1/4 Year Reading Progress

2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge
2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge

A quarter of the year has passed and I am a third of the way through my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I proposed to read 30 books this year, which I think is a manageable goal, and so far I’ve read 10 of the 30 books.

I’ve read The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, an insightful read; Jinx by Sage Blackwood, a fun one; Native Son by Richard Wright, which will leave you either seething or in deep contemplation; The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin, an uneventful but thoughtful read; Mythology by Edith Hamilton, great for myth lovers and novices to the subject; I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing both by Nora Ephron and both filled with chuckles; The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, in which you will find great advice if you are patient; A Wizard of Earthsea also by Ursula Le Guin, a truly imaginative read; and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky, a totally un-put-down-able book. I was not bored by any of these titles, even when I read Dillard’s book. They were all eye-openers in their own ways and all offered insights and advice that I hope I can remember.

Out of this portion of books, my favorite is A Wizard of Earthsea. A Wizard of Earthsea is great because of the thought and creativity given to form the story. Le Guin is truly a great author. I can see why J.K. Rowling loves her stories. Le Guin takes her time building the world of Earthsea, mapping it out for us all while taking us through Ged Sparrowhawk’s life. There is much to learn in this story and words of advice that can be applied to life are sprinkled throughout. I especially like the afterword where Le Guin discusses her thought process in creating Ged and the world of Earthsea. It’s an enthralling read.

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The Sword as an Umbrella

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you should check out Flavorwire’s post, The Absolute Geekiest ‘Game of Thrones’ Merchandise. It went up today. The merchandise listed ranges from shot glasses to book ends to refrigerator magnets to the Irone Throne itself.

My favorite is the umbrella that looks like a sword. Sooo cool!! I’ve always wanted a sword! If I get that umbrella, I would carry it everywhere with me. And I dare anyone to try robbing me. It would’t work. No siree! I would defeat the robber with my umbrella.

The sword that's an umbrella.
The sword that’s an umbrella.

 

“The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Sir Ken Robinson

Cover of "The Element: How Finding Your P...
“The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.”

Have you seen Ken Robinson‘s 2006 TED Talk? If not, you should check it out. It’s hilarious and insightful too. I bumped into it by chance. I was browsing TED.com since I’m addicted to its videos. I think I told myself at that time that I was seeking inspiration or some such excuse for why I was procrastinating. Though Robinson’s talk was mostly a call for reform to the school systems to include more artistic programs and allow students the ability to explore their varied interests, he also spoke about passions, which he calls the Element. I perked up at the mention of this (I’m always interested in passions) and decided to check out his book The Element, which he mentioned in his talk.

It’s a thoughtful read. It will leave you wondering why you didn’t do as some of the people in the book did and just say to hell with everything and do what you really love. Well, that’s what I wondered when I read it. According to Robinson, the Element is something that a person has a passion for and is really good at. It can be something that is artistic like painting or dancing, or it can be something that is analytic like science or business. A person’s Element can be anything and a person can have more than one Element.

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“Jinx” by Sage Blackwood

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
This cover drew me to the book…

This is a fun story. I wanted to read this book because of its title, Jinx, there’re so many possibilities of how this story could turn out. Of course, it has to involve magic! If not, I wouldn’t have read it. Also, it must involve a character to whom weird things will happen. To say the least, the story turned out almost as I thought it would and almost better.

Quick summary:

Jinx is about an orphan boy who once resided with his stepmother and stepfather until they chose to get rid of him. To do this, his stepfather took him into the forest, the Urwald, and stepped off the path (it’s recommended that one should not step off the path in the forest since bad things could happen: attacked by trolls or werewolves, or tricked by the trees) and tried to leave him in there. However, the stepfather could not find his way back to the path. Luckily, or unluckily, a wizard happened to be about. The wizard, called Simon, happened to be in need of a boy so Jinx’s stepfather sold him to the wizard before being taken off by trolls, which may or may not have been called by the wizard.

Jinx goes off to live with the wizard Simon, tidying the house and such. While there, he meets butter churn-riding witches and travelers who stop by the wizard’s house. After living there for a while, he meets Simon’s wife Sophie, who lives in another part of the world. Apparently, Simon’s house has a portal that can take a person to a land called Samara, which is where Sophie lives. Sophie doesn’t do much except to rile Simon up and treat Jinx like the little boy he is at times. I think her purpose in the story was simply to lure Jinx to Samara and heighten his interest in magic.

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“Native Son” by Richard Wright

Cover of "Native Son (Perennial Classics)...
Cover of Native Son (Perennial Classics)

I’m late, I know. BUT as my way for commemorating Black History Month on my blog, I decided to read Native Son by Richard Wright and boy was I blown away by it! I mean Wright got down in that book and analyzed the shit out of the social structure and race relations of the 1940s. Native Son is a powerful book and even today I’m sure it can rile some people. (I got pretty pissed while reading it.)

Summary:

Native Son tells the story of Black people oppressed in America through the life of Bigger Thomas, a 20-year-old Black man. Life is hard for Bigger and his people. They live in deficient houses and receive meager pay. They are unable to move beyond the Black Belt, an area in Chicago where Blacks are designated to live. Segregation is so tight that it’s hard for Bigger to envision a promising future for himself. He tries to avoid thinking of this because it makes him feel helpless and powerless. To cope, he becomes angry and puts up a wall behind which he hides, peeking out occasionally at the reality of his life. His family and friends cope in other ways: his mother puts her trust in religion and his girlfriend Bessie numbs herself with alcohol. It’s not until he kills Mary Dalton that Bigger begins to feel as if he can direct his life and that for once he is in charge of what he does and what happens to him.

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A Legend Has Passed: Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe and the cover of his book, Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe and the cover of his book, Things Fall Apart

I was so shocked to hear that Chinua Achebe died that I failed to believe it at first. It’s not until I read an article on the New York Times’ website that I began to believe that it might be true. Chinua Achebe, a renowned Nigerian author, died on Thursday, March 21, in Boston. He was 82-years-old.

Achebe was my introduction to African literature. I can still remember the time when I stumbled upon his book, Things Fall Apart. I was in college (seems like decades ago) and was helping a friend pack his things for storage since he was going home for the summer. He pulled out a box full of books and naturally, I gravitated towards it. I was astounded to find novels in the box since I knew my friend hated reading. I randomly picked up Achebe’s book and read the synopsis on the back. Intrigued, I decided to read it. I was captivated by the story and finished it in a day. I decided to hold onto the book (which my friend did not miss) so that I could return to it again. It now sits on my shelf, gathering dust, and now that my mind has strayed to it, I’m considering to re-read it soon.

It’s sad that Chinua Achebe has passed but may his soul rest in peace.

Stirring words from Chinua Achebe:

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

“Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am—and what I need—is something I have to find out myself.”

“People create stories create people; or rather stories create people create stories.”