Wednesday, 12 October 2016

#23Before24: A Year in Non-Fictions

As part of my 23 Before 24 List, I've resolved to read one non-fiction each month. I feel like at this age, it's time I start gathering more knowledge and actually reading things about the real world so as not to get left behind by my peers in terms of general knowledge—because apparently I'm a clueless idiot about anything. Reading non-fictions turns out to be one hell of a ride. It's opened wider doors for me, learning about all these things I didn't know before—or never really cared to get to know—and getting some perspective from various people's point-of-view on the world and everything within it. So here is the recap of all the non-fictions I've read in the last year.

It was one afternoon when I decided to check out the campus library that I stumbled upon this book. Fashion has always been a subject which intrigues me—hence this blog (ha!)—and I thought it was high time I actually read up on its history. It definitely shed some light on how consumerism and fast fashion came into being. It is truly fascinating to learn how the way we dress evolves throughout the ages—and how much of that has to do with the cultural and economical changes. I also got to know several prominent fashion figures, such as Delaunay, Schiaparelli and Rei Kawakubo—besides the household names like Chanel, Balenciaga and Ralph Lauren—and how they came to be so famous. It is a little glimpse into how the fashion industry turned into what we know today. This is like a little trip down memory lane of when I used to study Art History.

Since puberty hit—or maybe towards the end of it, I think—my sister has had this book hanging on the bookshelf. It's always been quite uninteresting and a taboo for me, because of its "vulgar" cover—according to 15-year-old me. The book really talks about the sex culture within the young adult community in the US. It really gave me a lot of insights on what dating looks like halfway around the world, which is very different from my circles of friendship. It baffles and shocks me how casually—yet personally—teenagers think and talk about sex and sexual activities. What's more shocking is how terrible the effects are towards their faith in love and their trust in people. It really explains a lot why articles like this one seems to pop up more often on the internet. Though this book is written quite some time ago and in a different part of the world, I cannot fully dispute that these things don't happen around here now. The book is very eye-opening and not at all written in a lecturing kind of way, which is refreshing.

This book was given to me by Ms. Sancaya Rini. It was published by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia and is not for sale—so, if you want to read it, I'll lend it to you. She had two copies and said I could have one of them. Ms. Rini's love for traditional Indonesian craft, dip-dyeing and nature really rubs off on me, otherwise I wouldn't've read this book. It talks about the definition of ikat weaving, different patterns usually used in ikat weaving and what each region's specialties are. It beautifully explains the history and culture behind each ikat—i.e. the traditional functions of each pattern and form. This book is written in English, because it was meant to be handed out to foreigners who want to learn about the Indonesian culture.

When we were little, my sister and I—and our cousin—were obsessed with horses. We would go to the mountains to go horseback riding every other weekend and fantasise about buying one for ourselves. It was only natural that we bought several books about horses (yes, I said several). This one talks specifically about the breeds of horses around the world. For an encyclopaedia, it is relatively light (in weight) and thin. It starts off talking the history of horses and then off to talk about the different breeds of horses—plus, how to identify them, their strengths and weaknesses and how the breed came to be. Though I can't say I'm a horse expert now, it really gave me an insight on all types of horses. The one I instantly fell in love with was Camargue. They're just too elegant!

Towards the end of middle school or the beginning of high school, I was suddenly all pumped up about being more environmentally friendly. I purchased several books on the subject to get me going. This book was one of those purchases. Back then, however, housework and beauty products were of little concern to me (if not none), so I couldn't make myself read past the first few pages of the book. Years later, with a fresh new perspective, this book proved to be useful for me. It gives me several insights about toxic chemical substance in beauty and cleaning products. It's really opened my eyes to really look into the things I put in and on my body. Though the writing style is a little bit fickle for me—and several other people, according to the reviews—and I read that the writer might have gotten several things wrong, it was the first step into living a greener lifestyle.

The first time I found out about this book was through the pages of a fashion magazine. I think it was Nylon or something. The title alone really intrigued me, but the fact that it was written by a guy is actually worth applauding, I thought. The cover finally captured my heart, though when I found it at the bookstore, I was quite perplexed by how much thinner than expected it was. Soon after I bought it, I dove straight away into this book. The first impression I had of it was rather nice; I like that the author outright said that it was meant to be an argument/conversation, instead of a fixed set of rules. His words made it a lot easier for me to reject parts of what he had to say—which was a little double standard, I'm afraid. My initial intention in reading this book was to find out a man's point-of-view on the subject, so I guess I got what I wanted.

The only reason I even considered to read this book was because I panicked that we were running out of non-fictions for me to read. To be fair, when I read the title, I thought it was going to talk about how to stop procrastinating—boy, was I wrong. Though, after reading it to the very end, I could see the point this book is trying to deliver. Mainly, it really tells us to appreciate the present more and stop looking back to the past or worrying so much about the future. There is only now, the only time in our life that we can truly control. I love how it is written like a FAQ page of a website, making it so much easier and the less boring to read. That being said, I don't fully agree with this book—which, I think, is a healthy way of reading such books. By the way, it delighted me to know that Will Darbyshire read it too.

It was only natural that a non-fiction roll means reading a memoir at some point. This book in particular has been sitting on my shelf for years now. I think my sister bought it because it was one of the books chosen in Oprah's Book Club in 2005. I tried reading it several times already, but couldn't get past the first couple pages. The unusual writing style as well as strong language really put teenager me off. However, now with a bit more of life experience in me, this book actually becomes an intriguing and meaningful read. It holds the story of the author's struggle to sober up from the vast amount of drugs and alcohol abuse he put himself through for many years. Though, now after a bit of digging, I found out that parts of this book has been fictionalised, so I don't know if it's even right to call it a non-fiction. That being said, this book really taught me a lot—despite the embellishments and alterations, which seems minor to me. It still tells the feelings of the author and what he went through, whether or not it's wholly true.

When I was little, I remember watching The Diary of Anne Frank and being on the brink of tears. The pain and suffering haunted me for weeks; I can't believe a little girl had to go through all that. I think my Dad was the one who bought this book and kept it for many years afterwards. I dove into this book, thinking it would be anything like the film. If you have the same notion, I would advise you not to read this book. I didn't really like it much, to be honest. Because, just as the title says, this is actually nothing but a diary of a young girl—which might as well be the 1940s female-written version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, if he were living in confined spaces to hide from the Nazis. I think I probably would've enjoyed it when I was fourteen or so, but now it really doesn't impress me in any way. She rarely talks about the war—unless from a distance—and mostly talks about teenage problems, which any teenager in any era could relate to. Please keep that in mind before you read it.

I've been hearing good things about this book from Estée Lalonde and other sources. When I purchased this book secondhand and put it up on instagram, many people responded endearingly toward this book—and Mindy in general. Truth be told, I never followed Mindy's career. I never watched The Office, I'm not following The Mindy Project and knows virtually nothing about  American comedy. Just like the other books in this list, I think you need to be a certain kind of people or in a certain stage of your life to enjoy this book. There are some parts of the book that really resonated with me, particularly the chapter with the same title as the book. But, for the most part, I think you need to either follow Mindy's career or understand the strange world that is SNL and American comedy to truly enjoy the whole of this book. I was just lost in most of the self-referential comedy that she uses. In the end, I gave this book away to my friend Divina.

Well, lookie here! A book about politics; who would've thought? If you'd asked me five years ago if I would ever read a book about politics, I most likely would've scoffed or spat at you. When I was still in Kassel, though, my roommate Adit used to talk to me a lot about the 1990s and several conspiracy theories that I don't remember ever learning from history books. Adit likes to watch tons of documentaries too, and that intrigued me. When I was staying at my grandparents' in August, I was bored because I finished my Mindy Kaling book on the train trip there and I brought nothing else. After a bit of rummaging about, I found this book among my Mom's old belongings. It turns out, this book was borrowed from a friend of hers—and now she'll never get it back. The book really went into the many concerning aspects of Soeharto's 30-year presidency. It's a really tough—and long—book to read, taking me around 4 weeks to finish, but I really learnt a lot. Now I'm feeling a little bit anxious about this nation, because I still see traces of foul play from the New Order.

The title alone was enough to intrigue me, but then I read the back of the book and I was instantly hooked! Though, to be honest, I only recognise the Memoirs of a Geisha reference. It's always been a tremendous wonder for me, how mystical the East seems to the West. With artistic movements, such as Mooi Indie and Gauguin's exoticism—plus, the Chinoiserie influence to the baroque and rococo period—I can't help but to wonder of what the Occidentals think of us. At first glance, I thought the book was going to reveal the mistakes Western writers often make in writing about Asia—as is the case with Memoirs of a Geisha, which is hugely rejected by the country of origin, Japan. But it warms my heart to see there were indeed writers who were born and/or raised in Asian countries, thus knowing our culture by heart and soul (as opposed to seeing it as a mere object of fantasy). This book really opens my eyes and mind to the East-West relationship and now I'm intrigued to read all the books mentioned within.

So those are the 12 non-fiction books that I've read this past year. I'm sorry if it was a little tl;dr for you, but I hope you would at least read one review that intrigues you the most. Reading non-fiction has been really eye-opening and refreshing for me. I'd like to think I've grown up a bit after reading these incredible books—though some of them were a bit of a let down. While fiction may be a great source of comfort and entertainment, some things are just better to read out front, without the need to decipher the meaning behind each prosaic code. Since this year I have two reading challenges, this was as many as I can read, I'm afraid. Speaking of which, please check out the video below on my Reading Diversely tag. It's an awesome reading tag that I encourage everyone else to do too! Enjoy!

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