I picked this book up on a whim. Despite it's good reputation I was expecting something of a run-of-the-mill supermarket paperback. I was happy to be...moreI picked this book up on a whim. Despite it's good reputation I was expecting something of a run-of-the-mill supermarket paperback. I was happy to be wrong.
This book happens to combine several of my favorite things: good writing, historical fiction, Japanese history, World War II, and hot Asian women. I was sucked in within the first five pages, and only stopped reading to go to work. Looking back, there was probably no way I couldn't help liking this book at least a little.
Epic love story isn't exactly the right phrase, but it's the first one that comes to mind.
I thought it was a pretty damned good read. (less)
If James Joyce was a one-man literary IRA, then Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea are the literary Al Qaeda. As these groups can be viewed as either...moreIf James Joyce was a one-man literary IRA, then Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea are the literary Al Qaeda. As these groups can be viewed as either terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on your point of view, so it is with this book.
As is probably not ironic for a book considered to be the holy grail of conspiracy theory, it's definitely not difficult to perceive the Illuminatus Trilogy as an act of intellectual terrorism. This is not an easy book to read. Time, location, perspective, and identity can and do shift without warning in mid-paragraph, sometimes mid-sentence (making an interesting model for the idea of the 'collective unconscious'). The best analogy I can think of for this book is that it's like reading someone else's acid trip, and that someone else is criminally schizophrenic and watching 15 televisions at the same time.
It is definitely a product of it's generation. The copious drug use, and underlying philosophies are very typical of most of the underground cult classics of the '70s that I've read, but for the most part it's brilliantly insightful, and has many fantastic aphorisms that you'll probably want to repeat later. It's also beautifully self-satirical, which is probably a good thing because if this book took itself seriously it really might have been an act of intellectual terrorism.
You will probably either love this book, loathe it utterly, or possibly even think it's totally ridiculous. If you're not up for a difficult read, you may not want to bother. But if you do find you like it, you might be happy to know that it's a hell of a lot easier to read the second time through.
"If all people learned to think in the non-Aristotelian manner of quantum mechanics, the world would change so radically that most of what we call "st...more"If all people learned to think in the non-Aristotelian manner of quantum mechanics, the world would change so radically that most of what we call "stupidity" and even a great deal of what we consider "insanity" might disappear, and the "intractable" problems of war, poverty and injustice would suddenly seem a great deal closer to solution."
This book is all about getting you to think critically about your own critical thinking. Old Bob combines ideas from quantum mechanics, relativity, general semantics, yoga, Zen-Buddhism, ethnomethodology, and even non-Euclidean geometry to completely smash the old Aristotelian world view.
This book will make you realize things about the way you think and the way you view your world that you may never have imagined. You will discover that you actually have two heads, that what you thought was logic is a joke, and that the word "is" is a damned dirty lie.
If you like to think often, or you if you only like to do a little recreational thinking on the weekends, you absolutely must read this book. (less)
A lot of people don't seem like Russian Literature. I guess it probably takes some getting used to. 19th Century Russian writers don't seem to write t...moreA lot of people don't seem like Russian Literature. I guess it probably takes some getting used to. 19th Century Russian writers don't seem to write the novels that we're used to reading. They're often quite long, and sometimes difficult to keep reading; but like many novels that have endured the passing decades, I've found this one to reward the effort.
In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky stabs you at the beginning, sticks his finger in the wound and twists it slowly for the rest of the novel. I found myself, several times, reacting with a physical visceral response, as if the prose were actually twisting up my guts somehow. I have not read very many novels that have done that. It's not enough for authors like Dostoevsky to just tell you something. They need to take you to it, show it to you personally, stick it in your face and make sure you see it, and make sure you understand every aspect of it before they're satisfied.
I liked this novel a lot, and I'll probably end up reading it again someday.(less)
Gogol set the bar by which all other Russian authors of his day were judged. His writing style is unorthodox by today's standards. The deliberate unfi...moreGogol set the bar by which all other Russian authors of his day were judged. His writing style is unorthodox by today's standards. The deliberate unfinished feel of 'Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and His Aunt' is a perfect example. But unorthodox as Gogol can be, his writing is thoroughly charming, and a very rewarding read in my opinion, even if the translation of this edition does (as some of the other reviews here suggest) leave something to be desired.
It's vary hard to understate the impact that Gogol's stories, The Overcoat in particular, had on his world and the generations of Russians that came after him. The Overcoat marked the birth of an entirely new sort of character in Russian Literature; it was the first time a poor man of low class, meek constitution, and average bearing could be a viable hero. The saying "We all came out of Gogol's 'Overcoat'." has been widely attributed to Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and many other members of the Russian Intelligentsia; and, in fact, you can hear Gogol's echo through all the great Russian writers that came after him.
If you're looking to get into Russian Literature, a collection of Nikolai Gogol's short stories like this one is a great place to start. (less)
For a long time I was convinced that there were two sorts of people in the world: those who adore Hemingway, gush about his genius and lavish praise u...moreFor a long time I was convinced that there were two sorts of people in the world: those who adore Hemingway, gush about his genius and lavish praise upon him at every opportunity, and those who despise him utterly. As it turns out, there is a third category: those who have read him and still remain wholly indifferent. I am that third category.
I found my copy of The Sun Also Rises in a thrift-store for a buck, and I figured, 'meh, what the hell?' It is supposed to be one of the fabled great American novels, after all.
I feel rather odd about this book. I couldn't honestly tell you that I liked it, but I can't honestly say I disliked either. It's definitely not a bad novel, but I found I liked how Hemingway writes far more than I liked what he was writing about and so I have a hard time calling it good either. The story seemed to me to be somewhat flat, and the characters more like puppets than people. The narrator/main character seemed mostly detached from the actual story, and it felt like I was listening to a very interesting and eloquent man retelling an anecdote about some business he found himself in the middle of, but that he found very trying and tedious.
I don't know... maybe Hemingway just isn't for me. If this novel is indicative of the rest of his work I probably won't be reading very much more of him. (less)
I read this book, and suddenly the world made a whole hell of a lot more sense.
Whether you take him at his word, or you think John Perkins is full of...moreI read this book, and suddenly the world made a whole hell of a lot more sense.
Whether you take him at his word, or you think John Perkins is full of crap; whether you lean to the left, or to the right in your political dogmas; whether you agree or disagree with Perkins' world view, this book discusses economic realities that we (as citizens of first-world nations, and as human beings) absolutely must come to terms with. I think this book is a must-read for everyone. (less)
Lamb, the novel that answers the all-important question: 'what if Jesus knew Kung Fu?' is pure hilarity from cover to cover.
Told through the perspect...moreLamb, the novel that answers the all-important question: 'what if Jesus knew Kung Fu?' is pure hilarity from cover to cover.
Told through the perspective of Biff (who is Levi), Jesus' best friend and disciple, Christopher Moore does an outstanding job of filling in the missing years of the life of Jesus while somehow managing not to be too blasphemous, surprisingly non-contradictory to the Gospels, and very accurate historically (with the ironic exception of the bits about Buddhism).
Whether you know much about Jesus and The Bible, or you know nothing, this is a truly excellent book. My only problem with the book was trying to read it while shaking from fits of laughter. (less)
Who would've thought the Apocalypse would be so effing funny? This has been one of my all time favorite books for a long time now. I've lost count of...moreWho would've thought the Apocalypse would be so effing funny? This has been one of my all time favorite books for a long time now. I've lost count of how many times I've read it, and I always seem to find something new and brilliant each time.
Though written long before Neil Gaiman was Neil Gaiman, or Terry Pratchett was Terry Pratchett, the collaboration of the two is nothing short of genius. (less)
It's my understanding the Neil Gaiman wrote Neverwhere (the novel) because he was so disappointed with how Neverwhere (the BBC television series, also...moreIt's my understanding the Neil Gaiman wrote Neverwhere (the novel) because he was so disappointed with how Neverwhere (the BBC television series, also written by Gaiman), turned out. And Neverwhere (the novel) is a decent enough, as far as novels go, but compared to the rest of Neil Gaiman's work it's definitely below par. It's well written, and is full of colorful and compelling characters, but overall it seemed to me somewhat formulated, and predictable.
That said, it's probably worth reading once. The Neverwhere universe is a very interesting one, full of magic and possibility. I hope someday Neil will revisit the Neverwhere universe and, with his much matured writing skills, make full use of its potential. (less)
I've been a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk since Fight Club. Most of his novels, despite having very similar voices for main characters of such different...moreI've been a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk since Fight Club. Most of his novels, despite having very similar voices for main characters of such different backgrounds, have been packed with brilliant insights into human nature and piercing observations of the human condition. Choke, however, just didn't do it for me at all.
I've read a ton of glowing reviews for Choke, and it even made the list of '1,001 books you must read before you die,' but I found it to be somewhat uninspired, uninteresting, and I ended up having to force myself to finish it. It was like reading Fight Club without the Tyler Durden character.
Lots of people loved it, maybe you will too; but I didn't, and there are a ton of really great books by Chuck Palahniuk that you could be reading instead of this one. (less)
Haunted is a trip into all those nasty squalid corners of the human soul, and all those dark little things we like to pretend to ourselves that no one...moreHaunted is a trip into all those nasty squalid corners of the human soul, and all those dark little things we like to pretend to ourselves that no one is actually capable of, not really. But they can and do really happen, and most of them happen in Haunted.
Haunted is a collection of Palahniuk's most twisted short stories threaded together around a frame story. Most of them will put your jaw on the floor. They're sick, they're nasty, and they're almost impossible to stop reading. It's like watching a whole string of horrible train wrecks strung together and masterfully orchestrated for your own personal amusement.
The weak part of the book is the frame story itself, but that's fairly typical of frame stories in general so I wasn't really bothered by it. The individual short stories more than make up for it; ranging from the murder of Marilyn Monroe to the dark side of Reflexology, they just get better and better.
The only problem I really had with the book has to do with the physics of paring knives and breast-bones, but, then, I guess that's just a matter of the suspended disbelief that's supposed to go along with reading fiction anyway.
Over all, it's an awesome book. Oh, and for just a little extra awesome, the cover glows in the dark. (less)
The Stranger is considered by many to be one of the most important philosophical novels of the 20th Century. In most college courses on Existentialism...moreThe Stranger is considered by many to be one of the most important philosophical novels of the 20th Century. In most college courses on Existentialism (a philosophy which holds that human beings create the meaning and essence of their own lives) The Stranger is usually the first thing you will read. If you're interested in philosophy, or Existentialism specifically, The Stranger is a great place to start.
Camus describes Meursault, the main character, only sparingly; and for the majority of the novel Meursault holds no real opinion about anything, and neither does anything (even the death of his own mother) effect him very much. The lack of description, motivation, and action causes Meursault to become something of a literary Rorschach test. The reader ends up filling this vacuum with their own prejudices and societal preconceptions, making the reader as involved in building the world as the author.
The Stranger probably isn't what you would typically expect from most novels. The whole story is a deliberate exercise in absurdity; and while the plot is very simple, and the characters are seemingly one dimensional, it all works together to create a great philosophical work. The Stranger peels like an onion, and the further between the lines you read, the more there is to find. There is an amazing amount of meaning and content packed into its 150 pages.
I've found it to be worth reading over and over again, and it's short enough to read cover to cover in just an hour or two.
I suppose there probably isn't much point in writing a summery of The Da Vinci Code at this point. I'm sure that everyone who owns a television knows...moreI suppose there probably isn't much point in writing a summery of The Da Vinci Code at this point. I'm sure that everyone who owns a television knows all about it by now, or at least has a good gist of it. Oddly, if The Church hadn't thrown such a hissy fit over it, it may have simply faded away as a mediocre super-market suspense novel.
It's a sruprisingly good read for what it is: an over-formulated, page-turner which sticks to the Three-act Structure so faithfully unwavering it could snap it's heels together and shout sieg heil.
If you're planning on reading it to have your mind blown, you should probably know that Dan Brown's research for this book is pretty shoddy. The alternate Christ story was lifted (and kinda badly so) from Holy Blood-Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln. The Gnostic Gospels do not portray Jesus as being more human than the gospels of the official canon, actually quite the opposite; most of the Gnostic Gospels are thoroughly steeped in Docetism. If you're looking for a fully human Jesus, you want Arianism, not Gnosticism (that's Arianism with an "I" not with a "Y").
And Dan Brown makes some other real bone-head mistakes too, such as claiming that the "Q" Gospel is an actual gospel that someone, somewhere, has physical possession of. It's actually completely hypothetical, and invented in the 19th century by biblical scholars to explain material found in common between the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but not found in the other canonical gospels. He also claims that the Dead Sea Scrolls contain Christian writings, which they do not. Both the Gnostic Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls are widely available in print, and for free on the internet; 15 minutes worth of fact-checking would have told him the opposite of what he put in his book, and it wouldn't have affected the story very much.
Basically, if you're looking for an interesting way to kill an afternoon or a plane ride, this book is awesome. It's worth reading once, and, like I said before, it really is a page-turner. But if you're looking for something that'll put you off traditional Christianity, all you need to do is pick up a book on the Historical Jesus by any objective biblical scholar. You'll be amazed. (less)
This is a great book if you can stomach the subject matter. I'm nearly unshakable when it comes disturbing fictional images (thank you internet), but...moreThis is a great book if you can stomach the subject matter. I'm nearly unshakable when it comes disturbing fictional images (thank you internet), but there were a couple of scenes in this novel that even I found a little shocking. So be warned.
That said, I thought the book was fantastic. I loved Nabokov's stream-of-consciousness narration; for some reason it reminded me a lot of the books by Kerouac and Burroughs that I read back in high school, but with a definite old-world formality that gives the prose a nice baroque feel to it. It's also a white-knuckle road trip through an existential madness, with echoes of Camus and Kafka.
Madness is a good way to describe this story. It's thrilling and sickening all at once. I suppose viewing the world through the eyes of an unrepentant pedophile could be no other way. You'll find yourself sympathizing with Humbert over and over throughout the book, then your moral compass will suddenly snap back to North and you'll find yourself not only disgusted with Humbert again, but angry with yourself for allowing yourself to sympathize with such a cad, leaving you twice as disgusted for your own weakness. I found myself constantly bouncing back and forth between understanding Humbert, and despising him; often falling in and out and back in love with Lo along with him.
This story has the sort of suspense that only Russian authors ever seem to be able to pull off really well. The "thing" happens right at the front of the story, and then the ruin that you know must come dangles over Humbert's head like the proverbial sword for the rest of the novel, chasing him (and Lo) several times across the entire country.
Lolita is quite possibly (like the quote on the back of my copy says) the only believable love story of our time. (less)