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One Year, One Hundred Books – how they are changing me and my perspective on life (Update 20220313)

2022 03 13

New books to add:

17. A Long Way Gone

18. How to American

It’s been a distracted week. Instead of reading I got absorbed in a wonderful TV series followed by getting sucked back into the internet. Now I finished the series my next task is to get unsucked again lol.

Let’s continue.

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Hmm… I’m not sure if this Paolo Coelho book was lost on me or what. I think in reality I just skimmed through it as quickly as possible.

Of course, if you are into that mystical communicate-with-outer-beings attitude towards life then this will probably be right up your street. But for me it was a bit too much in that direction. I mean, The Alchemist was too, but that story resonated more and was more tangible in that it was also talking about life’s dreams and the pursuit vs futility of them.

I am pretty sure there is an even deeper level to these books but I haven’t quite dug into that layer yet. Perhaps if I read a couple more of his books I will be able to start connecting the dots and possibly understanding the deeper meanings.

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Now this book was a gamechanger. A total gamechanger.

I had seen it around for many years but always dismissed it as quite frankly I didn’t have much interest in being ‘rich’.

But I was engrossed from page one.

The whole take and premise of the book was as different as I could have imagined. Because it wasn’t actually about being ‘rich’ per se, but rather the psychology behind where money sits in your life.

This side of it I smugly ticked all the boxes as already being there.

But the other side on how to ‘own’ money – that was interesting. Some aspects because I had dabbled in that too, but that you could counter your finances in a way that you could stay ahead, that spoke to me.

Definitely a game changer.

I would like to reach a point where I can look into investing or similar, or ways where I can let money generate more money – not specifically to be super rich or to live a life of luxury, but at least to a level to cover basic needs and day to day living and from there be able to focus my attention to projects which matter.

Which takes me to the ultimate recurring question: Is business the way forward to financial independence and following a career you love, or could something like this be a much more viable option with potentially far lower liabilities? (Added to this I just watched Silicon Valley which doesn’t really entice me in the former direction…)

Seriously I’m Kidding

Nothing noteworthy except a pleasant laugh. As if Miss E was sitting in the room reading the story to you.

Except it isn’t a story. It’s a direct projection of everything in her mind.

Lol. Just fun.

Love Life

This, like Boy A, is a book which provokes deep ethical reflection. You know that in many ways the actions are wrong by any compass yet at the same time you spend the whole book asking yourself ‘but are they really’ or just simply ‘why’ which I think is what we all should really be asking our inner selves.

Not, it’s wrong because that’s what I was raised to think and believe, that’s what society expects or condones, but rather ‘why’. Why do I have this moral foundation? Where did it come from? What is it based on?

I write not to condemn our core foundations, but rather to open reflection. Much needed reflection. Because if this book taught me anything, we need to be a little less black and white in all of our thinking. The beauty of life is in its colour and our minds should fully reflect that.

Oh and the ending. Another ethical minefield but without giving anything away, oh so beautiful in its dignity.

Call Me Elizabeth

Hmm again. Not sure why I took this one off the shelf. I guess I will always have a soft spot for the Belle de Jour books and subsequent series.

This one, without playing down the magnitude of the potential debate at hand – I don’t know, do you ever feel that there are some people in life you just don’t get? Like try as you might to be open-minded, you probably would just pass on an opportunity to sit down for coffee with them?

Let’s put it like this. The whole escort thing I don’t have an issue with – barring obvious situations where extortion and trafficking is involved – but the idea to do that just to keep your kids in private school or a high level of living – that’s where it unravels for me. Not in a judgemental way – each to their own – but in an ‘I just don’t get it’ type of way. But then again I’m probably what many would term a cheapskate, or as I would put it, I get an immense thrill from getting through a tight financial situation, finding ways to get the pennies stretch for miles, or ways to turn the humblest of ingredients or components into the most delightful of concoctions. I think this was the same issue I had with The Year of No Sugar. She too was somewhat black and white in her religious replacement of dextrose in everything. ‘Hmm’ says I who just came back from the store with jam made without sugar with the idea to see if it could replace maple syrup in my magic cookie recipe. Which would be great because it would be way cheaper…

Ok, I’m diverging.

Enough said but hats off to all the ladies out there working as escorts. Whatever your story or reasons, you are each inspiring and I still thank ‘Elizabeth’ for sharing hers with us.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

This was an interesting one. ‘Interesting’ in the polite, diplomatic sense of the term lol. I got it because I’m really interested in understanding culture and how our early upbringings may or not be impacting that. But more about that later or another time.

Having lived in Asia and been in close contact with parents and kids alike, I know for a fact that the education system and way children are raised is not entirely the same as what I may be more familiar with. So reading this book didn’t come as a shock to me. In fact, for a good part of it I felt more that it was exaggerated or over satirised with a deliberate purpose to shock. Which in fact shocked me not in the sense that it was intended but in that there were times where I almost found myself siding with the mother despite her somewhat draconian approaches.

It also raised questions regarding whether such an unrelenting onslaught or barrage of open criticism and shaming could in fact have built a certain resilience or toughness, something to a small degree I can be sorely lacking.

Or could it be the unrelenting consistency which in fact mitigated any potential ‘damage’ or long-term ‘scarring’?

I know from working with psychologists who are specialised in childhood trauma that one thing which can be even more damaging than constant neglect or smothering is the hot/cold approach of more narcissistic parents, where the child never knows where they stand with said parent and our constantly strategizing to reach his or her’s ‘good side’.

In the birthday card scene I was somewhat mortified to find myself agreeing with the mothers seemingly narcissistic stand whereupon if you really cared about a person you would make an effort to produce something beautiful for that person and not just a badly folded piece of coloured paper with some words scribbled across with a blunt pencil. As if they weren’t even important enough for you to take the time to sharpen your pencil first.

And yes, it did resonate with me.

Because I do sharpen my pencils lol, and I also go to great lengths to make things which are as beautiful as possible or as well thought out in as much detail as possible…


Another point is her undying belief that her children are more than capable and that they should be given all opportunity to reach and have a taste of such greatness, the excellence of their own skills and capability. It reminded me of one of the books I read last year Bringing Up Bébé, an analysis of how the French raise their children and how even at six weeks old, parents expect their offspring to play their role and learn to sleep at night – something they also believe they are ‘capable’ of.

This idea of belief in a person’s potential capability, however young they may be, has given me food for deep reflection, because it is a thinking I have always stood by strongly, though never fully reflected on in the child context. But I agree with it.

But it gives rise to inner conflict, because the principles I agree with while the execution of said beliefs sends my inner self screaming to the hills.

Where is the balance? The middle line? Is there even one?

I certainly don’t believe one system is better than another and I also strongly disagree with throwing the baby out with the bathwater (that would be somewhat self-defeating, especially in the literal sense), but how do we even start to amalgamate the two and get the best of both sides? I mean is it even possible?

Yes, this book raised even more questions than it answers, but I welcome the deepened debate.

A Long Way Gone

One of the most chilling events of my life, no question about it, was a few years back. It was the summer break and I’d just finished dinner. I was sitting at the kitchen table and my two housemates were there, DJ from South Africa and AJ from Sierra Leone (names have been changed) and we were just sitting around talking and joking and just enjoying the summer evening.

And then before I knew it AJ had started talking. Except this time he wasn’t joking around. He was talking about life back home and his experience and near death encounter during the Sierra Leonean war. Not even a hair-breadth from not being there with us that evening.

Chilling didn’t even come close to it and all I could think about as he was calmly recounting his past was how little we know about what the people around us have been through. How little we can even imagine the atrocities that exist on a daily basis all around the world. But even if I had read about them, sitting next to someone who had lived through it was a whole different narrative. Like years previously I had a friend who had lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the immense starvation, followed by spending her youth in the Little Red Army going from house to house and ransacking the entire contents, lording over and terrorising the inhabitants.

I digress slightly, but the truth is these narratives need to be heard.

Sure, many prefer to live in tinsel town complaining about yet ignoring the requirement to recycle – thinking that climate issues are not even issues – the fact remains that narratives need to be heard.

Otherwise we cannot change or take action for that which we ignore its existence.

In which light I saw this book on the shelf in the bookshop and snapped it up and read it within two days.

But words can’t describe what coursed through my veins. There are things which should never exist, never happen – especially where children are involved – and yet somehow they do.

And once again we have that flood of ethical inner-questioning whereupon we know to the very core that everything which happened in the story was more terrible than we can ever imagine, yet at the same time going by the narrative of the story it was also something which for an intermediate period ‘saved’ him while also ‘destroying’ him, which gave him an ‘identity’ and sense of ‘belonging’ while also ‘destroying’ him and making him an ‘outcast’ to all society.

That ethical circle where we find ourselves questioning the fact we are questioning the unquestionable.

Like having a perfectly black and white tableau before us when suddenly it starts spitting rain and creating these blotches and smudges and indents of gray.

How do we even begin to reconcile such thinking?

And this is exactly why reading is so important.

Unlike watching a film or documentary or short video on an eye-opening topic, or even reading a short article, a book is something which takes at least eight hours to read, if not longer. That’s like spending eight hours in deep conversation with a fellow human, and if it is broken up over a few days, the time in between is spent in reflection on what we are reading.

The ability to transport and thus transform is definitely hidden within the pages of a book.

Time for another break. More reflections soon.

(2205 words)

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