Art of Reading Part 2


Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  ~Charles W. Eliot

Read Part 1 here

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(The scene at the BBWB book sale at 2 am in the morning – there was enough crowd to keep things lively in the convention centre but it was not so crowded to have us fighting through to get our books. In other words, it was just perfect. I hope that BBWB will do their 63 hours marathon on yearly basis)

Firstly before I proceed further, I would like to say many thanks to the people at the Big Bad Wolf Books for taking the trouble, time and resources to organise the world’s largest book sale, year in, year out. We went for the sale last year and we had best of the time picking the good books, cheap. You cannot get 75%-95% discount anywhere else – I have just checked one book at one of the local book stores – it was going for almost RM90 at the book store but was only going for RM15 at BBWB (that is enough savings to take the whole family out for a good dinner and I am only taking about one book here).

This year, the sale is held at Mines Convention Centre (the sale is still on until 23rd December) and the folks at BBWB went one notch up with their 63 hours marathon (God bless them!) which made it a whole lot easier to go and buy good books without the need to fight the crowd at the queue and parking lot. We went again this year and thanks to the 63 hours marathon, our time at BBWB started at about 11 pm Friday night (there was some traffic jam towards the Mines CC, no thanks to queue jumpers but once we entered the parking lot, it was a breeze – way too many empty parking lots) and ended about 2 am Saturday morning (p.s. what’s up with some parents dragging bringing their kids to the place at 2 am? Shouldn’t the kids be in bed by now, sigh?). I got a box full of books that should last me for a couple of months. And we have one whole year to save up for the next BBWB sales next year.

Secondly, I am happy that my son is also picking up the same reading habits that I have. Instead of watching TV all day long, he would instead go to his room (where he has his own collections of science comic books and history books) and bury himself with reading a book (and ask plenty of questions once done). And I bought 2 books for him this year from BBWB and certainly, it was not enough for him (he already done reading half a book within a couple of days) so I am expecting another visit to book store in the coming months.

Over the weekend, I went to my brother-in-law’s house for a visit and I caught him as he was leaving the house to buy breakfast for the family. I decided to join him and whilst the old aunty under a makeshift stall was packing hot thosai and nasi lemak, we decided to have our coffee and chat. I told him about my book purchases at BBWB and he remarked that whilst he liked to read, he does not have the time to read as he was too busy with work. The reason that he gave for not reading somehow hit me and was in my thoughts for rest of the day, more so when I take up a book to read at least once a day. Then a couple days ago, I was chatting with my buddy at work and he remarked the same thing – he was too busy to have the time to read a book.

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(War, history and general knowledge – the themes of my books that I bought at BBWB book sale this year. I also read ebooks and surf the net for knowledge but somehow nothing beats holding a book in your hands and lay down some where comfortable to read. One thing is for sure, I need to buy another book cabinet by early next year. The current book cabinet is so packed with books and there is only enough space to squeeze another 1-2 books)

Frankly speaking, this is highly understandable as it all depends on one’s interests, available time and priorities. It is the same thing here with me. There are about thousand things (such as doing a blog post on daily basis) that I don’t do because I don’t have time for it. I wished I had 25 hours in a day. However I do think that we need to make an effort to pick a book (it can be on any subject) and read something (even if it is only 1-2 pages and not the whole book) at least once a week (especially when you don’t have much choice other than watching TV). After all, the benefit of reading a book is obvious and cannot be dismissed.

INews India reports “10 benefits of reading” and it does make a lot sense:-

  • Reading is an active mental process
  • Reading improves your vocabulary
  • Gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world
  • Improves concentration and focus
  • Builds self-esteem (the more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. With more knowledge comes more confidence. More confidence builds self-esteem. So it’s a chain reaction)
  • Improves memory
  • Improves your discipline
  • Improves creativity
  • You always have something to talk about
  • Reduces boredom

Life Dev adds further the benefits of reading:-

  • Enhanced Smarts
  • Reading reduces stress
  • Greater tranquillity
  • Improved analytical thinking
  • Increased vocabulary
  • Improved memory
  • Improved writing skills
  • Helps prioritize goals

My son reads something once a day (on Sundays, he reads the newspaper) and it is the same thing with me but there’s a catch to it. Both of us do not have time to complete one whole book in a day (my son still has to do his school work). I am not sure about my son – he has more time compared to me and he can finish one whole book if he wants to but as for me, my target have always been to finish at least one page per day (if I miss reading for the day, I will try to cover back the next day by reading more pages). Just one page to focus at a time and it does not take that long for me to complete reading that one page (especially it has plenty of images).

Back to the conversation that I had with my brother-in-law over coffee, I remarked that he can start with one page or half page if he does not have the time. And I highlighted the beneficial side of reading, something that made sense to him too. Other than it being a good way to gain knowledge and building up of vocabularies (a must for bloggers), it is one of the best way to get mental exercise. Sometimes we are watching too much TV and it does not simulate the mind in the same way a book does and in healthier way too. After reading a passage in a book (or magazine), I would stop for a moment and imagine how that story that I just read would have been in real (even it is a fiction – my version of The Lord of the Rings was far more exciting than Peter Jackson’s version). For me, that is a good mental exercise and a superb stress buster.

Think about it…1 page is not that hard to cover, does it?

P.s. since Christmas is around the corner, why don’t you give away books as Christmas gifts?

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The Week Has Been….


Let’s talk on something that you may be facing but failed to recognize it…

(When is the last time you had depression? Or you are having one right now but failed to recognise one? Have you asked for help from someone or have you decided to face it all alone and end up more depressed? Image: http://www.bipolardisordertestonline.com)

Whilst I finally managed to resolve the Ubuntu upgrade problem and upgraded to 12.04 LTS, this week has rather a stressful one. A couple days ago, I had to bring my Dad to the hospital for check-up (he has not been well since the last weekend) and after a long 4 hours wait for the doctors to complete their observations and diagnostics (discount 1 hour in between on waiting for the doctors), they informed that my Dad is undergoing bouts of depression (it seemed serious though).

Depression, damn I have heard of it and I am pretty sure I have experience it myself when I was far away from home, family and Malaysian food.

Wikipedia defines depression as:-

“….a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless.

They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable; experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions; and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may be present.

Depressed mood is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder. It is a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions, and a side effect of some medical treatments. Depressed mood is also a primary or associated feature of certain psychiatric syndromes such as clinical depression…”

My dad is reaching 65 years old starting line and based on the national average of 71.8 years and that is considered old but depression not necessarily affect old people. I guess everyone reaches this point at one point of their live except a few mortals like my Grandma who in her late 80s can still see far without glasses, can speak clearly (including fluent Bahasa), can walk unaided, travels a lot and have a great expectation of life. I hope to follow on her footsteps as well.

The doctors have prescribed some medications for my Dad and it seems to be working – he finally had a good long deep sleep last night compared to the last few days. He had opted to stay at home to rest instead of going to work although he admitted that he can’t wait to go back to work once he has recovered. Of course, there would be follow up therapies to ensure a complete recovery from depression but this may take some time. It is not possible to keep my Dad locked up at home and closely monitor him – he is not the type.

PubMed Health recommends the followings to keep depression at bay:-

  • Get more exercise
  • Maintain good sleep habits
  • Seek out activities that bring you pleasure
  • Volunteer or get involved in group activities
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling
  • Try to be around people who are caring and positive
  • Avoid alcohol or illegal substances at all cost

Kids Health further suggests:-

Exercise – People who are depressed may not feel much like being active. But make yourself do it anyway (ask a friend to exercise with you if you need to be motivated). Once you get in the exercise habit, it won’t take long to notice a difference in your mood. Two other aspects of yoga — breathing exercises and meditation — can also help people with depression feel better.

Nurture yourself with good nutrition – Depression can affect appetite. Proper nutrition can influence a person’s mood and energy. So eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and get regular meals (even if you don’t feel hungry, try to eat something light, like a piece of fruit, to keep you going).

Identify troubles, but don’t dwell on them – Try to identify any situations that have contributed to your depression. When you know what’s got you feeling blue and why, talk about it with a caring friend. Talking is a way to release the feelings and to receive some understanding. If there’s no one to tell, pouring your heart out to a journal works (hmm, like how I usual do by blogging?)

Express yourself – With depression, a person’s creativity and sense of fun may seem blocked. Exercise your imagination (painting, drawing, doodling, sewing, writing, dancing, composing music, etc.) and you not only get those creative juices flowing, you also loosen up some positive emotions.

Look on the bright side – If depression has you noticing only the negative, make an effort to notice the good things in life. Try to notice one thing, then try to think of one more. Consider your strengths, gifts, or blessings.

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish from normal stress, anger, mild depression and serious depression but I guess if one thinks positive and trust others to help out when the going gets tough, things will turn out just fine. And that is what we planned for my Dad on his road to recovery. After all, he has come this far in his life – putting his kids through good education and who now working in stable, good jobs. He have lived well enough to see 2 grand kids (including the Big Boss who is very, very close to his Grandpa) and is likely to see another 2 in the coming months.

For now, for the family (me and my siblings and my Mom), we probably entering a whole new phase and making sure he continues with his medication and therapies – I am very positive of this.

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