Remember how I said I was going to read a series of books based on characters in their twenties and find lessons that can be drawn from them? I didn’t tell you about it? My bad. I could have sworn…
Anyway, that’s what my focus on books has been lately. I know it’s going to be a stretch since characters in novel are only constructed as diferent parts of a writer’s point of view, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take on anyway. The first book I tackled is The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Have you ever been hanging out with friends and started playing 20 questions because you ran out of conversation topics and everyone was bored? Prior to this book, my answer to the question, “If you could have any superpower, what would be?”, was always Time Travel or rather, Teleportation. However, after this book, I’m rethinking my desire for a power that would allow me to bend Time at will.
Audrey Niffenegger’s book is a story about a boy and a girl who fall in love. We first meet them in the library, where the boy works and the girl came to check out a book. They meet for the first time. Only it’s not really the first time. At least for Clare (that’s the girl). She’s known Henry since she was a little girl. Don’t be mistaken, this is not a story about childhood friends meeting each other for the first time after many years. You only have to read the title of the book to figure it out.
Henry is a time traveler, or if you want to get technical, a Chrono-Displaced person. He time travels to different stages in his life, which sounds really awesome…only it’s not. He comes and goes against his will and has no control over where he goes…or anything for that matter. He shows up on the other side, naked, often cold, bumping into (sometimes literally) quite uncomfortable situations. That’s how a 30-something Henry meets a 6-year old Clare.
Their love story develops throughout the book, as things get more and more challenging. Certain technical parts were confusing to me, like , the way he could time-travel to meet himself and how sometimes, he could be time-traveling to a place where another version of himself was also time-traveling.
It did prompt a question in my mind that I could use for this little experiment of mine. The book plays a lot with Time, Memory and Knowledge and how they shape a person’s life. Because of Henry’s time-traveling and his relationship with Clare, there were things that Clare knew way before they happened, which greatly affected the way she grew up and how she came to view the world. The 20-something period is so full of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. However, we must continue to take action, preparing for the future even if we don’t know all the details.
Here’s my question: What’s one thing that Christmas You (4 months from now) would be grateful to Present You for having done today? A little wordy, but you get the point.
Life of Pi, Done. Read. Processed.
First Line: My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
First Impression: I actually didn’t have an accurate first impression of the book because I hadn’t read it. I remember some girls reading it for their AP Literature, the summer before our Senior Year.
Synopsis: A young Indian boy is trapped on the Pacific ocean…with an adult-sized Bengal tiger. For 7 months!
Connection: I think I’ve only been to the zoo twice in my entire life. However, having read this book, I want to go. I guess my connection to Life of Pi has to do with the Spiritual component of the book. Pi is a character who gets attracted to God at a very young age. In fact, without his parents’ knowledge, he embraces Hinduism, Christianity AND Islam. Confronted by all the spiritual leaders one day and forced to choose, he utters the most innocent reply: “I just want to love God”. Even when the chances of his survival dwindled down during those 7 months, he continued to pray. As someone who was curious and attracted to God at a very young age, I related to his desire to know God.
Lasting memory: “I had to stop hoping so much that a ship would rescue me. I should not count on outside help. Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away. There was much I had to do.” (Life of Pi, pg. 169)
You know who needs this book? Every single person graduating this May from college! You should buy it for them as a graduation gift. One thing this book doesn’t cover, though, is how to find a job. So, maybe that recent college grad entering the work world in the middle of a recession may scowl at you when you hand them this book. But…you should still get a copy and pass it on to them when they do get that job, because the book starts from your first day at the job.
So, what’s the one thing I’m taking away from this book?
The Friday Update
It’s the chapter titled “One Thing You Should Do Every Friday”. It’s intuitive but something not all of us think to do. The Friday Update is a simple e-mail drafted in bullet-point format, updating your boss or supervisor(s) on your progress. It should include the following things:
1. Your accomplishments that week: Things you got done, projects you finished, phone calls you made, etc
2. Your challenges or areas you need help or insight: Places in project where you’ve hit a snag, Things with which you need more information or help from them, etc
3. Noteworthy opportunities, suggestions and insight: This is an extremely helpful one when you don’t have daily contact with your boss/supervisor(s). It’s your input on how to do something better or faster, your suggestions, etc
4. Issues that need their input or approval: These are the questions you have for them on current or future projects.
5. Your Schedule and goals for the next week: Bullet point goals with dates next to them.
BAM! Hit Send!…okay, make sure you’ve proofread, then hit Send!
The thing with this is that it keeps you accountable and reminds the upper-levels that you’re bringing value to the company. I read this and recently implemented this in my own routine, with positive feedback.
Have you read this? Wanna read this now? Amazon’s calling!
I finally finished TJLC and spent the weekend thinking about what to write. Definitely a good first pick.
First Line: The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.
First Impression: I remember being assigned the book in high school, but not fully grasping it. It was during my family’s first years in the U.S. I was quickly absorbing American English and the culture that went with it, but struggled many times to understand various concepts we were taught in school. I did remember it as a book written by a first-generation American and being thoroughly impressed by someone who could take pages out of their own experience to write a compelling, multi-layered story. One question stuck with me throughout the years: What would this story look like from my own vantage point?
Synopsis: 4 mothers, 4 daughters. 3 mothers’ voices, 4 daughters’. The mothers as Chinese immigrants to the United States and their first-generation Chinese-American daughters. Various stories woven together, internal dialogues mostly. TJLC struggles with the concept of Destiny. If it is our destiny, then is it worth fighting, fighting for our voices to be heard, fighting to change what we see as inevitable? Do we fight Passivity or let History run its course? Is Truth truth because we believe that it is? Could it be possible for us to hold a perception of the truth for years, till we find out one day that we were wrong? So many questions.
Connection: Reading TJLC in May truly made for an emotional Mothers’ Day. There’s nothing that makes you more appreciative of your life and people in it than thinking that it is possible for a blood vessel to rupture in your brain anytime. Dramatics aside, it did make me wonder about the stories my parents hold within them, along with the stories of all the adults I know that immigrated to the United States. They go quietly, smile politely and speak very little in English, not having all the words to explain all that they wish to share..or not share. One of the characters mentioning the “double face” they must maintain, the “Chinese face” and the “American face”, made me think of this.
Lasting memory: 4-year old Bing Hsu jumping and forever disappearing into the ocean. I did not remember reading this part!