Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Since I have nothing medical to blog about for the next three weeks, until they unleash me upon an unsuspecting neurology service, I'll blog about what I've been doing recently, and that is reading.

It's such a simple thing, reading, yet it was so hard for me to do until I went to China. Ever since I learned how to read, I've always had my nose in a book. I used to read through dinner, in the car, while everyone else watched TV, in the bathroom or even in the shower (this amazes my husband). In fact, I used to get in trouble for reading so much when I'd visit my dad's house as a kid. "Put your book down and come join the family" was a refrain I heard often. At my mom's house, the punishment that worked the best (until I had a car) was to ground me from reading (unless it was for school, of course).

Sometimes, I'd have two or three books going at a time--one for school, maybe, and one I'd read before, and sometimes a third. I used to get in trouble with Mom because I'd leave them lying face down, bending the spines. I still do that, but I own the books, so it's not such a big deal. I read all through high school and through college. I laughed at a professor who told me I'd eventually get too busy to read. To me, reading was like breathing. I read extremely fast (as does my mother and hers), so I often reread books that I've enjoyed and gain new insight into them every time(as opposed to my father, who reads extremely slow, but retains everything perfectly, so he only reads a book once, ever).

Then, I hit medical school. And I'm not sure when the reading stopped. There were 1,000 page syllabi (per class) to read, as well as textbooks and reviews and such, and frankly, my brain was tired. Then, on the wards, I'd be so busy and exhausted and full of what was going on with my patients and studying for the shelf that I was all used up. For a long time, I didn't even want to watch movies--I didn't have the ability to concentrate on two hours' worth of material. Television shows became the limit of my concentration--one hour max. (This change also coincided with moving to an apartment that offered free cable, which didn't help.)

My aunt sent me three books to read in China. I packed them, unsure if I was wasting the room in my backpack. After all, surely I'd be too busy to read much. I mostly did Sudoku on the flight over, and it was at some point later that I picked up the first book. I proceeded to read all three of my books, one of A's books, three of B's books, one of C's books (on the flight home; she didn't want to have to pack it) and a book I bought at the Bookworm in Beijing. It was like rediscovering breathing, I felt so refreshed. Since I came home, I've been off, and I've made several trips to Half Price Books. My shelves are stacked with new books that I've been cramming down, bingeing on the new reading material. I'll list off a bit of what I've been reading lately (during and since the trip):

  • Suite Francoise by Irene Nemirovsky (lovely reading about WWII in occupied France)
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (memoir about a very dysfunctional family)
  • The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (girl with Down's is taken away, mother is told she's dead)
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenberger (a new favorite, this book is amazing)
  • Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella (beach fluff but fun)
  • The World According to Garp by John Irving (very odd, and book really has no theme or message)
  • Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky (a little dry, but interesting nonetheless)
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (not as good as Stiff, but still fun)
  • Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore (read in China, was fascinated by Moore's work)
  • Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore (well-written and not as blasphemous as it sounds)
  • You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore (vampire love story)
  • Prairie Gothic: The Story of a West Texas Family by John R. Erickson (interesting West Texas history; I've been looking into genealogy lately so this was fun)
  • Goodbye to a River by John Graves (quoted often by Erickson so I had to read it)
  • The Liars' Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr (found in Texana section at HPB, also a memoir of a very dysfunctional family)
China books:
  • Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman (read prior to trip)
  • The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang (read prior to trip, heart-breaking history)
  • Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now by Jan Wong (fascinating)
  • Tiananmen Diary: 13 Days in June by Harrison E. Salisbury (great account of Tiananmen student protests in 1989, compare to Red China Blues account)
  • Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (very sad memoir)
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (currently reading, just started; written by researcher who helped translate the long-lost writings of the Mongols)
I have quite a few more books to try to get through before my break is over. And hang curtains. And hem curtains prior to hanging. And paint wall art for dining room and guest bath. And write more China stories before I forget. And try to organize office a little more. And talk to county extension master gardeners about our oak trees being planted too close together. And... We'll see how much I actually accomplish in between riding my new bike, reading all my new books, and catching up on medical blogs (I just started reading The Blog that Ate Manhattan, and it makes me so hungry!). But, because I like reading and procrastinating more than doing chores...

Anyone read any other good books lately?


Allison said...

Nerd alert!


I'm reading an intriguing book called "Financial Accounting & Reporting" if you're interested... after July 14th it is all yours.

Actually, I take that back. I am getting the vibe that I am not going to pass this test so I might need to hang on to it for a while. Sorry.

This probably wouldn't be up your alley but I did read one book that I liked... called "Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life" by John Sellers. It was funny.

Barbara said...

Currently reading The Great Influenza as I'm on a nonfiction kick currently. My brother highly recommended the new David Sedaris book. My sister-in-law gave me Snow Flower and the Secret Fan since it's about China.

Tiny Shrink said...

A- the accounting book is all yours, buddy. I might check out the indie rock book, though.

B- I, too have been on a crazy nonfiction kick. It's weird, because I'm not usually into NF. I can't remember if I bought the Great Influenza or a book that looked kinda like it at HPB. I do love Sedaris, though, and I should check out the China book, since I'm now totally hooked on all things China.

Anonymous said...

I just read A Thousand Splendid Suns. I didn't love Kite Runner, so I wasn't expecting to enjoy this, but it overtook the Time Traveler's Wife as my favorite book of all time!

JensMom said...

"My Antonia" by Willa Cather. I read it as part of our community library's Big Read program based on immigration. A classic, written in 1918, about an immigrant farm girl. I found it quite interesting.

Tiny Shrink said...

I've wanted to read A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I'm too cheap to buy it full price at the expensive bookstore, so as soon as it hits HPB it will be mine!

I read My Antonia a few years ago. What I remember most was the Russian story about the wolves--brr!