On reading more

At the start of the year, I made, yet again, a New Year's resolution of reading more books. In the past, I've always had this on my list but I never found the time, er, never made the time.

As we all probably know by now, we don't really have time for anything unless we make time for it. I don't want this year to be a repeat of the previous ones, so I made it a point to follow through on it as best and as diligently as I could.

My plan was to read, at least, two books a month, regardless of topic or genre. They just have to interest me.  I am glad to share that I am on track with my goal. So far, I have read four books, for the months of January and February, touching on various topics. They are as follows:

The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name by Brian C. Muraresku

Such a great read about a topic that I am really into, ancient history and mystery. The author offers up a tantalizing theory about the substantial role of psychedelics and other mind-altering compounds on the foundation of human civilization.

Brian, on his investigations, took me to many ancient sites in the middle east, around the Mediterranean, Spain, Greece all the way to the catacombs beneath Rome.

I learned, for the first time, about the Eleusinian Mysteries, on how, among others, ancient philosophers (including Marcus Aurelius!) were initiated into it and then coming out of it in a "renewed" state of being. I gained more insight on the myths of Persephone, Demeter and Dionysus, who were, back when I was in school, explained as just among the beautiful gods and goddesses inhabiting Mt. Olympus invented by the ancient Greeks to explain away the different natural phenomena witnessed by them. No teacher ever told me that they were central to ancient people's everyday life.

The book further details the evolution of the mysteries from a "for elites only" club to its gradual democratization in the Roman Empire, in the pre-Christian period until its "destruction" by the Christian authorities. The word destruction is quoted because according to the Pagan Continuity Hypothesis, the rituals didn't really go away, they were adapted by the church albeit with no mind-altering compounds in place. This put a whole new dimension to my understanding of the inquisitions conducted by the Christian church on its efforts to stamp out witches and heretics.

There are so much more fascinating details in the book. I highly recommend it for fans of mysteries and history. It is a definite page turner and hair-raiser.


Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson

I love how this book gave a lot of fucks about a lot of things. Mark is kind enough to detail all the various ways our world is fucked up, how hopeless our situation really is but he ultimately gives a framework, of sort, on navigating the treacherous waters of life. He even provided several tips on starting out a new religion. Now, if anything else, I got step-by-step guide on a proven and tested way of earning so much money!

There were plenty of things, that the author talked about that really stuck with me but I'm only going to state a few of them here, hoping that they would also resonate with you and make you read the book as well.

The world runs on one thing: feelings
Because the only thing that can ever truly destroy a dream is to have it come true.
Don't hope for better. Just be better... be a better human.

For sure, I will be going back to read this book again and again.


Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Admittedly, I never really followed the story of Edward Snowden closely. I just knew him from reports as one of those guys who leaked something from the US govt. Blasphemy, I know. I should've been more informed about him esp. his revelations about mass surveillance.

Well, this book certainly changed that. Snowden tells an account of his life in a very vulnerable way. Sharing a lot of things about him, from his formative years all the way to his eventual revolt from the NSA.

It was engaging to read his stories about computers, the early internet with the 56kbps telephone modem (I can still hear the dialing sound!) and the faux identities that we used to create online to interact with strangers from all over the world. This brought me back, way back, on those years when I was also posting stupid comments in various forums and IRCs, viewing videos and various other foolish things.

Captivating were the chronicles of his journey that I cannot help but turn each page excitedly. Frankly, it read like one of those Tom Clancy novels. His story about the extent of the US govt's collection and processing of so much data about people with the aid of corporations was an eye-opening moment for me. I could have never imagined the breadth of the operation. I shudder at the thought of the info that has already been collected about me in the past and in the present.

If anything, I am now more conscious about what I share online. So should you.


Ego is the Enemy: The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent (The Way, the Enemy and the Key) by Ryan Holiday

Personally, this is my 2020 pandemic book. At a time when so much of the world has come to a halt, the stoppage has given me ample time to look inward. I've been doing a lot of introspection lately and having this book as company certainly made the whole thing meaningful.

Reading this book has opened up a lot of ways of re-examining my priorities in life, to review my past actions and how best to re-orient myself into what I truly want to be. If you haven't realized yet, or if you just want a reminder, the self is our biggest enemy, as it lives in us, for it is us.

Knowing when and how it rears its ugly head is so important. It keeps things in perspective, preventing you from going by the wayside, which I, admittedly have done countless times in the past.

This is one of those books that I would absolutely keep in my (digital) library, easily reachable in times when I need to be reminded by the lessons in the book. I intend to re-read it regularly.


This has been my first book reading update of the year. You can count on more of these in the coming weeks. For now, I'm off to finishing my current book, Hate Inc. by Matt Taibbi.

Lhar Gil
Kuala Lumpur