In recent years, I started to realize more on the importance of logging.
While logging might seem like a daunting task at first, it is a lot about introducing a system. When you have a working one, the results will follow. This can involve logging the books you read, the movies you had seen or your to-dos of the day. When you start somewhere, you’ll see that it will affect all other parts of your life slowly but steadily.
Beginning 2023, I introduced spaces 🌿. A place where I bring together the things that help me stay curious. Since I keep track of things on various platforms, It is nice to have a page of my own. This helps me to have them all together without relying on yet another app. It is changing and improving (as we all are) and I like that it contains a part of what I like discovering in one place.
Having such a place to keep things, I had been participating yearly reading challenges and logging the non-technical books I read since 2022. Apart from the motivation this provides, I can comfortably say that it also changed how I read. It helped me discover books from very different walks of life and find connections between them that I would perhaps not notice otherwise.
Top Five in Books
In 2023, I read 22 books with a mix of fiction and non-fiction. While it is really hard to choose, I’d like to share the top five books that had a heavy impact on me, in no particular order.
The Man Who Fell on Earth
Although categorized as a sci-fi novel, this novel is more on the philosophical side. Telling the story of Thomas Jerome Newton, an extraterrestrial who lands on earth and tries to navigate in a completely new planet with limited prior knowledge he acquired from TV broadcasts, I was able to relate to him as an alien in a foreign country, more than I expected.
I have been afraid of all manner of things every moment I have spent on this planet, on this monstrous, beautiful, terrifying planet with all its strange creatures and its abundant water, and all of its human people. I am afraid now. I will be afraid to die here.
The Trouble with Being Born
As the name suggests, written by anti-natalist Cioran, this book is a collection of dark aphorisms. Throughout the book Cioran emphasizes the major problem of birth (not death): ‘that laughable accident’. I have a lot to quote from this book but I would like to leave it to the readers instead.
Not to be born is undoubtedly the best plan of all. Unfortunately, it is within no one’s reach.
Interesting fact: I bought these two books together in one of my favorite book stores in Berlin and the cashier said “Excellent choice, both!”. I could not understand why as I discovered them whilst in the store but having read them you can definitely see an interesting relation: two characters (one fictional and one not) having difficulty to navigate in the very same world.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Very coincidentally bought from another bookstore / cafe, I enjoyed every single page of this story. In between quotes from Descartes and Nietzsche, every character has a great depth and a connection to the story, even the dog.
Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity.
Standing there watching him, they thought once more that he was smiling and that as long as he kept smiling he had a motive to keep living despite his death sentence.
The joke did not lose its charm through repetition. On the contrary. In an idyllic setting, even humor is subject to the sweet law of repetition.
Man’s Search for Meaning
Having postponed this read for more than 5 years, I am glad that I finally had the chance to dive into it as it occurred to me once more. Psychiatrist Frankl shares the life in WWII concentration camps and the lessons which guided him to found a psychotherapy method called logotherapy.
According to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways:
(1) by creating work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
He quotes Nietzsche throughout the book several times, especially this phrase:
He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.
The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
Born into slavery in Roman Empire (present day around Pamukkale in Turkey), Epictetus is a philosopher who established the school of Stoic philosophy. He was also the teacher of Marcus Aurelius, an emperor of the Roman Empire widely known for his work: Meditations. The Manual (or Echiridion) of Epictetus consists of excerpts from the Discourses on his essential teachings which was even carried by soldiers to the battle. Selected from these teachings, this book provides a great summary of Epictetus’s philosophy.
As concerns the art of living, the material is your own life. No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time.
Books from Diverse Places
Every year I try to diversify my reads so that I am not repetitively reading books on very similar topics. Here are some labels from 2023:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (A book read for the second time)
This is the story of Christopher, a 15 year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome. One day he finds out that the neighbor’s dog is murdered and starts an investigation only to discover things that will change his life drastically.
I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.
The Stars My Destination (A book gifted by someone)
In a revenge tale based on The Count of Monte Cristo, we meet Gully Foyle, an unskilled man drifting near the wreck of a spaceship named The Nomad. When the spaceship Vorga (which could have rescued him) passes him by, he becomes consumed by the desire for revenge.
‘You are all freaks, sir. But you always have been freaks. Life is a freak. That is its hope and glory.’
Bäume (A book on poetry)
In this beautiful mix of poetry and essays, Herman Hesse uses trees as symbols of memories, transience and rebirth.
“Oh oak tree, how they have pruned you.
Now you stand odd and strangely shaped!
You were hacked a hundred times
until you had nothing left but spite and will!”
I am currently reading two amazing books that had been on my TBR stack since their release date:
I also try to increment the number of pledged books every year by one, so the number of books to be read this year will be 22 📚
Here we go 2024!
– Coding Woman