Being quarantined at home is a great opportunity to get busy educating yourself, especially by reading more. While physical book stores are closed down at the moment, Book Depository still delivers worldwide except for only a few countries.
This monthly reading list will occasionally feature more than just books — Because my mission in writing in this website isn’t merely to get you to read more books, but to read the world. All around us, there are infinite seats of intelligence for us to learn from and become better people. So let’s seize them as best we can.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (BD)
Very good book. This was supposed to be Kurt Vonnegut’s anticipated anti-war novel, based on his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II. Centered around the bombing of Dresden, one thing I find brilliant about this story is how little it actually talks about the war. As Vonnegut sat to write this book, even two decades after the war ended, he still didn’t have much to say about it. Instead of writing exclusively about a character being held prisoner in Dresden, the story involves that character time traveling, getting abducted by aliens, and learning about the aliens’s philosophy of life and death. Through a humorous plot, Vonnegut revealed a great truth of war that couldn’t be explained through tales of guns and grenades — And that truth is about just how traumatizing war is. Canonically, the sci-fi parts of the story may or may not be the character’s real experiences — But we can see that his adoption of an extraterrestrial philosophy is a way of finding easy answers to life’s most difficult questions. We would come to realize that Slaughterhouse Five is the story of a deeply traumatized man who is struggling to make sense of the world in which he is too hurt and afraid to understand.
Einstein by Walter Isaacson (BD)
Always impressed with Walter Isaacson’s books. I learned a great deal not only about Albert Einstein as an individual, but also of his works — Particularly the famous Relativity theory, a concept so difficult to grasp, let alone explain. Isaacson presents the complex and intimidating scientific terms in ways that could be understood by the average reader — As long as she makes good use of her imagination, of course. Like many a great writer and observer, Isaacson discards the notion that a revolutionary figure like Einstein was a “genius”, or gifted, or that he had an extraordinary brain. We would learn that Einstein was just a regular human being, in all his flaws. What made him different than most people was that he was passionately curious. He just genuinely had a great love for studying the invisible forces and structures that govern the world, and he never lost his grip on this childlike trait.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (BD)
I had been meaning to read this book for quite a while, and I’m glad that I got around to it. It’s an exhilarating read — It’s funny and weird, and you feel like you’re riding along in the automobile with the characters, fighting hallucinatory bats and getting into trouble. Other than being an attempt to simulate the experiences of being under the influence of drugs, this book is also a commentary on American life after the 60s ended. The hippie movement had failed, the rebellious youth had cut their hair short and settled into 9-to-5 jobs, and the recreational use of drugs was no longer what they believed in. Times changed, and life went on.
Applied Minds by Guru Madhavan (BD)
It’s always interesting to learn about the mental framework or methods of thinking that one needs to cultivate in mastering a craft. Even more interesting is discovering how those ways of thinking could be applied in other unrelated domains. Throughout her practice, an engineer hones her skill to construct and deconstruct a project, as well as to make the most out of her resources. These are definitely valuables skills to have, even if your work has nothing to do with engineering. If you’re a creative, especially, being able to effectively plan your work, to reverse-engineer a piece of art to see what makes it so good, and then inventively put them to practice, can help you tremendously.
The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday (BD)
This was one of the first books that I recommended when I started this website, and it’s still an all-time favorite. I’ve also personally recommended and even lent my copy of it to a handful of friends and family members, and they’ve loved it as well. In tough times like these, with the unfortunate Covid-19 pandemic going on, this book is a great reminder that we can turn this into something good for ourselves and for everyone around us. Since I first picked up this book, I’ve always had a habit of telling myself, “The obstacle is the way” whenever I feel upset. My mind just conjures images and bits of stories of the iron-willed figures that this book talks about, plus Holiday’s insights that are like a slap to the face, when I happen to face a difficult situation. It’s absolutely worth recommending this book again, and if you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you do.
Also Check Out :
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s spoken word performance in Avenged Sevenfold’s song, Exist (Link to Lyrics)
Avenged Sevenfold wrote their album The Stage with the motive of educating their fans on topics that are vital for current and future generations. While the album is lined with tracks that comment on societal issues such as politics, modern technology, and narrow-mindedness, it ends on a hopeful note in a song called Exist. With an amazing spoken word performance by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the last 5 minutes, the song calls on society to look past our immediate troubles and gaze into the stars, so that we would remember how small we are. Even though we divide ourselves with war and endless conflicts, we are all made of the same fabric of humanity, and we belong to the same vast universe. “There are more stars in the Universe than grains of sand on the world’s beaches,” as said by deGrasse Tyson in his speech. Only once we see how insignificant our biggest day-to-day problems are as compared to the ever expanding universe, we could leave ego out of the equation and find true peace and progress.
Red Dead Redemption II (Video Game)
I recently just completed Grand Theft Auto V’s story, and having played Red Dead Redemption II, I find it disappointing and overrated. GTA V’s story lacks an emotional resonance, and though it boasts of its feature that lets us play as 3 different protagonists, it sacrifices a bond and connection between the player and the characters — The story becomes scattered, and you don’t feel like you’re really knowing the characters any much better as you progress. That’s exactly why I keep coming back to RDR II — The story is a long life-like journey in which you learn about making choices and living with them, owning up to your mistakes, and doing all you can to become a better person. Other than being a huge tear-jerker, there are immense depths in even the side characters, as you can slowly get to know them by chatting and interacting. Even when you’re not doing these incredible things, RDR II teaches you to find stillness as you ride your horse across the country, do chores, hunt bears, and make stew out of them. In GTA, you could easily cut off the silence by turning on the radio in your car. In RDR II, of course there aren’t any radios on horses — During these quiet moments, you feel calm and fully present with the virtual world. Not many games can do that. RDR II is more than a game, really. It’s a life experience. If you’re considering to buy a video game, this should be at the top of your list.