I found a great new website this weekend through Stumble Upon called Which Book. You put in the type of book you want to read and the site spits out recommendations. It inspired me to start my future reading list and I’ve made up my mind to do it by region of the world. I’m starting with Asia; the books have to be set in Asia and preferably written by a person of Asian heritage. I hope to mix it up a bit with fiction and non-fiction. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- Sawako Ariyoshi, The Doctor’s Wife, (1978) the story of the wife of the first doctor to use anesthesia in Japan and her relationship with her mother-in-law (as a doctor’s wife, I thought I could relate to this one)
- Pearl S. Buck, The Three Daughters of Liang (1969), the story of a woman in early Communist China and how she copes after her husband takes a concubine (I read Good Earth a few years ago and really enjoyed it so I thought I’d give Pearl Buck another try)
- Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness (2009), the spiritual leader of Buddhism gives shares his wisdom on happiness (I just saw the Dalia Lama speak at SDSU a few weeks ago…amazing!)
- Kien Nguyen, The Tapestries (2003), about a boy with royal Vietnamese blood sold into slavery at the turn of the twentieth century (this just looked good)
- Mishima, Yukio, The Sounds of Waves (1994), a young fisherman is entranced at the sight of the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village (I needed a good love story in the mix)
- Fan Wu, February Flowers (2007), a girl goes off to college and becomes a woman in 1990s China (as a Study Abroad Advisor, I thought this sounded pretty interesting)
In addition to these, I have a few books of Asian influence that I’ve already read and would definitely recommend:
This past November, I turned 30. I believe 30 is this magical number in the U.S. that everyone starts having children or everyone starts asking if you’re going to have children. Some people ask point blank, some are a little more covert, and then there is my mother.
Last night she called to update me on some family news and somehow or another the conversation turned to her future grandchildren. My mom knows me well; she knows that we do want to have kids someday and she is awesome about not pressuring us. So instead of asking about our family plans, she just states what she’s going to do when our little one finally comes around. She LOVES her grandkids and enjoys daydreaming about having more. And since my niece and nephew are the cutest kids ever, I really can’t blame her.
But our conversation last night ended up turning to children sleeping through the night and whether you pick them up or let them cry. I found the dialog especially interesting because currently I am reading Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. I’m not very far along yet, but even in the first chapter Druckerman makes some good contrasts between the American family chaos to the more serene French family. Druckerman noticed the difference first while at a restaurant in France where she observed the local children eating adult food, sitting in their chairs, and playing quietly. How many times have you been to an American restaurant only to see parents chasing their children around because they refuse to stay at the table? A lot, right? If most French children sleep through the night at 3 months, eat broccoli without being threatened, and rarely (if ever) throw a tantrum, then perhaps Druckerman is right and there is something to be learned from our Francophone friends.
A few weeks ago I went to Kobey’s Swap Meet here in San Diego. (For my Southern readers, swap meet = flea market.) Kobey’s is a cultural experience in itself. Walking up and down the table-laden aisles, I heard Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin spoken by both the buyers and the sellers. That’s just proof that all nationalities like a good deal! For the most part, I go to Kobey’s to browse through junk and buy books at a $1 a piece. On my last visit, I got 6 for $5 and was thrilled. While not all of my book purchases were worthy of the $1 price tag, Prisoner of Tehran, A Memoir by Marina Nemat was worth $5 on its own.
Although born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Marina Nemat was not the typical Iranian child. Her father a dance instructor, her family of Russian decent, and herself a devout Christian, Marina’s way of life contradicted everything that was associated with the Islamic Revolution of 1979. But it was when she demands to be taught calculus, rather than Islamic political propaganda that she was marked as an enemy of the Iranian government and imprisoned at the age of 16 in Evin, an infamous political prison outside of Tehran. In Prisoner of Tehran, Nemat details her life in prison as well as her childhood leading up to that ominous day.
My interest in the experiences of Middle Eastern women has significantly increased over the past month. Between reading My Embassy Letters and watching Salaam Dunk and Beauty Academy of Kabul, I have learned pieces of the current situation in the Middle East but have lacked awareness of the historical background. Prisoner of Tehran provides significant insight into the timeline of women’s rights in Iran and helped my fill in some of my historical holes. Not only did Prison of Tehran inform me, but it was also well-written, honest, and redemptive. Nemat has excellent flow and I was able to finish the whole book in 4 days.
If you are looking for a good read that will challenge and enlighten you, I would highly recommend Prisoner of Tehran.
Recently I was looking for a new book to read on the treadmill and saw The Night Circus while browsing at my local Book Star. After reading the jacket cover, I downloaded the sample on my Kindle and then quickly decided it was worthy of its $13.99 price tag. Hopping from London to Cairo, Paris to Montreal, this first novel by Erin Morgenstern magically took me around the globe and back in time. Telling the story of two young magicians unaware that they are competing against each other, The Night Circus has the perfect balance of mystery, romance, and creativity. Personally I have two ways I judge how much I like a book: 1) how quickly I read it, and 2) if I would read it again. Well, I read this 400 page book in just 4 days and would definitely not mind a re-run.