My Reading List | Summer 2016

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Okay, with a leap of faith, I will risk turning into a listicle blogger with this post… but here goes nothing. I really made it a point to read this holiday because I used to be such an avid reader as a child all the way through sekolah menengah but then college and iPhones happened, and before long I realised I just wasn’t reading anymore. I always had a to-read list, and I even read a book or two throughout college (apart from assigned texts!) but I felt like I had lost that mojo, so to speak and I really wanted it back. And if you know me, you’d know that if I really want something I will go get it. So this summer, I did. All in all, I’ve read 9 books so far which isn’t amazing but I’m happy with it (in comparison, I only read 4 last summer*).

Anyway, here are my 9 books in the order I read them:

Originals, by Adam Grant

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Adam Grant is one of the highest rated professors at Penn. I’ve had the privilege of attending his talks before and it’s not hard to see why—he’s very engaging. That trait of his also comes through in his writing, I think, because I found the book quite hard to put down. Much like Malcolm Gladwell, he writes for the lay man so the book was really easy to read through. That’s saying a lot because reading non-fiction can be quite boring for me.

Originals is about creativity and non-conformity. He talks about how being atypical can be an advantage and also how anyone has what it takes to be creative. I really recommend it because it’s a great book which employs psychological findings to make up well-written essays. Plus, I personally felt quite inspired by it because Originals convinced me that creativity is accessible and not exclusive to inherently talented individuals.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This is probably one of my favourite books of all time. Americanah is written so beautifully. Maybe I just don’t read enough, but I’ve never read a story that sounds so much like it’s an elaborate poem until I read this one. I wrote about Americanah just after I read it a couple of months ago, and this was the author’s description of the book which I included in that post:

Americanah is about a young woman, Ifemelu, who leaves Nigeria when she’s a teenager, comes to the U.S., spends 13 years and then goes back to Nigeria. And in those 13 years, many things happen. And it’s also about Obinze, who’s her childhood love, who leaves Nigeria to go to the U.K. and who then returns to Nigeria. So for me, it’s a novel about leaving home as much as it is about going back home, and really about what “home” means, and if you can go back home.” (Source: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

If you’ve ever lived away from home or felt like a foreigner, I think there’s so much of this book you can relate to!

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely

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Ok, I’m gonna be totally honest and say this one was a bit of a pain to go through. It was an insightful book, no doubt, but at that point in time, I had just recently read Originals and… well, Dan Ariely’s writing kind of pales in comparison to Adam Grant’s. It took me quite a while to get through this book, but I did it eventually so it wasn’t that bad. And to be even more honest, part of the reason I found it difficult to read could have even been the fact that the font was so small! So I’m just saying, if you want to read a popular psychology book, this might not be where you want to start.

Anyway, Predictably Irrational is interesting because it challenges a lot of the assumptions of rationality commonly hold. For example, I learned that we tend to overreact to things that are free, that sometimes being paid to do something takes the joy out of it and that we arbitrarily overvalue the things we own just because we own them. Ariely uses psychological experiments and findings to demonstrate these propositions and as a psychology major, it was both cool and boring to read about just because they were really interesting findings but I had already been reading a lot about these kinds of things in class. So make of my review what you will.

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#Girlboss, by Sophia Amoruso

This is another book I also have written about a while ago. Sophia Amoruso is a classic rags to riches kind of story and while that’s certainly not representative of everyone’s journey, her can-do spirit is very contagious and I loved that. She espouses the relatively-cliché mantra, which is: experiment, find something you love to do and work very very very hard at it. I’ve heard it so many times before, but I loved it anyway because she talks a lot about how she was a misfit, how she was under-qualified, how she felt like a fraud, but also how she worked her way through that. And she became successful because of the internet and eBay, things we all have access to. It just really made me feel like the digital age has opened up so much more space for people to be successful with so much less.

Some takeaways I remember are: the ability to persist through something you hate at least for a while and to learn something from that is a skill; your possessions are just “emblems” of hard work which transcends the objects themselves; you need both an idea and the ability/willingness to execute it; take care of the littlest things you do and treat them as “promises to your own future” and have unshakeable confidence. K now go get the book.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

I’m not really a huge fan of Tina Fey (I’ve never watched 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live), but I do love women who have successful creative careers and can write about it well. I’ve read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Mindy Kaling’s two books and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and loved them all, so I thought, why not try this one as well. It’s safe to say that I think Bossypants is the funniest one of all the books in this category, by far. Tina Fey had me laughing alone in restaurants and trains and kept me company many mornings on the commutes to work. It’s not as beautifully written as Lena Dunham’s book and it’s not as inspiring as Sophia Amoruso’s, but it is hilarious.

Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

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About 3 years ago, I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and I’ve been meaning to read another ever since. I finally did this summer when I bought Norwegian Wood. Obviously, I don’t remember much of Kafka on the Shore at this point, but I remember liking that one more. I think Murakami is probably better at the fantastical and mystical. Norwegian Wood was, in contrast to a lot of his other work, more true to real life. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, I just wasn’t in love with it. If anything, I liked how the tone of the book was true to the main character, Toru Watanabe’s, loneliness; it seemed like everything around him was moving so quickly and he wasn’t… he wasn’t really doing anything, and it was like the supporting characters had a lot more agency over him and he was just going through the motions. Or at least that’s how I felt (what do I know?).

Lullabies, by Lang Leav

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In an Instagram post recently, I wrote about how I really wanted to love Lang Leav’s poems. I have seen some of her stuff here and there on Tumblr and etc. so I was really curious, but I was ultimately let down when I realised that her poetry was adorned by this romanticisation of heartbreak and loss. I think that’s a totally valid thing to feel, and I can understand where that comes from but it was hard to read through all of that and feel what she felt. Which could be a good thing for her, because it’s, at least, impressive that how she feels is made so clear through her words.

Yasmin How You Know?, compiled by friends and family of Yasmin Ahmad

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I loved this book. I really did. I’ve been meaning to read it for years now, since my friend Jian Wei recommended it over social media. The book is a compilation of “Yasminisms” as recollected by her friends, family and coworkers. It is made of stories, speeches, quotes, pictures, poems and lots of insight and laughter. She was clearly unique, and yet I related to her quirkiness—like her, with my close friends and family, I also speak in tongues and say weird things. The book reveals how she truly believed her work was just a medium and that all her inspiration came from God. She was humble, giving, bold and just really funny. The book is printed in a “yet to be finished” form. The grey thingy is just a sleeve that encapsulated a very bare book, and I loved that the publishers did it as an homage to her life which ended too soon.

If you’re Malaysian, I strongly recommend this book because it has such a Malaysian spirit and tone to it which I find difficult to put my finger on, but it’s what will keep me returning to this book for a piece of home when I’m away.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

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After seeing this book everywhere in shops and online, I decided to get it last week. Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the famous Eat, Pray, Love but this time, she’s written more of a “self-help” book.

Big Magic is all about overcoming the fear to work with your inspiration and to live creatively. I think a lot of times people get inspired to do things or create things, but we’re paralysed by worries that it won’t work out as well as we want to or we won’t get recognised/paid for it, etc. Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing in Big Magic is like the friend who sits you down and dismantles each and every one of those fears, one at a time, steadily and gently.

In it, Gilbert talks about how she kept her day job because she never expected her creative work to support her financially because it might “burden” her. She also talked about how creative work is as much about discipline as it is about inspiration because inspiration (which she in this book refers to as a magical entity—hence, the title) favours people who are committed to it. As a person who is considering dabbling into the ~creative life~ so to speak, I found this very encouraging and assuring. The things you want to make don’t have to be earth-shaking and groundbreaking, they don’t need to change people’s lives and they don’t even need to be perfect; you just have to keep doing your best at the things you enjoy making.

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And that marks the end of my list!!! Gosh, that was long, it took me 1.5 hours to write this haha. I hope I did at least a decent job at describing the books. I definitely do them no justice at all. I’m like sat here on my bedroom floor flipping through these books trying to remember what they’re all about because some of these I read almost 3 months ago, lol.

My reading list is still pretty long though! In the next few months (hopefully by the end of the semester, if that’s possible) I want to read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. All three of these books were recommended to me over and over again so I can’t wait to read them and I’m hoping the semester (which, as of now, is already looking hectic) permits me to.


*Last summer, I read Give and Take by Adam Grant, David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, Quiet by Susan Cain and 1984 by George Orwell. I wanted to blog about it but I was like “I’m not gonna create a blog just to write about these 4 books” haha.

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Shopping, Ice Cream & A Trip to the Museum | Summer 2016

Hello! I hope you’re well as you’re reading this. I’m quite sore from a recent run and I’m falling asleep in bed as I type this (even though it’s only 10.09 pm over here) but I really just wanna talk about what a fun day I had on Sunday. 🙂 Honestly, if you knew me and you saw the way Sunday panned out, you’d know quite instantly that I was the one who planned it all.

My day started out with a good lie-in, much to my mum’s annoyance, of course hehe. But by about brunch time, we were in Bangsar because my sister Aida wanted to check out dUCk scarves at Fashion Valet and I wanted to get a pair of shoes. I got a cute pair of Nelissa Hilman sandals and I love em! They are pretty comfortable. I only wish they had half sizes because I couldn’t quite fit either a 36 or a 37 for the pair with the crossover straps but I mean, I’m not complaining, the one I got still looks and feels really good!

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My new sandals.

Since we were in the area, I just had to lure my mum and sister to Inside Scoop. Aida had never even been before so we just had to go. I was hoping to get their salted caramel or teh tarik but they had neither. I got mango lassi instead, and I think I like that one most! Ada jugak hikmah kan bila the flavours I wanted takde haha. Aida got Horlicks though, and I’m definitely getting that one next time.

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It was pretty amusing to be walking around Bangsar that day because it was the first weekend Pokemon Go was released in Malaysia, so everyone was like, walking around cautiously with power banks in tow. My mum wasn’t amused at all, though! She’s a pokehater, hahaha. I’m somewhere in between. I’m definitely not going out of my way to do anything pokemon related, but I’d open it every now and then. Currently, I’m on level 5 lol. I think I have like 15 pokemons? I don’t know, I was never really a fan of the show… but I do think the game is really cool.

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After Bangsar, we went to KL to go to BNM’s Muzium dan Galeri Seni at Sasana Kijang. I love driving through KL… I can’t explain it. I just feel so at home, so amazed. I feel like the city is mine.

I’ve been meaning to visit this gallery since last year. I passed by it all the time when I interned there last year and had heard a lot about it. My sister and dad even went there and they said it was good so I was curious. And it was good! I mean, sure, it wasn’t overwhelmingly spectacular but I had just been to Singapore the weekend before and so I was particularly itching to look for local artwork and galleries in KL. I knew there isn’t much so I wasn’t expecting MoMA level exhibitions, but given that, I was impressed. It’s such a step up compared to the museums right smack in the middle of Melaka—our much-boasted-about historical city—which are like, pathetic at best.

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I love the design and feel of the building itself!

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The museum had a few different sections. There was the collection of 59 selected paintings on the top floor in conjunction with the upcoming celebration of 59 years of Malaysian independence. There was a section dedicated to banknotes; from the history of paper money to the intricate designs on a single ringgit note. I loved the exhibition about older forms of currency, like money in the shape of ayam and buaya, money in the time of the British rule, and all of that stuff that we learned in sejarah. It was pretty cool and very well presented too. There was also an economics exhibit, which taught me that in Malay, GDP is translated into Keluaran Dalam Negara Kasar!

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The gallery with all the old forms of money in the different states in Malaysia.


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Imagine stuffing that into your pocket.

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This is where I learned that GDP is KDNK.


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It was really cool to see this, because I learned quite a bit about Import-Substitution in Poli Sci throughout junior year and obviously I was not born yet when it happened so I thought it was cool to see these headlines.


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Queen Elizabeth’s many faces on banknotes.

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I must end by saying I strongly encourage a visit to this museum. I think museum-going culture is really lacking in Malaysia and that all starts with us, right? I personally have always loved going to museums from when I was a child but all that enthusiasm died down as I realised there wasn’t really much of that to do here in KL. My family and I, we have so much fun going to museums when we’re in DC or London and I wish people could have as much fun doing that here too. I want to demand better museums in Malaysia, but I think that requires that I support the ones that are here and are good.

Anyway, that was probably one of my most favourite days all summer so far. I hope you enjoyed reading about it I guess?!

July Favourites | Summer 2016

I’ve never done one of these before but my friend Nadia does it consistently and I’ve always wanted to try it! This month—or I guess last month—for the first time, I feel like I have a good amount of things to make a list. So here’s a bunch of my favourite things in July 🙂

My “regression” playlist

I know it’s kind of an odd playlist name, but I thought it was funny. Sometimes, I fancy a little throwback because I want to imagine being 12 again to remind myself of easier times. My playlist has like 300 songs on it and I never ever get through it. I just put it on shuffle, and every few songs or so I would gasp at how nostalgic it makes me. The best part is blasting it and going all out with my lipsyncing routine. Man, it feels so good to prance around singing “here I goooooo so dishonestlyyyyy, leave a noooote for you my onlyyy oneeeee” in that infamous song by Yellowcard.

I picked out some of my utmost favs from that playlist and compiled it here, if you wanna check it out!

StartUp Podcast


If you follow my 100 Happy Days posts, I mentioned a week ago or so that I’ve just gotten into podcasts. I can’t remember what I was checking out by I chanced upon Millennials, produced by Megan Tan and I raved about it here. In several episodes, Megan referenced StartUp by Alex Blumberg. It’s a podcast about what goes in the process of starting a start up. The first season follows their own podcast network company, Gimlet Media. They acknowledge how ~meta~ it is to produce a show about building the company which produces the show but I mean, it works.

I think I really like it because I hear about new companies being founded and I’m like, how does anyone even do that? Do they just wake up one day with an idea and then just *snap* set up a company? Where do they get the money to do it? How do they even know what to do? Well, this podcast attempts to uncover these processes and I’d say they do it really well. Like Millennials, the podcast is so well produced; the script is well written, the storyline structured and organised in a way that makes the story effective and easy to follow, their ads are sophisticated and the host is charismatic. I truly love it. Go listen to it here if you’re curious, I (quite obviously) highly recommend it.

Straits Food Company

So, there’s this corner restaurant in Bangsar I was introduced to this past month and guys, it’s so good. Their laksa was pure bliss, I swear. I also had pai tee there, plus my usual teh ais. They did not disappoint. My friend Victor brought me here a few weeks ago and I will be forever indebted to him for this.

Singapore

Awk selfie at an MRT station!!!

I don’t know if this counts as a favourite but I love Singapore, you guys. I love how clean and organised it is—I swear to god it just gives me such a thrill. For a country as hot as Malaysia, it sure is walkable. Sha and I completely ruined our feet with how much walking we did, haha. We stayed with our friend, Hui Jie, who is just the most amazing host! We also got to catch up with Ken and Jamie while we were there and it’s always good to see this bunch 🙂 I really can’t wait to go back!

 

My favourite Economist | Summer 2016

I have a friend named Jian Wei. I call him J-Dubs for fun sometimes. I’m not sure if he knows. What he does know though, is that he totally is the inspiration behind my blog. One morning last summer, we had breakfast together—actually, he had breakfast but I was fasting so I just watched him eat—and as is the way of long conversations, one thing lead to another and at one point he said “you’re good at writing, you should write.” I insisted he had no reason to think that, but he pushed right back. I think we were in the midst of talking about ~systems to keep ourselves accountable to the goals we set~, during which he told me not to overcomplicate things. Just “write once a week,” he said plainly. He made it sound so simple. So after shoving a lot of my doubts aside, I started blogging when I got back to Penn a few weeks later, and writing once a week even became part of my blog title.

I met him a couple of Fridays ago for dinner and it was the first time I saw him since last August. Dinner started with him accidentally asking me “so what do you weigh?” instead of “so what do you want to eat?” and us bursting into laughter. Just after we finished dinner, I sheepishly said “hey, so you know… I blog now… so I’m always like… taking pictures… so…” and just proceeded to take a picture of him. He just smiled and humorously asked “how’s my hair?”

I had known by that point that I wanted to write about him but I don’t know how to begin to do that here, or how to even articulate why I feel compelled to write about this friend of mine, but I suppose I’ll start with this: Jian Wei and I aren’t particularly close but he is the kind of friend who makes me reach for my notebook as we talk because he is always unconsciously spewing straight up wisdom.

The best part is he doesn’t bombard into conversations seeking to give advice, even though he knows (or I think he knows?) I want/need advice. He isn’t self-righteously wise; he just talks to me and tells me stories about himself, his job, his friends, his college experience just like any friend would, and then somehow I get what I need to know.

Jian Wei is an economist through and through. It is quite evident even through casual conversation. I told him I don’t really know what I want to do after graduation because my interests are all over the place. He assured me you can still make a line of best fit through a scatter plot. We talked about how chemistry in relationships doesn’t always mean compatibility. He said there is a difference between high growth and sustainable growth. I find it really funny that he keeps using these econ terms but I also find it heart-warming (if that’s the right word?) because I love how there is just about no discrepancy within him.

His casual vocabulary reveals he’s an economist but I think his commitment to his work lies in an underlying dedication to public service (apart from just a sheer drive for achievement). He has explicitly told me that he always knew public service was for him, but even if he didn’t say that, I would know. I mean, I’ve never worked with him but I don’t have to have worked with him to know that. The thing is, some of my ultimate favourite things about Ang Jian Wei are that he sends me articles he thinks I would appreciate, he checks in on me every now and then to see how I’m doing and he would put on headphones to talk to a friend in distress even if he’s in the middle of a busy day at work. I can even sense it from the things he shares on Facebook; he always posts those like educational or inspirational articles which I always learn something from and he has even shared the way he plans his goals and resolutions on Facebook. No doubt, he doesn’t do all of these things because he’s all like “I want to be of service to people!” but that’s just who he is, you know? To me, Jian Wei has this obvious but unassuming inclination to help by sharing, whether it’s his time, energy, knowledge or experience. And whether he realises it or not, that’s (what I consider) a life of service.

He and I met at an idyllic beach resort in Langkawi. But not in the way you might think. I met him because my dad used to do training for fresh graduates and I just happened to decide to tag along on that trip while he was running the program. So you could say it is a relatively unlikely friendship—Jian Wei and I could so easily have never known each other. That’s just all the more reason I feel so lucky to call him a friend; he reminds me that I want my life and my entire being to be of service to others.

I guess maybe that’s why I felt like I wanted to write about him. I’m really glad he inspired me to create this blog a year ago so that I could.