Recommended Books for the Winter Break


A Ray of Love in the Dark and Cold Universe

The “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, famously thicker than a legal textbook, has been talked about for its depth and complexity. The Japanese version concluded in May this year, and it garnered significant attention. However, I’m sure there are many who have been hesitant to start due to the thickness of these volumes or who have left them in the to-be-read pile.

Even in the scanning editorial team, my attempts to spread the word about these books since spring have yielded no results. It seems the barrier is just too high, or perhaps it’s just my poor salesmanship…

In any case, I want to somehow lift the heavy hearts of all of you in this situation.

Now, onto the story. The premise is quite simple: “An invasion by highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization (Trisolarans).” It’s a work that I would like both science fiction fans and those less familiar with the genre to give a try.

What’s remarkable is the overwhelming realism and the grand scale of the story. In the face of the impending destruction of Earth’s civilization, the chaotic and desperate responses of nations and individuals mirror our own struggles amidst the ongoing pandemic.

However, there’s no sweet scenario like “People united and overcame the threat with the power of love and courage.” On the contrary, humanity, blinded by love and various other motivations, continually makes poor choices and suffers the consequences in the harsh interstellar society portrayed by the author. In a way, it’s almost comical.

Yet, precisely because of this, the theme of “love,” which has tossed humanity around (mostly leading to catastrophe), emerges as the ultimate factor that determines not only Earth’s fate but the fate of the entire universe in the climax.

I know this is starting to sound complicated, but the series also features mind-blowing strategies and psychological warfare as humanity attempts to overcome the impending crisis. There’s so much to see and enjoy in this work.

I invite you to take advantage of the leisurely year-end period and dive into this series. You’ll likely find that compared to the vast cosmos, the number of pages is just a minor concern.

"The Three-Body Problem" by Liu Cixin

Turning Childhood Eyes Towards the Universe

In another section, Seo recommends “The Three-Body Problem” (which, despite his persistent efforts, I haven’t gotten around to reading yet…), but I also want to recommend a book that I believe both science fiction enthusiasts and those less familiar with the genre would enjoy.

This book is written by the late great British physicist, Dr. Stephen Hawking, and it delves into the mysteries of the universe. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of a physicist writing a book; Hawking has crafted an engaging read about the cosmos that even someone like me, with a very limited grasp of mathematics, can enjoy.

At the beginning, he jokes that he kept in mind that every equation included in the book would halve its sales, so he managed to complete the book with only one equation included. I have immense respect for Dr. Hawking for this feat.

“Why did the universe come into being?”, “How did it come into being?”, “Why, on a planet of spherical rock, did we develop all the way to this point?” These are questions that everyone has probably pondered at some point. Yet, due to their enormity, we often push these simple and pure questions aside.

This is where this book comes in. It guides our curiosity about the mysteries of our universe scientifically. It’s not science fiction; it’s about the real world. The writing is not just a dry explanation of the universe; you’ll surely find yourself chuckling at Dr. Hawking’s sense of humor. As you read, you’ll find yourself sinking into the deep and unknown world of the universe’s mysteries, which is immensely enjoyable.

During this year-end holiday season, I encourage you to take a moment to reconnect with your childlike wonder and explore the vast and unknown cosmos.

"A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking

"Difference between Being Alone and Loneliness"

I recommend the interview collection of Markus Gabriel, a German philosopher hailed as “one of the most brilliant minds in Europe,” titled “Beyond an Overconnected World.” The following overview is excerpted from the book.

In this book, the author addresses three issues concerning “connections” – “between people and viruses,” “between countries,” and “between individuals” – presenting his perspectives on them and foreseeing the future of ethical capitalism. After discussing connections, in the final chapter, he focuses on the “existence of human beings” and delves into the essence of thinking, the meaning of life, and other fundamental questions.

One of the topics highlighted in the book that deserves particular attention is the distinction between “being alone” and “loneliness,” as mentioned in the title.

Looking back on the communication changes that occurred during the pandemic, it seems to have been a unique phenomenon where physical isolation and the acceleration of online connections (such as video chats and social media) happened simultaneously. It’s almost as if both the brakes and the accelerator were pressed simultaneously, with gears screeching and the car emitting smoke… Such a scene comes to mind. I can’t help but think that there were quite a few, including myself, who suffered from “loneliness” in such circumstances.

The author defines “loneliness” as a state accompanied by the desire to meet people but being unable to, and differentiates it from “being alone.” Furthermore, the solution to this is not sought in external communications that do not heal the unquenchable thirst but in nurturing springs that well up within oneself, such as intuition and introspection, and even in acquiring language skills or opening books in fields of interest (which resonates with the ideas in the beloved book “The Ethics of Leisure and Boredom“).

In the past few years, it has felt somewhat like an overly long winter break, but I want to accumulate intelligence and curiosity within myself in preparation for the coming “spring.” This piece has led me to such thoughts. I finally managed to purchase the recommended ‘Three-Body Problem’ as well, so I might open it during this period.

In addition to these, various insights for the vision after the pandemic can be gleaned from topics such as “Overcoming Postmodernism,” “Failures of the EU and the China Issue,” “Ethical Capitalism,” and “The Human View of Neo-Existentialism.” Please give it a read.

Beyond an Overconnected World / Markus Gabriel

Breaking Free from Perfectionism

On the morning of November 29th, 2021, as I checked my iPhone as usual, shocking news caught my eye. Virgil Abloh had passed away.

He was known for his apparel brand “Off-White,” and also as the first African-American creative director for “Louis Vuitton,” collaborating with IKEA and Mercedes, among other ventures. He referred to himself not as a designer but as a “maker.”

This book compiles a transcript of Abloh’s approximately one-hour lecture given at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2017. It delves into his design language, structuring things, problem-solving, and behind-the-scenes of the design process. One quote has stuck with me:

“I like works in progress. It shows the human side. When I realized it was okay not to be a perfectionist, I started sleeping peacefully at night, even with a mountain of work running simultaneously. This is important. Striving for perfection can lead to mental blocks.”

This can be applied to our daily work as well. The process leading to the final outcome might hold something valuable, for us or others. His words will resonate within me throughout 2022.

"Insert Complicated Title Here" by Virgil Abloh