Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summer Reading List 09'

It’s been a while since I made a reading list. Actually, it’s been a while since I actually had the time to read for pleasure. I have been so caught up in “suggested readings” and “mandatory readings” and oodles of newspapers just to keep up to speed during the school week that I forgot how much I loved reading.

About two months ago, I picked up a book- and after the first chapter, I remembered. I remembered how much I love reading. That evening, I went to the bookstore and spent a months worth of rent on books. I have been reading and reading and reading. On planes, in bed, in taxis, I never fail to have a book under my arm. I’m trying to get it all in before September comes around and I have to once again put down my books and pick up my case studies and immerse myself in another type of daily activity.

At the moment though- I’m enjoying my reading. And today, after weeks and weeks of nothing but reading- I have decided to share my list for anyone else who loves reading and has forgotten to do it lately.

I know that the list below is not what one would expect to find on a current MBA student’s “summer reading list” but as I say- to each his own!

I must warn though that there are a number of books I am not the proudest to say I own. These are the “girly books” with curvy text and fluorescent covers. I can’t help it. 1. I like these books. I breeze through them and as I am reading them, I escape- the epitome of “Beach reading” because I wouldn't be caught dead in a meeting with any of these books in hand. Secondly, I am not in the US and therefore, the English sections of the local bookstores are sparse. The only other options I have are airport bookstores in which one can find the “Top Ten International Bestsellers” and every version of Angels and Demons that was ever published. (I’ve read it three times.)

So without further ado, here are all the books I’ve read thus far this summer along with my thoughts. I pretty much enjoyed every single one of them, however uncomplicated they may be;

Marian Keyes- The Other Side of The Story (fun fast read)

Jodi Picoult- Mercy (heavy but good)

Jonathan Safran Foer- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (my favorite book of the summer…even better, in my opinion, than Everything is Illuminated!)

Jennifer Weiner- The Guy Not Taken (don't read this one! It's a collection of short stories…not the greatest!)

Bernhard Schlink- The Reader (slow…the movie is probably better)

Stephenie Meyer- Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn (Twilight is great, gets you hooked, the second and third books are incredibly boring. Breaking Dawn was exciting but Meyer could have cut out about half of it.)

John Grisham- Playing For Pizza, The Innocent Man (pizza was one of the worst books I’ve ever read and the latter was fabulous…its Grisham’s first non-fiction)

Hemingway- The Sun Also Rises (again. Always great.)

David Sedaris- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (same as the rest of Sedaris’ stuff)

Ann Patchett- The Magician’s Assistant (enthralling)

Julia Glass- Three Junes (a little slow but a good read)

James Collins- Beginner’s Greek (loved it)

Ali Smith- The Accidental (just started it but good so far)

A few further thoughts;

I do wish John Irving would write another book.

I’m glad the twilight series is over.

Recommendations welcome…I’m running out of ideas.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I was thinking about perfection- the concept of perfection; its meaning- its implications, its consequences.

Perfection, according to sources, is “a state of completeness and flawlessness.” In this life, in work and within ourselves, many of us strive for perfection. Others say that it's the imperfections that make life interesting- it's the imperfections that make people interesting. However- there are flashes and glimpses of perfection that we sometimes feel or see- and they often define our memories- the best of our memories.

I have begun to believe that I would rather everything around me be flawed than come close to perfection without ever reaching it.

I suppose it is a subjective concept- that of perfection. I can see something as perfect- a work of art, a person, a building- and I could be the only one in the world who sees it that way. Which, alternatively, would make me imperfect. Or it would mean that my opinions are imperfect- according to everyone but me, that is.

As for relationships- and the people in them- an individual can be perfect for one and completely unsuitable for another. So does perfection really exist at all? What I am beginning to realize is that “close to perfection” is easy.  And oftentimes, coming close is worse than being completely off…like a silver medal in the Olympics or being the 2nd man on the moon. Who remembers the number twos? Furthermore, the closer something comes to perfection- a situation, an endeavor- there always seems to be a bottomless supply of obstacles that will continue to pop up rendering perfection impossible. Sometimes striving for perfection could very well be striving for the impossible and therefore, maybe it is in all of our best interests to be happy with what is- instead of what can never be.

About a week ago, I had an evening that bordered on perfect- it was one of those nights when almost everything fit into place and, momentarily, I felt utterly satisfied. Before I even finished defining my mood, I realized that someone was missing- and this absence tainted everything- it made it all imperfect…it made me sad.

It was then that I realized maybe coming “close to perfect” causes more pain than never nearing it in the first place. The missing piece of the evening served as a piercing reminder of the pieces that should have been there, shaping themselves into what can be defined as “flawlessness.”

“Perfect” is an adjective that we (I) throw into casual conversation too loosely. Maybe we (I) shouldn't even bother striving for perfection in the first place. Because wouldn't something perfect be called so by universal standards? And wouldn't that mean it is uniform in form and undistinguished in existence? I could never consider “ordinary” perfect.

Take a person- a model even. He or she may be “referred to” as perfect but clearly there is something particular about their faces or their bodies- something that the camera catches and turns into beauty- something imperfect. And if this model were “perfect” wouldn't there be thousands of other individuals out there just like them? And that wouldn't make them perfect at all- it would make them clones- moving mannequins.

Maybe I’m being abstract here- or not abstract enough. But I’ve had a few experiences lately that pushed me to ponder perfection. One was a conversation with my mother the other evening- where we spoke about my future- where I will be what I will be doing. We differed on a few points. It was then that I said that I had always tried to be perfect for her. And suddenly, it hit me that perfect for her is not necessarily perfect for me and I have been wrong all along. This “perfect” that I speak of could never exist- because there would be at least one party unhappy with the results.

Going back to the previous discourse- the notion of the “almost perfect” evening was where I am right now, in Rome. It was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo and in order to commemorate the event, Moby held a concert in Piazza del Popolo. I was the guest in a spectacular apartment looking right over the stunning piazza, surrounded by friends in an ideal atmosphere in an ideal city on an ideal night. 

I found myself hanging out the window with a swaying glass of wine in hand listening to one of my all-time favorite performers from my birds-eye view play the songs that have held so much meaning for me throughout my many experiences. I sat there smiling and mouthing (like a dork) the words that I know by heart- when a particular song came on. It was a song that holds significance with one person- and I turned around only to realize that he wasn't there with me. And there was no person in the world I would have rather shared that moment with than him. And all this “perfection” came crashing down and turned into imperfection in a flash of an instant.

It was then that I realized that I would have been better off not having “almost” reached perfection at all because the absence of this person would have been barely felt and the emotional capitulation of the evening would have never existed.

Maybe, for me, imperfection is as close to perfection as I will ever get.