In late 2007 in order to clear my mind after some troubling emotional and mental times, I took on the task to reading more on a regular basis. My reading didn’t actually consist of just books, but also magazines and newspapers, that’s when my love for the Economist, The Atlantic and the Christian Science Monitor truly developed. In addition to these news sources I started to read books on Buddhism, specifically Zen Buddhism. I started meditating for a while, stopped, then started back again and read as much about Buddha as possible or Zen literature. It was all very interesting, but it did not stick. If I stop doing something for a few days its extremely hard for me to pick right back up.
But this post is not about my reading habits but about four books that I hold specially dear to my heart. Its quite hard to single four books since I have read many and in some way or form they have all touched me in some way. I’ll try to include some excerpts of my favorite passages if I can. It is nearly 2 a.m and I have been dealing with an awful case of insomnia lately. Let’s get started.
1. The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway. For those who know me, you know how much of a Hemingway nut that I am. My dad stayed with Hemingway for a weekend in 1959 and has been writing a book on and off since God knowns when about it. In our living room there is a picture of my dad and Hemingway standing outside La Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Its a great picture and for the longest time I thought that my dad was Hemingway in the picture since at the time my dad looked like Hemingway with the beard and all. Anyways, back to the book at hand; I remember reading The Old Man and the Sea for a book report in 5th grade. I was a bit nervous about reading it since Hemingway is my dad’s idol and I feared that I may not like the book and disappoint my dad. Despite this, I read the book and loved it. I received a good grade on my book report and continued to read as much Hemingway as I could. The Old Man and the Sea, as cliche as it is, will forever be special to me for truly introducing me to Hemingway.
“I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.” Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. . . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.
2. Illusions- Richard Bach. I was digging through the many bookshelves that we have in our tiny apartment one day in middle school and discovered this book. I asked my dad about it and told me to just read it to form my opinion. Its a quick read, less than 200 pages so you should be able to finish it fairly quickly, but its an extremely interesting and deep book. I remember lending my copy to several friends of mine throughout high school and they being blown away by the book despite being so simple. Whenever I need a good quote or just to get my mind off things I take my copy and leaf through it to calm me down and to clean my head.
A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed, it feels an impulsion….this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reason and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons.
3. The Razor’s Edge- W. Somerset Maugham. I was first introduced to The Razor’s Edge in an introduction to philosophy class in high school where we watched the Bill Murray movie. Years after my best friend Joe and I decided that we should start a book club with several of our friends and the first book chosen was The Razor’s Edge. I could not put this book down. Maugham writes stupendously and the characters that he created are based on real people that he met. Everyone in our club took something away from Larry, the main character in the book. Who didn’t want to be him? He sets off to find some transcendent meaning in his life and travels all over, meets all sorts of different people and suffering some very painful tragedies a long the way. Supposedly the story is based on Guy Hague, an American mining engineer that Maugham knew. I wish I had my copy because then I would be able to actually quote my favorite passage from the book, which is the part where Larry travels to India and witnesses a sunrise and achieves Nirvana.
You Europeans know nothing about America. Because we amass large fortunes you think we care for nothing but money. We are nothing for it; the moment we have it we spend it, sometimes well, sometimes ill, but we spend it. Money is nothing to us; it’s merely the symbol of success. We are the greatest idealists in the world; I happen to think that we’ve set our ideal on the wrong objects; I happen to think that the greatest ideal man can set before himself is self-perfection.
4. Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling. I know I am cheating a bit by listing the entire book series, but I can’t help it. I love this series. It has always been a big part of my life. Many tears have been shed from laughing or from crying at sad parts in the book. The best written chapter in my opinion (do not continue if you don’t want any spoilers!) is Ch. 34 of Deathly Hallows in which Harry marches to the Forbidden Forest to face Voldermort and face his doom. On his way, he sees the spirit of his mother, father, Godfather Sirius and that of recently killed Remus. It is such an emotional chapter and the best written. Here Harry knows that in order for Voldermort to die he has to be killed first and that it is up to Neville to make sure that Voldermort is killed.
He wanted to be stopped, to be dragged back, to be sent back home…
But he was home. Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known. He and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here…
Odd listing of books, no? I think so.