I trekked across Eastern Toronto across snow covered asphalt yesterday. It looked like the city was having a tantrum. Snow lightly held to the ground, gave up and was flying away, angrily. Like pollens from an overripe flower. Where ever you all are, I hope beauty, however small, has found its way into your day.
Everyone who has access to a library with overdrive, do yourself a favour and sign up for a library card. You have the whole wonderful world at your fingertips.
P.S. Libby, overdrive’s mobile app, is thoughtfully designed.
Currently listening to The Varieties of Religious Experience (paperback, libby), a book published in 1905. 116 years.
I think back to what I imagined the future to be when I a kid. In the horrendous assault for our attention, these are the tiny slivers of wonder.
Moar books from 2021 #
The world of science is poetic by its very nature. Beauty unfurling in every new concept we learn. Carlo Rovelli unveils the deep beauty of contemporary physics in this small volume by breaking down competing/complimentary ideas. Simon Carnell and Erica Segre translation carries over that poetic magic from the original italian into english wonderfully.
Annaka Harris looks at the fundamental mystery of being a sentient being. Starting from the hard problem of consciousness, "How could something appear out of nothing?". We are taken on a whirlwind exploration of different theories. Anna settles on panpsychism, further analyzing if it makes the cut.
- Sapiens (paperback)
I am a good ten years behind when it comes to Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens. This is book of massive ambition, filled to the brim with ideas. Ideas that will take me years to grapple with.
Siddhartha Mukherjee, a brilliant science communicator, dives deep into the history and legacy of cancer. The people involved in the war against it. With their massive personalities and even massive hubris of conquering a disease that keeps shifting the rules of the game.
Under the surface, it's a book about the nature of the practice of medicine. Ideas and methodologies, good and bad, take generations to change. Good ideas are often ignored and lost, if not for the persistence of their creators. This book uncovers the systemic rot deep in the bones of the medical infrastructure.
“The daimon is a kind of twin that prowls alongside, is most often vivid when things are tough, that pushes you toward the life you signed up to live before you fell into the amnesia of birth and forgot the whole affair.” says Mary Ruelfe. With an ingenious eye, she proceeds to question how imagination is both "my own best friend and my own worst enemy.". A shadow companions in our time of loneliness. At the same time, allowing terrifying thoughts to take over your head.
I wrote about how the cinematic medium, even in the hands of competent director, can find itself lacking when transforming this book for the big screen. Particularly one that straddles seamlessly between mythology, geo politics and world-building.
One wouldn’t think that 12th century historical fiction about a group of nuns would be interesting. But, I was hooked. We follow Marie exiled by her Queen to an abbey, which she eventually leads into prosperity. A Journey of her heart from self-pity to truly caring about her sisterhood. Along the way battling with her own personal aspirations and ego.
With complete control over the prose, Lauren Groff builds this world with a lot of care.
Marie looks from the mother whom time has coarsened to her fresher likeness in the girl, and does not say that beauty is the great deceiver, that it is harder and not easier to become saintly when one has been born with it, that ordinary women become more holy only when the dew of youth has passed from their bodies and the small humiliations and stamps of age have pressed themselves through the skin and into the bone.
To think: All the hatred so deep inside Marie when she was young has, through the pressure of time, somehow turned to love.
Now that’s just poetry!
Denis Johnson’s cutting look at Americana through episodic and disorienting storytelling. A set of darkly hilarious, empathetic and deeply sad stories about lost souls. People sailing through the fringes of society. A book that is hard to categorize. One of the best reads of 2021.
“All these weirdos, and me getting a little better every day right in the midst of them. I had never known, never even imagined for a heartbeat, that there might be a place for people like us.”
A dueling narrative between Daniel H. Burnham and H.H. Holmes. Between two people driven by two different needs. Burnham want to build the greatest expo the world has ever seen. An expo in which the world was exposed to things that have become household names now. Holmes, America’s first serial killer who leverages the chaos around 1893 Chicago World's Fair to do his killings.
Deeply researched and exquisitely written. Another book I couldn’t stop reading until I finished it.
- Walking - Henry David Thoreau (standard ebooks - free)
If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again,—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.
Thoreau’s love letter to walking, which he calls a “direct dispensation from Heaven”. Beauty and harmony, he says, lies in and around us. All we need to do is walk and look. Houses, fences, man and his affairs all fall away like background noise. Then the beauty of the mundane shows itself. All we need to do is heed the call to walk.