1. Jakarta: 25 Excursions by Andrew Whitmarsh and Melanie Wood

I found this book while planning for my weekend trip to Jakarta. I wanted to travel with my little sister, so we only have weekends free. I searched the net for 24-hour excursions in Jakarta, and found a few. But none of them could match the kind of details this book provides.

To be honest I have yet to finish reading this book, I have only covered north and central Jakarta, but at least I can compare the contents to my own experience since I have just came back from my 24-hour trip last weekend.

The lovely thing about this book is it contains suggestions for walking trips within different regions in Jakarta. They are divided into parts of Jakarta, and further divided into areas that might interest different people; for example historical places, museums, food and coffee, and shopping. It makes it easy for us to decide which places we want to go first.

One of the authors lived in Jakarta and have explored the city by foot and bicycle, which explained the amount of details available in this book. I found that the accounts on the locals and history are at times rather quirky and entertaining; I was caught laughing a few times reading a travel book! Of course, looking at Jakarta as a Westerner versus as a part-Javanese Malaysian would result in different views. There are part of their culture that is quite familiar to me (not necessarily practiced, though), but reading it from another person’s perspective was simply amusing. 

There are detailed maps for each excursion, on top of area maps, map of the whole Jakarta and a folded map of Jakarta provided in this book.

Obviously there are things that you should experience yourself, and will only find out when you’re in Jakarta. Yes, the people are indeed friendly, towards Westerners, as well as their next door neighbours like us who have shared a fair amount of love-hate relationship throughout history. Do follow their advice to talk to the locals. I came up with the conclusion that the best way to enjoy Jakarta is to have a local (like a friend or and expat) who could show us the way there, so we could make the most out of it. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who plans to go to Jakarta. I would read this again when I plan for my next trip.

2. The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman

I bought this atlas because I realized I have almost zero knowledge about coffee.

This book is divided into three segments: Introduction, from Bean to Cup and Coffee Origins. Basically it covers almost everything you need to know about coffee; from the history, the plant, the process of producing coffee beans, the different ways of brewing coffee, types of espresso drinks, to the details about different coffee from different coffee-growing countries. Here we could learn a little bit about how local politics influence the production of coffee in each country.

It is a complete book if you are a coffee lover who wants to enjoy different types of coffee from all over the world. It is an interesting journey of discovery, to see how much this world love its coffee, and how differently we all enjoy coffee.

I’m not a heavy coffee drinker, drinking only 1-3 cups per week. But having read this book definitely took my coffee intake to a new level of meanings.

3. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrmage by Haruki Murakami

This is my first (and perhaps the last?) Haruki Murakami. I have heard of his reputation for a few years already, but I only managed to get my hands on this book just recently.

Where do I begin…

Well, I guess I should begin with the good ones first. When I started reading the book, I was impressed by the unique storyline, and the characters in the book. Perhaps part of the factors is that I do not know much about Japanese culture. The flow of the narrative is rather relaxed; Murakami took his time to describe the movements and the appearance of the characters. There are times when he gets philosophical about life.

The pace became even more slow as the book progresses. Although some questions were answered, many issues are left hanging with huge question marks.

As a rather conservative Asian and a Muslim, I am not entirely comfortable with the graphic imagery of sex in this book. Sex is never ‘just’ sex. It is a very private act of intimacy and love between two persons, and should be kept at that. Just reading about some fictional characters being described to be doing this and thinking of that is rather disturbing. 

Therefore I feel that anything that sells or attracts merely by sexual appeal lacks sophistication.

I guess the world around us is too used of seeing the act and thiking about it to be able to understand how peaceful it is without this kind of disturbance. It would be very difficult to comprehend how discomforting those imaginations would feel, without knowing how peaceful it can be when there is absence of dirty thoughts. Therefore its presence became a norm, something that is thought to be natural human instinct.

But it should not be. Intimacy should be kept between the couple, in the bedroom or in the house, not to be aired in the open, and certainly not to be used as a selling point for a book or a movie.

I will think many many times before buying another Murakami.