Tag Archives: books

Happy new year!

Hello! I got The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Bottton for Xmas, and it was such an absorbing read that I finished it in 2  days. It is quite a slim book. I learnt more about Epicurus – he says that the most important thing in life is to indulge, to indulge in friendships/relationships and food. That’s why I’ve been very happy the past eight days. I have spent it with great company and eating lots of nice food!

Jamie's Italian restaurant

Jamie's Italian restaurant

I would also add ‘spectacle’ – nice spectacle that is, not horrid or macabre ones. For NYE 2008 I saw on a big screen at an East End pub how wonderful the London fireworks were. Since then I harboured a wish to be close to the action, in relative comfort. I’d have to be on a boat. So I got entry tickets to a boat/floating pub on the Thames right in front of the London Eye. Wow! The fireworks were so amazing, it was the best! It felt like heaven! Like I could walk amongst the sparkling stars! 10 whole minutes of fantastic pyrotechnic action! Then we danced to some great music. Although the journey home was quite apocalyptic, I will treasure my NYE experience forever!

Fireworks on the Thames

Fireworks on the Thames

Epicurus got a house and filled it with his friends, dining together most of the time. I think he also said never to eat alone; you should always enjoy food with company. He and his mates also tried to be as self sufficient as they can – growing veg and rearing farm animals. That would be fantastic I think, to be able to buy a great big house with enough privacy and space for everyone and share one big kitchen and hire a part-time maid to keep communal areas tidy (rota system is a bit… student-like). Even if we are not in the same house, living close by to friends/family is so helpful. I recall being able to cross the road and visit my collegemates when I fancied a chat.  That alleviated many a lonely time!

So anyway, happy new year… I am starting to read Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis – another Xmas gift and recommended by Tim Ferriss,  The 4-Hour Workweek guy, I think!

A snapshot of my day

Today I:

  • read History of Western Philosophy (yes, still reading it… very thick!)
  • helped put together a sofa-bed – just arrived today, thanks made.com
  • worked, of course
  • wrote one page-r recommending Zmags, a really cool digital publishing platform
  • texted lots of friends. My mobile’s normally forgotten
  • chatted with sis
  • bought Pet Shop Boys tickets
  • a bit of grocery shopping online
  • recorded myself singing Winter Wonderland. Don’t ask
  • cooked for Hari Raya Haji, without oni0ns (Salam Aidiladha everybody!)
  • prayed
  • booked appointment to do a presenter headshot for Spotlight finally!
  • scheduled to put a little bit of money in Aberdeen Asia Pacific fund – I love Asia so much I want to invest in it. Almost a quarter of it goes to S’pore companies so that’s good for me
  • renewed library books.

My happy, chilled out life, low stress no strife! 🙂

Books books books

I’ve been reading a lot more lately. I’ve been trying to stick to one book at a time but it’s hard! Esp since I have a great library at my workplace. I just come downstairs and choose some swell books.

Like Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. I think it’s a copy from the 40s or smth. I’m not sure I’m going to finish this one. I’ve learnt a lot just from the intro! Maybe it’s just my modern brain but some paragraphs could be much shorter really. I’m up to the chapter about Wages for Labour, smth like that.

Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy – I’ve just finished Socrates, a bit of Plato and delving more into Aristotle. The cover of the book I got is a painting by James Barry that can be found on across all four walls of the great hall where I work. It truly impressed me first time I saw it.

I also finished How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson and How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis.

How to be Idle is arranged by chapters demarcated by time and the significance of it in an idlers’ day. Like for example 3am is a perfect witching hour as it’s long enough to forget the happenings of the day before and before the new day is born. The first half of the book seems much more informative than the second half. I’m guessing that his little children must be distracting him.

How to be rich is a great read. According to Felix Dennis, it is an ‘anti self-help book’, in that it lays bare what is truly involved in getting rich and does not indulge in ‘anyone can do it’ type BS. It is written purely from his perspective, and my what an insight. I suspect that this book has put some people off from pursuing their dream of ‘being rich’, judging from a couple of Amazon reviews. Some passages which warn the reader about the dangers (and perks of course) of being rich are really insightful, and he encourages the reader to learn from his mistakes and successes. I think it is rare to find a book on this subject by a bestselling poet.This is one of the books I will keep and re-read.

I just borrowed some Germaine Greer from the library; wanna know what all the fuss was about… and also a children’s French book as that is my French reading level – I gotta start somewhere!

Philo tasty

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?

Logic of Life

Just read Tim Harford’s Logic of Life book. It’s interesting and enlightening just like his previous book, Undercover Economist. It would make much much more sense to me if I can read it all in one or two sittings than snatching a bit here and there on tube journeys, because by the time he’s on Chapter 9 and he’s going ‘like we found out in Chapter 3’, and I’m like ‘what happened in Chapter 3?’ – and even if I remembered…

Hmm, my song Whizz Around the Sun  just came on on my Last.fm library radio. My songs are very distracting to me!

… by the time I read the next line I’d forget what the argument was. Haha.

Harford wrote about whether divorce is underrated, why bosses are overpaid, how politics gets skewed to supporting the few, and many more. As for how politics supports the few, it’s not repeating the same old ‘overpaid politicians’ rant, it’s throwing light on on how trade sanctions (e.g local only sugar) and geographical sanctions (e.g green-belt) are a bad idea. These groups have more to lose, so can throw more money at it and try their damnednest to vote for the party that does them the most favours and supports their cause, while the cost to the rest of the population is only 10p or smth; basically an amount not worth squabbling over, or worth getting out of the house to vote. Harford equates this to splitting the bill at the end of a dinner party at a restaurant; everybody tries to order smth more expensive because the cost is going to be absorbed by someone else. That someone else might not bother fighting over the extra £1 to their share. Add it all up… the cost to taxpayers to appease everyone is a hefty bill.

Harford also mentions that more money is going to rural societies just to prop them up, compared to more economically-viable cities. Another point is also that it makes more sense to make cities bigger because city dwellers use less space, have less stuff, use almost exclusively public transport (me, me, me!), therefore being more environmentally friendly than those out in the country. I would definitely drive if I move out of London; I remember lots of lost time, overpriced bus tickets and rude bus drivers, and couldn’t wait for the day I got my driving licence. If London had more space to develop,  it would also probably help London look less like a sh*thole as it would have more space for trees and greenery, with the right planning policies in place. I see more trees in Singapore than London, and it’s a third the size and is the 2nd most densely populated country in the world. It would also bring more homes into the market making property more affordable. (there are loads of empty properties lying around; that’s another story!) Of course, over-extending London/cities could be a bad or a good thing!

Why is the top honcho in a company paid really highly? To make the people below him/her work harder in the hope they’ll get the prize one day, and to reward high stock market returns. Online contact is not a substitute for in-person contact – in fact it only makes them meet up more.

All in all it’s an enlightening read, with some controversial ideas to make you think.