfield.

Then I saw the scene again, but the casts were a father and his son.

They were on the other side of the fence, talking to each other. I guessed the huge hole in the bottom of the fence allowed them to trespass. Their conversation was inaudible to me but I guessed that they were talking about planes as I saw the father pointed his finger at the row of planes parked at the airport apron visible from where they stood. The boy nodded along as he listened to his father. Sometimes, it was the other way around: the boy pointing finger at the planes while the father nodding his head.

For several minutes, I only stood still behind them, struck by the sight my eyes beholding. I didn’t believe that I had a chance to witness it again. After a while, I took a single shot, turned my back and got back to the larger human ritual with a nice take away from the littler one.

This is what the scene was like seen through my eyes.

000010

I know the picture’s not great whatsoever but, as usual, I take pictures mainly for the sake of my own pleasure and in this case as a reminder. I need to remember. As cruel and ugly as the world gets, there is still beauty. It exists everywhere (if you look carefully).

It exists in the way parents hold their kids and in the way the kids look up to their parents.

This kind of thing sometimes makes life worthwhile.

Photo info: Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 X expired Fuji Superia 200

Why you should not worry worrying

You shouldn’t be surprised if there comes a time when you feel anxious as hell.

You shouldn’t be surprised when you find yourself overwhelmed by doubt.

You shouldn’t be surprised when you suddenly realize that you don’t know yourself.

Because they are parts of life, besides happiness, certainty and assurance.

Like coin, life also has two different sides: tail and head.

You’ll encounter those kinds of moments from time to time. That’s inevitable and worrying is not necessary because:

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

And if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself in this situation:

The feelings of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.

Francis Bacon, via Brain Pickings.