The Bookshop on the Corner

The opening lines of Jenny Colgan’s message to the readers adequately captures what this book was all about:

Because this book is about reading and books, and how these things can change your life, always, I would argue, for the better. It’s also about what it feels like to move and start over (something I’ve done quite a lot in my life), and the effect that where we choose to live has on how we feel; and can falling in love in real life be like falling in love in stories, xxx

This book builds a good case for anyone to try and pick up a book… somewhere out there is a book that would peak and suit your interests – may it be a children story book, a series about cowboys and aliens, an end of the world apocalyptic novel or simply the bestsellers (either fiction or non-fiction).

There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew—apart from, sometimes, music—to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.

If only Nina, the protagonist, can talk to us; finding those books would have been easy. Scattered in the story are anecdotes on how she was able to touch the lives of various characters just by finding the right books.

But the key takeaway for me of the story is how readers actually need to manage real life.

Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad, her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down. Yet much as she disputed the fact, it was time to admit that books were not real life.

As much as we want it to be, books are not real life. 

I am not arguing against reading books.  I could personally attest on its value in helping me cope with whatever struggles I was facing. However, this book reminds us that there is still real life out there to manage and how complicated it will be if we mix our literary journeys with reality.

“It’s not about fricking romantic picnics and moonlit walks and storybook stuff! This is real life.

To end, I really liked this book. It was a refreshing feature of various contrasts – urban versus rural living and reality versus “storybook stuff”.  There were some parts I wish were not included but overall well told. 

Nina got very lucky with her friends, acquaintances that became friends (and lovers), and timing.  A lot of things could have gone wrong but Nina had her happy-ever-after after all. 

Now, back to real life I go.

Beginning of Everything 

Admittedly, the main reason why this book got my attention is due to its cover. The rollercoaster was a curious thing to see in a book. I picked it up and after reading the comments decided to give it a try.

At times, I had regrets while reading – it may be the confusing references or things I could not really relate to (e.g., debate, various authors quoted, panopticon, etc). But I am glad I continued on since what I liked about this book are the emotions and interaction amongst the characters. There is a confused cheerleader, grieving sister, tentative mom, left out best friend, broken teen, ineffective teacher, and even an intelligent dog. Though not all elements were mapped and introduced, for me there was enough information to go around that allows me to relate to the characters.  It is always tricky to start at the middle of a story but this book for me was able to execute it well.

As usual, I am trying to stay away from spoilers. 

Did I enjoy this? Yes, especially on parts where I felt it did not venture towards being too intellectual. Would I read it again? Maybe but not anytime soon.

Favorite quotes:

“The way I figured it, keeping quiet was safe. Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many.” – Ezra

“but I discovered a long time ago that the smarter you are, the more tempting it is to just let people imagine you. We move through each other’s lives like ghosts, leaving behind haunting memories of people who never existed. The popular jock. The mysterious new girl. But we’re the ones who choose, in the end, how people see us.” – Cassidy

And a few more quotes on growing up:

“I wondered what things became when you no longer needed them, and I wondered what the future would hold once we’d gotten past our personal tragedies and proven them ultimately survivable.” – Ezra

“But we had plenty of time for youthful indecision, both apart and together, for limping into the future past the unforgettable ash heaps of our histories.” – Ezra

Tao of Pooh

imageWithin each of us, there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore and a Pooh.  For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit.  Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results.  But that accomplishes nothing.  If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh.  As if from far away, it calls us with the voice of a child’s mind.  It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.

But the adult is not the highest state of development.  The end of the cycle is is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child.

I first read this book way back in college.  I loved it to the point that it even appeared in my yearbook as the answer to the question “What book changed your life?”:

Yearbook_TaoofPooh

After finishing this book in 2007, I tried looking for the other book “The Te of Piglet” but I could not find it in our local bookstores.

Years passed.

Luckily, when I remembered the 2nd book, there was also an opportunity to buy it from the US.  I grabbed the chance and even got myself a new copy of the “Tao of Pooh.” So, here I am creating a post in my cyber pensieve about one of my favorite books.

Tao of Pooh talks about Taoism concepts illustrated or explained through the interactions, characteristic and adventures of Pooh and his friends.

When you discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is fun

It starts with a description of a painting that exhibits three schools of thought and then went through each of the Taoism concepts of P’u (the uncarved block), Wu Wei (literal: without doing, causing or making) and Tz’u (caring or compassion).

The book then examined each of the characters’ main attribute to highlight some points:

  • Rabbit – cleverness
  • Owl – knowledge for the sake of looking knowledgeable
  • Eeyore – knowledge for the sake of complaining
  • Tigger – unaware of limitations

Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work with them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way, which is what they do when you ignore them, whether you realize it or not.  And then you will find that, in many cases, your limitations can be your strengths

Stories and teachings outside the Hundred Acre Wood were also in the book to further expound on some concepts.  It even used a Christopher Robin’s door sign to share this message:

The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple:  you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.

It used the Bisy Backson (which reads as Busy, Back Soon) note to present the story of someone being so busy that they end up wasting time instead of saving it.  NOTE TO SELF: I must remember to not be the same as a Bisy Backson, or else this may ring true:

A way of life that keeps saying, “around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place – happy and good – and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way.

My favorite part of the book is how it emphasizes the importance of recognizing and understanding one’s inner nature.

What we need to do is recognize inner nature and work with things as they are.  When we don’t we get into trouble

The way of self-reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we’ve got to work with and what works best for us.

Doing so, will allow us to be the special person we all are:

The first thing we need to do is recognize and trust our own inner nature and not lose sight of it.  For within the ugly duckling is the swan, inside the bouncy Tigger is the rescuer who knows the way, and in each of us is something special that we need to keep.

Over all, this book is a great short read (158 pages) full of substance.  nth time around, still one of my favorites.

Thank you to the calm, still and reflective bear Winnie the Pooh for being just is and showing the way.

Next stop:  Te of Piglet