Origins of supermarkets; self-improvement to benefit others; and how TV ruins our lives (Unfinished Books, Q1 2011)

Posted on 15 Feb, 2011

This post hasn't been updated in over 3 years.

So I thought I’d set a clearer goal than just, “Finish 6 previously unfinished books in a year“.

Hence, come 31 Mar 2011, I should have finished any 2 of the following books:

A little bit more about each book:

Made in America by Bill Bryson

Made in America (Bryson)

I had this book on my bedside when I was in my 1st year at university, about 5 years ago. And yet, for some reason, I have struggled to finish this book. It can’t be because it’s boring though!

I love how Bill Bryson seamlessly weaves his way through the evolution of American pop culture. He may lose you as he ponders upon the origin of various phrases and terms in the different areas of life, but otherwise it is quite cool to find out where the concept of supermarkets came from, or how the Declaration of Independence was not actually signed on the 4th of July.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

The Art of Possibility (Zander)

Somewhere in 2009 I started a journey on these so-called self-help or self-improvement books. This was one of my first.

It’s a cheerful and optimistic little book that mostly poses the way you look at other people and how you can lead them to their best performance within your team. Particularly, as conductor, Benjamin Zander has plenty to share on his experiences in engaging the players of an orchestra. You may not necessarily take away practical advice, but instead inspiring parables and concepts from which to look afresh at your relationships with other people.

One of my favourite stories from the book teaches this lesson: “A cynic is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again”.

The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben

The Age of Missing Information (McKibben)

I also got this one in 2009, and while also non-fiction, is more of a commentary or criticism on media, in particular, TV.

The premise is this: the author went and allocated 24 hours of his life to each channel available on cable, to see what he could learn from it. He then spent 24 hours out in the wilderness, for contrast.

He has some interesting reflections to share, but I did have an overwhelming feeling of reading into the mind of someone who didn’t agree with technology and the “illusion” of the better life it promises. From documentaries to sitcoms, to religious channels to news channels, he argues that TV dumbs down the accumulated wisdom of human experiences. Dude.

This was originally written in 1992. I think my edition is an updated one, in which he addresses the Internet age at the end of the book.


See, occasionally when it comes to books, I will come across something that I can’t or won’t finish, either because I am not in agreement with the principles presented by the book, or if it just plain bores me. Even though I have not actually finished any of the above 3 books, I am well on the way and just need that little extra push! I do not (violently) disagree with their principles, nor do they bore me, so I hope if you ever pick up any of them, you will enjoy them too. 🙂

[Book covers from Amazon.]

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