Favourite Books 2016

19 December 2016

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
As an introvert, I find refuge and comfort in books. For me, these nine books were the best ones in 2016 because they open my mind and broaden the horizons in ways I cannot explain. I irresponsibly divide them into three categories based on my own experience after reading them:

Philosophical:
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse 流浪者之歌
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

Self-help:
Presence by Amy Cuddy
Makers by Chris Anderson 自造者时代
善生 -- 冯以量

Culture and environment: 
A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta
Snow Flowers and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Ragged Edge of the World by Eugene Linden


Philosophical:

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse 流浪者之歌

Siddhartha is a man who asks questions about life and begins his journey to search for the answer. He realizes that the conventional, preferred or the usually-celebrated path isn't what he's seeking for. He lives an ascetic life, meets the Buddha and decides that he will, no matter what he takes, walk his own path. Siddhartha begins a journey of searching and finding answers between worldly and unworldly pleasure, reality and fiction, desire and peace, joy and despair, wealth and poverty. In the end he finds it - the answer to all his questions and he understands life.

Hands down, this is the most mind-blowing book of the year. Thanks to the person who borrowed me these books, you've opened a door to endless possibilities that I thought didn't exist. If you like to think and contemplate, do not - never - don't you ever miss this one. 

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

This book is about the 'Father of time', the first man who ever measures time. He's been counting and measuring time in every length, be it a short instance, moments in a day, or what it seems like eternity when he was imprisoned. He was stuck in measurements. To help him break that constriction, he is given tasks to help people who are also stuck in measurements, stuck in the numbers of time, "Time is running out" or "There is not enough time" or "I want to get over this quickly". By connecting with these people, he rethinks time and redefines time.

I struggle a lot with deadlines and the lack of patience has brought me so much trouble. The key message of the book is to inspire the readers to redefine how we should spend our time and how precious it is. This is more useful for me compared to time management books in terms of improving my rhythm and pace. 

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

This is not a fiction but it's written by the same author. This book records the conversations of the author, Mitch with his teacher Morrie, who is dying due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They made a promise to talk and share everyday Tuesday, hence the name of the book. Morrie was an extraordinary person in terms of life experience, openness to life and death, and sense of humour. 

I read this a few years ago but it didn't inspire me, maybe because I was too young. If you have ever experienced a loss of someone you love, the separation, more or less, might instill fear in you - the fear of losing, the fear of not having enough time. Morrie has a special view on life and death that you might find useful in overcoming that fear.


Self-help:

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
 Presence by Amy Cuddy

Cuddy gave this amazing TED talk about how your body language shapes who you are. I highly recommend this talk if you have insecurities about presenting yourself in the public and want to improve it. This book is an extension of the concept. She talks about body language, how our body connects with the mind, being fully present (I think quite similar to mindful), and how to take baby steps to gradually make a change. This book has lots of references to the literature, not the easiest book to digest but it certainly helps me to see my problems and how I can change.

Two quote about the book that I should always remember: Slowing down is a power move - we're less reactive and aggressive so we can make better choices and decisions. Doing nothing is doing something - allow some room for a few breaths and a clearer mind.

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
Makers by Chris Anderson 自造者时代

Anderson talks about how the makers are starting the new industrial revolution. Information and technology are so easily-accessible now, entrepreneurs and makers have such convenience and opportunity to create amazing products. This book heavily inclines on the technology part, which in intriguing to read. Although I might not want to start a tech company like he promotes in the book, I'm certainly looking at technology in a different perspective now. It's way more open, powerful and user-friendly than I once thought.

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
善生 -- 冯以量

This book is only available in Chinese language, I hope they have an English version of it so that I can share with more people. If you're a Chinese book enthusiast, I think you've already heard of this book and the many praises that this book received. The stories, about life and death, how to handle losses, how to continue living when a beloved person leaves the world, how to vent and dissolve your pain, how to handle discomfort and regrets... all these things help us to unlock the closed door in our hearts. Death is usually taboo in the Chinese society, I highly respect the author for addressing the issue ever so gracefully and beautifully.



Culture and environment: 

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta

Deola is a Nigerian woman working in London. Tired with her status and struggled to fit in, she decided to go back to the Nigeria she once knew. But things have changed and the changes don't please her. She has to decide whether to stay in London or come back to Nigeria with her family. This is a fictional story talking about issues on race, homosexuality, sexual transmitted disease, family issues and love. Okay the way I describe the book is too solemn, but in fact the story is witty and fun!

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
Ragged Edge of the World by Eugene Linden

This book was given to me for free, Yu He picked it up from a professor who decided to give away his good books. Eugene Linden has an extraordinary profile. He's traveled all around the world to the most remote places on writing assignments for National Geographic and Time. His perspective of our world is of course, different from us who usually travel like tourists. He dives deep into the environmental and cultural issues in lands which belong to the indigenous people. Sounds familiar? We recently have similar issues in Kelantan, Malaysia. There's a chapter in the book about Borneo and Penan people, and his narration on the situation there really draws my attention back to my mother land. This is probably the (unexpectedly) best book I've read about environmental issue.

Favourite Books 2016 - Evetopia
Snow Flowers and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I'm just very grateful to be a woman in this century. Set in the early 20th century, this book talks about two good friends, whose marriages were arranged by the family, wrote letters to each other about their lives. They're struggling with husbands who are disrespectful and abusive, in-laws who are biased and children who do not seem to belong to them. The sons belong to the the in-laws and the daughters belong to future husbands. They're powerless, helpless and lonely. They rely on each other for support. The author described every aspect of their lives in an honest and neutral way, but their conversations are too heart-breaking and brutally true. This story is a good one to rethink our roles and values as women.


There are some other good books I read this year, such as the ones by Dan Brown and Paulo Coelho ('The Alchemist' and 'The Zahir' were great). You can borrow some of these books from me. And I'd really love to hear your recommendations. Share your thoughts and favourite books with me! 

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