Books I read: March 2018

I started a Goodreads account to keep track of the books I'm reading. I'm still Malditang Librarian over there. I'm trying to catch up with reading since I'll be busy around May to August and I don't think I won't have much free time for reading. This month, I only finished five books. I was reading Land of the Beautiful Dead by R. Lee Smith but halfway through I couldn't finish it. I also tried reading Isaac Marion's zombie romance, Warm Bodies, but I just couldn't get into it. I guess I should really get hooked on the first few chapters if I want to go on finishing a book. It's also a waste of time to read a book that doesn't captivate you anyway.

When They Severed Earth from Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth by Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Paul T. Barber
I think I found the best book I read this 2018. I borrowed this from CPU Theology Library: When They Severed Earth From Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth by Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Paul T. Barber, ©2005 Princeton University Press. (I'm the only one who borrowed the book so far)

The main argument of the book is that myths are not just simple stories invented by the ancients for entertainment. In an age where writing has not yet been invented and the human brain is the only tool of memory, myths may have served a function to carry important information about real events and observations. Myths could be a way by which non-literate societies preserved 'data' for a long time.

For example, who would have thought that the myth about Prometheus might have its origin in volcanic activity? That stories of gods and their wars might be about astronomy, at a time when celestial bodies were the only ways to tell time and demarcate years? It talks about the possible origins of dragons, vampires, the underworld, and many more.

The book also proposes that we can 'decode' these myths and match them to real-world events. However, through time and peoples vanishing and migrating, the meaning may have been lost.

I like that it isn't just about comparative mythology but is about psychological and cognitive principles. How are myths created and how do they degrade over time? But it is written in an entertaining and readable way. Each chapter, I was 'blown away' by each new realization and theory.

This is a very different approach from Joseph Campbell who focused on the psychology and archetypes in myth. I think this book is not just important for literature and mythology, but information science as well. I think I have to read it again to really understand it. A must-read for anyone interested in mythology.

The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now by Thich Nhat Hanh
The author is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and the book is great at explaining Buddhist principles in a simple and understandable way. I hope people don't get turned off by the word "Buddhist" because once you have an open mind and just learn about it, it makes sense and can really help us focus on the here and now. No matter what religious background we are (or none at all), we can learn from it. For me, the most important lessons we can learn from it is impermanence, letting go of craving, and focusing totally on the present moment.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
I first read this book in 2009 and I found it so hilarious then. Still an amusing and relaxing read. In the book, the Earth has been destroyed for a hyperspace bypass. The only humans left are Arthur Dent and Trillian McMillan, and they have silly adventures together with Ford Prefect and ex-President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox... and meet even sillier aliens and the most improbable things happen to them. This is book 2 in a series of 4, the first is "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Recommended if you like sci-fi and humor.

I wrote separate blog entries for reviews of the following books:

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