Lower thoughts, lower ways.

Category: On Books

A Book I’d Make My Teenage Children Read

Thought I’d dedicate this post to just one book.


A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Dear earthling,

A picture of me and your grandma always comes to mind when I encounter the word ‘lost’. It was one of those busy days at the marketplace when every section was teeming not only with flies but with people asking for discounts from annoyed vendors. I was holding on to my dear mother’s arm so tightly, afraid that anyone would grab me from behind and pull me away. I didn’t get separated from my mother in that manner but my frail six-year old hands naturally lost her to the push and pull of the crowd. After a few minutes, I saw a familiar arm in the sea of sweat and dust so I grabbed on to it like dear life. It turned out to be another woman who, thank God, was graceful enough to ask me what was wrong. I live now to testify that I was brought back to my mother in one piece on that fateful afternoon.

I will lose you. I know that. I will lose a tiny piece of you every time you go to school in the morning and come back in the afternoon, telling me stories of how your day went, what you have shared to your friends and what I missed out. I will lose even more pieces of you as you grow up and discover things I never expected you would do. You will lose me too, as the days and the months and the years pull us apart. In the end, though, I hope that you will find a familiar arm and a graceful voice that will lead you back to me.

We may lose each other, but we will never be fully lost. I pray that you will find that feeling of home wherever you may be led.

For me, childhood roaming was what developed self-reliance, a sense of direction and adventure, imagination, a will to explore, to be able to get a little lost and then figure out the way back.

Getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are.

The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.


2 Books I’d Make My Teenage Children Read

Every Thursday, I will be recommending two books. It’s a short, curated list for everyone but I will pretend to write for my future kids.

TM - B

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Dear daughter,

In the course of your life, you will witness several sacrifices your mother would have to make. Most of these sacrifices may look irrational at first glance. I’m pretty sure there will be days when it looks like I am sacrificing you, my children, for other things that are bargaining for my attention. However, I want you to know this and know this well, my child: For almost a year, your heart was closest to mine than any other heart in the world. In fact, in those days, life flowed from me to you and back. Sethe in the story committed the unthinkable when faced with the idea of losing her children forever. The story is more complex than I could explain and Sethe suffered a lot of things I am sure I would never experience. I do not know the circumstances in which I will have you, but I will fight for you as Sethe fought for her children.

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.

‘Today is always here,’ said Sethe. ‘Tomorrow, never.’

“Everything depends on knowing how much,” she said, and “Good is knowing when to stop.”


2. The Things They Carried by Tim O’ Brien

Dear child,

There is nothing enjoyable about a war, nothing laughable about a struggle. We cannot glorify violence and will probably choose not to when given the chance, but it is inevitable for human nature to find a little piece of redemption even in the most cold and miserable parts of life. I have forged beautiful friendships with the people I have undergone pain and hardship with and I am sure you will find yourself experiencing the same. We are, all of us, soldiers in our own battles. My prayer for you is to find companionship in the muck and in the dry land and in facing the canyons by day and the demons by night. Share life with these human beings in the form of love letters, family portraits, Bibles and if need be, toothbrushes.

They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

He wished he could’ve explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.

And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.

The Fat Man With The Cape, Cigar and Cane

Since it was the good ol’ man’s birthday yesterday, I decided to compile some of his photos plus a few quotes that I love to remember. I haven’t read all of his books yet and I know there are far better quotes in those I haven’t taken a hold of. Challenge me then to finish my GKC Reading Plan ASAP.


Most of the photos were taken by his secretary, Dorothy Collins, while some others are from random places on the Internet (did I credit you enough? If not, just give me a heads up.)

At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, “Life is not worth living.” We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world. And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter. – Heretics


There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person. –Heretics


We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour. – Heretics


Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front… –The Man Who Was Thursday


Thieves respect property; they merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. – The Man Who Was Thursday


The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. – The Innocence of Father Brown

I am a man, and therefore have all devils in my heart. – The Innocence of Father Brown


The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one.

He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame. ~ The Everlasting Man


If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep. – The Everlasting Man

The boldest plans for the future invoke the authority of the past; and that even a revolutionary seeks to satisfy himself that he is also a reactionary. – The Everlasting Man


It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. – A Defence of Rash Vows, The Defendant

The ‘Iliad’ is only great because all life is a battle, the ‘Odyssey’ because all life is a journey, the Book of Job because all life is a riddle. There is one attitude in which we think that all existence is summed up in the word ‘ghosts’; another, and somewhat better one, in which we think it is summed up in the words ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ Even the vulgarest melodrama or detective story can be good if it expresses something of the delight in sinister possibilities–the healthy lust for darkness and terror which may come on us any night in walking down a dark lane. If, therefore, nonsense is really to be the literature of the future, it must have its own version of the Cosmos to offer; the world must not only be the tragic, romantic, and religious, it must be nonsensical also. – A Defence of Nonsense, The Defendant

The highest and most valuable quality in Nature is not her beauty, but her generous and defiant ugliness. A hundred instances might be taken. The croaking noise of the rooks is, in itself, as hideous as the whole hell of sounds in a London railway tunnel. Yet it uplifts us like a trumpet with its coarse kindliness and honesty, and the lover in ‘Maud’ could actually persuade himself that this abominable noise resembled his lady-love’s name. Has the poet, for whom Nature means only roses and lilies, ever heard a pig grunting? It is a noise that does a man good–a strong, snorting, imprisoned noise, breaking its way out of unfathomable dungeons through every possible outlet and organ. It might be the voice of the earth itself, snoring in its mighty sleep. – A Defence of Skeletons, The Defendant


Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it. – Twelve Types 

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. – A Short History of England 

Much of our modern difficulty, in religion and other things, arises merely from this: that we confuse the word “indefinable” with the word “vague. – Charles Dickens

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. – What’s Wrong With the World