My Reading Year 2012
CLERKSHIP HAPPENED (is still happening, actually). Factor in the sleepless nights, the often backbreaking hospital work, and the pressures of getting as much sleep in one free night, and you'll find that these elements conspire against the habit of reading non-medical books regularly. I'm still thankful for the 30 books I got to read. Many of them were collections of essays or short stories—and understandably so. I didn't have the time to take on long novels, as they consumed more time and energy. I wish I could have read more books, of course, but there's always next year.
Also read: My Reading Year 2011.
1. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace.It's a collection of essays—witty, funny, and insightful—written by a literary genius of our time. My favorites include his discussion on the ethics of killing a lobster, his first-hand experience of covering a pornography convention for a reputable magazine, and his being a grammar snob.
2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.Oskar Schell, a nine-year old boy, finds a key that his father owns. He searches New York City to find the door that it opens. His father died in 9/11. I didn't watch the movie (reviews called it terrible), but the book was fun and easy to read.
3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.The world is coming to an end, and nobody knows, except two guys who leave the earth before it is annihilated. They discover that the Universe is a crazy world. I had a good laugh with this.
4. Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper.Nobody exemplifies the harmony of the life of the mind and the love of God more than Jesus. Our Lord stands as our guide. He was the son of a carpenter. He didn't go to the best schools in his country. And yet, we know He studied the Bible well because He memorized Old Testament passages, He asked questions in the synagogue, and He taught God's Word faithfully. Jesus used His mind to delight in and know more about His Father. That is, according to Piper, the purpose of all scholarship: to behold the glory of God and to treasure Him supremely. Read my review here.
5. The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Alan Jacobs.Alan Jacobs makes it clear that his book is "almost a biography in the usual sense of the word." However, as in T.H.L. Parker's Portrait of Calvin, it is not strictly chronological, drawing themes in Lewis' life instead and presenting them in separate chapters. Jacobs' "chief task here is to write the life of a mind, the story of an imagination." He seeks to answer the fundamental question, "What sort of person wrote the Chronicles of Narnia?" The book is extensively researched, well thought out, and well written. It can get very slow because Jacobs chooses to synthesize the author's works and private letters with the events that happened in his life. My review here.
6. Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow.
I don't know how to play football—I don't even understand the game. But I was curious enough to embark on an autobiography by a young athlete named Tim Tebow. He was born in Manila to Christian missionary parents, was raised in General Santos City, went back to the States, and made it to the big leagues in football. I was encouraged by the book in so many respects: Tim is always gracious with his words, and he never minces words in sharing the gospel.
7. The Stranger by Albert Camus.Mersault, an Algerian citizen, is imprisoned for killing an Arab man for no reason. I'm afraid I don't remember much of the story anymore. I probably didn't enjoy this as much.
8. Pleasing People: How Not To Be An Approval Junkie by Lou Priolo.In May, I condensed this book for the FaithWalk Magazine, a Christian digest published by the Communion of Christian Ministries. While going over the text, I was encouraged and rebuked at the same time. Drawing from Scripture, Lou Priolo explains why it is wiser to please God rather than man. He quotes heavily from Puritan writer Richard Baxter, whom I quoted in my 25th birthday post. Lou Priolo also explains the danger of pride and the value of humility. I can't recommend this book enough.
9. With A Scalpel And A Sword by Lincoln Nelson.It was Dr. Nelson's vision to establish a local, mission-oriented hospital that will preach the Word and heal the sick. Since then the hospital has expanded to become a major trusted health facility in the province. Many doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff who, at one point, served in Bethel have shared in Dr. Nelson's vision. To this day, Bethel remains a powerful testament to the labors of a man who was initially entrusted with little, but who labored joyfully for the expansion of his Master's kingdom. All the glory belongs to God. Read my previous entry here.
10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.Deeply philosophical and imaginative, the book carries with it themes of reproductive technology and genetic engineering. Our world may not be far from what Huxley had imagined in 1931, when the book was first published.
11. The Last Battle by CS Lewis.I felt a deep longing for Heaven as I flipped the last pages of the book. And if Aslan is, in fact, CS Lewis' allegorical character for God, then the author must be describing that glorious, eternal place where He reigns forever in the fellowship of people who have believed and trusted in Him. Read my review here.
12. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes is a story of two boys who like going on adventures. Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway are next-door neighbors, playing, running together—the best of friends. I posted some of my thoughts here.
13. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.What kept me going was the story, figuring out what happens to the kid, even to the hairless, almost superhuman judge (one of my favorite characters) who tries to kill him. I suppose any reader will take the kid's side and cheer him on, even if all encouragement is futile. But there is deliverance. It lies in finishing the book. Suddenly the world we live in—this present world—looks so much better in comparison to the wasteland McCarthy has shown us. My review here.
14. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams.Crazy.
15. Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut.Published posthumously, the book is a collection of 12 essays and short stories, with themes ranging from the author's speech delivered in Indianapolis in 2007, to his World War One experiences, and the bombing of Dresden. Many of the stories remind me of Slaughterhouse-Five, probably Vonnegut's most famous work, which is about an ill-trained American soldier captured by the Germans. My previous post here.
16. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata.Arguably Yasunari Kawabata's masterpiece, this novel is about a rich man from Tokyo who travels to an isolated town where the snow can be as high as four to five meters in depth during winter. This man, Shimamura, meets a young provincial geisha, Komako, and falls for her. My previous post here.
17. Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco.I enjoyed the book thoroughly because it felt good to read about my country for a change. Miguel Syjuco's descriptions of people and places struck a cord of familiarity and warmth, and many times I wondered, "He's right, but I never thought of plane rides that way before." To see the Philippines in a different light was refreshing to me, and I realized, corny as this may sound, that there's no place like home. My review here.
18. Indignation by Philip Roth.Indignation is not the most relaxing book there is, especially when one goes on 24-hour shifts every three or four days, but I've had fun reading bits and pieces of it until I reached the tragic end, which depressed me. My previous post here.
19. Naked by David Sedaris.Naked is a collection of autobiographical essays. Naked, which appears as the final chapter of the book, is about the author's experience in a nudist camp. Sedaris talks a lot about his family from whom he got his craziness. The guy is witty in so many levels. It's a shame I didn't get his autograph when he visited the country some time ago.
20. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell.Peter Brown is an internal medicine resident who hates working long hours but has to do it anyway. He deals with clueless medical students, attending physicians who only spend a couple of hours a week in the hospital, and his former bestfriend Skinflick who's out to kill him. The book is engaging and laugh-out-loud hilarious, but lots of expletives there, so be careful. My previous post here.
21. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino.The book is about the art, pleasure, and adventures of reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this! My previous post.
22. Snowdrops by A.D. Miller.I've read about Russia in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. I'm a fan of Russian writers, by the way. There's too much bleakness and depression in their books, so much so that the real world appears better somehow. Reading Snowdrops isn't any different, only that the Russia being described is the modern-day version: drunk taxi drivers, government corruption, the hard, cold winter that feels like forever. A.D. Miller takes the reader to the subways, the Russian countryside, the bars, and the streets where, true enough, some bodies emerge after the winter ends. I haven't seen snow—a fact that shocked some Russians I met when I visited Leiden—but I could feel it through Nick's narration. My previous post here.
23. Dying Thoughts by Richard Baxter."Dying Thoughts" (or "Directions for a Peaceful Death") written by Puritan writer Richard Baxter. It's a short work written primarily for Christians. It contains a list of directions necessary to "make our departure comfortable or peaceful in the least, as well as safe." Insightful and sobering. My previous post here.
24. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.I took more than five months to finish this mammoth of a novel. I embarked on it to commemorate Charles Dickens' 200th year. As I went through it, I fell for the characters and discovered many things about them—their peculiarities, as in Mr. Dick's eccentricities, Peggotty's pies, Uriah Heep's irritating remarks—and so much more. Many of them came with indelible images in my mind, thanks to H.K. Browne's illustrations in my copy. Occasionally I left the book to read shorter novels, but I always went back, determined to finish it. I got teary-eyed when David Copperfield lost his child-wife Dora (whom I didn't like at all, by the way). I was so happy when David professed his love for his childhood friend Emma. She has been there all along, after all! The woman he loved was right under his nose.
25. Looking for Alaska by John Green.Miles Halter transfers to a boarding school that will change his life. There he meets new friends, a crazy roommate who introduces him to smoking, and a girl named Alaska. He falls in love with her. A free spirit, she's out to explore the world. Her sudden death—possibly due to suicide—confronts Miles with the question of the meaning of life, and his search for the Great Perhaps continues. The true meaning of life can only be answered completely and accurately from a Christian worldview, of course. This book falls short of the answer, and it's a tragedy when you look at it that way. "Looking For Alaska" is still an easy read, but it's disturbing to find young people engaging in extramarital sex, smoking, and drugs.
26. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.I had high expectations when I started reading this. Ian McEwan is one of my favorite contemporary English writers of our day. The heroine is Serena Frome who works for Britain's secret service. Her mission: to indirectly encourage a novelist to write anti-communist works. She falls for him. She struggles between her undying love for this man and for her loyalty to her country. Word eventually gets out, her deception is revealed, and McEwan spins a dizzying ending at the end to cap this masterful work.
27. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper.A collection of Pastor John Piper's preaching, this compilation of daily readings prepares the heart for Christmas, when God demonstrated humility when He took on the human flesh to save us from our sins.
28. Truth Endures by John MacArthur.
Technically I'm still reading this book, and I haven't finished it yet. It's a collection of landmark preachings of Pastor-teacher John MacArthur, one of the foremost Christian theologians whom God has used to help me grow in my walk with the Lord. I shall write about this book more thoroughly in the future, but let me say that each page of this collection is filled with timeless Biblical truths on man's utter sinfulness, the fact that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation—topics that many modern-day preachers like to avoid because they are offensive. I praise God for faithful preachers like Dr. John MacArthur!
29. Antwerp by Robert Bolano.This is his only work that the author isn't embarrassed about, but I'm afraid I didn't get it—not at all.
30. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.In this deeply disturbing and controversial, Vladimir Nabokov explores a much darker side of human depravity. Humphrey Bogart is obsessed with a little girl he calls "the fire of his loins." He molests her, calls her his "nymphet," and gives her the name, "Lolita." This work made Nabokov famous, at which point, he said in The Paris Review (1967), "Lolita is famous, not I. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."
Also read: My Reading Year 2011.