Book Recs from a not-so-average American
Unlike my flaky Bay Area friends, books will always be there.
Cherry blossoms are blooming and so is my reading appetite. I set my goal this year to read 20 books on Goodreads, which is on a slow start. But my life didn’t start 2020 on solid footing with a recent breakup and frankly a debilitating culture at my tech job. Despite these times of uncertainty, I’m in good hands, because books will always be there, a sign of stability in my life.
Spring is here. Enough with the incandescent, tungsten light that dimly taints my reading experience. Let’s flip through those pages under the February sun, pink bursts of Cherry Blossoms by your side and make 2020 an intellectual year.
Here are 5 fun reads that I recently enjoyed.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by W. Finnegan
The memoir is relentless in covering surfing encounters from innocent dwarf waves in Waikiki to monstrous ones in Fiji. However, this is not about surfing at all. In his adventures, Finnegan is not lost in his treasure hunt for waves, he is determined to grow, but with an asterisk. He is extremely intellectual in his memories and shows his transformation from a surfing boy to a journalist. He still surfs though. He may trap you in his technical descriptions of waves.
Pachinko by M. Lee
Little were historical contexts of this nature covered in my high-school history class. This isn’t about colonialism from a textbook’s perspective, rather it is about colonialism on the Korean and Japanese cultures. I resonate with Lee’s writing style because it reminds me of home. This one is sad, touching, and may bring you down. Also, this is certainly not about gambling (Pachinko — パチンコ is a gambling machine in Japan) because gambling is a choice, a luxury.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by O. Vuong
I‘m a sucker for poetry. Vuong taught me I’m an even bigger sucker for poetic novels. Much like how art can convey in ways words cannot, Vuong delivers in his poetry. The analogies he produces are heavy with emotion and disturbingly speaks the truth. I wonder what his pauses are like when he wrote this piece. I also liked how he worked his way through segments of his life, hopping back and forth in history, but continuing on a main trajectory to his ultimate message. What a fun, playful, yet painfully sad read. I got a rush of the inner poet in me.
Uncanny Valley by A. Wiener
I knew that her story would be too close to home and from how Wiener narrates her views on Silicon Valley in the New Yorker. It was painful to read not because of the hard truths conveyed in the toxic culture surrounding tech corporations, but her yearnings, little by little, that makes me feel so empty too. Weiner is whimsical with her words and expects you to know the FANG stock companies in the Bay Area. I love her writing style and wish that her message could be tailored to those beyond Silicon Valley. She most certainly knows the tech jargon to the point where it is humorous. I feel that she wrote this memoir a bit too soon. Next time you have books like “How to Build a Billionaire Startup”, try giving this a try instead.
Born a Crime by T. Noah
Because I’m a vivid fan of the “Daily Show”, I didn’t have any trouble hearing Trevor Noahs’ voice throughout this piece. I felt like I wa
s with to him in post-apartheid South Africa, running and running and running… He is very much hilarious and I’ve never met Trevor’s mum, but I love her already.