My Kindle was lying under a thin layer of dust on a set of metal Ikea Helmer drawers. The cream drawers were next to my bed and sat on small plastic c...moreMy Kindle was lying under a thin layer of dust on a set of metal Ikea Helmer drawers. The cream drawers were next to my bed and sat on small plastic casters. I reached for it. The drawers rolled slightly as I bumped them with my elbow in my clumsy attempt to grab the device without sitting up. The improvised night stand was not new and was heavy with pens and books and tools and various items that I had filled it with over the years. Still, the force of my arm hitting it was enough to cause it to move. Until this moment it was situated parallel to my bed, now it was not. I did not bother to move the drawers back after I had the Kindle in my hand. It was dusk and the sun was more red than usual causing the cream to appear pink, but my thoughts were not focused on the sun or on the evening. I was thinking about reading a book. I was interested in starting something new despite having recently started many other books that were good, any one of which I could have picked up and finished without needing to make the effort of finding a new book to read. I pushed the button on the bottom of the electronic reader. Nothing happened. I pushed it again. This time the screen flickered once, then twice, and a third time as the monochromatic advertisement for a romance novel featuring a shirtless man holding a busty woman leaning back in his arms was replaced by the text of the last book I read. The book was about consciousness and its origins. Last time I read I felt motivated to read something difficult and scientific. On this evening, I wanted to read something that would make me feel something more, something to bring back the emotion I felt as a child reading Old Yeller or A Wrinkle in Time. I pressed the embossed button on the front of the Kindle to return to the list of books the device contained. I did not want to read about consciousness or to think of it at all. I was alive and conscious. That was enough. In the future I would not be conscious or alive but as for now, I was. I wanted to start a book I could read that would require minimal effort and yet hold my attention while at the same time being at least somewhat literary. Also, I wanted to read something that would make me feel more. I jabbed at the screen with my left index finger to replace the initial list of titles which were displayed in the order they were added. None of them appealed to me. After three more swipes of my finger, the list of books showed the title of a book that I had recently seen reviewed by someone called Manny whose review of the book I enjoyed reading. I knew that if I was going to eventually write a review myself that I would need to read the book. I tapped the book and after the customary flickers of the screen, the text of My Struggle appeared and I began reading about the heart and about death. I immediately knew that it was a book that I would finish. It was just the book for that night. I was happy about that.(less)
Shantaram is not what I would call literary fiction. It's something similar, which is probably why it gets a lot of flack. People seem to read it expe...moreShantaram is not what I would call literary fiction. It's something similar, which is probably why it gets a lot of flack. People seem to read it expecting flawless style and writing, and while there's no doubt that the writing is better than many similar books, you shouldn't read it for style.
Read it because it is an expansive story in so many ways. Read it for the vivid descriptions of Bombay, war-torn Afghanistan and many other places. For the range of the human condition that is explored, the very believable portrayal of the life of an escape prisoner at the edges of society and the multitude of characters he encounters. All these are bright and believable. It's more than that though. Scattered among the sometimes trite aphorisms are some real gems. There are lessons hard learned that are painful and powerful in their retelling.
I was captivated by Shantaram. While the book is not strictly autobiographical, the storytelling is convincing enough that it feels like it could be. You can tell that Roberts is, in a montaignesque way, really trying to know and represent himself as faithfully as possible. It's impressive how he is able to return to his past self's state of mind--it reminds me of Proust in that sense, the realization that who he is now isn't who he was, but at the same time, trying to accurately identify with that past self.(less)
If this crypto-transhumanism is the best option to nihilism that philosophy can offer, we are in trouble. Just getting to the idea is painful enough w...moreIf this crypto-transhumanism is the best option to nihilism that philosophy can offer, we are in trouble. Just getting to the idea is painful enough with the pseudo-biblical literary style and the intentional obscuring of every important idea in strange, multidimensional metaphors. If however, you wade through all that, you’ll need to be convinced that the will to power is every person’s secret motivation and that the purpose of life is to create the overman/superman/übermensch as formulated by Nietzsche.
My main problem with the overman is that it’s hard for me to grok what exactly he is. The only obvious traits are his overwhelming sense of pride and relative superiority to the weak and lesser evolved. The overman has no concern with an afterlife and prefers to live without regret and an acceptance of everything that happens, regardless of impact.
Those ideas seem to be in conflict though. Pride and superiority engender otherness from the majority of humanity. They are, at their core, anti-empathetic. With us humans being such intensely social creatures, I don’t understand how glorifying those attributes is supposed to eventually lead to a life that you’d be happy repeating for eternity as Nietzsche suggests the overman should be cool with doing. When it comes down to it sure, an amoral lack of concern for lesser men is something that Nietzsche can successfully contrast with Christianity, but to what avail? Who does this benefit? Sociopaths?
Based on the non-negligble success Nietzsche’s ideas have found, I have no doubt that there are more nuanced ways of interpreting this book, but this is what I got from my first reading of it and as it stands, I really can’t ever see reading it again.(less)
This isn't much more than a superficial repackaging of stoicism combined with some semi-interesting anecdotes and a whole lot of trite motivational af...moreThis isn't much more than a superficial repackaging of stoicism combined with some semi-interesting anecdotes and a whole lot of trite motivational affirmations. The book is written in the style of Holiday's mentor, Robert Greene, but where Greene does something rare and surprising by compensating for his lack of personal experience with deep and compelling research, The Obstacle is the Way falls flat. The anecdotes are common and superficial and their ties to Stoicism feel tenuous at best. Then, to make it worse, rather than allowing the stories and quotes from the stoics to speak for themselves, they are always followed by explicit and repetitive advice that just constantly restates the one idea that yes, the obstacle is the way.
I really like Ryan. I think he's done some great work elsewhere. I have heard him interviewed and he is a sincere and positive guy. This book feels rushed and incomplete though.(less)
This book is similar to an Ayn Rand novel in that the philosophy is the most important aspect of the story. It makes for one dimensional characters th...moreThis book is similar to an Ayn Rand novel in that the philosophy is the most important aspect of the story. It makes for one dimensional characters that are highly predictable and a story line that is relatively linear. Still, I'm giving it four stars because once you've accepted the fact that you're not going to get a great story in the traditional sense, It's easy to appreciate that the case Eggers is making against ubiquitous technological connectedness is quite compelling. (less)
If you are religious, or ever have been, read this book. It’s the story of a pentecostal family and their relationship with our good friend Human Natu...moreIf you are religious, or ever have been, read this book. It’s the story of a pentecostal family and their relationship with our good friend Human Nature. The conflict between onset righteousness brought on by experiences of religious euphoria and our tendency to act on our base desires is richly and fairly represented on both sides of the spectrum. The fluid way the story spans places and generations and the biblical rhythm it’s in told in draws you in and holds your attention. It is layered enough to easily merit re-reading.(less)
I see the appeal to this book. Youthful exuberance, a lust for life, the excitement of finding "it" in conversation and music. The freedom of the road...moreI see the appeal to this book. Youthful exuberance, a lust for life, the excitement of finding "it" in conversation and music. The freedom of the road and life expanding as wide as the American countryside, ready to be consumed and explored. The pseudo spiritual, all-accepting opening up to experiencing fully whatever comes and not giving a damn about what happens tomorrow. The desire to define your new rules for life while willfully breaking all the old ones. On the Road has its moments of contagious transcendence.
And yet, it remains a story about a bunch of aimless kids recklessly ripping back and forth across the country leaving a trail of missing property, misplaced trust, broken hearts and ruined lives in their wake. It's told in an unrepentant way that sacrifices social responsibility at the alter of youthful pleasures. Despite Kerouac's portrayal of this dichotomy, life doesn't have to be that way. Freedom and virtue aren't mutually exclusive. Let On the Road wake you up and get you out the door. Enjoy the story, appreciate its place in American history. Then put Kerouac the shelf and head out in search of a more substantive guide to take along the way.(less)
The last book I read was Kerouac’s On the Road. I ended my review by saying that it is a “story about a bunch of aimless kids recklessly ripping back...moreThe last book I read was Kerouac’s On the Road. I ended my review by saying that it is a “story about a bunch of aimless kids recklessly ripping back and forth across the country leaving a trail of missing property, misplaced trust, broken hearts and ruined lives in their wake.”
Tonight my buddy Seth mentioned that he saw on The Wikipedia that "John Updike said that he wrote Rabbit, Runin response to Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and tried to depict 'what happens when a young American family man goes on the road – the people left behind get hurt.’”
This is true. I didn’t know that Rabbit, Run was a response to Kerouac, but I like that I happened to read them together and I think Rabbit, Run is the perfect antidote to anyone experiencing too much unwarranted euphoria after reading the beatnik bible. Updike’s free spirited protagonist sticks around long enough to get a heavy dose of good, old fashioned cause and effect. The writing in Rabbit, Run is simple and impeccable. There are moments of humor, but mostly it is the story of a selfish fool who needs to grow up. I realize that that may not be the most enticing review, but that’s The Way It Is. Updike nailed it.(less)
Before reading Flash Boys, I was only marginally aware of High Frequency Trading and had only a vague notion of what it was. Michael Lewis sheds a lot...moreBefore reading Flash Boys, I was only marginally aware of High Frequency Trading and had only a vague notion of what it was. Michael Lewis sheds a lot of light on how it works and who it benefits (hint: not you) and apparently, I wasn’t the only one who was in the dark. HFT is usually portrayed as being a net win for the markets because it provides liquidity. That turns out to be far from the truth. Not only is the liquidity provided by HFT a false liquidity that benefits no one, it turns out it’s just a way to take advantage of having faster access to market data to essentially skim from “normal” market activity. It’s guys with faster connections and privileged access to market data taking your money when you trade while providing you zero benefit whatsoever in return.
You pretty much have to have faith that based on his reputation, Lewis is getting his facts straight since it obviously behooves the HFT traders to obfuscate what they’re doing. If he’s getting it right though, then there’s a lot of crap going down that should shake your faith in the good intentions of majority of stock brokers. Fortunately there is a hint of optimism throughout the book and signs that things are changing, but the situation he describes so well is very much still happening today. (less)
Very engaging. The stories of how St. Petersburg, Bombay, Dubai and Shanghai came to be what they are today are complex. At times they're inspirationa...moreVery engaging. The stories of how St. Petersburg, Bombay, Dubai and Shanghai came to be what they are today are complex. At times they're inspirational, a testament to the power that one person's vision can have to influence a huge number of people, but just as often, the history of these cities are cautionary tales of what happens when idealism trumps pragmatism and power is concentrated too narrowly.(less)
Read it in one day to my four year old. He was fascinated and wide eyed the entire time. Then, at dinner he called his juice "strong cider" and talked...moreRead it in one day to my four year old. He was fascinated and wide eyed the entire time. Then, at dinner he called his juice "strong cider" and talked about how it made his mouth and belly burn :).(less)
Don't read this if you're going to pick an instrument up later in life (after age 20). Read Victor Wooten's The Music Lesson or or basically anything...moreDon't read this if you're going to pick an instrument up later in life (after age 20). Read Victor Wooten's The Music Lesson or or basically anything else on the subject.(less)