Nothing exemplifies the transitoriness of life more to me than the month of May. I have watched bewildered as a friendship crumbled because someone struggled to stand up and be counted. I have seen in a month that nothing we imagine is ever as it is. That we can go back on words. That we can renege on our promises. That our compassion only stretches so much. That our sense of understanding becomes clouded with anger. That the patterns of behavior we try so hard to break out of sometimes become the death trap of comfort that we lull ourselves with. There is so much that can change and our unhappiness always lies in our resistance to it.
But to the reading. This then was my reading in May:
Books read in May
Number of pages
Average book length
Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron; Charlotte’s Web by EB White
“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.” – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
The Ice Beneath Her: Camilla Grebe
This was one of those mindless escapist books you have to read once in a while when you can’t concentrate too much. Supposed to be a psychological thriller, this book had its moments, but it’s not one of the books I am going to remember for a long time.
Charlotte’s Web: EB White
I had watched the movie version of this quaint children’s classic many years ago while in China. I had loved the movie then. I loved the book now. I read this in full illustrated print format, which doubled the joy of reading. Charlotte, the spider, almost made me cry in the end. I had never heard of balloon spiders till I read this book. I always find it sad to sweep away cobwebs in my apartment, which leaves some of my more cleanliness-obsessed friends rather aghast when they come visiting. Wilbur was cute, but I felt he was too lost in his own pity. Charlotte was such a hero, and the kind of friend I wished I had in my life.
“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Roald Dahl
So, I have to be 37 to finally read my first Roald Dahl book! This is one of the all-time classics in Children’s Literature. I haven’t seen the movie, but I can imagine it would give me a frightful headache. There was something too predictable about this book.
Gathering Blue: Lois Lowry
A rather disappointing ‘sequel’ to ‘The Giver,’ I was aware that the stories in this quartet are not meant to be linked. The book still creates a vision of a frightening world – a world where we mock the ones in pain and abandon those who are hurt. I can relate. I think the further two books in this quartet will tie up the loose ends from the first book and bring all the characters together.
A Monster Calls: Patrick Ness
I read this book with a friend who chose not to be a friend again. The monster in this book made me think. Is it really fantasy? Is the monster just Conor’s imagination? How do you deal with the impending loss of your loved one? I don’t think you can ‘deal’ with such things. You just figure out the monsters and demons that attack us during the day and torment us during the night. You just fight your own battles. And you find that you are never alone in that fighting.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Benjamin Alire Sanchez
This was my first diverse reading for this year. I am trying to read more books from genres I have previously neglected. Birdy recommended this book to me and I ended up highlighting quite a few passages in the book. I am not too sure that the ending was not all that contrived, but well, I can’t complain about everything.
Looking for Alaska: John Green
This book almost made me cry. That’s saying a lot. Believe me. I am slowly becoming a fan of John Green. I think his books all occupy one theme: a suffering woman, a boy who is secretly in love with her, and a bunch of friends. The suffering woman here is Alaska. The boy in love with her is Miles. But there was something poignant about this book.
“The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”
I want to know how to do that. I so want to.
Buddha Doodles: Imagine the Possibilities: Molly Hahn
I wasn’t aware of the Internet celebrity status of Molly Hahn until a friend started sharing these cute doodles. I read the book on the Kindle, which I don’t recommend for reading books like these. The Kindle I love, but it has its limitations when it comes to picture-heavy books or graphic novels. But reading these doodles is a bit like Zen meditation. Just one cup of words at a time and beautiful images by the side.
Taking The Leap: Pema Chodron
How can I love Pema more? I don’t think I can. Taking The Leap is another beautiful book of wisdom. It’s ironic that just a few days after reading this book together, my friend and I fell back into our old habits. Moving past our old habits is just what Pema suggests as a way of transformation. This book I learnt about ‘shenpa,’ and as with all the other Tibetan Buddhist concepts I have picked up in her other books, this is explained in so lucid a manner that you realize and understand immediately. May taught me this very well. Everything changes. Oh. So fast.
“Everything is impermanent. Everything is always changing—fluid, unfixed, and open. Nothing is pin-down-able the way we’d like it to be. This is not actually bad news, but we all seem to be programmed for denial. We have absolutely no tolerance for uncertainty.”
Radical Compassion: Shambala Publications
This was a book that I received for free on the Kindle. Shambala Publications disseminates Pema Chodron’s teachings. This compact book tries to tell us the nature of compassion and taught me a lot of hard truths about my own search for compassion. How easily I can throw away compassion! How do we trap ourselves in our own self-serving compassion! Life is throwing me a long curved march into the wisdom of my foolishness.