Tag Archives: books

Reading of Books #26

I enjoyed another pile of books, this time including Thoreau, Snyder, Thieme and Murakami. I’ve really been reading a lot and that is never a bad thing.

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

For some reason I didn’t get through it the first time, but I’ve finished and enjoyed Thoreau’s influential book Walden. Walden deals with the 2 years Thoreau lived in the woods to test himself and see what he needed to have meaning in his life. It’s a fascinating read full of contemplation and admiration for that which surrounds the author on his time in the forest next to Walden pond. From describing catching a fighting set of ants under a jar, feeding the squirrels and watching the fish to his outlook on society at its time and further thoughts. All written in the eloquent style of a philosopher that is still searching for his truths, not willing to force them onto the reader.

Thoreau has many insights while staying in his self-build cabin, which are highly influential to wanderers and lovers of nature still. Not only his thoughts and appreciation for nature, but as well his thoughts on eating meat. Vegetarians will like this book for those insights early in time. Thoreau laments the fact that a hunter takes away his chance to enjoy the encounter with a deer on his path. This simple but concrete description is very throught provoking, even for the most staunch opponents to such ideas. The book is also a testament to declaring the strenght, ingenuity and skill of humans to fend for themselves. It’s a plea for a specific anarchism, also illustrated by the encounters Thoreau has with a woodsman, who has no interest in money. This book can change your life, truly.

Marianne Thieme – De Eeuw van het Dier

Recently I converted to the Dutch ‘Animal Party’ as my political choice, I realized  I knew very little about the movement and the history of that movement. I thought it’d be a good idea to read up. While waiting for the arrival of party leader Marianne Thieme’s latest book, I purchased an earlier write-up from the earlier days of the party. I read this book and was instantly captivated by the factual descriptions, numbers and huge amount of information. Sure, this book was a couple of years old, but I can hardly imagine that much has changed as yet. Part of the book is also personal, about the history of Thieme as an animal fan and how she got to the point in life she is at now.

The numbers are staggering. The amount of unnecesary cruelty against animals is shocking and I’m amazed at how long I managed to push this knowledge away from myself. Sure, deep down you’re always aware at some level of what’s happening in those massive stables, but we love imagining that it’s not that bit of meat on my plate. A furthr section of the book contains letters from famous supporters of the party, with their own wit and insight into matters. It’s a joy to read, it offers so many connecting points for any reader. The last part are recipes. I’m keen to  try those out in my new vegetarian lifestyle.

Haruki Murakami – The Elephant Vanishes

Every once in a while I crave the work of Murakami. His clean descriptions, the strange magics in reality, the puzzling encounters and endless trivialities are always a joy for me to read. It’s pleasing me in both content and form. This far I’ve read the longer works of him and really could immerse myself in there and learn about the characters but this time I chose a different book. The title is ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, it’s the title of the final short story in this book of short stories. Short stories are an art form in itself. To tell your story in a 700 page book is in a way much easier, because you can expand and work around things as much as you like. The short story requires a focussed, condensed amount of information that still packs the right punch.

The stories gathered in this book have been published over a span of years in various magazines and periodicals. I have the feeling that Murakami has used these short stories to really experiment with storytelling and fiction. You can recognize elements of these stories from titles like ‘IQ84’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’. The plesure was in that I listened to parts of this book and hearing different narrators tell the stories helps to really distinguish between the stories and put them in seperate time frames and settings. For example the story ‘Little Green Monster’, that is particularly weird and felt very un-Murakami-like. Still the sentient being, the craving for contact, loneliness and merciless human character are all too familiar aspects. ‘The Dancing Dwarf’ is an adult fairy tale by Murakami, where everything has consequences. Other stories find the magic in every day life. In that way, another beautifull piece of writing by the author.

Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

For some reason we never learn from our history and nothing proves it so convincingly as this book by Timothy Snyder. Snyder is a university teacher and researcher, who specializes in Eastern-Europe and the Holocaust. This is not an immense book, but a rather quick read, dense with information that I think everyone should learn for its obvious relativity to todays events and occurences. Unfortunately, not many will probably read it and specially not those who really should be reading it. So if you are politically ambivalent and reading this, if you feel that the current day right wing politics from populist fronts makes sense, take your time to read or listen to this book. It takes two hours of your time I suppose and I think it’ll bring a wealth to you.

Snyder outlines 20 lessons, which he then one by one fills in with actual knowledge of last centuries misery and malpractices. How willingly did we let fascism get a hold of us in the thirties, how smoothly did the transition take place. It’s a remarkable story of how the silent majority truly enables totalitarianism, what the tools are of tyranny. Criticism killed, press silence and dissidents removed, that’s when tyranny takes hold. It’s frightening how real this is. It’s frightening how the actuality of this books strikes me.

The Reading of Books #22

I read some great books last weeks, so I list them here. Books that I read are byt Daniel Ekeroth, Herman Brusselmans, Simon Vestdijk and Barack Obama

Barack Obama – Dreams from my Father

source: goodreads.com

Barack Obama wasn’t always president of the United States, he also once upon a time tried his hand at writing and this book was the result. Published in 1995, it shows the quest Obama had himself to find out who he is and where he is from. To find out who his father was and what kind of man he was to become in the future. His complex relationship with race and the way that stuck in society. Now, this is before the white house, before the big fame and all that stuff. The attempt was genuinely to give something to other black people who were struggling with their identity. It says a lot about the man, who I happen to admire. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff to say now about how wrong I am at that, but it doesn’t change a thinf or me. Specially after reading this book.

The writing style of Obama is very much filled with anecdotes. Going from a general point to a personal experience is something he’s known to do in his speeches as well and in these stories it works just as effectively. Even though here and there he does write things that might not have been to smart for his carreer, overall he’s the man we know with an open heart and open mind, trying to receive whatever comes his way and understand the world around him. The story is well written and cohesive and soon you forget who is telling you this story. The personal tone makes it very accesible and direct, involving the reader easily. The audiobook got special praise, mainly because the reader is the author himself. Obama is a born speaker, so letting his voice carry you away for a few hours is a pleasure for certain.

Daniel Ekeroth – Swedish Death Metal

goodreads.com

The beauty of a scene is that it’s fleeting. It’s a moment in time that is absolutely secret. It’s not even considered as the moment, the catalyst it is. And once it’s all over, it is simply gone forever. The only people who can say anything about it are the ones who were there. When Daniel Ekeroth describes a peculiar location in the trainstation, where the teenagers who made up the Swedish death metal scene gathered, he captures that scene in a moment. The Swedish death metal scene might not have been the biggest shift in extreme music, it definitely has made a huge impact on the way we listen to metal today. And this book completely captures what happened in Sweden around 1990.

Ekeroth doesn’t write like a scholar. His book is more of a scrap book and diary in one, where a fan relates his story to other fans. It’s remarkable to see all the early album covers and pictures of the death metal celebrities with their spotty teenage noses. Ekeroth writes with the enthousiasm of being one of those kids. About labels, recording sessions and the remote parts where the scene took place. The book is not just the story of the scene, there’s an enormous catalogue of everything related to it. Demo’s, shows.. the whole shebang. That makes this book a necessity for anyone remotely interested or enthralled with the scene.

Herman Brusselmans – Een Dag in Gent

source: goodreads.com

It seem that the overlying theme of the work penned by Herman Brusselmans is the futility of life. The title of this book translates as ‘A Day in Ghent’ and that is literally what it is. Also, it’s not the day in Gent by someone who has anything to do, so we follow the meanderings through the city of the main character, while he ponders various elements of his life and also a fair share of completely random occurrences and made up facts. It’s just like that, a typical day in Gent that seems to have nothing special going on.

The way the story is told leads you down many side streets and weird stories. I feel that for Brusselmans, mankind is a fairly peculiar and strange being in all its perversions. The main character is in a way often not present. When ladies offer themselves to him, he just watches them. Observing and making notes, that seems the ambition in Brusselmans’ work and it leads to some pretty messed up projections of humankind. All is written in a mildly sarcastic tone, only furthering the estranging effect the words have. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable read with a twist and a rather peculiar look at the daily life that we lead. One could even say it’s a stream of consciousness, but it probably lacks the literary pretenses for that.

Simon Vestdijk – Op Afbetaling

source: goodreads.com

This classic bit of Dutch literature was a difficult read, specially due to its dated setting and strange, shifty characters. There was little in the way of getting to sympathize with figures in the book, making it hard to really get to grips with it. The story is that of a man who has caught his wife cheating with his colleague. Instead of confronting her, he wishes her to suffer the way he suffers, in silence. This leads him down a dark path with dark characters and shady dealings. It’s a well wrought story, but with some vague elements to it in the way of how they are a part of the whole thing. In the end things escalate, but life finds its way to continue somehow.

The style of writing by Vestdijk is that of a detective novel, without a case. It’s layered with different signals for the reader, which makes the whole story as hard to follow as it seems to be for the main character Mr. Grond. Now, this gentleman is not very sympathetic and that is completely worked into the way of writing. Cynical, unfeeling and cold. Though it’s not easy reading and some of the descriptions are dated and feel slightly alien nowadays, this is an interesting read and a rather complex and fascinating story in its own right.

The Books I Read #19

I read some more books, so I guess it’s time to share those with you, with works by R.A. Salvatore, JJ Koczan, Ace Frehley and the mighty Henry Rollins! Enjoy and pick them up if you can.

R.A. Salvatore – Paths of Darkness ( The Silent Blade, The Spine of the World, Servant of the Shard, Sea of Swords)

source: bandcamp

Ok, one more serial for now, since right now I had my fill for a while of the saga, but Paths of Darkness is indeed something else. The focus is less on the character of Drizzt, but more on others like the barbarian Wulfgar. After the traumatizing events in the previous books, people have been damaged, broken even. The collateral needs to be resolved before the band will be able to join together once again. It’s a welcome new thing in an otherwise endless string of group adventures, which I think is an interesting switch, though also showing you that nothing lasts really.

Though I wouldn’t want to pin that responsibility on the author, I think in a way the topic of trauma is very present in this book. The effect on a person and the intense fase of trying to work your way through it. The struggle the character Wulfgar goes through is heavy, complex and confusing to all surrounding him. The turmoil is well described by Salvatore and really given context and explanation. This is something that made this series of books very powerful, and worth reading. The following set is also exploring a similar side road, so thatś something that’ll come up in another series of books.

JJ Koczan – Electroprofen

source: twitter (author)
source: twitter (author)

JJ Koczan is an immensely productive guy who manages to keep up the blog ‘The Obelisk’ all by himself. To me, that’s amazing and inspiring at the same time and I’ve had the pleasure to meet JJ on Roadburn and found out he’s a humble and friendly guy, totally in it for the music, nothing else. That is something you see in his book too. I don’t know too much about JJ’s experience as a writer, but there’s something about his style that speaks to me as a music fan as well. In a way the form of this book can describe as a collection of songs too. Short, losely connected stories and poems work together to create a whole.

I enjoyed reading this short novel, as a bit of a dark exploration of humankind. I have the sense that there’s a personal vibe to the stories as well, which I think makes it so much more connecting and powerful, striking the right notes with the reader. JJ demonstrates his skill for putting down a good story here and I hope he keeps at it. I would love to read a doom laced full story of him one day. The book is out on War Crime Recordings, not sure if they still have any…  It would be worth your money to pick this up to support this talented gentleman in his writing, because I’m keen to read more. Check out his website on music for more of his writing, which follows a similar personal expression.

Ace Frehley – No Regrets

source: goodreads

I have to admit something to you, my dear reader. I’m a fan of the band Kiss. It started gradually, but I definitely would have to refer you to the podcast where Danko Jones interviews Abbath about Kiss for the spark that ignited my interest. Now, you can appreciate Kiss as a whole, but delve into the four individuals and that is one crazy journey. My first Kiss bio this far was none other than the oe of Ace Frehley, who played guitar in Kiss three times and left each one. Ace is a likable guy in the media, but was also a troubled person for years with substance abuse. His take on things is a bit different and I’m tempted to believe he missed the point on some topics, but hey…

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Ace is quit laid back and proud of his troubled past, but also likes to inform you around the end of the book how he believes in Aliens and has met them. The weird supersticions he has take all sense of truth away for me, but his perception of the history of Kiss is in general plagued by little consideration for there being another side to the story. Ace is mild and understanding for most of the book, but at some point keeps going on at Gene SImmons and Paul Stanley in a way that is hard to validate or check anywhere, but makes them the bad guys. I have not read all the others, but in the bio of Gene SImmons there’s atleast an attempt to paint a complete picture. Ace sees himself as a victim and his victory on alcohol not too long ago is his biggest victory. It’s still a great book full of saucy material. Read it if you can! Because for all his weird stories, Ace Frehley tells it like a true storyteller.

Henry Rollins – LA Weekly Articles 2011-2012

source: goodreads

Though Henry can spin a yarn, his ability to offer short and to the point stories on stage is reflected in his columns for the LA Weekly. In this book he offers a collection of those from a certain period of time between 2011-2012 that he wrote, but before any editor touched them. It’s some typical Henry material that you’lll easily get into if you like his ideas, and also will inspire you to read more of his work and check out the music he encourages… nay, urges you to check out. Old jazz and blues all the way up to metal, every week another good bit of advice for the ears. It’s really some added value that you’re getting right there from the man who fronted Black Flag and Rollins Band.

If you don’t feel affinity with the opinions of mr. Rollins, then there’s always some room for debate on most topics. The door is always half open, except when it comes to hatred, homophobia, racism and such, those are very clear and so is the opinion of Henry about you if you think such things are fine (usually thats pretty much the issue). The book serves well as a continuous read, but also just to take one item at the time. It’s immersive, personal and filled with the typical wit you find in the work of Henry Rollins. Specially his bits on the Bush administration are usually hilarious. His fandom of Rush Limbaugh (sarcasm) is a recurring theme, that makes Limbaugh look exactly the way he should. It’s just great stuff, read this!

 

The Reading of Books #12

Last few weeks I read books by Hemingway, Kemal, De Sade and Hitchens, all good stuff. I summed it up a bit for you, to know what you should read next. Don’t stop reading!

Yaser Kemal – The Legend of Mount Ararat

Source: dewereldmorgen.be

I love reading books that tell about different cultures, so reading this book that I purchased in Dutch at the yearly book fair, was a privilige. Its funny to read a fairytale that doesn’t end in the way they do in the west. Morality? Faith? I don’t know, we might be different people but the stories still read like charming adventures that tell us more about ourselves and the human race in general. This is obviously the reason to read them anyways.

Yaser Kemal is one of the most read and most notorious writers of Turkey in contemporary history. The man won a ton of awards, but also the attention of authorities. This book tells about the mountain Ararat, which is already surrounded with mysteries. The story is that of a princess, a brave young man from the mountain and a vengeful father and lord, but also with the irony of judgement for the smallest flaws. It leaves that tase due to not offering the happy end I felt it deserved. Forgiveness and such… I found it hard to appreciate the final bit, but still a worthy read about that country that is a bridge between east and west.
Marquis de Sade – Justine

Source: goodreads.com

I dont know why I try to read a De Sade book again. I loathed 120 days and this proves to be as foul in many ways as I anticipated. Nonetheless, what ‘Justine’ has and what the other book lacks is explanation, a philosophical framework so to say. That is the thing that makes the rapey stories bearable  and not merely disgusting. The idea of a moral philosophy behind it all, which the other book sorely lacked.

I’m always surprised about the vocabulary and eloquence of the Marquis de Sade, which keeps proving to keep the foulness in check and makes it sometimes even acquire a poetic quality that I find rather charming at times. You start to enjoy the times when the main person escapes the next horrible trials and tribulations but also slowly blunts your consciousnes for the horrors that await her in the lair of the next male monster. Through my abhorrence, I believe that the work of this writers is worth reading. He might have been the victor in the enlightenment debate anyways, by the looks of the world today.

Christopher Hitchens – The Portable Atheist

Source: goodreads.com

Though Hitchens is an unavoidable inspiration and gatherer in this collection of texts, his role is mainly that of glue or cement, binding the materials together in order to create a sturdy wall of atheist doctrine. Doctrine would be the wrong word though, because he keeps opening as many doors as he closes in his unrelenting criticisms of the big religions. Atheism is a a case that offers more questions than answers, but remains interesting.

The strenght of this book is that it makes the atheist case by using many, many texts from people like Emma Goldman, David Hume and many others, even reaching words from H.P. Lovecraft, whom you must know I admire greatly. Lucretius, Darwin, Marx and many more names are tagged on this publication, which offers insightful, but also refreshing information on the topic, that should be required reading for anyone who starts calling themselves an atheist. Its not that easy after all.

Ernest Hemingway – Winner Take Nothing

source: goodreads.com

Hemingway is an inspiring writer and his short stories rank among the best there are. Brief sketches with sudden turns and sharp messages take the reader from the African hunting grounds to small cafés in Spain and up to North-America. This is probably some of the best work from the author, for whom I’ve started to have a soft spot in my reading habits. Still, many more to read from the master who rings together rather random events to convey a message about life and meanings.

Sometimes it’s hard to read short stories in that case, mainly because they are very captivating and the sudden endings make you feel detached for a moment, missing out on the action that you were experiencing with your characters a moment before. Characters you know through and through thanks to their descriptions, not their inner stories.  I think that this is one of the things that makes Hemmingway so great, in not saying all there is, but enough for the story to tell itself

Self Help Books

I know that most of you will read this and make a frown or do a face thing expression of confusion mixed with disgust at this ridiculous topic. Self Help Books, yes. I have read some and I can tell you about a few that I think for my fellow nerdy readers might be useful. I have to say, they might not be the standard ones you’d expect. It’s just stuff that I feel helped me learn.

Granted, I’m not a perfect being and still heavily in the proces of learning to control my anger and hatred for the human race, but I believe that these books have actually helped me come to grips with myself and learn to love the bomb…. Not the boob, I already praised that highly. Let me list them for you here with some explanation and perhaps you can find something for yourself.

Mind that I’m part of an audience that likes the nerdy-side of things and therefor finds solace in reading books that are nerd-inspired, geeky and that I can relate to on a personal level. I’m sure there’s plenty of sports writers and such who can do that just as well for you if you’re into that more. Oh… and hockey. Let’s see about that bullshit of the self-help industry.

Stephen R. Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Oh yes, you’ve heard this one before, so stop me, stop me oh stop me…. It is after all still the most effective, well written book in the whole genre. Sure, it’s a bit idealistic and supposes some grand wisdom in its seven habits, but not without reason pretty much every other book refers to this one. I guess in a way it speaks to so many people due to it being very middle of the road and staying close to an abstract level. The anecdotes help in giving you a sense of understanding though. I do believe that this book may be a bit over some peoples head though. If you want to give it a try, go for the abridged audio version first. Not  only does it speak much more to you, it also stays closer to the core ideas instead of jumping in the deep end.

I mean, this is kinda like the Jedi manual when it comes to it. So it might scare you away at first, because you first need to grasp some basics and be OK with not moving at immense speeds forward. I felt empowered at first and disillusioned after a while, because of its almost religious striving for mastery. This kind of brings me to my next title.

Wil Wheaton – Just A Geek

What I felt was most important to help understanding myself is being understood and able to relate to things. I have never been able to put my anxieties and worries to words, they never made much sense to me and felt very instinctive. The Covey book put me onto reading more and so I started getting into this biographical account of Wil Wheaton. Wil is the kind of guy, whose humor and take on life I really appreciated as soon as I started to get into his stuff. Specially his ‘law’ on gaming really appealed to me and even got me to name my blog after it.

In his book he tells his story and though I havent been a struggling actor with a glorious past, I was a guy (or am, but I chose not to see it that way. anymore) who graduated with a thesis  that was called brilliant and then failed to live up to anyone’s expectations, mostly my own. I felt I could relate to that. In his book, there’s some shifts of personality, of approach to things that you can learn from. For someone in the acting bizz, everything is larger than life. Not just the successes, also the failures. It thought me about those, but also about what it means to be driven and follow your gut.

Chris Hardwick – The Nerdist Way

Thanks to Wil Wheaton I found out about Chris Hardwick, a dude that, like me, had struggled with some health issues in the past and had shifted that around. The difference is that Chris is, unlike me, highly productive and succesful. That is exactly what Hardwick tries to bring across in this book, making it awesome. The silly way he does it in appeals to me too, because self-deflating humor has become a huge part of me and the way I deal with myself. I mean, you can hardly be a dick to yourself, right?

Turns out you can and I do that a lot. Instead of rising above, facing things head on, I tend to flee. I do that in an almost scorched earth way sometimes. Chris speaks to me in the sense that he has been there, he has been down to a lost, alcohol guzzling has-been and back to the top in a place he wanted to be. that feels amazingly powerfull and therefor something to learn from.

Kevin Smith – Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. 

Yeah, I found inpsiration in the work of Kevin Smith, you know… the guy who is Silent Bob. It’s maybe not even this book, but the podcasts he did with Jason Mewes (Jay) about some real life problems. A lot of the book is about this friendship and it shows how far you can go in doing your best for others. Also another story of falling down and getting up again, learning and growing and finding that crock o’ gold at the end of it all.

The podcasts deal more with looking back and making fun of your own fucked up mistakes in the past life that you have to deal with. Acceptance is a way to growth that is pretty hard and that lesson is definitely in here too.

Gordie Howe – Mr. Hockey

I did say I love hockey, right? This book is about the challenged life of Gordie Howe, the absolute superstar of hockey. He went on to play till he was 50 years old, being the oldest NHL player of all time, only surpassed in points way later by Wayne Gretzky. It is kinda ok if you are surpassed by ‘The Great One’. The book shows remarkable love for the game and humility from the man. Its amazing to read how even in his eighties he still notices every aspect of a game he watches. There’s a lot of quirky little things in there that show how normal the guy is.

Gordie Howe is an inspiration to go for what you believe in and stick with it. Not untill they tell you to quit, but up till you think its time to quit. Humility, respect, acceptance and love, its all in there in the life of a real stand up guy.

Alright, I suppose this is sort of a weird list of books to consider self-help. I also have to admit that by now, I hate Covey’s book. It’s way to high flying. Anyways, I think books inspire, not the ‘right books. What inspires you might just as well be Harry Potter. As long as you keep reading, you find idols, icons, villains and dreams. The most important thing is to keep having those.

I tricked you a little bit into reading this. I hope you still enjoyed that and maybe you’ll pick one up from my list.

The Reading of Books #10

A new selection of books I’ve read, with work from Haldor Laxness, Kevin Smith,  Thich Nhat Hanh and Chris Hardwick.

Haldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell

“Have you ever seen Iceland rise from the sea?” Asks the protagonist of the Icelandic people Arnas Arnaeus at some point in this book. That sentence stuck with me in this novel by Nobel price winner Haldor Laxness about the impoverished people in Iceland during the Danish reign. The book consists out of three parts, of which the second and third are the more serious ones. The first part mainly features Jón Hreggvidson, a farmer who happens to be at the wrong places all the time and instead of getting his head lobt of ends up travelling all the way to Danmark to plea for his case.

The other character is a noble lady from Iceland who is instrumental in the continued existance of Jón Hreggvidson and embodies a different Iceland. She and Arnaeus have a bond, a romance that is like the fleeting romance Iceland has with its liberty. It never truly comes to pass in the book but always seems near. There’s a lot of black and bleak humor in the book, specially on the account of the Icelandic population, personified in crook and fool Hreggvidson, who the reader cannot but love, regardless of all his foolish behaviours and constant reciting of the same ballad. It’s a book that instills a love and sympathy for that strange island. Well worth reading, specially thanks to its complex symbolism and folk like telling style.

Chris Hardwick – The Nerdist Way

source: goodreads.com

I started on ‘The Nerdist Way’, because I felt particularly in need of something to help me elevate my spirits. Originally I expected to find a fun book about the life of Chris Hardwick, but it turned out to be a very well intended self-help book for people with the same sort of obsessive syndroms and social awkwardness as him. Something I can relate to, but also filled with that particular humor, filled with self-deflating jokes. I was impressed by the upbeat nature and strenght of the book, which is an honest attempt to make a difference and really help people.

At various points Hardwick admits he is not a professional and suggests seeking professional help if you as a reader deal with specific problems. He talks about an attitude in life, a generally healthy lifestyle and even gives advice when it comes to excersising. The book outlines an alternative for those of us that have caught the nerd syndrome of sticking to the indoors. This book can really give you some motivation to make some changes and thus be living your life to the fullest. Chris Hardwick is an inspirational figure, not just in what he does, but also where he comes from. His punchline for this book seems to be: “I’ve been at my worst and now at my best, so I just want to try and share this so aothers can learn from it.” It really works because of that sheer honesty.
Thich Nhat Hanh – Living Buddha, Living Christ 

In this book the Vietnamese monk is attempting to define the underlying similarities between most big religious movements in the world. It’s a praise worthy attempt, because Thich Nhat Hanh seems to be spot on with a lot of things. He succesfully peels of the layers of dogmatism and classic indoctrination to reach the essential meaning of religious movements. He lists similarities between the Buddha and Christ, leaving out a lof of the fundamentelist motives inherent to various religions In that way, he sincerely opens up the dialogue with an open mind.

The author also describes the dismayed responses he has gotten over time, but points out that as religions learn from eachother, they can also remain relevant. This touches upon an issue that pretty much every major religion seems to face in recent times: loss of touch with the followers. Speaking from my own knowledge, I see that less and less people are visiting church. Some people rejoice over this, but I see it as a spiritual bankrupcy and I’m fairly sure that we’ll start seeing that some time in the future. I feel happy that books like this excist, offering a third way of finding a spirituality through the things that you find appealing in various religions, atleast I think Thich Nhat Hanh grants us that liberty, as long as we do it sincerely and respectfully.

Kevin Smith – Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good

Source: Goodreads.com

So I continued with this biographical book by Kevin Smith. Smith is one of my favorite directors, whose films I think I’ve all watched. Red State is the last in line and Im planning to watch this very soon.  In this book Smith talks about his life and whatever stuff happened to him in the  same way his characters talk in the early films. So yeah, there’s a lot of metaphors involving dick jokes and such, but one needs to get over that to find the gold underneath, which is various life lessons and hilarious anecdotes about a lot of weird stuff and the film industry.

There’s also going to be a lot of Clerks being mentioned. I feel a bit of embarrasment now and then about the direct words used by Smith, but that just says more about me. I recommend this book for the simple reason that it is hilarious and cathartic. Im pretty sure that Kevin Smith has faced enough tribulations in his own way. Sure, there’ s that whole different level where it takes place, in Hollywood and all. Still, this is transferrable to real life and sure as hell we all need some advice from a fat man who did good.

Oh, there’s also bits about Jay & Silent Bob, Dogma, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis.

The Reading Of Books #9

Some more reading done, so new books that I have an opinion about. Good books, I might add.

Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood 

Source; Goodreads.com

Though probably the most well known book of Murakami, this novel is an actual ‘return’ to the popular style in his home country according to the added information in the book. It’s a dreary love story with some strange triangular relationships occuring. That seems to be the returning element in the story of Toru Watanabe, who is recollecting his past in the book. At a young age, his best friend Kizuki killed himself. A while after that he reconnected with the girlfriend of his best friend, who he took walks with. He then sleeps with her in a strange, emotion filled night, after which she runs away and signs into a sanatorium.

Watanabe falls into despair, hanging out with his friend Nagasawa, who strings him along in a quest to bed as many girls as possible. Nagasawa also has a girlfriend, which makes another triangle. Then Watanabe visits Naoko in the sanatorium and has a great time with her and her room mate Reiko. He also strikes up a friendship with live loving Midori, a girl from his drama classes. it all falls apart when Naoko kills herself as well. The interactions are complex and are presented in an order that might at times be confusing. It’s the story of a young guy who tries to do what is right, but also tries to live a life that is fullfilling. This struggle seems to be at the core of the book. The title is derived from the Beatles song, which is recurring element in the book.

Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Source: Goodreads.com

This book follows the trials and tribulations of Tsukuru Tazaki. A peculiar person, who considers himself to be empty, like an unwritten sheet of paper. He only knows he really likes trainstations and like trainstations considers himself to have been the connecting factor in a colorfull group of friends in high school, who were a harmonious unit. One day he was cast out and almost driven to suicide, he changed completely in the way he looked and after half a year finally regained control of his life.

Now, years later, his girlfriend reminds him of the past and asks what happened that so shook him and limited him in connecting with others. He decides to revisit his old friends and find out what happened and find himself again. The story is laced with references to the past and future, there’s an element of mystery and dreams, like is common in the books of Murakami and we follow a person who is not in touch with himself, but seems to slowly gain a hold of the essence of his being. The musical piece ‘Years of Pilgrimage’ by Liszt is a recurring theme in the novel.  It’s a powerful book that once more offers the reader a path to fulfillment and a coming of age story. In the typical Murakami fashion though.

 

Gavin Baddeley & Paul Woods – God’s Assassins: The Medieval Roots of Terrorism

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve read a book by Baddeley in the past, which dealt with the role the Devil has been playing in Rock’n’roll through the last couple of decades, back to it’s very start. Baddeley even harks back to bygone ages in that book, which is something he does in this book as well. Together with Woods, the writer traces an analogy of sorts throughout the ages with a critical view on terrorism and religion and it’s roots in the Assassin cult in the middle-east. A topic surrounded mostly with myth, magic and mystery. From the ‘Old Man Of The Mountain’, which must refer to either Rashid ad-Din Sina or Hassan Sabbah, the original leader of the cult, all the way to the Kennedy assasination and modern Islam terrorism and the books of William Burroughs.

This is not one of those typical self-explanatory obscurantist views on a past that is partly imagined, this is a critical reading of both facts and perception of the historical phenomenon that involves terrorism in the form the assassins preached. It’s arguably easy to draw a direct link between current day Islamic State/Al Quaida movements and their historical counterpart, but that is not what the authors do. They remain critical and rather trace this sort of terrorism to general means of indoctrination, threat and subterfuge as practised by superpowers. The book leaves the reader with questions and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.

Oswalt Patton – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Source: Goodreads.com

Patton is a comedian and also an avid writer of books with a love for scifi and geekiness. In this book he writes down how his life unfolded and how his geekiness played a part in shaping and reforming his perceptions of his surroundings, dividing people into Zombies, Spaceships and Wasteland wanderers. It’s a good read full of fun but also with some lessons in life and what to do to get ahead.

There are curious elements of sudden empathy with other wanderers, disgust and lost cases along the path and a whole lot of self loathing and mockery happening in this book. Also song lyrics from REM come into play, which is cool I guess and read by Michael Stipe. Oswalt Patton is a hilarious dude, but also a person you might recognize if you’ve struggled with your inner and outer world and finding a place of peace for yourself and acceptance.

The Reading of Books #3

It’s been holiday times, so I had time to read some more than normally. I always love to see the pile I’ve gotten through afterwards. Currently enough other things to read and listen fill my shelves, so time to get on it.

Charlotte Brönte – The Professor

source: amazon

There is something specifically cozy about reading books by the likes of Charlotte Brönte. It feels like this book requires you to have a cup of tea or coffee with it and really get cozy with a blanket and some nice singer-songwriter (preferably British) playing on the radio. The story is the inner thoughts and experiences of a man, devout of real heritage, who flaunts his unwanted families offers to make his own fortune in the world. It’s a story that takes us from the grimy industrial towns of 18th century Britain to the warm city of Brussels where he finds occupation as a teacher.

It is a story of character building and growth, of love and loneliness and in the end of  a righteous set of affairs happening. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a very complex work that completely blows you away, it is nice to just feel cozy and homely once in a while.

Ryszard Kapuscinski – The emperor 

Source: Rastafari.homepage.eu

Many people might know Haile Selassie as a figure that is much revered in reggae music by the rastafarians. He was also the last emperor of a 1000 year dynasty in Ethiopia. A reformer and totalitarian in one, the man could not read or write, but ran a country as effective as possible in the limited time that was given to him as a ruler.

I bought this book in Poland, due to it having  a Polish author and also a topic of interest to me. It gathers up stories of the courtiers from Haile Selassie after the revolution. It was quite a dangerous undertaking to gather these stories in a country ravaged by internal strife, corruption and crime. Still it paints a clear image of an impossible empire that lasted much longer than it would have, it not for the smart rule of an emperor who wanted to bring together tradition and progress in an impossible marriage.

We speak of a man who dreamed of a united Africa, while maintaining an underfed population and an ever expanding nobility. A man who built palaces in the desert, while drinking water was not obtainable. He built highways and universities, but ruled without pen and paper. An amazing journey to the past.

Hannah Arendt – Eichmann and the Holocaust: It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period.

It is hard to say something about this book. Let’s start by saying I purchased it at the Jewish History Museum in Warsaw. Tight security and still not fully open for the public, it is a book about the aftermath, about Eichmann who was considered responsible for what we now know as the Holocaust. Arendt describes a man who is a true bureaucrat, a man who loves procedures and papers and has little to no actual intellect to guide him. Stuttering and muttering his way through life, only being understandable when uttering movie one-liners, all the way to the gallows in Jerusalem.

Arendt analyses the stupid and sometimes unconscious and silly kind of evil, committed by people who just don’t think. She also discusses if it was right what happened to Eichmann. Did Israel have the right to just execute the man on their own ground? No, they did not and they knew it. If he should be executed in the end? Maybe he was the neck that had to carry the weight for all those thousands of bureaucrats who ‘just did their job’. I find it hard to judge, but so does Arendt, who leaves the reader to form an own verdict. Was this right? Was Eichmann guilty or was he just a victim of the zeitgeist? Did he ever fully understand why he was walking to the gallows? We can ask ourselves this and maybe become slightly better people ourselves in the process.

Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities

source: Ecenglish.com

I guess this might be the most important work of Dickens apart from the fairy tales. Maybe it is not, I found that it was very poignant. Dickens shows the other side of the Revolution in France as an event that created an upheaval in society even though it might have rational and righteous causes. Dickens makes the common people picturesque and the nobility sensitive and full of class, but also gives a distinct charm to both. He doesn’t judge I feel, in his book, about the situations in France and England and whatever he may think of it.

The tale of Two cities juxtaposes the city of Paris and London with one another to the effect of showing the differences and also the effect. In truth, the English royalty reformed and reshaped with the social changes. France missed the ball on that and got itself into a nasty revolution that ended it’s royal family. Not that much changed. After the terror new tyrants arose and spend fortunes on war.

Still, the book deals with the small people. It has the romance and sacrifice of the times, but also stupidity, rigid rebellion and vengeance. Everything is in there, except lazers. I think this is a book that everyone should read and try to learn something about opposing views. Mostly that making enemies only brings grief.