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Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested

(Francis Bacon)

I love to read across all genres: non-fiction, fiction, poetry, biography, memoir, history, and science. Here are my notes and thoughts on some of my recent favorite reads.


By: Miranda July
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Finished: 2021-08-05

I absolutely loved this book for how weird it was. The story was strange and I’ve never read anything like it....
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By: Laura Esquivel
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Finished: 2021-08-03

This was such a lovely book and I absolutely adored the style, the writing, and the story. I recommend this book for anyone seeking stories with magical realism as well as beautiful writing about family and relationships....
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By: Louis de Bernières
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Finished: 2021-07-21

While the writing was quite beautiful for the book, and I immensely enjoyed the magical realism, I did find myself losing the storyline at times and mixing up some of the characters....
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By: Lin Cixin
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Finished: 2021-06-23

This book was one of the worst books I’ve read. While the Three Body Problem was actually a lot better, this book kind of made me want to vomit. In terms of storyline, it was okay … the details of the futuristic society felt a bit tacky and shoddy and not well thought out. Especially the societal values of the underground society felt really handwavy. The science part of the spaceships and the space wars were cool, as were the book’s way of addressing the Fermi paradox....
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By: Ocean Vuong
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Finished: 2021-05-20

A very lovely book with such beautiful writing style. It is a coming-of-age story, written by the author as a letter to his mother, of him grappling with his Asian-American identity, of his relationships with his mother and grandmother, and with his sexuality. Every page read like the most beautiful poetry....
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By: Lin Cixin
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Finished: 2021-04-09

I enjoyed this book quite immensely. It was a very well done piece of science fiction. Very creatively imagined world, and I loved the setting of it within the Cultural Revolution. Premise: a physicist (Ye) who has been extremely disillusioned by the Cultural Revolution loses faith in humanity, reaches out to extra-terrestial life to help rebuild and destroy humanity. In the end we get a glimpse into the alien life (Trisolaris), and we see that they are as afraid of humans as humans are of them....
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By: Audre Lorde
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Finished: 2021-03-27

Audre Lorde writes a biomythography of her life - part memoir, part coming-of-age story. Lorde, who was a Black lesbian feminist growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, constructs her own story of her own life, and it is obvious in the characteristics and elements she highlights in this book. Rather than letting the outside world dictate what parts of her life must have been important, she chooses to tell her story in her own way....
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By: Ruth Ozeki
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Finished: 2020-09-22

A Tale for the Time Being is a lovely book with parallel narrative in which an older woman (Ruth) finds the diary of a teenage girl (Nao). The narratives start to weave together - slowly, gently, like waves - so that by the end you don't know if Nao's narrative is affecting Ruth's or vice versa - or both. I got a lot of Murkami vibes but with less jagged edges and more smooth transitions....
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By: Caroline Criado Perez
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Finished: 2020-08-15

This book opened me up to so many new thinking spaces, and it was very influential in introducing me to so many new directions I can take my future career. So, in a way, very influential. This book reminded me that a dream or goal of working on lessening and improving the data gap is feasible, and that there is still so much work to be done, and that this is definitely a space that I can work in. ...
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By: Kang Chol-Hwan
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Finished: 2020-07-31

I am glad I read this book because I learned about the horrific situation of the North Korean gulags. However, perhaps because I read it right after reading 'Nothing to Envy', I didn't like it that much. Perhaps there is something to say about the translation as well, but the author felt really distant and formal. ...
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By: Bessel van der Kolk
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Finished: 2020-06-04

Dr. van der Kolk, who has worked with trauma patients for his entire career, shares his knowledge about trauma's influence on the body and the brain, and the interconnection between both. In the 'nature vs. nurture' argument, he (indirectly) seems to take a firm stance that nurture is possibly a lot more important than nature. van der Kolk argues that childhood abuse is perhaps one of America's biggest public health crises right now, and something that is not getting as much support and attention as it should....
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Exhalation

3.8 / 5
By: Ted Chiang
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Finished: 2020-05-20

I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of short stories. I normally do not read sci-fi, but I enjoyed all of Ted Chiang's short stories. Each story left me thinking about the common questions of humanity (who are we? are we special in the universe? what makes us human? do we have free will?). The technological elements of the stories were definitely really cool, but it felt like the main focuses of the stories were not the cool parts of technology, but rather the questions that humans have always asked about humanity, and will always continue to ask....
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By: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
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Finished: 2020-05-06

Overall I liked this book a lot. It was pretty easy to read in a refreshing way. Vonnegut was very funny. I liked the ways he made fun of humanity, religion, relationships, government, and basically everything else....
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By: Leslie Howsam
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Finished: 2020-05-01

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By: Salman Rushdie
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Finished: 2020-04-25

Classic Salman Rushdie book! I definitely enjoyed Rushdie's cleverness of puns, style, and writing. He covered a lot of ground. It was definitely long in span (breadth and depth). I was impressed with the level of detail he gave to every event and character....
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By: Stephen Hawking
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Finished: 2020-04-01

This book blew my mind away. The physical book that I read was published in 1988 and actually used by my dad when he was in college (so, it's really old). The thought that comes to mind is: How timeless is time. Or rather, how timeless is humanity's musing about time?...
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By: Fritjof Capra
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Finished: 2020-03-25

Leonardo Da Vinci's curiosity of learning transcended his art; he was always trying to understand the world he lived in (and all of its mysteries). He kept his scientific discoveries, explorations, and observations in his thousands of Notebooks, which he kept hidden while he was alive and the majority of which were not understood in their entirety until many hundreds of years after his death....
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By: Emily Brontë
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Finished: 2020-03-14

This book was my favorite book back in 8th grade. I re-read it again nearly ten years later, and I realize why I loved the book so much. It is so vivid and unique in its plot and characterization and spirit....
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By: Zora Neale Hurston
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Finished: 2020-03-04

I liked Their Eyes Were Watching God for its focus on the black community and its organic relationships rather than on the politics of race relations. I liked that the book wasn't a Big Bold Statement about Lynching or Running Away From Slavery or Jim Crowe or Reconstruction. It was about black people with other black people and their everyday lives removed from white people. Although they cannot be entirely removed from white people's negative influences (i.e. Mrs Turner and her obsession with whiteness, the white people at the end that force Tea Cake into grave digging), the focus of the book is NOT on white peoples' exploitation of black people, or on the relationship between black and white people. The book focused more on the black community and their loves and humor and dialogue and dialect and everyday happenings ... and, of course, the story of how a woman finds her independence....
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By: Gabriella Giannachi
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Finished: 2020-02-24

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By: Edith Wharton
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Finished: 2020-02-21

I'll be honest - I didn't like the first 3/4 of the book. But the ending was so well done. It was almost like Edith Wharton had to spend the first 200 pages of the book building up this world that was really stuffy, annoying, old-fashioned ('innocent')....
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By: Ian Milligan
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Finished: 2020-02-12

Milligan brings up a lot of important questions about what does an Internet archive, and, more broadly, what does an archive from present-day "digital day" look like, especially for historians of the future? I think this was a good place for me to start thinking about archives in relation to historical research, especially in the "digital age". I was a little bit disappointed because almost no mention of Asia. Everything seemed quite Euro-centric....
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By: Viet Thanh Nguyen
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Finished: 2020-02-02

Nguyen has such mastery with prose and I underlined so many passages just because the prose was so beautiful or creative. His vocabulary is immense and he utilizes words and phrases in such familiar and surprising ways that are so beautiful, profound, expressive, and poetic. Also I just found his tone and language so funny. I found the humor dark and filled with irony....
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By: Richard Dawkins
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Finished: 2020-01-27

This was an interesting book with a lot of interesting concepts. Parts felt repetitive. The parts I could resonate the most with were the parts where he gave concrete examples....
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Educated

4.0 / 5
By: Tara Westover
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Finished: 2020-01-14

I was very impressed with this book: by Tara Westover's amount of growth, her voice, her acknowledgements of possible inconsistencies (i.e. of differing accounts), her tale of resilience, and her incredible storytelling capabilities. The book felt very genuine and raw and honest and often I felt like I was right inside of her mind, and, despite how crazy some of the events seemed, experiencing them with her....
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By: Ted Underwood
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Finished: 2019-12-25

I enjoyed this book! Prof. Underwood has a very pleasant literary style. As a reader who is well versed in both historical ideas and computer science concepts, this book was quite a pleasure to read. The technical details of his methods were explained in a way that was easy to understand but also not too simplified....
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By: Margaret Atwood
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Finished: 2019-10-09

Binged in five hours on the plane. Felt like a very addictive tv show. Nuance in character development was really lacking. Story tied up too nicely such that the story arc felt very two dimensional....
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By: Celeste Ng
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Finished: 2019-10-03

Very lovely book. Since I read this right after Little Fires Everywhere, I immediately sensed that this book was earlier and that Ng's style was not as matured. There were a couple plot points that did not make as much sense and some weird stylistic things (maybe complexity felt a bit strained?) However in general I enjoyed the story a lot. So many feelings. So many secrets....
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By: Celeste Ng
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Finished: 2019-09-27

In general, this book spoke a lot to me, especially at this time of my life, when I am about to embark on a huge journey to discover what about my life is the most important to me. This is related to Mia's life as an itinerant artist, but also in general to the theme of 'little fires.' Following your passion. Not just following the prescribed rules....
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By: Sam Quinones
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Finished: 2019-08-17

I learned a lot from reading this book. I did not realize the opioid epidemic was such a big problem in the United States. I learned a lot about the Xalisco Boys, Big Pharma (especially Purdue and Oxycontin), the morphine molecule, and the scary addictive qualities of heroin. I liked that Quinones followed several different storylines, although that felt a little lost as I got near the end. I liked that he ended on a note of hope — that opiods, as an agent of change, has the potential to bring about positive changes in America, such as bringing about new communities....
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Dubliners

4.3 / 5
By: James Joyce
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Finished: 2019-07-25

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. I liked how characters were reused across the stories, which made them feel cohesive and fit together like a whole. It reminded me of snapshots into random peoples' lives in a community where some of the people are bound to interact with each other. ...
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Jazz

4.3 / 5
By: Toni Morrison
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Finished: 2019-07-16

This book is not about the complexity of the plot; it is about the complexity of the psyche. And it's similar to how a jazz standard opens — it states the 'plot' once, plainly, before going on to improvise. There are no secrets on the general skeleton of the plot. The rest of the book are the different improvisation sections....
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By: Mira T. Lee
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Finished: 2019-06-12

Stunningly written. This book really resonated with me. Lee pieced together so many different cultures and ideas in such a beautiful way. Her language was so well crafted and there was so much nuance to her story. Word pictures everywhere!!...
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By: Luis Alberto Urrea
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Finished: 2019-05-23

I really liked this book. It took place only over the span of a weekend. Urrea did a poignantly beautiful job describing the life of two men, interwoven for life....
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By: Hans Rosling
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Finished: 2019-04-23

I thought the book was easily consumable and had some good points. After the first 3 chapters, it got rather repetitive and the point was the same. I think this is one of those books that could have been distilled and reduced into one dense chapter or introductory essay. I appreciated Rosling’s stories and the diagrams were easy to understand....
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By: Atul Gawande
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Finished: 2019-04-15

In this book, Atul Gawande, a surgeon (and also Harvard professor and New Yorker staff writer…), addresses the issue of mortality and how many people in the US are not ready to face death when it finally comes. He used a lot of personal anecdotes as well as facts to drive home his main points. Reading this made me realize how much I haven’t yet come to terms with my own mortality....
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By: Kazuo Ishiguro
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Finished: 2019-03-12

I thought the story itself was interesting, but I felt like there were many holes left gaping at the end. The theme of amnesia and forgetfulness (the “buried giant”) was tied in nicely with the physical symbolism of the mist sweeping across the land....
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By: Doris Kearns Goodwin
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Finished: 2019-01-31

This was an amazing book. I learned so much from it and thoroughly enjoyed Goodwin’s writing. The book is very long and dense and thus took me a really long time to finish it. However, it was really worth my time and I learned a lot about Lincoln's personality, leadership, and character. Goodwin's comparative storytelling was very clever (widening the lens to tell not just Lincoln's story, but also the story of his closest family members, friends, and political rivals) and I think a more instructive, valuable, and well-rounded story than if she had only focused on Lincoln and his achievements....
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By: Rupi Kaur
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Finished: 2019-01-29

Very beautifully written. Rupi Kaur's words really resounded with me. I think she took her life and her experiences and her pain which many women share often (of heartbreak and pain and healing) and created something beautiful and uplifting....
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By: Heather Morris
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Finished: 2019-01-01

I found this book at the New Orleans airport right before my flight to Seattle and I picked it up because the title was compelling. This is the story of a Holocaust survivor named Lale with a unique and terrifying story filled with the worst of human horrors but also the simplest and most beautiful acts of love and human kindness....
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