Here are the books I finished in July.

1. Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright

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FORMAT: Audiobook

GENRE: Non-fiction/ Spirituality/ Memoir

ABOUT: The writer uses psychology, sociology, and neuroscience to explain why the teachings of Buddhism is true. In this book, he refers to the philosophical aspects of Buddhism, not to be confused with the mystical elements that eastern practitioners sometimes subscribe to.

THOUGHTS: Sounds logical.

2. The Midnight Line by Lee Child

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FORMAT: Physical book

GENRE: Fiction/ Thriller

ABOUT: Jack Reacher (you know him. Tough guy. Messiah complex. Owns only one shirt) finds a West Point class ring in a pawn shop. He is intrigued by this and instantly sees it as a flare signal. West Point is hell to survive (I believe this to be true, based on the few pilots and astronauts autobiographies I’ve read), so that the owner would part with her class ring meant that she is in certain trouble. Naturally, he has to find her.

THOUGHTS: It is a Lee Child thriller. It is written like a Lee Child thriller. Nuff’ said.

3. Dumped by Amal Nadiah Ghazali

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FORMAT: Physical book

GENRE: Non-fiction/ Memoir/ Coming-of-age

ABOUT: When the author’s boyfriend dumped her the day before her birthday, she goes on an international and interpsychic journey of soul-searching. After The Boy (asshole who dumped her), she had The Friend, then she met The Sideburns Guy, fell in love with The Sideburns Guy… I shouldn’t give away the whole plot here. Read the book!

THOUGHTS: Seriously, read the book. TBH, I didn’t know what to expect at first, but she eventually had me absorbed into her world of running up descending escalators (yikes, my soul sister!) and whirlwind romances. Amal has a talent of using imagery to tell otherwise boring stories. Read her blog Boots Over Books HERE!

4. Mutiny! Why We Love Pirates, and How They Can Save Us by Kester Brewin

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FORMAT: Medium. That’s right! Click HERE for free version.

GENRE: Non-fiction

ABOUT: Piracy was born from blockages. Sailors didn’t just mutiny.

Pirate activity suddenly burst onto the scene in the 18th century when England, Spain, Portugal, France, and Holland were fighting to expand their empires in the New World, shipping sugar and other commodities back to their respective home ports in Europe. This was a large trade, and vessels from each country tried to rob each other. Navies and merchants did the same, attacking ships from different nations for their own advantage. Slaves were abducted from the West African coast to work in plantations in the West Indies.

(Pirates were)… men who had sailed with merchant or naval vessels, often press-ganged into service against their will. It was a tough life, with pitiful pay—that was regularly not paid at all—and rotten rations that barely sustained their strength. Their superiors were brutal men, who used violence to enforce discipline, ate fine foods in luxurious cabins, and accrued huge riches through their raids and trading. Given the enormous stresses these poor men were under, in the confined spaces of a ship far away from family and loved ones, it is understandable that they regularly spoke of mutiny. These men knew the cost of doing so. To go ‘on the account’—to turn pirate—would mean placing an immediate price upon their own heads. But, given the terrible mortality rates for merchant sailors anyway, this would eventually seem less of a threat, and a small group might band together, kill the Captain and his entourage, and take control of the ship. They then needed to make a living, and so, just as they had always done, just as every other ship was doing, they attacked and plundered.

Yet they ended up facing vociferous international condemnation and brutal punishment for doing so. What was this? If royal ships were involved in raids, and privateer boats were too, why were pirates so reviled for doing the exact same thing? The reason is quite clear: they were doing so without being under the authority of any king. Having mutinied against their officers, those who had turned pirate had also, by implication, turned against the monarchy and the whole structure of authority above them.

By going pirate, these men were staying in the same trade, doing the same damn thing, but with an upgraded lifestyle. Quote, “Pirate ships routinely worked on democratic principles, with elections of officers and booty shared equitably between all those on board.” They even got a share of the plundered goods.

In other words, they got a share of the commons that was their goddamn right to begin with. What are commons? Commons are entities that everybody should have a claim to. Air is a common, we shouldn’t need to pay to inhale air. Clean water should be a common. Some communities have common facilities, like a common library, a common community hall, or a common play ground.

When something that should be a common gets monopolised, that’s when piracy would naturally happen.

THOUGHTS: I read this with my book club, and I think EVERYBODY SHOULD READ IT.

I cannot overstate how this book has made me think. Now, everywhere I look, I see blockages. The monopoly of commons; men and women hoarding more than their share of riches. However, to oppose blockages does not mean that we should live lawlessly, because at the end of the day, we have an obligation of conduct ourselves responsibly. Baby steps.

P.S.: There is definitely a blockage in the churches. And from this blockage, we see the shoots of piracy—may it be the emergent movement, or Progressive Christianity.

5. Finance and the Good Society by Robert J. Shiller

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FORMAT: Audiobook

GENRE: Non-fiction/ Finance

ABOUT: The finance industry is the spawn of the devil, right? Well, Occupy Wall Street certainly thinks so. A lot of people think so.

In this book, Shiller argues that instead of condemning finance, we should reclaim finance, because finance has the potential to solve a lot of society’s problems. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

THOUGHTS: I’m going to zero in on one particular topic: estate tax. (Or inheritance tax. It was in Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto, but well…)

I’ve always been an advocate of inheritance tax, because I think that nobody should be given free money for coming out of the right hole (at least not more than is natural).

In the U.S., there is this thing called the ‘gift tax’. A person may award gifts with a limit of USD13k per year. This is to trap parents who try to bypass the estate tax by transferring their wealth to their kids before they die.

I don’t know how an ideal system looks like yet, but, as Shiller proposed, we must develop a system that would allow individuals to accumulate wealth yet encourage them to give it away.

6. Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker

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FORMAT: Audiobook

GENRE: Non-fiction/ Self help

ABOUT: There are 5 sections in this book: who I am, what I need, what I want, what I believe, and how I connect.

THOUGHTS: One big pep talk with lots of cliches, but I loved every moment of it. Jen Hatmaker has earned the right to tell me how to wade through negativity, and to explore “the wild terrain of the wilderness.” If you wonder why I’m saying this, just google her.

BONUS BOOKS (Books I Finished on Blinkist)

A.k.a. books I have never read in full, but know the summary of. Blinkist is a God-sent app service. Popular books are summarised into bite-sized “Blinks”, to be consumed on the go or while lazing in an enormous lazy chair.

7. Sizing People Up by Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth

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FORMAT: Blinkist

GENRE: Non-fiction/ Self help

ABOUT: Like it or not, our lives are intrinsically linked to the people around us. Therefore, how do we know who to trust and not to trust? There is only one way: learn to read people.

Here are some helpful tips:

ONE. A person’s circumstances can omit their true behaviour. For example, those lower down the food chain are forced to play by the rules out of necessity, and what they do may not necessarily reflect their true colours.

TWO. Put your trust in those who believe that they win when you win. Also, you can’t trust someone who doesn’t trust you.

THREE. One of the best indications of future behaviour is past behaviour.

FOUR: Trustworthy people use simple language and aren’t afraid to apologise.

FIVE. Emotionally unstable people have the “3-P personality”. They think hardship is permanent, they believe all problems are pervasive, and they personalise every misfortune.

SIX. People will always behave in their own best interest.

THOUGHTS: Indeed, people-reading is a skill.