10 Favorite Books from 2015

2015 was a good year. Here are my favorite books from 2015 (books that I read in 2015, not necessarily books that were published in 2015).

  1. 2666, Roberto Bolaño
    • After working my way through the shorter works of the Bolaño oeuvre last year, I took on this behemoth (at approximately 900 pages, I don’t think “behemoth” is too much of an exaggeration) at the beginning of the year and loved it so much that I read it again.
  2. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
    • Not the easiest thing to read about, virgin suicides, but Eugenides writes with such effortlessness that you can’t help but become engrossed. Stylistically, the novel recalls William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” 
  3.  Cosmos, Witold Gombrowicz
    • In this philosophical novel, two men find a hanged sparrow in a forest and descend into madness (or else they achieve a profound understanding of existence). Of course, it’s about so much more, and features one of the most mocking final lines I’ve read. Plus, it’s short, which makes it easy to read again.
  4.  Blindness, José Saramago
    • In this novel, an “epidemic of ‘white blindness’” descends on a city. Early victims of the blindness are confined to a deserted asylum. And then things get worse. Blindness is a depiction of human depravity too graphic for eyes, which is fitting.
  5. The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski
    • Speaking of graphic depictions of human depravity, The Painted Bird is an unapologetic record of the horrors visited on a vagabond boy during the Holocaust. The veracity of the account is contested, but it’s nevertheless a shocking, beautifully written work. It’s like watching your first rated R movie. Read with caution. 
  6.  A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
    • The first time I read A Farewell to Arms I hated it. When I read it for the second time this year, for a seminar on Hemingway, I loved it. I think that this fact attests to the skill of my professor. More than anything, I appreciated the quality of Hemingway’s prose more the second time around than I did the first. Boasting a well-plotted story and Hemingway’s penchant for scene, A Farewell to Arms takes on the quality of dreams and is as light.
  7. A Guide to Being Born, Ramona Ausubel
    • Actually a collection of short stories, A Guide to Being Born is unlike anything I’ve read. My favorite story, “Poppyseed,” is as touching as it is unhinging. (You can read it here.)
  8.  Snow, Orhan Pamuk
    • This novel was recommended to me by a professor of mine. The novel wrestles with the relationship between secularism and faith, and tries to deduce the place of God in the postmodern state. Excellently paced and complex with engaging characters.
  9. A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
    • This book should come with trigger warnings. Nevertheless, it’s been the most fulfilling reading experience I’ve had this year. This novel gutted me; it’s graphic, overwhelming, and subversive. And, inexplicably, it’s tender. Everything in this novel is irrational, yet potent. My favorite description of the book comes from the jacket: “An epic about love and friendship in the twenty first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light” (italics mine).  
  10. Bluets, Maggie Nelson
    • Only a poet could write so compellingly about her love for the color blue. 

New Year, New Semester

The spring semester is always a tricky little thing, you’re so burnt out over the fall semester all you see is winter break, and then suddenly its gone! And there’s no starting a new schoolyear jitters, you’re already been a freshmen\sophomore\junior or senior for a semester, there’s no excuses really for not having your shit together. You have to get your textbooks and you technically knew what classes you had and how it was gonna be that you should have it by the time the semester starts. But you’re so caught up in winter break that you don’t want to think about school or preparing for it at all. Sadly the spring semester has no three-day weekends (which is more sad than you would think) but I think a full week of spring break makes up for it, most definitely we need that break time.

But at the same time, its a new year, 2016! Its the last semester for seniors, the first “real” semester for freshmen to know what college is like, and there’s a finality about the spring semester ironically considering spring the season of blooms. We’re kinda serious about making New Year’s Resolutions and focusing on ending the schoolyear strong because not for long we will be adults and there is no winter or summer break (unless we go to grad school or become a teacher, but normally not).

Nonetheless its there’s a new-ness and ending feeling with the spring semester with so many opportunities and excitement for what’s to come from the semester or thereafter. So happy spring semester Loggers! Well, enjoy the last three day weekend before school starts xP

Truth Behind “Gangnam Style”

By now, you must have already listened to (and perhaps got tired of) the hit song, “Gangnam Style” by Korean celebrity Psy. Despite its fame, most people are not even aware of what “Gangnam” really means, or the song’s true message. While being in Korea during this winter break, I decided to provide you with a little fun fact about this song.

Gangnam, South Korea (6PM)

As a Korean, I have lived in and visited Gangnam several times. Gangnam, or “강남” in Korean, is a metropolitan district in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. With its trendy shops, restaurants, bars, high-rise buildings and spectacular nightlife, Gangnam is not only one of the most crowded areas in Korea filled with young Korean folks through day and night, but a “must-go” place for the tourists.


An Alleyway in Gangnam (Past Midnight)

However, “Gangnam Style”, in actuality, is an expression associated with the lavish, affluent lifestyles of the people living in Gangnam district. The song satirically mocks the culture of heavy capitalistic consumption and materialism which followed the rapid economic growth in South Korea. At first glance, Psy’s video does seem to be simply “ridiculous”. However, his work is in fact criticizing the fact that the country once built on hard work and aspirations by the earlier generations is starting to focus solely and excessively on wealth, status, and appearances. The seemingly lighthearted song portrays Psy doing crazy, silly things on the set to appeal to the viewers; but as he drops his clownish appearances in an interview, he admits that “each frame by frame (in his work) was hollow”, just like how he feels about the “current human society”.

What seems to be silly and cheery on the surface of the song actually serves to heavily satirize people’s blinded pursuit for prosperity and status, which is common among neighborhoods other than Gangnam, and countries outside of South Korea. Perhaps, when you listen to this overwhelming, “in-your-face” infectious song next time, you should try having this dark yet socioeconomically insightful perspective in your mind.

Discover Puget Sound 2015!

Earlier this month was Discover Puget Sound here on campus, and it was quite an event! Students interested in the school came to explore the campus and learn a bit about us. I joined some 250+ prospective students and their families for a delicious breakfast buffet featuring breakfast quesadillas (that’s right, breakfast. quesadillas.), a campus tour, and an address from our very own President Ron Thomas so I could take some pictures and show you what you missed if you were unable to attend!

Registration on its own was an event, the SUB flooded with eager students and families and the piano lounge was all abuzz with anticipation (for me, it was anticipation of those breakfast quesadillas!!!). I remember quite clearly my own first visit to campus and the mix of nervousness and excitement that went with it. It may feel like you’re the only one with a thousand and one questions concerning college and all that goes with it, but I promise, you’re not! Every single Logger in the Student Union Building that day could tell you the same. Seeing all the prospective students getting checked in and ready to attend this Discover Puget Sound day confirmed that it was sure to be a good one.

Admission counselor Andy Marshall giving some info at check-in!

Admission counselor Andy Marshall giving some info at check-in!

Next it was up to Upper Marshall Hall for breakfast and mingling. Did I mention there were breakfast quesadillas??

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Upper Marshall Hall was packed!

Upper Marshall Hall was packed!

Next, the group made its way to Schneebeck Concert Hall for a word from the President, lovingly referred to by students as “Ron Thom,” and a lovely performance from Puget Sound’s a cappella group, What She Said.

What She Said performing

What She Said performing

Ron Thom and James Miller, director of Admission

Ron Thom and James Miller, director of Admission

While my stomach was most pleased with the breakfast buffet, I do have to say that I was particularly interested in President Ron’s speech. Having called this campus home for going on four years now (senior year, yikes!), hearing what he had to say to prospective students was really something. It wasn’t necessarily what one would expect; while there was some plugging the school as a potential home for all the students present, what was really interesting is the importance he placed on it being the students’ choice. Yes, Puget Sound could be your home. But in reality, it could also not be. Ron provided a lot of perspective by reminding the students just what makes a “good” college, and what kind of students typically find their home here at Puget Sound. I found myself moved by this because I absolutely remember the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the big college decision, and I am so thankful and happy to have found my home here. Had I been able to hear Ron’s speech when I was visiting schools, I know it would have relieved a great amount of the stress. It wasn’t fluffy, it wasn’t frivolous; Ron did a great job giving a realistic expectation of what this school is and what it stands for with just the right amount of touching home talk.

Ron Thom and James applauding What She Said while the crowd is mid standing ovation!

Ron Thom and James applauding What She Said while the crowd is mid standing ovation!

All in all, the day was an absolute success! Following these events, there were many prospective students in my classes, all the way from computer science to art history. (And while I made my lazy senior way to class, I made sure to give directions to the near-panicked prospective students who just had no idea where Thompson Hall was, assuring them that it was okay if they were a few minutes late, like me. [Shame on me.])

And that’s what you missed at this Discover Puget Sound day 2015! If you’re a prospective student hoping to gain some perspective on whether Puget Sound could be right for you, I highly encourage attending the next DPS day. Until then!


Goodbye 2015!

2015 was a pretty big year for our university I’d say, with the students taking action and pioneering the change we wanted to see come about, some to no immediate success (with work still going on!) and some to the change we wanted to see! Yay us!