Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Hilarious, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching — All packed together in a very vivid narrative of the author’s upbringing in South Africa, under the dark colors of apartheid. It’s a very hard book to put down and chances are, the engaging stories will stay with you for a very long time
It reminded me a lot of The Shawshank Redemption, because there is the term “institutionalized” that is used by the prisoners in the movie — Meaning that you get so used to life in prison, it becomes the only world that you know of. Because of that, you become afraid of freedom, of what life is like outside the prison walls — So much so that a character in the movie even commits suicide after being granted parole, because in prison, he was an important man, but outside, he was just an ex-convict. “Hope” is a difficult word to swallow, except for the very few ones who know that life is so much more than that.
Because that’s how it was like for Trevor Noah growing up — Being told by the system what to believe in, what to think.
There’s plenty of wisdom to derive from Noah’s stories about learning from life, how he understood from an early age that you don’t own the thing you love, how his mother raised him to be a good man, to be God-fearing, and just the inexplicability of a mother’s love for her children.
The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene
As with all of Robert Greene’s books, I took quite a long time to finish this one — Not only because it’s a pretty thick book, but because it’s honestly a painful read.
It’s like a hospital, where you get hurt with injections, but as an essential part of getting better. Greene invites you to examine the deepest roots of your “uncontrollable behaviors” eg. depression, moments of anger that stem from your childhood.
But it’s worth all that. As you connect intimately with the writing, you’ll come to know yourself better — Acknowledging your weaknesses, leveraging your strengths — Coming to terms with your past, living in the present, moving towards the future.
The aim, as said in the book, is to cultivate rationality and to have a better control of yourself — So that you don’t lose yourself to doing silly, regrettable things. You can’t change your nature, but you can become aware of your traits — good and bad, and you can channel them into productive things.
Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
It was The Laws of Human Nature that led me to read Chekhov’s stories — I learned that he was an astute observer of human nature, as demonstrated by his work. Being a naturally sensitive person, he fought tough bouts of depression, especially as a child. But he learned to use this sensitivity to empathize with human beings, allowing him to soar amazingly as a medical doctor and a writer.
I also admire how, without exhaustive descriptions, he manages to give us an elaborate understanding of his characters — He even had a practice of starting his stories with long introductions about his characters’ backstories, only to cut them out when the draft is finished — Leaving only about 50 percent of his writing as his final piece.
And yes, of course, you’ll learn a lot about the human condition too — For example, his stories examine how we all have the need to have someone to confide in, and in harsher tunes, he criticizes how we tend to behave differently depending on a person’s appearance — When the person we interact with is wearing shabby clothes versus when she’s expensively dressed.