Why We Should Read More Books

Books

The magic of reading is that it allows you to expand your mind, use your imagination and learn something new. It helps you gain a new perspective, go on adventures and leave your comfort zone. Reading brings emotions, thoughts, and ideas to ponder on. Books were a special part of my childhood, from the bedtime stories, trips to the library and getting lost in another world. When I was younger, there were shelves of books and magazines at home. We had many National Geographic magazines, all the way from the 1980’s, and I liked to sit on the floor and read them. On the shelves were classics from Anne Frank’s Diary, The Call of the Wild, The Little Prince, Jane Eyre, Animal Farm and The Catcher in the Rye.

During high school, I went through a stage where I read a lot of books by Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Reading teaches us the virtue of patience, empathy, loyalty, kindness, humility, courage, respect and so forth. There are characters that go through a journey that we’re invited to go along with. I’ve found reading to be really helpful in improving one’s writing, even though I’m still working on my grammar. Every author has their own style of writing, and it’s good to be exposed to different styles. Writing is therapeutic, but reading relaxes the mind. It allows you to truly stay in the present, reading each word as it comes, yet being able to completely escape into somewhere else in your imagination.

Books require us to use our imagination. It creates a quiet space, which is important to have during the day. I also find that reading before going to sleep can really help with falling asleep quicker, and also the exposure to less screen time. When I use digital technology at night time, I find my mind is more active, but when I read more at night, the mind tends to be more relaxed. We can learn something new from the characters and stories. A lot of new words I’ve picked up over the years are from reading, whether it’s from a fiction book, textbook, magazine or online article. When we read it stimulates our brain, and it also helps us to momentarily focus on something else.

I’ve found this to be very healing, as it’s helped so much in lessening my anxiety. Anxiety is created when we place too much focus on ourselves and create worry in our mind. Reading fills our mind with different stories, and we can gain more perspective on life. It’s also a great way to connect with someone if you’ve both read the same book, and you can talk about the story, ideas, and characters. The best thing about books is that there is something for everyone, because of the endless amount of genres. Have you ever felt that books tend to be more colourful in your mind, compared to when you see a movie version? Although there may be exceptions to some films, I’ve always found that the books are always more detailed and graphic in the mind. Our imagination is so powerful.

Reading helps to improve your memory and ability to focus. It requires attention in order to know what’s happening, and your memory improves as you follow along each chapter. When you read, it’s a process of focusing on the page. I find that if we use our digital devices, it’s easier to get distracted because of the different functions. However, a book just requires us to read each page to the next. Enjoying the simple joys in life is one of the ultimate reasons to read more. I still like to read picture books sometimes when I go to the bookstore or sit in the library. I don’t think you’re ever too old to read children books, or too young to read a long fiction novel if you want to. Reading is a wonderful hobby to have and it’s a great way to fill the free time during the day.

What are some of your favourite books?

A New Zealander’s Story On Being Chinese

Books

I finished reading Being Chinese – A New Zealander’s Story by Helene Wong in two days, and it really made me think about my own background, experiences and thoughts on being a New Zealander. Wong was born in Taihape, with a mixture of second and third generation in her family, and in her book, she explores her family history. She shares her experiences in acting and theatre, and the stereotypes and often lack of authentic representation that occur within the industry. I really encourage anyone to read this book, as it really makes you think about the importance of cultivating a society that treats everyone the same. It’s something we should all strive for. It makes one reflect on their own background and the portrayal of Asians in the arts and media.

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I think about how when I was younger, I sometimes never felt quite completely Taiwanese, when I was in Taiwan, and yet not quite completely Kiwi when I was in New Zealand because of my appearances. Even though I was born and raised here. There is a sentence in Wong’s book where she writes “I ask myself, just how Chinese am I?”, and as she writes about her childhood, there were many parts that I could relate to and I believe many Asian Kiwi’s may have also experienced.  

Growing up, there was this feeling of Other as my last name would say. There would be the constant mispronunciations during school assemblies and prize giving, yet it was something I simply got used to. In Chapter 3 titled ‘I never think of you as Chinese’, she shares a story in which someone said those words to her. She talks about assimilation, and it made me think about an English paper I took last year, where I did an essay on Amy Tan’s essay on Mother Tongue. It made me think about accents, and how often I noticed growing up that because my parents had Asian accents when they spoke English, they were perceived a certain way compared to an Asian with a Kiwi accent.

I related to Wong’s love for writing, as English was always one of my favourite subjects, and I loved writing essays, reading books and spending time thinking and analysing about texts and meanings. Wong talks about how because of one’s physical identity, we will be viewed a certain way. It made me think of when I was placed into ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in primary school, even though my English is fluent. It makes me think about how because of the way one looks, I will always be inescapably asked where I am from. If we look at the arts, media, advertising and many other industries in New Zealand, we have to emphasise that there is a need for more representation.

Wong writes about the films she grew up watching, and how often stereotypes and whitewashing occurred. She writes “…there only for their ‘Chineseness’. Worse, if they were anything more than exotic colour and had dialogue, the parts were usually played by white actors in slitty-eyed yellowface. They made me squirm with anger. Despite evidence all around us of Chinese people doing the same things as everyone else – in my own family, occupations ranged from nurse to architect, hairdresser to psychologist – Chinese were never cast in these roles.” She talks about food, as she writes “…when the look, taste, texture, fragrance and sound of a dish all came together it was art, and eating it brought a burst of joy.”

When the nineties arrived, there was an increase in immigration. Wong talks about how during this time, she really became ‘Asian’. She talks about the media stories in 1989 about immigrants, which used the phrase ‘Asian Invasion.’ She writes that “White New Zealanders were suddenly seeing more Chinese faces on the street…They did not say the same of the South Africans who were also arriving in the country under the same immigration policy. Chinese were too different – in looks, speech, behaviour.” She continues to write that “The Sinophobia also came from longstanding beliefs in the West that Chinese were inferior.” When people deny this, they roll everything under the carpet to keep it quiet. However, I really believe that we need to speak about it more.

The term ‘casual racism’ is used, and I think about how often it comes from ignorance and unintentional offense, and other times it’s overt and covered as a joke. It really starts with accepting and being respectful of everyone’s differences. Every individual person is so unique, full of layers and has a beautiful story to tell.  Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities, and being born and raised here, I call it my home. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and change, and I believe that we can and we will see more diversity in the arts and media industry.

Photography by Sun Jun

The Beauty Of Walking Long Distances

Books

I recently finished reading a book called A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. It was such a beautiful read. It was a peaceful feeling walking to the rose gardens the other day, knowing I’d read a book about walking! If you have ever read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or watched Keira Knightley in the film adaptation, then you may appreciate Elizabeth Bennet’s love of walking. There’s such a sense of pure satisfaction of soaking in the morning sunlight, cool air and nature around oneself. The feeling of being another stranger in the crowd, going on an adventure or getting lost and discovering a new place.

The beauty of growing up in the country side is that walking is a daily joy. Your senses thank you for the breath of fresh air, birds singing, rolling green hills and the feeling of gravel and grass under your soles. If there are any places within walking distance of half an hour in the city, I prefer to walk instead of taking the bus or train. I was walking in the art gallery the other day, and it was one of the most therapeutic and simple things that brought so much enjoyment. The feeling of being surrounded by nature, art and books is some of the little joys in life.

Have you ever noticed if you’ve ever had a terrible day, walking seems to allow your mind to think with more clarity or just let the stress lessen even just a little? In that moment, you don’t feel completely stuck in your mind enclosed in your room, but the world around you reminds you that you’re not completely alone. Walking is good for your body, soul and your existence. It gives a sense of purpose, meaning and peace in ones life. The simple act of moving one foot in front of the other, sets our mind free. It opens us to see the world. Many writers venture out into the world to experience, before being fully absorbed into writing parts of a novel.

There is time for reflections, thoughts, ideas and imagination to run wild. Walking relieves the heavy weight of anxiety or emotional pain. Gros talks about how there are those who walk for a short period of time during the day as a boost, while others walk for hours and hours. The feeling of walking to a destination, such as the library, art gallery or park always fills me with a sense of small purpose. It may sound unimportant to another, but as I set out on the journey to the place, it makes me feel rewarded once I arrive. When we walk, we are just another being walking on this Earth. It’s a gentle reminder of the importance of solitude.

I remember as a child, walking was like play in the way that you’d feel excited when you arrive somewhere, see something new or meet someone. The curiosity, adventure and journey was rewarding. In a world where there is a fixation on fitness, walking is often overlooked, when it has endless benefits for our overall well being. Taking the action to walk out the door for a walk is necessary in a life where we create complexities. The simplicity of walking reminds us that it’s always the little things. It makes one not become so attached to their own troubles in life. It lets us observe the strangers walking past us, and remind ourselves that everyone’s lives are on a different path.

We have a wider perspective, a sense of renewed energy and a calmer self when we go outdoors for a walk. When we walk, we are reminded to take it easy and enjoy life at a steady pace, rather than rushing through it. In the words of Shakespeare, All the World’s a Stage, we can be anyone when we walk. There isn’t an attachment to identity, and therefore we ignore any titles or labels of ourselves. It’s one of the most natural things we can possibly do, starting from the moment we learn to walk as a baby.

We have all the space, time and possibilities. You are the only one who can take those steps to where ever you’re headed to. No one else can walk them for you. There’s awareness, presence and discovery into the unknown or a familiar environment. Repetition in walking can be a comforting motion. It can be a way of escaping or a way of understanding. That is why walking is such an essential part of our lives. We are blessed to have these two legs that can take us around the world, and even just in the streets of our hometown.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking

Books

a51b3c4d37e0f56feab0c51fbee9e83d.jpgQuiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking was the first book I read in 2017. It was such a wonderful and incredibly relatable book that had me nodding throughout. After watching Susan Cain’s Ted talk on the power of introverts, it gave me a sense of reassurance and a wider perspective of what it means to be an introvert. The way she touched on many areas of being an introvert, being a highly sensitive person and interacting with introverts and extroverts, makes us aware that introverts and extroverts simply act, learn, work, socialise and live in different ways. A third to a half of people are introverts.

Cain talks about how in Asian culture, we tend to have a more introvert approach to many aspects of life, where as in American culture, they tend to have a more extroverted approach. When it comes to socialising and networking, it’s the conversations and environment that ultimately makes a difference. Conversations that are superficial tend to drain my energy batteries, whereas deep meaningful conversations make me feel engaged. Cain writes that there is no evidence that introverts or extroverts out perform one another. Both are capable of achieving a high standard, however the method of an extrovert is often applauded, even if it may not be the best. We tend to listen to the loud person in the group who is more talkative, however they may not always necessarily have the best ideas.

In terms of friendship, many introverts tend to have a small group of close and intimate friends. The book really expresses how we need a world of introverts and extroverts. Both compliment one another, and both are important in our society. Cain touches on the point that there is a need for introverts to be able to work at their best by providing them with suitable environments and communication methods. In a world where extroverts are praised, the introverts have a world of thoughts and ideas to contribute to the world. Never underestimate someones abilities, just because we cannot see it. Every individual has the ability to make a big or small change in the world.

Art by Monica Barengo

Learn From The Past, Plan For The Future & Stay In The Present

Books

5750c7e1d1e8bc79e5d1a14581948abf.jpgI recently read a book called The Present by Spencer Johnson. I recommend the book to anyone in any stage of their life. It’s the kind of book that you can read in less than a day, but it contains such a strong message. Do you remember when you were a child, the way you could focus on a task with all your attention? Whether it was playing with your toys, drawing in your sketch book, jumping on the trampoline or reading a book. Your mind didn’t have any thoughts that would fly in asking yourself questions that made you feel worried. There were no worries that would create themselves inside of you, because you were focused on enjoying the moment, rather than worrying about the future. Kids are the greatest reminder of staying in the moment.

Most of the time the stress we have in our lives, are very often created from our thoughts. These thoughts can then affect our mood and the actions we take. They give out negative energy and cause more negative things to be attracted into our lives. When we worry, it tends to be something about the future, or when we feel bad, it may be a memory from the past. One of the important messages in the book, is that in this moment is the moment we can choose to enjoy and live. We are in control of the present. In the present we can decide to look at the past as a way to learn and be better from it. We can look towards the future with a sense of making ourselves better than where we currently are. When we’re in the present, we invite happiness and success into our lives, because we don’t allow the past and future to steal our time.

We can’t touch the past but we can learn and improve from it. We can’t touch the future yet, but we can reach our goals and vision by planning for the future. When we plan and focus on the present, we are able to enjoy life far more. In the book it says Once you have prepared for The Future, you can enjoy The Present with less anxiety. It reminds us that when we have a direction in life, it allows us to focus on what we can do in the present, in order to bring about the future we want. Another quote that spoke to me was Success is becoming who you are capable of being. We all have different definitions of success. Whatever it is that we really want to strive for, we have the ability. The moment we start creating scenarios in our mind or causing a thought to exaggerate, we allow it to build up and ruin our focus.

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has things they wish they did or said differently. Although, we must use our precious time to learn from those moments. They give us a valuable lesson in order to improve and change ourselves. Many of us have dreams or goals we want to achieve in life. It’s really important to have a positive mindset on it, otherwise it’s easy to quickly diminish from simple thoughts such as “I can’t because…” or “What if…” We are all able to reach our goals.  Being In The Present Means Tuning Out Distractions And Paying Attention To What Is Important, Now. You Create Your Own Present By What You Give Your Attention To Today. These words are so true, because what we put our attention on is ultimately the moment we choose. There is a choice to how we see and react to every good or bad situation.

It Is Hard To Let Go Of The Past If You Have Not Learned From The Past. As Soon As You Learn And Let Go, You Improve The Present Today. The book has a lot of wise words that most of us already know ourselves, but we forget to do it. Johnson reminds us that it’s okay to slip from time to time, and it’s a gentle reminder to focus back to the present. Everyone experiences hurt and pain. Those memories can bring a grey cloud over ones head. We are reminded that those memories have happened and we can’t change them, but we can become stronger from it. Sometimes certain things happen in life that we experience, because it allows us to recognise what is important. Letting go releases the pain you’ve held in for too long. It releases the tension in your mind.

Living in The Present learning from The Past and planning for The Future is not all there is. It is only when you Work and Live with Purpose and respond to what’s important about The Present, Past and Future, that it all has meaning. – Spencer Johnson

Art by Lieke van der Vorst 

What The Little Prince Taught Me

Books

Growing up, you may of read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. As I was sitting in a cafe called Woolloomooloo in Taipei last year with my dear friend, she told me how she was reading the book. It brought back a lot of memories of the book, and as one of those classics that have been read time and time again, I was curious to watch the film which came out in 2015. There are rarely books and movies (with the exception of Harry Potter), where I felt like I loved both of them. The film magically intertwined The Little Prince with the story of a young girl. The most important message I felt was the power of imagination. The wonderful joy, love, happiness and excitement it brings. New adventures and a boundless mind. The water colour paintings, wise words and wonderful story is really a reminder for us that we were all once children. “All grown ups were children once… but only few of them remember it.” – Saint-Exupéry.

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When you were younger, did you remember asking endless questions out of curiosity, going on adventures of make believe, having your first imaginary friend and laughing uncontrollably about nothing. Whatever it was, a part of growing up can often suppress many parts of our childhood self, that so often is a crucial part of us to carry within us for the rest of our lives. Human nature can only survive by reaching for what is within, rather than what is without. As we grow older, there are many parts of our surroundings we only look at from the surface. The book shows the little prince, being amazed at the drawing of an elephant inside a boa constrictor, where as the adults can only see a hat. How mysterious we are inside. The secrets we hold, the words waiting to be unlocked and the way we think. When we grow older, it can become a habit to judge on a person’s exterior, rather than realising the journey they have come. The stories that are untold and the wonderful true self that they may partially hide. The Little Prince reminds us not to lose the goodness that is in all of us.

fb807d5721ed3e8e075ab466dbbfe2fbThis book is a lot deeper than one may find, but it is also the kind of book you read and do not forget. There are many themes, such as friendship, human nature, truth, innocence, reality, imagination and so forth. We are reminded to be like the little prince in many ways. To hold onto our true selves, to seek from within rather than without and be an honest person. Pulling down the brick walls that can often be built as we grow older. Lessening the judgment of those that walk around us in our daily lives. Remembering to see the beauty and simplicity in the world, and most of all, cherish and nurture special relationships for every individual is a magical treasure of secrets.

little_prince_boa_constrictor“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” It could not be any truer. Everything that is truly beautiful, is always felt inside. I’d like to think that we can always encompass a child like imagination and see beyond the surface of our minds. Unfortunately we often assume, look and judge based on what is immediately seen. The Little Prince reminds us to have an open heart, open mind and to embrace our imagination, rather than let it go. If you get the chance, have a read of the book. If you were wondering what had happened to the elephant, he is still inside the boa constrictor.