I enjoyed re-reading this more than re-reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some great moments of humor (er, humour), and I really enjoyed ea...moreI enjoyed re-reading this more than re-reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some great moments of humor (er, humour), and I really enjoyed each of the mini-adventures the crew and passengers of the Dawn Treader experience.(less)
This was hands-down my favorite book as a kid. I have not seen the movie, and I don't intend to, because there is no way that it can possibly live up...moreThis was hands-down my favorite book as a kid. I have not seen the movie, and I don't intend to, because there is no way that it can possibly live up to the emotions and thoughts I had while reading this book when I was young.(less)
This book was my introduction to Stephen King, and I became an immediate fan. From the words "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslin...moreThis book was my introduction to Stephen King, and I became an immediate fan. From the words "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed"--a sentence that contains volumes worth of foreshadowing--to whatever the closing line is, I was sucked in all the way.
One of the great qualities of this book is its clarity. Later Dark Tower volumes became gratuitously expansive, as King became less concerned with refining the story and focusing on Roland Deschain's primary purpose of finding the Dark Tower. But The Gunslinger is about as tight as a story can be without snapping in two. King gives us just enough back-story to give us a taste of how fucked up both the gunslinger and his prey really are, without going into the obscene amount of detail that becomes his fault later in the series.
The Gunslinger is definitely one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read.(less)
What can I say? I both love and hate this book, which may be a form of doublethink. Even having read it before, I was still rooting for Winston Smith...moreWhat can I say? I both love and hate this book, which may be a form of doublethink. Even having read it before, I was still rooting for Winston Smith to retain his humanity ... but alas. What struck me in particular this read-through was how blatantly the things that will happen to Winston are stated throughout the book. It's more than mere foreshadowing: From the beginning, we get actual description of the sorts of things that Winston ends up having to endure (see some of the earlier quotes listed below). The mantra that the result is concurrent with the act is thematically reinforced, which makes the story even more chilling with a second reading, at least for me. O'Brien's obviating statement upon first entering Winston's cell ("You knew this, Winston.... Don't deceive yourself. You did know it — you have always known it.") seems directed more at the reader than at the character: We knew what was going to happen, we read what was going to happen, we were told nothing else ever happens, yet we still hoped and deceived ourselves that it would not happen.
Without getting to much into modern politics, there's some interesting comparisons that can be made today. For example, privacy concerns about products like Google Glass, which are basically telescreens for your face — especially in light of Google's fight with the FBI over "National Security" letters, which are basically non-court-reviewed subpoenas that nobody's allowed to talk about and, thus, don't really exist.... Or the relatively new legal "mosaic theory" of surveillance where at some vaguely magical point a certain amount of public scrutiny by police violates 4th Amendment rights, but in a stunning display of Sorites Paradoxism, nobody (including SCOTUS) can really determine where that point is, and thus, it effectively doesn't exist.
On a personal note, I read it on my telesc— err, iPad. This is the first ebook where I've actually spent a bit of effort highlighting quotes and passages in that medium. Then, stupidly I removed the ebook from my iPad. Fortunately, when I synced it back, all my highlights were still in existence. Given that providential event and the effort I went through, I now present:
A List of Things I Highlighted in 1984
The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. (I'm thinking of Season 1, Episode 6 of Buffy, titled "The Pack," here...)
At those moments his secret loathing of Big Brother changed into adoration, and Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock against the hordes of Asia, and Goldstein, in spite of his isolation, his helplessness and the doubt that hung about his very existence, seemed like some sinister enchanter, capable by the mere power of his voice of wrecking the structure of civilisation.
He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.
Winston woke up with the word 'Shakespeare' on his lips.
All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.
It struck him as curious that you could create dead men but not living ones...
Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
Rebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflection of the voice; at the most, an occasional whispered word.
...in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one's own body.
But before death (nobody spoke of such things, yet everybody knew of them) there was the routine confession that had to be gone through: the grovelling on the floor and screaming for mercy, the crack of broken bones, the smashed teeth and bloody clots of hair. Why did you have to endure it, since it was always the same?
Some kinds of failure are better than other kinds, that's all.
[People incapable of understanding orthodoxy] could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane.
Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn't matter: only feelings matter.
They can make you say anything — anything — but they can't make you believe it.
They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious, even to yourself, remained impregnable.
At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little.
Nevertheless the dangers inherent in the machine are still there.
The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.
But no advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. From the point of view of the Low, no historic change has ever meant much more than a change in the name of their masters.
Inequality was the price of civilisation.
The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors.
For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.
Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad.
"You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?" (Parsons)
In the face of pain, there are no heroes...
It is not easy to become sane.
Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.
You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you.
We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him.
What happens to you here is forever.
We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.
One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.
Reality is inside the skull.
Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain.
It was all contained in that first act. Nothing has happened that you did not foresee.
For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself.
I didn't read this in school as so many people did. I read it first in 2008 (brief "review" preserved below), and I wanted to read it again because he...moreI didn't read this in school as so many people did. I read it first in 2008 (brief "review" preserved below), and I wanted to read it again because he died last week and I thought perhaps I should give it another shake, since it's the book everyone knows him for. However, coming back to it a second time I still have the feeling that either 1) people haven't really read it, so their praise is in ignorance, or 2) I am somehow unable to understand it.
There are obvious parallels that can be made between F. 451 and today's world with it's "social media" that requires people to focus on little electronic screens to communicate with each other. That said, I think Bradbury does what all grumpy old men do and rushes to the extreme. Yes, Facebook and Twitter and website forums (not to mention BBS and #irc and USENET before them...) have created postmodern vices, but they haven't annihilated "society" in any way. Bradbury's fears about greater amounts of time being spent in virtuo, so to speak, have been realized, but the results are vastly different than he claimed — as evidenced by my friends who have posted pics on Facebook and elsewhere from marathons, Tough Mudders and mountain biking sessions in the last month. I don't mean to imply that Bradbury was predicting anything, but his conclusion that society can only be saved by a bunch of academics (with perhaps a recently converted blue collar worker) after the rest of the world destroys itself is an elitistly myopic view.
But more than the ideas, I simply don't believe the book. Montag is a hysterical character, in all that adjective's senses. He goes from maniacally spraying people's homes with kerosene to memorizing passages of the Bible in almost no time. He simply makes no sense as a character. And how exactly does one learn to read in a society that has been burning books for generations, and chastising them for even longer? I don't think an author has to completely describe a society to explore it, and often I think authors err too much the other way by over-explaining how things work, but the society should at least make some sort of internal sense.
Like I said, may I'm just unable to understand it. -- 2008: Not as good as everyone seems to claim. While some of the ideas presented by Mr. Bradbury are certainly interesting, this book has not aged very well.(less)
"Smith of Wooton Major" is a delightfully short tale about a blacksmith named Smith. (We find out some of his friends are named Cooper and Miller -- I...more"Smith of Wooton Major" is a delightfully short tale about a blacksmith named Smith. (We find out some of his friends are named Cooper and Miller -- I wonder what they do....) As a boy he eats a magic star that gives him a passport to the land of Faery, where he wanders and has some mostly harmless adventures, until one day he is told he must give up the star to another child.
The story is quite un-Tolkienian in the sense that he barely explains anything. Which is good. I mean, I love the guy, but sometimes he's just too damn wordy.
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is another playful short (though, a bit longer than "Smith") about an agriculturist who accidentally becomes a hero, and as such he is democratically chosen by the townspeople to face a dragon, much to his chagrin.(less)
Ron Paul is awesome. I have yet to find any point that he makes that I disagree with. I was not necessarily surprised by anything in The Revolution, a...moreRon Paul is awesome. I have yet to find any point that he makes that I disagree with. I was not necessarily surprised by anything in The Revolution, as I was a pretty ardent follower of Dr. Paul's since before he was a presidential contender for the second time (in the 2008 election cycle). Nevertheless, it was refreshing to read all of his views in a single text that is clear and well-written.
Dr. Paul starts out in a fashion that some might consider ironical given that he wrote the book during his bid for the office of POTUS. He basically describes the situation that anyone who has ever seriously investigated a "third-party" candidate already knows about: Namely, that the "choices" offered by the two major parties are effectively not really choices. There are a whole lot of assumptions built into the political race process that Dr. Paul says we are never allowed to question: Like, why do we assume that the government has the right to take any taxes from us, rather than arguing what the appropriate amount of taxation (which would theft if anybody else tried it) should be?
I won't go through the book chapter by chapter, but he basically works his way through various issues that most candidates simply aren't willing to question fundamentally. He tackles foreign policy (why do we still need 64,000 troops in Germany?), trade (why do "free trade" agreements need 3,000 pages of legislation?), economics (what is the purpose of the Fed and do we even need it?), civil liberties (why do some people get so uptight about rights affirmed by the first amendment but willingly give up rights affirmed by other amendments?) and many other topics.
The only qualm I have with the book is an inconsistency in the citation of sources for various data, but considering it is written for a popular audience and not a scholarly one, it might be forgiven. Dr. Paul does give a bibliography at the end for anyone who wants to know more about the various topics he discusses. I am sure to tackle many of the books on the list in the near future (some of them I already own...).(less)
Very interesting story. Having worked for a multinational financial corporation during (and slightly after) the most recent financial crisis, I was in...moreVery interesting story. Having worked for a multinational financial corporation during (and slightly after) the most recent financial crisis, I was intrigued by the many parallels Bujold establishes between the real estate investments that what (in?)famously became known as CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and the unsupportable voting scheme that the "cryocorps" come up with in this book. Far from taking an idea to the extreme, the premise seems eerily plausible, given an adequate technological basis.
I like how Bujold has continued to develop different character voices. Throughout the Vorkosigan Saga, we see a variety of character viewpoints, but I think this particular story hits a pinnacle with respect to both pacing and perspective as observed variously by Miles, Roic and Jin.
And then, the ending. How sad. I find it interesting that the one story Bujold has written so far after this one was set prior to it according to internal chronology. Perhaps she's not ready to deal with the fallout of that ending yet. That's pure speculation on my part, of course, but I wouldn't blame her if such were the case.
I'm a bit saddened, not just by the ending but because I am now done with the saga as a whole. I always hate getting to that point in any series where I've caught up. Much like Miles, I don't like having to wait for whatever comes next. *sigh*(less)
Probably my least favorite of Vonnegut's books. It's still okay, but too self-referential and solipsistic. I'm surprised a reference to this book hasn...moreProbably my least favorite of Vonnegut's books. It's still okay, but too self-referential and solipsistic. I'm surprised a reference to this book hasn't shown up in Lost yet.... Oh right, Abrams only likes to mention the popular books.(less)
I'm generally not one to read biographies and memoirs, but I was delighted by this little gem, which I found nestled in the stacks of Baldwin's Book B...moreI'm generally not one to read biographies and memoirs, but I was delighted by this little gem, which I found nestled in the stacks of Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, PA. Having been aware of Mises' economic work for some time now, I've known very little about his life. Honestly, before I picked up this book I couldn't have even said for sure whether he had been married.
Even for someone who isn't familiar with Mises' academic and professional work, the story of his meeting Margit, their long courtship, their escape from Austria and flight to America are all worth reading. And that happens in the first few chapters! The second half of the book is a bit more heady, but Margit's recollection of their many trips while Mises gave seminars and speaking tours are interesting as well, especially their trips to Latin America.
This is one of the first investment books I read. At the time, I thought it was great, but since I have read a few others I have revised my opinion an...moreThis is one of the first investment books I read. At the time, I thought it was great, but since I have read a few others I have revised my opinion and now think it is merely good. The strengths of the book lie in the introduction of key concepts of fundamental analysis. Of course, as an intro, it is not very in-depth.
I would recommend this book to someone who does not have much investment experience. If you've already read a book or two and done some of your own self-directed investing, you likely will not learn a whole lot from this book.(less)
A good read, but only because I knew the story already having read The Saga of the Volsungs immediately before it. I fear it may be a bit obtuse for a...moreA good read, but only because I knew the story already having read The Saga of the Volsungs immediately before it. I fear it may be a bit obtuse for anyone who comes at it freshly.
I especially enjoyed Tolkien's careful attention to the meter and alliteration. Christopher Tolkien provides a brief introduction about the meter (and other considerations); however, a bit longer introduction can be found in Tolkien's essay "On Translating Beowulf" in The Monsters and the Critics and other Essays. (less)
**spoiler alert** Lev Grossman does a good job of creating a fantasy world that incorporates ideas from other fantastical worlds -- Narnia, Hogwarts,...more**spoiler alert** Lev Grossman does a good job of creating a fantasy world that incorporates ideas from other fantastical worlds -- Narnia, Hogwarts, Middle-Earth and even brief nod to a galaxy far, far away -- and adding some of his own special spices to create a unique mix.
Sketches of the plot can be found elsewhere. What I found intriguing about the book was not its similarities and differences with other fantasy stories, but its ability to mix pleasure and sadness, hope and despair. Some have called the book nihilistic: It is decidedly not so. Yes, it clearly presents nihilistic themes, and of course the climactic death of the godly Rams of Fillory and their would-be usurper Martin Chatwin is a Nietzschean proposition if ever there was one. But the story is not merely some postmodern commentary on how everything goes to shit.
Quentin certainly explores the dark side of his character every step of the way. From page one, his "nice guy" relationship with Julia and his inability to spark the type of romance she has with his best friend James presents an early warning of things to come. If he could just screw up the courage to tell her how he feels, then they would be together and everything would be hunky dory. Of course, he can't do this, because he lacks the courage, the testicular fortitude, to accept the consequences of his action. He admits--secretly to himself--that the best he could hope for is that his best friend dies and that he gets to console Julia.
This theme, Quentin's constant feelings of uselessness and inability to find happiness, is hammered again and again. He learns that magic is real, but of course mastering it takes work. He discovers that love is real, but of course maintaining it takes work. He discovers that the fictional land of Fillory is real, but of course finding a quest and successfully completing it takes work. Each step of the way he is bombarded with the reality that happiness doesn't come to you as you dream and wish for it. Nothing is perfect; nothing happens exactly the way we want it.
If that was all there was to the story, then of course it would be nihilistic. It would be the postmodern reductionist tale of world-weary woe that others seem to claim. Fortunately, that's not all there is to the story.
Because ultimately, Quentin never gives up hope that he can find happiness. With each experience, each new unfolding of enlightenment, he summons the ubiquitous belief that just around the corner, if he can only reach just a little further, he will discover that ultimate joy he longs for. Even when he has lost almost everything, when he has found himself abandoned to the care of condescending Centaurs, his beloved dead, he somehow summons the courage to travel the length of Fillory's world to find the white stag that can grant him three wishes.
Does he find ultimate happiness even then? Of course not. He learns, yet again, that no such thing exists. He cannot restore Alice, or even Penny: That sort of deep magic is impossible. But he does find something, the thing that Alice had tried to explain to him in his constant stumbling toward his own personal Eldorado. That happiness is not external; it cannot be found, it must be allowed.
His self-imposed exile from the world of magic is obviously an escape, but it is also more than that -- it is a recuperation. His physical body was restored in Fillory, but it was not enough. He needs time to understand that while Alice was partly right, that happiness is internal and is not something that can ever be reached through external pursuits, she was also partly wrong. There is such a thing as stagnation. Happiness sometimes is the pursuit itself. Emily finds happiness in the soul-sucking tedium of a corporate job, but Quentin realizes that he never can. And in the end maybe, just maybe, being a king in Fillory will make him happier.
In the end, the constant pursuit of happiness -- that quintessential belief that happiness does exist, somewhere out there -- is not, and cannot ever be, nihilistic.(less)
An incredible book. I expected it to be different than all the various popular conceptions of the story, but I had no idea how those differences manif...moreAn incredible book. I expected it to be different than all the various popular conceptions of the story, but I had no idea how those differences manifested nor how happy I was to encounter them. If you have not read this story before, you know is likely wrong, and delightfully so.
I also much enjoyed the appendices, in particular the enlightening excerpts from the writings by Shelley's parents (I so need to read Godwin's Political Justice) and the other "ghost stories" by Lord Byron and John Polidori.(less)
I read The Silmarillion as a young teenager, after having read The Lord of the Rings through a few times, and recalled liking it, but did not recall...moreI read The Silmarillion as a young teenager, after having read The Lord of the Rings through a few times, and recalled liking it, but did not recall very much of it--and, as I discovered listening to it this time around, the parts that I recalled were not quite accurate. I won't review the actual story here, but just the audio version of this work.
The narration is well done. It has the feel of a wise teacher relating history and lore to a throng of willing ears. Also, it allows one to focus on the stories rather than pondering the proper pronunciation of the names of characters and places mentioned in the text.
The hard part of listening to a book like The Silmarillion is that one can easily find one's mind wandering. Although mostly interesting, there are some parts that, while adding to the respect one must give to Tolkein for his craft and perniciousness, are quite dull. I listened to the bulk of this book in my car while driving on the highway at night, which worked well because I did not have much else to distract me. However, the times when I listened while performing another task that required even minimal attention, I found that I had to repeatedly go back to an earlier part because the story had moved in an unknown or unexpected direction. While this is somewhat true of other audiobooks, the complexity of the story and the similarity of the names of some of the characters made it even more difficult to follow at times.
This is a definite "must-listen" for anyone who has enjoyed Tolkein's more popular works and has a taste for more Middle Earth.(less)