Summer 2015 Reading List

  • Radical: My Journey Out Of Islamist Extremism (Maajid Nawaz): I suggested this autobiography for a class where we voted on what book to read/analyze/discuss in the last week of classes.  We ended up reading something else, but I read it anyhow.  Insightful look into how and why his worldview changed, and a good reminder that none of our worldviews are static.
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo (Steven Galloway): Read this in one sitting.  I know a little bit (not much) about the Bosnian War, so it was interesting to try to consider the novel in that frame of reference.  I found the ending rather unsatisfying…I suspect this is at least partly due to my low understanding of how to appreciate fiction properly.
  • Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Susannah Cahalan): Written beautifully by someone clearly trained in journalism.  Vulnerable and honest.  The science behind the illness she suffered from is intriguing–she goes into it a little bit, but not so much as to overwhelm the lay reader.  Pubmed is a great resource for primary literature on the subject; Wikipedia, of course, for those who prefer a more readable education.  Also a good reminder that as much as we know about medicine, there’s still an astounding amount we don’t know.
  • The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas (Anand Giridharadas): Story of a convenience store employee in Texas shot in retribution for 9/11 who then petitioned for his would-be-murderer’s (the successful murderer of two other Middle Eastern-appearing individuals) stay of execution.
  • Betrayal of Trust (Laurie Garrett): Extremely in-depth look at the problems facing global and public health.  Not quick, but pretty interesting.
  • The Joy of the Gospel (Pope Francis): The pope is cool.  So is the Gospel.  So I decided to read stuff he wrote about it.
  • Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free (Hector Tobar): Informative for the reader who didn’t know anything about the situation than what the mainstream media presented.  Tobar is a very good journalist.
  • The Story of Science (Susan Wise Bauer): Was not quite what I expected…seemed to go a mile wide and an inch deep through topics I mostly had learnt before.
  • Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide (Kay Jamison): Referenced so frequently that I thought I had better read it.
  • The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game (Mary Pilon): If you ever want to know the real history behind Monopoly, this is the book for you.
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard): I happen to like Annie Dillard’s writing even though she’s a little more…hippie…than my normal preference.  As a result, I’m sure I missed a lot of the meaning of the book and should probably re-read it at some point.
  • Do No Harm (Henry Marsh): A little bit like Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, but more focused on how a doctor thinks and operates than on patient diagnoses.
  • The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (Andrew Solomon): Another key piece of literature on depression that I figured I had better read eventually.  The author’s TED talk is also worthwhile.
  • I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks (Laurie Garrett): Written like a movie script: fast and edge-of-the-seat, based on her own experiences in New York in 2001 and 2002.

Audiobooks: I started listening to audiobooks this summer while I was working instead of just sermons/podcasts/TED talks and music.

  • Notes from the Underground (Fyodor Dostoevsky): This was the first ebook I have ever listened to.  I probably enjoyed this the least of the works of Dostoevsky that I have read (Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot). I suppose this could be because it’s harder for me to observe subtleties in language and theme when listening to something (which compounds the fact that my faculty for consuming fiction is already in want). I found the characters irritating to the point of being unredeemable, which probably has some literary intent and significance beyond me.
  • Paradise Lost (John Milton): Read excerpts in high school so I decided to listen to the whole thing, since I suspected it would take me forever to sit down and actually read.
  • Paradise Regained (John Milton): Surprisingly short.
  • A Crown of Swords (Robert Jordan): Started the Wheel of Time series the summer after I graduated from high school, but only finished about half–I read reasonably fast, so it’s a pretty big time commitment.  I sort of feel guilty if I read fiction, like I’m being unproductive or something, so I decided to listen to the rest of the series while I’m at work.
  • The Path of Daggers (Robert Jordan)
  • Winter’s Heart (Robert Jordan)

Fall 2014 Reading List

  • The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive (Brian Christian): Probably could have been 30% shorter and said the same things, but not terrible.
  • Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, And The Making Of A Medical Examiner (Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell): Possibly my favorite book on the list.  Melinek tells of her years as a medical examiner in NYC, which included the aftermath of 9/11.  Not for the queasy, but great for those interested in learning about a less-hyped branch of medicine.
  • The Explicit Gospel (Matt Chandler): I read this at the beginning of every school year to remind myself what matters.
  • Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (Ann Dowsett Johnston): Johnston discusses the cultural and biological aspects women and drinking via the lens of her own journey through alcoholism.
  • Love and Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationship (David Levy): Vaguely interesting, but mediocre writing/reasoning full of odd logical leaps.
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir (Jenny Lawson): Almost too NSFW for me, but I still found myself laughing out loud every few pages.  I guess it was still worth the read just as a brain-rot book.
  • A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken): Not quite my type of book, but I liked it more as I went on.  Vanauken writes through his journey into faith, of interest to many because of his friendship with C.S. Lewis.
  • Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir (Eddie Huang): Also definitely NSFW, but full of blunt, hilarious, and at times painful truths about the experiences of many Asian immigrant families, particularly those in the restaurant business.
  • Catholic Guide to Depression (Aaron Kheriaty & John Cihak): Possibly the best books on psychology/mental health I have read (granted, I haven’t read many, but I have a feeling it’ll stay up there).  I found this book through a video talk of Kheriaty speaking at Mental Health and the Church Conference hosted by Rick and Kay Warren.  Coincidentally, I also saw it recommended on a blog (although I can’t remember where, sorry).  It was refreshing to hear a Christian medical professional speak/write frankly about an unfortunately common but even more often misunderstood issue.  The book is sensitive, but honest, acknowledging the reality of pain, yet full of grace and even hope.
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (David Quammen): Probably my second favorite book.  Similar to The Coming Plague (Laurie Garrett) which I liked more because I found it to be structured better.  The content was just as good, though, and Quanmen manages to bring humor into what can sometimes be too dull or too morbid.
  • The Idiot (Fyodor Dostoevsky): My obligatory fiction for the semester.  I think I enjoyed Brothers Karamazov more, but Dostoevsky is Dostoevsky–probably one of my favorite authors from the 1800s.
  • The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan (Jenny Nordberg): Insightful look at Afghan culture in which some families dress and treat their female children as boys for social and/or economic reasons.  She interviews individuals and families who are or have been part of this phenomenon at various stages in their lives.  Well-written.