Unfinished October Reading

It’s different from what I planned a month ago, but several lovable books have made it all worthwhile.

“If I Had Your Face” by Frances Cha– This is the first book I read about South Korea. Isn’t it strange that I used to watch many South Korean movies, but never think of reading a book on contemporary South Korea? I even read three or four books about North Korea and shed tears of despair as the characters are doomed for risks and misfortunes. Anyway, a lot of things described in this book is so real that it feels like a non-fiction. Ruby’s suicide especially rings true since there’s a real case of it I know from several years back. Other descriptions also echo with what I knew before–the poverty and desperation and competitiveness of the service industry workers. I mean people in service industry of any kind. In a society of severe inequality, these people suffer the most and the majority of these people are women. Also a lot of these people are either small business owners or working for small businesses. And small business is a curse phrase in many countries–long hours of work, no break, low pay, often on the brink of bankruptcy. It is said in South Korea, if you can’t get in the three best universities, you won’t be able to get in big companies; if you can’t get in those big companies, you are destined for small businesses of hard work, low pay, and a series of financial woes. This book is just another demonstration of this unfortunate fact.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales” by Oliver Sacks is recommended by many different sources. Whenever I type a search for books on psychology, it pops up. Somehow the title throws me off as being too long and subconsciously I rejected this book for several years until I couldn’t anymore. Now I read it and it is nice. I guess our brain is just as hopelessly dysfunctional as other aspects of our life, just as I expected.

“Bluebird Memories: A Journey Through Lyrics & Life” by Common is an audio book I hope I read earlier. Somehow I think rap lyrics are particularly suitable for immigrants learning English as a second language, not only because they are fun, they are clever, they rhyme, they are as colloquial as possible, but more importantly because there’s the sense of having fun in a life of struggle in a world that’s not made for you and you are not ashamed to express your otherworldliness–that is so immigrant like. However it is very hard for me to make out the lyrics in singing. I can follow speeches, but it is impossible for me to follow a song. Obviously in singing, English becomes a new language, to non-native speakers like me at least. Or perhaps I don’t have ears. When I was young, my art teacher told me that I don’t have eyes. I also know for sure that I don’t have nose since I am not sensitive to smells. Goodness. What do I left with?

Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death” by Erin Gibson. Although the author read this book with a real passion, and probably a real intention to be “nasty”, she is not saying anything nasty. Also the woman is rather normal and fair minded, not too complicated to be understood. I think she can survive very well in any kind of “-archy” or “-cracy”. It’s a delightful book.

How to Write Great Blog Posts that Engage Readers” by Steve Scott. It’s a short book but I still haven’t finished it. I’ll try.

Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption” includes 40 or so half hour long stories by 40 different authors, who are trying to be honest about their love and relationships. As I expected, honesty creates a lot of anxiety and anguish, which I think is good catharsis.

“The Barbarians are Coming” by David Wong Louie. It tortures me to no end. I gave up in the middle of it, then picked it up, then gave up with 70 pages left, and finally I couldn’t stand it anymore with 20 pages to go.

“Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems” by Billy Collins. It’s always a pleasure to read his books. Somehow I feel that the poet possesses the power to torture the readers, but he’s too polite to do it.

“We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop” by Eric Olsen. At first I am not used to the deliberately unstructured format, but after a while I am used to it. The rent is really low in Iowa, which is probably why the famous workshop is established there. Most writers are poor and if the workshop is in New York, most won’t be able to afford it.

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