Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BOOKS | 100 Books to Read 2014

A new year is beginning, and it is time to get back to some tradition. I intend to read more in 2014. A long time ago, I started an annual list of 100 books that I would like to read in a year. While I have never actually completed all 100 books, I like how it directed my reading. I really do read more when I have an aspirational list.
So here is the 100 Books to Read List 2014 - it is still a work in progress - but past experience has taught me that the 100 titles will fill itself up in due course. As you start reading again, you will want to read more.
So here it is:
  1. A History of the World in Twelve Maps • Jerry Brotton
  2. Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence • Rick Hanson
  3. Running and Being • Dr George Sheehan
  4. The Trauma of Everyday Life • Mark Epstein
  5. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom • Rick Hanson
  6. The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living • Stephen Cope
  7. The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology • Chogyam Trungpa
  8. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism • Chogyam Trungpa
  9. Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery • Chogyam Trungpa
  10. The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them • Richard J. Davidson & Sharon Begley
  11. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers • David Perlmutter & Kristin Loberg
  12. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West • Dee Brown
  13. Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites • Kate Christensen
  14. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals • Michael Pollan
  15. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto • Michael Pollan
  16. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation • Michael Pollan
  17. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History • S. C. Gwynne
  18. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child • Bob Spitz
  19. Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier • Sharon Salzberg
  20. Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste • Luke Barr
  21. Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team • Chris Lear
  22. The Round House: A Novel Paperback • Louise Erdrich
  23. The Road of Lost Innocence • Somaly Mam
  24. The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present • Eric Kandel
  25. The Source of All Things: A Memoir • Tracy Ross
  26. No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva •  Pema Chodron
  27. Give and Take • Adam Grant
  28. Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them • Joshua Greene
  29. The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom • Louis Cozolino
  30. Quiet: The Power of Introverts • Susan Cain
  31. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot • Robert MacFarlane
  32. A Tale for the Time Being • Ruth Ozeki
  33. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants • Malcolm Gladwell
  34. S. Rajaratnam on Singapore: From Ideas to Reality • edited by Kwa Chong Guan
  35. When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice • Terry Tempest Williams
  36. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation • Sharon Salzberg
  37. Hild • Nicola Griffith
  38. Cave in the Snow • Vicki Mackenzie
  39. Lady Audley's Secret • Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  40. The Names of the Rose • Umberto Eco
  41. Dune • Frank Herbert
  42. The Stars My Destination • Alfred Bester
  43. Jane Eyre • Charlotte Bronte
  44. The Windup Girl • Paolo Bacigalupi
  45. Regenesis • C.J. Cherryh
  46. Among Others • Jo Walton
  47. Ready Player One • Ernest Cline
  48. The City & The City • China Miéville
  49. Their Eyes Were Watching God • Zora Neale Hurston
  50. A Fine Balance • Rohinton Mistry
  51. The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore • Edited by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang & Hong Lysa
    [ 01/01/2014 ~
  52. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith • Anne Lamott
    [ 15/10/2013 ~
  53. How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind • Pema Chodron
    [ 27/01/2014 ~
  54. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success • Carol Dweck
    [ 30/01/2014 ~
  55. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace • Tamar Adler
    [ 10/02/2014 ~
  56. The Goldfinch • Donna Tartt
    [ 14/03/2014 ~
  57. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage • Haruki Murakami
    Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
    [ 12/08/2014 ~
  58. The Devil's Star • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 28/07/2014 ~
  59. Nemesis • Jo Nesbø
    Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
    [ 19/07/2014 ~ 28/07/2014 ]
  60. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence • Daniel Goleman
    [ 04/11/2013 ~ 01/01/2014 ]
  61. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running • Haruki Murakami
    [ 02/01/2014 ~ 27/01/2014 ]
  62. The Hunger Games • Suzanne Collins
    [ 31/01/2014 ~ 08/02/2014 ]
  63. Catching Fire • Suzanne Collins
    [ 08/02/2014 ~ 09/02/2014 ]
  64. Mockingjay • Suzanne Collins
    [ 09/02/2014 ~ 10/02/2014 ]

MURAKAMI | Feeling the Voice and the Music in Murakami

I'm reading Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It has the Murakami signature "voice". I think about it, and his books are often a little depressing, quiet and understated - but I love the "voice". I once told a friend about how it feels reading a Murakami novel - it's like I'm sitting at a table, in a jazz bar. There's only him, and me, at the table. There's cigarette smoke in the air, and a couple of beer between us. Then he starts telling me a story, quietly, and I'm just there, listening. Just him and me.

I'm back on the groove and ease reading his most recent book. I like how he always ties in his other passions into his books, most of all music - which might be how he achieves the "voice" in his novels. If it doesn't "sound" right, it's not right. It's about the melody, the "feel" of the voice, rather than the plot that matters. In a way, he's writing a melody as a book.

I had this conversation with a friend a while back. She pays attention to the lyrics of the songs, while I tend to pay more attend to the melody and I often forget the lyrics. It's an odd thing, considering how I am a reader - yet I do not read the lyrics much. I tap into the rhythm, the melody, the sound and the mood of music. Just like how I tap into the "voice" in Murakami's novels and not the story as much, considering how I am a story person.

It is fascinating to think about how Murakami taps into music and channels them creatively into his writing. Perhaps he channels his writing into his running as well. I'm not the only one curious about it, as this Murakami Literary Playlist show.

For now, the playlist for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is Liszt:

As they listened to one piano recording, Tsukuru realized that he'd heard the composition many times in the past. He didn't know the title, however, or the composer. It was a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme that played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations. Tsukuru looked up from the book he was reading and asked Haida what it was.
'"Franz Liszt's 'La mal du pays.' It's from his Years of Pilgrimage Suite 'Year One: Switzerland.'"
"'La mal du…'?"
"'La map du pays.' It's French. Usually it's translated as 'homesickness,' or 'melancholy.' If you put a finer point on it, it's more like 'a groundless sadness called forth in a person's heart by a pastoral landscape.' It's a hard expression to translate accurately." 
A song on pilgrimage. I get that.
My copy of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
Might add more stickers to the cover as I progress with the story.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

I was watching this TED talk by Simon Sinek on why leaders eat last. I like this definition of leadership - that you are given more, so that when it matters, you put yourself at risk for others. It made me reflect on myself, in my role at work, and also about the managers I have encountered through the years, and about those in positions of political power in my country.

The How many of those at the top fulfils the anthropological definition of leadership?

“The cost of leadership is self-interest. If you’re not willing to give up your perks when it matters, then you probably shouldn’t get promoted. You might be an authority, but you will not be a leader. Leadership comes at a cost. You don’t get to do less work when you get more senior, you have to do more work. And the more work you have to do is put yourself at risk to look after others. That is the anthropological definition of what a leader is. This the why we are so offended by these banker boys who pay themselves astronomical salaries. It has nothing to do with the number. It has to do with the fact that they have violated a deep-seated social contract.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

20 Odd Questions with Patti Smith

From Wall Street Journal

Patti Smith:
When I go on tour, I only pack a very small suitcase. The thing that takes me the longest to choose is the book I'm going to read. It is Dylan Thomas's 100th anniversary this year; I have Elizabeth Bishop's copy of "In Country Sleep," so I might bring that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Alone, Lonely and Sadly

A colleague told me the story about her father-in-law and his family a while back. He was dying, and they took him home, so that the family could look after him. The sad truth is, the old man had left a legacy of irresponsible parenting. As my colleague told me - "He only knew how to make babies and go fishing. He doesn't know how to look after his kids." 

The old man had eight children - yet at the end of his days, it was his daughter-in-laws who bathed, him, fed him, took care of him. His own children were not available. This is the truth of a family with no bond. My colleague told me how her mother-in-law was angry as the man was dying - after all the years, she was still angry at the husband who wasn't around, and whom she thought ruined her life. 

When the man finally passed away, he was alone. His wife eventually went to check on him, and found that he was not breathing. So a man with a wife and eight children died alone, lonely and sadly.




Tuesday, May 06, 2014

ESSAY | Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers

Good article on the importance of liberal arts in our education. [ Full article ]
My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees. Henry David Thoreau is as relevant as ever when he writes, “We seem to have forgotten that the expression ‘a liberal education’ originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.”

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Saturday Evening

It's been a while since I had time alone with a book. I am out at a Starbucks, people watching, drinking a hot cafe latte and reading. It's ironical that I am only able to find quiet solitude outside in public, surrounded by strangers and not at home with family. That's life, I guess.

I've just started on Katie Roiphe's In Praise of Messy Lives, and it's a hoot. "L'hypocrisie de la bourgeoisie" seems to be the overarching theme of her collection of essays. I'm on the first two essays, where she talked about the fact that she had to raise two children (from different fathers) as a single mother, and the reactions from those around her. She described the parallels between The Age of Innocence and when she was going through her divorce, and later The Scarlet Letter against when she was raising a child without the child's father. Her situation brought out some annoying (to me) reactions that reminds me how it's often not about you, but rather, it's about them - and people are most intolerant of the situations that they are unable to bear in their own lives. It helps that she is interestingly unrepentant about it all.

I did find her observation of the perception of single mothers interesting:
Part of what seems threatening or unsettling about the single mother's household is precisely that sense that the mother may be glimpsed as more of a person, that these children are witnessing a struggle they should not be seeing, that their mother is very early on a regular, complicated person, rather than simply an adult who is part of the opaque, semi-separate adult culture of the house.
I'm reminded of Desperate Housewives, especially the character Bree (the red head) with her perfectly constructed family life that underpinned a psychotic intensity that absolutely made it absolutely believable that she was capable of murder. What is it with the need for perfection?

Life is more interesting when we stop trying to be perfect and allow the messiness.

So here's to a messy life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MURAKAMI | Run To Live Life to the Fullest

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”

― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

(Photo: Haruki Murakami, after finishing his first marathon from Athens to Marathon in the blistering summer heat - July 18th, 1983. [Source])