The Secret History of the World

It took me forever to finish reading this book.  But I finally finished reading it tonight!  I bought this book on a whim when I was at the airport in Singapore a couple months ago.  But I told myself that I would definitely read it, that it wouldn’t be one of the books that sits on the shelf forever.

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I enjoy reading about beliefs and ideas, especially those that some people might find strange or out of this world.  I also love reading mythologies, ancient histories, and stories about spirits or spiritual encounters.  So I find this book quite interesting.  It doesn’t mean I believe in everything that was written in this book though.  I just find some of the ideas beautiful and inspiring.  

As a playwright who writes in a non-realistic style, I have to admit that this book has given me a lot of interesting ideas and materials for my plays (though I don’t know yet how I will use them). I underlined so many passages in the book that sometimes I felt like I was reading a text book for a class (in a good way).

One of my favorite sentences is “Great writers are the architects of our consciousness.”  Well, you know, I just adore writers.

Light on Life

This is the book I’ve been reading in the morning when I’m having my morning coffee and breakfast.  I’ve started making it a habit to read in the morning, usually a few pages at a time.  And the books I’ve picked have been spiritual or inspirational.  I want to set a good start of the day, and reading a few pages of insight in the morning has helped me a lot.  

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I actually bought Light on Life as a birthday present for myself in December last year.  I started reading the first chapter, but I put it down until recently.  BKS Iyengar, the author of this book, passed away on the 20th of August.  And that was when I picked up this book and started reading it again.  And I’ve been reading it since, a few pages at a time.  

As the title says, this book for me has shed light on life and on my yoga practice.  I haven’t finished reading it yet.  But it has inspired me to live everyday consciously to the fullest.  

After Dark

“Time moves in its special way in the middle of the night.”

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I love this book. It makes me want to go to a cafe and stay there all night.

I picked this book to read because I wanted to read something by Murakami. And the name After Dark drew me to this book. After looking through it, I decided to give this book a try. After all, it opens with a girl reading in a diner.

As I read this book, I didn’t want it to end. As a morning person, this book made me fall in love with the night and its mystery. All the characters kept me interested. The girl who reads in the diner, the jazz musician, the Chinese prostitute, the love hotel employees, the Chinese gangster, and the perverted office worker. The only part that I didn’t especially care for was the part about the sleeping girl and the man with no face. It was too out of it for me. I was more interested in the stories of the people in the city and how they are connected.

And I love the relationship that’s going on between the girl and the musician. Maybe I just love this kind of simple love (?) story. I like how these two characters connect in a subtle way. And I also like how the story of these two ends. It’s not too much and not too little for my taste. I don’t need anything more. And I don’t think it gives me less that what I want.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

The book is about an egg-laying hen who wants to hatch an egg and watch the birth of her chick.  She manages to get out of the coop, and the rest is her adventure.

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The hen’s name is Sprout.  She gives the name to herself.  And here’s why:

“Sprout was the best name in the world. A sprout grew into a leaf and embraced the wind and the sun before falling and rotting and turning into mulch for bringing fragrant flowers into bloom.  Sprout wanted to do something with her life, just like the sprouts on the acacia tree.  That was why she’d named herself after them.” 

The book was written by Korean writer Sun-Mi Hwang.  Reading her book made me think about a long lost friend from Korea who used to tell me what it was like being a woman living in South Korea.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’m not a fan of Murakami. But a lot of people I know are, actually. I read about 60 pages of Norwegian Wood and a short story called Yesterday that was published in The New Yorker. And that’s pretty much it. I, however, had read some of his quotes from this book from several places, and I was interested in his ideas about running, and writing, and life. Plus, a couple weeks ago I started running. So it’s only appropriate.

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About ten years ago I used to run. And I did pretty well. I could run continuously for almost an hour. And for a person like me it was quite impressive. I did that for about two or three years. And I didn’t know why I stopped. I remember I liked the feeling when I ran very much. It was like I was free.

As I get older I can feel that my body is not as firm as before, and it’s also easier to get fat. I practice yoga regularly, but I felt that I needed something more. So I decided to take up running again. In the beginning I couldn’t run for more than 3 minutes. I would get too exhausted. But I rotated between running and walking, and soon it got better. After a few weeks now I can run continuously for about 20 minutes. I run slowly, making sure that I’m not doing too much and to keep my breathing steady. I don’t run everyday though. I run in the evening at about 5 or 6 o’clock. Initially I wanted to run in the morning, but I couldn’t make myself get up to do it. I prefer to work in the morning, which means that I’d have to wake up even earlier in order to run. So I go running in the evening on the days that I don’t have to go to rehearsal, which is about two or three times a week, depending on the rehearsal schedule. (I’m rehearsing for a movement performance piece right now. We exercise a lot during rehearsal already so I can skip running on rehearsal days.) I’m not planning to become a serious runner though. Right now I just want to keep myself in shape and to feel the joy of running again.

What Gives Us Our Names

I got this book when I went to Singapore last month. One of my missions was to get a book written by a local author. I went to Kinokuniya and spent a lot of time at the local authors section. But I didn’t know what to get. I had absolutely no knowledge about Singaporean writers. So I decided to go to the information desk and ask. This girl who worked there went to the local authors section with me and showed me some books. But she said her personal favorite was this book called What Gives Us Our Names by Alvin Pang. So after looking through some of the pages of the books she gave me, I decided to get this one.

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It’s a small book, and so I finished reading it in one day (I didn’t spend the whole day, of course). The writing was so beautiful that I couldn’t put it down. The book is a collection of very short stories, from less than a page to a few pages long. Each story is about one main character. And all the characters have names like Beauty, Passion, Purpose, Despair, and so on. And in fact, each character is that very quality he/she is named after. Besides the beautiful writing, I enjoyed reading their stories very much. And I actually teared up a little when I read about Failure. In the end of his story Failure met Humility. They got married and had two children: Experience and Wisdom. It made me think of my own many failures and what I’ve learned from them. My failures are what made me who I am today.

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The Secret, The Power, The Hero

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Some of my friends would be surprised if they knew I read these self-help books. But I do read them. It started last year when I was really having a bad time with work and a lot of other things. So I went into a bookstore and bought The Secret. I’d heard people talk about it for a while. It was a bestseller here. So I thought I’d give it a try. And I actually liked it. It made me stop and reevaluate my situation. I’d believed in the law of attraction even before I started reading it. I just never really thought about it that much. I don’t practice everything that is said in the Secret though. There are some things that I agree, and there are some things that I just read and move on. Some people have been criticizing the law of attraction and the methods of achieving what you want in the Secret. But I think if you read it with an open mind and a bit of common sense (whatever that is), it can be helpful and inspirational.

Anyway, I just bought The Hero yesterday. I haven’t started reading it yet but am looking forward to it.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This is the book I’m translating right now. Translation is the part-time job I like very much (actually all my jobs are part-time jobs). Honestly, when I got my first book to translate I was really intimidated by it. The pages and pages seemed to never end. But I told myself that I’d just focus on one page at a time, and that made things a lot easier. It’s funny how I’ve come to like every book I translate (well, I’ve translated only 6 books so far, but that doesn’t matter) even when I felt like I didn’t like it at first. Take this book, for example. I really wanted to send it back to the publisher when I got it. Personally, I don’t like reading books that are too boyish. Plus, the language is very old. If I were to translate a book I thought it should at least be one I would enjoy. But the publisher wouldn’t hear me out. They told me to finish this one and then they’d let me pick the next book. So I was stuck. But After having translated the first few chapters I came to really like it. And everyday that I sit down to translate it’s a new adventure for me.

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The Last Slice of Rainbow And Other Stories

This book was one of my favorite books when I was a kid, and it was one of the first books that got me to really love reading. It was given to me by my neighbor who was a professor in English literature at a university in my hometown. She always gave me books as presents, and I think I owe my love of reading to her.

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The first time I read this book I was so fascinated by all the stories – I never thought anybody could think up stories like that. My favorite one was “Clem’s Dream.” It’s about a boy who lost his tooth and also his dream to the tooth fairy and is on a quest to get back his dream.

The book in the picture, however, is not the copy that I had as a child. All of my books during that time were gone. Anyway, this book is out of print in Thailand, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. But a few weeks ago I was browsing at a second hand bookstore, and I found this copy. I was very happy. It was like I got transported back to when I was a kid again.

Spell

Spell (as in spell a word, not magic spell) is a book that has 14 short stories and 6 lectures from the 2nd Bangkok Creative Writing Workshop. And my short story is one of the 14 stories in this book. The workshop was conducted by a well-known Thai writer, and each week he invited his writer friends to give us lectures. The workshop was held every Saturday for one an a half month. And at the end of the workshop each participant submitted a short story that he/she wrote and developed during the workshop. And all the short stories are published in this book.

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My short story is called “Birthday.” And honestly I didn’t know how to write it at first. I’d been writing plays for so long I didn’t know how to start a short story. So in the beginning I wrote it as a monologue, just to get my words out. And later I turned it into a story that is told by this main character. It’s about a woman who decides that she wants to die when she’s 50, and the story goes back and forth between the present and the past.

The workshop instructor asked me if it was my own story. And I said it was, at least some of it. But as a writer (or playwright) you learn how to tell your story and you learn how to hide your story as well. So in a way it’s my story and it’s not.

I read my story again today (the last time I had read it was before I submitted it, and I didn’t even read it when the book first came out), and I think it’s not bad at all.