Your life-changing books

Here is the concept: what books have changed your life? I am not talking about your favourite books, or comfort food books that you have re-read over and over again (ahem… Harry Potter series), or even books that you recognize are a masterwork (eg Invisible Man or The Handmaid’s Tale) and deserving of praise. I mean books that, looking back, you see the ingredients for who you are today; books that are waymarkers for your life, turning points that you can say there are distinct periods before and after the book.

Some caveats: self-help books (like Getting Things Done which was transformational for me) don’t count, even though they will motivate you to take action. That also goes for books that inspire you to do (more of) an activity in the short term, like write (eg. Stephen King’s On Writing or Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler).

Lastly, I think we should skip over non-fiction books, like history, politics, and biographies. A person often reads these kinds of books with the intention of changing how they think about things, or at least further refining their thought. I think we should limit this to fictional works, which though may be written to affect the reader’s heart, due to the individual’s present life circumstances of which the author can never know, can often do so incommensurately.

So, if you will indulge me in my little game: which novels have changed your life?

Thinking about the various distinct phases of my 40 years in this existence, I trawled through the 600+ books on my Goodreads to see if I could determine the waypoints. However, the truth is, I already knew before even looking. There are only a handful (not sure if that is a good or a bad thing) that have left such an impression on my mind that I think of them often, even though many of them I have only read once. The candidates are below.
Continue reading “Your life-changing books”

From intergalactic villains to badminton

(The following started off as a tweet, which quickly developed into a tweetstorm, so I decided to move it to the blog, for this is where longer thoughts belong, right?)

I have been trying to wean myself off of comicbook-based entertainment: Marvel TV shows and movies. I need to take a break from the bombastic — less super and more mundane. Stories about the connections between normal human beings. 1/6

Somehow I have found myself captured by “slice of life” anime shows. Haha! Trading one kind of drawing for another! But it is not so comparable. There is so much humanism… and without obtuse metaphor (Ironman’s armor is really the brittle carapace of Tony Stark’s ego, etc) 2/6

These shows deal directly with the emotional material: interpersonal relationships with family, friends and lovers; community values; building confidence and becoming a better person, etc. All at the level of the normal people and not cosmic beings. 3/6

I just finished a series about high schoolers trying to reconstitute a defunct drama club (CLANNAD), which was brilliant. It looks like my next series is about a girl who is really good at badminton, but refuses to play. So excited! 4/6

This trend is also sorta reflected in my reading. When reading fiction I have been trying to steer away from genre-fic to read more literary work. 5/6

Why this new trend? Midlife crisis? 😅 Truthfully, I am not sure. It is something I am reflecting on (hence this thread). Speculation is welcome! 6/6

Calming on the surface – A review of Hawaiʻi

I stare at the waves.

At 5am, while the kids sleep, I drink coffee on the 24th floor balcony afforded a spectacular view of Waikiki Beach. It is meditative. I breathe in the ocean’s breath on my face. I have just turned 40. The vast ocean is my lungs, the waves my breath, slowly undulating. My computer and work are 4500 kilometres away. It has been six years since I have had totally disconnected vacation.

The mottled colour of the morning ocean washes up on the shore. The formative volcanic crater Diamondhead rises in the distance, imposing yet spent. On the water’s surface is a peppering of early morning surfers, at the mercy of nature. Under, are the dark grey blotches of dead coral, at the mercy of man.

I stare at the waves. Continue reading “Calming on the surface – A review of Hawaiʻi”