Category Archives: A Book A Week

Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

February 4, 2016 · 10:46 am

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Content:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Overall:5 Stars (5 / 5)

Mood: Reflective

I was first introduced to Paul Kalanithi when an essay he wrote and a the video below were making the rounds on Facebook. As a 6th year neurosurgery resident, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and speaks about what it means to be dying.  He passed away in 2015. In his memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, which was published posthumously, Kalanithi looks back on his life-long search to understand what gives life meaning.  The question was first sparked through his childhood love of literature, and he continued to pursue it in neurosurgery—what sacrifices of brain function are worth it to preserve life?

His writing is elegant and thoughtful, and his stories are interesting.  It’s perhaps not a ground-breaking book, but it spoke to me profoundly.  I think hearing his story while he was alive, and reading it again after his death made the book especially meaningful.  Also, as I look forward to studying medicine in the near future, his path to and through the study of medicine resonated with me.  But I think most significantly, I identified with the soul-searching questions he asked as he faced the end of life at the peak of his “potential”—the same questions I faced when I lost a dear friend shortly after his college graduation.

I’ll offer one suggestion to those picking up this book for the first time: read the forward and the epilogue first.  I think Kalanithi’s own final words are so profound, and bookend his story so well, that they deserve to be read last.


Read this if:

  • You want to read a poignant memoir by a thoughtful writer.
  • You like to explore the complexities of life and death.
  • You’re interested in Medicine and literature.

Favorite Quotes:

“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.” ― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“’Will having a newborn distract from the time we have together?’ she asked. ‘Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?’
‘Wouldn’t it be great if it did?’ I said. Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.”― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.” ― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.” ― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

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Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

February 1, 2016 · 9:59 am

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Readability:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Content:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Overall:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Mood: Depressing

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is about the chaos that latches on to Theodore Decker’s life when he loses his mother in a terrorist attack.  The story is part coming-of-age, part suspense, and part long-form philosophy.  Tartt is clearly a very gifted writer, and she skillfully pieces together the various raw bits of information that make up a poignant scene, thought, or memory.  That being said, I felt the laborious descriptions weighed the book down, and the passages about the meaning of life, particularly at the end, seemed somewhat extraneous to the actual story. To me, reading it was like sitting through a classical music concert: I recognize the incredible skill that goes into it, and the incredible beauty that comes out, but it’s not my cup of tea and I prefer it in small doses. If I was editing the book based on my own reading preferences, I would have pared down the middle 500 pages by half or more.

Read this if:

  • You enjoy unusual coming of age stories.
  • You love deeply descriptive writing.
  • You want to read a story that explores the many faces of grief over time.

Favorite Quotes:

“I missed her so much I wanted to die: a hard, physical longing, like a craving for air underwater.” ― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

“Every new event—everything I did for the rest of my life—would only separate us more and more: days she was no longer a part of, an ever-growing distance between us. Every single day for the rest of my life, she would only be further away.” ― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

“But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.” ― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

“Because I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is a catastrophe.” ― Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch

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Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

January 21, 2016 · 3:04 pm

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Readability:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Content:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Overall:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Informative

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman tells the tale of two “functions” of the brain: System 1 (our automatic thought processes) and System 2 (our conscious thought processes). The book is scientific non-fiction, but as far as scientific non-fiction goes, it manages to be both engaging and entertaining.  Based on the content alone, I would suggest that everyone read this book. It illuminates the unconscious choices and biases of the human mind, from why people play the lottery, to how lunch breaks affect parole hearings. I know I will be far more conscious of my choices for having read it.

Read this if:

  • You’re looking for an enjoyable read about the inner workings of the mind.
  • You want to better understand how humans make judgments and choices.
  • You want to makes thoughtful, “intentional” choices.

Favorite Quotes:

“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact.” ― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

“The psychologist, Paul Rozin, an expert on disgust, observed that a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches.” ― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

“You are more likely to learn something by finding surprises in your own behavior than by hearing surprising facts about people in general.” ― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

“Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.” ― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

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Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

January 14, 2016 · 1:28 pm

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Readability:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Content:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Overall:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Mood: Reflective

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck club follows the difficult relationships between four Chinese women and their American-born daughters.  The story opens as Jing-Mei takes her recently deceased mother’s place in the Joy Luck Club with her mother’s three friends, and laments that she never really knew her mother. Through a series of flashbacks, we see the events that shaped each of the mothers, and the struggle of the mother-daughter pairs as they try to relate to each other across their different cultures and life circumstances.  I found that some of the characters (particularly the daughters) blended together as they told strikingly similar stories, but overall it was a very pleasant read, and includes my new all-time favorite arranged marriage story.

Read this if:

  • You’re looking for an enjoyable read with strong female characters.
  • You have a mother or a daughter.
  • You’d like some perspective about the intersection of Chinese and American cultures.

Favorite Quotes:

“What was worse, we asked among ourselves, to sit and wait for our own deaths with proper somber faces? Or to choose our own happiness?” ― Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

“I think now that fate is half shaped by expectation, half by inattention. But somehow, when you lose something you love, faith takes over. You have to pay attention to what you lost. You have to undo the expectation.” ― Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

“I once sacrificed my life to keep my parents’ promise. This means nothing to you, because to you promises mean nothing.” ― Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

“And now at the airport, after shaking hands with everybody, waving good-bye, I think about all the different ways we leave people in this world. Cheerily waving good-bye to some at airports, knowing we’ll never see each other again. Leaving others on the side of the road, hoping that we will. Finding my mother in my father’s story and saying good-bye before I have a chance to know her better.” ― Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

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Review: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

January 10, 2016 · 3:21 pm

Readability:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Content:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Overall:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Mood: Reflective

Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is written as the “begets” of the dying Reverend John Ames—a compilations of writings to leave his young son.  He writes about his life (stories of his father and grandfather), and his faith (the sermons he wrote, and sometimes unconventional things he believes), but much of the story centers around his difficult relationship with his best friend’s troubled son, Jack. Robinson subtly questions how we relate to people in our lives who have chose a different path than us. The writing meanders a a bit, so it took some time for me to feel invested in the story, but the various threads came together so powerfully in the end that this definitely ended up being my favorite book of 2015.

Read this if:

  • You’re interested in reflections about faith and redemption.
  • You’re a pastor, or know and love someone who is.
  • You want an interesting story about the intersection of slavery, pacifism and the divergent faiths of different generations.

Favorite Quotes:

“Christianity is a life, not a doctrine . . . I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own.” ― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

“It is a good thing to know what it is to be poor, and a better thing if you can do it in company.” ― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

“I think the attempt to defend belief can unsettle it, in fact, because there is always an inadequacy in argument about ultimate things.” ― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

“Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.” ― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

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Book Reviews

January 9, 2016 · 7:22 pm

2016

January

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.

(Thanks to Neil for the recommendation)The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

 

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

(Thanks to Andrea for the recommendation)

Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tann

 Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

(Thanks to Jason and Yohannes for the recommendation)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

(Thanks to Kate for the recommendation)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

February

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

2015

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

(Thanks to Rebekah for the recommendation)Purple Hibiscus

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

(Thanks to Hannah for the Recommendation)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

 

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

January 9, 2016 · 6:57 pm

Readability:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Content:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Overall:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Mood: Dark but Entertaining

Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao follows the story of a Dominican family and the fukú (curse) that haunts them.  It reads like a perpetual adolescent recounting a gory film or an exciting urban legend. This presumed distance makes the darker material a little easier to swallow, but genocide, rape and suicide never go down easy.  The story starts and ends with Oscar, an overweight sci-fi nerd growing up in New Jersey who has bad luck (read: no luck) with women, but it dives into the story of previous generations circa the reign of Trujillo, the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic between 1930 to 1961.  Díaz weaves an artfully told history of the Dominican Republic (beyond the “mandatory two seconds”) into the complex relationships between parents and children: what if emotional scars are your birthright?

Read this if:

  • You want a fun but meaty read.
  • You were ever an adolescent sci-fi nerd.
  • You want a glimpse into Dominican history and culture.

Favorite Quotes:

“For those of you who missed your mandatory two seconds of Dominican history: Trujillo, one of the twentieth century’s most infamous dictators, ruled the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961 with an implacable ruthless brutality. A portly, sadistic, pig-eyed mulato who bleached his skin, wore platform shoes, and had a fondness for Napoleon-era haberdashery, Trujillo (also known as El Jefe [The Boss], the Failed Cattle Thief, and Fuckface) came to control nearly every aspect of the DR’s political, social, and economic life through a potent (and familiar) mixture of violence, intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror.” ― Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“Sucks to be left out of adolescence, sort of like getting locked in the closet on Venus when the sun appears for the first time in a hundred years.” ― Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“That’s life for you. All the happiness you gather to yourself, it will sweep away like it’s nothing. If you ask me I don’t think there are any such things as curses. I think there is only life. That’s enough.”  ― Lola in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“Ybon was the one who suggested calling the wait something else. Yeah, like what? Maybe, she said, you could call it life.” ― Oscar in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

March 20, 2015 · 6:00 pm

 The Alchemist

Readability:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Content:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Overall:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was a light and refreshing read.  It follows “the boy” Santiago, a shepherd from Andalusia, on his quest to follow his personal legend—specifically, a buried treasure near the pyramids of Egypt.  He’s waylaid in Tangier, and then at an oasis in the Sahara, and through his travels, he learns to follow omens and to understand the language of the world.

This was the first book I finished after reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and while both books follow the introspective journeys of young men, the similarities end there.  I’ll readily admit that I prefer Santiago’s  trusting optimism over Holden Caulfield’s endless angst.  While I think that Holden’s adolescent exegesis of Ecclesiastes certainly has it’s place in literature, I personally can’t resist a beautiful story. Salinger might paint a more realistic picture, but Coelho paints a more beautiful one.

Likes:

  • After fighting my way through some heavier books, reading The Alchemist was like a breath of fresh air.
  • I was not expecting it to be so saturated with philosophy and religion, but that was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed Coelho’s commentary about the universality of the human experience and I especially liked the idea of a universal language.  To me, it was reminiscent to me of Martin Buber’s I and Thou, which explores those rare, but powerful moments when we really connect to each other.
  • The story shows again and again how our fear of failure is often the biggest obstacle that keeps us from doing what we feel called to do.  I think this is a truth worth spreading.

Dislikes:

  • I did actually enjoy the philosophical asides, but from time to time they verged on being “preachy.”
  • While the idea that we hold ourselves back from pursuing our passion resonates with me, a fairy tale is still a fairy tale. There are people who persevere relentlessly, and continue to be beaten down by life just as relentlessly.  This is a lovely story, and I think it has a lot to teach about how we approach life, but less to say about what to expect from life.

Favorite Quotes:

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I couldn’t have found God in the seminary, he thought, as he looked at the sunrise.” ― “The Boy” Santiago in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

“At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.” ― Melchizedek, King of Salem in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” ― Fatima in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

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Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

March 18, 2015 · 2:50 pm

 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Readability:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Content:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Overall:4.25 Stars (4.25 / 5)

Two of my sisters and a handful of other people recommended this book, so I knew it would be a good read, but the painful truth is that it is difficult for me to read non-fiction, and this book was no exception.  Although the content was great, I got bogged down with names of doctors and labs and dates of court rulings and meetings, but I’ll give it a 4 for readability, because it was still a captivating story and I think it sits a level above most non-fiction in the readability department.

In this book, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of HeLa, the first immortal human cell line, intertwined with the story of Henrietta Lacks, the woman from whom those cells were taken, and her decedents.  When Henrietta had a cancerous tumor removed at Johns Hopkins Hospital, that tumor was taken to the hospital’s Tissue Culture Laboratory, where Dr. George Gey was attempting to grow human cells in culture.  These particular cells, because of their unusual mutations, grew exceedingly well, as opposed to other human cells that died almost immediately in the lab.  They were eventually mass produced and became the impetus for innumerable scientific and medical advancements, including the development of the polio vaccine.

Meanwhile, Henrietta quickly succumbed to the fast-growing cancer and passed away.  Her husband and children had no knowledge of the role her cells had played (and continue to play) in the worlds of science and medicine until decades after her death.  Even after learning about the HeLa cell line, most of Henrietta’s family did not have the education to understand the bits and pieces of information from the medical/scientific community that were tossed to them like crumbs.  Henreietta’s daughter Deborah in particular, endured significant psychological suffering when she came to understand that “a part” of her mother was still alive and was being experimented on and cloned.

Skloot weaves together a story that shows the incredible benefits that HeLa has brought to science and medicine, in contrast with the great suffering and loss that Henrietta’s death meant for her family, and their ongoing struggle to come to terms with her immortal cells.  Skloot also delves into the murky waters of scientific research ethics, which are not well defined by law.  She takes a look at abuses in the past, and the potential for new abuses to arise, as people clamber to commercialize their research on human tissue.

Likes:

  • This was an incredibly well-researched book, and Skloot went to great lengths to uncover the history and science that make this book so meaty.
  • Skloot tells some important stories about the history of unethical research practices, particularly on African American subjects.
  • Skloot kept the promise she made to Deborah and has used “a portion” of the book’s proceeds to set up a scholarship fund for descendants of Henrietta Lacks.
  • Henrietta’s daughter Deborah bemoans again and again the lack of accessible information the family has about Henrietta and HeLa.  I think that this is the book she would have wanted to read so she could understand what happened to her mother and her mother’s cells.

Dislikes:

  • Jumping between the story of HeLa and the story of Henrietta was not always seamless.  The book is told in mostly chronological order, but there are flash forwards near the beginning and flash backs near the end that make the chronology confusing from time to time.
  • As Skloot ponders Gary Lack’s suggestion that Henrietta’s immortality is Biblical, she says, “Of course they were growing and surviving decades after her death, of course they floated through the air, and of course they’d led to cures for diseases and had been launched into space.”  It’s all very sweet until she follows it up by saying, “Angels are like that. The Bible tells us so.”  I know I’m being nitpicky, but no it doesn’t.
  • While I appreciate the apparent care and respect that Skloot had for the Lacks family, I couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy as they expressed to her time and again their misgivings about reporters digging into their mother’s life, and about all those who were making a profit off of their mother while her family remained in poverty.  In the end, did they feel differently about Skloot and this story?  Were all the graphic details of their personal lives necessary to tell the story that needed to be told?  I don’t want to begrudge Skloot the right to have written this book, I just hope it wasn’t more salt in the wound of a family who has already suffered so much.

Favorite Quotes:

“But I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see no doctors?” ― Deborah in Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Black scientists and technicians, many of them women, used cells from a black woman to help save the lives of millions of Americans, most of them white. And they did so on the same campus—and at the very same time—that state officials were conducting the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies.” ― Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“And in the late nineties, two women sued Hopkins, claiming that its researchers had knowingly exposed their children to lead, and hadn’t promptly informed them when blood tests revealed that their children had elevated lead levels—even when one developed lead poisoning. The research was part of a study examining lead abatement methods, and all families involved were black. The researchers had treated several homes to varying degrees, then encouraged landlords to rent those homes to families with children so they could then monitor the children’s lead levels.”  ― Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“I kept reading: ‘This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. There is, of course, a physical body, so there has to be a spiritual body.’
‘HeLa?’ I asked Gary. ‘You’re saying HeLa is her spiritual body?’
Gary smiled and nodded.” -Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

January 16, 2015 · 6:36 pm

 The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Readability:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Content:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Overall:3 Stars (3 / 5)

The Catcher in the Rye is the perfect example of high school English class literature that I never got around to reading, so I decided to tackle it for Project 2015.

This book is essentially a 48 hour stream-of-consciousness of fifteen year old Holden Caulfield. It begins on a Saturday afternoon as Caulfield says goodby to Pencey Prep (he’s failing out), and follows him through a tumultuous weekend in New York City as he tries to drink and socialize his way out of a growing depression/nervous breakdown.  He wraps up the story at a park on Monday afternoon, having found some measure of solace in the company of his little sister, Phoebe.

The Catcher in the Rye took me completely by surprise.  I have no idea how I got the idea (perhaps the Pegasus-esque horse on the cover), but I was expecting some sort of mythical children’s story about dreams. Instead I found myself roaming the streets of NYC inside the mind of an angsty teenage boy with a bizarre vocabulary and pattern of speech.  I really felt like I aught to love this book, but my predominate feeling as I read it, and even once I’d finished, was bewilderment.

Likes:

  • I’ve never felt so completely inside the mind of a character before, except perhaps in Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go (and the whole Chaos Walking series.) Stream-of-conciousness is not my favorite style to read, but I do think it takes a certain level of literary genius to do it well.
  • Caulfield is not terribly introspective, but his feelings come across as incredibly raw and poignant nonetheless.
  • Salinger captures so much of the way that we think about the many different people we encounter, from our first impression of their noses, to the feelings they leave us with.
  • In the midst of his ceaseless rambling, Caulfield offers a handful of very profound insights into society.

Dislikes:

  • As I said, stream-of-consciousness is not my favorite style to read, especially when it is so full of colloquialisms and disjointed thoughts.  Holden Caulfield’s unique voice becomes sort of endearing after a while, but I still found it a bit grating to read.
  • I was pretty far into the book before I finally stopped trying to piece the plot together, and realized that there really isn’t one.  There was a moment in the end that seems to wrap up the story with a bow (à la Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower), but I couldn’t help feeling it was incomplete.  I expect a story to have some sort of unifying theme, and/or culminating event.  This was a detailed account of a moment in time, a psychosocial event, an intricate portrait of an individual, but not a story in the traditional sense.  I don’t think this necessarily deserves to be a con, except to say that even a great portrait cannot be a better story than a really good story (with a plot).

Favorite Quotes:

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” -Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

“I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn’t do it.  I can’t always pray when I feel like it.  In the first place, I’m sort of an atheist.  I like Jesus and all, but I don’t care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible.  Take the Disciples, for instance.  They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth.  They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head.  All they did was keep letting Him down.  I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples.” -Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

“I remember I asked old Childs if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide.  Childs said certainly.  That’s exactly where I disagreed with him.  I said I’d bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell.  I still would, too, if I had a thousand bucks.  I think any one of the Disciples would’ve sent him to Hell and all—and fast, too—but I’ll bet anything Jesus didn’t do it.” -Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” -Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

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