OK, this is just so I remember what I read this past week:
Seneca – essay ‘On the Shortness of Life‘ – Man what an eye-opener! It basically says philosophy is the only worthy thing to do in life. Yeah well he’s a philosopher. But other things in that essay rings so true and there so many quotable quotes.
Alain de Botton – Status Anxiety – Amazing book. Explains status in it’s broadest sense and why we all crave for it – to get love, to meet expectations in the modern meritocratic society and being dependent on stuff like talent, luck and employers. What I was struck by was the theory that, now that mere mortals are all held up to be equal, there’s almost no excuse not to be rich, famous or successful. In the past luck had a bigger factor, like if you were born to a rich family or an aristocrat. The mere plebs were just that, mere plebs. Life was harder but they enjoyed what they had. Now we have lots of self-help books and ‘normal’ guys like Duncan Bannatyne and Richard Branson lining the shelves showing you the way to big success. So we have much higher expectations of ourselves and hence more prone to being disappointed in our lives. Especially if our peers are visibly doing better. It also shows how things, when before were not essential, become considered essential by a larger part of society 30 years later – stuff like 2nd cars and TVs.
To counter status anxiety, de Botton looks at philosophy, art, politics, religion and the bohemian lifestyle.
Rules of Parenting – Richard Templar and Confident Baby Care – Jo Frost – I just signed up to the local library. Thought I’d indulge myself in some super forward planning. Good tips in the rules of parenting book, but some points I just don’t agree with. I come from the school of tough love and obligation… and ‘Asian values’. The Jo Frost book is really cute and I’ll read it again come the time.
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work – Alain de Botton – I had been meaning to check this book out for well over a year since he gave a talk at my workplace. My curiosity was reignited when I finished with the Status Anxiety book. This book was a bit of a surprise. A pleasant surprise – I was expecting a more ‘theoretical’ and general approach to describing work – but he went into detail focusing on specific jobs, tailing specific people who work in accounting (audit firm, Ernst & Young I think), fishing, rocket scientists, a careers adviser, a guy who is a member of the Pylon Appreciation Society, biscuit-making and aviation. It’s like a story book with lots of pictures. And also what is extremely evident is his constant use of metaphors and juxtapositions – some were so beautiful, but approaching the end of the book it gets a tiny bit dejavu-ish. I still like this guy, and this book is very insightful so I’ll seek out his other stuff. It is just so amazing the mundanity of some jobs and puts a magnifying glass on the monstrosity of wasting time, particularly other people’s time, never mind even if you’re paying them for it. It’s like first degree murder cos you’re robbing them of their life. Life = time. It brings work to perspective too – what significance would a specific project or task have in 3 years? And to think we sweat over them so much.
I’m currently reading a doorstopper – Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. It’s prolly the only doorstopper I’ve read in my life, I think. I’m up to Protagoras. I’m also reading some ‘making full use of your iPod’ book which isn’t very arresting.
Care to recommend any books?