Book 7 of 24: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Book 7 of 24 of A Year of Books. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Read: March 2018.

The thing that drives me into reading these types of books is obsession. Obsession of the writer, the scientists, and the discoverers all throughout our time who studied every nook and cranny of the universe they can possibly find. In the context of the size of everything, it isn’t much. But in relation to our tiny human minds… It’s a lot more than we can ever know or remember or even understand.

While there are a million interesting/amazing/funny things in the book, here are a few points I believe we need some reminding of once in a while:

  • It takes a huge amount of luck – more luck than we can ever imagine – for any living thing to be alive. So the fact that we woke up today, the fact that we even exist means we are so (damned) lucky.

Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you can make it. Getting here wasn’t easy I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.

We are awfully lucky to be here… To attain any kind of life at all in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course. We enjoy not only the privilege of existence, but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better.

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Book 6 of 24: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Book 6 of 24 of A Year of Books. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Listened to: March 2018.

I signed up to Audible’s 30-day free trial to listen to the Ready Player One audiobook. Normally I like actual reading more. It allows me to speed up and slow down my pace depending on my level of interest. But this book got me hooked. I ended up listening to it in the car, in the elevator, in bed before I sleep… Practically everywhere.

It’s a light and easy, young adult, science fiction read. Probably not an original concept, but the existence of a virtual life outside of real life interests me a lot. I used to play a lot of games when I was younger and it brought back a lot of good feelings, when I used to spend hours and hours on the computer killing bad guys and collecting items in RPG games.

Book 5 of 24: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Book 5 of 24 of A Year of Books. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Read: March 2018.

Last night – which is a Friday night – I spent after hours talking about Haruki Murakami’s memoir while sipping red wine in our office common area. It was our second Book Club session. Nothing formal. Just a place where questions like “How did you find the book?” end up with topics around sport, determination, culture differences, the difficulties of being a creative professional, suicide, amassing huge amounts of wealth, retirement, and most importantly, how to get a husband that has lots of money so you can quit your job and be a “philantrophist”. (I mean…)

Imagine a Facebook group about books – but in person! Imagine the Good Reads review section – but with actual people conversing with each other about their learnings, lives, funny thoughts, misunderstandings and whatnot.

On the one end, there are our conversations on the web; our ability to interact with people around the world with witty 140-character or three-sentence comments; hit like, follow, love… There is some magic in that. On the other end, there are our conversations in real life; small pockets of time we allocate specifically to listen, and at certain times, speak, mostly about things you don’t usually talk about IRL. It’s getting all the rarer these days, but that’s what a Book Club is. Continue reading “Book 5 of 24: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

Book 4 of 24: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Book 4 of 24 of A Year of Books. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. Read: February 2018.

I told my version – faithful and invented, accurate and misremembered, shuffled in time. I told myself as hero like any shipwreck story. It was a shipwreck, and me thrown on the coastline of humankind, and finding it not altogether human, and rarely kind.

All throughout the book, I wonder which parts are true and which are fiction. I realize, perhaps, that fiction and truth are one and the same. That we have different perspectives mean we have different truths, and this was Jeanette’s truth.  Continue reading “Book 4 of 24: Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson”

Book 3 of 24: You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier

Book 3 of 24 of A Year of Books. You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto. Read: February 2018.

We should instead seek to inspire the phenomenon of individual intelligence. “What is a person?” If I knew the answer to that, I might be able to program an artificial person in a computer. But I can’t. Being a person is not a pat formula, but a quest, a mystery, a leap of faith.

Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget falls within the gray area between a tech and a philosophy reading. The basic premise is that we have to continuously question whether the design of the technologies we create (and use) stretches our capabilities as human beings, or reduces them. Continue reading “Book 3 of 24: You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier”

Book 2 of 24: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Book 2 of 24 of A Year of Books. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Read: January 2018.

Everyday, our beagle, Sky would start barking at 5:00am for my dad to take him out to pee. On the weekends, my dad leaves him out in the lanai/garden after his walk. After an hour or two, additional rounds of barking ensues. And he will keep doing this until any of us wakes up and gives him attention. (Usually that person is me.) So you would understand why I refuse to go out late nights these days… We are all forced to be morning persons on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Not that I’m complaining.

Last Sunday, dad realized that Sky’s incessant barking isn’t necessarily a call to take him out for a walk or pee or to exercise (beagles are one of the most energetic dogs and it’s important that they get the right amount of activity). Every time he’d take him out the gate, he’d just sit down and refuse to move. But when dad leaves him in the garden he’d start making a lot of noise again. So… it seems he just wants us to be in his company.

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said… And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…” The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time. “Please — tame me!” he said. Continue reading “Book 2 of 24: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery”

Book 1 of 24: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Book 1 of 24 of A Year of Books: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Read: January 2018.

I love long haul business flights. Being alone forces me to spend time with myself without much disturbance. In the plane I am suspended in the air, disconnected, in a state of being neither here nor there. Silence (or at least something like it) is a luxury. Of course travel is a luxury as well – but that’s a different story.

In this specific flight, I was en route to Amsterdam. My first trip for the year. The perfect time and place to be still and think about “matters of no consequence” – if I may borrow the words of The Little Prince. Like, maybe, happiness. What does it even mean? And why does it continue to be elusive despite “success” or privilege? And what about success? What does it mean? Will their definitions be any different if we strip away what everybody else thinks? I have a barrage of other questions, but I’m afraid to go too deep too soon.

I started reading my first book for the year in that flight – A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. A book which I have already read before, but did not have any meaning the first time. I am not fond of reading books a second time, but that has changed now, partly because of this. Reading a book again with a new framework or with a completely different state of mind changes everything about a book. Come to think of it, it changes everything about everything.  Continue reading “Book 1 of 24: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle”

A Year of Books: Ripping Off Mark Z’s Challenge

By now you probably think I’m a total rip off of other people’s ideas. And I am, without doubt or shame.

After creating my Life Goals Template, which was inspired by Chris Guillebeau, one of my major goals for the year was also stolen from Mark Zuckerberg’s A Year of Books.  In 2015, Mark announced that he has challenged himself to read a new book every other week. And was like, whaaattt? [insert crazy gif here] I remember thinking, how the hell will he juggle that with his CEO work to connect the entire world and all the philantrophy shizzle and Max and yadada?!

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Beyond Five Stars

We only ever remember stories.  This is true when it comes to new places we visit, experiences we try, people we meet, products we use.

If you want to build something that’s truly viral you have to create a total mindfuck experience.

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The Freedom to Suck

Writing is a form of self discovery. Having a blog is a form of self discovery. I was sorting my site’s categories the other week, and in the middle of doing so I realized that it was very much like filtering the things I should be focusing on in my life. As I drafted my About section, I struggled to find the perfect words to introduce myself. Until I thought, well wtf, perhaps there are no perfect words – at least right now. And that’s okay.

You have to write a lot of shitty things to come up with something remotely interesting later. And that is not even certain. It’s a chase for a perhaps.

I chanced upon this article in The Atlantic entitled My 150 Writing Mentors and Me. It’s written by this guy, Joe Fassler, who interviewed 150 authors in the past five years. Lots of learnings, obviously. But amongst them, I find this most useful:

If you’re willing to lower your expectations, to temporarily mute your inner critic, then incremental progress is always possible… Above all else, writers are people who allow themselves the freedom to suck—unrepentantly, happily, even. They’ve learned through hard experience that out of failure comes something better. And that the only catastrophe, really, is the refusal to keep trying.

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