In keeping with prior years’ tradition, the last post of the year is dedicated to my favorite books of 2017!Barking Up The Wrong Tree
I had a surprisingly amount of fun reading this book and caught myself chuckling on multiple occasions. In addition to making me laugh, this book also made me pause and think “wow that is really interesting” multiple times and is undoubtedly my favorite book in 2017. Barking up the Wrong Tree explores very interesting concepts that can run counter-intuitive to what we’ve been are taught. The best parts of the book are the anecdote examples to demonstrate various concepts. The book is very easy to read, thought provoking and definitely a book that I plan on rereading in a few years.
Cutting for Stone
Cutting for Stone was the last book I read this year and definitely a top favorite. The story begins with Thomas Stone (a surgeon) and Sister Mary Joseph Praise working in an Ethiopian hospital. The story then moves on and is centered around two twin boys, Marion and Shiva Stone, during the Ethiopian / Eritrean war. This book explores the bond between the twins and themes of family, love, betrayal, and a lot of medicine.
I love the story, the characters, and the plots. I also love how wrong I was about Shiva being shellfish; a good reminder that one shouldn’t judge others only based on what they say or do. Abraham Verghese is a brilliant writer, his descriptions are so vivid and the emotions portrayed in the books are so relatable.
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
The Art of War or “孫子兵法” is a classic Chinese literature. A lot of well-known Chinese phrases are directly from Sun Tzu’s book. Instead of challenging myself to read it in Chinese, I decided to read the book in English first. Although this book is about warfare, a lot of the tactics are actually applicable in modern life and in business.
For example, “do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat”. That to me is the equivalent of “preparation is the key to success”. Another example, “now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards. That to me is the necessary alignment of interest to achieve the maximum outcome between management and board of directors or companies and employees.
The English version also makes me appreciate the difficulties in translating between two languages. “If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” is “知己知彼，百战不殆” in Chinese. The translation is correct: know yourself, know others, and you won’t lose a hundred battles. The concept is the same, yet reading it in Chinese vs. English is still different.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a New York Times Bestseller by Jonathan Foer and a book that I haven’t gotten around to read until this year. The story follows a 9-year-old boy, Oskar, looking for a lock that matches a particular key. Oskar’s father who passed away during 9/11 left the mysterious key. My favorite parts of the book were Oskar’s inventions (or imaginations) and his grandparent’s story. Examples of Oskar’s inventions include a teakettle that whistles melodies, a building that moves up and down while the elevator stays stationary, a limo long enough to serve as a “teleporting portal”, a birdseed shirt allowing birds to pick up wearers and give them a ride, and much more. Then the story between his grandparents is worth another book itself.
I used to cry pretty easily reading sad books or watching sad movies but I find that the older I become, the harder it is to move me. Yet, this book brought me to tears, such a good and unforgettable book.
First They Killed My Father – A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
This is a non-fiction book written by Loung Ung and based on her childhood so the tragedies are even more raw and painful. Loung lived with her parents and 6 siblings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia until the start of the Cambodian genocide in 1975. The genocide lasted until 1979 and an estimated ~2 million Cambodians died. The story follows Loung and her family from Phnom Penh to the countryside’s various villages. As the reader you are holding your breath at each stop hoping that it would be the last and the war would end or the conditions would improve. The book is heart breaking but also very inspiring: the love for one’s family, the courage to go through each day, and the strength of the survivors to recover and relive.
Angelina Jolie directed the movie but I haven’t watched the film because I can’t imagine the movie being anywhere near as good as the book or is anywhere near as heart throbbing as Loung Ung’s words.
Thank you for reading and a big thank you to my incredible brother who always has the best book suggestions, I love you!