Since 2014, I’ve always participated in Goodreads’s reading challenge.

The premise is simple: you set up a goal on how many books you want to read in a year, and track them. I usually set up about 48-52 books (this year my goal is to read 48 books), and I have mostly finished the challenge well, except for the year 2015.

Recently I’ve shared some of the books I’m reading on my Instagram stories, and some actually ask for recommendation for books to read, or talk to me about the books I’ve read. That’s why I’d like to do a curation of the books I’ve read monthly (for now, #2018readingchallenge posts will be posted every first Wednesday of the month).

Hopefully this will inspire you to read good books as well!

This January, I’ve finished 11 books. Ever since I discover the beauty of having a local library, I’ve been borrowing books regularly, and reading one after the other. I read mostly nonfiction (memoirs and historical) and young adult (contemporary, fantasy, and science fiction) books. Here they are.

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I went to the library yesterday to pick up three books I’ve reserved.

One was Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl—a classic, nonfiction book about holocaust. The other was Artemis by Andy Weir—his recently released book after The Martian, which I love. The last was The Woman Who Fooled the World—a nonfiction book by journos Beau Donelly and Nick Toscano, telling the story of con artist Belle Gibson, who made millions by claiming that she had healed her cancer by eating a healthy diet. Thing is: she never had cancer.

I was excited, because all three books have quite a number of reserves.

I walked to the reserved bookshelf, and found the first two books easily. But I couldn’t find the latter.

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I wondered if the guy behind the counter would ask me the question. Again.

I stood up straighter than usual, put on a confident, no-nonsense face, and tried very hard to project the aura that I belong. I walked straight to the liquor section, grabbed a one-litre bottle of Baileys, and walked back towards the cashier.

The guy behind the counter, who looked like he was my age, smiled and asked, “Can I see your ID?”

I tried so hard not to roll my eyes.

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Growing up, I’ve never actually become super dedicated to something, or someone. Sure, like every 90s kid, I grew up liking Westlife, and even own several of their albums. I am a Harry Potter fan, but I never really dress up and queue for three hours to get the next book on the first day of its release.

And while my sister adores Tom Hanks and my friends giggle over David Beckham, I never actually identify as a fan towards a movie actor. Sure, Tom Hanks is brilliant. Sure, Tom Cruise is cute. Sure, Brad Pitt is kinda hot. That doesn’t mean I’m head over heels towards them.

Then comes tennis.

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Truth to be told, I’m not that eager about entering 2018. While the new year symbolises a new beginning, a fresh start, a possibility that ‘anything can happen’, for me it resembles only one thing: uncertainty.

Over the past week, I’ve read many Instagram captions, Facebook posts, and blogs about what friends and other people would like to achieve in the new year. I’ve read resolution after resolution, from being more mindful, doing more exercise, losing those few kilos, to learning a new craft.

Me?

Something to do with a job.

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1. IN THE BEGINNING: A GIRL WHO CAN’T COOK

I can’t remember exactly when I first entered the kitchen to cook alongside my mother. But if you want the answer to how many times I’ve been in the kitchen to help my mother cook, I can totally answer that one — a maximum of eight times.

I grew up in a household where my mother stays at home and cooks, yet I never really learn to cook myself. I’m an expert at cooking Indomie Kari Ayam (chicken curry) and for the longest time, that’s the only thing I can cook. I know the exact amount of water needs to be used to make the perfect soup consistency. But I have no idea how to hold the knife to chop garlic.

During junior high school, the only time I would hold a knife was when I was peeling and cutting mangoes. I love mangoes. And for that sole reason, I would be willing to cut mangoes after school when my mother was away, or taking a nap.

My mother often asked me to come help her to cook in the kitchen. I always said no and chose to finish a quest of Final Fantasy VIII on my Play Station 1 instead.

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AS A CHILD, I love gifts. On my birthday each year, I would get many presents wrapped in colourful paper, and a cake with candles to blow.

My parents, who claim were not spoiling their children but actually did the complete opposite, never failed to get me gifts. If you happen to visit my parents’ house in Jakarta, you’d notice four full cupboards of barbie dolls, poly pockets, legos, stuffed animals, puzzles, comic books, and other stuff. Amazingly, even after their youngest child (read: me) has gotten married, those stuff are still there.

My grandparents have showered me with presents too. I remember getting traditional Chinese music instrument, kites, clothes, toys that walk, toys that talk, and my most prized possession (at that time): a PlayStation 1.

I love tearing the paper, opening a box of surprise that I hope I’d love at the first sight. Sometimes, of course, I don’t.

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YESTERDAY, MY MOM CALLED, asking what I was doing. I was in the middle of steaming my homemade custard buns, so I hung up the phone and Facetimed her instead. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to just show her what I was doing.

She told me that she was going out of town for the weekend, and filled me with news and gossips on family and friends that I had missed since I moved back to Melbourne.

Then she asked, ‘How’s the job hunting? No reply yet?’

Erm, no. Not yet.

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MOST QUESTIONS ABOUT ONE’S life revolves around two things: relationship status and employment status. This is especially true for those who are in their mid-20s.

I know, because after being asked about my married life, the question that follows is this: What are you doing now?

Depending on who’s asking, I would answer differently, ranging from: unemployed, slowly getting into the job market, or enjoying life. And they are all true. Actually, the latter is the most accurate description of the three.

I am what you call a stay-at-home wife. I don’t have kids, but I stay at home. Thankfully, my dear husband is (currently) okay with this.

A typical day for me includes being kissed good morning by the husband before he goes to work. I’d wake up at around nine, then proceed to make coffee. I’d wash the dishes, then open my laptop and browse the net. I’d have leftovers for lunch. Then I do a bit of cleaning, laundry, or anything else that needs tending to. In the evening, I bake, or drink tea while reading a book. At around 6, I’d ask when the husband is planning to be home, and cook dinner. We’ll then eat while watching TV.

‘Aren’t you bored?’ a friend asked.

Of course not.

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I WASN’T THE TYPE of girl who dreamed of getting married early. I never actually dotted down the ‘perfect age to get married’, but if I did it would probably be somewhere in my late 20s. And honestly, I never thought that I’d be one of first ones among my peers to be a Mrs.

My first sister got married when she was 25, and during one of the family dinners my uncle approached me and said, ‘Remember, don’t get married too early. Enjoy life more.’ My parents were also on the same wagon—they preferred their daughters to only be ‘daughters’ for as long as it was possible.

Obviously the advice didn’t stick, because three months after my sister’s wedding, I got into a relationship.

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