books that made me love reading again

retrieved from unsplash

I always found reading to be a brain-taxing task. It was something that required mental planning in order to give my mind time to prepare for the intellectual arms race as when one begins to read the first few pages of a book.

Reading required effort and willpower, and since I didn’t have a lot of it I always found ways to naturally opt out of doing it (i.e. as I lay on bed with my night lamp on and ready to read a book, I convince myself an extra hour of sleep is much more worth it and scientifically beneficial instead of reading … when really I could justify using my iPad until 3AM with no hesitation).

Though despite the contrary, when I was in middle school, I was an avid reader. Mainly because I had no access to the internet, a lot of free time, and enjoyed fantasising love stories. I was a twelve year old dreaming about my Casanova and found comfort in pop culture YA books (think John Green books, that type of stuff) but I fell off this habit after two years.

It has now been roughly 4 years since this phase and between the years, I have tried very hard to get into readings. At best, I would read one or two books a year but it was such a pain.

For some odd reason, when the day hit January 1 in 2020, I decided that I wanted to be that type of person who reads book. Just wanted it to be part of my identity, you know?

So I started searching for New York Times Best Sellers and books recommended by notable people like Bill Gates, Michelle and Barack Obama, and Warren Buffet.

In 2020, I have read, in a single year, the best 8 books in my life thus far and here are the books that have changed my life in a sense that I actually now enjoy reading:

Genre:
Synopsis:
Thoughts:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (Written By John Carreyrou)

Image from GatesNotes

Genre: A true crime thriller

Synopsis: John Carreyrou, an acclaimed WSJ journalist, unravelled the grappling story of the rise and fall of the biggest corporate fraud in Sillicon Valley. Theranos was a multibillion-dollar biotech unicorn startup by Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout, who set out to make complex laboratory tests an easier and painless process retrieved from a single drop of blood through a device. One of the few problems was that it didn’t work. It was a tale of ambition, bold promises and malicious activity.

Thoughts:

  • Amazing how it’s not from a Hollywood screenplay but instead based on a true story so like a typical good movie, it was an extremely riveting and gripping tale of ambition and deception. I literally brought the book with me everywhere I went: on the train, on the toilet, when I sleep. You get the gist
  • Made me realise that — in light of the rise of populism and pop culture media — pure investigative journalism still exists
  • Credibility can be a double-edged sword. Elizabeth Holmes (the culprit) had a seasoned track record: Stanford drop out with notable Valley investors who poured billions of dollars in the company. This made Theranos check all the boxes and look legit yet low and behold.

The Kite Runner (Written By Khaled Hossein)

Genre: Historical Fiction novel / coming of age

Synopsis: Amir, the young protagonist, lives in an affluent neighbourhood with his dad, Baba, and best friend/ servant, Hassan, in Afghanistan during the brink of war. The narrative develops to show how Amir grapples with jealousy against his father’s affection towards Hassan, his reaction when he idly watched his best friend get raped then fleeing to America for safety while watching his father deteriorate.

Thoughts:

  • This was actually a required reading for one of my high school courses however I never ended up reading it or picking up the book because
  • Funnily, since I had months off after having my public exams cancelled and I had no more money to purchase a book, I ended up reading the Kite Runner and it👏🏼was👏🏼the👏🏼best👏🏼book👏🏼i👏🏼ever👏🏼read
  • I live in a time where materialism dominates economic-powered cities (my city: Hong Kong) so it was nice to read the earnest pleasures of a young boy in an Afghan neighbourhood. Climbing trees, flying kites (this alluded to something bigger by the end) and running around the sand filled streets.
  • I liked the father-son relationship going on
  • An absolute whirlwind of emotions: the protagonist cowardly watched his best friend get raped (made me angry) but I sobbed when Amir describes the death of Baba, his father

Nineteen Eighty-Four (Written by George Orwell)

Image Retrieved from LA Times

Genre: Political fiction set in a dystopian world
Synopsis:
An omniscient totalitarian state rules the country. All economic productions are planned and calculated. Each and every citizen’s schedule is controlled. Families and individuals are allocated to certain housing units with identical furniture, storage, food and housing benefits. Words in the English dictionary are intentionally omitted so that unorthodox thoughts will not be enabled from citizens. Winston Smith slowly realises the fatal truth and ventures out to uncover it.
Thoughts:

  • This book is another one of the required readings for my course however I never ended up reading it. How did I pass with flying colours and attained above average grades? I read a lot of summaries, journal articles and critiques of the novel so I knew enough content to write essays about it.
  • This book was written in 1949 which was a reaaaaaaally long time ago which is amazing to think about since how did Orwell foresee a future of totalitarianism like he described? Because he is absolutely right
  • I feel like I have stepped into the next level of intellectual thought because I realised that language largely shaped our perspectives and views. In the novel, the ruling government omitted certain words in the English dictionary to limit the ideas that citizens are capable of formulating and making it impossible for them to conceive unorthodox thoughts as there would be no appropriate words to think them. The linguistic weapon of control of the mind shows how the capacity of language can lead to dictatorship.
  • Truly truly truuuuuly amazing book. Every character, whether a minor one or not, had such a very specific purpose and depth that it is absolutely paralysing how each personality was well thought about that they pieced perfectly together to contribute to the overall plot and illicit different yet complementing themes

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Written By Timothy D. Snyder)

Image Retrieved from Yale Jackson Institute)

Genre: History
Synopsis:
Snyder gives us 20 lessons we can learn from history. From reading the news, feeling comfortable in uneasiness, importance of keeping it real and staying engaged in the political sphere.
Thoughts:

  • This book made me feel much more smart
  • Snyder iterates a lot on obvious yet highly undervalued lessons and traits. Like being ready to say no since a lot of people, especially those with high power, will do irregular things that can create large (and terrible) impacts
  • Solidified why I should read more books (and you should too): “Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books.”

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (Written By Anthony Ray Hinton and Lara Love Hardin)

Image Retrieved From Oprah

Genre: Memoir
Thoughts:

  • I read this book during the pinnacle of the recent Black Lives Matter Movement and I suppose many were too
  • When I was 8, I would watch documentaries of criminal trials with death row sentences and always felt at ease when the judge sentenced the convicted fellon to death row but after reading this book, it made me shift the way how I thought about death sentences and made me feel disappointed the way how I somewhat supported death sentences even without considering the moral, ethical, and legal impacts
  • “It is not: Do people deserve to die for the crimes they commit?, but: Do we deserve to kill? I mean, it’s fascinating.” (Bryan Stevenson)
  • It was amazing how Hinton went through everything and anything — getting hope’s crushed, living in a space so small that it could hardly fit a king size bed, watching his friends die to death sentences one by one — and it’s even more heartbreaking to know that Hinton, and along with many others, were innocent yet robbed decades of their lives due to the injustices of the American system

When Breath Becomes Air (Written by Paul Kalanithi)

Genre: Memoir

Thoughts:

  • It’s so good to an extent that it made me cry (I did not cry in my grandfather’s funeral but these books in this list made me cry. Know that)
  • Paul Kalanithi wrote this book while undergoing treatment for a life threatening and rare type of lung cancer. He actually never finished the book since he left to a better place yet the book is so poignantly written and inspiring. It made me loved working hard in spite of the pain.
  • “I had reached the pinnacle of residency. I had mastered the core operations. My research had garnered the highest awards.” Think about that
  • A collection of products from petty materialism can never suffice to the satisfaction of being alive ( ,ugly) and having the surety of time to have meaningful human relationships.
  • A quote I now hold dearly: “You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

The Courage To Be Disliked (Written By Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi)

Genre: Psychology, Self Help that kind of thing

Thoughts:

  • The point of this book is to convey that while we experience hardships, troubles and trauma in our course on this (godforsaken) planet, it is up to us — and only us — who give meaning to these terrible experiences and make the choice to advance these notions on how we perceive them. It is not the bad experiences that shape us but rather our views.
  • It was helpful in a way that I realised my unwillingness to do homework or work on problem sets was not because I did not go to a nicer school, have a proper desk at my house or was in (shitty) middle class but rather my pure utter laziness. Instead of doing my work, I blame external forces that virtually have no effect on my grades or how well I do at school.

Reading, for me, is now an end to tranquility — a no longer a painfully brain taxing task. When I read, it’s a period of time and existence where I can delve deeply into the a 300 paged book of creamy chestnut white paper to learn, think and explore.

I hope you find the same pleasure in reading as I do and if you already do, then kudos! Let me know what books you enjoy reading by sending me an email (me@gabbiegadi.com) or commenting on this post.

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