The Time Regulation Institute by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar

I cannot believe I have never heard of this book till this age. Being from Turkey, how I have missed this piece.
There are many details in the beginning that makes you wonder why on earth he talks about all these things? You see later on why you needed to know them. Think about your own life, you are who you are with all those details. If you just look at the shadows, there aren’t that many different people. But with the details you are you and I am me.
I’ll have re-read it to spot the ones I have missed in the beginning but there is a passive criticism towards society, bureaucracy, etc. I really liked the tone he took. He doesn’t make these bold statements that it has to be changed, rather the main character doesn’t make bold moves to change it. He rolls through these hardships and you see the ridiculousness of the situation. I can’t find the words to describe it. Is it called black humor? Perhaps that’s what I am trying to explain.

Genre: cultural, fiction, Turkish

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I received this book as a birthday gift from my dear friend Kate. Thank you! I wish I could carve every letter of this book to my memory. I’ll try my best to remember it in the years to come, and cherish it.

*Spoiler alert*
My biggest fear is not to be able to take care of myself one day either due to an accident, or illness, or just – you know – old age. I never believed that I will have the willpower to live on when that day comes. But there is something about this book that gave me hope. I suppose life gets as good as the people you have met.
At first, I felt angered towards the sister-in-law, why she was so distant? But remembering relatives that went through a tougher life event with their beloved ones, I understood. It is not easy to see a perfectly healthy-looking body and accepting the fact that the brain is all gone. You still care about that being, but adjusting to that new normal is not easy. Also seeing the determination of that being to live as best as he/she can… That somehow makes it more difficult. Perhaps by taking in housekeepers, she was keeping all her strength for those last days. Afterall didn’t she say, it was all decided long ago and that they were just waiting for an empty bed.
Did the Professor had a say in this determination? It is difficult to judge. With a memory lasting only 80 minutes can one decide to live or die? I imagine it was possible and the Professor chose to live, otherwise why make all those notes?
The attachment of the Housekeeper and Root to the good side of the Professor… It is a must have trait for everyone. Since they haven’t met with the Professor before the accident, it must have been easier for them to accept this new normal unlike the sister-in-law. However, it is still not easy to live happily, yet, they managed to accumulate many happy memories. Perhaps if the Professor had a more hostile personality it wouldn’t have been possible.

Genre: contemporary, fiction, Psychological

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

… Not for me. The story was ok. An admirer of fiction from a very young age I could relate to the main character and her obsession with books. I have never been a person to recommend books on a personal basis unlike her. I would seldom tailor my recommendations to what you/him/her would like.

I found the transition between sections unsettling. “she wondered…” and that’s it. No more elaboration on what she wondered and we are off to a new chapter/section. The tone was similar to the book “The Assistants”  which I haven’t reviewed here. I thought I was irritated because I had listened to it rather than had read it but that was not the case it seems. Unlike “The Assistants”, at least the story gets better in this book.

Genre: contemporary women, fiction, romance

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

Good news first! this book shows you how much women at JPL struggled at the time. You can translate the problems at JPL to any other organisation. Why is that good news? Well, if there is a single soul left thinking sexism doesn’t exist, it should be pretty clear after reading the book. I enjoyed every word of this book, it has a nice flow.

There are, of course, drawbacks to the author’s style. Let’s start with the title. I would like to see the word ‘women’ there, but perhaps it is not as catchy as ‘girls’. ‘Girls’ is a one syllable word after all, easy to remember(?). The book is written like it is work of fiction. Although I found this quite charming, I imagine it will disappoint some. Because it is also this style that downplays the sexism, or the success of women at JPL achieved by caring and supporting each other. Ok, not exactly downplays it, but… how to say it… It doesn’t make it the main course which you stare at a dinner party more than half the time. It is rather the desert you serve with a nice glass of wine. You get the enjoy the looks of the desert, you taste it and then you start talking about it. That’s when all the flavour comes out. You have to think about the events to see the struggle. To see how women had been and still are treated.

My recommendation is that do not read this book like it is a manifesto. Do not expect to find heated arguments against sexism. Instead, look and see how women survived in a world ready to fry them. They may not had rallies, or boiling arguments but what these women had done is also needed for us to get the rights we deserve. It is a quiet revolution, not a bloody one and so is the book.

Genre: Biography, Feminism, History, Non-fiction

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

I haven’t read any literature on autism, I exempt scientific articles from this context. Any literature that is written by a neurotypical who is not the experimenter. Until this book. I came across a review on Nature. I said to myself ‘There were many days you dreamt of having the label autistic so that you could explain why you were the way you were because the term eccentric just wasn’t enough for you to accept you, for people to accept you. Shouldn’t you know more about the history of the label and the battle people fought to define it?’.

I ordered the book from Google PlayBooks on 14 Dec. Just a couple of hours ago, I marked it as finished. The book gives you a comprehensive story of autism. As a scientist myself, reading this book made me realise once more how much science is entangled with prejudice, politics and pretence claims giving birth to pain and suffering. I once more realised how the help I expect from medicine is… How to express this? You would think that instead of putting the kids to prisons, so called “modern” medicine, a field that should go hand-in-hand with science and sociology, would create environments flourishing the abilities of the kids.

Science is a process. I would like to believe that it is a process that likes to progress. Page after page, I searched for the progress. The process of trying to understand and searching for answers was there. The process of faking results, gaining popularity over the suffering of many was there. But the progress… How can we start from “little professors” and go back to the adjectives like uneducable, asexual, unaware. May the reason be war, may the reason be economics, may the reason be anything you can imagine. We have failed folks. This is not the first time and sadly not the last time, science has failed and will fail.

I know I haven’t done my own research or read any other books to form a healthy opinion but this is the only response, an emotional one indeed, I can give. The book by all means is a fair representation of the scientific community as far as I’m concerned. Science being new religion took it’s toll in autism. We made them suffer in the name of science. SCIENCE IS NOT THE NEW RELIGION! Treating science as the new religion is the worst thing that can happen to human kind.

Science is open to misinterpretations and prone to be used a crowd-control tool much more than the holy religions which is the first point you will came across learning about the history of autism. The second point is the importance of patience, you will see that given enough time some of the kids/adults became far more successful than neurotypicals. Third point is related to the second one, neurodiversity. Human kind has a problem accepting the diversity. If these differences occur on a level not visible to human eye it’s just about impossible to accept. Having two legs doesn’t mean you are not in pain, doesn’t mean you can climb mountains, doesn’t mean you can run a marathon. But we tend to stick strong slogans to everyone’s face that are far from the truth: “You have your legs, what’s your excuse?!. Shut up and do it! You can become anything you can imagine!”. We said the same thing to them: you have everything intact, so what’s your excuse not snapping out of it?! Which is ironic, truly. Neurotypicals supposedly had the empathy to relate to others. We have clearly failed to do so.

I deliberately refrained from giving a true summary of the book but instead conveyed the thoughts it lit up on my mind. These three were the points I would be thinking over and over, trying to apply what I have learned as a general idea to almost any subject not just to autism. Prepare your pen, markers and notepad while reading the book. You would like to go back a few pages before you move on to the next page a few times. Some names you would like to hear more about but never will. The real life stories are not dramatised, yet it will bring tears to your eyes.

Genre: History, Non-fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

If Jules Verne were to write about a war time, he would use a similar perspective: The importance of radio. But I don’t think the magic presented by Doerr is as striking as Verne’s. Maybe because I was a child when I read Verne, thus it’s me who lost the magic not the author.

The war is presented not violently. Yes, it’s a war and it’s brutal for anybody, whether you are the winner or the loser. And bad things, horrible things happen in this book as well. But the descriptions doesn’t go into details of this brutality.

We had a discussion of this book, in this month’s book club. One of the points was about the things happened in Berlin when the Russian soldiers came to town. It doesn’t matter which side you are from in war, it is us humans who loses in the end. We learn absolutely nothing from it that we have been and will be at war since we existed till we cease to exist.