Things Googled While Watching Harry Potter

I cram-watched the Harry Potter movies for the first time this weekend.  I enjoyed them, and it was interesting to see them as an adult after hearing so much about them as I was growing up (not dissimilar to my experience listening to the audiobooks for the first time a few months ago).  I did like the books more, though, which is often but not always the case for me.  I think in this instance, I particularly missed the extensive character development J.K. Rowling builds in the books that can’t be easily portrayed in a movie of a decent length, since it would be unreasonable, say, to show every instance of Snape being an jerk to Harry, even though all those moments are important for providing context for the entire Snape plotline.  This stands in contrast to, for example, how I see the Lord of the Rings books and movies.  Although character development and relationships are important in LOTR, the series uses characters to fulfill a quest, rather than a (series of) quest(s) to explore characters.  This, in some ways, is more suited to a movie audience that doesn’t wish to camp in a theater for a 6 hour movie.

But anyways, I went back through my Google search history and called all my HP-related queries from the last three days:

  • harry potter and the philosophers stone vs sorcerers stone
  • lucius malfoy actor
  • durmstrang admits girls
  • emma watson speaks french
  • bone of the father unwillingly given
  • why does voldemort not have a nose
  • short professor at hogwarts
  • how do you get out of a pensieve
  • how did the sword of gryffindor get in the lake
  • why did jk rowling choose the name hermione
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Linksgiving

Explicitly Poltical

Museum Condemns White Nationalist Conference Rhetoric (Press release, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 21 November 2016): “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.”  (Sorry, Godwin).  The adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is nice but not always true.  And yes, although I’m a “model” minority, I’ve personally noticed an increase racially-tinged (or just blatantly racist) comments and insults both online and in public spaces.

Why We’re Saying ‘White Nationalism’ Instead of ‘Alt-Right’(Isolde Raferty, NPR/KUOW, 21 November 2016): Language and diction are important.  Words have meaning.  That is all.

Senator Elizabeth Warren: President-Elect Trump Already Broke Promise to “Drain the Swamp” (Elizabeth Warren, Senator Elizabeth Warren Youtube channel, 17 November 2016): This speech is perfect in so many ways.

If You Voted for Trump Because He’s ‘Anti-Establishment,’ Guess What: You Got Conned (Paul Waldman, The Washington Post, 11 November 2016): I want to say “I told you so,” but that also still seems enormously inappropriate and/or immature given the stakes.

Chris Christie’s Career Has Quietly Ended as Trump has Imploded (Alex Wagner, The Atlantic, 25 October 2016): Chris Christie’s jagged journey through the political world in the past few years has intrigued me, and I’d be interested to hear the author’s perspective post-election.

HOLY SH*T (You’ve Got To Vote) (Rachel Bloom et al., Funny Or Die Youtube channel, 4 November 2016): I’m a little late with this one, but I still like the concept and execution of the song enough to share.  It’s hilarious, but also very NSFW.  And although Godwin may be rolling over in the grave that he’s not yet in, “Look, obviously only Hitler’s Hitler…But break up Mein Kampf into tiny parts, and it reads like a Trump rant on Twitter.  And if you need a refresher on post-World War I Germany, they had an authoritarian political outsider stoking xenophobia in a nation where the poor felt marginalized and blaming complex problems on scapegoated minorities.” On a lighter note, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “syphilis” sung with that much vibrato (1:42).

First Lady Michelle Obama live in Manchester, New Hampshire | Hillary Clinton (Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton Youtube channel, 13 October 2016): Also too late to the game.  Still an extremely important message aside from the overtly election-related parts.  For example, “Let’s be very clear: strong men, strong men—men who are truly role models—don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.  People who are truly strong lift others up.  People who are truly powerful bring others together.”  As a woman, another thing I’ve noticed recently (in addition to racially-motivated insults) is an increase in sexually-motivated comments.  Hear something, say something.

The World is Complicated

Running While Female (Michelle Hamilton et al., Runner’s World, undated): This has always flummoxed (in addition to startling/frightening/irritating/angering) me.  Do men think they’re complimenting me?  Actually wanting a (positive) response?  Just teasing?  Being immature?  Trying to be dicks?  Are inherently pervy?  Worse?  Just, why?  (Also, a great counter from Randall Munroe of xkcd: http://xkcd.com/1763/)

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told My Family to Go Back to China (Michael Luo, New York Times, 9 October 2016): I’m as Wasian/banana/twinkie/whatever-other-jokingly-“derogatory”-term-you-can-think-of as it gets, and yet this is still so real.  Sometimes, it’s like I’m living in between worlds; like Arwen or Luthien in Middle Earth, but at least they had choice to embrace one existence or the other.  Even if I could choose, neither world would believe it.

My Muslim Father’s Faith in America (Mohammed Naseehu Ali, The New Yorker, 24 October 2016): “The reason [Allah continues to bestow his blessings on their country, my father] said, was very simple: Americans were the ones doing Allah’s work, by steadfastly upholding the Islamic tenet of zakat—a form of alms-giving that makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam. ‘Their government welcomes people who are seeking a better life,’ my father said. ‘They shield and protect the weak, the poor, and the persecuted from all over the world, and, the most important of all, they support orphans and protect the rights of women, as instructed by the Prophet Muhammad in his last sermon.'”  We would do well to note this.

Here’s What Happened When I Challenged the PC Campus Culture at NYU (Michael Rectenwald, The Washington Post, 3 November 2016): *sigh*  Let’s just say I’m glad I’m done with the hypersensitivity that is undergrad.

Julie Rodgers Keynote: The Reformation Project in Los Angeles (Julie Rodgers, The Reformation Project Youtube channel, 27 October 2016): Julie Rodgers speaking on LGBT issues, the Church, and most important, Jesus.  I admire her because she’s not afraid of hard issues and has the courage to be honest–even when it meant publicly explaining why her belief about same-sex marriage in the church changed over time.  Some call it flip-flopping; regardless of the before/after positions, I say it’s critical use of intellect and a conviction in faith.

On a Lighter Note

US Mental-Health Chief: Psychiatry Must Get Serious About Mathematics (Alison Abbott, Nature, 26 October 2016): These are both things I care a lot about.  Math isn’t impractical and useless theory all drifting about in the stratosphere, and psychiatry neither a bunch of oogey-boogey BS made up by Freud et al. nor a branch of medicine for people who couldn’t get residencies in anything else (besides, Freud was a psychologist, not a psychiatrist.  Which isn’t to hate on psychology as a field–it’s important too!–just to point out that misconception).  And, finally, as we saw from the disaster that was pre-election polling, the significance of knowing how to collect, interpret, and use statistics cannot be overstated!

What Do Professional Apple Farmers Think of People Who Pick Apples for Fun? (Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, 5 November 2016): The craze for apple picking has befuddled me since moving to the midwest, kind of like people who buy blackberry plants for their gardens (you’re intentionally introducing a weed?), the alleged “dumplings” in chicken and dumplings, and the game of cornhole (it’s beanbag toss, you freaks: “cornhole” sounds disturbingly euphemistic.)  Apples are the state fruit of Washington; in fact, Washington produces about 60% of the apples consumed in the US and exports enough that they’ve become a status symbol of sorts overseas (while visiting India, I did in fact observe Washington apples for sale at several open-air markets in New Dehli).  But I digress.  While you can go various types of berry picking in Washington, and I’m sure there are places one can u-pick apples somewhere in the state, there is nothing near the cult-like obsession with apple picking I’ve seen here in Missouri.  Berries at least kind of make sense to me: the bushes/plants are small enough that you usually don’t need a ladder or picking gadget, it usually takes a decent amount of time to get an amount of fruit worth the trouble, and most people do it for the sake of canning/preserving cheaply.  But apples?  Even small trees warrant a stepladder by the time they reach fruit-bearing age, it’s much faster to pick 5 pounds of apples than it is to pick 5 pounds of blueberries (or, God forbid, blackberries) so the 45 minute drive and from the orchard makes a lot less sense, and most people apparently go…just for fun?  Which is valid, but still weird to me.

Elite Runners Ryan and Sara Hall Add Parenting to Their Workouts (Lindsay Crouse, The New York Times, 3 November 2016): I look up to these folks so much as runners, parents, and people of faith.  The writing in this article is tons better than the article in Runner’s World by Amby Burfoot, so even though it “costs” you one of your free articles, I’d go for it.

My Mother’s 10-Year Quest To Feed Me From 5,500 Miles Away (Alina Selyukh, NPR, 21 November 2016): As the cultural heritage of food wasn’t a particularly strong part of my upbringing, I’ve surprised myself in the past few years by becoming more and more interested in learning how to cook the food of my country of birth, even if neither myself nor my family or close friends speak the language or eat foods familiar to the region.  But something about this article spoke true–perhaps I superimposed the author’s Russian mother onto the doting Chinese mothers I’ve encountered throughout the years, “Are you done already?  Eat more!  You’re too skinny!  Don’t waste food!  Here, take some with you!”

Trump Make America Great Again Red Cap Collectible Ornament (Amazon): The comments!  Go to the comments!

Link Farming

Here is a compilation of blog posts, news stories, videos, podcasts, etc. that I’ve encountered over the past few months and found compelling.  Note that this does not necessarily that I agree with all or even any of what they say (although I have noted at least some cases where I do), just that thinking is good and these made me do that.  Take it or leave it.

Olympics

“Mara Abbott: My Ride in Rio” (Mara Abbott, WSJ, 19 August 2016): Beautiful grace–and beautiful writing–in the face of heartbreak that only a true athlete and competitor can experience.  (For the interview she references, see http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/mara-abbott-her-fourth-place-finish).

“Kristin Armstrong: Gold ‘the result I want to end with'” (Kristin Armstrong, NBC, 10 August 2016): On a happier note from women’s Olympic cycling, Kristin Armstrong is an incredible athlete. Also, for all the haters who argued about her place on the women’s road race team, let up on it.

“One Month Later, Abbey D’Agostino Reflects on Rio, Her Olympic Fall and Her Rehab From a Torn ACL” (Jonathan Gault, Letsrun.com, 16 September 2016): Let there be no doubt, I am still not a fan of letsrun.com as a whole (that’s a topic for another post…), but the followup on one of the biggest character stories of the Olympics is nothing less than I’d expect from all I’ve heard through the running (and Dartmouth, indirectly) grapevines. (For an interview by Julia Hanlon of Running on Om with D’Agostino, see http://runningonom.com/2015/11/18/roo-161-abbey-dagostino-on-integrating-faith-into-life/)

Culture and (Unfortunately or Not) Politics

“Why Abby Wambach Doesn’t Want To Be Known ‘Just As A Soccer Player'” (Terry Gross, NPR/Fresh Air, 14 September 2016): Listen to the podcast if you can, but the transcript isn’t bad either.  Honesty and badassery.

“Making Sense of Modern Pornography” (Katrina Forrester, The New Yorker, 26 September 2016): This is a good example of a piece that demonstrates balance in perspective and yet still has an actual argument.  Worth one of your free articles in my opinion.

“Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?” (Tania Lombrozo, NPR, 22 August 2016): Sociology, psychology, R/C parents, and helicopter parents.  *cue whirring vocal sound effects and spinny hand gestures above my head*

“When Katie Couric Became a Single Mom” (Hillary Frank, The Longest Shortest Time, 20 July 2016): Yes, I listen to a parenting podcast even though I have no desire to have mini-me’s of my own.  Katie Couric is one of the few mainstream celebrities (mainly my “heroes”/”role models”/whatever are athletes and scientists…surprise surprise) about whom I think to myself, I hope I could do half as much as she has/be half of who she is when I grow up.

“Commentary: An Iranian Refugee on Becoming American – Legally, Then in Spirit” (Roya Hakakian, Reuters, 24 August 2016): My favorite lines–“The oath of allegiance, however significant, is often only a ceremonious hour, not one of reckoning. But watershed events and crises offer shortcuts through that journey to belonging. September 11 for instance. By 10 a.m. on that day, my 75-year-old father who until then had been composing poem after poem about his yearning for Tehran had hung an American flag from the railings of the fourth-floor balcony of my parents’ Queens apartment. It remains the only illicit act he has ever committed here, for he knew well the co-op board did not approve of exterior displays.”

“The Coddling of the American Mind” (Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, September 2015): I recently graduated from college.  I think that’s probably enough to say before someone on a side (or someones from both/multiple sides) of this argument comes after me with a hatchet.

“The Scarlet A” (Hillary Frank, The Longest Shortest Time, 17 February 2016): Think you’ve heard everything about the abortion debate (regardless of which “side” you’re on)?  Think again.  This helped me think about lots of things I’d never considered, or if I had, in different ways.

“This Christian Community Opened Its Heart to New Muslim Neighbors” (Upworthy, 9 September 2016): I am skeptical of how Upworthy presents its stories (and don’t get me started on their clickbaity titles…), but that doesn’t make the stories bad.

“An Armistice for the Culture War” (Ezekiel Kweku, MTV, 15 September 2016): I’m not sure if I’ve ever read something from MTV so seriously before.

Explicitly Election (yuck)-Related Politics

“Fear of a Female President” (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, October 2016): Independent of my views of Clinton herself, this is a thing I have actually been concerned about.

“Hillary Clinton and the Resurrection of Old-School Hysteria” (Nora Kelly, The Atlantic, 26 September 2016): This was fascinating and not a thing I ever would have thought of on my own.

“Why Voting for Hillary is Not Voting for Abortion” (Gungor, Facebook post, 8 October 2016): Thank you for constructing an actual argument, for respectfully and thoughtfully engaging people including those who disagree in ways that are not always respectful or thoughtful (comment section = bravery), and most of all for wrestling with nuance and tension and all the tough parts of being a being endowed with reason.

In a Tense Election Year, Laura Bush Picks an Interesting Ally: Michelle Obama” (Krissah Thompson, The Washington Post, 16 September 2016): Might be a feel-good story (though I suppose this might depend on your opinion of Trump, and possibly to an extent the Bushes and the Obamas…but mainly Drumpf), but hey, I think we need it.

 

Keeping the Blog, Changing the Title

Well, after hiding and un-hiding the blog and then making a few changes, I’ve decided to keep it (for now).  However, I am thinking about changing the title/URL, so if anyone has suggestions that would be dandy.  I was hoping for “Sleeping in Seattle” since that’s been my handle for a few other things on the interwebs, but unfortunately the URL is already occupied.

Orlando

I was actually thinking about deleting this blog this week, but I wanted to put this somewhere so I guess the deleting will have to wait at least a bit…

TL;DR: I dunno, I guess the last paragraph?  Most of which I didn’t actually write? 

I debated whether or not I wanted to post this for quite a while.  In some ways I wrote more for my own processing than for others.  A lot of people have said a lot of things already; I don’t want to regurgitate what’s already been said (and likely more eloquently), yet I want to say something.  Then again, there’s nothing new under the sun…

I see three main issues portrayed: 1) guns, 2) terrorism under the name of Islam, 3) prejudice against LGBT+ people under the name of religion.  It’s a false trichotomy to portray the tragedy as a consequence of only one or another of these things, but because I’m a good Presbyterian and an IS(N?)TJ, lists are how I understand the world.  Other than mentioning them above, I’m not going to spend any time discussing the first two items.  They’re barrels of monkeys that merit entire posts of their own, but ignoring them completely would be a glaring omission.  And so I’m choosing to stop here, except to say, be good to each other, folks.

49 people were murdered on Sunday.  That’s only 8 people fewer than were in my graduating class in high school.  4 fewer than can be on an NFL team’s active roster.  Each of those people had a story, and many of those people’s stories happened to include identifying as part of the LGBT community.

Almost half (48%) of people who identify as LGB in the US also identify as Christian, according to a 2015 Pew survey (http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/chapter-4-the-shifting-religious-identity-of-demographic-groups/#religious-composition-by-sexual-orientation).  Although this is substantially less than the straight or overall populations, which usually poll around 70%, it also appears to be substantially more than the Jesus-vs.-The-Gays scenario that the media/popular culture, and some Christian groups, would have us believe.  These 48% are our brothers and sisters.  And, though perhaps not theologically, so are the other 52%.

A 2013 Pew survey (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans/#religion; the 2015 survey may also include this question, but I’m having trouble navigating their website…) asked about how people perceived religions’ (un)friendliness towards LGBT people.  Not surprisingly, the Church did not fare well.  This likely explains at least some of the ~20% difference between the religious composition of the general population and the LGB community.

As Rachel Held Evans wrote on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/rachelheldevans.page/posts/10153956026774442), “Many [Christian] leaders have publicly grieved the massacre and called for Christians to ‘simply love’ the LGBT community in this hour of need…which is good; that’s the right thing to do. But what I’m hearing from my Christian LGBT friends in particular is that these calls to grieve and love ring a bit hollow when coming from pastors and church leaders who have never spoken out about hate and violence directed against LGBT people before or who have spent years perpetuating the very misinformation, stereotypes, and theology that hurt LGBT people every day.”

Sentiment matters.  49 people died violently in one night; that shakes our worldview, our framework of security, our ideal of freedom of religion, belief, and expression.  And yet, around 11,000 people ages 15-34, the age group most affected by the shooting, commit suicide in the US every year (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_02.pdf).  Being LGBT has been shown repeatedly to increase the risk of suicide attempts drastically: anywhere from 2 to 4 times greater (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss60e0606.pdf).  Taking the conservative estimate of doubling the rate, and assuming that between 3 and 10% of the population identifies as LGBT (from the 2013 Pew survey; we’ll take the average, 6.5%, since more younger people identify as LGBT), that rounds out to be around 1,400 lives lost every year in the young LGBT community.  This is not to trivialize the loss of 49 people in one day—indeed, this shocks and horrifies us for good reason—but to point out an ongoing problem.  Is this the fault of the Church?  Of culture?  Of being LGBT?  No, no, and no.  Suicide is sometimes conceptualized as a blameless tragedy, in that it takes a complex collection of events and actions and environments and genetics and thoughts and feelings to proceed.  But it can be stopped.  And for those of us who aren’t doctors/social workers/counselors /public health advocates, one of the most important roles we have in preventing injury or death, whether self-inflicted and externally perpetrated, is how we treat other people, implicitly and explicitly.

Sentiment matters.  The motives of the shooter are yet to be uncovered, and it’s likely we’ll never fully untangle them.  Although a mass-murderer isn’t created by culture alone, it would seem that culture can have a normalizing role in prejudice and hatred, hatred that can, it seems, infect even those it affects.  Throwaway derogatory comments can seem harmless in the moment; indeed, perhaps they are—in the moment.  But the prevailing atmosphere may have greater effect than we realize.  The same way “rape culture” is impugned for normalizing the boys-will-be-boys attitude that seems to have led to the highly-criticized sentence in the recent Stanford case, perhaps prejudice, bigotry, and even violence against groups with whom we disagree, dislike, or merely see as different from ourselves is normalized through our everyday attitudes, words, and actions.

If we claim to belong to the Church, we are held to the highest standard in this regard—even if we think the other party is wrong.  Just as our love for someone does not excuse us from confronting tough problems, personally wrestling with a theological or moral issue cannot excuse us from loving, fully and not hollowly, those with whom we disagree.  As Julie Rodgers wrote on her blog this week (http://julie-rodgers.com/?p=16473), “You do not have to support same-sex marriage to fight for safety and protection for human beings made in the image of God. Your solidarity will not be taken as theological agreement, and it’s hard for me to understand how grieving the death of 50 beautiful people can feel complicated for a Christian. It’s always right to grieve with those who are grieving.”

And likewise, the Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints—a bastion of modern conservatism and orthodoxy if there ever was one—said this at a vigil on Monday (I highly encourage reading the entire speech; besides being rhetorically interesting, the words need to be heard https://www.ksl.com/index.php?sid=40209267&nid=148&title=lt-gov-cox-speaks-at-vigil-for-orlando-my-heart-has-changed): “How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 a.m. in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.”

The shooting in Orlando is not a philosophical conundrum for politicians and pastors and pundits to toss around like a football.  Nor is it a stone to hurl at people with whom you disagree(—and it is largely on this point that I hesitated to post this: in some ways, it seems to waver between a reflection, an appeal, and a bludgeon).  It is a human tragedy.  In light of everything that is being done and said, remember that we are people talking to and about and arguing with and about other people.  If you find yourself thinking angrily/bitterly/condescendingly/disgustedly to yourself, “The gays are [scornful descriptor],” remember that someone somewhere is probably thinking, “The Christians are [scornful descriptor]”—and vice versa.  (…or if you’re thinking “The Muslims/atheists/Mexicans/gun owners/Democrats/Republicans/ whatever-group-that-isn’t-like-me are [scornful descriptor].”  We’re all someone else to someone else, and whenever we point a finger there are three pointing back at ourselves.)  Remember that on the other side of your thought or word or action—negative or positive—there is another person, receiving, listening, or perhaps just observing.

Spring 2016 Reading List

Well, time for the next reading list.  Now that I won’t be in school (for a couple years, anyhow), I’m not sure if I’ll keep doing three “semester” lists, or possibly switch to biannual or quarterly lists, which conform better with the temporal preferences non-academic society.  It may turn out that post frequency will depend on how much reading I do.

The links go to other people’s reviews where I could find ones I thought were well-done.  Many come from NPR as I find a large proportion of my reading list from NPR articles/broadcasts.  Otherwise, the links go to product pages on Amazon (yes, I know, Amazon is a killer of small-businesses-and-publishers–trust me, I used to work for such a publisher–but the large numbers of non-paid reviews are a valuable resource)

Ink and paper books:

  • Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America (Jeff Chu): One issue that I struggle with is the position and role of the church in LGBT issues.  I was raised pretty conservative, but a lot of the orthodox positions make me deeply uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.  Although the Bible isn’t supposed to be a comfortable book, there are a number of things that are often taught in more conservative (or even just “less liberal”) circles that I am fundamentally unsure about.  The internet is a terrible place to have a “discussion” about this, so I’ll leave it at that, but this book is worth a read to get an idea of the tension and struggle that LGBT Christians face even in a progressive, accepting larger society–and in the case of this book, the story of one relatable, personable, human individual.  As Andrew Solomon so beautifully wrote in Far from the Tree (see below), “Numbers imply trends, while stories acknowledge their chaos.”
  • Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry (Jeffrey A. Lieberman & Ogi Ogas): May be a little history heavy/textbook-y, but I thought it was an enlightening read on a specialty of medicine that often gets a bad rap, sometimes deserved, sometimes not.  Traced the development of psychiatry from pre-DSM to the present day.  Pretty accessible, but some may find it to be a little textbook-y at times.
  • A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back (Kevin Hazzard): I thought about going to EMT/paramedic school after finishing my bachelor’s (I know, backwards…).  I ended up not taking that route, but this book kind of made me wish I did.
  • Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Andrew Solomon): Very long, but Solomon’s writing is graceful and informative and flowing and fair as usual.  Each chapter covers a type of “difference” that individuals experience that alienates them from larger society: deafness, criminality, dwarfism, genius, and so on.
  • The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Elyn R. Saks): Saks is a professor of law (as well as psychology/psychiatry/behavioral sciences) who was diagnosed with schizophrenia while she was in graduate school.  She is incredibly bright and also incredibly self-aware.
  • When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi): Kalanithi was a medical doctor in his final year of residency when he died after facing metastatic cancer.  This autobiography was written after his diagnosis and completed posthumously by his wife, also a physician.  His language is beautiful and compelling.  Wins the “best book of the semester” award for its writing, tied with A Mother’s Reckoning.
  • Proof: The Science of Booze (Adam Rogers): Pretty informative and not too dry (no pun intended).  Accessible to a general audience.
  • It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (Lynsey Addario): Addario is a prize-winning war photographer.  Here she documents stories of her work, struggles, and life.  I heard about this book on a Radiolab podcast.
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things (Jenny Lawson): It’s funny.  And very real.
  • A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (Sue Klebold and Andrew Solomon): I found out about this book from a reference in Far from the Tree.  Klebold’s writing is excellent and her words are honest.  She writes about her son, Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine, his life, and her life, before and after the tragedy.  Her story is filled with grace in the face of unspeakable pain and anger.  Wins the “best book of the semester” award for its courage and honesty, tied with When Breath Becomes Air.

Audiobooks:

  • The Brothers Karamozov (Fyodor Dostoevsky): Great book to listen to; in some ways even better than reading it.
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry): Not into dystopian fiction but it was fine.
  • Harry Potter series (JK Rowling): Finally “read” Harry Potter!  I thought the plot was really well-constructed.
  • The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett): “Read” it for the first time since kindergarten or first grade because Harry Potter seemed like it was alluding to this in a lot of ways and I wanted to know if my memory was serving correctly.  Still not certain, but I think it is (e.g., Lily’s eyes/his mother’s (Lillias’) eyes, the names Colin Creavy/Colin Craven, etc.)

Fall 2015 Reading List

Yup, it’s that time of year again.  It’s a little shorter in quantity than most of my previous fall lists since I spent most/all of Christmas break studying for the MCAT rather than reading 200 pages a day.  I did, however, read a lot of essays, long-form blog posts, and scientific papers.  Some of these may be behind paywalls, so consider yourself warned, but in particular (though in no particular order), I’d recommend:

And now, back to the books (links go to other people’s reviews–I should emphasize that I don’t necessarily agree with them, but they generally have interesting/thoughtful perspectives):

  • Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Joseph Kim): Autobiography of a young man who escaped from North Korea through China and then to the United States.  I noticed two things in particular.  The first was that when he first arrived in the U.S., the first foster home in which he was placed did not have enough food for him.  This was hugely problematic for someone who just escaped from North Korea, and he was fortunately moved to a different home.  What was interesting to me was that the family was willing, despite their own poverty, to take in a complete stranger.  Obviously there were issues, but I think I could learn from that type of generosity.  The second was that when he was fleeing North Korea, people told him to find a church in China and that they would help him.  The people who told him this were somewhat unsure what exactly a church was, but they knew it could help: even in the (literally) darkest of nations, Christ’s light shines.
  • Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee): I guess this was my mandatory fiction for the semester.  Somehow, it was lacking…plot structure.  I kept waiting for something to happen, except then it was the last page and nothing had really happened.
  • If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For (Jamie Tworkowski): Pretty stream of consciousness/blog style.  Not dissimilar to Blue Like Jazz, which I guess makes sense, since Donald Miller wrote the foreword.
  • Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry (Mark Yarhouse): Okay.  I’ve heard good things about Yarhouse.  The book seemed a little cookie cutter, but it was intended as a guide for youth ministry, as the title suggests, in-depth analysis.
  • Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (Sarah Hepola): Wins the best book of the semester award.  It’s clear that Hepola is actually a professional writer, not just some person writing about her life.  But even if it were just some person writing about her life, that would be okay too, because her story is an important one to tell.  (Similar in style, writing quality, and perhaps even intent to Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.  Liked it more than Drink by Ann Dowsett Johnston, which was more topically similar.)  As someone on a university campus where there are a lot of “you’re not alcoholic until after college” jokes (and, admittedly, as someone who has made such “jokes” in the past), there’s a lot of insight to be found.
  • Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Oliver Sacks): Brilliant Sacks, as usual. Perfect balance of the cool science-y stuff and the story of his childhood (much of which would be forbidden for safety concerns now).
  • Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (Linda Hirshman): Great exposition of the histories and stories of O’Connor and Ginsburg.  Definitely has staunch feminist perspective, but what would you expect from a book about the two justices who revolutionized the legal standing of women?
  • When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests (Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky): Did not like this book.  Leana Wen is one of my favorite public health figures (if one can have “favorites” in that category?) but the entire book came across as condescending and patronizing–to both patients and doctors.  I have no idea how they pulled that off, although Kosowsky’s sections seemed a bit worse in this regard.

Audiobooks

  • Crossroads of Twilight (Robert Jordan)
  • Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan)
  • The Gathering Storm (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
  • Towers of Midnight (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson)
  • A Memory of Light (Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson): Finally finished the series!  There was a definite shift of…atmosphere…in the last three books, but I’m not sure how much of it is due to the fact that they were completed after Jordan’s death and how much is due to the stage of the plot.  I was never a huge fan of Rand al’Thor’s scenes in general (this is coming from the person who finds hobbits annoying and thus skims through large sections of The Return of the King and has only read The Hobbit twice compared to the trilogy four or five times), so the last couple books also weren’t my favorite for that reason, but it was still definitely worth completing.
  • New Spring: The Novel (Robert Jordan): I liked the prequel a lot; considering that my favorite characters in the entire series were probably Moiraine and Siuan, an entire (short) book of them was delightful.