Reading this book feels very much like (re-)visiting one's own childhood, together with all its innocence and purity. This is one of the very few book...moreReading this book feels very much like (re-)visiting one's own childhood, together with all its innocence and purity. This is one of the very few books I've ever read that I could actually enjoy rereading plenty of times.(less)
The first time I read the Shaman King series was back in Singapore... Even then, I only read the first two books. Now that I reread it, I still find Y...moreThe first time I read the Shaman King series was back in Singapore... Even then, I only read the first two books. Now that I reread it, I still find Yoh's adventures just as entertaining. I love it!(less)
This opening manga should actually be titled "Ascent of the Go Cheater", since it marks Hikaru's beginnings as a Go master by hearing kibitzes from Sa...moreThis opening manga should actually be titled "Ascent of the Go Cheater", since it marks Hikaru's beginnings as a Go master by hearing kibitzes from Sai... Hahaha.(less)
There is always this quality in Harvey Pekar that I think is mostly absent in other memoir authors...he is able to present the soul of his city of Cle...moreThere is always this quality in Harvey Pekar that I think is mostly absent in other memoir authors...he is able to present the soul of his city of Cleveland and the Midwest US at all times without having to sacrifice the plot of his story.
"Family Life" by Akhil Sharma tells a story of an Indian family who immigrated into US East Coast town in the 1970s. Thru a first-person account by th...more"Family Life" by Akhil Sharma tells a story of an Indian family who immigrated into US East Coast town in the 1970s. Thru a first-person account by the youngest child of two named Ajay, the narrative often seems naive as he discovers new things about American life.
Initially, it seems as if the author is about to follow the formula of the "chasing American dream" story that has become so trite: learn English, work hard, study hard, and then send money to family in original country.
However, in less than 50 pages into the novel, a tragedy strikes: leaving the entire family an extra burden to take care of the eldest son Birju, who became brain damaged for life before he even entered high school. For the rest of the novel, the family would have to strive harder to reach the American dream while taking care of the eldest son who is bed-ridden. The father becomes alcoholic, the mother becomes short-tempered, and Ajay often finds himself in the crossroads between embracing American lifestyle or sticking to his Indian values.
It is amusing to find out how Ajay describes Indian Americans still clinging to their Indian ways: for example, the family house is considered holy by many due to the fact that they have experienced such a great suffering.
How the novel unfolds is less about what is going to happen to the elder brother and more about how the family finally finds the American dream through Ajay's efforts. He gets into Princeton, becomes an investment banker, and earns a six-figure annual salary in his 30s, which he reveals to be more than most people could earn in two decades.
The last page of the novel reveals Ajay in his 40s, in a swimming pool in Mexico with an Indian woman he is dating. He feels "The happiness was almost heavy...That was when I knew I had a problem". At the end of the rainbow, everything is simply not satisfactory for him, because he earns so much money but has so little time to enjoy it.
Was it because of the fact that he is merely living his elder brother's life that never came to be? Probably. But that's not why this novel is worth reading. The novel, which I suspect to be partially autobiographical, tells a story that is uniquely Indian and American at the same time. And though the American dream is one that does not turn out to be as pleasurable as expected, the struggles of the actors help weave a thread that connects the collective story of surviving in one of the biggest cultural melting pot in the world.(less)
Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton is a historical account which neatly chronicles the race of all the major powers in Western Europe to corner the sp...moreNathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton is a historical account which neatly chronicles the race of all the major powers in Western Europe to corner the spice market. One of the most sought-after spice at that time was nutmeg, a native plant of Banda Islands, East Indies (now known as Indonesia).
Some of us might be wondering: What is nutmeg? Why was it so popular? Well, back then, it was a fruit known to kill the smell and taste of rotten meat (which is true). It was also believed to have powerful medical properties (which turned out to be merely a placebo effect, causing its decline in popularity centuries later). The way it is unthinkable for people to die for nutmeg trade back then is akin to our desire for oil trade today. Several hundred years from now, when vehicles are powered by free renewable resources such as hydrogen and sunlight, our posterity will ask a similar question: “Why on earth would our ancestors go to war in the Middle East just to secure access to oil resources?”
Fleets of ships would go to both ends of the world in search of spice resources, and it is evident how those early fleets were lacking many important skills such as determining geographical coordinates, how to prevent scurvy, or what important commodities are valued in the east. On the whole, the author Milton has adeptly drawn a narrative of how the governments of those Western European powers learn from their early mistakes and correct them. The author studied at Bristol University. A writer and journalist, he specialises in the history of travel and exploration, with books published in seventeen languages. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg happens to be his best known work.
The book’s title, however, is a tad misleading. It seems to have been chosen for rhyming effect instead of any substantial role played by Nathaniel Courthope. His name was hardly mentioned at all in the book. The very first mention of his name is found on page 78, and even then it is just in passing, as if he is some minor character in the whole story.
The sources are mostly secondary, since the story is compiled from original hand-written journals of English explorers, Ambon (in today’s Maluku province, Indonesia) library collections, and five thousand pages of Jacobean script. The author Milton also refers to obscure Dutch chronicles which had been translated into fluent English.
Milton uses a simple language, which makes it easy for the general public to read. Every several chapters there are also maps and pictures drawn in the 17th century to accompany the readers’ imagination when reading the stories. If you are a fan of the Pirates of The Caribbean movie franchise or any other seafaring stories, you will definitely enjoy this book. Despite it being written as nonfiction, the narrative that Milton uses in this book can altogether causes it to be read like a fiction.
Milton’s use of irony was adroitly placed, often he shows sympathy with the poor natives who are paid small amount of fee for their nutmeg which could be resold very expensively in Europe. However, the irony also works on both sides: the natives of Banda Islands are shown to be “profiting” from the trade by getting European knives and clothes (which worth almost nothing in Europe but worth a lot in East Indies) by trading their nutmegs (which worth almost nothing in East Indies but worth a lot in Europe).
However, as an Englishman, Milton is not free from bias. He can at times seem to glorify the English, while putting some of their bitter rivals, such as the Dutch, in a less delicate light...even when both sides are acting more or less with an equal deplorability. When describing the English diplomacy with the natives, he used positive-sounding adjectives such as “apt” and “ingenious”, while when describing the Dutch and Portuguese’ attempts in dealing with the natives, he used negative-sounding adjectives such as “guileful” and “ruthless”.
Throughout the book, there are several historical events that are worth noted, as it is absent from most major historical books today. First, is that the popularity of nutmeg caused the rise of the East India Company, which becomes the British overseas representation of His (or Her) Majesty’s government. If not for the East India Company, the people of India and Singapore today (where the majority of the people are not descended from White Europeans like Australians or Americans) would not be speaking English as a lingua franca. Secondly, is the signing of the Treaty of Breda in 1667, which brought swift end to the Second Anglo-Dutch War. This treaty marks the exchange of the sole Dutch region in North America, Nieuw Amsterdam to the English, in return for having the English giving up their claim on Run, the most isolated island of the Banda Islands. The treaty worked well on both sides: The Dutch was able to secure their worldwide monopoly on nutmeg. What about for the English? Well, most people have never heard of this, but that formerly-Dutch region of Nieuw Amsterdam was renamed by the English into what is today known as New York City. If not for the treaty, the metropolitan area of New York City today would have a significant Dutch-speaking population, just like the people of Louisiana today have a significant French (Cajun)-speaking population.(less)
The book I read is part of numbered edition 2944 of 7000.
There is nothing too special about the fairy tale, which tells of a cautionary tale about avo...moreThe book I read is part of numbered edition 2944 of 7000.
There is nothing too special about the fairy tale, which tells of a cautionary tale about avoiding avarice. However, Gobble You Up! is such a beautifully made book. This book is handmade using Mandna, which is an ancient art form practiced by female villagers of Datasooti village in Rajasthan, India. Their art is rarely seen outside of the village, and no brushes are involved. They use a piece of cloth soaked in chalk and lime paste, squeezed thru the artist's fingers in a fluid line.
Several aspects of Rastafarianism I learned from this book:
1. Started by Marcus Mosiah Garvey in 1887 (Jamaica), it stemmed from the belief that black...moreSeveral aspects of Rastafarianism I learned from this book:
1. Started by Marcus Mosiah Garvey in 1887 (Jamaica), it stemmed from the belief that blacks in Jamaica (who were descendants of slaves) need to unite to make things better. He also believed that they need to return to their native Africa.
2. Rastafarianism incorporates many elements of Ethiopianism (which believes that Ethiopia is the holiest land on Earth) and Christianity. Among the central doctrines is the belief that blacks would find a king to lead them in Ethiopia.
3. The name Rastafarianism comes from Ras Tafari Makonnen, who Rastas believe to be the manifestation of God. He is more known as the last king of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. 21 April 1966 (the day he visited Jamaica) is a Rasta holy day.
4. Rastas believe in respect for nature and the fact that no leaders should be telling other people what to think or do. Their decisions are made together in meetings called Nyabingi.
5. The famous dreadlocks worn by many Rastas is intentional, because Rastas believe in washing their hair without combing it. This stems from the Bible belief that no sharp objects should be used to cut a man's hair. Today, even urban Rastas try to stay close to nature by keeping dreadlocks.
6. Most Rastas are vegetarianism. This is because they believe that it is best to eat food in its purest form, called ital food. They usually don't use spices either, not even salt.
7. Rastas is popularized by the music founded in 1960s (reggae), which was popularized by Bob Marley. Reggae was founded by the drums played by Count Ossie at Nyabingi meetings.
8. Rastafarianism came out of the poorest parts of Jamaica. But now, Rastafarianism is embraced by people of all races.(less)
The larger-than-life plot may, at first glance, carry a somewhat unrealistic storyline. Nonetheless, there is a lot to be learned from this poignant s...moreThe larger-than-life plot may, at first glance, carry a somewhat unrealistic storyline. Nonetheless, there is a lot to be learned from this poignant story about forgiveness, friendship, and redemption.
The graphic novel also has a beautiful visual quality, which makes it a worthwhile reading.(less)