Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer break 2011: a wrap

Time for a summer wrap up. While this may not be accurate at all, I measure my productivity by the amount of books I read and the films I watch during a given time period. I praise God for the time to catch up on my reading. I had a lot of free time in my hands, and the challenge was to make the most out of it. I wasn't successful many times, but the Lord has been gracious.

These are the books I've read.

1. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. A personal account of a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, this book explores the meaning of life from a psychiatrist's perspective.

"The dawn was grey around us; grey was the sky above; grey the snow in the pale light of dawn; grey the rags in which my fellow prisoners were clad, and grey their faces. I was again conversing with my wife, or perhaps I was struggling to find the reason for my sufferings, my slow dying. In a last violent protest against imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious "Yes" in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose."
 Man's Search for Meaning

2. Light Years by James Salter. Salter's prose echoes like poetry in this novel about the married couple, Viri and Nedra, who live a complicated life. They end up divorcing each other, remain friends, and struggle to find some meaning in their lives even in their advanced years.

"The days were strewn about him, he was a drunkard of days. He had achieved nothing. He had this life—it was not worth much—not like a life that, though ended, had truly been something. If I had had courage, he thought, if I had had faith. We preserve ourselves as if that were important, and always at the expense of others . . . ."
Light Years

3. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Oh, this one's fun. Give this to your kid or nephew or niece to start the love of reading. In a different world in a different time, twelve children are chosen to fight in the Hunger Games—and the game only ends when all the other children are killed and only one is left. The story may look simple, but it asks some very hard questions: what if one of the children was your friend? Would you kill him to survive?
The Hunger Games

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I'm a self-confessed Ishiguro fan. The books, An Artist of the Floating World and Remains of the Day, were just so good. This one, though, was different and altogether shocking. What was so special about that Hailsham school anyway? I didn't get the story until after the fifth—or was it the sixth?—chapter where everything fell into place.

"When I watched you dancing that day, I saw something else. I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. very good. But a harsh, cruel world."
Never Let Me Go (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Vintage International)

5. The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. This non-fiction work of a Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times columnist  has made me understand the world today. His thesis is that the world is getting flatter, and what are we to do about it? If you're in I.T. or business or economics, this is a good investment.
The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago.
Anna Karenina (Oprah's Book Club)

7. The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital by Samuel Shem. This is arguably the most hilarious book I've read. Every medical student should get hold of a copy. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but Shem paints an excellent picture of how we, medical students, try to cope with all the stresses of our training. He attempts to explain how the system corrupts our understanding of the sick, why many doctors treat their patients as diseases, not as persons. This contains some very foul language, though.

"Jo [a resident far-up in the hierarchy] shot off a lecture on the treatable causes of dementia, filled with obscure neuroanatomical references that brought back to me a story I'd heard about her and an anatomy exam at the BMS (Best Medical School). The exam had been impossible, the average score forty-two, and Jo had made ninety-nine. The one question she'd missed was to "identify the Circle of Polgi," which turned out to be a trick question, the said Circle being the traffic island situated just outside the front door of the BMS dorm. Jo's lecture on Abba [an old patient] was crisp, complete, coherent, and cohesive. She finished, looking as if she'd just had a satisfying bowel movement."
The House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital

8. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. I regret that I didn't get to watch Wicked the movie first; I could've enjoyed this book, which twists the story to make Elphaba look good.
Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of th

9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The first African novel I've read, an interesting portrait of tribal life where people worshiped spirits, killed twin children because they were thought to bring bad luck, and strong, powerful men married more than one wife. One can see this literary masterpiece as a narrative of Okonkwo's life: his rise to popularity and his eventual downfall.
Things Fall Apart

10. God Has a Wonderful Plan For Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message by Ray Comfort. The author claims that many evangelical movements and churches have not correctly presented the gospel, diluting its inherent offense in the hope of bringing more people to a saving knowledge of Christ, giving them a false eternal hope. Many people think they're already saved just because they've recited the Sinner's Prayer or signed a form. Ray Comfort draws evidence from Scripture that the best way to share God's offer of salvation is to tell people that they have sinned against a holy God, that this sin will be punished, and if they don't put faith in Jesus, eternal damnation is sure to await them. Many Christian ministries can benefit from this short book.
God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message

11. Steig Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. They're turning this into a movie, I believe. Nothing remarkable about the writing, but the story was interesting, albeit dragging in the end.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

12. A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. An American Yale drop-out and a lovely French girl fall in love. I longed for France while reading this. 
A Sport and a Pastime: A Novel

13. Confessions by Augustine.

Confessions (Oxford World's Classics)

14. On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I said I didn't read anything remotely academic; I just learned that this is required reading for some Psychiatry residents. The true-to-life accounts of dying patients under Dr. Ross' care made me understand and relate to death more. Not only medical students can benefit from this excellent work.

"We would think that our great emancipation, our knowledge of science and of man, had given us better ways and means to prepare ourselves and our families for this inevitable happening. Instead days are gone when a man was allowed to die in peace and dignity in his own home. The more we are achieving advances in science, the more we seem to fear and deny the reality of death. How is this possible? We use euphemisms, we make the dead look as if they were asleep, we ship the children off to protect them from the anxiety and turmoil around the house if the patient is fortunate enough to die at home . . . ."

On Death and Dying (Scribner Classics)

15. The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. Who wouldn't enjoy this book where characters are named after the days of the week? Chesterton is a genius.
The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)

16. Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton. He wrote this in reply to criticisms about his previous work, Heretics. This is essentially an account of how he, a former atheist, came to believe in Christianity.

"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual . . . He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something . . . He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the temple, and asked men how the expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something . . . There was one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."

Orthodoxy: Centennial Edition

17. Saving Faith by A.W. Pink. In this Christian classic, A.W. Pink writes about how many people are deceived into believing that they are already saved from their sins, when their conversion is, in fact, doubtful. This work is a worthwhile investment for every serious Christian.

"Faith is the principal saving grace, and unbelief is the chief damning sin. The law which threatens death for every sin has already passed sentence of condemnation upon all, because all have sinned. This sentence is so peremptory that it admits of but one exception—all shall be executed if they believe not."
Studies on Saving Faith

These are the films I've seen.

1. Tangled (2010). It pays to have long hair and a wicked "mother."

2. Source Code (2011). The theme: repetition. Things get repeated so much so that you unconsciously memorize the lines along the way.
Source Code [Blu-ray]

3. A Few Good Men (1992). One of those movies that make you want to be a lawyer. 
A Few Good Men

3. Hop (2011). My brother, Sean, forced me into watching this. I regret coming with him to the cinema. It's all nonsense—unless rabbits fascinate you so much.

Hop (2011) 11 x 17 Movie Poster - German Style A

4. 3 Idiots (2009). All izz well.

5. Miss Ever's Boys (1997). Miss Ever is a nurse who worked in the Tuskeegee Experiment. The film is marked by excellent acting. A serious medical student should watch this.
Miss Evers' Boys

6. No Reservations (2007). Catherine Zeta-Jones plus cooking: a worthwhile feel-good romantic comedy.
No Reservations

7. The Bucket List (2007). Two dying men do things they've never done before.
The Bucket List

8. Never Let Me Go (2010). The movie faithfully captured the emotions I saw in the book.
Never Let Me Go

9. Capuccino zu Dritt (2003). A German investor renovates a hotel in an Italian seaside town.

10. Wizard of Oz (1938). "Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high."

11. A History of Violence (2005). What looked like a harmless man turns out to be a gang member in his previous life—and his wife and kids don't know anything about it.
A History of Violence [Blu-ray]

12. X-Men: First Class (2011). Professor X and Magneto for the win!
X-Men: First Class

13. Kolya (1996). A fake marriage brings a Russian kid into an old, single man's life.

14. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009). Sadly the movie was disappointing.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

15. Bridget Jones' Diary (2001). The clumsy girl is named Bridget. I don't know if it's just the accent or if the movie is really funny, but I had a good laugh.
Bridget Jones's Diary (Collector's Edition)

16. The Devil Wears Prada (2006). A feel-good movie about fashion and working for a hard-to-please boss.
The Devil Wears Prada

17. Conspiracy (2001). The movie is all talk, but it's both moving and horrifying. The characters are talking about whether a gas chamber is more efficient in wiping out the Jews or if the guns would do just the trick.

18. Diary of a Country Priest (1951). The priest drinks only bread and wine, that's why he looks sickly.
Diary of a Country Priest (1951) / Region Free DVD / Audio: English, French / Subtitle: English, Chinese / Starring: Claude Laydu, Nicole Ladmiral Director: Robert Bresson



Anonymous Kuya John said...

I am so impressed.

Sun Jun 12, 07:34:00 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Lance said...

No reason to be impressed, Kuya. Haha. Just had a lot of time in my hands, that's all.

Wed Jun 15, 04:11:00 AM GMT+8  

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