The Reading of Books #6

Another edition of books that I read, with Plutarch, Vargas LlosaMurakami and Kahneman. Keep on reading!

Plutarch – On Sparta 

Source: Goodreads.com

This edition of Plutarch’s writings on Sparta combines the lives of famous Spartans with an abundance of further notes and information. It’s a rather complete work for those interested in the legendary city state, that most will know from the film 300. The work of Plutarch has suffered many revisions by editors, trying to figure out a cool way to present it to the audience. Earlier I read a book by Penguing on The Age Of Alexander, where they cut descriptions of lives in half, splitting them in timeframes, since Plutarch loved to compare Greeks and Romans (preferably finding fitting couples). Thist time Penguin has decided to go for thinner books on a theme.

To compensate for the relative little amount of work, some extra resources have been added, which make this book to a rich source of information brought together under one cover. There is little commentary, but some critical notes that help the reader to relate to Plutarch and take his work with a grain of salt here and there. Truly, parts are very entertaining and others seem to be uncritical glorification. That seems to be a fatal flaw of historic works in general though.

Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast And Slow

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve always had a dislike to psychology, I cannot help it. This book was also kind of selected by mistake, because it was categorized as a philosophy book. Well, what can you do? I listened to this on my iPod and was very much captivated by it. Not only does Kahneman have the unique ability to make things relatable and come up with proper examples, his whole explanation seems to be aimed at generating understanding. Not trying to be pretentious (which most psychology is) and actually explaining how difficult certain lessons and insights were to gather.

Kahneman explains that we have two systems of cognition, an instantanious top-of-mind one and a secondary, analytical and calculating one.  This explains a lot about the way we act and react to what happens around us. Learning to understand this system may be vital to understand why you feel and think certain things. I would call that a great insight and well worth the read/listening.

Mario Vargas Llosa – Dream Of The Celt 

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve read this book on my e-reader, which is a new toy I have, which was captivating to the end. I spoiled this book a bit for myself by reading up on who Roger Casement, the protagonist of the book, actually is. Vargas Llosa dusted of this hero of the Irish struggle for freedom and tried to write his story, without making it all glorious and epic. It’s the story of a man with pain, haemeroids, represessed sexual feelings but a moral backbone and humanitarian ideals. It’s told as a a story that might be true and shows that people are more than who they sleep with.

Roger Casement was knighted for his daring reports on cruelties in Congo and Peru during the early 20th century. He visited these places and saw the greed and inhumanity of the Peruvian rubber company and Leopold II’s Congo. He also writes daring erotic stories in his diary of encounters with younger, vital men. Then he gets involved with the Irish struggle for independence, gets arested and eventually executed and slandered for his sexual preferences.  Vargas Llosa succesfully shows the whole person in a wonderful book.

Haruki Murakami – 1Q84

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve never really gotten into much un-Western literature, by which I mean literature with a setting away from the world I’m used to. In reading the three books that make up 1Q84, I’ve definitely had a good choice in experiencing some of that and the excellent writing of Murakami. The story is about two people who seem to traverse to a parallel world, where strange things occur. The two people have met as children and never truly forgotten eachother. Aomame is a fitness instructor, she lives alone and has a minimal life style. Her other activities include casual sex with balding men and murdering men that abuse their women for a rich lady with a grudge.

Tengo teaches math in a school and in his spare time, he is a writer. He likes to read, cook and on friday has sex with his older girlfriend. His friend, the editor Komatsu, approaches him with a manuscript, written by a 17-year old girl. He plans to let Tengo rewrite it for a contest. From here on, life becomes strange for both figures that get themselves mixed up in something bigger then them. A world where logic doesn’t count for what it does in the real world. They relive their pasts and in the end their quest will bring them together. The title refers to the name that Aomame comes up with, as an alternative for the year the story takes place in (1984). The book is brilliantly written, never rushing but also never letting you hang in there. It offers a continuous story with magical aspects, deep characters and well measured emotions.

Like many Murakami readers before me, I want more.

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