Discover more from Three Book Thursday
On Malcolm X, Three Cups of Tea, and When the Spirit Catches You
Books that changed my thinking, my behaviors, and my life
Here is your weekly dose of goodness:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
This is the first book that I ever read from cover to cover. I was 21-years-old.
It was the seed that grew and influenced the next twenty seven years of my life–and put books and learning at the center of my why. Malcolm could not have been more correct when he said, “People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.” Well, Malcolm, your book changed mine.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a seminal work that chronicles the life of Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X. From his troubled youth and criminal past to his transformation into a powerful advocate for the rights of African Americans, the book provides a raw and honest account of Malcolm X's life journey and delves into Malcolm’s experiences with racism, his time in prison where he educated himself, and his conversion to Islam, leading to his association with the Nation of Islam and later his break from the organization (a time of tremendous growth for Malcolm).
Through Malcolm X's story, you’ll gain profound insights into the complexities of racial identity, systemic oppression, and the struggle for social justice. The book is a compelling narrative of resilience, self-discovery, and the power of transformation.
Malcolm inspired me to believe in myself and to believe in education through books. He said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” and “Without education, you're not going anywhere in this world.”
Inspired by Malcolm’s habit of studying a dictionary, I would spend countless hours in a coffee shop, as a junior in college, copying words from the dictionary to my notebook (which I still have).
Malcolm X taught me that even when you are at your lows, you always have an opportunity to turn it all around.
As my knowledge and experiences expanded since the first reading of the book, I’ve gone back and read it at least twice–and it is better each time. Everyone has the one book that changed them, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is mine.
Quote: My alma mater was books, a good library... I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.
Quote: In every free moment I had, if I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk. You couldn’t have gotten me out of a book with a wedge... Months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned.
Quote: I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life.
Quote: My whole life has been a chronology of changes. But one thing is sure. As long as I believe in it and work for it, there is bound to be progress.
Quote: I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.
Author: Malcolm X and Alex Haley
Themes: Autobiography, History
My personal notes from the book
I can still remember reading this book while doing my emergency medicine rotations in Bellevue Hospital during residency training.
Three Cups of Tea tells the inspiring true story of Greg Mortenson's mission to promote peace and build schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan (a few years after 9/11). After a failed attempt to climb K2, one of the world's deadliest peaks, Mortenson is cared for by the residents of a small Pakistani village. Touched by their kindness and inspired by the poverty he sees, he makes it his life's mission to provide education, especially to young girls, in these areas. The book portrays Mortenson's struggles, triumphs, and the incredible impact of his Central Asia Institute, which has established schools, educated children, and transformed communities. Three Cups of Tea emphasizes the power of education in promoting understanding and tolerance, especially in areas plagued by conflict and poverty. It's a compelling narrative that demonstrates the difference one person's dedication and determination can make. Perhaps it will encourage more people to consider their own capacity to create positive change in the world.
Insight: I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.
Insight: Osama [bin Laden] is not a product of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is a creation of America. Thanks to America, Osama is in every home. As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy's strength. In America's case, that's not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. That only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever.
Insight:: You can hand out pens to a thousand kids, but you can’t get very far without building desks and schools.
Insight: The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die.
Insight: If we try to resolve terrorism with military might and nothing else, then we will be no safer than we were before 9/11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.
Author: Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Themes: Memoir, History
My personal notes from the book
I also read this book during residency training at Bellevue hospital in NYC–a hospital where more than 100 languages are spoken. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a compelling exploration of a cultural clash and the complexities of healthcare in a multicultural society. The book tells the true story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child in California diagnosed with severe epilepsy, and the cultural divide between her family’s traditional beliefs and the Western medical system. The book delves into the clash between the Lee family's deeply rooted spiritual beliefs and the medical interventions prescribed by American doctors. The book not only sheds light on the intricacies of Hmong culture but also will force you to question the assumptions and biases within the American healthcare system. It emphasizes the importance of cultural competence, compassion, and open-mindedness, making it an essential read for healthcare professionals, educators, and anyone interested in the intersection of culture, medicine, and humanity.
Insight: I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in these places, and often, if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one.
Insight: The Hmong have a phrase, hais cuaj txub kaum txub, which means “to speak of all kinds of things.” It is often used at the beginning of an oral narrative as a way of reminding the listeners that the world is full of things that may not seem to be connected but actually are; that no event occurs in isolation; that you can miss a lot by sticking to the point; and that the storyteller is likely to be rather long-winded.
Insight: Every illness is not a set of pathologies but a personal story.
Author: Anne Fadiman
Themes: Patient care, Ethics
My personal notes from the book
That’s a wrap. Thanks for reading!
Please continue to share with me the books that changed your life!
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