Nguyễn Trí: Thiên đường ảo vọng

Sáu anh em kết nghĩa. Đứa tù tội. Kẻ giang hồ. Thằng đần độn. Người nghĩa khí. Họ cùng chung một số phận nghèo nàn nên gắn bó với nhau. Họ cùng nhau đãi vàng. Từ túng thiếu trở nên phung phí rồi vướng vào cờ bạc và gái góc. Những câu chuyện thú vị, vui nhộn, và đầy cảm tình của nhà văn Nguyễn Trí đem lại cho chúng ta những bài học trong cuộc sống qua những nhân vật ông tạo ra. Tôi ít khi đọc tiểu thuyết nhưng rất thích quyển sách này.

Anne Lamott: Almost Everything

I read anything written by Anne Lamott. Her prose is always impeccable and her story is inspiring. In her latest book, Lamott reveals her personal struggles, including suicidal thoughts, drinking, relationships, diets, and death. Her stories are honest and her messages are hopeful. Almost Everything is a short, beautiful, and thoughtful read. Amanda Dewey’s pleasing typesetting makes it a perfect gift for anyone you care about.

What I love the most is her advice on writing. Here are a few examples to keep me motivated.

Lamott (p.85):

No one cares if you continue to write, so you’d better care, because otherwise you are doomed.

If you do stick with writing, you will get better and better, and you can start to learn the important lessons: who you really are, and how all of us can live in the face of death, and how important it is to pay much better attention to life, moment by moment, which is why you are here.

Lamott (p.89):

If it’s creative release, or you have a story to tell, or if you’ve just always wanted to write a novel, or you just love to write, the way other people like to garden, you’re good.

Lamott (p.99):

I tell the six-year-olds that if they want to have great lives, they need to read a lot or listen to the written word. If they rely only on their own thinking, they will not notice the power that is all around them, the force-be-with-you kind of power. Reading and writing help us take the blinders off so we can look around and say “Wow,” so we can look at life and our lives with care, and curiosity, and attention to detail, which re what will make us happy and less afraid.

Maxwell King: The Good Neighbor

I knew little about Fred Rogers and his show for children, yet I was inspired by clips of his video and his messages. He seemed kind and caring. I wanted to learn more about him; therefore, I was eager to read his biography. The information is good, but King’s writing is not as engaging as I would hope for. I was a bit disappointed and struggled to get through 370 pages.

Nguyễn Tranh Chiếu: The Short Life

Nguyễn Tranh Chiếu’s self-published debut novel is based closely on his life. Growing up as a buffalo boy in Huế, Việt Nam, he excelled in school and earned a full ride to study electrical engineering at the University of Rhode Island in the United States. After receiving his master’s degree, he returned to his war-torn country. With his intention to help rebuild Việt Nam, he decided to stay even after South Việt Nam lost control of its power and territory. Unfortunately, he learned the painful truth about the Communist and had to flee the country by boat. His family, his wife in particular, had to pay a mortifying price for his decision not to leave with their extended family.

I am not sure why the book is written as a novel instead of a memoir when Mr. Chiếu is telling the tales of his life. Could it be that he doesn’t want to reveal his emotion through his own narrative? In his prologue, after he learned that his two-month son had die while he was in the reeducation camp, he simply writes, “And that was that.” Later in the book, he mentioned the mysterious incident of his son’s death, but he also left it at that. It could be that Mr. Chiếu is a forward-thinking man who doesn’t dwell on the past.

Even with a bit of braggadocio, his story is incredible. His historical perspective is informing. His prose, however, is more like documenting than storytelling. Furthermore, a copyeditor would have polished up his grammar, punctuation, and wordiness.

Stormy Daniels: Full Disclosure

Stormy Daniels had a rough life. Her father left her, her mother neglected her, and her neighbor raped her all before she turned ten. At seventeen, she started stripping. In her twenties, she became a star, writer, and director in the adult film industry. I have tremendous respect for her. She is smart, funny, and resilient. The sex encounter with Trump, however, was so out of her characters. She fucked him even though she had no desire to. She did it for nothing—not even for money. Except for that three brief minutes, her story was so compelling. She made her husband had sex with her on camera when he wanted to have kid. The complication of giving birth to her daughter was also heart-wrecking. If she left out the Trump scandal, her memoir would be much more intriguing.

Phạm Lữ Ân: Nếu biết trăm năm là hữu hạn…

Đây là quyển sách tiếng Việt đầu tiên tôi đọc trong năm 2019. Được tái bản lần thứ 17, sách gồm những bài văn ngắn của tác giả Phạm Lữ Ân viết về chân lý sống, tình yêu, và đạo đức. Đọc cũng có tạm được nhưng hơi bị chán. Những đề tài thích hợp với giới trẻ sắp trưởng thành hơn là những người đã từng trải như tôi. Vì tôi không còn nhìn đời và còn cảm giác lạc quan với tình yêu và tình người nữa. Trăm năm không hữu hạn. Chỉ có lòng người là hữu hạn.

Dani Shapiro: Inheritance

At fifty-four, Shapiro discovered an unsettling truth about herself through a DNA test. Writing this book is a way for Shapiro to cope with her new identity and the the people who were involved (related or not). In addition, Shapiro’s investigative journalism shows how easy it is nowadays to find out anything about ourselves through online technology and social media. It’s a beautiful, moving, and deeply personal memoir.

Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky: Make Time

Two former Google product designers show you how to Make Time in four steps: highlight, laser, energize, and reflect. To focus your time and energy on doing something you want, you need to get rid of digital distractions and take care of yourself. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know; therefore, I find it not too helpful.