Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: books


Once again, months have passed and I haven’t written. There are several reasons for this.  A few to be named here:

  • I haven’t been traveling to exotic lands (thus no cool photos to share).
  • I haven’t done much cooking experimentation (thus no recipes to share).
  • I haven’t felt inspired much to write.

But a lot’s happened.  Here’s a recap of sorts, in no particular order.

I almost got laid off at work but then got promoted instead.  So I don’t think this is usually how life works, but I lucked out in knowing one of the VPs in charge of a whole restructuring/ lay-off process at my workplace, and I think that’s how I got kept on board. So the job has been more interesting than it was a few months prior.  More challenging, more creative thinking, more use of my whole brain.  I still think about what I want to do next.  But for now, I’ve only been at this job about six months, and I’m settling in.  Next is to ask for a raise (which didn’t happen when I got promoted – it didn’t seem appropriate to ask when the reason for the restructure was a big budget hole!).

I traveled quite a bit for work.  This was before the restructure.  I got the lucky role of traveling to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Columbia, MO, and Kansas City, MO during the coldest months of the year (January and February).  You know people always say travel for work sounds cool but isn’t really.  And I would concur.  Traveling is fun.  Work can be fun, but not all the time.  Traveling for work is just work.  I didn’t get a chance to explore any of the cities I visited, so no photos to share.  And I saw snow in almost every city.

I reunited with my girlfriends from college in Philadelphia which was great fun!  We ate.  At Morimoto (see a sample of a dish from the omakase below).  At Parc Bistro in Rittenhouse Square.  At Reading Terminal Market. Cafe Lift for brunch.  I have to say we did fairly well.  We even topped it off with cheap Chinese takeout at a place across the street from the weekend apartment rental we were staying at.  Reminded us of the good ol’ college days.


We sightsaw. We went to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and even did the free tour of the hall inside.  We walked down Walnut Street to do some window shopping. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.  We saw some of the famous Philadelphia street sculptures. And we did this all without a car and without using public transportation.  We’re walkers!


And we just hung out. Good quality girl time.

I experimented with more sourdough.  I got a gift of homemade Bay Area sourdough starter and started making some loaves.  Some turned out better than others, and here’s the best loaf I was able to make using this recipe.  It was delicious.  Airy, sourdough-y, crusty and light.  Yum!


I reveled in the Bay Area spring.  As an East Coaster, I had always pooh-poohed the lack of seasons that I perceived in California (at least in LA and the Bay Area).  I clung to my love of autumn as a way to say I always needed my four seasons (even though in the Boston area the summers were getting hotter and the winters colder and snowier and the spring just nonexistent).  So this being my first spring in the Bay Area, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  But it has been glorious.  We had a few weeks of much needed rain in the transition from “winter” to spring.  And the flowering trees and spring flowers just took over as early as February.  They’re now in full force, but it’s amazing how with an ongoing growing season, there are always flowers on trees or on bushes.  But one can tell which are the spring flowers, which are the winter flowers, etc.  Here were a few of my favorite spring blooms:

ImageI read.  I became a fan of Ann Patchett in first hearing her speak on Fresh Air with Terry Gross about her new book This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, which I am now reading. But my first read of hers after hearing her on NPR was The Patron Saint of Liars (it was all I could get from my online library to read on my iPad – the rest of Patchett’s books were checked out with long waiting lists), which was poignant, heartwarming, and beautifully written.

I read a few Haruki Murakami books, which totally grabbed me: Norwegian Wood and A Wild Sheep Chase.  I had tried to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle last year while traveling and just couldn’t get through it.  I had also read and loved What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, which I wrote a blog post about almost two years ago (!gasp!).  So I gave Murakami another go and really enjoyed those two.  I feel like these are books better understood and read by people in their younger, angsty-er days, but I still enjoyed the language and the characters that I encountered.

I’m in the process (it’s taking awhile, and it sits on my nightstand to read a few pages of every few nights because it takes a little more energy to read) of reading The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth.  A fascinating read.  The plot is quite simple – a love story involving the lives of individuals living in the Bay Area.  But the author masterfully constructs line after line, verse after verse of unrelenting sonnets! It’s incredible.  Even his table of contents, acknowledgements, and dedication are all written in verse.  He’s funny, sweet, incisive.

And I’ve had some great meals. Most of which have been homemade! I DID have an amazing sushi dinner at Ichi Sushi in Bernal Heights on Mission Street.  If you go there, get there early to stand in line before they open or get reservations.  And get the omakase. It’s TOTALLY amazing.  I had a couple great meals at Pizzaiolo, a great restaurant in Temescal in Oakland, on Telegraph Ave. Another place to make reservations or get there early before they open to get in.

But the BEST meal of all was not one, but several meals prepared by my cousin who loves cooking gourmet meals.  Truffles on soft-scrambled eggs.  Ramen with a homemade ramen broth.  Cassoulet.  Baked rabbit.  I mean, these are amazing meals.  I feel lucky to be his relative.  And I get to bring friends along sometimes, too!  Lucky them!  Here’s a sampling:


All in all, it’s been a productive, satisfying few months.  Who knows what lies ahead?

Recent Reads

I’ve been plowing through books on my iPad these past months.  It’s nice to be back to reading more regularly after not for so long.  And I’m getting used to reading on an e-reader.  BUT, my love of physical books is not diminished.  If I had a bigger house and more room for more bookcases, I’d be buying more books.

Recently, a friend posted this on his Facebook feed:tsundoku

That is me to a “T.”  I love just having books upon books around me.  I’ve got at least 4 books on my nightstand, a bookshelf in my bedroom, an even bigger one in the living room, and I’d have another one if I could!

But back to the books I’ve been reading.  Here are some that I’ve read all the way through (meaning they were enjoyable.  I also have a slew of books that I started and couldn’t get into for whatever reason):

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

mo meta blues

This was a lot of fun to read.  Questlove is a philosophizing music nerd.  He even says he probably would have been diagnosed with autism if he were a child in today’s age.  The book is a mix of stream of consciousness, allusions and references to music from all kinds of genres, socio-political commentary, and just plain autobiography about this musical genius/ giant.  I get these fixations of finding a person/ group/ concept and doing a lot of background research to understand him/her/them/it better.  So The Roots have been on my recent fix, mostly from seeing them on the Jimmy Fallon show (see previous post), listening to Questlove on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and subsequently watching their music videos on YouTube.  They’re an interesting bunch.  This is a book I want to buy for my bookshelf.

Just finished How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway.


I came across this on my Overdrive app for one of the public libraries that I belong to, and though I was worried about the starting point of it being about a Japanese woman married to a US serviceman post WWII (a bit cliche, in my opinion), I thought I’d give it a try.  And it was surprisingly good.  There was the usual heartache-y storyline that comes with the whole culture clash thing and the struggles and sacrifice that an Asian warbride experiences.  But instead of focusing on the love story, it focused on her, her daughter, and her relationship with her brother and family back in Japan.  The white husband was barely present.  I get tired of that overplayed story of the Asian woman/ white man relationship which provides escape for the Asian woman from a repressive and oppressive Asian culture.  So this had more depth of story and character development.  Not worth buying, but it was a good read.

A friend of mine bought me this book in preparation for a trip we’re taking to Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

jar city

This was a mystery/ suspense story (nothing too intense for me; I’m a wimp when it comes to books, movies, and TV shows).  Also a good read.  Interesting story line, not very predictable, set in a country I don’t know.  This was actually in book form, so that was a good break from the usual e-reader format.  I’m curious to know what else this author has up his sleeves.

Also read Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel


I really don’t remember how I came across this, maybe from a book review online.  But it was a happy accident.  This was a really beautifully written book about a girl and a boy.  Basically a love story but told in such a lyrical way, nonlinear, through memories of different characters.  All to describe the life of the main character Lilia.  It’s too hard to explain the book’s storyline because it really is simply a love story.  But tie in a father and mother with unique stories, lots of road tripping across the U.S., Montreal, a detective with his own quest.  And I was drawn in.

Books have always been my escape from reality, not that reality was bad or anything, but a way to jump into another world as an intensely connected spectator.  I love deep and complex characters.  I love beautifully crafted language.  And with this world of online borrowing, I can just start a book, see if I like it and then move on if I’m not hooked right away.

Here are some books I started and just couldn’t get into:

  • Too Big To Fail (about the stock market crash in 2008)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (not sure, it started off OK but I just couldn’t get through it)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad (another that started off well and then got tedious)
  • Bel Canto (ditto)
  • Please Look After Mom (a translation from a Korean author – I wanted to like it, but maybe I’ll need to try again)

What suggestions do you have out there?

Lots of Reading

With a lot of free time these days, since I’ve taken a break from traveling and am now in between movements, I’ve been reading.  And the way I read usually is to have a couple different books going at the same time.  But my new-found interest in being more focused and one-task oriented, I’ve been trying to just read one book at a time.  It’s not that easy.

In no particular order…

Life of Pi by Yann Martellife-of-pi

I had no idea what to expect when I started this book.  I hadn’t seen any previews for the movie that came out in the winter (because I had no access to TV for the months that I was traveling), and I hadn’t read any reviews for the book or the movie.  So I went in with no expectation of what I would encounter.  And what a story!  I’m used to reading books that are about everyday life with everyday occurrences, and this was definitely not that.  This was a fantastical account of a young man’s half year spent as a castaway on a lifeboat with a tiger.  Or so it seems.  Martel captures this story with such beautiful language and imagery.  I’m curious to see if Ang Lee was able to encapsulate even a bit of Martel’s story onto the silver screen.

The book took a bit of time to get into because it seems like he’s rambling at first.  But once the boy Pi encounters the capsizing of his ship, I was hooked.

Here’s an excerpt, demonstrating Martel’s beautiful use of language:

There were many skies.  The sky was invaded by great white clouds, flat on the bottom but round and billowy on top  The sky was completely cloudless, of a blue quite shattering to the senses.  The sky was a heavy, suffocating blanket of grey cloud, but without promise of rain.  The sky was thinly overcast.  The sky was dappled with small, white, fleecy clouds.  The sky was streaked with high, thin clouds that looked like a cotton ball stretched apart.  The sky was a featureless milky haze.  The sky was a density of dark and blustery rain clouds that passed by without delivering rain.  The sky was painted with a small number of flat clouds that looked like sandbars.  The sky was a mere block to allow a visual effect on the horizon: sunlight flooding the ocean, the vertical edges between light and shadow perfectly distinct… (p.215)

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yoganandaautobiography-yogi-hindi-paramahansa-yogananda-paperback-cover-art

I started reading this book at the yoga teacher training I was at in January.  It’s a simply written account of one man’s journey to becoming a yogi.  It has had more meaning for me having gone through the yoga training and studied more on yogic philosophy and Hindu practices.  I’ve come across many quotations that present lessons in plainspeak.  It reminds me of the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, an account of the journey of the man who became Buddha.

Here are a few learnings I have highlighted in my e-book:

Attachment is blinding; it lends an imaginary halo of attractiveness to the object of desire.

Do not fix your spiritual ideal on a small mountain, but hitch it to the star of unqualified divine attainment.  If you work hard, you will get there.

Thought is a force, even as electricity or gravitation.  The human mind is a spark of the almighty consciousness of God.  I could show you that whatever your powerful mind believes very intensely would instantly come to pass.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamantthe_red_tent

Another beautifully written book, this time not just because of the writer’s language but because of the content.  Diamant tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, granddaughter of Isaac, great-granddaughter of Abram, all important figures in the Old Testament of the Bible.  I grew up Catholic and don’t remember the story of Dinah, so it’s interesting reading this book which covers some of those biblical stories from a female and secular point of view.

What I like about this book are the women and the community that develops from within the red tent, which I understand to be a literal red tent where women go when it is their time of the month, to give birth, and for other womanly activity.

Here’s an example of character development in describing Leah, Dinah’s mother, first wife of Jacob:

But my mother’s eyes were not weak, or sick, or rheumy.  The truth is, her eyes made others weak and most people looked away rather than face them– one blue as lapis, the other green as Egyptian grass…

Leah’s eyes never faded in color– as some of the women predicted and hoped– but became brighter in their difference and even more pronounced in their strangeness when her lashes failed to grow… Even her most loving glance felt a bit like the stare of a snake, and few could stand to look her straight in the eye.

I’ve also been dabbling in some other books:

Not doing such a great job with uni-tasking, am I?  It’s hard to break old habits.

I haven’t read any literary criticism on any of these books, so these opinions are completely based on my own reading and my writing-style/story-type preferences.  I like books with good characters, good writing, and some kind of meaningful message.

Any suggestions of good books, both fiction and nonfiction, that you’ve read?

#13: I Love Books!

I’m a bookaholic.  I’ve at least gotten to a place where I am able to curb my addiction.  (I think the first step was really admitting to myself that I was/ am a bookaholic.  I was even buying books and not reading them.  I just liked the summaries or the “idea” of the books…  That was a bad time.)

This is just ONE of my bookshelves.  I have another that’s much smaller.  I don’t know why I love books so much.  And I love my hard copies.  I’ve been starting to read more on my iPad, but it’s just not the same.  I like to flip through books.  To see the cover.  To go through tables of contents.  To see what page I’m on and feel the progression of going through the book as the thickest part moves from right to left.  But I admit it makes life hard when I have to move.  And really, it does take up a lot of space.  But a bookshelf full of books is such a beautiful thing.

So the next best thing besides having all my own books (which is really by FAR the best thing) is going to the library.

I got all these from the library.  I love that they have no limit on how many books you can borrow.  I’m starting to plan my travels.  I’m trying to find a balance between planning ahead and also keeping my options open.  I don’t want to overplan.  And I don’t want to approach this like a traditional sightseeing vacation.  I really want to find places where I can stay, learn, meet people, and absorb my surroundings.  And it’s kind of hard to do that using travel guides.

But I’ve been perusing these books as a way to get an idea of what’s in each of these countries.  Just as an orientation of sorts.  And when it comes to deciding, I’ll let the spirit move me.

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