Category Archives: Reading Books

Sunday Book Review: Effortless by Greg McKeown

May 30, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

I first read Greg McKeown’s writing around 3 years ago when I stumbled across his book Essentialism. I thought then, as I do now, that he was a competent writer who gave thoughtful information that was easy to understand. That particular book was both insightful and accessible through the numerous real world examples it gave toward building a meaningful life that serves one’s deeper purpose. It gave me a lot of helpful information to think about, and when I heard that his follow-up book Effortless had just been released last month, I bought my copy instead of waiting for months to read it through my local library.

I plowed through it in a couple of days (as one does), and I have to say that fans of his previous book will not be disappointed. It serves as the perfect companion to everything he highlighted in Essentialism. His first book outlined a vision for a meaningful life, and this book hands out specific strategies toward that end.

There is a commonly-known idea called “Work smart, not hard.” It suggests that you can achieve the same degree of success or excellence if you apply more efficient and thoughtful techniques toward how you work, as opposed to burning a candle at both ends and working long hours while you become increasingly fatigued and burned out from all of your effort.

This book expands and applies this principle to virtually all facets of life and envisions a daily existence in which unnecessary stress is significantly reduced. It gives concrete examples about the actions and mindsets needed to achieve this. For example, it looks at different ways that you can automate parts of your life such as setting up recurring doctor visits and prescription refills on your calendar and numerous other simple ways to reduce the mental strain and clutter that exists in your brain and on your to-do list. That’s just in one chapter. This book flows seamlessly through various actionable techniques, philosophies, and frameworks that can make daily life more calm, easy, and well, effortless.

To be fair, there might be a few points that will sound like common sense, but the beauty of this book is both its simplicity and the real fact that someone took the time to compile all of this useful information into one place.

If you are feeling stressed and burnt out every day, this may be a good book for you. It is designed to be easy to read and understand. I’m utilizing a lot of its tactics myself.

This book is uncomplicated and not stuffy. The way much of our lives really ought to be.


Sunday Book Review: A Woman of No Importance

May 23, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

I have decided to post reviews for the books I’ve read here on my blog. Previously, I’ve done them as posts on Facebook, but in keeping with my ongoing love/hate relationship with social media, I feel more comfortable releasing them here on my own forum and on my own terms.

To kick off this new era of Sunday Book Reviews, I want to tell you all about my favorite book that I read in 2020. It is a historical nonfiction account of the heroic exploits of a woman named Virginia Hall. The book itself is called “A Woman of No Importance” by Sonia Purnell. I fully recommend this book to everyone.

Seriously, please read this book.

You do not know who she is, but you should. Virgina Hall’s lack of fame is a testament to her diabolical ability to hide her identity and her numerous triumphs. She was a spy in France during World War II who spent years building up an underground resistance against Nazi forces.

Seriously, I loved everything about her story. It is so compelling that it would make a truly epic film or a gripping limited series. Virginia Hall was the real deal. She had a hand in saving thousands of allied soldiers and Jews during World War II and in undermining the Nazi stronghold over France.

Virginia Hall moved mountains at a time when women in counterintelligence fields were relegated to doing secretarial work. An unstoppable force of will and a shrewd, intuitive sense of knowing who to trust took her a long way toward becoming one of the most formidable and effective leaders among the allied forces on the ground who fought tirelessly against the Nazis.

To top it all off, she did all of this despite having a prosthetic leg that she hid from the world.

Yup, just let that last sentence soak into your brain for a minute.

I would put Virginia Hall right up there with the Supermans, Spider Mans, and James Bonds of the world, except that she actually lived to fight against true forces of evil.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

Read this book as a way to honor the unsung work of Virginia Hall.

She is a woman of immense importance.


My Favorite Fiction Books of 2020

May 2, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

Last year was a record year of reading books for me. Devouring 52 of them was an unintended consequence of Covid-19. As such, I wanted to write about the fiction books I enjoyed the most for today’s post on TSOG.

First of all, these books were not published in 2020. I simply happened to discover and read them last year. They are new to me.

Secondly, I will do my best not to give away any spoilers.

1. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This book was recommended to me by a friend whose taste in such matters is deeply trustworthy, and of course, it has become my favorite work of fiction of 2020. This novel is as much a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story as it is a poetic tour-de-force. Vuong’s writing is lyrical and full of emotional depth. Themes of queer adolescence and self-discovery, healing from a family’s post-war trauma in Vietnam, and the uphill climb of being a family of immigrants in America are intricately woven into this delicate and haunting narrative. The world through Vuong’s eyes is not rose-tinged, but with such tenderness and vulnerability, it is absolutely gorgeous nonetheless.

2. A View Across Rooftops by Suzanne Kelman

By now, I have read numerous books about the holocaust of Nazi Germany during World War II. This particular story takes places during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam during the war. Kelman is adept at creating characters who I wanted to cheer on as I kept reading. Its protagonist, Professor Josef Held, decides to hide one of his Jewish students in his attic to protect him from getting killed. This decision sets off a tense and gripping page-turner of a book. When we explore the human capacity for compassion in moments of grave danger, we get fantastic stories like this one. The view from inside this novel’s pages is well worth seeing.

3. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

I am new to the world of James Baldwin, but I see why his books and talent are revered all over the world. This novel details the complexities and challenges of two men in love at a time when such a thing could never be admissible. The heart of this novel lies in the subtext of its dialogue and in its quiet moments in which anguished silences betray all that is unspoken. It is a masterful gift to convey something deeply meaningful without actually saying it. Baldwin’s prose is a flow of tension and emotion that we feel, and in this story, the feeling is everything.

4. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I have heard of this author a few times, and I’ve been curious about the genre called magical realism for a while. I started reading with an open mind, and this book felt a lot like falling through the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The book’s protagonist is reluctantly thrust into an odyssey of a world that is hidden in plane sight. I could describe it as quirky, unique, and unconventional, but these adjectives fall short of the truth. It is a psychological mind fuck—in a good way, but not quite in a pleasurable way either. There is trickery, thievery, and tiny moments of whimsy that give this book a fullness of life—with the continuous sensation of the unexpected lurking just around every corner. It makes for a bewildering and wide-eyed reading experience. Murakami’s voice is staggeringly and stubbornly one that follows its own offbeat rhythm. The journey along this novel’s pages is unlike any other.

5. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

What I loved about this novel was how it cleverly wove haunting folklore, mysticism, and a story of human struggle together so completely. The pacing never lagged for an instant, and it felt adventurous and suspenseful. At its core, this novel presents a search for identity and belonging. It features complex characters who are forging their own way through life despite immense obstacles. The scenic backdrop of sleepy villages and farming towns of rural Malaysia give its story a richness and charm that make this novel all the more enchanting.

I hope you enjoyed checking my top fiction books from 2020. Check back next Sunday when I kick off my new series of Roqué’s Sunday Book Reviews.

Happy reading to you all!