Letters of Life

My Book List, Or A Day in the Life of.

I can dream, can’t I?

Unlike some, I can’t digest more than three, four, books at a shot. So thankfully, my list will be short.

But before that. Lists are always preceded by ‘Before thats’.

Laundry is always at the back of my mind. I take the heavy basket of clothes from one of the bedrooms and empty the contents into the drum of the washing machine. After I press ‘play’,  I walk past the fridge. I decide to open it and take out the empty glass bottles in the side of the door. I fill them with water, put them back, and head to the reading chair in the living room. I pass the dining table where a pile of textbooks, loose worksheets, pencils, are growing organically on the glass top. I ignore it.

I reach the reading chair and sit down. I get up again to get my reading glasses in the bedroom, half a mile away. I return to the chair, sit, stretch my legs, put on the glasses, and read. These are good days, when I can read slowly for at least an hour without interruption from the phone. Then I have to get up and prepare lunch for the 11-year-old, or take him to a class, or go out and get fresh ingredients for dinner. Or somebody can’t find their super-calculator, the printer is out of ink and there are no spare toner cartridges around. Another says, Can I get a haircut now? Yet another asks me what I know about the Libyan war. The painful fact is that Wikipedia has too many words on the subject. And no pressure, but the washing machine ended its cycle three hours ago and the damp clothes need to be taken out and put into the dryer or hung up or they will smell.

There are always end-tables and under-tables to tidy up. A book on Greek mythology lies opened on the sofa, the 15-year-old’s choice of late-night reading. And the anteroom where the shoe rack is? The floor is crowded with sneakers, sandals, running shoes, heels, ballet flats, work shoes. There are 10 people coming over for bible-study tonight. What am I doing about dinner?

A crowded house is a crowded mind. And so, there’s only room for three books.

They are:

1. The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer (1959). Harrer was an Austrian mountaineer who was in the team that successfully ascended the summit from the North Face of the Eiger in 1938. All previous attempts ended in death. Harrer also wrote Seven Years in Tibet, during which time he became a salaried official of the Tibetan government, translating foreign news, acting as Court photographer, and his strong friendship with the 14th Dalai Lama.

2. The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns (2009). This book is changing the way I look at missions, both at home and across borders. Giving financial aid to help the poor and the oppressed is but one part of the solution.

3. Walking with Gays: A Tale of Informed Compassion by Alex Tylee (2007). Written by a redeemed homosexual, this book discusses the struggles faced by someone who was torn between biblical beliefs about the gay lifestyle and her own inner longings and loneliness. More importantly, it makes a clear stand based on biblical teaching, discusses the common prejudices and assumptions held by opposing mindsets, and offers Christians a different perspective of an alternative lifestyle in a balanced and thoughtful way.

4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. In 1995, Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle magazine suffered a stroke, lapsed into a coma, and became paralyzed with locked-in syndrome, the only exception of some movement in his head and eyes. His right eye had to be sewn up due to an irrigation problem. The entire book was written by Bauby blinking his left eyelid, which took ten months (four hours a day). Using partner assisted scanning, a transcriber repeatedly recited a French language frequency-ordered alphabet (E, S, A, R, I, N, T, U, L, etc.), until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter. The book took about 200,000 blinks to write and an average word took approximately two minutes.

I’ve just finished It’s Not About You: A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business (2011).

I’m not doing any laundry today. But the shoes, the backpacks, and half-read issues of the London Review of Books are out in full-force today.


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