The good part about four and a half hour train rides is that it gives me a lot of time to read, something I do not do for fun at all during the school year. So far I have finished two books which were both good:
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder. Looking for a book to take with me to California, Alex tossed me this book that he had to read for Syracuse's Shared Reading Program. I think the University picked a great book for all undergrads to read because it is a biography about a Dr. Farmer who devotes his life to treating impoverished TB patients around the world, particularly Haiti, Peru, and Russia. Direct patient care is always his first priority and he studies cultures' politics, religions, and traditions to help treat patients better.
Although Dr. Farmer may sound like a modern-day Mother Theresa, the biography is not overly idealistic. Dr. Farmer's closest colleagues warn young medical students who may think they have to live exactly like Dr. Farmer that "Paul is a model of what should be done. He is not a model of how it has to be done." Moreover, I enjoyed how Dr. Farmer's work and philosophy challenges a lot of people's thinking, both liberal and conservative, on subjects. He spends a lot of money on patients instead of cautiously doing cost-benefit analyses, dislikes do-nothing white liberals, thinks using politically correct terms is a waste, and thinks Cuba has the best health care model in the world.
The other book I read was Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I would describe it as a "chick-flick" in book form-- only more witty and philosophical-- about a woman's year of soul-searching after her depression-inducing divorce. It was a good "escapism" book as I imagined I was traveling with the author. Italy was by far my favorite section- and not just because she talked about the delicious Italian food. Indian was more challenging to read- but that mirrors the author's own experience. Indonesia picked up the book again but I felt like it was a little too fairy-talish. Overall though, it was a good summer reading book.
After a biography and autobiography, I am moving onto fiction. Up next are Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Both happen to book club picks by Oprah (who only lives a few miles away), but that is not why I chose either of them. Finally, my friend Helen also wrote a review of The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri, which is a book my mom recommended and looks interesting.
So many books . . . fortunately I have a lot of time this summer. Let me know if you want to read or have read any of these books so we can be book buddies.