A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice Collector's Edition 1I don’t know what it is, but there is something about A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima that speaks to me on a fundamental level. I first came across this story when I noticed the movie and was interested in seeing it, and then I finally watched it. This was a few years ago. I recently picked up the collector’s additions which combine the 7 volume serialization into two, hardback volumes that also includes interviews and supplementary materials. I read both volumes in two days.

This story is admittedly heavy. It covers hard topics and each volume opens with a warning label recreated here: “This manga contains depictions of bullying, ableism, physical and emotional abuse of children, depression, hospitalization, death of a loved one, suicidal ideation, and a suicide attempt.” Not exactly an enticing list, but these are also societal issues that are often overlooked, dismissed, and avoided, which is why I think this story is so important.

The main character bullies a deaf girl when they are young and he regrets this as the years pass which fuels his desire to atone for his past behavior. This development of empathy, the uncertainty of ones place in the world, and the inability to interact with others all lead to a story that I couldn’t stop reading. The core theme is communication (something I value highly). The entire story shows characters who struggle to understand each other both physically and psychologically. Even those without disabilities often cannot get their point across accurately or want to open up but shy away for various reasons.

A Silent Voice Collector's Edition 2Have you ever wished you could/would have said something to a friend or in a specific situation? Have you ever failed to speak up or defend someone who was bullied? Maybe not, but I think we’ve all encountered some barrier or failure of communication which has resulted in someone being hurt, confused, rejected, or otherwise misinterpreted to their detriment.

I think we can all work toward improving how we communicate. Some people listen to respond while others listen to understand. We should all work toward being the latter. In a perfect world, we would be able to telepathically transfer our knowledge of what we want to share, along with corresponding emotions, to another person so that they would instantly understand.

That may or may not be the perfect form of communication, but we are stuck with words. Scribbles on a page or vibrations through the air, how we communicate already includes mediums where we need to decipher what someone wishes to convey. The way we decipher communication is based on our personal experiences as well. In a way, it is impossible to truly know someone, but we can try our best to understand each other, and that is what makes this story incredible. It shows a group of people who at first cannot communicate but then work as hard as they can to understand each other.

Happy Reading.

P.S. I recommend at least watching the movie if you don’t want to give the books a shot. Even if it may be uncomfortable, I think it is beneficial.

My Hero Academia

My Hero AcademiaMy Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi is a series that focuses on a young man’s journey to become the number one hero. In a world where nearly all individuals develop a superpower of some kind, commonly called a “quirk”, the profession of hero has emerged to help maintain law and order. However, there are very few who are born that never develop a quirk. Enter Izuku Midoriya, a quirkless boy who dreams of being a hero, and who is given the opportunity of making that dream come true.

I typically try to avoid recommending a series that hasn’t been completed, but this story is in its final arc and has been simply incredible throughout. I’ve read all volumes currently available (in English) which is 33. I suspect the series will end somewhere between volume 38-40. The show has done a great job of adapting the story without really any changes or omissions which often happens with adaptations. Staying true to the source material, and even adding more content for some of the many interesting side characters, makes me appreciate the show even more.

My Hero Academia 27What I like most about this series is seeing a young generation all working hard toward their dream of being heroes which is centered around saving and helping people. So the general story is uplifting throughout, but it also covers, and questions, some key components as to what a superpowered society and the role of hero would actually look like. Obviously villains are those who use their quirks for selfish gain or to harm others, but some assume the title of hero with less-than-honest purposes.

Popular culture today may seem saturated with heroes as Marvel and DC continue to make many movies and people are talking about various other superhero movies, shows, books, etc. I’m glad this one isn’t simply following in those shadows. I think it brings some really interesting questions to light and even questions the definition of hero and villain and what it means to save someone. Seeing some heroes fall from grace and a hero-killer gain a cult following are a few things I have not yet seen in any other story about heroes (I’m sure it has happened somewhere, but I’m certain not in quite the same way).My Hero Academia 33

So, whether you are a fan of heroes or not, you may like this series that takes place in a superpowered society, especially since not all quirks are created equal.

Happy Reading.

Salt, Sugar, Fat

Salt Sugar FatSalt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss was an enthralling read. From the history of food to the nutrition (or lack thereof) of processed foods, this book gives a fantastic insight into how food production has developed over the years and how it has impacted and influenced our society.

To put it bluntly, the three ingredients in the title have been used by food manufacturers to make their products as enticing as possible so consumers buy more. Of course, businesses are competing against each other for the limited shelf space within supermarkets and within pantries at home, but their primary goal remains to make money and this book shows how, repeatedly, food manufacturers have chosen profit maximization over consumer health. They don’t care if their products make you fat or if their brands lead to coronary heart disease or a plethora of other health symptoms. They only care that the public keeps buying more and more of their products so the money keeps flowing.

Now, this book isn’t actually about attacking food manufacturer’s and trying to hold them accountable. This book focuses on the history of food and how the food industry has changed over the past 50-60 years. It also brings to light how some of the practices that started off honest and practical have turned to excessive use and are large contributors to the health epidemics we see today (primarily obesity).

Soda used to be a rare and infrequent treat. As was ice cream and other foods that are now so readily available that people could have them every day or even at every meal. These products have also been loaded with salts, sugars, or fats, to make give them a competitive edge and make people essentially addicted to them so they continue to buy them every week or every day.

Things you wouldn’t think would have these ingredients may have more than half your daily recommended value in a single serving. This book does go into the daily recommended value (and the pitfalls of serving sizes) as well as government agencies and programs meant to combat the obesity epidemic and be advocates for consumer health, but it also reveals how little they have actually done (or rather how much influence the now mega-corporations have in legislature).

I could go on and on about the various topics this book covers, but I’d rather you read it yourself to better understand how, and perhaps why, the western diet has become riddled with timebombs that are contributing to major health issues for the majority of the public that consumes many processed foods. These issues in turn overburden health fields and lead to many premature deaths. We only get one body.

I have been reading several nutrition books the past several years and had already started to cut out processed foods, especially hyper-processed foods, but the more you know the better equipped you can be in making the best choices for you and your family.

Perhaps you’ve been struggling with your weight or a health issue without realizing how impactful your eating habits have on it. Or perhaps you do know but find it difficult to cut a habit such as eating a sweet dessert after dinner. Many of these foods are made to be addictive, so if you find yourself with such an addiction, it very well may not be your fault, but you may need some extra help to wean yourself off said addiction.

Whatever your area of interest, I think you’ll learn something from this book and hopefully it will be beneficial, or an initial step, to a healthier you. You only get one body, and your physical health impacts your mental health, so take care of yourself as best you can.

Happy Reading.

Spring Reading List

My reading schedule has been a bit all over the place of late. I had quit book one of a series since I wasn’t quite getting into the story as I’d hoped, but I picked up another series and am flying through it. Granted, it is a manga series so it reads really quickly. I’ve also picked up a few nutrition books as I’ve gotten back into focusing on improving my health.

My Hero AcademiaI’m currently reading My Hero Academia which was on my Start of the Year Reading List. I’m about half-way through the volumes that have been published in English so far. There are 33 volumes out and the Japanese volumes are up to 36-37. The story is in its final arc so the entire series should be wrapping up soon. I really enjoy this story. It’s a different take on superhuman/superhero society and focuses on how superpowers impact daily life with the protagonist working to become the number one hero.

I just finished reading The Pritikin Program for Diet & Exercise which is an older book (published in 1979), but it has been referenced in other, recent nutrition books I’ve read. Much of it holds up and is a great resource. I haven’t yet looked into any recent materials related to the Pritikin program, but I’m surprised it isn’t more relevant. It’s weird that diet and exercise weren’t a public conversation until around the 1980s, but the next book might reveal why.

Salt Sugar FatI’m listening to a nutrition-related book titled Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. This book focuses on the food industry and how the American/Western diet, and the corresponding obesity epidemic, has been influenced by major food companies who essentially focus on profit maximization over consumer health. It is a fascinating insight into various brands and companies, as well as the history of food. I’m only about half-way through, but I will be recommending it.

I’m also working through a series of essays titled Vonnegut In America which was published in 1977. This is really just me wrapping up all of the Vonnegut-related books I have in my library.

After that, I am going to venture into a much older book titled The Social Contract and Discourses by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This book, more specifically the Discourse of Inequality, was referenced in a show I like and I went and picked up a copy from a used book store.

I’ve found I sometimes get into the habit of having a nonfiction book going alongside a fiction book. It is nice to expand my interests and learning, and it is easy to pick up one or the other without any potential overlap. I guess that fiction/nonfiction line makes it easier for me to transition between the two and alternate if I have a preference at the time. I have no idea what I’m going to read after I finish My Hero Academia but for some reason I think I’m happy to have it open. I’ll figure it out once I’m at that point. Something will certainly catch my interest.

Happy Reading.

When to Quit a Book

I used to always finish a book I started until I realized several things would happen when I tried to force myself through to the end. First, if my interest is waning or no longer in the book at hand, my overall interest in reading wanes to the point where I might fall into a dry spell where nothing seems to catch my interest. Two, like my interest, my time invested in reading dries up and I may take forever to finish the book I’m struggling to complete. These likely go hand-in-hand. To simplify, forcing myself through a book I am not enjoying reduces my interest in reading and it becomes a chore. Perhaps this is the very reason many people exit school with no desire to read, because they had to read books they did not enjoy.

So, I’ve quit the practice of forcing myself to finish. This has made reading much more enjoyable and my reading pace no longer stalls as it once did. There have been books I simply didn’t enjoy and will not attempt again, and there are books that I did enjoy, but they failed to capture or hold my interest at the time and I will read them at a later time. There is a third category that has caused me not to finish a book, but it is rare and infrequent. It happens when life events take over and I don’t read for a long period of time. I have a hard time returning to a story at the half-way point without feeling a need to start over because I’ve either forgotten much of what had happened or I feel I am missing needed details. Luckily, this third occurrence never really happens anymore.

A few examples:

I was reading Blindness by Jose Saramago and thought it was an interesting story. I was more than halfway through when I read a disturbing rape scene. I couldn’t return to the book, and I will probably never pick it up again. That may be the worst thing to happen in the novel, but I couldn’t move past it. It was the first time a scene made me quit a book.

I tried reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and was about 70 pages in when I realized I wasn’t into the story (it was slow and not fun at the time). So I quit reading it. I may give it another go at some point, but it might just not be for me. The same thing happened when reading The Stand by Stephen King. I was about 70 pages in or more and the story was still getting set up and new characters being introduced. I was just not willing to track all the characters, locations, and events I guess. This is another one I may try again.

What prompted this post is actually my indecision to quit my current read. I’m almost halfway through Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima, which is the first book of four in his Sea of Fertility series. The writing is good, the story is a bit slower paced, and I know I will like the overall story once I get through it, but I’ve stalled on my reading and I think I may just need to shelve this series for now and return to it later. I think it being a four-novel story is part of my decision to stop for now since I am still really early on in the story.

Something similar happened to my reading of The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I was 200 pages in (halfway through the first book) when I lost interest due to the slow pace. The writing was good and interesting, it built a great atmosphere, but not much was happening after 200 pages. This is another one I may try again, but for now I’m moving on to things I can dive into and enjoy thoroughly.

I think this is actually a great follow-up to my TBR post considering there are so many books out there I want to read. I shouldn’t waste time slogging through a book I’m not enjoying (even if it is something I will end up enjoying later). I recommend you do the same. Move on to something more fun or interesting or will broaden your thinking. You can always return to the book in question if you want, or not. There is plenty to choose from. If you are in a rut and need a recommendation, check out my ever-growing list of book recommendations in the menu above.

Happy Reading.