Tag Archives: summer

My Late Summer and Fall Reading List

August 15, 2021

Culture and Society

Today, I thought it might be a great change of pace to look ahead into what I will be reading soon instead of my usual book recommendation. Before I get into that, I want to share with you the qualities I look for in a prospective book.  

Here are the polka dot points:

  • Genre

For nonfiction, I tend to favor books about productivity, Zen buddhist minimalism, and anything having to do with cultivating creativity. For fiction, I get all Asian-excited if I find something whimsical. I’m always looking for this. (The first book of “The Magicians” comes to mind.) Otherwise, I try to find anything that is well-written and has a thoughtful and engaging story. Because I’m a weirdo, I also look for books that have anything to do with libraries and pianos, and I happen to have found some special ones.

  • A Separate World-View

I always try to seek out authors who are either people of color or who do not originate from America. The books that are considered classics have been generally written by white people (and largely white males). They often have Eurocentric and dare I say colonial sensibilities. Of course, many of them are actually great books, but I’ve read enough of them by now. I seek a broader perspective of the world and a multitude of sensibilities. This satisfies my curiosities much more fully.

  • Whimsy

I’ve mentioned this above, but this is something I always try to sniff out. It is hard to describe what I mean by this, but the best I can say is a book that expands the imagination joyfully.  The Harry Potter books might fall into this category, but they don’t necessarily have to be all that fantastical either.  There is a children’s book I love called “The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.” The illustrations and the story are whimsical but in a subtle, real-world, and mysterious sort of way. (In fact, many children’s books could easily be grouped into this category, but I look for one’s that are intended for adults too.)  

Now that you know what I look for, you have a better idea of where my sensibilities lie. For the rest of August and into September, I have a few books on my to-read list. 

Here they are in no particular order.

Nonfiction:

Breath by James Nestor

A World Without Email by Cal Newport

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Fiction:

Summer Book by Tove Janssen

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

The Conference of the Birds (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, Book 5) by Ransom Riggs

The Desolations of Devil’s Acre (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, Book 6) by Ransom Riggs

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

The Wikkeling by Steven Arntson


I am always open to book recommendations from anyone, especially those of you who have become familiar with what gets my Asian goose in a tizzy.

As you can see, I have a lot of reading to do, which is no more or less than usual.  

What books are you tackling for the rest of the year?

—Roqué

My 2020 Summer Reading Recommendations

June 22, 2020

Reading Books

I love reading books, and I read books ALL THE TIME. Generally, I read two fiction books for every nonfiction book I finish. Engaging, well-written stories and topics I am curious about fill up a lot of my leisure reading time.

Since it is now the month of June, I thought I’d take time to recommend three books that I enjoyed reading, in case you might be at a loss for something wonderful to devour during these long, sweltering days. I chose these books simply because they are excellent and give off an aura of the summer season in their bones.

Don’t worry. I hate it when people give away the ending of a book when they are trying to describe it. That’s not me.

Without further delay, check these books out:

1. The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel
Author: Nina George

There is a valid reason why this book is an international bestseller. It is a sweet and whimsical story that had me wishing it would never end. It has characters who I would actually befriend if they existed in real life. The story mostly takes place on a bookshop that is housed on a barge that is tethered to a dock along the Seine in Paris. Its owner considers himself to be a literary apothecary with the ability to prescribe a book to any customer based on their proclivities and life experiences. This book is just dripping with charm. I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a film yet. Fill your summer afternoons with this pleasant and adventurous gem of a book.



All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr

This book takes place within the tumult of World War II and documents the separate lives of a blind French girl and a German boy who enlists to fight. Their paths eventually converge, but the meat of the book is in the struggles and hardships they face. What struck me most about this book is not only its two endearing protagonists but also its many tender, bewildering moments within the narrative that add so much depth and character to the story. There is a sizable degree of sadness in this book, but it is the origins and machinations of this sadness that make this book so heart-breakingly beautiful.



How To Do Nothing
Author: Jenny Odell


I won’t give it away, but there is actually something sneaky and clever about the title of this book. To my delight, this non-fiction piece was incredibly informative and well-researched. Its author speaks from a voice that is clear, gentle, and unapologetic about where she stands. She looks critically at the modern digital landscape of cell phones and social media that have taken over the world and offers a rich perspective into how we can reimagine the spaces within which we occupy our time. If the previous sentence sounds strange and intriguing to you, then you should read this book. I had at least a couple of solid and useful takeaways from it, and I’ve thought of them often since I read it. Read this book and learn how to do nothing.



Whether you read these books or others of your choosing, I hope you enjoy being immersed in some other space, time, and emotion—all the while appreciating the careful attention and finely-honed craft that the author imbued into those pages.

Relax, take a deep breath, and open a book to read. Make your summer days more potent and satisfying.

My Summer Reading Review

September 8, 2019

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

Alas! With the Labor Day holiday now come and gone, our summer days have now passed us. The last three months away from school has given me a lot of time to rest and do more of the other activities that I enjoy outside all of the academic work.

One such activity is reading books. This summer, I read seven books, and I wanted to highlight some of the more noteworthy ones here.


Dazzle Camouflage by Ezra Berkley Napon

In the interest of transparency, I actually know the person who wrote this book as well as a few of the people whose work are documented within. This book chronicles theatrical styles of grassroots activism that have been carried out in various regions of the US. If you are interested in the type of activism that extends beyond the usual protests, rallies, and boycotts, this book provides a striking view of the ways to incorporate performance art, satire, and unconventional artistic expression into all kinds of public advocacy work. The writing is easy to understand, and the historical anecdotes give clear examples of how this kind of activism can be done.


The Secret Piano by Zhu Xiao-Mei

I was drawn to this book primarily because I actively seek out books about pianos and pianists. Needless to say, this historical fiction and autobiography certainly met that criteria and then some. This story shares the struggles of a young pianist who has to survive the harsh conditions of a work camp along with the ravages of the Chinese totalitarian Communist regime that sent her there. It shows how her love for playing piano sustained her spirit during the tumultuous and dehumanizing cultural revolution in China.

Well–paced and thoughtfully written, there is a delicacy and sweetness to this story that makes the whole saga purely satisfying to read.


A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles

Simply put, I loved this book. It has the makings of classic historical fiction. The book’s central character Count Alexander Rostov is an endearing and enigmatic man of many passions. I could not help but cheer for him as he lives a simple but rich life living under house arrest in Russia’s iconic Metropol Hotel in Moscow. There are flashes of whimsy, intrigue, romance, and sheer delight in this fantastic narrative. The writing displays the author’s commanding gifts in the arts of storytelling and descriptive prose. I would emphatically recommend this book to anyone looking for a well-written and dynamic story. This is the best fiction I have read so far this year.


Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I have been making changes in the way I engage with social media and the digital aspects of modern life. This book has inspired so many ideas for me that I wrote about it in a recent blog post:

I have read many of Newport’s books and follow his blog. This book finds him in top form dispensing thoughtful ideas and practices toward combating the perils of modern technology (like cell phones and texting) and addictive social media usage. For anyone trying to live a life that is more engaged with actual human beings and the physical world around us and less entrenched in corporatized technology and websites, this book is for you.


Now that fall has more or less arrived, I have a set of new books to explore as the weather gets cooler and the beautiful fall colors start to arrive in my forest neighborhood. If you have any great book recommendations, let me know.

Find a wonderful book to settle into, and open up your world to limitless possibilities!

-Roqué