Book Stash: Book Recs

As evidenced by the scarcity of posts on this humble blog, I have not done much writing lately. However, I have been doing a lot of reading. Here are a few things I’ve read recently that I quite enjoyed.

Snow, by Orhan Pamuk

This novel takes place in the city of Kars and follows the journey of the poet, Ka, who has returned to his native Turkey after being a political exile in Germany for twelve years. While his stated purpose in returning is to write about the suicides of several Muslim teenage girls referred to as “the head scarf girls,” he hopes to also become reacquainted with the beautiful–and recently divorced–Ipek.

The heavy snow in Kars temporarily cuts off transportation to and and from the city and as a result the city is isolated. During this period of isolation Ka meets a cast of characters; from Ipek’s ex-husband, to alleged Muslim extremists, would-be-writers, and a curiously dangerous acting troupe.

Snow deals with the conflicts of Eastern versus Western, secularism versus religion, and tradition versus the modern through the lens of Ka in his quest to find love, god, and poetry.



Dr. Mutter’s Marvels, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Marvels is a look at the development of modern surgery through the life and practice of Dr. Thomas Mutter. While the Mutter Museum is still around today, a collection of medical oddities to educate–and fascinate–all who view them, little is known about Dr. Mutter. The man kept no diary (neither did his wife), there is little left of his correspondence, and he had no children. What is known of Mutter is what endeared him to his students, his patients, and the medical world. His style, passion, flair, compassion, and cutting-edge ideas continue to be put to use in surgery today.



Book Stash: Book Recs

Since chronic illness has yet again to rear its ugly head, I have been spending a good deal of my time indoors, mainly shuffling from house to hospital and back again. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot more reading lately. Here are a few things I’ve picked up lately that I recommend.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

As a brown girl growing up in two different worlds (north and south), and fancies herself an occasional poet, this book was very dear to me. It is a quick read as it is written at a child’s level and consists of short free verse poems, but it left a lasting impression. I think it is the kind of book that grows with you.

Treasury of Khalil Gibran

My mother bought this for me at a yard sale merely because it was old book and whenever I attend yard sales I frequently look for books and antiques. This book was published in the late 60s and beyond a little yellowing and wear and tear near the corners it is in good condition. I regret not having read any of Gibran’s work previously. This volume contains some of the most breathtaking poetry I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

In the Country by Mia Alvar

A collection of short stories detailing the lives of Filipinos from Manila to Bahrain and beyond, from cultural struggles to dealing with life in diaspora, each story sheds light on not only the Filipino culture but also reveals universal truths about ourselves and the human condition.

Happy reading!


Book Stash: “Stiff” A Review

“How can you eat with feet looking at you?” My manager asks. I’m having lunch at the backroom desk.

“Huh?” I look up from my plate. “Oh.”

He’s referring to the book sitting on the table next to me. Its cover features a photograph of a pair of feet, soles up. There is a sheet covering the legs of those feet down to the ankle. A tag is looped around the rightmost big toe.

I shrug. “Doesn’t bother me,” I say.

“What’s it about anyway?” he asks.


My manager looks at me as though I’ve just told him I enjoy performing satanic rituals on kittens in my spare time. I can only imagine the looks the author herself must have gotten.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is an exploration of what happens to our bodies after we die, whether it be decomposition, organ donation, or serving as crash test dummies.

While a book about dead bodies may seem a bit off-putting to some, Mary Roach’s dry, deadpan humor breathes life into this morbidly fascinating tale of what physically happens to us after death.

Stiff spans centuries and continents, exploring the mummification techniques of the ancient Egyptians, investigating a modern day Sweeney Todd-esque tale of human dumplings, and relaying the use of cadaveric medicine in the past, which made me really appreciative of the fact I live in this century. (The amount of topical uses for human feces, as well as human remains is alarming. Dried fecal matter for blemishes, anyone? How about distilled human skull as a treatment for epilepsy. Medieval medicine is a terrifying venture.)

Through it all, Roach shows an admiration for these cadavers. These unnamed heroes have saved countless lives through medicine, have helped solve crimes in forensics, and are instrumental in making safer vehicles, equipment, and surgical procedures for those of us still kicking.

Stiff is not a book for the squeamish or faint of heart, but it is a book that manages to be lighthearted while still paying homage to all the great work our bodies have done after we leave them.

3/4 Would recommend