Today on the way back to Houston April and I listened to a few top 20 TED talks and were interested in talks by Sir Ken Robinson on the decay of today's education. I am so grateful to have someone who enjoys discussing nerd stuff even if it is unrelated to our field of expertise - geosciences. It was also an eye opening lecture so I highly recommend it.
Right now, I am not ready to fall asleep yet so I feel the urge to reflect on my biographical history of what cultivated my habit craving for the most random "knowledge"!
Reading has always been a favourite past time except for a few phases of life where time didn't allow me to prioritize them. Here I am laying in bed on a Sunday night being happy on receiving new non-fictions to read - Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Woodard.
At the same time, I am feeling a bit sad on a lot of my good books that are sitting in boxes in Bristol and also those rotting away from humidity in Malaysia.
The most memorable birthday present my parents ever gotten me was a children's illustrated encyclopedia when I was 7, and my love for encyclopedias, and now its user-reviewed electronic counterpart Wikipedia, never stopped.
I remember my favourite cd-rom when I was in elementary school being ADAM Interactive Anatomy online. This was on top of playing games that taught me some of the world history - Age of Empire, Rise of the Nations and Time Commando.
From then I always ask for more encyclopedias and books on human body. I believe I learn best with visuals.
In some evenings during school holidays, I would go to public libraries to read on more non-fiction/reference books which I can never afford, and this habit never stopped when I went to the UK.
After my A-Levels (pre-university), I realize my lack of knowledge in the major part of the world is not Science and thought to myself "What actually makes the world go round and work the way they work today?". So I asked my best friend Vanessa if she could lend me her textbooks on Business studies and Economics. I have not returned them to her yet! Hee.
I did an evening course on Accountings while I was working and then took up a semester on Marine Science in my local university to feed my side interest on marine biology and diving. I also chose to do Creative Writing and Drama as a minor to feed that small part of the English Literature geek which I once had back in high school. I scored really well in them and my creative writing was highly praised that I still kept a hard copy of it back home.
So what exactly did I read? If I rewind the reel of the tape to the past. By 12 I remember reading Astronomy from being in a state quiz competition for it. By 14 I remember reading my first Psychology and Social Psychology college textbooks because of my curiousity on human behaviour. By 16 I remember being quite engrossed in the Merck Veterinary Manual because I was curious on the medical side of canines and wanted to be a veterinarian! Around 16 I remember uncle Benny lending me Daniel Coleman's Emotional Intelligence which made me realize the power of EQ over IQ. By 18 I was inspired by Eckhart Tolle's books and I also remember going back to the homosapiens medicine and carrying around Merck Manual Home Health Handbook to read on the basic systems of our body function when my family and I go out for dinners. I can never forget reading the entire Freakonomics on my Nokia E71 phone by then! How geeky can one be?
I had my fair share of fiction books as a young child which was mostly detective themes. I used to love the idea of solving mysteries and imagining myself being a part of it that me and three other friends created a Detective Club to help our classmates when I was 8! I started with Famous Five, Hardy Boys, and a Malay series of Siri Lima Penyiasat. As I got into fourth grade I started reading Sherlock Holmes and Japanese detective stories in a form of graphic novels (aka manga) such as Hajime Kindaichi series and Detective Conan. Apocalyptic sci-fi like Herbert's Dune and works of Arthur C Clarke also help fuels my crazy imaginations.
In middle school and high school, I wasn't reading as much and if I were it was mostly non-fiction which I mentioned above. After high-school I got interested in legal stories and crime thriller like Jeffrey Deaver and John Grisham. I remember Elaine introducing me to Jeffrey Archer and she got me hooked with political writings and complex plots.
I got into inspirational/spiritual fiction in my undergraduate by Paulo Coehlo and can never forget how moved I was by The Alchemist.
The last book that I read Sycamore Row by John Grisham which was a serious page turner!
University life and then on
My reading frequency on fiction and on paperbacks got lesser when Wikipedia invented. It had made me more interested in even broader themes like world history, politics, social psychology, finance and behavioral economics.
During my PhD, I learnt a lot more about politics and social studies thanks to my flat mate Terri who has finished her phd in politics recently. I was reading a mixture of behavioral economics (Malcolm Gladwell's, Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Daniel Kahneman's, etc), and also a highly recommended From Third World To The First by Lee Kuan Yew.
I wish I have the time to just read, research, think, discuss and write. I am very thankful to have April who is more than happy to carry intellectual discussions in these broad issues. What more can I ask for someone whom I want to grow old with??
As of today, the topics I seem to be interested in is quite limitless. However, the question that continues to linger in my head is, how does the world really work, from the broadest point of view? From the most transdisciplinary holistic point of view?
My strategy is to hopefully conclude "life and its worldly cog of machines that runs it" before I leave the face of the Earth. In which, for the last couple of years I have been carefully selective in well-reviewed (preferably scholarly) reads that are worthy of the already limited time that I have. Let's hope that thirst for knowledge continues for the longest of my time.
Scientia Potentia Est (Knowledge is Power).