My bookshelves in 2020

I cleaned and rearranged all my books yesterday. When I was done emptying the bookshelves, the collection looked like this:

Unsorted books

By the afternoon when I was done putting them all back, this is the structure I came up with:

I maintain an online inventory here.

Far Cry 4 impressions

I picked up Far Cry 5 on a whim a few months back and fell in love with it. It’s probably my favourite game on the Xbox One. So I picked up the 4th part during the quarantine sale to see how the series evolved. Happily, 4 is every bit as enjoyable as 5.

Part 4 has more focus on story with specific campaign missions and characters that evolve well throughout the game (particularly the main bad guy). Far Cry 5 was more about clearing each region by finishing random open world missions. So this nice injection of story elements was well done.

I seem to have spent 37 hours in it. I had a surge urge to finish the campaign so I did so last night. But I could well have spent another 5-6 hours clearing up the remaining outposts and side missions.

This part is set in Nepal and is a beautiful open world. I usually hate hunting animals in games but it is unavoidable here: they’re the only way you can craft bigger bags. There’s enough to do just wandering around the map, which is what I did most of the time. A special mention must be made of the exquisite visuals in the Shangri-La side missions.

I had most fun with the game when I was using the tools it gave me. For instance, throwing bait in the middle of an outpost attracts fierce predators. The weapons get a lot more fun and make the final part of the game pretty easy: I finished with a fearsome buzzsaw, sniper rifle and an RPG launcher. While my early missions were mostly stealth based, the later ones were just about going in through the front door and blowing stuff up.

I see a Far Cry 5 as a nice evolution of Far Cry 4. Specifically, the NPC allies are its strongest point. But 4’s strengths are in having an excellent story and characters. This has now become my favourite Video Game series, beating my previous favourite Tomb Raider by an inch, and others like Watch_Dogs by a mile.

Information is not knowledge

It’s hard for a book lover to convince a non-reader to pick up the habit. You nag and rave and persuade them and they finally probably accept out of politeness. So you lend them a favourite and wait an impatient week and ask them how it went, and you get the familiar list of dreaded responses.

  • “I lost interest after the first few pages.”
  • “The book was too long.”
  • “The book was too dry.
  • “I could have learnt the same thing by watching a tutorial or two on YouTube.”

Worse, with those annoying little phones constantly buzzing around us, there’s a steady drip of mindless dopamine hit after hit. The apps on these phones are backed by billion dollar companies that are hugely invested in manipulating you to use their app every moment of the day. Over time, your brain rewires itself to respond to that Pavlovian buzz. Unlock, swipe, like, and repeat.

After years of this brainwashing, how can you expect someone to pick a 400-page book and read it with concentration for more than fifteen minutes at a time? We have enough ‘light’ entertainment to suck our time away.

How, then, to convince some one of the value of deep reading? This article makes a good attempt. Yes it’s long. That’s partially the point. Complex ideas cannot be expressed in tweet-sized chunks. Reading deeply creates a richer self by letting one think through and form one’s own understanding.

In any case, convincing others may be futile. I see a value in reducing social media distractions and committing to deep reading sessions, so I shape my habits accordingly.

Suggestions

  • Install the Daywise app. It intercepts and hides all your notifications, and releases them thrice a day. You don’t get constant interruptions all through the day (apart from exceptions that you can set, like 1:1 messages).
  • Read to your kids. Take if from someone who’s earliest memories are of walking to a library with his brother and mom. This will create a life-long and deeply rewarding hobby.