I enjoyed this comic very much. It has a pleasing Doctor Whovian quality about it and features a spunky young girl who willingly enters a trans-planetI enjoyed this comic very much. It has a pleasing Doctor Whovian quality about it and features a spunky young girl who willingly enters a trans-planetary wormhole to rescue her best friend. The comic has some very interesting storytelling techniques, with lots of indirection and subtle passages that reward an attentive reader. I've given it only four stars because I think this comic works well for older children, but the mix of a extremely young heroine and a very dangerous situation could be a mismatch for many younger readers. With a planet on the verge of destruction, a friend about to be sacrificed by cultists, and scary monsters and killer robots running rampant, this comic feels more appropriate for a middle-grade audience. But Zita and her companion are depicted as being very young, which gives the impression that the book is intended for a much younger audience. Probably best for 7-10 year-olds who don't mind scary situations....more
Very beautiful comic, with lush depictions of Turkish landscape. Heroine is fully feisty, her lieutenant honor-bound but gradually drawn to a life ofVery beautiful comic, with lush depictions of Turkish landscape. Heroine is fully feisty, her lieutenant honor-bound but gradually drawn to a life of danger and adventure....more
I picked this up on a whim, hoping for a light palate cleanser after reading the dark thriller "The Girl on the Train." Crazy Rich Asians attempts toI picked this up on a whim, hoping for a light palate cleanser after reading the dark thriller "The Girl on the Train." Crazy Rich Asians attempts to be a modern-day Pride and Prejudice, set among the UHNWIs (ultra high net worth individuals) of Singapore. There were plenty of beachy, shopoholicious, jet-setting details to enjoy, but unfortunately, the main characters were not particularly likeable. The heroine has a PhD in economics, but no brain or spine or real passion for anything. Her boyfriend (secretly heir to billions) is an utterly clueless boy-child. We have no one to root for, except perhaps the generous and jilted Darcy-like character Charles Wu, who was completely secondary to the main plot and only really showed up on page 300 or so. Anyhow, the book was disappointing. I shall have to find my guilty pleasures elsewhere. ...more
Oh yes, I loved this. Bleak and uncomfortable and very Scottish while unmistakably in Gaiman's distinctive voice.
Gaiman's purpose in this short work iOh yes, I loved this. Bleak and uncomfortable and very Scottish while unmistakably in Gaiman's distinctive voice.
Gaiman's purpose in this short work is to show how human beings willingly accommodate themselves to evil. But he also depicts the process by which the light goes out of the world, replacing the vitality of new experience with the burden of memory. Consider this beautiful passage:
“I am old now, or at least, I am no longer young, and everything I see reminds me of something else I’ve seen, such that I see nothing for the first time. A bonny girl, her hair fiery red, reminds me only of another hundred such lasses, and their mothers, and what they were as they grew, and what they looked like when they died. It is the curse of age, that all things are reflections of other things."...more
Every January, I make plans for a better year. I buy Moleskine notebooks. I read a bunch of self-improvement articles. I make a list of my goals. ThisEvery January, I make plans for a better year. I buy Moleskine notebooks. I read a bunch of self-improvement articles. I make a list of my goals. This year, I added The Power of Less to the mix. Babauta's text is like a concise version of Get Things Done, filled with exhortations to focus your attention, build good habits, avoid email time-sinks, and go after the most important tasks.
If you're already the sort of person who works hard on building good habits and prioritizing goals, this book may seem overly simple. But I like keeping things simple. That's the point, isn't it?
Holly Black makes a glorious return to the world of Fairie in The Darkest Part of the Forest. This is a novel about family, identity, and secrets.
A feHolly Black makes a glorious return to the world of Fairie in The Darkest Part of the Forest. This is a novel about family, identity, and secrets.
A few things Holly Black understands better than anyone: tormented sibling relationships, the urgent jealousies of young love, the damage inflicted by dysfunctional parenting.
A few things Holly Black conveys better than anyone: the capricious morality of the immortal Fey, the seductive appeal and ultimate disappointments of normal life, the outsider's struggle to find a place in the world.
Here's a favorite quote: "They never talked about the big, looming, awful stuff from Ben's childhood. They never talked about the dead body Hazel found in the woods or the way Mom and Dad had let them roam around alone out there in the first place. He had always assumed that was the family compact, that they each got their own well of bitterness and they were supposed to tend to it without bothering anyone else."...more
My love for this beautiful novel has a lot to do with Mandel's restrained focus on the world of the imagination. She could have chosen to play up theMy love for this beautiful novel has a lot to do with Mandel's restrained focus on the world of the imagination. She could have chosen to play up the dystopian horrors of her post-apocalyptic setting, but instead she's written a novel about beauty and hope, those precious and insubstantial things that keep us from sleepwalking through our lives.
In the opening scene, fake snow falls inside a theater, and a girl named Kristin watches in shock as the actor playing King Lear dies onstage. Outside the theater, another storm is brewing, and days later a flu pandemic has brought civilization to a state of collapse. Kristin somehow survives over the years to join a traveling theater company, taking refuge from the impossible horrors of her existence by entering the magical forest realm of A Midsummer Night's Dream. For just a few hours each day, the violent world recedes, taking with it her memories and regrets, and she is transformed, becoming Titania, queen of the fairies.
This is a novel with echoes of King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and (especially) The Tempest. Mandel reminds us that Shakespeare himself was haunted by senseless, early death, having lost several siblings and his own son. The theaters where he performed were periodically shut down by plague. Yet his plays endure, placing us in their dreamlike realms of possibility and hope. In Station Eleven, Mandel creates a world without Internet, libraries, or television. (Not to mention hospitals, electricity, antibiotics, or dentists.) Yet human beings still have a terrific longing for beauty, whether it's a self-published comic book that somehow survived the apocalypse, or a small paperweight with storm clouds brewing inside. Regardless of what they've lost, how could people live without art? Creating art means so much in this novel, the musicians in the traveling orchestra have given up their old names, becoming "third cello" or "tuba" or "clarinet" instead. It's not a bad idea.
Mandel has a number of POV characters in Station Eleven, all of them haunted by the desire to remember the bright world they've lost, a desire continually at odds with the need to forget things and survive. Clark, a corporate consultant in the days before the collapse, becomes a curator of history in the dark ages that follow, treasuring the ordinary objects he'd once passed by without a thought. Just before the flu pandemic strikes, he realizes he'd been sleepwalking through adulthood, hardly aware of his surroundings, disappointed in his life but unwilling to admit it, even to himself. "When was the last time he'd been truly moved by anything?" he asks himself. "When had he last felt awe or inspiration?" How could he have allowed himself to live without wonder, only "minimally present" to the beauty of this world?
Near the end of the novel, when Clark is an old man, his world entirely confined to an abandoned airport, he and Kristin share something that fills them with awe and inspiration. If we're lucky, we can share their sense of wonder. A brave new world lies before us, so how can we fail to be moved?
Books on organizing are so seductive. Each one promises you a shiny new life--free of clutter, dirty dishes, mismatched socks. Marie Kondo's book evenBooks on organizing are so seductive. Each one promises you a shiny new life--free of clutter, dirty dishes, mismatched socks. Marie Kondo's book even has the phrase "life-changing magic" in the title, so of course I had to read it.
Kondo's main idea is that physical objects are imbued with power, and your possessions should have the power to "spark joy." Don't grant burdensome objects the opportunity to roost in your home, filling you with resentment. Make room for those that spark you instead.
I recently finished a completely unrelated book--investor Charles T. Munger's "Poor Charlie's Almanack"--in which Munger attributes his extraordinary success as an investor to avoiding the mediocre and holding out for the really big ideas.
In both books, the idea is clear: do less, own less, hold out for something you'll treasure. Why engage in a frenzy of materialism, buying things you're not sure you want? Why own things, when you don't know why? Why clutter your life with mediocrity? Save your attention for something that will transform you.
Munger's book is called an almanack for a reason, since it's not really an autobiography of the legendary investor, not really an investment guide, noMunger's book is called an almanack for a reason, since it's not really an autobiography of the legendary investor, not really an investment guide, not really anything easy to categorize. I would call it a portrait of a remarkable mind.
As Munger sees it, we could do worse than to emulate Albert Einstein, who once said his successful theories came from "curiosity, concentration, perseverance, and self-criticism." Consequently, many of the stories in Poor Charlie's Amanack focus on the cultivation these traits.
Munger suggests that much of success in life isn't about having great strokes of genius; rather, it's about avoiding folly. We need to avoid addiction, avoid envy and resentment, avoid toxic and dishonest people, avoid making disastrous mistakes.
"People calculate too much and think too little," Munger says. "Part of [having uncommon sense] is being able to tune out folly, as opposed to recognizing wisdom. If you bat away many things, you don't clutter yourself."
But it's not enough to avoid disaster. Recognizing wisdom is important, too. Munger points out that anyone capable of reading critically can drill into the content of their library for usable ideas. We have the priceless benefit of other people's experience, conveniently compiled into books, so why should we learn all of life's hard lessons ourselves?
"We read a lot," Munger says, speaking of himself and his partner Warren Buffett. "I don't know anyone who's wise who doesn't read a lot. But that's not enough: you have to have a temperament to grab ideas and do sensible things. Most people don't grab the right ideas or don't know what to do with them."
Warren Buffett has called Munger "the abominable no-man" because of his tendency to reject investment opportunities he deemed mediocre. Munger would patiently sit on tens of millions of dollars for months or years, waiting for the right opportunity to come along. "It takes character," Munger notes,"to sit there with all that cash and do nothing. I didn't get to where I am by going after mediocre opportunities."
Ultimately, patience and preparation are the dual keys to his success. "Our game is to recognize a big idea when it comes along, when it doesn't come along very often. Opportunity comes to the prepared mind."
This strikes me as good advice, whether you're an investor or a poet. Your goal shouldn't be to throw stuff at the wall in the hopes of seeing what sticks. You should be working hard in a focused way, putting your best efforts into your best ideas. When you find something that really matters, go all in.
In terms of investing, this concept of saving your attention for the big idea is developed further by the image of the twenty-hole punch card. Paraphrasing Buffett, Munger says: "I could improve your ultimate financial welfare by giving you a ticket with only twenty slots in it...representing all the investments you got to make in a lifetime. Once you'd punched through the card, you couldn't make any more investments at all. Under those rules, you'd really think carefully about what you did....so you'd do so much better." Good advice for a buy-and-hold investor, but also good advice in general. It's better to do twenty things that you've analyzed carefully, than to do hundreds of things that you haven't thought much about.
Munger urges readers to be self-aware. Know your own "circle of competence." For example, if you don't really understand how high-tech companies make money, you shouldn't be buying their stock. Don't follow like sheep without knowing where or why. "You have to figure out what your own aptitudes are," Munger says, explaining his own avoidance of many high-tech investments. "If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don't, you're going to lose."
The second half of Poor Charlie's Almanack consists of speeches that Munger has given over the years. Here's a representative exhortation to college students: "Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts."
This reminds me of the "10,000 hour rule" for achieving mastery. It's easy to get discouraged when you don't see fast progress, but the discipline of steady effort prepares you for those spurts when your efforts will pay off.
Slain is a lively murder mystery with strong pacing and crisp, engaging prose. When the story begins, pastor's daughter Emma Grant is planning her escSlain is a lively murder mystery with strong pacing and crisp, engaging prose. When the story begins, pastor's daughter Emma Grant is planning her escape from her father's megachurch. She's got a secret boyfriend from the wrong side of town and an even more secret acceptance letter from NYU. No Bethany Bible College for her! But then her friend June is murdered inside the church and Emma finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.
Livia Harper's greatest strength is her ability to convey the hypocrisy and stifling misogyny of Emma's megachurch community. This is a world where fathers escort their daughters to Purity Balls, with the aim of propelling their female offspring unstained into Christian marriage. It's a world where girls are compelled to kneel at school to show that their skirt hems can touch the floor, enforcing a modest dress code while giving the boys in class a salacious view of girls on their knees. It's a world where consent is less important than appearances, and appearances are everything.
Emma's father, the head pastor, is the sort of man who likes to keep score of the souls he's saved, aiming to show up in heaven "with a spreadsheet." Like many in his church, he seems unable to tell the difference between conversion and coercion, and when Emma is investigated by the police, he acts like an unhinged dictator. As Emma wryly observes, "There's no manual for Your-Daughter-Is-Possibly-A-Slut-And-A-Murderer." Perhaps this is why his attempts to save his daughter from sin and disgrace look exactly like child abuse.
In a murder mystery, it's a big challenge to make familiar tropes seem fresh; this is particularly true when the protagonist is framed for murder and makes a number of bad decisions and can't go to the police because she's protecting the boy she loves. But Harper's writing is fast-paced and full of surprises, and her distinctive (and profoundly disturbing) megachurch setting creates an atmosphere that's hard to forget....more
As the title implies, this is not a pleasant book. Rather, it's wrenching and sad and sometimes funny and then sad again. For many readers, Chast's acAs the title implies, this is not a pleasant book. Rather, it's wrenching and sad and sometimes funny and then sad again. For many readers, Chast's account of her elderly parents' decline and falls will be too hard to take. ...more
Have you had your fill of corrupt politicians, powerful oligarchs, and corporate-owned media? Tired of seeing the big guy trample on the little guy? THave you had your fill of corrupt politicians, powerful oligarchs, and corporate-owned media? Tired of seeing the big guy trample on the little guy? Then perhaps you need to read Jean Merrill’s visionary children’s novel, “The Pushcart War.” It’s got non-violent protests, celebrity activists, free hot dogs, and high-stakes poker.
Buy the beautiful new 50th anniversary hardcover edition, and thank me later....more