I’m a Bay Area native with deep roots on both sides of the Bay. I currently live in the Oakland hills and work in Menlo Park. I love everything the Bay Area has to offer, especially its vibrant culture and natural beauty.
What I’m reading this week: “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles. 😀📚 Imagine being a member of the wealthy aristocracy in a grand city in the early 20th century. Your days and nights are filled with social encounters and clever repartee in every breathing moment. Servants are all around you, never betraying any hint of resentment at their confinement to a lower station, nor anything but utter contentment and devotion to their task of tending to your every need. Even when confined to house arrest by the Bolsheviks after the revolution has wiped out the old social order and replaced it with a new one, your prison is a luxury hotel, as befits your station. And naturally, the hotel is filled with interesting characters from every slice of the social strata with whom you may engage in fascinating conversations to pass the time and reinforce your social mastery though your sterling wit and charm. This is the world of “A Gentleman in Moscow,” and like a dinner guest who is impeccably charming, cultivated and au courant, the novel is endlessly entertaining — though the endless part sometimes obscures the entertainment. A well-fashioned escape into a rose-colored fantasy of old-world high society, set against the backdrop of a people’s revolution to provide essential cover for the reader to indulge in the guilty pleasure of high society role-play. The writing, especially the dialogue, is first-class and the plot development, though predictable at times, is interesting and keeps the pages turning. A pleasant and lightly edifying read, tailor-made for a richly costumed historical fiction film adaptation.
What I’m reading this week: The Secret of Thunder Mountain, by Fran Striker
The photos tell the story of this vintage adventure from 1952. Set in the deserts of the American Southwest, at the dawn of the nuclear era. A land of grit and desolation, where bold and wild characters search for rocks worth more than gold. Fran Striker’s journalistic writing style lends credence to the stark comic relief. Irony from another era. The descriptions and dialogue surrounding the gigantic main character, Gulliver bouncing over desert rocks in his customized jeep, are surprisingly entertaining. An unsung classic of the genre. #franstriker #bookreview
What I’m reading this week: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. 🔥📚
Where do we follow the rules, and where do we justify breaking them? Do our pasts determine what we deserve in the future? And is it ever possible to leave your past behind? These are some of the questions I hope the novel raises. —Celeste Ng, from the Penguin Readers Guide
What I’m reading this week: “Lost in a good game,” by Pete Etchells 🕹💡📖 Is it worse for young people to experience killing and death IRL (in real life), or in a video game? This is not merely an academic question. Deranged individuals now regularly commit IRL mass shootings using IRL weapons of war to murder innocent people. Yet those weapons of war only exist because they are used every day for the IRL official killing and death of people in less fortunate countries around the world. Are video games to blame for real deaths? Or are video games merely another vivid example of art imitating life? This book takes the latter view, and begins by sharing how video games actually helped the author, a psychologist, cope with the death of a loved one. Video games do not cause violent deaths— they are works of art that provide a dearly needed respite from the harshest realities of a dangerous real world beyond our control, according to the author. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this interesting book to learn how this thesis plays out. 📚
Time flies, books endure. 📚💡Photo of Kepler’s Books as it appeared in 1968. Kepler’s has been a beloved local mainstay since 1955. Its historic roots took hold during the counterculture revolution of the 1950’s and 1960’s, when Roy Kepler founded the shop to encourage social activism and democratize reading. In its heyday, Kepler’s was a cultural epicenter with a loyal following among Beat intellectuals, pacifists, Stanford students and faculty, and book lovers of all stripes for its commitment to fostering the exchange of “serious books and ideas.” Among many notable visitors over the years, the Grateful Dead and folk singer Joan Baez often appeared at Kepler’s holding impromptu salons to discuss ideas, political action, and music.
What I’m reading this week: “What is not yours is not yours” 📚🗝😀 by Helen Oyeyemi. I’m loving this collection of dreamlike short stories that turns on the idea of keys as a metaphor for our hidden perceptions. A refreshing stream of clear, evocative, sparse yet mesmerizing prose that ebbs and flows into ever deeper locks of subconscious meaning and insight as each story unfolds. The tales are interlocking, but in a wholly unexpected way, which adds to its brilliance. Not for the overly literal, despite its declarative style. A breakthrough, transcendent voice. Can’t wait to read more.
What I’m reading this week: “Baracoon: the story of the last black cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston
The story of Oluale Kossola, survivor of the last known slave ship to cross the Atlantic, told in his own words. In 1927, famed anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston spent three months with the then-eighty-six-year-old Lewis to preserve his story.
Kossola vividly describes being captured by a rival village in Africa as a young man, sold into slavery and shipped to America. He tells of his years in cruel bondage followed by chimeric emancipation after the civil war, and of being marooned for life in an inhospitable new world with no means to ever return to his home in Africa.
Hurston took great pains to preserve Kossola’s singular linguistic and storytelling style, which she rightly viewed as essential to the authentic voice of his experience. She allows Kossula to bring his stories to life in his own words, and deftly weaves together the historical details with spellbinding mastery. An uniquely poignant and irreplaceable landmark of American history and culture.
What I’m reading this week: “The Soul of an Octopus,” by Sy Montgomery
Strange and beautiful, weirdly intelligent, cold yet emotive, octopuses are in a word, fascinating. Octopuses see and feel the world around them in profoundly different ways then we do. Each tentacle has its own network of neurons—a mind of its own.
What I love about this book is how the author describes her interactions with captive octopuses in tanks, caressing them with her hands and arms, holding and being held by them. She documents each experience in lavish detail and with deep emotion, much to the book’s benefit. The book’s middle section sags when she dives into lengthy, sometimes boring technical descriptions of her scuba diving trips.
The big takeaway of this book for me is that octopuses are incredibly complex, intelligent and emotionally aware creatures. Montgomery emphasizes this fact over and over again, which naturally raises the question of whether these curious, self-aware creatures should even be kept in captivity. Octopuses are notorious escape artists, to the point of knowingly risking their lives to get out of aquarium tanks. She ultimately takes a position on the question, however indirectly, and I found myself disagreeing with her, even to my own surprise. I will leave it to you to read the book and decide for yourself.
For aquarium lovers and animal rights enthusiasts alike, “The Soul of an Octopus” is a stimulating close-up look at one of Earth’s most interesting and enigmatic inhabitants.