The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan
My dog-eared copy of Bob Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles: Volume One has always been one of my most treasured possessions. In my first read, it felt as though the book was a mouthpiece for nearly everything I had felt about music and the world, but couldn’t articulate on my own. I wish Dylan had written a Volume Two, but his latest book is the closest thing that comes to it.
The Philosophy of Modern Song, which he spent over 10 years writing, is a commentary on his best-loved songs, and why he believes the songs are as great as they are. I could spend all day reading his words on music and the human condition — it was a no-brainer to get this book as soon as it came out.
When Giants Walked the Earth by Mick Wall
Led Zeppelin were indeed giants in their realm. Every fan of the band would likely be able to retrace the exact moment when their music first changed their lives. Every guitarist knows that Stairway to Heaven is “forbidden” from being played in guitar stores — because it’s the standard that we all likely started with when we first learned the instrument. Anyone who has at least heard of the band or seen their imagery knows of their sigils, and their logo of Icarus.
But just like Icarus in Greek mythology, Led Zeppelin flew too high and melted their wings in the Sun. While their legend remains today, it was not established without its costs, as the band struggled through fame, addiction, and the deaths of their family members and their very own drummer.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Paradise Lost is a long poem, which imaginatively narrates the Christian view of Satan’s rebellion, and the creation and fall of man. Upon reading the first few books, you might get the impression that Milton is glamorizing Satan as a hero as he rallies his followers — and well, these parts are where many of the poem’s best lines come from. But as you progress, you’d realize that Milton is in fact depicting him as a pathetically prideful figure.
The poem reminds us again and again that the door of repentance is open to us at all times, and nothing is holding us back from it, except ourselves. As the poem depicts, Satan feels the errors of his ways, but every time he does, he only chooses to ignore it out of pride.
I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee
This book is written about the author’s experience of seeing a psychiatrist over a 12-week period in helping her deal with depression and anxiety. The author is brave for baring a very vulnerable part of herself in this book, with the hope that her readers could relate and find comfort in her words. And she has certainly achieved that. As she gradually learned to care for herself better, she shows us that even in our darkest moments, there are always beautiful things for us to live for, no matter how small. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and is definitely one that I would always keep close to me.
The Sandman: Vol 6,7,8,9,10,11 and Overture by Neil Gaiman
Weaving together poetry, history, mythology and folklore in a touchingly gripping story, The Sandman is simply a beautiful read. By the time I got to Volume 9, or The Kindly Ones (which is essentially the finale), I just couldn’t bear to read it anymore — not because it wasn’t good, but the opposite. I felt so attached to the characters and the story, and I just wasn’t ready to bid my farewell. I eventually pushed myself to keep reading, as heavyhearted as I was. Volume 10, or The Wake, which is the epilogue, made me feel empty, as though I was grieving something real.
Fundamentally, The Sandman revolves around its two biggest themes: change and responsibility. The story teaches us that all of us have the capacity to change, no matter how unworthy we might feel. All of us have the capacity to own up to our mistakes, if we only decide that we want to. When it comes to responsibility, the story tells us to attend to our work as dutifully as we can. Yet, we sometimes need to ask ourselves if our responsibilities are worth sacrificing other things that may be more important — especially relationships, and just enjoying the precious moments that we can never get back.
The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman
This novella, which isn’t tied to the main story, is one of my favorite volumes in The Sandman. It explores the nature of love, particularly in terms of what we are willing to sacrifice for our loved ones. The artwork varies wildly throughout the entire series, but this volume has some of the best, in my opinion. I also love how the story still borrows from the same Western influences, but adapts everything into a Japanese setting. It feels different, yet it’s still very much The Sandman.