Reading List

What I’ve Been Working On 

 

Storytelling : The Art of Moving Hearts and Shaping Times

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My e-book will be on sale on the 9th this month, and I’m super excited to share it with you. This e-book comprises of important lessons on creating good art, based on stories of great figures from different domains. You’ll learn essential insights, from following your calling, beating writer’s block (or creative block), to figuring out what exactly it is you want to express in your work.

I chose the symbol of a campfire because it tells us two things. Number one, no matter what our medium of art is, we’re all connected to the same tradition of storytelling — we move people, we uplift them, we change how they think, we even shape the times we live in. And secondly, it symbolizes hope. Cormac McCarthy talks about “carrying the fire” in his novel “The Road”, which means keeping hope alive in times of hopelessness. No matter where we are, no matter the situation — be it a pandemic or a personal tribulation, our duty as artists is to carry the fire. And I hope this campfire symbol stays with you as you set out to create your own art. 

If you’ve ever gotten anything of value from my work, you’re going to love it. Hope to have your support and also, there will be a huge discount on launch day, so don’t miss out!

 

 

 

What I’d Been Reading 

 

The Fish that Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen 

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The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King:  Cohen, Rich: 9781250033314: Amazon.com: Books

As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. In banana plantations back in the day, ripe bananas were seen as trash — because they wouldn’t survive the long shipping, and they would rot before any retailer could get his hands on them. Perceived as having no value, they were simply dumped by the lot.

But Sam Zemurray, an unassuming Jewish immigrant, didn’t waste his chances. He had the foresight to find treasure in ripe bananas — he could buy them dirt cheap, they were perfectly delicious, and the only challenge was that he had to sell them as fast as he could. And that was essentially how Sam the “Banana Man” or the “Banana King”, as he was called, made his fortune. I’d never get bored of stories about making the most out of hardships or limitations. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

 

 

Means of Ascent by Robert A. Caro 

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Means of Ascent - National Library Board Singapore - OverDrive

If you’ve read about President Lyndon Johnson, you’d know about two opposing cardinal traits in his character. For one thing, he had great empathy, as he really did care about helping the poor and improving his nation’s lives. Yet, he was also ruthless and pragmatic. He was willing to do whatever it took to win, even if that meant immoral means. 

Caro made it clear in the preface of this second volume of the “Years of Lyndon Johnson” series, that in the pages to come, we wouldn’t be seeing much of Johnson’s empathic side. This book covers his ascent to power in the Texas senate — his exciting helicopter campaign, and also, how he stole the election — through bribery, counting his opponent’s votes as his own, even getting votes from the names of dead people. But I guess what’s most devastating is when Caro makes you realize that all of Johnson’s ploys aren’t unique. That’s just how the dirty game of politics are, and how it always has been.

 

 

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

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What the Dog Saw : Malcolm Gladwell : 9780141044804

This book is a collection of “adventures” or favorite articles that Gladwell wrote for The New Yorker. Early on, he talks about how we as human beings tend to automatically assume things aren’t interesting. We quickly glance over them as we naturally have to decide on what to spend our finite energy on. But the problem is when we lose our ability to tolerate boredom, to get excited and curious about small things, as we did when we were kids. 

Especially as artists, that ability is our bread and butter. In keeping that ability strong, Gladwell had written articles to answer his own childlike questions, like “why doesn’t ketchup come in many varieties like mustard does?”, and “why do some people choke, and others panic?”. It’s kind of fun to see him nerd out in his writing, about topics that you probably wouldn’t have thought about as an adult. 

 

 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway 

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A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway | Waterstones

I initially named my blog after this memoir, because at the time, “a moveable feast” meant something timeless to me, which was the quality that I wanted for my writing. It felt good to reread this and gain new perspective — I especially adore just how much love there is when Hemingway talks about Paris, where he lived as a young writer. It’s an endearing thing.

And only as I have read it now at this point of my life, that I truly understand how you could have a very deep love for a particular place, that it resides in your heart and stays in your mind wherever you go. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast,” wrote Hemingway. 

 

 

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin 

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Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into  Customers eBook: Godin, Seth: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Godin wrote this in 1997, when the Internet was just booming. And pretty much everything he says in the book has become more relevant today. Promotional tactics like advertising don’t work as well as they did back then. An easy example? No one likes Youtube ads, especially since they suck more time out of your life now by putting in two in a video. You skip them as soon as you can, because you don’t care, and because they interrupt your attention.

Godin talks about strategies that involve the consumers’ permission — you’re promoting to them because they asked for it. A common strategy is an email list, where you let people subscribe to your newsletter, and share your content with them — out of their own willingness to hear from you. Another good thing about strategies like this is that it’s a lot more measurable than putting out an ad. With an email list for example, you can monitor clicking rates and other important metrics, so you can judge the effectiveness of your campaign. 

 

 

 

What I’ve Been Listening To :

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival 

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Creedence Clearwater Revival - Willy and the Poor Boys - Amazon.com Music

And this is the music I’ve been studying lately. Though CCR’s tenure lasted only five years, they had forged an unforgettable musical legacy in our world. Through John Fogerty’s brilliant songwriting, they rarely composed generic or happy-go-lucky songs. Instead, they chose to reflect the times that they lived in, and voiced out on important social issues. It was the late 60s / early 70s, so you might already have an inkling of what I mean.

The song “Fortunate Son”, for instance, is about how a person’s social class influenced whether or not he was drafted in the Vietnam War. “Bad Moon Rising” captures the vibes of the times, or the feeling that doom was constantly impending. And “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” is about the band itself breaking apart. 

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