Books

Date: 12th July 2015

Book Review: “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics” by John Mearsheimer

Book information: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.  561 p. 24 cm.

There are some hopefuls who trust the flourish of global institutions would help countries to be in solidarity and rescue them from the scourge of war. Others claim that it is economic interdependence that glued the state actors and move them near to perpetual peace. Yet for John Mearsheimer (also the author of my previous review “Why Leaders Lie“), he made best use of his Offensive Realism theory, along with historical evidences from Napoleon period to the end of Cold War, to reflect great countries’ unrelenting power pursuit at each other’s expense, which in turn, security dilemmas prevail and hostile war is still a possibility. This is admittedly an unpalatable fact, but inevitable.

According to Realism, since no higher authority stands beyond the nations – even neither arbiter nor leviathan – in an anarchical system, states are primary actors in the global platform and some powerful ones, nevertheless, inherited offensive military capabilities for self-help. Due to their uncertainty over other states’ changeable intentions, states, not just great powers, become prudently rational with thorough cost-calculation. Survival, consisting of the maintenance of territorial integrity and domestic autonomy, is ranked at the utmost top of national security. However Offensive realism, which is different from Defensive realism that upholds the maintenance of existing balance of power, advocates the best way to survive in international anarchy for great powers are to gain irresistible strength of existing forces and to alter the distribution of power in their favour, and eventually gallop to be the sole regional hegemon with their prevention of rival’s dominance.

It is undeniable that power lies at the fundamentals of Realism, so does International Politics. Though non-material factors might be influential, the material capabilities, specifically the sum of latent and military power, are deemed to be the driving lead for power maximization. Latent power encompasses state’s abilities of mobilizing own demographic power and wealth to the military ones. While for the military one, armed land forces becomes the main instrument for conquering land and expeditiously defeating the opponent, rather than those independent naval, strategic air forces or destructive nuclear power. At best, the more superior the aforementioned capabilities countries own, the more successful the final outcome would be. However at worse, one great power’s varied maneuver of power would only stir up fear among the others, thereby each laying multifarious survival strategies out no matter in bipolar, balanced multipolar or unbalanced multipolar system.

Mearsheimer points out that multipolar systems are more war-prone than bipolar ones due to more occurrence of potential conflict. Unbalanced multipolar, which consists of potential hegemons, are the most unstable among all. He further suggests that, to acquire relative power, strategies like war, blackmail (the threat of force), bait and bleed (causing two rivals to engage in a protracted war) as well as bloodletting (ensure rival’s war into a costly long conflict) be encouraged and that appeasement and bandwagoning be avoided, so that balance of power would not shift against the threatened state. In terms of checking the aggressors, this book offers us a comprehensive glimpse towards the merits and demerits of balancing (including resource mobilization and alliance formation) and buck-passing (getting another state to bear the burden of deterring rivals). Additionally, the writer also examines the way of foreign policy behaviour of driving five dominant powers, comprising Napoleonic France, Wilhelmine Germany, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan, towards to the road of expansion in hope of achieving regional hegemony. Whereas, the United Kingdom and the United States, who are the offshore balancers that are formidable for projecting power across oceans, are still acting in compatible to offensive realism though they seem to be in no attempt to dominate Europe at first glance.

The last yet updated chapter, however, sheds pessimistic light to China’s rise in the contemporary 21st century based on the predictions of Offensive realism. By virtue of impressive economic boom and gradual military growth, on one hand, China endeavours to broaden its power gap with the neighbours and on the other, attempts for dominance in Asia. China’s staunch resolution of pushing the United States from her backyard and out of the Asia-Pacific would likely menace America’s continuous pursuit of hegemony. In face of China’s ambition, in no way would the United States tolerant of the emergence of a new competitor but exerts herself to limit China with balancing coalitions. In the long run, both would probably enmesh in intense security competitions and there is even a likelihood that Sino-American war would thereby break out.

In sum, this eye-opening grasp of this seminal work does prompt me to have a thorough revision of a major branch of International Relations theory. Mearsheimer’s blunt honesty and close scrutiny in constructing the structure of this must-read classic, deserves credit. Every time when glancing his writing, it is as if I am attending a fruitful lecture taught by a scholar of high acumen. Yet if you expect reading the bright side of global politics same as those hopefuls, I am afraid you would be disappointed by the distressing paint of international relations like thetitle suggests. And would Mearsheimer’s bleak predictions in the last chapter be against the backdrop of this 21st century?  I hope his depressingly persuasive viewpoints will not become reality, for peace’s sake.

© Variety as Life Spice 2015


Date: 7th Feb 2015

Book Review: “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green

Book information: New York: Dutton Books, 2012.  318p. 22cm

“So touching that it does really move me”, “A beautiful relationship.  Be sure to prepare a box of tissue near by your side while reading”.  Flooded with these highly praised comments, this popular bestseller has been ranked at the top wherever in bookstores or review websites.  Intrigued by the waves of popularity and seemingly emotionally-connected story, I have been patiently waiting for my library reservation, and has finally been my turn lately after several months!  With lofty anticipation before following the romance of two protagonists, I nonetheless end up being let down by the under-developed plot.

This teenage fiction features Hazel Lancaster, a 16 year-old girl succumbing to thyroid cancer, and Augustus Waters, a 17 year-old osteosarcoma patient.  Falling in love after meeting each other’s eyes at the Support Group, they subsequently met each other and shared their most favourite book.  Their admiration blossomed during each of their union, therefore spicing up Hazel’s days of dreary terminal.  Later through a charity organization, Augustus fulfilled her wish to travel to Amsterdam, where they would meet face-to-face with Peter van Houten, the author of Hazel’s favourite novel “An Imperial Affliction”.  However to their astonishingly dismay, the rude, insulting behaviour of van Houten the drunker left them a huge disappointment.  Worse still, Augustus’s lethal cancer relapsed and even exacerbated after the Holland trip.  Affirming their sustaining support during this struggle, even though he unfortunately passed away at last, her love for him never wavered.

In my own perspective, the story kicked off in a hasty manner.  In just few pages, both protagonists started falling into a whirlwind romance only by eyes staring during the Support Group meeting.  It was a bit ridiculous for Hazel, only meeting Augustus for the first time, to accept his offer to visit his house until the late evening.  Most importantly, the unbalanced content placed much weight to their Amsterdam journey, but spent comparatively less pages on their solid togetherness amid Augustus’s sickness.  While he was fatally ill, what they did were just having brief chit-chats and attending pre-funeral, rather than sparing endeavour for in-depth back-ups, joining hands to overcome physical struggles all the time.  Plus, the trite content is too fast-paced and too bland, as well as lacks colourful description of each protagonist’s subtle feelings.  It would be better if the author could further add the intimating moments during which the young lovers poured their heart to each other.  Since this story was written in Hazel’s perspective, the author could also make most of several chapters to express her bliss while in love and heart-breaking days once Augustus had gone.

No matter how poignant this book the others perceived, to be frank, it has already fell short of my original expectations, and I just cannot simply turn a blind eye to reward it a thumb-up.  If you would like to glimpse over some fictions about cancer patient, instead, I would recommend “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult to all of you.  Despite not a love story, it is definitely an engrossing plot about a teenage girl who was expected to donate her kidney to her elder sister suffering leukemia.  No matter in the writing style and the content, they have already lured me to flip over it once more.


Date: 12th Jan 2015

Book Review: “Why Leaders Lie” by John Mearsheimer

why-leaders-lie

Book information: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University, 2011.  140p. 22cm

“Why do they do it?  They think that what they are doing is for the good of the country.”  – John Mearsheimer

It is abhorrent to lie to others in daily lives.  Never would anyone like their friends or somebody close to break the credit of trust.  By the same token, no citizens are willing to be deceived by the government officials.  Nonetheless, John Mearsheimer, who is the founder of Offensive Realism and this book author, stated that the leaders do lie more to their people instead of other countries’ leaders in foreign policies, and not all lies are bad as long as national interest is secured.  

From realist perspective, rather than being processed by government branches like domestic affairs, international politics is mainly based on anarchy in realism.  Due to prevalence of anarchy, there is no authority higher than sovereign state.  To ensure own security, national interest is of utmost importance for each country’s survival, which in turn, leaders are utilizing all means for maximizing self-help, including lying.  In this book, Mearsheimer first offered narrow definitions of untruth verbal, distinguished between outright lying, spinning and concealment, as well as between strategic lies (for national interest purpose) and selfish lies (for leaders’ own political purpose).  Afterwards, five varieties of strategic lying in international politics were elaborated in details, namely inter-state lies, fear-mongering, strategic cover-ups, nationalist myths, and liberal lies.  

To commence with, by inter-state lies, leaders would acquire certain advantages or prevent other countries’ gain from their own.  Consider Khrushchev’s “missile gap” myth, he had been exaggerating USSR dominant position in ICBM, so as to pressurize America to abandon its atomic plans to Germany and not to provoke an atomic war.  Meanwhile, regardless of Hitler’s aggressive war desire, he kept deceiving other European powers about his will for maintaining peace from 1934 to 1938.  Plus, Israel hided its plans of Dimona nuclear complex in 1960s lest America’s discovery.  All these examples demonstrated that no trust could be formed among states.  Hence, the best they could do is to deceive others for triggering fear through exaggeration or hiding own original intentions.

in addition, fear-mongering is handled, often from top to bottom for national interest, to convey public about the seriousness of the menace.  Lyndon Johnson’s fictional version of Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 aimed at securing a mandate for Vietnam War.  While, Bush administration’s allegations of Iraq’s holding of mass destruction weapons, in spite of insufficient evidences, acted as an excuse to declare the second Iraqi War.  Besides, strategic cover-ups, which intent to wrap failed policies either domestically or from other states, are mostly adopted in democratic states where debates are blatant.  A vivid example was the French government’s cover up of their retreat from the Battle of Verdun during First World War, with a view to keeping morale high.  Therefore, it is patent that the leaders would like to manifest the jeopardy or blanket the flaws of crucial foreign policies through these two kinds of lies.

Nationalistic myth is also one of the paramount means for leaders to delude citizens’ minds by enhancing perpetual social cohesion.  During the conflict between Palestinians and Zionists in 1948, Zionists took that opportunity to remove their rivalries.  To cement people’s national identity, what the Israelis did was to create a brainwashed tale to claim that Palestinians escaped from their homeland  due to the urge of Arabic countries, but not by Zionist’s coerce.  In the meantime, liberal lies, which the devoting claim of liberal or moral norms to capture citizens’ support.  After Soviet’s murdering behaviour in Katyn Forest amidst 1940, America and Britain claimed that they would fight for the moral causes and deal with the criminals on one hand, but accused Germany to bear the blame on the other.  These two types of lying are in concordance to leaders’ desire to strengthen a viable nation-state or legitimize self behaviour by sugar-coated untruths.

Yet, negative repercussions will crop up when deceits are rife or over the top, no matter how noble the lies might seem.  To quote some examples, Khrushchev deliberately deceived about the missile sizes in 1950s, thus constituting greater armament build-ups by America.  What’s more, Eisenhower’s lie about U-2 spy planes in 1960 was at last discovered by USSR, thereby an upcoming summit with Khrushchev came to an immediate halt.  Furthermore, the more the leaders mislead the public, the more the culture of dishonesty foster in domestic politics.  Citizens will often forgive their leaders’ deception if the leader’s actions result in a success, while they will be punished for their misleading if the actions constitute failure.

First and last, this non-fiction provides systematic canvass and an engrossing glimpse of lying in International Politics.  Alluring, powerfully written and richly-informed, even though this reader-friendly book is less than two hundred pages, I am certain you will also be tempted by it.


Date: 9th Dec 2014

Book Review: “Life without Limits” by Nick Vujicic

Book information: New York : Doubleday Religion, 2010. 238p. 25cm

Nick Vujicic, an extraordinary Australian born without limbs, released this inspiring self-help book years ago, and eventually it becomes a worldwide hit.  In spite of his popularity and his uplifting figure nowadays, you would never imagined his enmeshed melancholy and the others’ teasing had prompted him to attempt suicide as a young teen.  Nevertheless, during that gloomy era of bleak emotional turmoils and uncertainty, instead of sobbing his heart out and blaming his innate body’s obstacles all the time, he had been steadily regarding God as his paramount source of strength for overcoming, preserving to live a fulfilling life not constrained by all circumstances.  Don’t be surprised to be told that he is able to take care of himself independently with swimming and surfing as his pastimes.  In a bid to cultivate optimistic affirmation and talking people into positive outlook of life, he is currently a motivational ambassador by presenting encouraging speeches and hugging people’s souls all around the globe.

In this book as his first debut, Nick spent pages on pragmatic suggestions on building trust and supporting relationship, constantly reminding us to search life goals and stretch for our accomplishments against seemingly formidable odds.  Granted, everyone does have dreams.  If you would like to be a renowned blogger, an itinerant traveller or a resourceful scholar in the future, take the plunge, sharpen your edge and go ahead with consistent tenacity.  I am sure opportunities will be knocking at our front door if we have better equipped ourselves well.  And we will get what expected for if we leap at each golden chance with confidence.  After all, don’t let anything or anyone stifle your dreams and fetter your most-wanted desire.  Just like Nick, believe in yourself, nothing is impossible.  Let yourself radiate in own unique beauty.

“To achieve success you have to feel worthy of it and then take responsibility to make it happen.”

“I believe my life has no limits!  I want you to feel the same way about your life, no matter what your challenges may be.”


Date: 10th Nov 2014

Book Review: “The Smartest Kids in the World” by Amanda Ripley

Book information:  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.  306p. 24cm

At first glimpse, Finland, South Korea and Poland seem to have no association to each other.  However, Amanda Ripley the TIME magazine journalist, followed three American exchange students, Kim, Eric and Tom, to these countries respectively for a year.  To discover the outstanding PISA result of Finland and South Korea, as well as the great leap of Poland’s scores, this book offers a deep understanding of education through various analysis and quoting.  Not only are students interviewed in this informative book, but also other related stakeholders, including teachers and governmental education officials.

Finland’s cutting edge, most importantly, lies in high quality teachers of much calibre and acumen.  Only a handful of elite students would be granted a seat in teacher-training colleges.  Teachers are well-respected and their social status is as prestigious as doctors.  In addition, more academic studies and professional training have been taken place.  Teachers to-be are required to study for seven years comprising a compulsory Master degree, and have to be trained in the best public schools for an entire year.  Therefore, with such outstanding human resources, Finland has always enivably become the locomotive in the international scores rank.

On the other side of the world, in South Korea, students’ intensive diligence, self-discipline and motivation have enabled them to stand out from their counterparts in the globe.  Since the public exam is highly-competitive, students have been taking tears, blood and sweat to study in a such a stressfully demanding environment to midnight.  Thanks for a fierce university entrance exam, haewon celebrity teachers in South Korea have also been striking big pots of gold, similar to Hong Kong’s private tutor kings and queens.  Consist industry of Korean students, needless to say, have prompted them to become high-flyers in the global tests.

Besides, it is no longer surprising to witness Poland’s huge improvement in student performance in recent years.  For fear of lagging behind of the others, numerous educational reforms are expedited to lay down fundamental goals of this new system.  Others incorporating the standard of students to be enhanced, funds to be provided in schools, and students’ streaming to academic or vocational classes to be delayed.

By and large, a thriving education, lies not in boosting education spending and high technology in the classes, but wholehearted dedication of highly qualified teachers, and a consistent curriculum.  After all, teachers serve as illuminating role models for sparking students’ enthusiasm towards continuous learning.  It is more suitable to set up achievable expectations and attempt to strengthen reasoning skills through a right amount of projects and homework.  However, this book also states that merely relying on schools and teachers are not enough.  Parental involvement, for example reading to their children for fun and having conversations about world affairs, is also a vital element for paving way to positive learning environment.  Only by all these culmination of elements, along with students’ certain endeavour can they delve deep into academic field and achieve better learning outcomes.

© Copyright Reserved


Date: 15th Oct 2014

Book Review: “China: Fragile Superpower” by Susan Shirk

Book information: 320p. 24cm.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

“A tight grip is actually a sign of a weak hand.” –  American President Bill Clinton, 1999

China is spreading profound influence in an unprecedented speed, investing huge sums of capital per second and gradually moving forward to “Xiaokang society”(a moderate society) suggested by Deng Xiaoping.  On one hand, its skyrocketing growth seems to be paving the way to a rosy future, but on the other, domestic fragility is lurking beneath the surface.  Susan Shirk, a former American Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, put herself in the shoes of Chinese elites, explored in an invaluable insight of China’s motivation behind of internal affairs and the way China embroiled in a paradoxical crisis of confidence.

Watching overnight collapse of Soviet Union and her satellites in own eyes, and democracy marches in Tiananmen during 1989, in Chinese government officials’ opinions, these incidents nearly triggered an escalating brink to the regime collapse at worst.  Feared of following these alarming steps and confronting another massive protest again, for first thing, public leadership splits have to be avoided.  For another, social stability is strongly emphasized to convince public to obey to the Communist Party’s rule.  Meanwhile, it is also reflected that the back up of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is paramount to the political survival of top leaders and Party, as well as to wipe out of potential rivalries, prevent opposite movements and consolidate power.

The more prosperous the country is, the more insecure the Chinese leaders are and more hypersensitive to public opinions.  All posts in the newspapers have to be orchestrated by the Propaganda community before getting published and the web comments reviewed.  The perpetual power of press is like a double-edge sword for having control over expanding netizens in a subjective, sentimental way.  Internet information spreads like wildfire.  Users could keep abreast of current issues at the brink of their eyes, which in turn, the Chinese government can no longer bury all the affairs deep into the sand.  And the more diffident the leaders are, the more they play the governance card of “nationalism” since Jiang Zemin’s rule.    With mass media emphasizing news about Japanese whitewashed historical textbooks and Prime Minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, violent comments and protests would eventually break out.  Yet for the Communist party, every coin has two sides, the over-ferment waves of high-rise of sentiments would prompt the demonstrators to turn to party’s internal limitations (for example demanding freedom), thus sparking off an opposition against the government, just like the student protests in Beijing University in 2005.

Apart from Japan, Chinese people also particularly vent their anger and rage on Taiwan and the United States due to flaring national emotions.  American bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and the clash of Chinese and American airplanes in South China Sea in 2001 rendered irrational xerophilia with the Chinese demonstrating around.  For national consolidation cemented, credibility established and not losing face to citizens, China would prevent Taiwan to be independent at all means using both carrots and sticks.  It has been claimed that only by reunification with Taiwan can the idea of “One China” be completed and a regime survived.   Otherwise if Taiwan got independent at last, it will post a question mark on the Chinese regime survival with the stoking up of a sequence of movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia at worst.

Nevertheless, alongside utilizing media influence to inflame the impetuous fire of patriotism at a suitable time, from my point of view, economic boom is also a pivotal means for the Communist Party to minimize people’s dissatisfaction by enabling the rich and middle class to enjoy a lavish life.  On one hand, after a century of humiliation, it has been a high time for China to proudly show the world how state-of-the-art the infrastructures are, how advanced the high speed bullet trains and how splendid when 8% growth of GDP per year maintained.  However on the other hand, let us not forget the polarization between the coastal cities and inner provinces, unemployment of factory workers and unfair registration system would also likely prompt waves of grassroots’ blame to the government.  For those who would like to have an immerse grasp of the limitations of China’s domestic structures and its relationships with Japan, Taiwan and the United States up to 2007, this knowledgeable book is surely your cup of tea.


Date: 28th Sept 2014

Topic: ABT5: Books of this Moment

ABT5, stands for “Anastasia’s & Bauhinia’s top 5“.  After brief discussions, I, along with my friend Anastasia (the blogger of “Read & Survive“), have made up our mind to share five of our most favourites in this column of ABT5.  Recently, book challenge has been sweeping in social networking sites, luring millions of netizens to recommend their most impacting books.  And of course, being frequent users in a virtual world, we have also been gladly involved in this interesting challenge.  So here we are, listing each of our top 5 books to all of you.

My choices:

1. Speeches that Changed the World by Simon Montefiore (2010 version) –

After flicking over the first page of this book, you would be turning back the time to a century ago and following the step of those adroit politicians, incorporating Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and Ronald Reagan. There, they signposted relentless will to express their opinions prominently, in a vigorous voice that presumably stunned you.  Their quick wit and endowed eloquent, with emotionally-connected phrases, enable you to be immersed in their ardour of public presentation.  With lofty and laudable praise, this book is certainly a second-to-none marvel to be grabbed and an invaluable treasure to be kept in your shelves.

2. Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu –

I have been wondering the underlying reasons why numerous people are rejoicing at extravagance in some countries, whereas some are toiling in a penury in another side of the globe.  To my sheer relish, this book serves as a groundbreaking backdrop for understanding the dilemma of nations’ development polarization.  Whether a country prospers or is succumbed to poverty lies not in geography, culture or pure ignorance of policies, but the variations of inter-wined economic and political institutions.  With the combination of solid arguments, concise language and ample examples from middle age history to contemporary political environment, all these cutting-edges lifted it to be at the top of my must-glimpse reading agenda.

3. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom –

“Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a raw but precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a proud shine?” – Mitch Albom

A heart-warming reunion after 17 years, in-depth mentoring lessons of a beloved college professor to a student, rekindled their unique relationship.  Morrie Schwartz’s guiding hands and fruitful content, embedded with his life meaning of love, family, aging and death, brought a lump to my throat.  Inspired by the acumen gained from him, I am utterly moved by his genuine kindness and optimistic life outlook all the way even in the face of terminal-illness.  After all, it is such a beautifully-written book that tugs at your heartstrings, and sparkles afterglow.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” – Morrie Schwartz

4. Catch Me if You Can by Frank Abagnale –

Based on a hair-raising, thrilling yet true adventure of Frank, I am certain everyone would be intrigued by this plot which seemingly could not have happened in reality.  Attempting to get away with the inspection of FBI fraud agent, he had been masquerading to be a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, an attorney and many others without a professional licence.  Living in a lap of lavish, stealing and squandering millions in the age of early twenties, partying and being admired by beautiful ladies, this daring protagonist’s autobiography would definitely seduce you to be entangled in his fast-paced escapes and its gripping climax, and towards to the epilogue.

5. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith –

This renowned masterpiece about Classical Liberalism was written as a reflection during the start of Industrial Revolution.  It acquaints us with division of labour, money utilization, free market and exchange that are still widely influential in laissez-faire capitalist countries nowadays.  Plus, the appropriate role of government is also emphasized so as to achieve a perfect state of liberty.  Being a fundamental collection with a broad analytical perspective, it is highly recommended to those readers who are interested in the academic fields of Economics and Political Science.

Enclosed is the weblink of Anastasia’s choices, with “A Million Little Piece”, “Les Miserables”, “His Dark Materials”, Paulo Coelho’s books as well as “Little Prince” being her most favourite books.  For more details, please visit: https://wordpress.com/read/post/id/63799013/720/

So readers, have you also participated in the Book challenge in any social networking site?  And what are your top 5 books so far?  Feel free to comment and share yours! 🙂


Date: 11th Sept 2014

Book Review: “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.” – Anne Frank, on 12th June 1942″

Stepping into thirteen, a diary journal, as Anne Frank’s birthday present, appeared in front of her eyes.  From that day on, it had became a basic routine for her into writing.  Perhaps at that time she might have never imagined this present, along with her unfading pen ink would become a worldwide classic and an essential historical primary source.  Under the strict rule of Nazi towards the Jews, gone were the cheerful days when she was able to attain regular lessons in school and walk outside freely.  After Holland was being fatally raided during the Second World War, the Franks were coerced to hide in Otto’s (Anne’s father) office building along with another family named the Van Daans and some Otto’s employees for escaping German persecution.  During that period of time until the families were discovered in 1944, Anne was in all her exertion to mark her detailed personal life, for example her normal living in a crowded secret annex, her close friendship and crush to Peter van Daan, and the way food and supplies delivered to their hands.

Feeling secured in recording intimate thoughts and opinions without restrictions, she had been describing the looming fear of being discovered and eventually death, the policies of anti-Semitism adopted by the Nazis and the restriction of freedom.  Night after night, it was heart-wrenching to watch the Nazi soldiers knocking at each Jew’s door, watching their families being teared apart and taken away to the concentration camps.  However regardless of those awkward plights, with the procession of an inarticulate resolve, she still conceded in having a normal life and never did she bow her head to brutal totalitarian rule.  When facing sceptical corners and tides of dreadful misfortunes, her inner strength was still glimmering with faith and fortitude, always convicting the bright light would glitter in the opposite side of the dark tunnel.  Though she didn’t survive at the end, indeed, her tough mental spirit reflected in her extraordinary writings has impressed people from different walks of life.

“Where there is hope, there is life.  It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.  We’ll need to be brave to endure the many fears and hardships and the suffering yet to come.” – Anne Frank, on 6th June 1944


Date:13th July 2014

Book Review: “Flourish” by Martin Seligman

Recommended by my friend who is a social worker, this self-help book about Flourish is an extension of Seligman’s bestseller “Authentic Happiness”.  Gone were the days when Psychology was merely established to heal succumbed mental illness and sufferings.  In this recent decade, with the advent of “Positive Psychology” introduced by Seligman, living a satisfactory life is also equally advocated. Five crucial pillars (PERMA) are at the top of the agenda when accounting for one’s overall well-being and life fulfillment:

  1. Positive emotion (= happiness & life satisfaction)
  2. Engagement (= much time concentrated on that activity)
  3. Positive Relationships
  4. Meaning (= serving something you believe is bigger than yourself)
  5. Accomplishment ( = people pursue success and achievement free of coerce)

For happiness and flourish to be fostered, a blessing diary comprising 3 good things can be written each day and a gratitude visit to our friends be tried, so that we can learn how to express our gratitude and maintain a more cordial relationship with others.  Apart from enhancing individual’s spiritual health, it is suggested that, to inspire future pillars and the American soldiers with positive optimism and emotional resilience respectively, Positive Psychology can also be applied in action in wide variety of fields in education, public health, economics and politics etc.

Regardless of some unfamiliar psychology terms and references, what I appreciate this non-fiction most are myriads of in-depth interviews and discussions from schools, post-traumatic patients and government departments written for each topic.  Plus, the attachment of personality test in the Appendix aims to enable us to get known with our personal merits and unique character strengths.  Last but by no means least, hope everyone, after reading this book, also have a comprehensive grasp of the true meaning of happiness and live a flourish life to the fullest!


Date: 3rd June 2014

Book Review: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games, a deadly fight in Capitol recorded by live TV once a year, could be synonymous to fame and fortune for only one winner, but bloody death for losers by fierce killings among the contestants.  Barbarous though the game seemed, one boy and one girl ranging from 12 to 18 years old in each of the twelve district were required to participate in it annually.  Stepping forward to replace younger sister Primrose’s seat, Katniss voluntarily joined the Hunger Games on behalf of District 12, along with a selected male representative named Peeta whom she owned a favour to.

With the hope of being the ultimate winner in the Game, Katniss had to be in a sustained endeavour to rise to all starvation and dehydration plight in the huge forest; and worse still, she need to kill other contestants despite her unwillingness to perform such a dehumanized action.  Being saved by Peeta, forming an alliance with Rue from District 11, being let go by Thresh did add much colour to this dramatic plot.  Alongside urging for survival, after Peeta’s confession of his long-time crush towards her, on one hand, she had been frustrating whether his love was a reality or just a mere means to raise audience’s interest and capture more sponsors.  On the other hand, she was on the horns of a dilemma about whom her heart turned – Peeta or her best friend Gale.

Being the breadwinner of her family and maintaining her “star-crossed lover” facade with Peeta, Katniss was a strong, daring character who was against all odds to solve her own difficulties, took charge of her lives independently, and never let any tears flow in the face of unknown challenges.  At the same time, her genuine care and kindness in place of brutal killings impressed me much such as by decorating Rue’s body with flowers gently and healing Peeta’s infected wounds with medication.  This complete mixture of nerve-racking race, enthralling plot, thrilling actions, in-depth feeling and engaging affection does spark off an irresistible page-turning effect in this fiction.  I simply couldn’t put down it and wish to immediately flip over Book Two “Catching Fire” to figure out what happened between Katniss and Peeta.  No wonder this incredibly compelling fiction has already become in vogue nowadays and even being put into the big silver screen!


Date: 4th April, 2014

Book Review: “Nothing to Envy” by Barbara Demick

North Korea has been a communist closed state and I have been wondering what the ordinary lives of their citizens are.  After reading a well-known non-fiction called ‘Nothing to Envy’ by an American journalist, it does familiarize me with North Korea’s development and reveal those brutalities happened inside the territory, for instance, hard labour was used to punish the unpatriotic ones.  What even more spine-shivering is that people snubbed and didn’t have faith to each other, even to their family members through strict monitoring and frequent reporting to the Party.  Worse still, the lethal famine occurred in mid-1990s placed them into an awkward plight and constituted a menace to myriads of innocents lives.  Cruel though the fact was, being the breadwinners in the entire family, they still had to meekly accept it by leading a hand-to-mouth life through different means.  After a spate of mishaps, some of the North Koreans were trying to escape to South Korea or cross through the river to China, although being treated harshly, they still arrived to either of them save and sound.  

Commoners in both North and South Korea, wear the same traditional costumes in special occasions, and even have relatives in the other side, but still separated by the 38th parallel line due to ideological differences from 1950s to nowadays.  So pathetic the condition is that the government in the North is still mesmerised by the immediate feeling of rising superiority in recent nuclear development, yet ironically in fact, its strength is only a drop in the ocean.  Behind those high speed rockets are the heart-tearing scenic of starving population.  Heading towards modernization?  It will only if pigs fly and sun rises from the west.  What the original citizens urgently wish is just 3 simple meals a day, but how long do they have to wait for such a seemingly ‘basic item’ come true? 

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“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde

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