Books & Literature

Badass Women in Manga and Anime: My Top Votes

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I am a feminist, no doubt about it. I respect and adore women and have an endless sympathy towards their physical and mental pain and suffering. Therefore, I always hold them in higher regards to men for men already enjoy too much of nature favour (isn’t it strange that sometimes I put myself in the third position when looking at the two sexes? Guess I am just constantly on the learn to walk on the Middle Way).

I always think that women can be and should be independent of men, and I have applied that notion to the point of turning myself into a “too independent” one (with a slightly negative meaning). I also think women are capable of everything that men can do, regardless of their natural weaker body build. Therefore, badass women to me are ones who excel in physical strength, rational leadership skills, and have a cool/masculine look and a distant/aloof demeanour. This type of woman is not easy to find in manga and anime where female characters are often portrayed as “kawaii” (cute) schoolgirls or women with over-sexualised bodies (or both). It is thus an irony (if you ask) for a feminist like me to also be a manga/anime fanatic. However, among all the kawaii female characters who are physically and mentally dependent on others, there are still a few amazing badass ladies that I totally fall for. My top votes are below:

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My 2022 Reading & Other Highlights

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My reading speed in 2022 slowed down quite a bit compared to the two previous years (only 25 books in 2022 compared to 30 in 2020 & 2021), partially because I got absorbed in work but also because I started to run out of books that I really wanted to read. Nevertheless, to compensate for those 5 missing books (academic ones don’t count as always), I got entrusted by some friends to read their manuscripts, which was quite a pleasant surprise. Guess I have truly made my reputation as one who can read! 🙂

Apart from reading, 2022 was an extremely remarkable year of awakening for me. I got to visit and meditate under the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha attained full enlightenment. I got a few brief moments of experiencing oneness and nonself and started to succeed in applying impermanence and letting-go into daily life. I experienced what a holy unconditional love felt like and began to practice true love and compassion. And above all, I got to meet an inspiring old lady who taught me how to be positive and useful until the very end, how to live with cancer, by herself, for a whole year, untreated, with immense pain, and still be useful for others. I didn’t know much about the lady but to me, she was a Bodhisattva who opened up my eyes to a new level of realisation, while to others, she was probably just a lonely poor lottery seller. I’m not even sure how many people realised she was no longer sitting there, at her usual spot on the street where she had sat in the past 20 years. After her passing-away, I made up my mind to start learning to care for others. And thus, I adopted a stray cat from a shelter, and now it is this cat that continues to teach me how to love, to care, to be responsible and to always look beyond my own selfishness. 

And now, looking ahead, my ‘book consumption’ strategy in 2023 is to cut down on new readings (except for a few classics that I have already put on the must-read list), and focus on digging more deeply into the ones that I adored so much, such as The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Gandhi’s Autobiography, Tao Te Ching or Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings (that I only read a month ago). I would also like to spend time blogging about several recommended reads in some of my favourite genres such as dystopia, children’s books and manga (yes, manga, you heard me correctly), and perhaps putting more serious effort into my first short story writing.

Below are some great reads I have accomplished in 2022: 

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2021: My Russian Classic Literature Reading Highlights

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2021 is another successful year for an extra-introverted bookworm who enjoys social distancing, and an efficient minimalist who can survive on a negligible budget. In 2021 I managed to finish nearly 28 books (excluding the academic reads, of course – I’m very serious about not mixing work’s reads with purposeful reads). Different from the “transcendent” year of 2020 when my most favorite centered around enlightening philosophy (Autobiography of a Yogi, Autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi – see my previous post), in 2021 I focused primarily on classic fiction, specifically European literature, among which, the 19th century and early 20th century Russian classics are the highlights. I fortunately got to read Pushkin, Gogol, (more of) Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Bulgakov, and I was completely awed by the philosophical and psychological ideology in many of the works. For those who wish to start on Russian classics but do not know where to begin, I suggest following this list which I also find very helpful.

Below are some of my most notable Russian classic reads of the year, listed in the chronological order. I read them all in Vietnamese as I believe that the Vietnamese translation of Russian classic (mostly done by reputable Vietnamese writers and researchers who lived through our socialist bonding decades) is better than a random English version that comes to my hand.

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A Bookworm in 2020: My Top 5 Reads of the Year

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Let’s make it clear that 2020 is not a harsh year at all for an extra-introverted bookworm living in privileged conditions (having food, a shelter, and a job) in one of the safest countries in the world from Covid (if you don’t know, please Google the Covid situation in Vietnam by yourself as I’m not going to discuss this abundant topic anymore).

This year I have managed to read some of the greatest and most iconic books of their genres in both fiction and non-fiction. Being an eclectic reader, I read a wide range of topics spanning science, dystopia, history, mythology, fantasy, mystery, warfare, crime, thriller, education, philosophy, psychology, drama, sociology, spiritual and religious subjects in both fiction and non-fiction. Throughout the year I have read in full a total of 29 30 books, besides the required academic reads for study and research purposes, plus no less than a dozen manga series (let me be honest, I’m a total manga & anime freak). For a hard-core bookworm, everything thinner than 300 pages deems too light, and I constantly find myself reading books from 500 pages up. On average I probably read between 50-100 pages every day this year. Some friends tell me they can’t read because they don’t have time. Well, who does? I just cut down on sleep time, and also allocate none for nonsense gossiping and useless socialising. Easy. 

Below are my 5 best reads of 2020, which are also 5 of my most recommended books for anyone to read in their lifetime. There are several ‘honorable mentions’ at the end that you may find interesting (off-topic alert: ‘honorable mentions’?! Sounds just like DumbMojo! Oh wait I don’t call them DumbMojo, I stole the title off one of my favourite YouTube channels called TwoSetViolin – just follow them already – everyone deserves some good comedy and classical music!) Read the rest of this entry »

Green Seed Fund Bookshelf – Tủ sách Quỹ Mầm Xanh

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***Kéo xuống để đọc tiếng Việt***

As the Green Seed Fund coordinators & our friends are all sort of bookworms, these birds of a feather have decided to flock together, opening our bookshelves to circulate hundreds of fictions & non-fictions to other like-minded bookaholics, while helping to raise fund for the children in Tay Ninh province.

We offer 2 main “renting” locations: in Hanoi (near Giap Bat train station) and in HCMC (Nguyen Luong Bang, D7). Our bookshelf policy is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

The most beautiful love stories in the ancient Greek Mythology (cont.): Adonis and Aphrodite

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4 years ago, I started a series of my 3 picks for the most beautiful love stories in the ancient Greek Mythology. I quickly finished 2 stories but then have never found inspiration to finish the 3rd one.

However, it’s kind of ironic for me that no matter how much I try to brand myself as a “travel & lifestyle blogger”, my most popular content is still the Greek Myth love. Probably it is because more than ever, love is what we are in need in this ugly world of conflicts and selfishness. Hopefully, when all the thirst for money and power reaches its limit, humans will eventually come back to the basics that they have forgotten along the way: love, and humanity.

Before going into the 3rd story, don’t forget to go through my 2 previous posts:

1. Psyche and Cupid:

This is my favorite romance of all time. It’s the story about a strong-willed princess fighting for her love. According to me, it’s this mortal girl Psyche, but not any immortal goddess, the bravest and most decisive female character in the whole legend. Her story is utterly beautiful, which reminds us how love can create wonderful and incredible things in this world.

2. Orpheus and Eurydice:

Orpheus is a very unusual type of hero in the Greek Myth, also my favourite male character. He is not a muscular wrestler who built glory upon killing and blood, but a musician whose incredible music talent touched the heart and soul of everybody and everything in the universe. The love story though is a tragedy, it’s just as beautiful as the music of the legendary Orpheus himself, the greatest musician in the history of the entire mankind.

3. Adonis and Aphrodite: Read the rest of this entry »

The most beautiful love stories in the ancient Greek Mythology (cont.): Orpheus and Eurydice

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So in the previous post, I said that I would pick 3 love stories which I think were the most beautiful ones in the ancient Greek Myth. I already started with my favorite romance of all time, Psyche and Cupid, now I continue with my 2nd pick..

2. Orpheus and Eurydice:

Orpheus was a a very unusual type of character in the Greek Mythology. While most of the tales were about immortal gods or muscular heroes who built their glories upon killing and conquering, Orpheus appeared to be the most peaceful male character in the whole legend. He was a musician, a mortal human being, who used his 9-string lyre and his amazing music talent as weapons, and actually those turned out to be invincible weapons. It was him, Orpheus, not Heracles, Ulysses (Odysseus) or any other famous heroes, that could tame the vicious Cerberus guarding the gate to the Underworld and defeated the Siren‘s bewitching songs to save the life of the Argo sailors. (Sirens: the mermaids in Greek Mythology that lived on three islands in the sea. They often floated on the water singing the praise of the ocean’s beauty to seduce sailors. Their voice was described to be irresistibly enthralling, and if sailors didn’t cover their ears when passing this area they would jump out of the ships to follow the sirens and end up drowning in the sea).

Generally speaking, the legend about Orpheus’s triumph over Sirens as well as the taming of Cerberus and other fierce animals shows the supreme power of music. Sometimes music has the might to enchant, to lure, to kill but in the end it’s still the healer, the peace maker, the conqueror without killing or blood. And that made Orpheus become one of the most influencing characters in the whole Greek Myth. Even now in this modern world we can still see and feel his power whenever we cry or smile with a melody that touches our heart and soul, because that was also what Orpheus did during his time on Earth: to touch deeply within people’s heart, and no, not just people but every creature, from the birds, the tigers to the trees, the rocks and the water.

Orpheus got married to a Nymph named Eurydice. The legend didn’t say how they fell in love, so again I guess the part about how they kept their love alive was more important. They had a happy and harmonious life together. Orpheus loved Eurydice with all his heart and together with music, she was the reason he lived for. They often went together to the wood where Orpheus played his lyre and Eurydice sat by him putting her head on his shoulders and listening to his songs with admiration and certainly, love.

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The most beautiful love stories in the ancient Greek Mythology: Psyche and Cupid

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The Greek Mythology has been my favorite book since secondary school. I used to sleep with it under my head and memorized every little tale by heart. In fact, it had influenced my life a lot, especially when I was in college and even now I still think probably I’ll name my kids in the future after some of the heroes/heroines in there(!) To me it is the best literary work ever made and the best stories ever told.

And inspired by a blog post that I read recently “Why boys who play guitar are actually Greek Gods” in which the blogger mentioned Orpheus and his love for Eurydice I’ve decided to pick 3 love stories that I think are the most beautiful out of hundreds (or thousands) other mostly-sexual-love-affairs in the whole legend. Mind you, ancient people were the lucky ones. While in the modern time love is actually not the most important thing in a love story since it dies out easily over a couple of materialistic / realistic / practical reasons, in the old days when people were in love then love was the only thing that mattered.

1. Psyche and Cupid:

This is my favorite romance of all time. It’s not about how they fell in love but about how they fought to finally be together. There are many versions for this legend. Wikipedia has one of them, but I much prefer what I read in the Vietnamese version edited by Nguyen Van Khoa. That was a truly beautiful one.

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