What I Read This Week

Ranging across fiction, ancient recounts, and semi-recent historical stories, all of which had the common theme of being deeply depressing, this was a week of tear-jerking content.

First up, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

I started out loving this book, it was witty, interesting, and fun. However, after the first 200 pages of this book, which had their own twists of sadness and general depressing developments, the remaining 400 pages reached levels of incredible darkness. It was remarkable to go from loving a book and thinking “I’m going to recommend this to everyone” to, “I’m not sure if I would wish reading this book upon anyone.” 

Overall, the author, Hanya, has such a deep understanding of humans that I’m deeply appreciative of having been able to read her writing. Here are a few of my favorite snippets.

“He had lured them over with the promise of pizza and beer to help him braid, but after many hours of tedious work, it became clear that there was no pizza and beer forthcoming, and they left, a little irritated but not terribly surprised.”

“Friendship, companionship, so often defied logic, so often alluded to the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.”

“He was astonished but relieved by how easily they accepted that, and how grateful too for their self-absorption. None of them really wanted to listen to someone else’s story anyway; they only wanted to tell their own.”

“He was never above grabbing onto someone else’s discomfort as a way of deflecting attention from his own.”

“The only trick of friendship I think is to find people who are better than you are – not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving – and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself – no matter how bad – or good – it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. but the best as well.”

“And there’s going to be a ton of other people we haven’t seen in forever – maybe there’s a reason we haven’t seen them…”

“Dorothy Wharton asked me tonight how it felt waking up each morning knowing I’d sacrifice yet another piece of my soul the day before.”

The Deal Of A Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

This is a short children’s chapter book that touches on some profound questions about how one spends their life. I wouldn’t say this is a must-read or something I would recommend but it’s not something you’ll be sad you read either. Some favorite snippets below.

“Everyone is always negotiating all of the time. You’re doing the deal of your life, every day. This is mine.”

“The mother asked, who do you want to invite to your next birthday party? Even though there wouldn’t be a next one. And the girl played along, reeling off the names of everyone she loved. It’s a long list when you’re five. That morning, I was on it.”

Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

The same authors of this book wrote the wildly popular book Killing Lincoln, which I’ve heard great about but have never read myself. This book was written with the intent to be purely historical. Informing readers about what Jesus really did and said, and what truly happened to Him. Although this is much more readable than many historical books, I was hoping for a bit more color and found it to be dry at times.

I was surprised to learn a few things. First, the sum of money that Judas betrayed Jesus for was four months’ wages. I also didn’t know that Joseph, Jesus’s father, dies when Jesus is between the age of thirteenth and thirtieth birthday, significantly sooner than his mother Mary. The book also ends after Jesus died. The authors add in the Afterword the scriptural teachings of what happened to the body but do not include it as “fact”. Apparently, both of the authors are Roman Catholics which I didn’t know when I got the book.

“This book is dedicated to those who love their neighbor has themselves”

Diary of Anne Frank

She’s witty. She’s self-aware, she’s deeply introspective, she’s Anne Frank. I had never read this biography front to back and the mood struck me while browsing the biographies section. I was not disappointed. I also found it especially humorous that Anne didn’t think her writings would amount to anything. “I seriously doubt whether anyone will ever be interested in this drivel. They’ll probably call it “The Musings of an Ugly Duckling.”” The most depressing part about this book is the ending, which is so abrupt it requires a double take to confirm what just happened. A seemingly typical day is journaled and then we have a note about how everyone but Anne’s father died, who then edited her journals and published them (it’s worth noting that Anne started writing them about halfway through with the thought that they might be turned into some kind of recount in the future.)

Some of my favorite snippets, below.

“Will the reader please take into consideration that this story was written before the writer’s fury had cooled?”

“Always studying and never progressing.”

“I’ve always had to pay double for my sins once with scolding and then again with my own sense of despair.”

“A friend can’t take the place of a mother. I need my mom to set a good example and be a person I can respect.”

“The more quiet and serious I am on the inside the noisier I get on the outside! Who will be the first to discover the clink in my armor?”

“I want friends, not admirers. People who respect me for my character and my deeds, not my flattering smile. The circle about me could be much smaller, but what does that matter, as long as they are sincere?”

“In spite of everything, I wasn’t altogether happy in 1942. I often feel I’d been deserted, but because I was on the go all day long. I didn’t think about it. I enjoyed myself as much as I could, trying consciously or unconsciously to fill the void with jokes.”

“A person who’s happy will make others happy a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery”

“So onward and upward with renewed spirits. It’ll all work out, because I’m determined to write!”

“I also have a brand new prescription for gunfire jitters. When the shooting gets loud, proceed to the nearest wooden staircase. Run up and down a few times, making sure to stumble at least once. What with the scratches and the noise of running and falling you won’t even be able to hear the shooting, much less worry about it. Yours truly has put this magic formula to use with great success.”

“But where there’s hope, there’s life.”

“Like many men, he doesn’t seem to know what fear is – an enviable trait!”

“I’m what a romantic is to a profound thinker – a mere diversion, a comic interlude, something that is seen forgotten; not bad but not particularly good.”

Happy reading, see you next week.

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