Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Yesterday I was drawing a complete blank, so I skipped posting on the blog, which is uncommon for me nowadays. But I am back, thanks to getting tagged by the amazing MPJ at A Room of Mama's Own. If it wasn't for this book meme, I would have a hard time getting started on the blog this morning. The meme asks for my total number of books, the last book I read, the last book I bought, and five books that are meaningful to me. One of my early posts was about books, so I will link to it here for reference. The answers may vary, mostly because that first post left out my favorite books in Spanish.

Total number of books?

I have not counted them, but we have a whole wall of bookshelves in our library/home office. Between Gabriel and I, we own somewhere between 1,000 to 1,100 books, not counting the children's books. Throughout my life I have gotten rid of many books due to moves and other life changes. Most of them stayed behind at my childhood home or ended up as donations to the library of my Alma mater. Sometimes I feel like a good purge is in order now, as there are lots of books that I have not read and that I do not think I ever will.

Last book read?

The last book that I remember reading in full is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. I know I have started many books since I finished that one, and I have at least finished reading one, but it must have been pretty forgettable because I can't even recall the title or what was it about. I hope that's not a sign of early senility on my part.

Gilbert's book is really, really good. Although the title might suggest a self-help manual, the book is anything but. In fact, some of his findings/thesis are counter intuitive to what most regular folks (like me) would accept as common sense.

Last book bought?

I have been busy buying books lately. The latest I have bought are:

The Dew Breaker, Edwige Danticat
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein

Five meaningful books?

I can't mention just five! These books were all important to me, for various reasons:

  • Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood. This is one of my favorite books, period. I read it at the right place and right time, and it's stayed with me for years. Long before it was even discussed in the mainstream, her depiction of childhood friendship dynamics and the awful, cruel things that little girls do to each other was dead on.
  • Short stories by Julio Cortazar, in various books. Specifically the stories in Bestiario, Final de juego, Las armas secretas, Todos los fuegos el fuego and Octaedro. It is hard for me to say specifically which book I would favor over the others, because all of them are impeccable and excellent. I have not reread his stuff in years, but Cortazar is my favorite author. When I was in college and writing short stories, he was definitely an influence. For English readers interested, I would recommend the anthology Blow-up and Other Stories.
  • Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges. Borges has been called one of the greatest short story writers and I agree completely. He also was an influence on me when I was writing in college (not that anything I did could even remotely compare). To see an English translation, click here.
  • Dry, by Augusten Burroughs. Burroughs writes very well. This memoir of his time in rehab for alcoholism manages to take readers to the pit of his despair with spurts of humor along the way.
  • La guaracha del macho Camacho, by Luis Rafael Sanchez. Luis Rafael is one of the most famous Puerto Rican writers, and the fame is well deserved. This book showed me what we are capable of. It was a radical departure from the stuffy Puerto Rican literary canon we had been taught in school. The link I include is to an English translation.
  • Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. This book haunted me long after I finished reading it, and was the first in a line of books I have read on failed Artic/Antartic expeditions, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, the true story on which Moby Dick is based, and various books on sea storms. I have a very specific inclination towards stories that highlight man's attempts to prevail over nature, and nature's ultimate supremacy over us.
  • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez. This novel is based on the real-life story of the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic, members of a resistance movement during the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship. I think someone tried to make a movie of it and it was awful. I deliberately avoided watching it. This book is beautifully written, sad and inspiring at the same time.

I will not tag anybody at the moment, but if you are interested, feel free to take up the meme and let me know, so I can check out your blog.


  1. You have definitely peaked my interest. I will have to check some of your selections out. I would love to participate in this meme... soon. I will let you know when I have completed it :o)

    Thanks for sharing these works and your thoughts on them. I think that the books we read reflect our writing styles and what writing content we chose to use and share.

  2. Thanks for playing. I love to read about books, and I can see that I have a few things to add to my (lengthy!) reading list.

  3. I did it! Whew... this one made me really think.