Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday
I say this every year, but it’s the time of the year again when Ryan Holiday releases a new book. His earlier work, especially The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy, as well as his marketing books, have been a huge influence on who I am today. But his ongoing Stoic Virtues Series has been great too. I loved Courage is Calling, and his latest book, Discipline is Destiny is its perfect successor. I heard from somewhere that a writer’s work must be either very entertaining or very practical — and Ryan Holiday’s books have consistently pulled off both. You do not want to miss this read.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books that you should ideally re-read from time to time, when you’ve moved from one station of life to another. I first read it when I was 15, and I couldn’t relate to the story at all, and was quite put-off by the character’s cynicism. I gave it another try when I started doing by Bachelor’s degree, and it became one of my favorite novels. Now that I’m already a working adult, I love it even more. It’s not really a happy story, and Holden Caulfield isn’t a happy character either, but that’s what you realize about life as you grow older — that it’s more than just about being happy all the time.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I finally got round to reading this massively popular novel by Neil Gaiman. I picked up the novel after being halfway through Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic books, which are easily a must-read — but I honestly find American Gods quite underwhelming. It’s a bit too rambly for me, and I feel that the story doesn’t need to be as long as it is — and it seems kind of silly at times. But hey, different strokes for different folks, I guess.
The Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson
I was terrified of Marilyn Manson when I was growing up. Especially back in the day, he was very controversial for criticizing the hypocrisies among Christian institutions and leaders. But now that I’m older, I’ve only wanted to understand him — starting from how impressed I was by his articulacy in the Bowling for Columbine documentary.
Even if I don’t agree with everything he speaks out about, I could empathize with him. Taking personal inventory, I wholeheartedly have faith as a Muslim, but I don’t deny that religion could be unreasonably politicized or abused, or used as a tool to judge and condemn others — which is exactly why moderation is at the very heart of faith. Most of the irresponsible people in power — from schoolteachers to government ministers — likely don’t realize that they’re only pushing society further away from religion. After all, who are we to play God, that we like to judge others on God’s behalf?
Interestingly, this isn’t much of an autobiography, as it is more about Marilyn Manson, rather than the man behind the persona. And so, any stories in this book must be taken with a huge grain of salt.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
“Ideas are bulletproof.” — I first read V for Vendetta when I was a kid, actually. Of course, I didn’t get any of the left-wing sentiments, and I probably just liked it as sort of an action story. It’s way more than that, as you can guess. The story is set in a dystopian future, in which England is led by a fascist government. At a time of great oppression, a mysterious rebel in a Guy Fawkes mask attempts to collapse the government and remind the people of the freedom that they had long forgotten. A rather fitting read, considering Election Day is just around the corner.
My read of Alan Moore’s run of The Swamp Thing has been incredibly reflective, to say the least — especially during the final three volumes. I feel that it has made me appreciate the duality of what it means to be human. It may be fraught with pain, but with it comes beauty and love too. The character’s journey has inspired me too, in the sense that he only grows stronger with every setback he faces. Every ounce of difficulty is an opportunity to know yourself better, to uncover what you’re really made of.
With nearly every volume of The Sandman that I’ve read, I’d wish that the stories never ended, and I could just keep turning the pages. Volume 4, or Season of Mists, was particularly enjoyable for me, as it explores the theme of mistakes — of owning up to your past faults, and making better decisions today with what you’ve learned. Though Volume 5, or Game of You, is a relatively weaker entry in my opinion, it still does well in discussing the subject of identity, and staying true to who you are.