Tuesday, August 30, 2011


When I started reading and blogging, I thought it would be a way to keep my life consistent, even when things all around me were changing. I thought that having some regular activity / task / goal would mean that things weren’t really so different, after all. But what I’m discovering is that things really do change, and that life calls for a lot more adaptation and compromise than we originally planned. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s been hard for me to blog because my life is so different from when I began this challenge. When I started back in January, life was filled to the brim with assignments and classes, activities and friends. Life was busy and scheduled in fifty or eighty-minute increments, and dictated by what was due or what was planned. Today, the rhythm of my life feels nothing like that. My days have their busyness, to be sure (especially for someone with such chronic lateness as me), but they are far less defined by a running, mental to do list than when I was in school. In school, reading and blogging was another thing I could add to my weekly list of tasks, and was certainly one of the more enjoyable and fulfilling ones. But today, while I love reading on the train or elsewhere, sitting in front of my computer at 9:30pm to write after a long day at work and commuting sounds far from relaxing. 
While the act of writing and reflecting on reading has become more burdensome than I had imagined, reading has become much more of a pleasure than it was while I was in school. I’m never without a book, simply out of necessity: I spend two hours a day on the train, and so all of this great reading time is built right in. Because of this, I’ve kept up with my reading fairly easily, and my book-a-week goal hasn’t been hanging over my head. I’ve gotten to visit the library more frequently and choose books that I may never have heard of or aren’t genres I’d typically choose. Since I last posted, I’ve read two very different books and am nearly finished with a third. 
The first, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, was a fabulously written fictional account of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter in the Bible. It’s not a new book, and even though it had been on my shelf for a while, I’d always put off reading it because it looked far to big to read in a week. Instead, I was sucked in by the story and the culture and the scriptural connections of this book that I ate it up: it was the first book in a while I hadn’t wanted to put down and that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole while. I was reminded yet again while reading this story of the power of fiction, because I can now see the stories and the lives of Jacob, his family, and their relationship to their God more clearly than I ever could imagine from reading Bible stories. Instead of hearing simply a genealogy of names or a set of stories I’ve heard since I was a little kid, I felt like I could hear the voices of these characters and share in their story. Highly recommend it!
The second book I read was a pick from the new books section of the library and is a collection of personal essays by Emily Fox Gordon entitled Book of Days. I’ve not spent much time reading essays, so it was a new experience to read a whole book of them. I’m so used to stories that have a clear beginning, middle, and end, but this book didn’t have that at all. Instead, the essays jumped around to specific points in Gordon’s life, picking specific moments or encounters and focusing in on their intricacies, bringing out the kernel of truth that lay there. After reading the book, I have a great amount of respect for the author, because it takes a great writer to fully develop so many different ideas. However, I don’t know if it’s a genre I would pick again right away. I guess I like to draw conclusions or connections, to end with a moral or point or take-away, and this book didn’t do that at all. But then again, I’m a story person, even if its a true story, and it’s hard for me to hear a number of discrete scenarios without stringing them all together and tying up the loose ends. And even though it wasn’t my favorite, I’m still glad I stretched myself and tried something new.
Right now I’m reading this awesome fiction book called Peony in Love by Lisa See, and it’s not at all what I expected. It’s like a history lesson and a ghost story and a fairy tale, all rolled into one. I’ll be sure to report back with a final verdict :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

making connections

So I’m coming to the conclusion that the more we read, the more we can connect to what we read, and the more we get out of it. 
Have you ever felt like the moment you learn about something, the moment you engage with some new information, you start to see it, hear it, and sense it all around you? Both of the books I read these past two weeks have stayed so close to my mind, to other things I’ve read, and to other conversations I’ve had, and as a result I always feel as though their subject matter is at the tip of my tongue. This is exactly why I love reading. It keeps me intellectually engaged with something that is paradoxically apart from me, because it’s someone else’s story and someone else’s words, and yet always with me, in that I can always draw personal connections with the material, the characters and  the emotions conveyed within the writing. The books I’ve read these past two weeks have reminded me why I’m doing all this reading, and how beneficial it is to engage great ideas and great stories via the written word. 
The first book I read, The M-Factor, is all about how my generation, the millennials, are changing the workplace. Clearly, this is a timely topic and especially relevant for my life as a millennial new to the workforce and still navigating the terrain of a new job and life. I could go into hours of detail about this book. The authors, Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman, are generational theorists who’ve spent their lives researching and writing about the different generations at play in the workplace. I found their analysis of the millenials to be spot-on, not that everything they said I already knew, but that they were able to shine a light on qualities or tendencies I knowingly possess, displaying not only similarities between millennials’ experiences, but also explaining why we act the way we do. Without going into the minute detail of the book, here are the seven main trends/traits/what have you that we millenials display. We’re close to our parents, closer than most generations. We act entitled. We are very concerned with finding meaning in our lives and work. We have high expectations. We need everything fast. We’re obsessed with social networking. We love to collaborate. Sound like you? Well, it hit the nail on the head for me, and I was able to see the ways that I tend to act and deal with situations that were extremely positive and those that weren’t. It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever get frustrated when someone is working slower than I’d like, or that I won’t occasionally overuse my social network and connections or forget the importance of hierarchy in my organization, but at least I’ll be aware of where I stand in relation to the other generations seated in the cubicles and offices around me. Since I started reading this book, I have had countless discussions with my family, friends, and coworkers about generational differences, and it’s been both enlightening and humorous. I can simultaneously respect older generations  when they tell about the past and laugh when they talk about how the last movie theatre in their town went out of business not that long ago, when VCRs became popular and people started watching movies at home!
The second book,You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers, is an amazing book by none other than a Hope professor! I’ve wanted to read this book for a while now, and I happened to see it in the new books section of the Wheaton Public Library, and I was thrilled! It is a truly compelling story of her family and her discovery her own prosopagnosia, a condition in which one cannot reliable recognize faces of people they know and love. Her story is riddled through with mental illness, with family and marital instability, as well as the slow recognition of a condition that has plagued her her whole life. The way she tells about her life fascinates me, because she doesn’t try to make everything into one fluid, seamless story of self discovery. Things take time. We can feel entirely opposing emotions at the same time. We often can’t put a name on things we know or feel for certain, and often this doesn’t happen until much after the fact. Everything is complex, from the family to the mind to simple daily interactions. I found the way that she told her story to be particularly compelling and undeniably true - it didn’t hold back or shy away from the hard stuff. And just as with other books I’ve read these past weeks and months, it’s been on my mind every day, and I’ve gotten the chance to tell Heather’s story to a number of people. I strongly encourage you to check it out!
So, to summarize a long-winded post, I’m just as glad as ever I’m reading regularly, even if I don’t always have the time or energy to blog about it. I realized the other day that I’m over half way done with my challenge, and I’m both amazed at how quickly the time has gone and how eager I am to see what books I’ll read in this second half of the year and what they’ll mean to me. Any suggestions??