|Almqvist, Carl Jonas Love:|
|Bengtsson, Frans G.:|
|Berlepsch, Thimon von:|
|Blair, Forbes Robbins:|
|Boije af Gennäs, Louise:|
|Bolte Taylor, Jill:|
|Burnett, Frances Hodgson:|
|Butler, Andrew M:|
|Capiro, Frank S.,|
|Berger, Joseph R.:|
|Card, Orson Scott:|
|Cialdini, Robert B.:|
|Clinton, Hillary Rodham:|
|Cohen, Kenneth S.:|
|Cooper, Linn F.,|
|Ericsson, Milton H.:|
|Ehrlin, Carl-Johan Forssén:|
|Ellis, Bret Easton:|
|Enquist, Per Olov:|
|Feynman, Richard P.,|
|Forester, C. S.:|
|Forster, E. M.:|
|Gallwey, W. Timothy:|
|Davidson, Richard J.:|
|Harari, Yuval Noah:|
|Havens, Ronald A.:|
|Hirschhausen, Eckart von:|
|Hyatt, Christopher S.:|
|Hyatt, Christopher S.,|
|Jersild, P C:|
|Jou, Tsung Hwa:|
|Kim, W. Chan,|
|Knausgård, Karl Ove:|
|Koontz, Dean R.:|
|Larsson, Mats G.:|
|Lewis, C. S.:|
|Lindqvist, Johan Ajvide:|
|Marriott, J. W.,|
|Brown, Kathi Ann:|
|Natt och Dag, Niklas:|
|Olofsson, Sven Ingemar:|
|Rosenblum, Lawrence D.:|
|Rosling Rönnlund, Anna,|
|Rowling, J. K.:|
|Rowling, J. K.,|
|Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de:|
|Nordström, Kjell A.:|
|Severson, Ellen Dodge:|
|Wilson, Robert Anton:|
|Siff, Mel C.:|
|Sim, Davidine Siaw-Voon,|
|Stevenson, Robert Louis:|
|Stork, David G.:|
|Street, Jayson E.,|
|Sveriges trafikskolors riksförbund:|
|Sydow, Eric von:|
|Tolkien, J. R. R.:|
|Travers, P. L.:|
|Weschcke, Carl Llewellyn,|
|Slate, Joe H.:|
|Wier, Dennis R.:|
|Wilson, Robert Anton:|
|Wolf, Fred Alan:|
|Zot, Cristian Vlad:|
Number of books on this page: 781 of which 384 in English, 318 in Swedish, 65 in German, 7 in Norwegian, and 7 in Danish (read from December 12th 1999 until now).
(Swedish, 12 May 2019)
(Swedish, 11 April 2019)
(Swedish, 3 April 2019)
(Swedish, 27 March 2019)
(Swedish, 26 March 2019)
(Swedish, 20 March 2019)
(Swedish, 20 March 2019)
(Swedish, 24 February 2019)
(English, 16 February 2019)
(German, 22 January 2019)
(Swedish, 14 January 2019)
(German, 18 December 2018)
(Swedish, 8 December 2018)
(Swedish, 28 November)
(English, 14 November 2018)
(Swedish, 16 October 2018)
(Swedish, 17 September 2018)
(German, 12 September 2018)
(Swedish, 23 August 2018)
(Swedish, 22 August 2018)
(German, 1 August 2018)
(Swedish, 29 July 2018)
(German, 28 July 2018)
(English, 24 July 2028)
(German, 13 July 2018)
(German, 9 July 2018)
(Swedish, 3 July 2018)
(English, 19 June 2018)
(English, 26 May 2018)
(Swedish, 21 May 2018)
(Swedish, May 2018)
(Swedish, 5 May 2018)
(Swedish, 29 Apir 2018)
(Swedish, 25 April 2018)
(Swedish, 22 April 2018)
Hans Rosling left the world way too soon. Since he had made it his life's mission to not only spread facts but to help people understand the facts and - that way - adjust their outlook on the world. He again and again showed that we in the Western world is stuck in an idea of the world as it was 30 years ago, since that is what we learned in school and it is the view of the world we're invested in - despite it being false.
Given the contemporary trends with Trump, alternative facts and an post-factual era, Rosling's death in cancer is just the more sad. Who will pick up his fallen mantle and become the new knight of the factual camp?
Anyways, this memoir book that he has had help from Fanny Hägerstam to write (she also finished the book alone after Rosling passed away) is both a self-biography and an account for how a Swedish medical student came to learn how the world really is, realise that the rest of the Western world had a quite dim and outdated view of the World, and make it hist life's quest to try to educate his fellow Westerners on the facts.
(Swedish, 18 April 2018)
My daughter has proven a lot more resistant to "real", text only books than my son was in the same age (or even younger). So far, "The Secret Garden" is by far the most qualified piece of literature I've read to her - and how did I pull that feat off? Simple, it's the illustrated edition with pictures drawn by the renown Australian artist Robert Ingpen (just like the edition of "The Treasure Island" I read to my son back in 2014). I hope this title will serve as a key to more qualified books with fewer illustrations.
I don't think I ever read or had this novel read to me in the past - but I have a vague memory of seeing a movie rendition of it as a kid. Anyways, I'm surprised over how engaged my daughter got in the fate of Mary and Colin, despite them being double her age! I was also amazed over her interest in the drawings of flowers at the start of each chapter (and sometimes sprinkled within chapters as well).
As so many other classics, it's a pretty timeless piece of literature - even if the view of the Indian subcontinent and the Indians can be debated and the time with very poor and very well provided for is quite far in the past, although very historical.
Scrutinised with modern eyes, I wonder if Mary and Colin really would have enjoyed the positive development they do in the book at all if it was for real or, if they did, for the reasons it's put down to in the novel?
(German, 15 April 2018)
As I should work on my German, I like to both read classics and contemporary novels. This is an example of the latter and it was quite the interesting read. If I should sum it up in just one word, it would be worrisome (if not disturbing). Yes, worrisome. On the one hand, it's a typical 21st century everyday relational dram including a family and their friends and colleagues - like we've read so many times before. However, on the other, Zeh has put a rather ingenious idea at the centre of the whole plot. I really would like to describe it, but I'm afraid that would be quite the spoiler. Zeh didn't reveal the full picture with all its ramifications until chapter six or so and the ride up to that point was quite fascinating, so I would like to not spoil it for you. That said, it such a sick, twisted, and worrisome core idea to the plot that I cannot but think that it's a real thing that Zeh somehow stumbled on and chosen to share with the world through a fictitious novel rather than going to the press. Strong stuff, in either case.
The book takes place just a few years from now, in a hyper-contemporary version of our world, where Trump is president and a recently established German party called BBB has won the power in Germany and replaced Angela Merkel as German Bundeskansler. BBB has way to much in common with the actual German party AfD for it be a coincidence. Overall, Zeh has observed the trends around us and driven them to extremes in the backdrop of the novel. Like that Brexit has been followed by movements for Frexit, Spexit and - really - Swexit. In front of this backdrop, different characters have different opinions on whether its a good or bad development but the main character Brita is surprisingly neutral, at least until the explosive end of the book.
I still cannot make my mind up about this novel. It was definitely a reading experience but it was basically driven by the underlying worry over whether the core idea for the plot is just a sick figure of Zeh's imagination or if it might be real - just kept as tight under lid in the real world as in that of the book. Crazy stuff.
(English, 25 March 2018)
A rather thin volume on impromptu street hypnosis. I read it because Thimon von Berlepsch recommended it in his "Der Magier ins uns" and because I'm fascinated with self-hypnosis, but unfortunately, Jacquin's book has quite another focus.
(Swedish, 15 March 2018)
(Swedish, 6 March 2018)
(German, 2 March 2018)
(Swedish, 7 Februar 2018)
(English, 2 February 2018)
(Swedish, 31 January 2018)
It's sad that a book like this is at all needed, but with the world as it is, it's good that it has been written. At first, one can wonder about how certain ladies have been selected, then one might marvel at the great variety of ladies - modern day presidents and an ancient Japanese Empress, modern day activist and no less than two ancient female pirates, etc. Finally, the sheer number of them do make for the message to get accross - despite every woman only getting one spread each, where the right page is a portrait with a citate and the left page is a very condense biography in the form of a fairy tale (one upon a time...). Cool stuff.
I naturally read this one to my five-years-old daughter and it was astonishing how much she got into it. Not only did she herself like to browse through it, she remembered surprisingly much of it for a long afterwards (I'm writing this mini-review in April...) and she was every evening very eager for us to continue reading it. I've of course pre-ordered the sequel for her. ;-)
(German, 14 January 2018)
(Swedish, 5 December 2017)
(Swedish, 28 November 2017)
(Swedish, 22 November 2017)
(Swedish, 16 November 2017)
(Swedish, 13 November 2017)
(Swedish, 7 November 2017)
(Swedish, 30 October 2017)
(Swedish, 29 October 2017)
(English, 27 October 2017)
(English, 22 September 2017)
(Swedish, 17 September 2017)
(English, 1 September 2017)
(English, 26 August 2017)
(English, 27 July 2017)
(Swedish, 14 July 2017)
(English, 10 July 2017)
(Swedish, 22 May 2017)
(Swedish, 14 May 2017)
(Swedish, 4 May 2017)
(English, 26 April 2017)
(English, 11 April 2017)
(Swedish, 8 April 2017)
(Swedish, 5 April 2017)
(Swedish, 4 April 2017)
(Swedish, 3 April 2017)
(Swedish, 17 March 2017)
(Swedish, 13 March 2017)
(Swedish, 8 March 2017)
(English, 3 March 2017)
(Swedish, 23 February 2017)
(English, 17 February 2017)
(Swedish, 9 February 2017)
(Swedish, 6 February 2017)
(Swedish, 31 January 2017)
(Swedish, 30 January 2017)
(German, 25 January 2017)
(Swedish, 16 January 2017)
(Swedish, 9 January 2017)
(Swedish, 6 January 2017)
(Swedish, 20 December 2016)
(English, 16 December 2016)
(Swedish, 10 December 2016)
(Swedish, 20 November 2016)
(Swedish, 14 November 2016)
(Swedish, 7 November 2016)
This is actually a new translation from 2013, prompted by the recent movie adoption. However, how come that no other of Card's numerous novels from his many different series have been translated to either Swedish or German?
(English, 12 October 2016)
OK, the two pieces of obvious criticism first:
To elaborate a little - it had been nicer if this had been an actual, bonafide novel by Rowling. As it is, she's only one of three creators of this manuscript. Also, you only get a bare minimum of environment, to reflect the limited possibilities of a theatre stage. Thus, the whole book is very dialogue focused. And that it was saves it, cause the dialogues do work.
Spoiler alert: the play/book relies heavily on characters established throughout the seven novels of the original series and the children they've got in the gap between when the seventh novel ended and this play starts. Since there are very few new characters introduced, the ones that are stand out like sour thumbs and naturally attract the familiar readers suspicion. Thus, when the villain is revealed, it doesn't really come as a surprise...
That's my criticisms - other than that, I had quite an enjoyable time reading it. On the one hand, it was a emotional reunion with a lot of the main characters where I got to learn what they had been up to in the meantime. On the other, I got to know a new generation of wizards and witches and their personal ups and downs. This, of course, was the true treat of the book.
Nice, original stuff.
(Swedish, 11 October 2016)
Although we read other books when commuting to and from my oldest school due to the sheer weight and size of the collection tome of all seven Narnia novels, he wants us to push on with Narnia suite, one after another. Thus, we've read this one. Just like "The Magician's Nephew", this one was written later but put earlier into the narration, to expand and explain the Narnian world further.
In "The Horse and His Boy", the main characters are no children from our Earth that travel to Narnia, but children native to the Narnian world, though it takes place before "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" ends and the quartet of Earth kids does make their appearances as supportive characters.
All in all a rather focused and thrilling tale of suspense.
(Swedish, 6 October 2016)
My youngest and me continues to go through the very special fantasy light world of Baker's version of Stockholm in the second half of the Twentieth century.
(English, 4 October 2016)
I am a bit ambivalent towards this title. It's really an encyclopedia on how to train, eat, and live to maximise fitness, health, and enjoyment. However, it is squarely targeted at endurance athletes - mainly triathletes and Ironman racers - and, to be honest, it is at times a bit too extreme.
It is most comparable with Ferriss' "The Four Hour Body" but I had more readily use for more of Ferriss' tips than of Greenfield's. Furthermore, given the length and complexity of Greenfield's book, I've kind of lost track of the useful tips and will probably have to go back to a second read-through, with highlighter and notepad ready, to really extract the buried gems.
I tip my hat to Greenfield's wast experience but the knowledge in his books isn't as accessible as in Ferriss' or, for that matter, McGuff's and Little's excellent "Body by Science".
The best thing with "Beyond Training" is that it gives you perspective and does challenge your beliefs, which is a fundamental requirement to learn and evolve. However, I - personally - have a hard time putting my finger on what useful I really learnt from Greenfield, although I really like his unified view on life and how exercise, work, free-time, and health have to be in balance for you to thrive.
(English, 23 September 2016)
Meng argues that up to the last century, meditation was some serious business that only a few monks and yogis had the time to invest in - well, dedicate their lives to - and that most meditation training material still echoes those times in that they, deliberate or not, depict meditation as something hard and time-consuming. With this book, Meng want to change that. While he does admit that to reap the most benefits, one should log some 10 000 hours of meditation (anyone remembers Gladwell's "Outliers"?) but that you can get immediate benefit from just one mindful breath. (I just did a few, hard not to pause and do that.) I.e., Meng goes to show that there are a whole spectrum of benefits, reaching from the small to the unbelievable. For instance, by doing one mindful deep breath, you get a short respite from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future and are, for the duration of the breath, in the now, and afterwards, if you go right back to dwelling/worrying, you might be a tad less stressed about it.
Anyways, Chade-Meng Tan was actually hired early on as an software engineer on the then start-up Google. That is, as you might now, a bit unusual company and, true to form, Meng actually got the job title of "Jolly Good Fellow (which nobody can deny)". He then went on to create a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence course that became the most popular course within Google. His first book was based on his teaching notes from that course and this book was the next logical step for him.
It's a great book. Meng uses lots of humour and his background as an engineer to write in a way that other contemporary Western nerds can readily understand. He basically outlines the lazy persons path to mindfulness/meditation. That's where the joy come in. According to Meng, joy is one of the easiest "cheats" to get a steady meditation routine going and much easier to stick to than, for instance, asceticism, that is commonly used by yogis.
He also are quick to make references to scientific studies whenever they either support the claims of meditators or can shed some light on the biological mechanism in play in meditation.
In the end, of course, reading a book doesn't help much if one doesn't do the exercises or adopt the suggested changes. While I enjoyed the book a lot, I cannot say that I've really jumped on the program. Not seriously so, anyway, but I've started to take a mindful deep breath now and then, and have yet a reason for feeling glad and grateful whenever I notice the colours in the light of a low standing sun, not to mention really enjoying the first ten second of stepping into the shower. Micro-steps, but every journey starts with a single step, regardless of how big or small.
I should really go back to Puddicombe's "Get Some Headspace" for comparison.
(Swedish, 15 September 2016)
This is a really thin book - on pair with the children books I never add to this list, eventhough I've read them to my kids. Yet, it is an intense and gripping book. As it has both distinct form and content, let's take a closer look on both, respectively.
The form: The whole book is nothing more (or less!) than a heroic crown of sonnets, also known as a sonnet redoublé. What's that you say? I hope you know what a sonnet is? Think Shakespeare - a 14 line rhymed poem where the lines are rhymed with each other in bound ways. Olsson uses the following form: ABAB CDCD EFE FEF, there has been many other sonnet meters throughout history.
However, in a crown of sonnets, the final line of the preceding sonnet should be the first line of the next one, with the last one ending with the same line as the first begins. Finally, in an heroic crown, there are a full 14 sonnet crown of sonnets with a fifteenth sonnets consisting of all the first lines of all the 15 sonnets in the regular crown, in the same order.
Easy? Not at all, and it seems to be rather few heroic crowns written - but I do appreciate the challenge of it and suspect that no small part of Olsson's motivation for writing "Den mörka stigen" was to not only rise to the challenge but to do well on it.
Regular sonnets are in themselves hard to forge, but they do read well when done right. Reading an heroic crown of sonnets was quite interesting. Although I liked it and am quite a bit awed by Olsson's feat, I must confess that I didn't like that the last line of the previous sonnet is repeated as the first one of the next. If I ever would write a heroic crown (one can dream, can one not?), I would probably relax that requirement and only let the fifteenth sonnet be made up of the first line of the preceding fourteen. I wonder if there is a name for that form of crown?
The content: The theme of Olsson's heroic crown of sonnets is the ancient Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Basically, the poem captures Orpheus' mind-chatter on the way back from Hades, the realm of the dead, to the land of the living - his hope being tormented by doubts on whether Eurydice really is following him (you know, the god Hades had granted his wish to have his dead Eurydice return to the living if he could make it the whole way back without ever looking behind him, to check whether or not she really is following in his tracks).
This poses an immediate problem. What if you never heard about Orpheus and Eurydice and have not clue of the plot in that legend? How will Olsson's poem affect you then?
As I remember at least the important elements of the legend, I used that knowledge to interpret and place Orpheus' worrying thoughts in a context - but what would one make of them if one doesn't have that context to place them in? I don't know - but what I do know is that, aside of reading Olsson's poem as an extension to the Greek myth, I was also able to relate to Orpheus woes based on my own life experiences. This did give the poem an extra edge and also vouches for the possibility of it being enjoyable for anyone not familiar with the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.
I mean, after all, aren't love, hope, and doubt universal human emotions shared by virtually all of mankind?
All in all, an impressive technical feat that, despite how short it is - a mere 15 x 14 = 210 lines of 10 to 11 syllables, is able to evoke a surprising amount of emotions. Cool read, I'm envious of Olsson's mastery.
(Swedish, 11 September 2016)
This is the foremost Narnia book - the one that started it all and that is the by far best known of all seven (the prequel "The Magician's Nephew" that takes place almost a life-time before "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" was the sixth book Lewis produced in the series but in the one-in-all tome we are reading them from, they are presented in the order they take place and that the author wanted them to be read in).
It's a simple but classical story of good and evil and the battle between the two. It's also a nice example of fantasy and travelling between worlds, suitable for young, curious minds. My seven-year-old loved it and I, as an adult, find that it still holds up well but I do question why Santa Clause was included. That's sort of infringement. Lewis' Narnia don't need to borrow anything from other legends - it can stand firmly on its own feet. ;-)
One of the great classics for kids - quite the canonical thing to read to your kid.
(Swedish, 22 August 2016)
We finally started on the complete Chronicles of Narnia, my oldest and I. Given the weight and dimension of this seven-novels-in-one collection volume, we won't be reading this on the train to and from school but solely in bed at night. The Swedish edition is grandiose with the original illustrations by Pauline Baynes. However, they could have spent extra effort with the proof-reading... There are little, silly mistakes sprinkled through-out the text that makes for a sloppy impression - especially when you read out aloud.
Anyways, I haven't read "The Magician's Nephew" since I was a kid and then I remember discovering it pretty late, way after "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" but now we are, of course, reading them in the order intended by the author (even if he didn't write them in that order), and thus we kicked-off with "The Magician's Nephew".
I didn't remember how endearing the story is (and it probably was lost on the young me anyway) but even-though the story came about as an afterthought to complete and further develop the country Narnia of the already written books, it works pretty well independently and does give food for thought (if one only could get one's hands on one yellow and one green ring!).
Given that it was written just about sixty years ago, it feels surprisingly little dated, which - of course - is the hallmark of a classic. Also, given that it - in our world - takes place in late Nineteenth century, some of the more dated details can be written of as historical correctness.
My son did like it but somehow I expect him to like "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" even more.
(German, 16 August 2016)
He has done it again, written a marvellous novel. "F" has more in common with the collection of short - but interwoven - stories in "Ruhm" than with "Die Vermessung der Welt" but all three titles are great reads in their own way. Just like in the short stories in "Ruhm", "F" interweaves the stories in unexpected and to the main persons unknown ways. However, unlike Kehlman's the earlier two, there are more supernatural, mystic elements that Kehlmann seasons the narration with but never explains.
At its core, this is a novel about three brothers of the same father and how different their personalities and lives turn out. Quite unexpectedly, I actually found myself have most sympathies with Eric, despite his life being the farthest from mine of the three (although he it the only one of them with a family of his own) and his life also being the least appealing to me.
I won't give any more spoilers away, but I will tell you this: do try to keep track of everything you read as certain supporting acts does reoccur now and then, adding depth to the story if do notice that they reappear.
(Swedish, 1 July 2016)
Yes, I confess. I, too, was curious about this title due to the very public divorce between the author and her husband - and the equally public knowledge that he shacked up with another TV celebrity. And, yes, Haag does paint quite a good and convincing story about how it feels to go from finding something slightly odd, to get more and more sure, to be left, to find out the depth of the husbands lies, to suffer some sort of depression and/or nervous breakdown and somehow yet surviving. However, she does it in quite few pages. The topic could probably have been extended a lot, but I hope that writing it met the needs of its author.
However, to my surprise, I actually found the framing story of getting a break from the suffocating reality by travelling out in the nothingness of the Swedish mountains to be a hostess of a remote cabin on a hiking trail to be much more intriguing. I longed for more of the mysticism and over-natural elements around the cold mountain sea everyone warns her to visit, as well as of the nature of wilderness up north.
All in all a quite unexpected composition with unusual elements but it does become something more than just one of the combating parties own subjective statement - despite being on the thin side and too quickly finished.
(Swedish, 6 August 2014)
Finally, me and my oldest both got around to starting on - and finishing - the second part of "Röde Orm", where Orm starts his family and how he travels east, all the way past Kiev in modern Ukraine,
It can be argued that might be too much blood and gore for a seven-years-old, but on the other hand, the archaic written language will work wonders for his Swedish. Also, judging from his questions and remarks to the story, he liked it just fine.
Having been written in the forties, this novel still feels more timeless than dated, perhaps because of Bengtsson having research the Viking age carefully before writing his fabulous yet pretty convincing story.
(Swedish, 31 May 2016)
Great to see a young, female, Swedish researcher write a piece of popular science to present her own research and the latest and greatest from her field to the general public.
The volume's biggest strength and worst weakness is that it is so thin. That makes it both an excellent survey of the field of neuroscience with emphasis on social interactions and a just too short appetiser that doesn't go deep enough into the details to prevent you from hunger for more.
OK, but could be better.
(Swedish, 24 May 2016)
I read about this novel in our morning paper, in conjunction to the papers series of articles on specially gifted children that the conventional and normative school system tend to overlook or ignore (särbegåvade barn). As Kastevik had written a book intended for young kids, I thought it would be an excellent title for me and my oldest to explore together.
It turned out to be a pretty simple but likeable story, more about friendship and loss than about special giftedness and being understimulated, misunderstood, and frustrated in school. Both me and my son liked it and it warmed my heart to her him utter negative comments about the main character's teacher that unfortunately only viewed Noel as a problem and thus failed him, his education, and her job miserably.
(English, 15 May 2016)
Have you ever seen Amy Cuddy's Ted Talk? If not, Google it and watch it - it is basically the condensed sum-up of this book. Then, if you want the full picture and the gory details, jump into this volume.
The body-mind connection is nothing new. Yet, few if any has looked at it from the angle Cuddy has, drawn the conclusions, and started to prescribe body poses to influence the mind to perform better and get better quality of life. (Please take a moment and re-read the last sentence again. A possible mean to take a little control, anyone?)
Cuddy might be best known for the tip to stand in a power pose (like Wonderwoman or Superman) for two minutes before an important meeting or performance. This actually decreases stress hormones and ramps up growth hormones, making you more present and less caught up in your own head. It also makes you more confident.
However, over and over again throughout the book, she gets back to the fact that since it rather is the body and not the mind that controls our mind and mood, we should continuously remember to check in on our body and rearrange it from low-power to high-power poses, suitable for the situation we're in (sometimes it's better to assume a neutral rather than a Gorilla Silverback Alfa-male pose to avoid trouble!), in order to, over time, de-train any bad habit of low-power poses and teach the body to stick to more constructive poses.
In the book, she surveys the relevant research frontier to account both for what led her onto these findings and why it actually works.
I am surprised to stumble on two popular science books in a row (Mischel's "The Marshmallow Test" being the other) that has been so prescriptive in addition to being informative, intriguing, and entertaining. I do hope I will find more of these gems.
(Swedish, 12 May 2016)
I've known about this through a Kickstarter campaign crowd-funded book written to promote programming skills (or really a algorithmic way of thinking) for young children, so when I saw that it had gotten translated to Swedish, I - of course - got a copy to test on my seven-years-old. And, well, he liked it better than me and was able to do exercises reasonably well. I, unfortunately, had expected much more, but I guess that you cannot include everything in a introductory text targeted at new-beginner children.
All in all, it seems to work as intended and I did appreciate all the insider jokes and references she has sprinkled the narration with.
(Swedish, 5 May 2016)
I think it was in an episode of the German popular-science (and more) tv-series "Galileo" on the channel Pro Sieben that was about finding Star Wars stuff in our own society here on Earth that some chap used hypnosis to do some Jedi-like mind-tricks. After seeing that, my son had all kinds of questions around hypnosis so I whipped out this one, we read it at bedtime and discussed what we learned to try to answer all his questions.
Reading it out aloud, I realised that this really isn't a book one should just read through - even if it, of course, works well for that, too - but to really reap some benefits, one should find time to really work with it: do the exercises Praesto suggests and use the methods he recommends. However, when would one find time for that?
(Swedish, 1 May 2016)
There, now my youngest is into chapter books as well and got treated this little known gem of simple-on-the-outside, refined-at-its-heart novel for children.
(English, 31 March 2016)
You probably heard about the Marshmallow Test, haven't you? Kindergarten kids that are sat down in front of a marshmallow and offered two marshmallows if they can refrain from eating the one until the researcher comes back? (In reality, they had a range of different treats to choose from in order to really match the taste of the subjects and it was actually some new paper article that dubbed it "The Marshmallow Test" many years after the first test was conducted.)
What you might not know is that the same research group has been regularly following up on all the kids that have taken the test over the years to see if there is some correlation between how they handled the challenge of the Marshmallow Test and how their lives turn out.
It turns out that there is a strong correlation - but, mind you, a correlation isn't a causation. If your kid is easily able to resist the temptation of the one Marshmallow and wait to get two, chances are good that he or she will be able to use the same executive function in all situations in life, but there are no guarantees that he or she will do good. They can get thrown by hardship of addiction or whatnot anyway. The same way, if he or she does really badly on the test, it doesn't really tell you anything about the rest of their life. A good result has a correlation with successful lives but a bad result doesn't really tell you anything. Perhaps your kid just was really hungry? Even if he or she lacked executive function enough to resist the temptation of the one marshmallow, there isn't anything that says that he or she cannot develop good executive function while in school and well before his or her adult life plays out.
Also, too much self-control isn't good either. Sometimes you need to live a little and bite into that marshmallow. (Think about the fable of the ant that kept working to amass food for the winter and the grasshopper that just indulged life with no thought of tomorrow.)
However, generally, more executive function is better than less as it gives you the choice to use it if appropriate or not use it if not appropriate.
Unlike other great popular-science books, like Pääbo's "The Neanderthal Man" or Tegmark's "Our Mathematical Universe", Mischel's book isn't just intriguing and entertaining. He also includes pure prescriptive sections on how to use these research results yourself - for instance to quite smoking, snack less or put away enough money for retirement. (He also writes on how day-care centres and schools should nurture the kids executive function to make them better equipped to tackle life.)
(After finishing this book the first time around, I actually started a second round where I went into study mode and use a highlighting pen to mark out the gist and important points throughout the book - that's and important reason why there are more books appearing on this page that I've read aloud for my kids at bedtime than I've read myself...)
(Swedish, 20 March 2016)
What can I say? Yes, I confess to having made my son a fan of Tolkien. After all, this work is the grand-dad of all epic fantasy and this part still packs a lot of action-filled suspense that fits a young boy well. However, this one we read on the train to and from school as it was a tad too exiting to read at bedtime.
(German, 29 February 2016)
This is something as unique as the self-published memoirs of the cousin of my wife's grandmother. There are numerous narrations of the hardships ordinary people suffered during the Second World War, but reading the tale of someone that close - often referring to other relatives of my wife, like her grandmother - makes more real and relevant. Interesting stuff.
Also, for us amateur genealogists, it did offer some valuable facts we didn't already know that we can add to my wife's side of the family tree.
(English, 10 February 2016)
You simply got to love it. Apparently, Munroe - best known for the web-comic xkcd (xkcd.com) - has a blog where he gives scientific answers to crazy questions. This books includes the "best-of" that blog. For example, "What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?", "Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?", or "How long could a nuclear submarine last in orbit?" (you get the drift) - but also more philosophical questions like "What if everyone actually had only one soul mate, a random person somewhere in the world?".
Using science to calculate how these scenarios would play out is interesting but what makes it a success is, of course, Munroe's humour that the uses to make his replies a treat to read. (Like when he continuously fiddles with a fictitious hairdryer to make it output more and more insane levels of power, just to make the scenarios of having it in a sealed, one cubic meter large box more interesting.
Might only be entertaining to science nerds, but for them it's pure fun.
(Swedish, 9 February 2016)
Clearly, the dam has burst - now my daughter seems to have really embraced chapter books and left the picture books behind (although, I'm sure we will alternate between the types for quite a while).
This is the only one of the Pettson and Findus books that is a chapter-novel (even if richly illustrated) - all the other titles are picture books, of the big-format kind with most folds consisting of one big drawing, overflowing with details, and just one smaller patch of text on each page (our whole family simply loves all the Pettson and Findus books - Nordqvist is quite the genius). Thus, it is good it made in in here, to represent the rest of Nordqvist's authorship.
In the book, Findus learns about Santa Clause and very much wants Santa to make an appearance on Christmas Eve, even though Findus is a cat and not a human child. Pettson, fearing that Santa won't care for a mere cat, sets out to secretly build a mechanical Santa to fulfil Findus wish. However, important parts go mysteriously missing and other needed things suddenly appear in strange situations...
(Swedish, 26 January 2016)
I can no longer remember when I switched from singing to my youngest at bedtime and begin to read to her instead - it must have been quite a while ago. Yet, this is the first chapter book to actually make it onto this list. Some of the "textier" picture books perhaps should have been included, but you have to draw the lines somewhere. Besides, the modus operandi with the picture books - from the wordless to the text-rich - is that you have to read them over and over and over again, often the same title every night at bedtimes for weeks on end, and that would make this list be quite boring, wouldn't it?
Anyways, I did try one of Tove Jansson's "Moomin" novels a while back, but my daughter never got into it so we never finished it. However, this time around, when we tried her brother's collection volume of Lindgren's three "Emil" novels, she eagerly urged me to read on and kept choosing this book over her other, past favourites.
I must confess that it was quite good for me to brush up on my "Emil"-knowledge as I haven't read (or heard) the novels or watched the television version since I was little (and then I hid behind the couch when Emil's father yelled at him). After all, a lot of this is (or at least was) common knowledge throughout a large part of the Swedish people.
As always with Lindgren, she's squarely on the children's side and here she really defends Emil's character as he never plays his tricks on others intentionally but most often sets out with a good intention only to see the results not match his expectation.
Lindgren has also taken the chance to re-create a lot of her beloved childhood Småland (the south-Swedish landscape where she grew up) in the books, which can double as light dramatised history text-books.
(Swedish, 26 January 2016)
I've said it before and I'll say it again - this is not great literature - but so what! For a while, I repeatedly almost missed getting off the bus to work because this page-turner suck me so deep in (lucky for me, I get of the bus at the end-station, otherwise I would have been repeatedly late to the office).
Naturally, this third and final part of the trilogy has had the way paved by the preceding parts that have introduced the characters and plot for the third part to drive home. However, like many other great mystery stories, this, too, turns out to shake everything up and out as we learn that what we thought was true was far from it and that the game-rule was completely different, etc.
All in all a great example of Swedish cross-over literature well worth reading.
(Swedish, 21 January 2016)
I have a confession to make. So far, I've read Tolkien's "The Hobbit" for my son at bedtime no less than four (4!) times over the past years. We begun with the old Swedish translation and then continued with the new. However, for some strange reason, it never got onto this page and I've never got around to fixing that even though I've had a bad conscious about it...
In any case, since he started his pre-school year in the school building he will probably stay in until he starts fourth grade, it was high time to go from "The Hobbit" to "The Lord of the Rings" (although my son refers to the whole series as the Hobbit).
As I've previously only read the novel in the old Swedish translation - and in English, of course - I now took the opportunity to read the new translation to my son. So far, it seems like he has done a good job. Yet, I bounce more at names he only has changed a little compared with the old translation (like "Smörblom" instead of "Smörblomma" for Butterbur) than with names he has changed completely (like "Riftedal" instead of "Vattnadal" for Rivendell). Also, I have a suspicion that the new translator has worked a bit too hard to find archaic Swedish words to match the archaic English words Tolkien used, sometime making the newer Swedish translation harder to understand than the old... Oh well, one should always read books in original language when one can.
Just like with "The Hobbit" when I read it the first time to my son a few years back, I have been slightly worried that this novel might be a bit too early for him. Especially since I remember that I had nightmares about the drums in the deep of Moria when my father read it to me, when I was a kid. However, my son didn't get any nightmares at all and is following the narration very closely, sometimes offering more or less accurate theories on what will happen (that I must fight to accept with a straight face and not give anything prematurely away).
As always, great book and great to get to share it with a new generation.
(English, 15 January 2016)
This was interesting - another great novel lent to me by my sister (she really has a good nose for finding good books). It's kind of hard to pin this novel down. It is fantasy, but it is set in our contemporary world in a very contemporary way, in the sense that it is dirty, with "normal" broken people with "normal" weaknesses and coping strategies. I.e., it shares more atmosphere with contemporary realistic literature than with the general field of fantasy (even if the Swedish "Circle"-trilogy about modern witches comes close).
It's also, a bit like Funke's "Ink"-trilogy, a piece of meta-literature as another novel plays an integral part of this novel.
All in all, Grossman get high marks for both originality (despite the unavoidable parallels to other books) and "what-if":ness (i.e., what if magic as he describes it did exists? Do I or do I not wish it would exist?).
Kind of brilliant idea to have magicians work hard, just like in Harry Potter, to conceal the magic from the rest of us non-magic Earth inhabitants but only making the non-content people that struggles with their lives have aptitude for magic. Powerful stuff...
(Swedish, 2 December 2015)
My son is, naturally, enjoying anything that have to do with space and dreaming about a career as either cosmonaut or cosmologist. However, I had a blast, too, because the adventure story about George and his friends is sprinkled with essays by today's foremost scientists about space and advanced, modern physics written with eight years olds as the target group - which of course make them the best and most understandable summaries of the frontier of space-related science I ever seen! (I mean, Tegmark's "Our Mathematical Universe" was great, too, but far from as easy to grasp. ;-) )
This is the concluding part of the "George"-trilogy Lucy Hawking has written together with her father, the famous Stephen Hawking. A great book mixing suspense with science (with a spoonful of sugar, the medicine goes down...).
(Swedish, 27 November 2015)
This is a fantastic book! Bojs really at length explains the latest developments in genetics and how they practically has helped to shed light on our genealogy way past the oldest church books and other records of actual ancestry.
Not surprisingly, it touches a lot on the same topics as Pääbo's "The Neanderthal Man" but also makes trips into classical archaeology, the history of the dog from the original wolf to today's plethora of dogs in all shapes and sized, and a companion piece of research which you could view as the genetics of metal: how isotope studies of archaeological metal objects have been able to show how the ore was mined in one place (like Cyprus), forged into weapons or objects of art in another (like Spain or the British Isles) and finally rediscovered in their final resting place (like central Europe), showing that globalisation is nothing new - the early mankind traded stuff from one end of the then known world to the other, too, and not just goods but genes as well.
Another titbit that made an impression on me was that thousands of years ago, on the west coast of today's Sweden, people lived a really good and easy life as the sea provided them with plenty of food the year around, to the extent that people lived to their eighties and had good teeth all their lives! Thus, life wasn't always harder throughout history than it is now.
It's also interesting to see how Bojs generally plays the role of the impartial reporter of the conclusions of the researchers (or, should I say conveyor of the big picture behind the specialised and focuses scientific findings?) but now and then actually takes a stand and airs her personal opinion - always making it clear that there isn't any scientific consensus on the matter, but sharing her own feelings on the topic. To me, that only makes the book overall more readable.
If you are at all curious on your past, read this book.
(Swedish, 18 November 2015)
The second installment of the Hawking's excellent pedagocial trilogy of space related suspense. My oldest really enjoyed it and it did feed his interest of space quite handsomely.
(English, 29 October 2015)
Simple fantasy target on the young - not at all as grand as her Hunger Games trilogy for older adolescents - but with a nice atmosphere nevertheless and a nice spin on the classical quest theme.
(English, 20 October 2015)
It's really cool to see a sel-published paperback that actually seems to be selling rather well. Of course, it could have been better typeset but Zot does know his stuff - that is to say, the book is about his own experiences with what he has tried out on himself. Still, it is a pretty nice survey of the topic of ketonic dieting and how Zot got into that and how the practically maintains such a lifestyle.
(English, 13 October 2015)
The last instalment of Roth's excellent cross-over literature trilogy of a dystopic future. In this part, we learn that not all is what it seems to be - i.e., a nice Chinese box twist.
(Swedish, 25 September 2015)
As usual, I'm pushing the envelope on what I read to my oldest at bedtime and just as with Harry Potter, I got it wrong this time, too. Simone doesn't start school in "Dårfinkar och dönickar", she moves and get transferred to a new school... Luckily, my son did like it (especially the creative invectives Simone and Isak throws at each other).
A modern classic by Stark - read it.
(Swedish, 9 September 2015)
The first instalment of the Hawking's excellent pedagogical trilogy of space related suspense. My oldest really enjoyed it and it did feed his interest of space quite handsomely.
(German, 8 September 2015)
I must confess that I am a bit jealous of Enders. I mean, she's just a kid but already working on her PhD in Medicine and winning prised for her incredibly pedagogical book that educates the general public on just how important our gut biology really is to our general health - both physically and psychologically!
It has been generally known that the genome of gut bacteria of the average persons is larger than the human genome and that we live in a sort of symbiosis with our gut bacteria - but I have never seen such an in-depth and complete walk-through of all the currently known touchpoints between our health, fitness, mood, weight, etc, etc, and our gut. Enders argues that our gut is one of our three most important organs together with the heart and the brain.
However, not only does she share the frontier of the contemporary cutting-edge biological research on the matter - she does it with such a wonderful sense of humour that it is no wonder that she's winning prizes all over the place.
So, there is two important reasons why you should read this book:
(English, 18 August 2015)
One of my newest friends lend me this one as a reward for leading her onto the Beautiful Creatures-series. A very endearing novel - sort of. It's a simple story at the surface and is clearly aimed at older kids. However, the overall plot is brilliantly portioned out by key-hole glimpses here and there, so you get a Chinese-boxes sort of thing where the novel repeatedly grows as you learn more (think every season of "Lost"). This is beautifully done and combines well with the rather simple language and composition of the book otherwise.
As a amateur genealogist, I - at the same time - both marvel at the fantastic family facts that are unravelled as the story develops (imagine if I could dig something like this up about my ancestors!) and despair over the fact that it is only we reading the book that learn these facts - the main characters themselves unfortunately never get to know what we do about what came before them.
Cool little gem of a novel.
(Swedish, 12 Augusti 2015)
This is the first of Schwartzkopf's novels about John Cross and his adventures as a "bush-pilot" in Alaska. "Ishavspiloten", that I inherited from my father when I was a kid and read a lot of times, is the second novel in the series, and it is a thrilling, held-together story. In contrast, "Alaskapiloten" is a collection of anecdotes, claimed to be genuine and true stories from Alaska, that Schwartzkopf has re-enacted in the book with his own set of characters. Thus, "Ishavspiloten" is by far the better book of the two, but "Alskapiloten" at least make you chuckle now and then.
(Swedish, 2 August 2015)
How did I not hear about this book sooner? It was published last year and yet I had missed it completely until I got wind of the Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund the English translation of the book! Only goes to show how Internet brings the world together, to the point that one is more aware of what happens on the other side on the globe than in one's own country...
This is probably the first coffee-table book that I've had a real interest to buy and also would be proud to leave out on the coffee-table.
"Generation 64" is about all of us that were lucky enough to own Commodore 64 home computers in the Eighties - whether we were just gamers or whether we actually learnt to program it ourselves. Wilhelmsson has tracked down and interviewed gamers, hackers, crackers, demo-programmers/sceners, graphicians, journalists, researchers and others - all with a common background or interest in the C64.
For me, personally, it was quite the trip down memory lane as I remembered a lot of my time with my C64 - and with my friends of that time that also had C64 and that I swapped games with. We might never have progress beyond pure gamers status, although we had some ambitions at forming a group and joining the scene (does anyone remember "The Heavy Västerbotten Crackers"? No? I am not surprised), but reading all these interviews made it all come back and also put the finger on something I never had thought about: how the C64 put its mark on many of the very persons that latter would be among the most influential when Sweden become a modern IT-nation.
Fact is that Commodore succeeded in making the C64 a smashing hit by a combination of the early computers capabilities - especially with its graphics and revolutionary sound chip - and ruthless price-wars that put much of the competition out of business. This put a C64 in many homes and proved to the makers of office computers at the time that sounds and graphics were useful and did have their place in a general purpose computer. However, the decisive edge came through the creativity of the young C64 users. As they were less controlled by Commodore than, say, the NES players by Nintendo, it became a sport to use the bug and design-flaws in the C64 to push it passed its intended limitation. Anyone who programmed an impressing demo on the C64, filling it with stunts that shouldn't have been possible learnt tons that could not - neither before nor after - be learnt in any formal education or school. Such hardware near programming skills are, of course, extremely useful in later IT careers.
Wilhelmsson argues that the C64 was the catalyst that made the leap from the early home-computers that few found any real use for to the home-computers of the nineties and beyond (smart-phones and tablets, anyone?) that no-one can live without. Yet, the best thing with the book is that it awaken the memories and rekindles the camaraderie of the C64-owning school pupils that today are middle-ages family fathers, like myself.
Come to think of it, my C64 was the key to me enrolling in a Software Engineering programme at the university and my current career as a systems administrator.
This book might not have the greatest general appeal, but for anyone that owned a C64 in the Eighties, its simply wonderful reading.
(Norwegian, 24 July 2015)
Are Knausgård's "Min kamp"-series authentic or not? Does it matter?
Clearly, you get the impression that he really has battled with his demons to try to remember as much of his life as possible and pour everything that will fit into the books. However, human memory is both fallible and malleable. Has he interview people that he met during different stages of his life to compare their memories of the same events with his to extract some objective facts that may or may not align with his own memories?
The reason I am contemplating the matter of authenticity is that, after part 3 and 4 mostly focused on Knausgård's early childhood and adolescence, part 5 covers his early adulthood and especially toward the end, the intensity really escalates as he accounts for the his most controversial actions so far. He has revealed both good and bad deeds in all parts but, as far as I can remember (it's actually been two years since I read the fourth part), none of the earlier bad choices comes close to the ones in this volume.
Previously, I've more or less assumed that it all has been authentic because it is a realistic life full of convincing details he shares with us. On the surface, this fifth part is very much the same. However, because of some of the less flattering deeds he reveals, a part of me cannot help wondering if he has been totally honest with us or if he has tweaked it just a bit, adjusted the shading just a fraction, in order to look the decisive amount better? I mean, he is only human and the temptation must be there, right?
But, in the end, I realised that I don't care. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter for me whether Knausgård is 100% honest or authentic in this grand apparent auto-biography. Sure, total authenticity would be cool, but in the end, whether it is totally real, only near authentic or totally fictitious don't change my reactions to the text. The way I appreciate is essay-like observations of his surroundings, the way I identify myself with him when his experiences and life-events matches mine, the way I put myself in his place when his experiences and life-events differs from mine - they are all the same regardless of whether his story is real or made-up. Thus, I can ponder whether he has made a full disclosure or not but I still appreciate the whole series (so far) for what an unique piece of literature they are, taking a overall perfectly normal Scandinavian life and making an epic account of it, the good and the bad.
Simply a great reading experience for me. However, I am just six years younger than Knausgård and have lived my whole life in the neighbouring Sweden to his native Norway, so the number of touch-points where my life relates to his are, naturally, numerous. I wonder how an elderly Japanese woman would like Knausgård's series in comparison? ;-)
Anyways, in this, the fifth and next to last part of his monumental auto-biography, he covers his student years and early years as an author. He may have attended less of his lectures than I did mine and I might have partaken more in the student-life than he did, but of course much of both our university years are universal enough to make me relive parts of mine when reading about his. Powerful stuff!
Two passages of the book actually brought tears to my eyes (despite reading on the commuter train to or from work): when he met his first wife Tonje and his emotional roller-coaster at the time of his father's funeral.
Knausgård is a phenomenon and I do encourage you to give him a try.
(English, 8 Jult 2015)
Cross-over literature when it is at its best - fast-faced in a thought-through world with an interesting plot.
Basically, "Insurgent" continues where "Divergent" left of - the both of them could equally well just been one thick volume. The world and plot broadens and deepens, though, as Tris learns more of the secrets of the five conflicting factions and the history of the post-apocalyptic Chicago they live in.
Not much else to say, efficiently good stuff without any extra fanciness.
(Swedish, 1 July 2015)
So why on earth did I locate and order this title from a second-hand bookshop? Because the subject of the title story (the title of the book translates to "Captain Silverbrand and other stories") seems to be my granny's father's uncle and thus the story is kind of a looking-glass to have a glimpse of him and his life during the 1830:ies. Although, to be fair - except for some signs on his and his families living conditions, the story doesn't amount to much more than one anecdote on how he turn the table on some prankster officer colleagues and a lot about his beloved horse Jafet. Still kind of cool, though. ;-)
Although Eva Arbman is listed as author and it is her stories the book contains, I think the true author is her daughter Rosa as it seems to be she that has compiled her mother's scattered notes and also added a chapter with her own portrait of the mother. In there, Eva's great generosity to the poor is evident and that she sometimes got criticised for well-meaning but futile help. This is interesting as basically the same debate right now rages in Swedish media with regards to the European beggar migrants that use the free movement within the Union to come her an beg.
Eva's stories can be divided into portraits of friends of her family - like the one about my relative - and anecdotes about other interesting people around her in Jämtland. In one very gripping chapter, she's collected surprisingly many examples of children with strong religious conviction that dies very young (a just too common fate at that time). This chapter is both beautiful and depressing at the same time...
Basically a trifle but makes for an interesting report from Nineteenth century Jämtland and a glimpse of a relative to me from that time.
(Swedish, 30 June 2015)
Lies, lies, and nothing but lies! I must confess that I knew very little of this project when I started reading, but I had the idea that they actually had been riding around Västerbottens county collecting old fairy-tales just like the brothers Grimm did in Germany in the Nineteenth century. However, I quickly realised that that was not the case. They've probably only arranged the photos of themselves and their horses and all the stories they've claim to have collected are probably written by themselves. (One give-away was that while they rode their horses, their Mexican Sherpa carried their backpacks and tent on foot...)
After all, the authors are half of the members of a popular group of comedians in Sweden and this whole book is just that, an example of entertaining, humorous fiction - sometimes even a bit mean as some of the villages and town they pass are depicted rather disadvantageous in the "collected" story from the same.
Funny, entertaining, and interesting as it takes place in my home country where I grew up, but still - it could have been so much more if it actually had been real!
(Swedish, 27 June 2015)
My six-years-old most evenings begged me to read just a little longer whenever I decided that we had reached a good point to stop so that he could sleep (I consider ten pages a minimum, but more often than not, you cannot stop exactly after the tenth page as you really shouldn't break in media res).
This is Harry Potter and Rowling's story still holds. I still don't like Dobby but somehow he didn't irritate me as much this time as the first time around (before I started on this journal - long ago now).
The very best thing with reading HP to my son as bedtime story is when he interrupts me (or, well, despite him interrupting me) to offer his current theory on this or that in the story. Then I have the delicate task of respond to him without giving anything away as I do (mostly) remember what will go down.
Good stuff, but I think we'll hold of for a while before continuing with the third part.
(English, 26 June 2015)
When Bach originally wrote "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", he decided not to include the fourth part when sending the manuscript to the publisher and it is pretty easy to understand why as the three first parts are almost entirely told through the eyes of Jonathan and Fletcher while the fourth part instead is told by a incorporeal narrator and, on top of that, where the first three parts are optimistic at their core, the fourth part is much more bleaker.
In any case, the fourth part was stashed away for some forty years until the Bachs come across it again and, upon re-reading it, realised that in its description on how the seagull community managed the inheritance of Jonathan after he left them in the end of part three, there actually was quite a lot of parallels to humankind in the Twenty-first century, warranting the publishing of a complete edition of the book including the "rediscovered" fourth part.
"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" will always be a great masterpiece, but the fourth part does add dimension and maturity to the book. A good novel everyone should read.
(German, 25 June 2015)
By know, you should now the template Schorlau uses for his novels: find and research something non-democratic, illegal that has been hidden from the public and spin a tale around it in a way that you as a reader cannot now where fact ends and fiction begins. The drawback of this is that all his novels becomes rather alike, the advantage is that you get quite the stomach-aching "what-if?" feeling that makes them page-turners.
In "Das München-Komplott", Schorlau possibly has come across his most worrisome plot so far, where governmental intelligence services have arranged acts of terrorism and pinned them to either left- or right-wing extremists to reach political goals and control the public.
Strong stuff, but this time Dengler sorted it our himself without needing to be saved by Olga! ;-)
(English, 11 June 2015)
As regular visitors to the collection of mini-reviews know, I have quite an ambivalent relation to Garcia's and Stohl's South Carolina magical adventures. On the one hand, I adore the sweet puppy love between Lena and Ethan, find it entertaining to follow how Ridley's and Link's relation (or non-relation) develops (or unravels) and do appreciate the originality and freshness of Garcia's and Stohl's Casterworld, Otherworld, Far Keep, and whatnot. On the other hand, I find something lacking that I cannot really put my finger on.
Anyways, I found the fourth novel in the series really good - on pair with the first one, in some aspects even better. I think it has to do with the new game-plan Ethan faces in this book and how he has to navigate the challenges on his own to an higher degree than in the previous novels.
Yesterday, I even tried to watch the movie adaption of the first novel - but I had to turn it off... They had changed just too much without obvious reasons. Pity that they don't more often do canonical movie versions instead of the through-and-through commercial "let's-change-this-and-this-since-it-might-attract-a-broader-audience" versions, where "based on the novel XYZ" should be read "loosely inspired by the novel XYZ".
Though "Beautiful Redemption" gets some extra points for bringing tears to my eyes not once but twice (emotional "Kodak" moments between Ethan and first his mother, and later with Lena).
(English, 6 June 2015)
Funny how Tegmark and Pääbo, as well as their books, have so much in common. Both scientists are raised in Sweden but both have one non-Swedish parent (Pääbo's mother is Estonian and Tegmark's father is American). Both begun their education in Sweden and then moved onwards to a series of foreign universities and institutions (Tegmark is currently at MIT and Pääbo is the director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig). Both were granted a lot of freedom from their publisher on what to write in their books. Both books has the focus on their respective core research, but both includes a tid-bit on their personal life here and there as well, making the popular-science books double as light auto-biographies of the authors. Also, both has the gift of being able to present hard-core, cutting-edge science in a way that a layperson can understand and appreciate.
Tegmark begins with a compressed history of physics, from the Greeks up to today, mainly to illustrate how old ideas make room for new ideas and how sometimes revolutionary different ideas need a lot of time to be accepted and made mainstream by the majority embracing it. His motivation for doing this is revealed when he present his current theories and admits to them being believed in by just a small minority of the physics community.
Regrettably, it would be pointless for me to try to sum up his work here, because I would need just too many words to try to do it justice. Let's just say that Tegmark works on proving that we live in a world or reality where there are at least four levels of multiverses (our visible universe is a universe, a multiverse is multiple universes):
I think it is pretty obvious that you need to read the book in order to make sense of these levels, but Tegmark's ultimate thesis is that our Level IV universe is a complex mathematical structure. What's really fun is when he feels that he has accounted reasonably for all the current indicia there are that he is right and instead starts to explore the consequences and ramification if it really is so.
For example, he believes we are alone in our universe. Most people, including me, would say that given the enormous size of our visible universe and the astronomical number of stars in it, the Law of Large Numbers dictate that there will be an abundance of planets circling suitably sizes stars and it is unlikely that just our planet of the ones suitable for life has had intelligent lifeforms develop on it. Crunching the numbers, Tegmark reaches the conclusion that intelligent life is so rare that it is extremely unlikely that it happens twice within such a relatively small space as our visible universe. Hence, he believe we are alone. Also, only a tiny fraction of all parallel universes of all four levels are inhabitable - most are unstable and totally barren from even the possibility of life! We can really count ourselves lucky to be where we are, right? Wrong, says Tegmark, since a universe really needs to be rather fine-tuned to support life, this is exactly the universe we can expect to find ourselves in, so the only luck is that we are, not where we are. ;-)
This book regularly made my head spin and unlike Pääbo's "Neanderthal Man" where even the most advanced and complicated scientific methods was pretty straight-forward to explain, the concepts Tegmark introduces sometimes has the basic requirement of one needing to step out of our everyday, Newtonian physic world and enter some weird micro or macro cosmos to make sense of. However, let me reassure you, you don't need to get it all to be both entertained and have your world shook up a little. ;-)
(English, 14 May 2015)
I really liked Caldwell's earlier novel "The Rule of Four", that he wrote together with Dustin Thomason, but although "The Fifth Gospel" shares many of the same traits, it regrettably doesn't work as well for me. I think it simply has to do with "The Rule of Four" being set in a college and being as much a biography on the main character and his friends as a suspense story. It simply has a lot broader appeal than "The Fifth Gospel", which is set squarely in the Vatican. It actually was quite interesting to be guided around the Vatican and fed all sort of facts about both the city, its inhabitants, and - of course - Catholicism (both Western and Eastern) as well as the Ortodox Catholic church. Not that I am a practising Protestant and Sweden is among the most secularised countries in the world, but I am raised in a country full of Lutheran traditions, so it is interesting to get a peek at the Vatican from the outside, so to speak.
The plot is also fascinating with a lot of "what if" moments. It also, more than once, made me think of Tau Malachi's "Living Gnosis" as there are some parallels there with the canonical gospels and the other gospels.
Good craftsmanship, fascinating plot, well executed - but still a bit narrow in its appeal.
(English, 28 April 2015)
Just like Boyd's "It's Complicated", this popular-sicence title was so much more than I expected! Pääbo's book is a real treat. Let me elaborate on why:
I cannot but recommend it and suspect that the audience it might entertain is a lot wider that one would think at first glance.
(Swedish, 20 April 2015)
As my son starts school in grade zero (the Swedish preparatory year before first grade) this autumn, I though that the first Harry Potter novel would be a nice bedtime read, as Harry starts school as well in it. However, what I had forgotten since I read it myself back in 1999 was that Harry already had gone a few years in a normal school before he gets the summon to start first grade at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Thus, the age difference between my son and young Harry was bigger than I had intended, but he liked it very much anyway and often begged me to start on yet another chapter after we'd finished the evening's chapter (or chapters, if they were short).
It was interesting to read the Swedish translation and see that the translator had chosen to keep all the English names and only Swedified "muggles" into "mugglare". However, why keep the English name of "The Daily Prophet"? It is, after all, a book for kids and young adults, that might not yet know enough English to be able to decipher the name of that daily paper.
Anyways, despite all the English names, my son kept up very well, which was evident when he blurted out different theories on why something happened or what would happen next. Although not all his theories was plausible ones, they did prove a good comprehension of the story.
Another thing I had forgotten since reading the novel the first time is how much that takes place and how much is established already in the first book of the series. I remember the first pocket to be quite thin, but it evidently contained quite a lot anyway.
All in all, an endearing example of cross-over literature geared more to kids than young adults.
(German, 20 April 2015)
To be perfectly honest, I find Funke's illustrated children books a lot better composed than her Tinten-trilogy (Ink-trilogy in English). They aren't bad but both endearing, thrilling, and thought-provoking. I find her idea about readers that can read things in and out of books both brilliant and able to bear her whole trilogy. It's just that she hasn't been able to strike the right balance between the events in the books and the length of them.
However, many of the characters are pretty memorable and I liked the Tinten-world (Ink-world) a lot, although the single thing I like the most is the meta-quality of a trilogy of novels where references to other well-know books and authors places a huge part (although more so in the first than in the last volume).
In this, the third volume, Funke ties up the loose threads in a nice, unpredictable climax (or crisis) - even if it all predictably ends well.
All in all a great idea that could have been brilliantly carried out instead of just pleasantly...
(Swedish, 24 March 2015)
Another of my father childhood novels that I've used as bedtime story for my oldest, a couple of chapters a night. According to to the note - in my grandmother's handwriting - on the inside of the cover, my father got this book at Christmas 1957. I read it myself when I was a kid but it is quite interesting to re-read again as a grown-up. Apparently, Ingvar wrote some thirty books for kids and youths between 1947 and 1997(!). Five or six of them was about the Texan gun-slinger Bill Brandon. I wonder if Ingvar ever travelled USA to research his Wild West novels about Bill Brandon or if they are pure fantasies crafted in distant Sweden? It's quite a simple story but pretty convincingly carried out and it does possess a few nicely exiting parts.
However, all in all a pretty dated trifle of an adventure novel.
(English, 20 March 2015)
Wow - this book turned out to be so much more than I had expected. boyd (that for some reason writes her name without the first letter capitalised) has written a book about teens and social media - and since my children are growing up in this time and age with Internet everywhere and I make my living working for a Web 2.0 company, I naturally was curious about the book when I read about it in our morning paper and ordered a copy. However, I could never foresee just how thoroughly she had researched the topic or just from how many angles she's dissected the topic.
Simply put, I liked the book immensely because it constantly opened my eyes and made me see things in perspectives I hadn't considered before - and somehow boyd succeeded in making me feel smart because learning all these new things! Very alluring. ;-)
To give you an idea of the scope: by interviewing teens allover USA, from all classes, ethnicities, and religions, boyd has accounted for the social lives of networked teens in chapters on Identity, Privacy, Addiction, Danger, Bullying, Inequality, and Literacy. In all of them, she build compelling cases for teens' motivations and actions to be more complicated than they seem - and that parents/adult and especially media constantly get them wrong or underestimates/over-simplifies them.
Personally, I discovered that - despite being around computers since around 1982 and being on the Internet since 1993 (and working with the web in some form in every employment I've had) - I am surprisingly conservative when it comes to social media. Yet, I suspect that I might be more liberal when it comes to my own kids - for better or for worse.
As so often with American authors, the main drawback is the very American focus. While the Internet is global, culture is not, and European countries generally differs more with the US than with each other - especially with regards to sex, violence, and child rearing. Thus, some of the moral panics around teens and the Internet are simply more blown up in the US than in Europe. This makes the book a tad bit less applicable in Sweden - even if boyd tries hard to deflate the moral panics. (On the other hand, you can also read it as a guide to America and enjoy it as such - and appreciate what differences and similarities there are between our societies on each side of the Atlantic.)
The main lesson to remember in this book is that the overwhelming majority of teenagers use social media to keep in touch with their friends - people they already know - not to reach out to strangers. However, although many teenagers are acutely aware of the dangers their parents see in the Internet, that they intend their messages for their circle of friends can sometimes make them blind to the messages being publicly accessible - or not comprehending that someone else than their friends would go to the trouble to read their messages. I.e., there are room for loving parents to educate a little. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the strategies teenagers almost instinctively develop to obscure without making their content private by talking in contextual code so only the already initiated can understand. You see why the book is called "it's complicated"? ;-)
(German, 6 March 2015)
Kehlmann is the celebrated author of the excellent and original "Die Vermessung der Welt". In comparison to that novel, this collection of nine short story is much more trivial. However, all nine stories are intricately connected to each other - or rather, since each story has a main character of its own, the persons in them all have ties to the characters in the other stores, and tie into each others lives in some way.
Sometimes simple and subtle, sometimes grand and absurd, you have to admire the craftsmanship behind this collection. In retrospect, I liked the first one - about the man who got somebody else's number with his new mobile phone subscription - and the one about the author that went on a PR-trip in stead of a friend the most.
(English, 5 March 2015)
Apparently, they've coined the term crossover literature for this type of novels that appeal to adults as much as they do to children or, to put it in another way, isn't unnecessary patronisingly dumbed down for kids nor extravagantly complicated for masochistic adults. I.e., they are page-turners with broad appeal, like Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Twilight Sage, etc.
Roth's "Divergent" fits right up this alley with its post-apocalyptic Chicago that parallels Collins' post-apocalyptic USA in quite a few ways: the formation of new civilisations with built in tensions, gifted female main characters that has to overcome great personal challenges, etc.
It was a very nice read, with a thought-through, plausible world (even if I must peg Hunger Games as the even more thrilling one, I hold Divergent's society as being the more plausible one of the two.
Will borrow the sequel from my sister when I get the opportunity.
(Swedish, 27 February 2015)
With my ill daughter sleeping beside me (she kept waking when I tried to leave the room), I grabbed this book to not fall asleep myself and read it all in one go, before my daughter woke up. It took less than two hours to read, which was quite surprising given its format and weight - but it turned out that it had quite a modern, artsy layout with tons of photos and other illustrations (it is actually the "Illustrated Edition"). It was also written in light, easy-to-follow Swedish. This luxury hardcover edition makes for a great gift - and I actually got it as a Christmas present from my sister and her boyfriend.
Anyways, in the book, the physician and author Bea Uusma confesses and shares her obsession with S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897 with her readers. And "obsession" is actually a quite fitting word for it, since she's spent a lot of time, money, and effort on researching and trace the unfortunate expedition for a long time. Apart of being an account of her research, the book also presents her own conclusions regarding the fate of the expedition, complete with her evidence. I wont spoil anything, but she has, very fairly, listed about all theories - both popular and obscure - that's been circulated about what killed the participants since their bodies were found in 1930 and she goes through them all, discussing their strength and weaknesses and overall plausibility. Her own favourite isn't the only plausible she identifies - but it is the one she feels most of the evidence points at. It is also an underdog theory that has got surprisingly little support before Bea brought it back on the table!
It is really neatly done. It could have been as boring as a clinically kept journal of amateur research but as she weaves in parts of her own life and historically indisputable elements of the expedition participants private lives before they took off on the attempt to reach the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon and also composes her narration quite like a detective story - the end effect is a beautifully illustrated and layouted page-turner.
Good work, Bea!
(English, 13 February 2015)
Another series of successful cross-over literature. The "Beautiful" novels are feel-good contemporary fantasy in an original American South-states setting. I enjoy to read them and am curious to see where each volume will take the story, but somehow, I have trouble to produce multi-paragraph reviews of them. Sure, that is partially due to not wanting to spoil anything, but it is also due to them not stirring me enough.
To me, the main strengths are A) the Southern setting (and drawl), B) the endearing love-relationship between Ethan and Lena, and C) the quite likable collections of Casters, Succubuses, and other magical creatures.
(Swedish, 9 February 2015)
This might be the single novel I personally have read the most times. There were a few years in my early teens - or even before that - when I, for some reason, read this book quite regularly. So, yes, I am quite fond of it. No surprise that I asked if my oldest would like it as bedtime book. Needless to say, he agreed. ;-)
Having worked as a pilot himself (among other professions), Schwartzkopf makes the airplane and flying stuff very credible. Couple that with a fascinating plot featuring an unknown ice-sea island with an isolated populations of lost Russians, hearty humour, ice-bears, and more and you have quite the boy-book classic.
It might be my bias that is talking, but I want to argue that this is quite an accomplished piece of fiction, in all its apparent simplicity!
(English, 26 January 2014)
Thank God for all IT-billionaires that have the time and money to spend on elaborate bleeding-edge experiments using themselves as Guinea-pigs. Apparently, Silicon Valley is the centre of the "Bio-hack" movement, where one-size fits all, cookie-cutter solutions are frowned upon and everyone is out to find the unique prescription that is customised for one's individual genome.
Asprey has focused on dispelling the hard-to-kill myths about the food we eat and preaching little know facts like, for instance, how negatively traces of mold toxins in what we eat can affect us. Fascinating stuff! Even if you have to take it with a pinch of salt and, as always, need to use vigilant source criticism/information evaluation, it does give you a lot of new ideas and perspectives. (Even if you hear an obviously false statement, the logical motivation for someone to state it might trigger associations for you that lead you to new, personal ideas, insights, and/or break-throughs.)
So, in other words, even if _I_ personally find Asprey quite convincing, I still don't take his every word as the truth, nor do I say that you should. What I will encourage you, however, is to read him with an open mind, to get new ideas and to see the world through new eyes.
Asprey is perhaps best known as the inventor of "Bulletproof Coffee" - i.e., preferably mold-toxin free coffee mixed with butter and coconut oil, to make for a breakfast that jogs your mind and body and keeps you going - fuelling your body - while keeping your hunger at bay - allegedly without ending your night fast, thereby triggering the bodies own cleaning processes, muscle growth, fat burning, and whatnot. Does it sound extreme? (I thought so.) Does it sound too far out to even be tried? (I didn't think so but actually tried it. It does hold the hunger at bay, oddly enough, but at this time I have not yet any verdict about the other claims.)
Asprey's Bulletproof diet is interesting in that it isn't black and white and that he acknowledges that different individuals react differently to different food-stuffs, due to our different genetics. He encourages everyone to become an active Bio-hacker and experiment to find what works best for yourself. He also views his diet as a spectrum, where you still are on the diet even if you always pick the very worst things to stuff yourself with (you are at the far end, but you are still on the diet). This perspective makes it easier to, over time, make better and better choices - and to overcome set-backs.
The focus of the book is on the diet, with page upon page of walkthroughs of different groups of foods from the most bulletproof to the most toxic. However, he also includes sections on how to improve your sleep and more.
For anyone with a sense of curiosity or anybody who likes the books of Timothy Ferriss, this is a book for you,
(English, 15 January 2015)
Tim Ferriss' "Four hour" books led to McGuff's and Little's "Body by Science" and McGuff's blog later led me to this gem.
Baye originally created Project Kratos (named after the Greek god of strength) as a complete high-intensity body-weight program for his own body-weight training station. However, it was then generalised to work with little or no equipment (by substituting exercises). The edition I've got is his second phase, where he has released it to get feedback from people using it, with the goal to publish an ultimate edition, fine tuned by the feedback and incorporating selected users' experiences.
Anyway, what makes "Project: Kratos" unique? It contains detailed progression schemes for all of the common body-weight exercises, allowing for a wide-range of fitness levels. Basically, this program is of use both for the out-of-wind couch-potato and the fit and active athlete. (Although, as usual, what you get out of it depends on how much effort you invest in it.) Unlike other body-weight training manuals and much like "Body by Science", "Project: Kratos" prescribes slow, high-intensity movements focusing on quality of muscle loading, not quantity of repetitions. The result is a higher degree of muscle fatigue but a lot less risk of injury as you move slow and deliberate rather than rushed and bouncing. Thus, it makes for a time-efficient, low-budget, low-risk, highly mobile strength-training program.
I cannot but help thinking that this book would be valuable to have if one ever is locked up for a longer stretch of time into a small cell. ;-)
(Swedish, 13 January 2015)
Yes, I readily admit to this being quite a risky choice of bedtime literature for my not yet six years old, but it worked out marvellously. We've received reports from the day-care centre that he has been talking about light and particles and whatnot. ;-) He has really listened with an interest and has even been able to answer some of the end-of-chapter questions (I was very proud of him when he correctly could explain why it is better to crawl than to walk on thin ice). Hopefully, some of these insights will stick in his memory.
Anyways, this is the story of the young male assistant to the elderly that among his clients have the old lady that is studying physics and loves to talk about it, and through her stories the young assistant starts to see physics in play everywhere around him in his everyday life.
All in all a quite endearing book with a quite ambitious agenda. It is just sad how badly this first edition was proof-read. I remember that is was bad enough reading it oneself, but reading it out loud makes you stumble on even more grammatical and spelling errors!
(Norwegian, 9 January 2015)
This novel is divided into three parts. I liked the first part a lot, as it had a nerve and a fresh feeling with the advanced threesome and insights into Norwegian governmental New Public Management. The second, where the narrating I in the novel comes forward, I didn't care for at all. She was unfortunately too weird for me and the contrast to the first part was simply too big. The third part was somewhere in between, but not as good as the first part.
If we concentrate on the first part, it is really interesting how fascinating it is. Although I am sceptical to whether this ever will be considered a classic as the New Public Management stuff probably will make the book feel dated in a few years, at the moment, it does add to the novel's credibility. And the erotic and border-transcending threesome - well, it could have felt constructed, but as it is, the persons actually feel natural enough to make the whole situation both extreme but yet plausible and somewhat possible to relate to.
And, as always, it is personally rewarding for me, as a Swede, to read a novel in Norwegian.
(Swedish, 15 December 2014)
I gave this book to my wife as a joke, but it is actually quite an interesting read. There are a lot of indisputably good arguments for why it is a good thing to become a lesbian - regardless of how old the presumptive female is. On the other hand, the authors do paint a rather black and generalised image of all men. I am a man and while I do give them right in some of their criticisms of the male species, at the same time, I don't recognise myself in the general picture they try to put all men in. In some of it, yes, but far from all of it.
In any case, it is a good read for anyone, regardless of whether one is for or against same-gender relationships. You are bound to learn something new - especially if you are homophobic dinosaur. I was rather surprised over how much I appreciated the chapter on why you should wish your daughter was a lesbian! I simply hadn't been able to foresee all their arguments. On the other hand, this book will hardly affect the way I raise either of my kids at all.
An eye-opener, perhaps even more so for men than for women, despite the obviously intended gender of readers.
(German, 12 December 2014)
Schorlau really has his distinct art of writing detective stories. This one is inspired by the Afghanistan war and is possibly the most creepy of his novels so far. Novel super-weapons and Western governmental cover-ups is not a good combination for the safety of you and me...
Good book, Dengler relied less on his good fortune in this one, but on the other hand, he relied a lot more on his talented girlfriend Olga. This is not the only Dengler-novel where it is rather Olga than Dengler that cracks the case and saves the day.
Time to go hunting for the fifth Dengler novel.
(English, 5 December 2014)
Gladwell is always Gladwell. He takes an aspect of reality, finds a lot of relating stories, and weaves them together into an illuminating book - or perhaps he is rather able to find the common aspect to a set of stories from the ocean of tales he has encountered throughout his life as a journalist.
In this book, the theme is the little versus the giants, the underdog versus the superior, the misfits versus the conventional, etc, and Gladwell's argues the case that these common categories rather are due to a fault in our perception. The seemingly weak are not only stronger than we think - Glaswell lists example after example on cases where the apparent weakness is exactly the factor that in reality has empowered the seemingly weak to actually be able to be victorious. It might be dyslectics that has compensated for their handicap by excelling in other areas or survivors of terror bombing that through their survival lose their fear and thus makes terror bombing futile.
Perhaps Gladwell's most useful lesson in this book is that of the inverted U-curve - i.e., a curve that shows that sometime the law of diminishing returns give way to a situation where extra effort actually makes for determinable results (one of his examples is the size of school classes - reducing huge classes yields better results for the pupils but only up to a point, if you reduce the classes further after that point, the pupils do worse again).
As always, Gladwell not only argues his case well, but as he accounts for the background to his enlightening stories, he does so very well and entertainingly. I cannot but recommend all Gladwell's books to anyone the least curious of the human reality we all share.
(German, 1 December 2014)
It is not hard to see why Schorlau has become so popular in Germany (or so my German friends tell me). Since he always spins his plots around a lot of real facts (sometimes anonymifying or even appropriating them), you often get a "what if?"-feeling that is really excellent. Also, Schorlau's detective novels are pretty political as he often weaves his tales around some bad guy that is either corrupted by power or money or both.
In this novel, Dengler's third case, the political angle is far-reaching privatisation and the risks of prioritising profit before ethics. I don't want to make more of a spoiler - it is a crime/suspense story after all - but the title of the novel is somewhat indicative of the theme.
Cool with another productive German crime author aside of Nele Neuhaus to enjoy.
(Swedish, 1 December 2014)
Dahlén is an eccentric (long hair, black nails) professor of economy at the Stockholm School of Economics. I've previously seen him on TV as an expert on what makes modern people behave the way they do. It was with high expectations I approach this book by him - and, boy, did he deliver!
"Nextopia" is a book about satisfaction, happiness, and business in the Twenty-first century. Dahlén argues that we aren't searching for Utopia anymore, but instead are living in Nextopia where our expectations are driving us and both our perceived happiness and actual satisfaction forward. Since everything that is actually released on the market can be instantly copied, companies greatest asset isn't a well-filled store-room, it is instead their next, not-yet released product. People actually appreciates products they cannot yet buy more than things they can buy in a store or already have. Remember Steve Jobs and Apple's yearly press conferences where they revealed what their next big thing would be? Those were totally symptomatic, according to Dahlén.
It would probably be quite interesting to take a course given by professor Dahlén or partake in his research. However, I will have to settle with reading his books. I really enjoyed this one - an excellent example of popular science with quite a few parallels to Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow".
Perhaps they key point I am taking with me from this book is that we are evolutionary programmed to seek happiness through development but, as a consequence, are basically content with our lives. Since pessimists die younger, the evolution over time have been, is, and will be working on making humanity overall happier and more content. (Kind of reassuring, don't you think?)
(German, 24 November 2014)
In this, Dengler's second case, Schorlau isn't as contemporary as he was in the first Dengler-book (and as he is reputed to be) but instead makes the plot revolve around an event during the second World War. Still, it's a quite nice Crime/Suspense story and we get to know both Dengler and the people around him better.
So far, a nice series. Will sink my teeth into the third novel soon.
(English, 14 November 2014)
Interestingly enough, apparently, Wier once wrote a pretty mathematical book presenting his Trance Model. He seems to have got a lot of criticism from less mathematical people that it was too hard to read due to the heavy math. Thus, in this book, the only mathematics included are contained into a short footnote - and it is pretty basic math as well. ;-)
"The Way of Trance" goes through a variety of common trances - meditation, hetero- and self-hypnosis, television, magick, addiction, etc - and applies his Trance Model on each. This makes for quite interesting reading. The map is not the territory, but by using the same model to explain such a variety of common trance phenomenas, you get new insights into the complexity of the human psyche.
However, Weir's reasoning isn't simple to follow and his Trance Model is quite complicated (I would have liked a deeper explanation of it). Thus, even if it is interesting and thought-provoking, it kind of raises more questions than it answers. Possibly, an experienced meditator or even an addict of some sort would be able to appreciate it more than me.
Perhaps I should simply read it again, but I really would liked Wier to go deeper in most if not all sections as it felt like he presumed his readers to be closer to his knowledge level than I am.
(German, 4 November 2014)
Heh, a German Crime/Suspense thriller with a Private Investigator, not a Police, as main character - there's something you don't see every day (although George Dengler happens to have quit his former job as a Police in order to start his new career as a private-eye). Schorlau even jokes about it by letting a neighbour to Dengler explain why Germans don't care for novels and movies about Private Investigators.
All together, it is a rather well-crafted book. However, its primary strength is undeniably the core plot, with its political dimension, that lends itself well to people's thirst for conspiracy theories. On the whole, the plot seemed creepily plausible to me, with those nice "What if?" vibes. Then, in Schorlau's afterword, I learnt just how much facts, true event and actual persons he has woven into his novel (that I, as a non-German, of course had no clue about). No wonder that he has become popular in Germany (we were given the first few Dengler books by friends in Germany) - he has simply built his fiction around one of the conspiracy theories on the very real murder of Detlev Rohwedder in 1991.
As this is the book about Dengler's first case, Schorlau naturally introduces both Dengler's background ("formative life-events") and support characters I suspect will be reoccurring in the other installations in the series (there are at least six books about Dengler). He also leaves a few loose threads that I wouldn't be surprised if they are spun further in the sequel.
If I should mention something less good about it, it's Schorlau's dramaturgical method of building up to the climax by becoming more and more terse and making the scenes shorter and shorter. Carefully done, it - of course - works like a charm, but I actually found the end a bit lacking just because it felt a bit rushed to me. Compared to the beginning and the middle part of the novel, the end felt too thin - even-though Dengler cracks the case and all. In my opinion, Schorlau could have dwelled on the last part of the book a lot more without sacrificing neither suspense nor build-up. Then again, taste is a subjective matter, naturally. It is still a very good book and nice read.
(Swedish, 17 October 2014)
How lucky my daughter is to have been born on this Earth in the twenty-first century! Schlingmann, that got known to the wide public as the ideologist that transformed Sweden's foremost conservative party into "the new Labour party", and Nordström. the economy professor that co-authored the great "Funky Business", here collaborates on a book on the current global trends they sense and predicts.
The title "Urban Express" pays homage to that since the beginning of the Twentyfirst century, more people live in cities than in the country side - and in the big cities throughout the earth, the young women educate themselves more than men and are already beginning to earn more than men. How's that for gender equality?
Less reassuring is that where once an university education was a guarantee for a successful career, it is now a requirement but not enough to land you a good job. Schlingmann and Nordström argues that you need to compliment it with what they call "wild knowledge" - knowledge that cannot easily be encoded (and this neither copied nor easily learnt).
"Urban Express" is both an reassuring book in the sense that the trends they identifies and predicts are overall positive ones. At the same time, it is a bit unnerving in the sense that our society will continue to put higher and higher demands on the individual. The book it very fast-paced which makes it highly entertaining but also mind-boggling (innovism instead of capitalism? Didn't capitalism just "win" when only North Korea refuses to introduce any capitalism?).
If you, like me, are curious of our contemporary society and where we are going next, you are probably going to enjoy this book.
(English, 13 October 2014)
Forester is best know of his marathon series on Horatio Hornblower and Hornblower's career from midshipman to Admiral during the Napolean Wars. In "The Ship", he instead writes about a convoy bound for Malta during the Second World War (yes, I bought it in the book-store in the Malta airport on my way home from my latest work-trip to Malta).
Unfortunately, Forester's Hornblower novels are generally better than this one (at least as I remember the ones I've read). Although the plot is thrilling: a few British cruisers and destroyers - guarding the convoy carrying supplies vital to the survival of Malta as Allied stronghold in the Mediterranean theatre of war - that has to take on virtually the whole Italian fleet, the novel bogs down in the tiresome neverending pro-British portraits of every person encountered throughout the one cruiser the story revolves around. Some moderation had been good. As it now stands, you are kind of only reminded of that it is the victors that write history. But, yeah, in theory, each character portrait of each seaman and office would have given the story depth - but too much of a good thing make things go haywire. Especially all flashbacks to their lives in Britain before the war are getting in the way of the core story.
Anyways, one good thing with the novel is its thorough account for how a British cruiser is constructed and how its crew are organised. What surprised me is how often all the complex machinery needs to be manually handled - sometimes in rather complex and arcane ways. I assume that much of those tasks are computerised today.
How I hope that I never have to perform any such task - mindful or mindless - on a cruise engaged in a naval battle and constantly risking instant death to any of its inhabitants...
(English, 10 October 2014)
This is another book I was introduced to by Doug McGuff's blog (one of the authors of the the excellent "Body by Science") but Bass is actually not a completely new acquaintance of mine. As I have had my bouts of exercise throughout the years, I have naturally done a lot of searching on the Internet and naturally already come across articles there by Bass. This book, however, is sometime different. It is basically a personal survey of the fields strength, exercise, and health by the now 75-years old Bass where he presents cutting-edge science paired with his own endeavours throughout the years.
Just like McGuff and Little in "Body by Science", Bass stresses the importance of strength and skeletal muscle for health, one's brain, ageing, etc, but where McGuff and Little scoffs at aerobics as not worth the trouble, Bass paints a more moderate picture (I got curious of his prescription of sub-max intervals on rowing machines and ski ergometers where you should pace yourself so only the last interval will be of maximum intensity and just barely possible to complete.)
The book is basically a nice smorgosboard of training modalities and health and dieting tips to cherry-pick from, with Bass acting as your friendly guide. It is well worth a read, but I still like McGuff's and Little's in "Body by Science" more.
(German, 1 October 2014)
I think it happened again. I liked the second book in a series better than the first - probably because of the already established familiarity with the characters and fictional world. It is also less repetitive and better paced. As less of the plot takes place in our world and more in the particular book-world of the fictional book "Tintenherz" that is central to the whole trilogy, the story also takes on a graver tone as that world is a grimmer place than ours.
Strengths: The meta-qualities of the main-characters love of books and frequent references to other real books, the core idea of being able to read things in and out of books, the lovingly grim Tintenworld.
Weaknesses: The very large set of characters where not all get the attention they deserve, a nagging feeling that Funke could have polished the whole story one notch more (but here the impression from the first book lingers and unjustly affects this, the second one).
All in all, good enough that I look forward to the third part.
(Swedish, 3 September 2014)
Aaah, what a pure pleasure. "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" may be short, but it so ingeniously well composed, to work on so many levels. You can read it as a novel about seagulls, as a book about flying, as a self-realisation manual, as a textbook on transcendence, etc. It's no wonder that it has been loved by generations of readers since being published in the seventies.
This Swedish copy, which I bought solely to read to my son at bedtime, is called "Måsen" ("The Seagull") but is as far as I can tell aptly translated. Not surprisingly, my son also enjoyed it and asked me a lot of questions that proved to me that he didn't only get the outer story, but at least some of the deeper levels as well.
(Swedish, 1 September 2014)
My father got this book as a Christmas gift in 1956, when he was eleven years old. The author, Ahlstedt, is otherwise best known as one of the two authors behind the pseudonym Sivar Ahlrud that wrote a whole bunch of boy-books about "Tvillingdeckarna" ("the Twin Detectives"). Here, he has been commissioned with writing "The Boy's Christmas Book 1956", and true to his habit, it is a detective story about the self-proclaimed Private-Eye Kjell Nilsson, a twelve years old boy and how he solves his first great case with some help from his friend Caesar and Caesar's younger sister Ingela.
Even if it is a "boy-book", it isn't that simple. The plot is quite intricate and is actually not that predictable. However, that Kjell even get a chance to solve the mystery in the first place depends just too much on co-incidence to be really convincing.
To my surprise, despite being written almost 60 years ago, it felt surprisingly little dated - with one great exception: it is ripe of the gender-inequality of the fifties, which reduces Ingela to a mere assistance. Had it been written today, she would naturally have assumed a much more active and involved role.
All in all a trifle, but my son enjoyed it.
(English, 25 August 2014)
What a disappointment! I was, in the blog of Dough McGuff (co-author of "Body by Science), led to believe that Darden included some in-depth insights on cold thermogenesis in "The Body Fat Breakthrough" but it turns out he don't. The only cold-treatment he includes is the usual application of a ice-pack to ones neck and cold baths and showers (it seems a cold plunge after a strength training session goes a long way with preventing soreness the following days).
Despite a lot of parallels between "The Body Fat Breakthrough" and "Body by Science", the latter is to me so much better than the former. Primarily because where McGuff and Little argues their case by giving an indepth scientific description of the biological processes involved, sharing their insights with the reader, Darden instead is trying hard to sell his ten core advice he calls "Fat Bombs" by organising his book much like a sales-prospect (complete with an impressive number of before and after photos of the subjects who took parts in the trials of his program). Granted, Darden's book is much more easy to read tha McGuff's and Little's, but I like the tone a lot better in "Body by Science". I guess that McGuff's and Little's book are more descriptive and reasoning where Darden's is more prescriptive. Both books probably have their audiences.
Anyways, even if I was put off by the form of "The Body Fat Breakthrough" and the lack of the insights in why cold thermogenesis works that I had thought was included, there is much of interest in it as well. What I found most interesting were the concept of Negative-accentuated exercise (which McGuff and Little only touched upon but Darden goes into to a higher degree) and super-hydration (that makes you burn calories both to heat the ingested cold water and compensate for the heat loss through urination). One interesting point was the concept of post-dinner half-an-hours walks, but no parents of toddlers are really able to enjoy any such...
If you are overweight, looking for a way to loose weight fast, and have time and dedication to dive into a around-the-clock program, "The Body Fat Breakthrough" might be something for you. For me, it was mostly a dud, although I did appreciate the 30/30/30 protocol of Negative-accentuated exercise - i.e., start with one negative (eccentric) movement so slow that it lasts 30 seconds, the reverse and make an equally slow positive (concentric) movement followed by a last 30 second negative (eccentric) movement. If you have chosen your weight right, you should just barely be able to finish the last negative in a controlled fashion before you reach muscular failure and has then reached a 90 second Time Under Load of two-thirds negative and one-third positive effort. This should jog your involved muscles to overcompensate and grow stronger if you give them enough time to recover.
Too much of a sales-pamphlet, too little of a reasoning text-book.
(English, 21 August 2014)
Feelgood fantasy, despite all the hardships and horrors. (I'm sorry, I am not that inspired right now.)
(Swedish, 13 August 2014)
Niklas Ekdal was for quite some time political editor for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's largest daily morning paper. As such, I read quite a few opinions written by his pen over the years. Now I've read his first fictional novel (he had already then published some non-fictional books) and I must say that the jump from political commentator to author of a thriller is quite an interesting leap.
Let's begin by listing the main weaknesses I spontaneously attribute the novel:
However, luckily, the novel does possess some nice strengths as well:
All in all, it might be a bit lightweight as thriller but, on the other hand, it is a nice tale of contemporary Sweden with all the movements that are going on over and under the surface. Let's hope that Ekdal continues to pump out thrillers that only gets better and better as he continues to develop his skills at writing them.
(English, 31 July 2014)
By reading this title, I discovered that it is preceded not only by "Freakonomics" - which I have read - but also by their "Superfreakonomics", which I seem to have missed completely. This must, of course, be addressed at a later date.
Anyways, unlike "Freakonomics" (and allegedly "Superfreakonomics") that were descriptive in that they only contained stories of this and that case were a bit of statistics and creative thinking provided a novel and better fitting explanation than conventional wisdom at the time for something in our contemporary society, "Think Like a Freak" is prescriptive in that it has the ambition to train us in thinking more freely and be more aware of the common fallacies of human thinking (compare with Kahneman and his "Thinking, Fast and Slow" that Levitt and Dubner also refers to).
However, their teaching aspiration aside, the merit of this title is, like the preceding ones, all examples they use to illustrate their advice. Like how Kobi on his first try smashed the old hot dog eating contest record of 25 1/8 hot dogs with bun in 12 minutes by eating no less than 50 in the same time. How he did it? He realised that the competition at the time still ate the hot dogs the ordinary way, just quicker. By deconstruction and experimentation Kobi arrived at his new record by first swallowing the sausages and then dunk the buns in water, compress them in his hands and digest the bread-and-water mash. I.e., he surpassed the competition by thinking like a freak. ;-)
As Levitt's and Dubner's books always seem to be very entertaining and enlightening, I better get my hands on "Superfreakonomics" as well.
(Swedish, 28 July 2014)
Lindgren is best known for her fairy-tales, but this isn't a fairy tale but actually a Crime/Suspense story for older kids. This particular copy was given to my father as a Christmas gift when he was seven years old. I read it to my son at bedtime, and it kept his interest peaked.
At its core, the central plot is pretty simple but refined enough to work, and still works 60 years after the novel was first published. You certainly don't need any overworked plot when you instead focus on the main characters and their ambition to get the most out of their summer holidays.
Of course, small town life in Sweden in the Fifties are quite unlike our contemporary society, but - again - kids are still kids and so little time is spent on other things than their pastimes that surprisingly little differences are obvious. For example, many of the main characters' mothers must be non-working house-wives, but that is never apparent in the novel - possibly because it was as natural then as it is uncommon today.
All in all a sweet and not that trivial detective story for children of all ages (except the youngest ones - after all, there are a murder taking place in it).
(Swedish, 26 July 2014)
One should really read more of Dahl - he has done so much more than just "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". This little novel - which I believe was made into a movie the other year - is quite interesting in the fact that virtually all humans are depicted as filthy and evil while the animals, on the other hand, are noble creatures fighting for the survival of their families against the very same humans (well, perhaps with the exception of the drunken rat).
I have to admit that I do wonder what the morale of the story is (if there is one). The animals - well, the fox at least - is providing for his family by stealing. On the other hand, that is the nature of the fox. Perhaps it's really a warning about becoming as bad as the farmers? Anyway, it is an entertaining story and my son enjoyed it immensely.
(Swedish, 23 July 2014)
Whoha, who would have thought that Dahl was such an environmentalist already back in the Sixties? The morale of this short novel is obviously how wrong it is to hunt animal just as a pastime but the way that the hunters get what they deserve is quite original, to say the least.
Short, but highly entertaining, both for me as reader and my son as audience.
(Swedish, 22 July 2014)
This is a collection of four short fairy-tales by the late fairy-tale queen Lindgren that all four start with the same sentence: "För länge sen, i fattigdomens dagar ..." ("A long time ago, in the days of poverty ...") and all is about poor kids that in their own ways tackle their misfortunes (not all of them with a happy ending).
Being a writer of mainly fairy-tales, Lindgren was often looked down on as not a serious author. However, even in these short stories, there are clearly a lot of thought involved and they are ripe of Lindgren's trademark endearing atmosphere.
My son eagerly awaited his one story a night as long as the four of them lasted.
(Swedish, 22 July 2014)
I have already for quite a while read Heberlein's articles in Dagens Nyheter (our daily morning paper) with great interest as she writes about contemporary topics in a, at the same time, accessible and thought-provoking way (a lot more accessible than, for instance, Lena Andersson that has a knack for writing "over my head").
Heberlein often writes about hard ethical topics like good versus evil, suicide, and happiness versus sorrow - and after reading this quite auto-biographical book, I can much better understand why she tackles these hard topics and appreciate Heberlein's articles on a whole other level (not the least because of them fortunately still regularly appearing).
Heberlein is diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and, not surprisingly, it has shaped her life quite heavily. That she evenso is so functional and even successful is in itself one of the more important lessons of the book. Psychic diseases are more common than we think and they are hard to spot by a spectator just because that you are neither necessarily nor obviously crippled or hospitalised by them - although from the sufferers perspective, they can, of course, be totally crippling anyway.
Heberlein made an unsuccessful attempt to end her life in her youth and this book is her way to go public with her lifelong struggle to keep her demons at bay and keep on living - if nothing else to not abandon her children. The title of it, "Jag vill inte dö, jag vill bara in leva" translates to "I don't want to die, I just don't want to live". She has crafted the book so dramatically that I actually felt quite a relief when, during the days I was reading it, she had a recent article on divorce published in our daily news paper (phew, she's still around!).
Aside from being a gripping and revealing personal account of a non-well-known disease, it was at the same time very informative, particularly of the bipolar II disorder, but also about psychic diseases in general. This is probably the most important aspect of the book, that it also strives to teach the general public more and rise their understanding of sufferers of psychic disease.
For me, personally, it was an eye-opener in that some things shouldn't be brushed aside but acknowledged as potential or quite real disease - i.e., there is nothing mild about a mild depression. Also, it was tough to read about how her friends and family sometimes have failed to support her through her roughest times as I came to realise that I, too, have been in the same situation where I really ought to have been more supportive and persevering despite my own insecurities, petty problems, and exhaustion. (If you happen to read this - you know who you are - I'm sorry and think you, too, should read this book if you haven't already).
If I should sum this book up in one word, it would be "revealing" because Heberlein on her own account shares with us so much from her life that she didn't have to do to get her core message across - but as she gives such a full disclosure, she makes the book just more credible.
If I should sum this book up in two words, it would be "revealing" and "important".
(Swedish, 20 July 2014)
This novel one the prestigious Swedish "August"-prize in 2013 and has generated quite a lot of press about its inherent originality. The title, "Egenmäktig förfarande" is a legal term that - I guess - corresponds to "taken without owner's consent (TWOC)" in English, but is a bit more flexible than that, so perhaps "used without owner's consent" or just "used without consent" would be a more fitting translation. (We will have to wait and see if it will get published in English anytime soon.)
This is a novel about love - how to persons happen to meet, mutual interest, one-sided infatuation, and a dragged out struggle to alternatively engage and disengage. The perspective is quite original and creative in that the main character - the woman - is intellectually very clear over what she is doing and why and yet she is a slave to the whims of her feelings. The novel is also refreshingly original in that the language and dialogues between the persons involved are on such am educated level (at times, I could barely understand the references - Andersson also regularly writes opinions in our daily news-paper, Dagens Nyheter, and although she often writes about interesting topics, I just too often have to give up on them as she is deconstructing the subject at hand on a just too abstract level of philosophy for me to have a chance to follow her train of thought (in her defence, she recently wrote an opinion on the phenomena of Roma beggars that was very good, thought-provoking and eye-opening)).
It is far from a feel-good novel, but I would guess that most people can identify themselves with the main character, at least in parts of the novel.
It is not the most accessible novel but because of that, it can also be more rewarding that your average romance novel, although probably in other ways and on another level than your common story or that you may be used to. In its best passages, it is very clear-sighted (almost clinically so) about love in our day and age, in its worst, its dialogues possesses a too abstract quality.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, I have a bit of mixed feelings about this one, in part probably due to having had too high expectations due to its hype.
(Swedish, 17 July 2014)
This is basically a survey on today's cutting edge research on the human genome with regards to weight-loss (and weight-gain). However, Bojs and Bratt - both being experienced science-journalists - have luckily had the ambition to paint a more complete picture. Thus, they include some history on how the human genome was mapped and where that effort is evolving today, a comparison between the classical low-fat diet, the popular low-carbs, high-fat diet(s), and the traditional Mediterranean cuisine with regards to weight-loss, the miracle medicine of physical exercise, and more (like the Icelanders' unique position as a dream population among the gene-hunters and hereditary researchers, being not only an isolated island people but also one with documented ancestries sometimes back to Viking times).
All in all a very entertaining book, especially with the important background bits and side-tracks. Although I (and probably you, too) have heard most of it before, it is nice to have it all collected in one place, both for convenience and to get the big picture (i.e., if all isolated facts from various books, articles, and academic papers are close-ups of the leaves of a tree, this book is about the complete three itself - even if viewed from a distance).
My biggest shock came in the bibliography where they only listed a selection (a selection!) of the sources (what gems might they have left out?!?). Clearly, I have grown just too accustomed to scientific literature...
(Danish, 16 July 2014)
Who-ho, another novel by Høeg! And a good one as well, better than "Elefantpassernes børn", more on par with "Den stille pige" and "Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne".
Once again, Høeg's main character is a woman and this time a talented physicist that have the uncanny skill of being able to induce honesty in people and as her husband happen to have a similar effect on people, they can combine them to enlarge the effect even further. Of course, with such uncommon gifts, they have the responsibility to use them only for good and not misuse them. Well, how do you think they fare with that? ;-)
It is a very typical thriller by Høeg. Although partially sprung from the world of science and with a lot of academicians among the characters, it still contains his trademark scepticism to science - but I cannot remember him ever writing a book with such a bleak outlook on the future (or politicians, for that matter).
As always, I jump at the chance to read him in his original Danish but this time I struggled with it a lot more often than in the past. Perhaps I am just out of practise, or perhaps - given Susans background as a physicist - the language just got too complicated for me to follow in Danish. Still, it was a treat to read another, typical wild ride à la Høeg.
It is also fascinating to look at Denmark through his eyes. In his novels, the peaceful neighbouring country to my Sweden takes on wild and exotic qualities I have a hard time believing Denmark really possesses in reality. I should really spend some time there sometime to find out. ;-)
(English, 13 June 2014)
This was weird. My boss' boss claims Blanchard and his concept of a "One Minute Manager" to be the inspiration to what he tries to implement in his own rôle as a manager (he have been at it for years, first with his own direct subordinates but last year it really begun trickling down to my level for real - or a compromise thereof, made to fit with the general company policies). However, even if this clearly is a book with Blanchard as co-author and obviously on the topic of the "One Minute Manager", I have a hard time believing it to be the very same book that turn my boss' boss life as a manager around. Why? Because it is so thin, a mere 111 pages, and many of these pages are only filled with text partially, as the succeeding section always begins on a new page. I have to check with him if he wasn't rather referring to a thicker, more in-depth volume on the same topic.
What's this book then? It is a fictitious tale about a young man that goes around the world, interviewing managers, looking for the ideal managerial principles. The he comes to the company of the One Minute Manager, where he is welcomed in a way he never experienced before and meets a lot of people - including the One Minute Manager himself - who all teach him something valuable of the principles. In the end, he is taken in as a manager in the very same company, to himself become a One Minute Manager and he only leaves that particular office to found his own branch of the company.
It is all very simple, with One Minute Goals, One Minute Praising, and One Minute Reprimands but, as we've implemented our own version of the One Minute Goals where I'm working, I can vouch for it being rather effective if done right. In any case, Blanchard and Johnson paints a pretty attractive picture, where, basically, mutual trust on all levels frees up a lot of time for real work rather than sacrificing it on maintaining control based on mistrust. For example, a time-reporting system and the tasks of reporting and screening the reports could be simply got rid of if instead of distrusting the employees you trust them to actually complete their tasks and go looking for more tasks if they have time to spare.
(German, 4 June 2014)
For me, Funke is more known as author of picture books for children, you know, ages three to six or so. For instance, checkout her "Ein Ritter ohne Namen" (A knight without a name, called "Princess Knight" in English) and "Käpten Knitterbart und seine Bande" (called "Pirate Girl" in English) - both with young, resourceful girls as main character that don't exactly yield to the traditional but outdated male-female role distribution. However, apparently she's written quite a lot of "real" novels as well. Perhaps more targeted at older kids and young adults than grown-ups, but - hey - remember Harry Potter? Or "The Hunger Games"?
This novel, "Tintenherz" ("Inkblood" in English), is the first of her "Tinten" ("Ink") trilogy and the first thing that stands out when reading it is its inherent meta qualities. Not in the strict self-referential sense - i.e., the novel isn't about itself (although it does share its name with a fictional novel that is central to the plot) - but more generally so as it basically is a novel about the love of enjoying books. For instance, Meggie - the main character - is brought up to love books by a book-enjoying father that restores books as a living, and her great-aunt is a collector of rare books. They also, just like any experienced readers, frequently make references to a lot of well-known classic when talking to each other and Funke precedes every chapter with a well-chosen quote from the same classics or others (the novel is equipped with a handy bibliography to both the references and quotes in the end). Thus, she really "stood on the shoulders of giants" that came before her when she wrote the novel, but the core plot is quite viable on its own. It's quite original and likable, too, with a certain "what if"-flair.
If I should try to balance my praise with some criticism, I have to admit that the novel was a bit repetitive in that they got caught by the bad guys over and over again. Perhaps it would have been better to skip one or two iterations and elaborate on the remaining instead.
In any case, I am looking forward to read the second part of the trilogy.
(Oh, and as my star sign is the Capricorn, I cannot but wonder why Funke named the chief bad guy Capricorn. I kind of felt a tad bit offended about that! ;-) )
What a surprise! I had no idea I was so close to 600 books on this page - it was only after I had filled in the last handful of reviews I saw that the number was exactly 600. This means that "Tintenherz" happened to become the sixhundered. Quite a worthy one, I would say. It also means that even without the bed-time reading to my son, I did better with my reading during this bout of parental leave than the one for my son in 2010 when I didn't read any book at all. ;-)
(Swedish, 24 April 2014)
This is, as you know, one of the great classics and I really enjoyed reading it to my son at bedtime, introducing him to the adventurous tale as well.
The edition is the one richly illustrated by Robert Ingpen and it looks and feels quite luxurious. Too bad that the Swedish translation unfortunately contain a few - not many, but a few - weird choices of words and some cases of missing punctuations. Such errors are, of course, pretty minor but they stand out a bit extra in such a otherwise elaborate edition. I hope they will be corrected in the next printing.
As I hadn't read "Treasure Island" since I was in school, I was quite curious to see if it still worked - if it still could capture my grown-up fascination like it did my young self. It did. Stevenson really did craft together quite the pirate novel and it doesn't feel dated. Instead, my adult me appreciated how convincing all the little details felt and wondered about what research (if any) Stevenson did when writing it, for instance about seamanship, and how he conducted it (field trips? interviews?).
It is easy to identify with young Jim Hawkins through all the events that formed his unlikely adventure and it is probably just that that forms the basis for the novel always being re-printed into new editions. Although the most interesting and most complex character must be the one-legged Long-John Silver. As I read the novel to my son, no other character posed a bigger challenge than Silver's numerous change of hearts and different moods. I hope I did alright at letting each of them show in the voice I had picked for him.
Oh, and, yes, my son liked it, too.
(Swedish, 11 March 2014)
Judging by the note on the inside of the cover of my copy of this novel, my father got it as a Christmas present 1958, when he was thirteen years old. I remember reading it a few times when I was a kid, mainly due to the suspense of the adventures Derrick experiences (and perhaps mostly due to the scary part with the snowmen in Tibet). Anyways, now I tried reading it to my son at bed-time and it worked very well. It didn't cause any nightmares as far as I can tell, but did give rise to quite a few follow-up questions on things he didn't grasp immediately. At the same time, it was a nice re-union for me.
Of course, the grown-up me does take notice of the flaws of the Swedish translation and the dated Swedish of the fifties in a way my adolescent me never did - but reading it in English to my son is not yet any option.
All in all, it is a somewhat unrealistic adventure tale, taking place in the nineteen-twenties or possibly -thirties, starting out on a ship in the South China Sea and going via the Chinese mainland, Mongolia, and Tibet in the direction of Samarcand. It is clearly meant to be an adventure book for boys but, apparently, it contains many elements that O'Brien later reused in his Aubrey-Maturin series (of which "Master and Commander" was made into a movie with Russel Crowe in the lead role). Makes me curious to read other works by O'Brian - and especially the Aubrey-Maturin series.
Good thing that I get to read to my son at bed-time, otherwise I wouldn't have time for much reading at all - just like last time I was on parental leave - as I normally do most of my reading while commuting to and from work.
(Swedish, 26 February 2005)
Who-ho! My five-year old is into math-books! Although most of the concepts - even in this book that is targeted on (older) kids - clearly must go over his head, he listens with curiosity and eagerness and, hey, some things must stick, don't they? I mean, just by passively listen to me reading a book that playfully introduces a lot of hardcore mathematics, seeds must be sown that will bear fruit later during his school years, don't they?
For a fuller mini-review, see my original mini-review from July 2005.
(Swedish, 2 January 2014)
This is another classic that I believe I read the last time while at the university (if I recall correct, I took turns reading a chapter from "Röde Orm" (the English translation is called "The Long Ships") and a chapter from the computer communication text-book I studied for an exam). This time around, however, I read it aloud to my son at bed-time. This, of course produced a dilemma - should I read it faithful to the archaic language Bengtsson used in it or should I modernise it to benefit both my son's understanding and language development? I choose to modernise it and quickly become rather adept at doing it on the fly, without thinking.
Finished in the early 1940:ies, it has been accused of glorifying violence and plundering. However, I would still argue that Bengtsson's view of the Vikings is more correct than the general public's popular view of them (think horned helmets...). Yet, I do wonder how much research Bengtsson did and how much is "literary freedom". In any case, at its core, it is a tale about a young man (Orm), how he is snapped away from home and experiences his first long travels (bringing him from his home in today's Southern Sweden but then a part of Viking-time Denmark, via France to Spain and back via Ireland and the UK).
Bengtsson incorporates a lot of his rather terse and seemingly restrained humor in the tale, making a treat to read (I think I confused my son a few time by losing it and laughing out loud, messing up my narration in the process).
We will have to wait and see when my son picks the second part, where Orm travels eastward, as our next bedtime book.
(English, 26 December 2013)
To be blunt, we've heard it all before. Yet, the setting in the Southern states of USA - where the civil war still is actively remembered with proud re-enactments despite the southern rebels being on the losing end - is refreshing and original enough to stir an interest in me. The other pillar my liking rests on is the quite endearing love story between Ethan (normal, or nearly normal) and Lena (coming-of-age magician).
Great novel to kill time with.
(English, 18 December 2013)
Short, funny, witty novel with a solid, underlying message. The old Owl's lesson in thinking to his son, the Little Owl, are not lost on the human readers of the book - and perhaps especially not so on the sub-consciences of the same human readers. I.e., don't worry too much about understanding each and everything. Just lean back and enjoy the ride.
Gilbert is really gifted with words, especially those loaded with ambiguity. He constantly plants a smile on one's lips with his never-ending clever word-plays (I do wonder how many I never spotted at all!). Too bad the novel is so short. Then again, it is just as long it needs to be to convey the seven lessons daddy Owl passes on to his son on how to think (and, in the big picture, by thinking well, how to over time become wise an owl).
A trifle, but a ingenious clever and entertaining trifle.
(English, 18 December 2013)
I don't really know about this one. It like never really takes off for me. Yes, it is original in that it is a Zombie novel told from the perspective of a Zombie (in practise the Zombies). However, something is disharmonic and irks me. Perhaps it can even be the places where Marion choose to sidestep the common Zombie canon introduce his own elements.
I wish I like the novel more than I do, because the concept has merits. Yet, I remain an ungrateful reader, I'm afraid.
(English, 13 December 2013)
For an auto-biography by someone that cannot even remember the month during which the bulk of the events took place, this is a real page-turner.
At the age of 24, Cahalan was struck by an auto-immune encephalitis that made her own body attack her brain and she accelerated through a number of different phases of personality altering symptoms from manic-depressive signs while still at work to catatonia at her worst in the hospital.
By systematically and pain-staking interviewing family members, doctors, nurses, and others that came in contact with her during her sickness, and combining all relevant notes, journals, and medical records she could find, Cahalan has recreated what happen to her and been able to write a whole novel about it that both is a (reconstructed) eye-witness account of what happened to her, but also a piece of popular science, explaining from a biological perspective what went on within her brain and why the different symptoms arose.
Also, the book is aimed at bringing awareness about this type of auto-immune diseases (at the time of publishing, seven of them had been identified) that probably always have existed but only the latest 10 years have been correctly diagnosed and treated - if the patients have been lucky. The majority still gets wrongly diagnosed as psychotic and end up first in a psychiatric ward and then the grave instead. In this sense, this book is a really important one. However, it must also be said that these types of auto-immune encephalitis still, luckily, are very rare - but that doesn't change the fact that awareness, primarily among doctors but also among relatives, can be the difference between life and death for the unlucky ones that do get struck.
Even though more and more people get correctly diagnosed and is successfully treated, the science community still knows very little about auto-immune encephalitis. Despite that, Cahalan's effort to convey what the researchers do know in her book makes it a good companion read to, for instance, Rosenblum's "See What I am Saying" and Frank's "Den femte revolution", although it naturally has most in common with Bolte Taylor's "My Stroke of Insight" where the author, a brain-researcher herself, auto-biographically shares her stroke with the readers. However, given that Cahalan is a writing journalist at the New York Post, it is not wonder that "Brain on Fire" is both a so much more easy read and so easily attracts the curiosity of the reader, making one effortlessly read on.
As a father, I could perhaps best appreciate the emotions Cahalan's mom and dad went through, especially before she was correctly diagnosed and they more or less just were forced to passively watch their daughter dissolve before their eyes. Scary stuff.
(Swedish, 9 December 2013)
See the first book below.
(Swedish, 28 November 2013)
See the first book below.
(Swedish, 22 November 2013)
I read Murakami's "A Wild Sheep Chase" back in 2000 and wasn't impressed at all - on the contrary, I had trouble focusing on it when reading it. Since then, I've stayed clear of Murakami, until now, when my sister recommended the "1Q84" trilogy and lent it to me.
So how was it? Much better than "A Wild Sheep Chase". "1Q84" is - of course - also ripe with bizarre and supernatural elements (or should I perhaps rather call them out-of-this-world elements? If you ask Aomame, 1Q84 isn't 1984 after all) but has a clear plot and a progressive narrative one can cling to. I mean, it is at the same time a quite conventional thriller and something out of the Twilight zone, but the composition works and combines snugly into a page turner.
I like the dive back to 1984 (of course, a flirtation with George Orwell's novel) and I especially like to experience Japan through the eyes of the characters. I kind of like the confusion Murakami introduces through the "little people" that is referred to in English. I like the unexpected references to global culture, with a odd emphasis on Russian authors. I also think there is a lot of subtle hint to further relationship between many of the supporting characters in the novel that I didn't really get - I like the smell of that.
However, some of the sex scenes felt rather slapped on and didn't really blend naturally into the narration (I sound so prude, but this really struck me as odd - and you know that I am no prude, just browse through the novels on this page).
All in all a refreshing read that goes outside of convention and keeps the attention of the reader by alternating between the expected and the unexpected in an artful way. It is also, indirectly, a sort of what-if novel, albeit more remote than most such books.
(English, 5 November 2013)
Given that both "Body by Science" and this companion Question and Answer Book seems to both be published in 2009, they must both have been the fruit of McGuff's and Little's work as personal trainers and gym owners over the years (oh, and McGuff's great expertise on the human body due to his other profession as a physician in Emergency Medicine, of course).
This is basically a lot of questions to the authors and their answers. All answers go along the lines of "Body of Science" but, taken together, deepens the message of the preceding book and elaborates on it.
I can imagine that it could be interesting to read independently but its major strength comes as a companion to the "Body of Science" textbook. What I really enjoyed was that although most answers rehashed things already covered in "Body of Science", some answers did it in a really condensed way so that those select answers becomes excellent summaries of whole chapters in "Body of Science".
(English, 25 October 2013)
Anastasia's obsession with Hardy's "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy made me curious, so I got a copy to read. I must admit that I expected something similar to Jane Austen's novels. However, on that account I unfortunately got disappointed - primarily on two accounts:
One, where Austen's language flows in a beautiful vintage way that is pure joy to read, Hardy's language is sometimes (especially in the beginning of his novel) just wrought too complicated, with euphemism-like substitution phrases instead of more direct descriptions. Some of these were simply too hard for me to decrypt - either because of them being old, to complicated, or because English isn't my native tongue (though remember that I read Austen without any problem - and her novels even predates Hardy's with about eighty years). This Penguin edition of "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" included an essay on Hardy and his novel in the end and there I learnt about all the subtleties the novel contains. Some of these I got a new appreciation for by reading that essay - but I still found Hardy's language sometimes to over-wrought, to the point that it got in the way of the story.
Two, where Austen's novels - despite the hardships and challenges the main characters have to endure - at their core are cosy stories with happy endings, "Tess of the D'Ubervilles" is a bleak and depressing tale of misguided pride and immoral pettiness. Both Austen and Hardy have social agendas with their novels, but Austen hides - or embeds - her critique of the gender inequality of the time better than Hardy. The latter more or less systematically grinds Tess into the ground with it, and while reading about it, I couldn't help but feeling acutely that I am very coloured by the current gender equality debate and land-winnings in contemporary Sweden and that I cannot but read Hardy's novel with the same in mind. Also, on the same note, I cannot help but wonder how the novel might have turned out if it had been written by a woman instead of a man. Would it have been more alike Austen's novels then?
Beautiful in parts but I had expected more overall (not the least because of Anastasia's great fondness of it in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy).
(English, 7 October 2013)
Remember when I read Barnard's "Band of Eagles" and I were annoyed over it being fiction and not fact? Well, last time flying home from Malta, I did no mistakes and really got this auto-biographical book from the Malta section of the Luqa Airport bookstore. However, was it so much better? Na, not really. I mean, someone once wrote that war is 1 percent pure terror and 99 percent boredom and this title was able to convey those 99 percent from time to time.
However, it was quite interesting to share Gibbs' frustration with how the war was going and how - from his perspective - the air over the Mediterranean was more or less lost due to other scenes of war being higher prioritised.
Also, the was a very striking contrast between the comparatively slow Bristol Beufort torpedo bombers of "Torpedo Leader on Malta" with the more agile Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires of "Band of Eagles". It was really insane how they kept on going out on maximum distance raids and repeatedly losing half or more of the participating Beuforts each time. How on earth did they be able to follow orders and go out on suicide mission after suicide mission? Totally incomprehensible... I find that Gibbs does quite a nice job of conveying that madness, without really meaning to. If you take his words for it, it was just something you had to do - and what do we now? Perhaps being in the midst of it made it natural to constantly stick one's neck out. Nevertheless, from my sheltered peacetime reality, it's just totally insane behaviour.
Strengths: insights in the politics and priorities of the Mediterranean theatre of war and the game of Chess that the Axes and Allies fought there, as well as the honest account of the everyday reality of a Torpedo Bomber squad, first in Egypt, then on Malta.
Weaknesses: well, it's just a rather dry narration of basically Gibbs' diary. I must confess that the fiction of "Band of Eagles" spiced things up a little in comparison. Oh well, one can never really have it all. ;-)
(English, 20 September 2013)
This was, hands down, a totally excellent read. Ferriss was quite right when he recommended it in his "The 4-Hour Body". "Body by Science" is an brilliant textbook on the human body and how it, on the one hand, packs on fat, and on the other, loses fat. I've never seen so to the point, no-nonsense description of complex biological processes in the body presented in such a clear and lucid way, without being simplified. For instance, the sections on the good and bad roles of insulin and cholesterol, respectively, are alone worth the price of the book.
I also found the chapter on epi-genetics very interesting to read. There, the authors argues that even if we are dealt a certain hand of genetic cards and our genome per se is static, we can alter its functioning by turning certain genes on and off through the increasingly popular research-field of epi-genetics - or rather through diet and environment, which is what epi-genetics really is about, along with the startling find that epi-genetics is hereditary, too.
At it core, despite all supporting parts, this book advocates brief, infrequent strength training session of high intensity to the point of muscle failure as the only exercise that is needed for fat loss, improved health, and - indirectly - increased life quality. As little as 12 minutes effective training time once a week - and even less frequent once one has progressed so that one week of recovery between sessions isn't enough anymore - is the authors' simple recipe.
All in all, they argue a very compelling case and, furthermore, even if they are wrong, it cannot hurt to sacrifice a quarter of an hour of one's time once a week to prove them wrong (or perhaps right?). Every step of the way, they refer to scientific studies as well - and as they have a chapter on how to spot bad research, they had better to stick to good scientific support lest they open themselves up wide to ridicule.
Another interesting thing they point out is that the human body seams to react the best to alternated times of plentifulness and starvation - perhaps because that was the grim reality for most people of every generation throughout history until about the last century. Thus, our bodies are far from equipped to handle the abundance of food in our Western society - and especially not the abundance of refined sugar, which is extra bad given that we rarely or never empty or muscles of glycogen so there is nothing for the body to do but to convert the sugars to fat and store it as an energy-reserve in preparation for the next famine that will never come. (The same process makes us less insulin sensitive, so the body have to keep making more of it, thereby inhibiting fat mobilisation - i.e., preventing the use of fat from our stores.) Speaking of the frequent starvation of old times, evidently there are some indications that water and keeping oneself well-hydrated can trick the body in thinking that there are no starvation even if you are on a diet with a calorie deficiency, since drought and the resulting dehydration so often preceded famine in historical times. Thus, treat yourself to a glass of water. ;-)
If I should find a fault with the book, it would be that it is so biased to High-Intensity strength training that it rather harshly declares any other exercise modality as worthless. Or at least comes very, very near to do it. Except for a fleeting passage on the psychological benefits of running, they quite frankly explains why cardiovascular (steady-state) training A) burns less calories than we are led to believe, B) constitutes a health risk because of the aggregated wear and tear over time, C) actually - by virtue of our complex, biological internal processes - can prevent the fat-loss it is meant to promote, and D) gives very little bang for the bucks compare to the extremely time-efficient style of exercise they promote (about 12 minutes a week). This message, that they repeat in different forms throughout the book may - of course - be true, but it will without any doubt upset and turn away a lot of readers.
Although it - kind of - makes out all the exercise I've done previously in my life to be nothing by a mistake, I like this book and what it stands for anyway. I've even browsed through it a second time, student-style, high-lighting the portions of the text I deemed more important the rest.
I actually aim to put the promise contained in this book to the test, using myself as a Guinea-pig.
(German, 16 September 2013)
This was the most repulsive crime novel by Neuhaus so far, because of the choice of the type of crime contained in it and the victims of the same crime.
I find it better than the last one, mainly due to Bodenstein getting his act together again, but also because Neuhaus uses threads from many of the previous novels in the series to weave a fuller fabric of the fictional world of the Frankfurt with surroundings Kirchhof and Bodenstein work in.
However, as a Swede, I have to point out that the few lines in Swedish Neuhaus includes right at the end are of an abysmal quality. It is worse than Google Translate, because had she use that, the spelling would be better. Even if her books still haven't been translated to Swedish, her publisher must already have connections with Swedish translators - and how hard can it be to find an actual Swede over the Internet to ask to proof-read? Still, those few lines are clearly only meant as some atmospheric seasoning - not even meant to be understood by her primary German readers, so it is - of course - not important that they are correct. It's just irksome to me as a Swede. ;-)
(English, 18 August 2013)
I recently read Ferriss' "The 4-Hour Work Week" and found it great because of the fresh perspective it offered and creative ideas, even if I fail to see any immediate personal usage of all the recipes he offers in it. "The 4-Hour Work Week" is about how to increase quality of life by work less while still upholding the same income - or increase it - and how to have the most interesting experiences for less money. Ferriss' passive income from his book-sales fits well into the way of life his first book advocates and the bottom line is that it is all the free time Ferriss got by living as he described in the first book that made it possible for him to test all the more or less crazy stuff of which he collected was actually worked for him in this, his second book.
Basically, he has sampled his way through a gigantic buffet of dieting method, exercise modalities, medical treatments, and supplements/drugs to get both his dream body and better athletic skills. Then, he has generously summarised what worked for him (and for a number of his online followers) in "The 4-Hour Body" for the benefit of his reader (that, by buying his books, help enable him to have the free time to do the research needed to write more books - evidently, there is already a third out, "The 4-Hour Chef").
However, without merits, the books wouldn't become bestsellers and with "The 4-Hour Body", I could immediately see a lot of personal usage of the tips and tricks in it. I plan to cherry-pick a menu of my own from it and launch an at-least a few months long program to see how I might end up re-composing my body in the process.
Actually, while reading it, I mentioned it to a colleague that very promptly got and read his own copy, launched his own program and now keeps me updated on his clear progress. Powerful stuff!
Ferriss has kept the book very practical with relatively little theory and most of the science in it, he has collected in separate "Geek's Advantage" boxes. Of course, since I personally thrive on the science, I would have appreciated more "GA" boxes, but I can always turn to Ferriss' source references. Typical to his personal style, he writes with a lot of wit and humour and always selflessly shares his successes as well as his failures with his readers (the failures often are very educational).
The main thing I'm taking with me from this book is Ferriss' repeated usage of the principle of Minimum Effective Dose. I.e., the smallest dose that will affect the desired outcome - regardless of it is a dose of diet, exercise, or a drug/supplement. This is really a key point - to not do more than required to reach ones goal, which, naturally, makes it easier to actually stick with a program.
Another, related Principe that Ferriss puts in practice repeatedly throughout the book is to consider the "bang for the buck" and often go for a less time consuming and/or less painful and/or less impractical and/or less complicated choice as long as the simpler one yields 60 - 80 % of the result of the harder one. Once again, this make adherence easier.
Ferriss and his books are crazy, but they are crazy in a good, helpful way. "The 4-Hour Body" might be a 500++ over-sized volume, but it is enjoyable to read from cover to cover even if Ferriss intended one to rather cherry-pick the chapters that seem to be of interest to one rather than to read it all. I recommend you give it a try. Your are bound to at least find something that suits you, even if just shake your head at all the rest!
(English, 2 August 2013)
Reynolds is a columnist with the New York Times and I believe that this book is a compilation of a bunch of her columns. It is basically a survey of the current cutting edge research into physical exercise and its benefit on health, fitness, and mental capacity.
Unlike Frank, that travelled the world to meet the neuroscientists and based "Den femte revolutionen" on the interviews, Reynolds only relate to scientific reports she read about. Frank also goes a lot deeper into the research than Reynolds does. This is the main weakness - sometimes you suspect that Reynolds only included this or that study because of their novelty findings but fail to account for where it fits into a broader scheme. Compare with Talbot's "The Holographic Universe", where Talbot among sound studies also included more suspicious ones. Yet, taken all together, he was very convincing anyway and it is the same with Reynolds. Even if she boasts some findings without qualifying them fully to what aspect they focus while perhaps ignoring the rest, the end result cannot be argued with: it is more beneficial to exercise than not do it, it is proven beyond doubt that the body of someone that exercise (even moderately) is in certain aspects younger than a sedentary person of the same chronological age, and that not only the body but the brain and one's mental functions improves by physical exercise as well.
Reynolds also confronts common truths like the importance of stretching as part of the warm-up before training (it seems the static stretches we all learnt in school actually decreases our performance), that expensive, high-teach shoes are imperative to run in (they actually seem to be worse than cheap, basic shoes at protecting you worse from injuries) and the importance of staying hydrated during exercise (you perform equally well without constant gulping but don't run the risk of over-hydrating).
All in all an easy read that offers some gems of new wisdom here and there but, at the same time, could have gone deeper into the subject now and then.
(Norwegian, 28 July 2013)
My impression remains, that the voice of the over-weighing more adult Knausgård in the two first parts of "Min kamp" ("My Struggle") conveys more of the breathtaking perceptions that draws you so deeply into his narration, that the overall more youthful voice of the third and fourth volumes.
In this, the fourth of six (although will there perhaps be a seventh in ten years or so?), the frame of the narration is Knausgård's year as a teacher substitute in Northern Norway (not far from Tromsø, past the Northern tip of Sweden, north of the Polar Circle, in the land of the Midnight Sun - and the sunless winters). He went there directly after senior secondary school, when he was only 18 years old. Thus not only did he not have any pedagogical education but he was only a few years older than the kids he taught. Apparently, this is not uncommon in Northern Norway, as there is an eternal shortage of teachers there since, much like in Sweden, people with academic educations tend to gravitate to the larger cities in the south.
Of course, true to his style, Knausgård makes time-jumps here and there, sometimes to the future, but more often backwards to his last year in school in Kristiansand, to soccer camps in Denmark and Switzerland with his team, and holidays with his family.
These teenage years of Knausgård's can be summed up with binge drinking, contemporary music, hunger for sex, and literary ambition. Save the goal to be a writer, the other elements are pretty universal and thus makes it easy for others to relate to (although Knausgård drank more than most and by reviewing albums for a news paper had a larger vinyl collection than other teenagers).
Although I debuted with both alcohol and sex a lot later than Knausgård, I can very well relate to his hunger for intimacy and sex and can appreciate how hard it must have been to keep the professional distance as a teacher from his just a few years younger female pupils.
As always, it is the universality of it all that gives Knausgård's auto-biography such an appeal. All in all, his life isn't that special - on the contrary, it is easy to relate to as we all more or less often have experienced the same things as he has. Pair that with his acute perception and revealing style of writing, and you got a clue to what makes his novels such page turners.
Apparently, Knausgård's debut novel, "Ute av verden" ("Out of this World") from 1998 is to a large extent based on his year as a substitute teacher, to the extent that he worried about how his former pupils, colleagues, and other acquaintances from the village would think of him after reading the book. I should read that and compare it with "Min kamp, Fjerde bok".
For me, Knausgård is the perfect travel companion. This, the fourth volume, I read the better part of on flights to and from London - and on Gatwick airport, before the flight home. There is nothing better to pass time than to be able to immerse yourself in a great book, don't you think?
(Danish, 22 July 2013)
This yet another of these contemporary books of popular science where someone - either a researcher or a journalist - surveys the current front-line of a certain field of research. In this case, the journalist Frank travels the world to interview the leading thinkers in the field of Neuroscience (i.e., brain research). As such, it is both related to other research surveying books like Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow" on how we think and Rosenblum's "See What I am Saying" on the perception of our five senses, as well as Taylor's "My Stroke of Insight" (actually, all of these heavily involve the brain in some aspect).
Frank looks at the state of the art Neuroscience from the point of view of Religion (does it stem from a "bug" or a "feature" within the human brain?), Morale (in it's core, is the human brain morally good, bad or neutral?), Happiness (using Neuroscience to trace and promote human happiness), Influence (modern marketing targeting our brain unconsciously), Lying (can a brain scan really reveal a lie before we even decided to tell a lie?), and Law (should brain scanning replace the classical but unreliable Polygraph lie-detector? Should Insurance Companies be allowed to brain-scan us before offering us insurance? Should we use brain-scanning to screen people for certain types of work? School teachers? Politicians?).
Taken apart, every chapter offer their own insights and raises their own questions. However, taken together, Frank argues that we are on the brink of a revolution where Neuroscience will become a ubiquitous element permeating our societies - reforming our schools to optimise the learning process for the young brains of school children, making marketing campaigns (be them commercial or political) more efficient, hopefully learning the human race how to enjoy more happiness but also potentially offer a tool for the courts of law to reveal what we really are thinking and convict us for it...
Frank visits influential Neuroscientists, philosophers, layers, and marketers that all have insights to offer when it come to contemporary brain research. Although virtually all of them are based within USA and Canada (although not all of them are of North-American origin) and the talks out of necessity becomes rather centred on the American society, Frank herself constantly makes comparisons with Denmark, something I as a fellow Scandinavian appreciate.
As always, I get a kick out of reading in Danish although I, of course, don't get all of the words. Yet, it was only one that occurred so often and was so central for the context that I actually had to look it up: "adfærd". It turned out to be the Danish word for behaviour, so "adfærdsøkonomi" thus refers to Behavioural Economics. In nine out of ten cases, I can trace a Danish word to a Swedish one of the same origin - even if the uses over time has diverged between the countries, and deduce the meaning of it, but in the case of "adfærd", I simply drew a blank. ;-)
A really interesting book that shows that hard science ultimately will have long-reaching ramifications far from the academic laboratories, with potential to change our societies as we know them. It is also available in English under the title "Mindfield" and translated to Swedish, in case you don't want to try to read it in Danish.
(German, 10 July 2013)
Poznanski is pegged as writing thrillers for the adolescent - however, with main characters in their late teens and early twenties, couldn't it be argued that she really writes for adults? Or at least young adults? Her novel "Erebos" delighted me not the least because of it concerning - and partly taking place within - an online computer game. "Saeculum" instead has the theme of re-enacting Medieval times through live role-playing, something I have no personal experience with. Yet, it was easy anyway to be drawn into the thriller and feeling the urge to turn pages to know what will happen next.
Poznanski has a knack for writing suspense filled stories although, all in all, I consider "Erebos" to be a bit more trustworthy than "Saeculum". It was a few times I just wanted to shake the participants of the live convention and shout at them to take their heads out of their arses and act instead of being just too stupid and passive.
Nevertheless, "Saeculum" is a good read that I personally didn't find as predictable as my wife that claims to have figured out the mystery well in advance. ;-)
(English, 19 June 2013)
Oh boy, what an interesting read! Let me begin by pointing out that although not all of what Ferriss does makes sense to me - in fact, much of it is totally extreme and/or outrageous - his motivations for doing them is basically sound.
Let me elaborate: Ferriss uses what he call Life Design to acquire the life of what he calls the New Rich. To that end, he's automated and delegated his work and tried to get as much passive incomes (book sales, anyone?) as possible. On top of that, he tries to work one month and then take two months off as a mini-retirement. All the time he doesn't work, he strives to pack full of meaningful activities with emphasis on learning new stuff on one hand and living like a millionaire on the other (although the latter on a budget - he shows that, for instance, travelling the world doesn't have to cost that much and might even be cheaper than staying home if you can get rid of all your normal bills for rent, electricity, water, etc).
Outrageous, isn't it? Totally extreme and definitely not for everyone? Where did he get the crazy idea to pursue this in the first place?
Ah, but it is here it becomes interesting, because our knee-jerk reactions to his life are tightly coupled to his motivations for pursuing it - and here lies, to me, the real value of the book. At its heart, Ferris questions the common truth that we should sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears on working full-hours or more (putting our personal life and family second) for the better part of our lives, then viewing a distant retirement as well-earned reward.
It is pretty easy to sympathise with his sentiment that we should put ourselves before our jobs and that the idea of sprinkling one's life with mini-retirements instead of collecting it all at the end when one is old has merits.
When Ferriss accounts for his motivations, he stumbles onto the concept of loss-aversion in a way that fits perfectly with Kahneman's research on the same in "Thinking, Fast and Slow", making "The 4-Hour Work Week" a nice companion read to "Thinking, Fast and Slow" (or vice versa).
So, Ferriss, at the core, is right - although how he goes about to act out his motivations is, of course, subjective to him. Nevertheless, the book is a Smorgasbord of ideas on how to make you not have to rely on your everyday job to sustain you life - or, for that matter, get approval to work remotely, first from home, then from all over the world (with or without your boss' knowledge).
This Expanded and Updated edition is great because it includes letters from readers and others that have put the ideas in action, so we, for example, get practical advice on how to travel with toddlers from a mother that travelled the world for a year with a toddler in tow, or the family with three boys that opted to sail around the world, home-schooling the boys during the time (apparently, the confines of a sail-boat and nothing to see but the ocean makes school books and other books really coveted).
Ferriss includes tips on everything from getting a Personal Assistance in India (also known as a Virtual Assistance, despite them being humans), how to start a company (sadly only applicable to USA), and how to find cheap airline tickets. I had a laugh when reading the part on how to overcome resistance to work remote as my current employer actually encourage it - so in that aspect, I am already ahead. ;-)
I recommend you all to read this book - not primarily to follow Ferriss suit in all his endeavours (though congratulations if you do) but because how he healthily questions the life-style we too often take for granted in the Western hemisphere and offers both perspective and choices. Or, to go a bit Ferriss-like extreme, he offers freedom. ;-)
(English, 6 June 2013)
Forgive me, James, for having doubted the third part. The cliff-hanger ending of the second part did make me worry for the third part but it never turned out so bad that I was afraid of. Even if Hyde was a element of threat throughout most of this novel, it never took over. Instead, Christian's and Anastasia's continuously deepening and redefined relationship stayed in focus and even if one can discuss the credibility of each turn of it, at least to me, it has actually become quite endearing. Who would have thought that at the outset of the first part? ;-)
Also, to revisit all of the hyped controversy I wrote about in the review of the first part. Having finished the whole trilogy, I can now vouch for much of the critics never having read all three novels before airing their criticisms as Anastasia does establish herself as the stronger and more mature of the two as their relationship develops, despite Christian's money and business power (and "sexpertise"). Yes, one can argue that Ana never should have accepted some of the shit Christian threw her way but A) we don't live in an ideal world and neither should our literature and B) it would have been quite a short and boring story if she had ended it before it really begun.
Please accept that this is James' subjective and fictional tale of what might transpire when innocence meets the unrealistically rich and powerful that thinks himself deprived and heartless due to childhood emotional baggage.
All in all, better than I thought it would be, but the sex scenes feels less and less motivated by the story for every part of the trilogy - going from driving the story in the beginning to almost feel in the way in the end, when the twist and turns of Christian's and Ana's relationship have momentum enough to drive the novels without the need for unusual sex to spice it up.
(Swedish, 20 May 2013)
This book got advertised as a guide book to the Medieval Stockholm - something I interpreted as guiding one along still visible traces of the really old Stockholm today. Unfortunately, there were less of that than I had hoped (and of what there were, most is indoors and not readily publicly accessible anyway). However, the book still is a guide book to the Medieval Stockholm - the Stockholm that once were and little traces of remains today.
Did you know that Medieval times in Sweden and the Nordic countries is considered to start later than on the continent and last longer? (In Italy, they had entered the Renaissance in the fifteenth century while Sweden stayed Medieval until the end of the sixteenth century...)
In practise, Regner's book is a compilation of current research, complete with sections on further reading for those who wants to dwell deeper on any of the chapter topics. Interesting at times but mostly harmless.
(English, 16 April 2013)
Here we have the by now well-know effect of the sequel being more easily accessed and often likable because the scene has already been set and all the main characters and their relations have been presented in the previous novel. I simply want to read on to know of the continued story unfolds.
To James credit, she gives some explanations and motivations to Christian Grey's, shall we say, idiosyncrasies - explanations and motivations that actually are pretty credible. Still, on the whole, the trilogy has so far a bit too much in common with the template produced, cheap novels targeted for female readers where a young and innocent heroin meet some dangerous and/or rich man and complications arise (hmm, actually, the "Fifty Shades" matches the template exactly but is of better quality than the speed produced usual examples of the genre).
Now, when Christian and Anastasia's relationship has deepened and been further defined, the sex part - both vanilla and rougher - feels more slapped on than in the first novel. I.e., controversial or not, they felt more motivated by the story in the first part than in this one. Here, they already have got a air of routine despite Christian's creativity.
I got rather disappointed of the end... There the novel, to me, lowered itself to a run-of-the-mill thriller which doesn't exactly bode well for the third and final part of the trilogy.
(English, 3 May 2013)
Ehum, what to write, what to write... On the plus side, Farber does tie up all the loose strings he introduce both in this volume and in the first part. Also, the underlying idea and theme (invocation of a modern, memetic being) is an interesting one that does appeal to me. Thirdly, it does - at times - offer a bit of what-if thoughts.
However, the package could have been much more elaborately crafted and all the cheap thrills (mostly of an sexual nature) had better been fine-tuned to attract a broader audience. Oh, and perhaps the enlightening learnings of main character Joe's could have been made easier to follow?
The bottom line is, nevertheless, that Farber does a decent job of transmitting the memetic being Atem that he created himself, through the means of these two parts of conceptual fiction, as well as through his "Brain Magick".
Other than that, revisit my review of the first part. What I wrote there holds for this part as well.
(English, 26 April 2013)
So, I've read it. As often is the case when something is hyped, the Media doesn't quite get it right. For instance, it has been stated that this is a piece of Twilight fan-fiction. Yeah, right - just because it takes place in Seattle, not far from Forks, and that the beginning have quite a few parallels to the first Twilight novel, you cannot slap the label of fan-fiction on it. If you ask me, it at least need to heavily borrow from the fictitious world of the original to be a piece of fan-fiction. I mean, doesn't most fan-fiction involve the characters from the original?
It is fascinating, though, how a mildly controversial/taboo topic like sexual Dominance/submission play and semi-explicit descriptions of sexual acts can stress people in taking so fundamental stances over the quality of the novel (or lack thereof) and defend them so violently... (Also, Ana is far from a natural submissive and Grey, in her interest, keeps skipping all the rules, making him a rather un-strict Dominant but how many has taken that in account?)
To me, it was a quite normal contemporary novel of decent literary quality. Granted, the language will not land it any Nobel Prize but it was neither grammatically lousy nor cheap. James has done a good job in writing the novel she always dreamt of writing and I enjoyed reading it even if I didn't consider it as much of a page-turner as, for instance, Poznanski's "Erebos".
Also, I know that as a man, I cannot fathom the element of female degradation in the novel. But still - I have a hard time finding any nevertheless. Yes, Grey often treats Ana "bad" and his corporal punishments aren't worse than his refusal to make proper love to her instead of more animalistic "fucking". And, yes, Ana is too inexperienced to know what it is she's getting into or even to have an idea of what it is she will try out - but the bottom line is that Grey warned her a lot and was open with his intentions, and she consented to try. And if you object that in an ideal world ... - well, we don't live in an ideal world and neither should our literature.
All in all, this is a variation of the old "Beauty and the Beast" fairy-tale - although, at least in this first part, the Beauty fails at reform the Beast and bring-back the prince (although, considering that there are two more parts in the trilogy, a lot can happen yet).
What I liked best were all the references to different kinds of culture. For instance, have I listened to Thomas Tallis' "Spem In Alium" and am contemplating reading Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" since reading this novel. (Boy, check what the Latin title of Tallis' beautiful motet translates to - how utterly ironic!)
I liked the sweet puppy-love beginning as well, before the true nature of the plot unravelled itself and the more unfortunate cliches amassed. I mean, for example, why does Grey need to be a multi-billionaire? Of course, it would have been even more of a cliche if he had the need to play the part of a submissive outside of his office where he is busy controlling his company everyday - but, as it turns out, he has sub-experiences from before his career took off, so he has a bit more depth than just your average sexually corrupt rich guy.
There isn't really grounds for all the hype - it is just a quite decent but pretty conventional contemporary "love-story-with-obstacles"-type of novel that happens to spice up things with a non-strict Dom/sub theme.
(English, 23 April 2013)
If Farber's "Brain Magick" is solely on the practise of his modern magic rituals with only some possible theoretic foundation included, "The Great Purple Hoo-Ha" is a fictitious tale on what the practise can involve and lead to - taken to the extreme.
Although heavily exaggerated - perhaps to the same end that a biology text-book includes blown-up photographs of cells? - it is a kind of entertaining tale of how the modern entity Atem have the power to change one so that others perceive one in new and fascinating ways (one of the characters in the book is perceived as more disgusting than he really is, the main character Joe as a lot more pleasant than he is. When he verbally abuses others, they just cheer and thanks him, because in their mind, he has just complimented them.
However, the novel is also an orgy in sexual innuendos and rather blatant innuendos, too. While our reproduction drive was listed in "Brain Magick" as one of the core motivations to why we developed into humans and developed human culture, in this book, it get a bit too much. It comes across as a rather cheap effect to attract readers.
Overall, despite being a nice companion to "Brain Magick", the weakness of "The Great Purple Hoo-Ha" is that is so obviously has been written with one sole purpose in mind and too quickly at that. With a little more time, effort, and maturity, it could have been so much more. As it now stands, it is a mere trifle - useful as an inspiring companion to Farber's other books but struggles as a standalone piece.
(German, 16 April 2013)
I think you have to classify this as a thriller for the youth. However, that - of course - doesn't make it unsuitable for adult readers, just like Rowling's Harry Potter novels really is enjoyable for all ages.
Although Poznanski is an Austrian writer, writing in German, "Erebos" actually takes place in London - mostly in a school where a certain computer game covertly makes it round by invitations only. And what a game! It is, of course, surpassing anything that there is in the real world: excellent graphics, revolutionary controls, a eerie way to use music and sound effects to draw players deeper into the game, the non-player characters even coming of as mind-readers at times due to their accuracy in dealing with the human players - even when not connected to the Internet. I pondered what biofeedback equipment you would need to achieve this and speculated of whether a simple web-cam would suffice - but the players would be bound to notice if their web-cams lit up. However, in the end the book does offer an explanation but I am not going to spoil it for you. Oh, and although written in 2010, with references to both World of Warcraft and Google, the main character still only enabled Internet when he needed to go online. Isn't that quite modem-ish? Isn't we nowadays more or less online as soon as we turn on our computers? Or have I just grown accustomed to a technical standard that school kids in London generally doesn't have access to?
Although aimed at the youth, it is a well crafted story that keeps itself pretty plausible and that doesn't fall in some of the more common cliche-traps of thrillers. Of course, the whole "cool-but-sinister" MMORPG setting was immensely appealing to me - I would love to play the game if it was stripped from its more evil influence - but the intertwined theme of family, friendship and love was very entertaining as well and balanced the novel very well.
All in all an enjoyable page-turner I will be sure to offer my kids when they're old enough.
(Swedish, ? April 2013)
Granström strikes again! The sequel to his "Svavelvinter" is even more held together than the first novel - perhaps because in this volume, most - but far from all - the characters are already established from the first book and are now just continuing on their courses and get their portraits deepened. Of course, Granström introduces a rowdy bunch of new characters all over the islands of his fantasy world in this volume, but the main theme is the same - the events leading up to the fifth conflux.
None of the characters are purely good and none are purely evil. Rather, they are scattered on a continuum between the extremes. However, the evilest of them, the main bad guy Shagul, is strangely fascinating in his complexity (he has a few clones of himself, too, making him even more complex)
Granström also is keen on constantly surprising his readers. All the individual threads of the story constantly keep taking unexpected turns and - of course - often crosses each other or runs jointly for a while. You cannot really expect to be able to keep them all in your head. Rather, just relax, lean back and enjoy the ride and don't fret if you cannot recall the exact particular of a less frequent character when it appears again.
"Slaktare små" keeps the story started in "Svavelvinter" going so well that you are pretty much bound to read the third part, whenever it is going to be published.
(English, 17 March 2013)
If Gilligan turned out to be something of a disappointment, Farber's "Brain Magick" turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. It is actually very good:
To dwell a little more on Farber's use of NLP: from Bandler's books, I got the idea that the Swish pattern are used to disarm trauma and phobias by anchor them in the mind to more positive images by repeated, fast switching between bad and good (swish!). However, Farber's use of the same effortlessly made me realise that it is much more general than that. Farber doesn't use it to neutralise the bad - he instead ingeniously use it to increase and intensify already positive experiences, to ramp up the Whoohoo! (Once again, why is most NLP books aimed at how other helpers can help the needful - why not like Farber utilise the methods for more general and cooler goals?)
So, what about the magic, then? Farber has kept it to meta-magic, to keep it free from any standard school of magic (like the Qabala or Gnostic traditions) but it is still ripe with Gods and Goddesses. He rather elegantly motivates that by tracing our religions back to the early humans generalising and breaking out certain aspects they needed for survival and worshipping them in the theory that by appealing to the aspects in focus, they would get more of the same (strength, fortitude, fertility). Over the centuries, these aspects solidified into all the Pantheons and religions we know now and are familiar with from history.
I don't think it is possible to find a book on the topic of real magic that doesn't contains some mumbo-jumbo (books on stage magic is, of course, another matter) but this one would probably be rewarding to take the time to experiment with. I'm not saying that it will necessarily work, but I do deem it likely that it would be entertaining to try the exercises out for size. In any case, it is a interesting book to read.
(Swedish, 9 March 2013)
This interesting piece of Swedish fantasy makes me remember Bertil Mårtensson's "Maktens vägar" trilogy ("Roads of Power"). It's probably high time to re-read them as I must have read them while in school sometime during the Eighties.
Anyways, this is about Granström and his "Svavelvinter" ("Sulphur Winter") that begun, back in 1987, as a campaign module to the Swedish role-playing game "Drakar och Demoner" ("Dragons and Demons") that, in turn, was heavily influenced by the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. Later Granström returned to his fictitious world and wrote a thick fantasy novel about it, published 2004.
And what a novel - a swarm of characters and concurrent but converging plot-lines spiced with racy language. Just the language is worth a few lines. Like so many other fantasy authors, he makes up his own words to use in his fantasy world in place of the common-world word we use for the same - but unlike most of his peers, he has his characters be a lot more down to earth and simple, chatting about shit, sex, and violence (good and evil ones alike). Consider yourself warned. ;-)
However, Granström is also in the habit of making his Swedish appear more archaic by inventing words and alter others into more antique-sounding variants. Many are new to me and I don't consider them to fit in the clearly made up words that belong to the languages of his fantasy world. I believe they are just crafted to add more atmosphere to the narration, and for that they work, even if you bounce on them the first times you encounter each of them (bounce in a different way than the fantasy words that comes with the territory).
All in all, standard fantasy with above average complex, inter-tangled plot-lines and very original language.
(English, 16 February 2013)
I had listen too much on the sales-pitch for this one and had high expectations that weren't really met.
Gilligan boldly states this to be about the third generation of hypnosis, where the conscious mind doesn't need to be bypasses but is invited to work in conjunction with the sub-conscious to achieve the goals. This sounds good in theory, but to an amateur like me that like to read about these things, the practises in the book are impossible to tell apart from books on second generation hypnosis (this might, of course, be due to the border not being so clear cut and many hypnotists having ventured into the third generation without realising it).
The book is well-written and convincing but a bit boring to read. I found the references to Joseph Campbell theory of life as a journey of consciousness most interesting (perhaps I would be better of with a book by Campbell) and overall is Gilligan's parts where he puts the methods in perspective the best. However, I unfortunately lose sight of his goals in the chapters on practise. Also, most require one or more partners to participate in - or even a therapist in the know to act as a catalyst, so once again not really a book for the self-practitioner.
Probably best read as a survey of where Ericksonian hypnosis paired with NLP are right now.
(Swedish, 15 February 2013)
As my son now is very much into chapter books at bedtime (illustrations doesn't seem to be so important anymore, even if the chapter books so far all have been at least sparsely illustrated), I've begun hunting for nice novels to read to him.
As "Det susar i säven" ("The Wind in the Willows") currently happens to be out of print in Swedish, I found this used edition from 1946 online. Really nice and unabridged! My mother clearly never read us siblings an unabridged version - on the contrary, it seems that the copy we had only contain the passage were they take to the road in the Gypsy waggon.
Both me an my son had a really good time reading this gem and that is so squarely set in England didn't seem to bother him at all. Instead, he's learnt more about a number of animals.
What struck me, when viewing the book from a modern perspective, is how few women it is in it and the strange fact that the quartet of main characters all are bachelors of which two even live together. It would be interesting to read some essay on that subject, by some researcher in the know that can account for that particularity from both a historic and a genus perspective. (However, do note that the story has qualities and merits well above and beyond any ill-adviced attempt to reduce it to genus theory only.)
Two more amusing observations is how far Grahame has taken the anthropomorphism in the novel - I mean, the animals all dress and adheres to, for me, almost extreme British manors (Toad of Toad Hall most of all) - and how invisible the servants are. I mean, they do shine through at Toad Hall but at certain passages, I clearly got the notion that even the Rat with Mole as his guest had some staff in his river-brink house (though I cannot remember exactly where and am too lazy to leaf through the novel to try to find it).
All these observations might be - more or less - attributed to the books being a child of the very early Twentieth century, with all the customs and common opinions of the time, as well of the position in society of Grahame self, naturally.
The mark of a classic is that it transcends all the contemporary colour to go on living long after the world has revolved onwards and, to me, this is a childhood classic that, at its core, really is a tale of friendship and helping one's friends out. The looking-glass into early Twentieth century England is just a fascinating bonus!
(Swedish, 6 February 2013)
Apparently, Gluchovkij has licensed out his world to other authors after writing Metro 2033 and 2034 himself and one taking place in the Saint Petersburg Metro is allegedly pretty good.
However, in "Metro 2034", Gluchovskij self manages his world and although he writes a suspense story at least as thrilling as the one in the first novel, it unfortunately lacks the other pillars the predecessor rested on: the expose of our contemporary world's religious and political movements as how they been conserved and cultivated by the survivors in the Moscow Metro and how the main character Artiom in the old one constantly interprets artifacts from before the catastrophe as being about events in the Metro from after the survivors were trapped there.
The sequel is a much more simpler story, more focused on being an adventure in the Metro - although with the suspense of impending doom hanging over our heroes, some of which returns from the predecessor and other that are completely new.
Gluchovskij also very wisely extends his post-apocalyptic world with excellent hooks to base future novels on. I do hope he once again finds inspiration rivalling what he poured into the first novel!
If you liked "Metro 2033", you will want to read "Metro 2034", too, although I personally don't consider it as good as its predecessor.
(English, 26 January 2013)
This is an totally excellent piece of popular science. Kahneman has the rare skill of being able to write about really complicated stuff in a way that makes not only easy to follow but entertaining as well. In the process, he weaves himself into the story - as the research of the topic over the years naturally has been the central part of his own existence.
So what is it about? It's a piece of social science that is related to Wilson's "Strangers to ourselves" and "Redirect" but also to economics, game theory, psychology, and a ton of other areas.
With a book by such a gifted author, let me cite his own summary of the same:
I began this book by introducing two fictitious characters, spent some time discussing two species, and ended with two selves. The two characters were the intuitive System 1, which does the fast thinking, and the effortful and slower System 2, which does the slow thinking, monitors System 1, and maintains control as best it can with its limited resources. The two species were the fictitious Econs, who live in the land of theory, and the Humans, who act in the real world. The two selves are the experiencing self, which does the living, and the remembering self, which keeps the score and makes the choices.
This is, naturally, an uttermost condense summary as Kahneman spends lots of chapters on each pairs with anecdotes on how he and his various colleagues came to formulate their theories in the first place, how they went about to verify them, and how they have refined them over the years. The true strength of the book lies in Kahneman's endless examples of how these three pairs more often than not are able to allow us to operate our world with ease but also where they fall short and will trick us into making errors. Kahneman also educate us on the warning signs and how to, at least sometimes, be able to avoid falling into the traps of our own mind.
For me, it is really fascinating to how Kahneman's work ties in with a lot of other areas, but - then again - it is all a question of perception and since he focuses on how me make sense of the world around us, it naturally have ramifications on quite a range of what we do in and of our world.
One should probably re-read this gem regularly - every few years, or so. What I've picked up on most actively is our general tendency to be more risk aversive with regards to possible gains and more risk seeking with regards to possible losses (we settle for a sure lesser gain instead of gamble on a higher gain with a small chance of losing all while, at the same time, we are willing to risk everything on a small chance of keeping what we have instead of accepting a sure lesser loss).
This is a book I can recommend to everyone. For example, I gave a copy in Sweden to my father as a Christmas present.
(Swedish, 12 December 2012)
This is a very to the point book: these are all the different kinds of pain you can encounter when you give birth (mainly physical, but also emotional), and these are the means to cope with them (positive re-framing as well as medication and things in between like changing positions, TENS gadgets, massage, etc).
This is, of course, an interesting read - but perhaps more for women in fertile age than for male readers. On the other hand, it is usable for partners of pregnant women to prepare them for how to best support their women during the birth labour.
This book also bear witness to the sad fact that the traditional midwife, who helped the human race give birth to new generations for thousands of years, so easily got swept aside by the modern and up to very recently male dominated medical doctors who forced women to start giving birth on their backs in bed (while it is less painful to do it standing or squatting - and then gravity assists some, too).
A more fun fact is that, apparently, Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) was the first anaesthetic/analgesic used by the same male doctors for child-bearing and it was used and endorsed by no other than Queen Victoria herself!
Good book about a very narrow topic that probably only will be read by parents preparing for an imminent birth of a child.
(English, 20 November 2012)
Endearing enjoyment pure... This is such a great idea that it would easily have shone through even a really sloppy execution and Morgenstern has done a pretty good job at writing it up. I did find the jumps forward and backwards in time hard to keep track of, but once I quit trying to keep track and just settled for noting the year of a chapter to work out if much or little had come before the events in it, it didn't bother me anymore. Instead, other aspects come forward - like the undeniable fact that this nocturnal travelling circus during the very end of the Nineteenth century and the first years of the Twentieth, augmented by magic, paints a picture of a world one very much would like to experience first hand - to crawl right into the book, if possible.
One obvious comparison would be Clarke's "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" although it takes place during the Napoleonic War a hundred years earlier than "The Night Circus" and the magic is of a darker, wilder, more violent kind. However, both are historical novels steadily rooted in the historical epoch during which they take place with the key exception that the time has been spiced up with magic.
Another, less clear association would be the genre of steampunk, in the sense that it is offering an alternate history, only with "The Night Circus" substituting magic for the steam-powered retro-futuristic inventions.
Morgenstern has really written a totally endearing novel. It's a love story. It's a story of adventure and suspense for a family audience. It uses a circus anyone with a pulse would love to visit as a focal point. It includes many lovable and interesting characters. It really uses words in a refined way to engage all one's senses in the narration, especially one's inner eye and inner nose (aaah, the smell of caramel!).
This novel will make an excellent Christmas present. Too bad it was my book-loving sister that lent it to me - otherwise it would have been the perfect gift for her!
I think we can await more great novels by Morgenstern in the future.
(English, 4 November 2012)
This was a hard read, not in the sense that it was dry and hard to understand, quite the contrary, but because it touches on so many subjects and often makes quite huge leaps of thought.
Falconar tries to show how the ideas of Korzybski's "Science and Sanity" is supported by a lot of Eastern philosophy and give a practical recipe for how one can activate one's creative intelligence. However, for me, rather than be enlightening, it only acted as an appetiser, making me want to read "Science and Sanity" myself - despite it being reported as a really challenging read.
Also, I think that Falconar's familiarity with India and Indian culture might make his description of Indian esoteric traditions a bit cloudy, as he might assume that other shares his knowledge about the subject. Needless to say, I don't...
Once finished, this is a book that you immediately wonder if you should just read again, to see if you got more of it the other time around.
(Swedish, 20 October 2012)
I liked "Eld" ("Fire") a lot more than "Cirkeln" ("The Circle"). Probably due to the preceding book having taken care of all the introduction so that one could dive into this part and already be familiar with pretty much all main and side characters. Also, I immensely liked how the authors really strives to make the main characters grew their personalities and develop as human beings. Yes, I might have scorned it a little in the beginning, but their honest effort won me over in the end.
I know that I felt that "Cirkeln" was pretty much only a variant of a well-known theme, but I must say that I find that "Eld" is having a better defined voice of its own and is better at pissing in its own unique territory among the heaps of comparable novels.
Another more likable aspect of "Eld" was that a lot of the annoying cliché challenges the unsympathetic outsiders present our protagonists springs from an evil plot of the malicious demons - and not just from common xenophobia of "ordinary" people as in "Cirkeln".
Also, the bottom line is that this is a thrilling page turner due to our heroins overcoming their opposition against all odds.
When is the third part due? ;-)
(English, 10 October 2012)
This short book is actually an excellent practical introduction to meditation and mindfulness. Puddicombe argues that both ultimately are the same and that we would benefit immensely from as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day and trying to incorporate mindfulness in as much of our actions during the rest of the day as possible - in his practical take, one could even walk mindfulnessly while carrying on a conversation with a friend or colleague!
Apparently, Puddicobme have spent a lot of time in monasteries dedicated to meditation all over the world and in this book distilled the essence of all his experiences in a very practical and accessible way geared toward the Western audience (i.e., virtually all of the usual Eastern mysticism has been washed away). He also very generously illustrates every key point with anecdotes of his time in this or that monastery - and often he describes the right way by sharing with us the mistakes he made himself before he got the same lesson.
(Norwegian, 27 September 2012)
So did the third part of Knausgård's "Min kamp" ("My Struggle") come to an end. In most aspects naturally very similar to the first two but in one way quite dissimilar. Where the first part mostly revolved around Knausgård's complex relationship with his father, the death of the father, and dealing with that, and where the second mostly focused on the years in Sweden during which he got his three kids, the third part mostly describes the formative years of his childhood and schooling.
In itself, this is interesting, because he is, what?, six years older than me and thus his schoolyards and free time during the Seventies and Eighties have a lot in common with mine (for instance, Yellow Fox and Hubba-Bubba). Yet, because of him growing up in Norway and me in Sweden, there are all of these small but exotic differences to take in account. Norway isn't Nigeria where everything would be obviously different. Norway is just like Sweden, except in the little, unexpected details where the two neighbours simply go different ways. Surprisingly exciting and refreshing.
However, a good way into the book, I felt that I was missing something. A while later, I figured out that Knausgård simply hadn't included as many of the mini-essays that had been snuck into the earlier parts - the passages where Knausgård's brilliant language and eye for the bare threads in the underlying weave of our existence comes to life and makes for almost haunting reading. Needless to say, that element missing left a longing in me. Why was this?
While marvelling of how much of his childhood he remembered in such vivid detail (or fabricated, or freely filled in the blanks, but it is much more rewarding to consider the whole series dead honest), I remembered having read somewhere - either in an earlier part or a newspaper interview - about how it had been quite a process for Knausgård to really revisit his youth and, over time, remember more and more. How one reclaimed memory led to new associations and new memories, over and over again (and how a lot of the memories were quite emotional to revive).
Clearly, Knausgård have had to really bring his young self back to bring all the memories of his childhood back. Then it struck me that in the third part, he is rather accounting for his childhood through the eyes of his childhood self than filtered through an adult mind. Really, this is far from your average memoirs (picture an stuck-up old geezer that rambles on in a unbearable voice: "-It was then in Kindergarten I choose the path that would lead me to such marvellous victories as the biggest bank merger of our times..."). In fact, it isn't even your average biography. Kanusgård has really gone into him self, brought the boy who lives his childhood back and let that boy more or less ghost write for him. Subtle, but impressive!
Sadly, this fact shrouds Knausgård's language and perception a bit and therefor makes the third part a bit duller than the previous parts. However, on the other hand, he has gone a long way to show us how his language and keen perception were developed.
I wonder how the fourth part will be? (I have already purchased it, although I will read a few other books before treating myself to it.)
(English, 10 September 2012)
Another excellent read! Although it probably should be most like Dutton's "Flipnosis" and some of Fexeus' books, I actually connect it more with Wilson's "Redirect". It is as much a textbook on how human cognition works as an excellent self-defence course against all forms of ingenious marketing and pure con-artists. (Probably, the converse is also true, it is a course in how to influence people both benevolent and malevolent - remember a hammer is just a tool, it is up to you whether you use it to drive in a nail in a plank or to bash someone's head in.)
Cialdini presents his own and others research in a clear and humorous way - and, in this revised edition, with readers' own experiences relevant to the different chapters.
Evidently, Cialidini's book has been used both in classes in Psychology and in Marketing but it works really well for the general public as well.
I especially like how he suggest one should get out of clever (phone-)sales snares by telling the sales-person exactly what schemes they are using. Regardless of whether they know the theory behind the schemes themselves or if they don't have a clue what you are talking about, they will make a run for it without closing a deal with you.
(English, 24 August 2012)
This made a good companion to Talbot's "The Holographic Universe", as Wolf, too, draws from the holographic theory but it wasn't as well-written and accessible as Talbot's book. Wolf is a physicist that has got a deep interest in shamanism and has travelled the world, visiting shamans and shamankas and publishing theories on the subject.
In this book, he tells the tale of his experiences with the Peruvian Ayahuasqueros and their "dream wine", the Ayahuasca, that enables them to visit parallel worlds. Wolf also interleaves accounts of him visiting shamans of other schools, like the North-American Indians and the Celtic Druids of the British isles (he also refers to the occult works of Swedish eighteenth century scientist Emanuel Swedenborg!).
Although Wolf's experiences are intriguing and his theories interesting, his book is narrated in a too roundabout fashion for me to like it as much as Talbot's more straight-forward account. Also, although the draws on physics in his attempts to de-mystify and explain shamanism, I find that his leaps of thought are a bit too big and too wild for my taste.
Yet I cannot but wish for the shamans to be real and being able to visit parallel worlds and heal on a more profound level than the one we usually lives our lives in. (Like Brennan does in "Hands of Light", Wolf accounts for our souls choosing to be reborn and choosing what hardships should befall their new incarnation in order for the soul to continue to learn and evolve to some ultimate Nirvana.)
Actually, the individual stories of all the different people Wolf meets all over the world is to me more interesting than Wolf's own story - even if it was, on the whole, quite compelling. It just didn't gain anything but rather lost from being read with Talbot's "The Holographic Universe" fresh in mind.
(English, 10 August 2012)
Probably the perfect book to read after Singh's and Ernst's "Trick or Treatment". Their book really hammered in the current scientific method of determining the level of effectiveness of medical treatment. Thus, when starting on Talbot's endless compilation of studies on the paranormal and unexplainable, my inner dialogue kept sceptic, thinking "I would like to see that study myself", "how did they design the experiment?", "what was the control group?", "sound like influenced by wishful thinking", etc. However, Talbot kept going and the sheer number of studies he referred to started to sway me on two grounds: 1) could really such a vast body of research all be flawed, and 2) what an elegant and promising picture of an unifying theory he paints!
In short, the proposed theory or model of a holographic universe (i.e., an universe where every particle of it also contains the whole, just like the pieces of a holographic picture still depicts the same motive as the original after it is cut up) which could explain virtually every paranormal phenomena that modern science tend to shrug off as non-existing.
Let me take a moment here and really stress that the holographic idea or theory still just is a proposal. It hasn't been proved yet (not to my knowledge at least - after all, the book is twenty years old). It might be totally wrong or it might be proven right in the future - like Shrödinger's cat, it kind of exists in both states right now.
When reading it, Kuhn's paradigm shifts came to my mind. You now, the majority thought the Earth was flat until the number of anomalies to the flat model grow so large that it reached critical mass and the inevitable occurred - the model of a spherical Earth was generally accepted. This is something that professional researchers sometimes are a lot more aware of than your average man on the street, that our best and most thoroughly proved scientific models still are just that, models, that are constantly being re-evaluated and refined but might ultimately be replaced. (Newtonian physics giving way to quantum physics paving the way for, what, string theory?).
Anyways, the holographic models have followers in many camps, like physics (David Bohm) and neurophysiology (Karl Pribram) and Talbot collects evidences from a lot of other fields of phenomena that possibly could be explained by a holographic universe. And he does it well. Being a journalist, he has the knack for making his chapters on esoteric science accessible to me as a layman reader. (In the few areas I actually have some knowledge, like physics, I have only been able to identify a few over-simplifications or sloppy phrasings.)
This turned out to be a very entertaining read, both for me and my father. It can be written off as defending superstition but I rather would call it a "what if?" book. You should read it to make up your own mind.
(Swedish, 30 Juli 2012)
This is something as odd as a children's bedtime story based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, psychology, and light hypnosis. Sounds like a mouthful, right? Well, in practise, it is less dramatic. It is simply a bedtime story about a sleepless young rabbit and his quest to get to sleep. However, the narration is sprinkled with clever word devices like "the wise owl said -relax your legs, [name of child]. Charlie Rabbit and you relax your legs, now", "... Charlie Rabbit told yourself" (not himself!), "feeling more and more tired", etc.
Basically, it is a story design to relax and make the audience sleepy. Because of all the "sleight of mouth", it isn't the most easiest book to read aloud, but after a few times, you get the hang of it.
What surprised me the most is that my son doesn't find the simple story boring and want to rather hear another book at bedtime - instead, he often falls asleep well before the book has ended! (And long before the suggestions that he will fall asleep more quickly and sleep better every night from now on.)
I bought it as a curious novelty but it has actually worked surprisingly well. Try it out, if nothing else for a laugh.
(English, 28 July 2012)
Singh and Ernst have pretty much written the ultimate popular-scientific account of contemporary alternative medicine. They begin with a chapter on how to scientifically evaluate the effects - or non-effects - of any treatment, regardless of orthodox or alternative. This chapter has many similarities with Wilson's account of the difficulties in soundly evaluating social psychology as he writes about, for instance, in "Redirect". However, Singh and Ernst go further when they successfully argues the need for randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial to really gauge the efficiency and merits of an arbitrary treatment for a condition. Like Wilson, the need for randomisation when populating the groups of the trial is to make the trial statistically independent of un-evenly distributed or unknown factors. The placebo-control dictates that you threat all groups seemingly the same - even when only one group get the true treatment being tested and the others a inefficient placebo or an older, conventional drug for the same condition. This is to make sure that the positive effect is due to the treatment and not because of a placebo effect. Finally, the double-blindness reflects that the patient in the groups should be blind to whether they are treated with the real thing, a placebo or another medicine for the same condition - but also the care-givers should be unaware of they are handing out the real thing or not, so that they won't be able to unconsciously affect the patients by subtly different behaviour depending on their of expectations.
They further deepens the lessons of the first chapter by taking the four largest alternative medicine disciplines: Acupuncture, Homoeopathy, Chiropractic Therapy, and Herbal Medicine - rounding off the book with a final chapter on their thoughts regarding the value of placebo. They argue that any treatment that just works by the placebo effect is fraud because orthodox medical treatments also benefit from the mechanism behind the placebo effect - namely the patients own expectation. Only, when the active substance in the treatment really is effective, it is per definition no placebo anymore, and the positive expectations of the patient only increases the effect of the treatment (compare with injecting a patient in a coma with a medicine against skin-rash and giving a shot to a conscious patient you simultaneously are telling about the high potency and success rate of the drug).
Also, in the appendix, they briefly cover the result of the existing research for another 35 alternative forms of medicine.
It is a interesting, easy read although it is a bit wordy at times. Aside painting a good picture on why scientific rigour is crucial when evaluating treatments, it also gives a brief history of how modern medicine developed (basically, up to only 200 years ago, medical doctors did more harm than good by, for instance, blood-letting their patients and treating them with mercury...).
With regards to the form of alternative medicine they include in the book, it can only be described as a slaughter or massacre. However, even if the majority has been proven to be ineffective - the jury is still out on a few more as none or too few studies of enough quality exists. Still, they do identify a minority as working - but only a small minority.
(Swedish, 19 July 2012)
This was a pleasant surprise! It was so much more than the claustrophobic thriller one could expect. Who would have thought that it would rest one leg on existential questions and contain a post-catastrophic inventory of most major political and some religious movements? It was also nice to compare the world of "Metro 2033", where the known survivors of World War 3 are confined to Moscow's underground, with the world of Collins' "The Hunger Games", where the known survivors huddles in the rest of North-America after mankind last war toppled the climate and the oceans rose. Of course, the claustrophobic feeling in "The Hunger Games" is of a whole other type than the straight-forward of the train tunnels of "Metro 2033". Yet, there are surprisingly many parallels. However, an huge difference is that in Hunger Games' Panem, most knowledge of the previous world seems to have faded away while in "Metro 2033", a substantial fraction of the inhabitants have lived long enough to remember life on Earth's surface before the war. Thus, our contemporary world is a constant ghost companion to the main character Artiom, despite him having no recollection of a life outside of the Metro himself.
Another obvious parallel is the almost compulsory quest of Fantasy novels. Although Artiom stays within a subset of Moscow's Metro, it takes him weeks of wrong-turns and detours to make it just a few stations away - which in our world, where the trains still run, would take less than an hour. It is these wrong-turns and detours that qualifies his travels as a classic quest.
Astonishing good read (I cannot wait to read the sequel). I especially like how Artiom constantly interprets different remaining artworks at the different stations - statues, murals, painted scenes on the ceilings - as depicting happenings in the Metro after the catastrophe rather than the Nineteenth or Twentieth century events they really are memories of.
(English, 9 July 2012)
This is really a compilation volume of two earlier thin volumes, "Mr Tompkins in Wonderland" from 1940 and "Mr Tompkins explores the atom" from 1944, somewhat updated and complemented with a couple of chapters based on the developments within the field of Quantum Physics in the time between 1944 and 1965, when "Mr Tompkins in Paperback" was first published.
I must confess that, despite the occasional book touching on the subject of Quantum Physics, I haven't really touched the field since senior secondary school (as a Computer Science student, the only Physics course I took at the University was strictly on classical Mechanics) and naturally my memory of my old text-books is a bit shaky, but when reading "Mr Tompkins in Paperback", I get the distinct impression that Gamow makes a much better job of explaining the mind-blowing concepts than my physics teachers ever did.
As an example, at its core, we have Einstein's theory of relativity, which Gamow - among other ways - makes understandable by first pointing out that if you're eating a meal on a train, it's only natural that we eat the main course and dessert in different places along the train line, i.e.: Two events happening at different times at the same point of one system of references will be separated by a definite space interval from the point of view of another system. Then he shows that the theory of relativity is totally symmetrical to this well know fact and can be obtain by just exchanging the terms for time and space: Two events happening at different places at the same point in time in one system of references will be separated by a definite time interval from the point of view of another system.
Every other chapter in the book are lectures by a fictional professor during which Mr Tompkins keeps falling asleep. The remaining chapters are the dreams Mr Tompkins dreams, that takes place in worlds where, for instance, the speed of light is just 30 km/h (so the shortening of a man on an bicycle due to relativity is totally visible to the plain eye) or Planck's constant really large so that billiard balls made of "Quantum Ivory" (from elephants from the Quantum Jungle), are visibly all over the pool table at once. I.e., by choosing the right values of certain physical constant, Gamow creates worlds ideal to making different hard-to-grasp consequences of Quantum Physics spring to life. It makes me remember when we, in school, tried to apply Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to a car, to see what the probability of it missing a garage door completely was. However, since we didn't fiddle with any of the constants, we only got a shudder on the car on a totally unmeasurable scale, if my memory serves me correctly. I guess that with a large enough value of Planck's constant, one's car would more often than not end up in one's neighbour's garage (if not in all potential garages at the same time! ;-)).
All in all, although the society of Mr Tompkins naturally is a bit dated, one is struck by how far modern physics had come back then and how little huge discoveries has been made in the fifty years since the book was published. Or is it just the case that the discoveries haven't been made publicly known in the same way, or haven't been made it yet? At least we know of a lot more elementary particles now, that has been practically verified by ingenious experiments.
An easily accessible introduction to the theory of relativity and Quantum Physics. Recommended.
(English, 29 June 2012)
Surprisingly, if you look at the catalogue of the Connections Publishing house, this title stands out, at least to me, as one of the few more serious ones. Good thing that Connections decided to make a re-print of the original from 1995. Also, it is totally obvious to me that the original edition cannot have been even half as pretty as the one by Connections. The book is beautifully layouted, illustrated, and printed in white and purple. I.e., the format is excellent.
So, what about the contents, then? Well, it is one of the better introductions to self-hypnosis I've read, rivalling Praesto's "Hypnositörens hemligheter" in clarity and readability. I also appreciate that the induction tracks on the companion CD aims to install suggestions on one's own ability to facilitate a decent trance on one's own. However, the format of the audio tracks of the CD isn't as nicely modernised as the format of the book itself. It is clearly just a CD version of the originally cassette tapes distributed with the original book, whit just the voice of Powell to go with you. Compared to modern induction tracks by, for example, Hypnotica, Bandler, or Praesto for that matter, the lone voice in mono comes up a bit short to the others mix of music and voices in stereo, sometimes with one voice talking to you in one ear while another addresses you in the other (head-phones essential).
All in all, one of the more easily accessible introductory text-books on self-hypnosis I've read and - more importantly - one that prescribes perhaps the most manageable route to learning self-hypnosis I've ever seen.
(English, 21 June 2012)
Regrettably, this volume is a bit too uneven and tries to touch upon a bit too much for its own good.
However, two strengths of it is McColl's dry sense of humour and his frequent examples from Zen Buddhism. Makes me curious to learn more about Zen.
The best use I can think of for this book is to read it with pen and paper close by, jotting down each of the concepts he covers that you take any interest in at all, and then use the list you've compiled to search for other titles that focuses better on one - ore a few - of the items on the list.
(English, 11 June 2012)
Havens' intriguing book can be summed up with that they two keys to experiencing Cosmic Consciousness are to immerse oneself with light and to lose one's sense of self.
Of course, that summary are pretty unintelligible - hence the room for Havens to write a whole book about it. He traces what he calls "Cosmic Consciousness" as a key element in pretty much any religious experience, regardless of what it is called (Nirvana, Gnosis, finding God, etc), He argues that it is possible to reach it oneself, by meditation or self-hypnosis, literary visualising oneself as entering and let oneself be thoroughly washed through-and-through by intense white light, at the same time as one let go of one's ego and thus can connect to the Cosmic (collective) consciousness - a powerful, even overwhelming experience that literary can change your life.
Well, on the plus side, he makes a compelling case that such an experience really is reachable without becoming a Tibetan Monk and practise meditation for forty years. On the minus side, it still takes a lot of effort and personal exploration, so such an experience is still not trivial to reach. And - of course - would it be as powerful as Havens describes if it was?
(English, 5 June 2012)
Oh dear Lord, spoiler alert: Panem, the name of the country in which the Hunger Games novels take place, is named from the latin device from ancient Rome: "panem et circenses", "bread and games". However, unlike ancient Rome, were the Emperors used bread and games to keep the population placid, the Capitol of Panem rather starves the populations of the districts and use the Hunger Games to remind them that rebellion is futile. Spoiler alert two: this strategy doesn't work out so well in "Mockingjay", the third and last novel in the trilogy.
Unfortunately, a bit like the fourth Harry Potter novel loses momentum because of Harry's problems dealing with his teenage angers, "Mockingjay" loses pace because Katniss finally is a bit overwhelmed by all hardships and actually loses her drive and focus. Well, we knew all along that she was only human but still it is jarring to see one's composed heroin reduces to a lost girl full of doubts.
Despite the fact that the ending of the novel has to be categorised as happy, the trilogy really ends rather dark and grimly. It really drives home that in war there are no victors, only losers with different amount of physical and psychological scarring.
Although I appreciated the trilogy a lot and I am glad I've read it, too many of the characters I liked was killed off and I kind of long for the relative innocence of the first book. Yet, I must take my hat off for Collins just because she has written her very own story, that happen to be violent, dark, and dystopic. Compared to the more common suger-sweet happy endings, "Mockingjay" stands out as more genuine because of its originality. Because is was harder to digest, it makes a more lasting impression that lighter reads. I only hope that Collins' stands her ground and doesn't allow the movie-makers to slap on a happier end to the movie adoption.
(English, 30 May 2012)
The action continues in the second novel, as Katniss and Peeta discovers that they are far from out of the woods just because they succeeded at surviving their Hunger Game against all odds. Here I must offer a parallel to the TV series "Lost". Just like in "Lost", Collins has somewhat of reversed Chinese boxes going in her Hunger Games trilogy. Instead of tricking one box open and finding a smaller inside, whenever the main characters solve a riddle in "Lost" or Collin's novels, they reveal a larger, enveloping riddle. I.e., throughout the series, you repeatedly get your horizons widened, your perspectives broadened. Quite the mark of an accomplished author.
Not surprisingly, as the key challenges and characters all have been established from the first novel, "Catching Fire" is an even greater page-turner as you don't have to think as much but rather just press on to see what will happen. And, oh, does it happen a lot...
I like how Collins' has thought the post-apocalyptic world of Panem through and how she sublimely depicts is by how Katniss relates to what she sees and learns. Yet, since the Capitol obviously has got such superior technology at its disposal, why don't we hear anything about explorations all over the globe? As paranoid as the Capitol is, shouldn't they keep an eye out for surviving Europeans or Australians coming to conquer them? Or are there no survivors anywhere on Earth outside the North-American Panem?
(English, 27 May 2012)
Another hyped novel they couldn't make a movie out of fast enough - but is there any merits to the hype? Oh yes it is. What I like best about Collins authorship is the restrain she exercises. She doesn't let Katniss wallow page up and page down on some fleeting emotion. Instead, she marches the narration on in short, action packed sentences. Often, it is just midway through the next sentence I fully appreciate the magnitude of what the last really meant, often hitting me like a ton of bricks. As always, I am mostly reading while commuting and more than once I had to pause my reading and think of something else to hold my tears back (yes, I am a bit sentimental). Because Katniss has her share of bad luck and has to go through some pretty serious hardships (and I am sure that most people who read news-papers or watches movie trailers on TV already knows the basic plot of The Hunger Games - not that that will move me to reveal it here, not much anyway).
So the economical prose is one leg the novel stands on. The other is the sheer originality of the gruesome story. It's no news that mankind is a cruel species but Collins basically combines elements of Ancient Rome with science-fiction, creating a dystopic post-apocalypse future America were the society is based on the ruins of our current USA (interestingly enough, the rest of the world is never mentioned - were there really only survivors in North America?). Here Collins shares some traits with Gibson's cyberpunk future. Another obvious parallel is Card's "Ender's Game" with resourceful young protagonists fighting to overcome the odds (although Katniss is almost twice the age of Ender, if my memory suits me correct).
In my opinion, "The Hunger Games" succeeds well in being both action-packed as well as action-driven yet contain an impressing psychological depth, and that in a rather sublime fashion, as feelings isn't unnecessary dwelt upon but rather efficiently reflected reflected in the narration by the ripples they send through the main characters.
Favourite character: Haymitch, despite his bitterness, alcoholism, and self-destructiveness.
(Norwegian, 14 May 2012)
He really is a phenomena, this Knausgård. One aspect of the intriguing qualities of his "Min Kamp" ("My Struggle") series is that he now and then gives valuable peeks into what events and what thoughts that formed him into the author he is, and onto the path of totally open personal realism. Of course, I am in no position to determine whether he has edited the reality he describes in the books, but I get the distinct feeling that he never compromises the truth because of his own, inner moral compass. This, of course, cannot be easy for his family and friends that, naturally, occurs quite frequently in his narration about his life - especially since he isn't just re-telling his sunny memories.
In fact, his accounts of the domestic quarrels he has with his partner is another of the components that keep me glued to the book. One one hand, it is very universal - about every family can recognise themselves and relate. On the other hand, in some of the quarrels, I side with Karl Ove, relating to his arguments and his feelings. In others, I instead can better relate to where Linda is coming from, can share her feelings, and see Karl Ove through her eyes. Of course, their quarrels make for a lens I can view my and my wife's quarrels through and learn a thing or two on where we talked passed each other and where we don't see eye to eye.
If the first part of the series focused on his father and how he coped with the father's death, the second focuses on the birth of his kids and how he adjusts to the rôle of become not only a father himself but a modern one, too, that take parental leave, changes diapers, and in every way nurses his kids. Not surprisingly, as I got my first kid a few years ago, I can relate a lot more to Knausgård's experiences as a family builder than I could to his experiences with a harsh father, that turns into an alcoholic and later drinks himself to death. Yet both parts have been page-turners for me, because of all the elements of everyday events anyone can relate to, because of all Kanusgård's forays into the fascinating realm of art and literature (in this aspect, his books are really educating!), because of his Norwegian eyes he uses to look at Sweden while living in Stockholm and Malmö, that make me learn new things about Norway and appreciate new things about Sweden, and not the least because of the philosophical mini-essays he injects here and there into the narration in his unique way.
Oh, and don't even get me started on how fun it is to read Knausgård in Norwegian - although, apparently, Knausgård himself avoids reading books in Swedish if he can get hold of a Norwegian translation. However, I wonder if that goes for Swedish authors, too? I mean, I wouldn't read, say, a Russian author in Norwegian. There I would prefer my native language, but I do appreciate reading Knausgård in his original language. Perhaps he might like to read Swedish authors in their original language, too?
All in all a deceivingly simple narration with rather everyday content but so brilliantly crafted that the simple sublimely transforms into something great.
(English, 24 April 2012)
Hypnotica has invested a lot in his image as an iconoclast, a rebel against social conventions, a real free spirit. He is probably best known for his hypnotic self-improvement products (the Sphinx of the Imagination CD is really good as a guided meditation) and running a successful strip-club.
However, this title turned out to be a auto-biography were Hypnotica tried hard to track the influences that made him into the man he is. What comes across when reading it is that he is a lot more level and filled of common sense than one would think from the outset (even than he himself would have you believe). You could say that he had the luck of seeing through the web of traditional conventions and choosing to step outside and not playing the same game as most of us. Thus, he come to enjoy a larger personal freedom than most.
On the other hand, to even begin to contemplate him in this kind of light, you have to get passed all his sexual encounters throughout his life. He has literary slept with thousands of women and this tend to eats its way into the centre of the auto-biography, threatening to drown out the rest. However, it is relevant, as he has evolved as a lover throughout his life. He has always had a respect for women even if - like for most teenagers - the hunger for sex sometimes got the better of him. But as middle aged, he has really developed a refined outlook on women that is hard to combine with his amorous life-style and occupation as a manager of a strip-club. Yet, if you think about it, it might very well come in handy to be a real friend of women if you want to operate a successful strip-club and bed a lot of women, right? Would a real misogynist do equally well? Of course, it could be argues that a true friend of women would abhor strip-clubs, but as earlier mentioned, Hypnotica has decided to drop common social conventions.
In his thinking, he comes across a a very normal and decent guy but in his conclusions and actions, he comes across as freaky and sex-crazed. If you find this paradox intriguing, his book is for you.
I really like the dedication he wrote in the book: "This book is dedicated to those who understand that without the crashing waves, the sand would never rest smoothly along the shoreline." Although it can be discussed how crashing Hypnotica really is as a wave, there is truth to that statement and although I have little interest in imitating his amorous life-style, I do admire and want to learn more about his spiritual journey and work as a mind scientist.
Not merely provoking but though-provoking as well.
(German, 17 April 2012)
So, could Swann pull it off, repeating the success of her debut sheep detective story? Well, in the beginning, I didn't feel that the sequel, when Rebecca took the herd on a journey to Europe as stated in her father's will, really matched the originality and atmosphere of the first title, "Glennkill" ("Three Bags Full"), were the sheep solves the murder of their shepherd. However, then the suspense sank its teeth into me, and I just had to keep turning page to see the story to its end. Is there really a Garou - a Werewolf - haunting the woods around the French castle in the woods?
It is a bit hard to make a fair comparison when it was a while since I read Swann's first book. There is a risk that I have magnified the greatness of the first in my memory, thus making the sequel suffer. However, I would say that the strength of the original book is the very well-found and carefully crafted perspective of the sheep, especially down-playing sight and up-playing smell. This way, every common element of an detective story become new and refreshing. Of course, it helped that the underlying plot was both complex and basically plausible.
This volume, the sequel, isn't as strong in this sense. Yes, of course Swann tells this tales through the noses and references of the sheep, but it isn't novel anymore and thus she would have had to be twice as careful to make it equally good. Instead, the strength of "Garou" is the suspense, mixing in a bit of horror in the detective story (of course, this has the drawback of maxing the plot a tad more unrealistic...).
True to the original, Swann has succeeded in writing another page-turner. However, I still consider the original the best of the two.
(English, 3 April 2012)
What a depressing read... Don't get me wrong - it is good. As a reference on web-browser and web-server security, it is bordering on fantastic. However, the overall picture it paints is rather bleak. There are just too many different standards, too many specifications open to too many interpretations, too many partially overlapping protocols, too many browsers, etc, and in all interjoining seams, there seems to linger more or less exploitable holes...
As I am currently working as a infrastructure technician for a company making its living on basically a Web 2.0 site, I had a professional interest in this book. However, it turned out that it is a more important read for web-developers and/or architects of web-sites (from load-balancers over application to back-end databases). Thus, a lot of it didn't directly apply to me but nevertheless gave me food for thought and a better overall understanding. In the end, I only opened one ticket in our issue-tracking system to have one theoretical exploit in the more infrastructure-near parts of our system fixed. Still, this ticket alone proved that the book was well worth reading.
Zalewski has worked with web security for years and evidently kept organised notes on all exploits and theoretical weaknesses he has come across, because it seems to have been quite effortless for him to pour it out in this well-organised book which actually is quite readable, too (it helps that Zalewski has a quite dry humour that often shine through - almost gallows humour).
If you make your livelihood from a web-site, this is next to a compulsory read. You might not benefit from all of it, but you are bound to find at least some parts directly applicable to you.
(English, 9 March 2012)
This is the direct sequel to Black's first book "Tithe". Her second, "Valiant", is more independent, even if it touches on the events in "Tithe" and some of the characters of "Valiant" appears in "Ironside", too. (I.e., it is a trilogy where the first and third installations in tighter coupled with each other than with the middle one.)
Basically, it ties up the loose end kept hanging from "Tithe". All in all a pretty cosy modern fairy-tale/modern tale of Faerie. What I find most appealing is the notion that the faerie has been here all along, in the cracks of our modern, Western society, but kept out of sight of us by a balance of rules and laws, so far most often enforced but sometimes not...
I kind of hope that Black set out on more bold literary adventures as there first three titles after all is more of novels for young adults than totally accomplished books.
(English, 5 March 2012)
So well written, so dense with information and yet just not as entertaining and easy to read and to digest as his later "Redirect". Clearly, it is the same professor that has written both, but equally obvious, his skill at writing for the general public has improved over time.
Don't get me wrong - this wasn't a bad read. It's just that "Redirect" was so much better. Especially in the sense that "Redirect", on pretty much every subject, also came with practical advice on how to use the scientific findings practically. "Strangers to Ourselves" is a very thorough survey on the scientific basis for what Wilson calls our "adaptive unconscious", what its function is, what it does for us, and how it - directly and indirectly - affects our every day life. However - he rarely gives us tips on how to live with it. Perhaps it is obvious to everyone but me, but I often felt that I was one breath from getting it all - like I got most but kept missing the last piece of the puzzle.
The best part of his massive 360 degrees review of the "adaptive unconscious" is how it touches on so many other (social) psychology and other scientific theories and how Wilson's sketches them out on the map and how they all relate to each other - from classic Freudian theory to behaviourism and Wilson's own cutting edge social psychology. (And at least this part is giving for me that didn't even take psychology in senior secondary school - I, of course, choose philosophy instead.)
I won't go into details about the "adaptive unconscious" but will mention the perhaps scariest thing about it: you can consciously believe that you, say, don't have any racial bias and actively strive to be fair and act in a un-racial way. However, you "adaptive unconscious" can, at the very same time, unknown to you, make your autopilot act as a racist, in ways a person often exposed to racism easily picks up on. Luckily, Wilson here refers to studies that indicate that a "do good, be good" approach over time can align the behaviour of the "adaptive unconscious" with your conscious behaviour.
All in all a very informative book on how to know oneself better, with lots of cutting edge science on how most of us really ticks and examples on how we can be fooled by our own unconscious.
(English, 20 February 2012)
Interestingly enough, Black immediately addresses my critique of her first novel - that the characters were such outcast - by making the main person of this, her second book quite a normal sixteen years old girl, with a pretty normal life - until it is turned on its head and she runs away to try to deal with it and stumbles on faerie and trolls hiding in the great city of New York.
All in all, I liked "Valiant" a lot more than "Tithe", which in a way is pretty odd as they have more in common than they differ and on some occasions touches upon each other. It's just that the ingredients and disposition of this one agreed better with me than the first one. (I wonder how her third novel in the same series will do?)
Strong points: a likable, more probable heroine and fantasy discovered in our midst - out of site to mortal eyes and allergic to all our iron, but there beside and around us anyway.
Weak points: the popular contemporary view of chic modern rebellious teenage destructive life-style can get tiresome, but it is down-played and more in its right place in this title.
(English, 15 February 2012)
Interesting read - it proved to me much more, much less, and much different to what I had expected:
This is an important book but I would like to think that it is more important for many other parts of the world than Sweden (at the same time, I have to confess that we have our own set of gender equality problems and we have far from extincted violence against women - but at least women are pretty liberated and have almost the same opportunities as men here).
Possibly, it is more important for men to read than women - even if both genders can benefit in different ways (eye-opener for men, guide to take back their own sexuality for women).
If possible, you should rather attend a live performance of the monologues than just read them, but reading them is better than not knowing them at all.
(English, 14 February 2012)
Another contemporary fantasy author, Black's trade mark is "modern faerie tales" - i.e., she tells of faeries in our modern society and of the few (un-)lucky humans that can (or is allowed) to see the faerie.
It is nothing wrong with the suspense in Black's story. I felt a strong urge to turn each page an read on, to see what would happen next. On another level, I don't really get why the human characters must be social outcasts. I guess it is so that we can identify with them, as we all, now-and-then, feel as we don't belong (why else would be turn to escapism in the form of fantasy?). Still, it is a bit tiresome with less than average people (or possibly my view of what is average doesn't match reality).
All in all rather endearing as it augments our physical reality by adding (revealing!) the faeries and magic in it. I can't help myself, but ponder the "what if:s" the book awakens.
(English, 9 February 2012)
I have really been lucky with my non-fiction picks lately with high-lights like Berns' "Iconoclast", Rosenblum's "See What I'm Saying", and, of course, Bateson's terrific "Mind and Nature" were all truly well-written books on interesting topics. Wilson's "Redirect" is right up there beside them.
The social psychologist Wilson has written a book that resides on three pillars: 1) the importance of testing (verifying) methods (theories) experimentally - and the importance of designing these experiments scientifically to rule out any inadvertent bias or trends in the population, 2) the plethora of wide-spread, well-meaning programs that haven't been tested before deployment and when they later are tested often proves to either not work or be doing more harm than good, and 3) the method of "story editing", a comparatively simple method of re-framing peoples self-images that have surprisingly large beneficial effects when used right.
Wilson begins by stressing the importance of rigorous testing and how to implement a scientifically sound test (of which the most important things is to randomly assign subjects to the test-groups or the control group). I might not have studied social psychology, but as once a student of Computer Science and Engineering, scientific experiments are no news to me, so this part was a bit boring for me (although I appreciated Wilson's numerous examples of flawed test yielding false results).
Wilson then visits a lot of fields, like preventing teenage pregnancies, limiting teenage drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse, closing the achievement gap, and more. The most interesting chapter to me was the one on how to become a better parent. More on that below.
For each field, he present a survey of widely spread popular programs that wasn't vetted before started and explains why they don't work. Then he describes the few, less well-known efforts that do work and looks at why they work (surprise, surprise - many of these were tested before they were put to use!).
Wilson uses a lot of diplomacy and objectivity when touching on politically infected questions like how to prevent teenage pregnancies. Here, the US political arena with the Republicans rooting for abstinence training (proved non-working) and the Democrats for Sexual Education - including contraception orientations (proved working), really gets quite exotic for a Swede like me, raised on the (from where I am standing) more sound northern-European values.
If we revisit the part on parenting, Wilson sums it up as 1) avoid an overly controlling parenting style, 2) label your kids' behaviour appropriately, and 3) foster secure attachment models. Point one can be further explained with the minimal sufficiency principle - that is, both threats and rewards should be chosen to be just sufficient to work because then the kids tend to do as we want them to and think they do it because they are good people, which will make it more likely they'll do it next time, too. If the threat/reward is too strong, they'll only do what we want them to because of the threat/reward, which will make it less probably that they'll do good the next time. The problem with the minimal sufficiency principle is, of course, that if your threat/reward come up short of sufficient, it won't have any affect at all.
To label your kids' behaviour appropriately makes me think of the writings of Jesper Juul, but I think Juul was more focused on giving the kids a rich language to communicate their feelings with in a precise fashion. Wilson's aim is to chose labels in a way that gives and reinforces a healthy self-image in the kids. Not always an easy thing to do. For example, don't tell your kids that they will do well on the exam because they are so brilliant students - because if they flunk it, the natural conclusion is that they aren't brilliant at all but poor students. Not what you wanted when you tried to encourage them, right? Instead, tell them that they'll do good on the exam because the have studied so hard. Now if they happen to flunk it, the natural conclusion is that they didn't study hard enough and that they need to make more effort for the next exam. Bingo!
I could on for ages, writing about this book, but I think it will be more efficient if you just read it yourself, don't you?
(English, 2 February 2012)
Leaving Malta, I picked up a new book on the airport. As I found a book on the Great Turkish Siege of Malta 1565 last time, I thought I'd go for the more recent siege during World War II (apparently, some British clerk calculated it as the longest siege in the history of the British empire) and settled for this one by Bernard. Alas, when I started reading it on the plane, it said already in the first pages that it was a work of fiction... I was aiming for a historical book, but ended up with somewhat of a Biggles-novel for grown-ups!
Perhaps the slight disappointment in the beginning coloured my liking of the novel as a whole, but I'm afraid that it is somewhat of a trifle, despite trying hard to describe the madness of modern warfare and how it affects the individuals caught up in the maelstrom of death, terror, explosives, and stress. Also, the side-track taking place in Britain and France feels rather misplaced and superfluous.
On the positive side, the author has done a lot of research and I believe that the stream of events follow actual history, even if all characters are fictitious.
In the end, what I liked the most was how close one came to the Hawker Hurricanes and - when the going got tough and the defence of Malta got prioritised - Supermarine Spitfires. Although, during the first chapters, Barnard burdened his narration with too much technical details, making them get in the way of the story. Either I got used to it or he eased back a bit, because it didn't disturb me for the reminder of the novel.
Despite a horrifying setting and honest interpretation of how human souls copes with the horrors of modern warfare, the result falls a bit on the light side.
(Norwegian, 26 January 2012)
Early on, I had decided not to read Knausgård's novels. Then, after the sixth and last part was published and reviews of the whole series appeared, I got swayed and bought the first part in Norwegian (of course!). And oh la la, can Knausgård write! There are some solids grounds for all the hype!
It's really against all odds. Knausgård is no Gandhi, Clinton, or Napoleon. His just a totally common Norwegian that had the common misfortune of having a not in all aspects great father that later turn into an alcoholic. Yet, when Knausgård tells the story of his very commonplace life, he does it in such a captivating way that you are drawn into the story, and mechanically turn page after page once your eyes scanned all the lines in them.
Combine this with Knausgård's knack for observing some passing detail, dwell on it and elaborate on its ramifications and place in the greater whole, and you have a contemporary classic. Although, I have some doubt of how well it will fare in a hundred years or more - at least the first part is pretty heavily anchored in the 1980:s. This, of course, only make it better in my eyes as I am not that many years younger than Knausgård and thus have my own, vivid memories of how it was to grow up in the neighbouring country to Knausgård's Norway. All the little unexpected differences between Sweden and Norway only spices the narration up for me. Also, when he includes the more recent years he lived in Stockholm and I can relate to the streets he walked to get between their apartment and his writer's studio, it makes for a great novel-reader connection.
It was a treat to read such a thick novel in Norwegian. Although it was a while since I last read a book in Danish, I have a feeling that Norwegian is a tad easier for me to read. Yet, it also become clear that Danish and Swedish is more closely related than Norwegian and Swedish (despite the latter sounding more alike and thus Swedes and Norwegians having easier to understand each other). This relation was most evident in the fact that it seems more words in Danish has a common origin with a Swedish word, even if their usage had glided apart over the years. In comparison, Norwegian seem to have more words with a similar common origin with German and English - this despite the fact that medieval Swedish was heavily influenced by low-German and Swedes today generally having more DNA in common with the inhabitants of northern Germany than with Danes and Norwegians.
Anyways, most unknown Norwegian words I got the meaning of from the context, at least the ones Knausgård often used (like "vesle", small, that he really used a lot). Some more infrequent, I probably should have looked up. Now I cannot remember them.
Want to experience great literature in the most unlikely of places and topics? Give Knausgård's "Min kamp" ("My Struggle") a chance.
(English, 13 January 2012)
What a disturbing book on a bleak subject. Hirigoyen has dived deep into the dark dungeons of mobbing an psychological warfare, focusing on psychic terror within families and in workplaces. It is a terrifying investigation into the mechanisms and pathologies of the ones who mercilessly feed on undoing others - and how the victims is rendered powerless in order to prevent them from fighting back.
The worst of it all is that Hirigoyen present no solution to it, no tips on how to fight back. Instead, she repeatedly states that fleeing often is the most viable option.
The little hope she conveys is that legislation and general awareness slowly is catching on, at least in some countries. Regrettably, often it is the victims that gets all the blame from society while the perpetrators skillfully make themselves look like the victims in the eyes of the legal courts, colleagues, and relatives.
Knowledge is power, and that is basically the only reason to read this book. If you know something about the subject, perhaps one can avoid being a mobber oneself, better avoid becoming a victim of physic terror, or being able to identify and intervene when someone close to you is targeted (but do it carefully since a pathological mobber might easily take out his or her revenge on you).
A really unpleasant book on a really unpleasant topic, but perhaps like good medicine often tasting like shit, the information - however unpleasant - might be good for you in the long run.
(German, 5 January 2012)
This is the third book by Havener but although it is pretty much like the others in style, I cannot help but get the impression that the third book only is a collection of the left-over material from his first two books. Mainly, this is because the flow through the book isn't that natural - it feels rather jumpy and illogical at places.
On the other hand, he kind of complements his two first books with this one, making the three of them a more complete work on our mind - how do strengthen it, guard it against unwanted influences but also how to influence others.
Still, his by far best book is the second, "Denken Sie nicht an einen blauen Elefanten", written together with doktor Michael Spitzbart, because of Spitzbart brilliant summary on how our typical Western life-style often leads to our most common pathologies.
(English, 27 December 2011)
Hey! This turned also out to be a great companion to Rosenblum's "See What I'm Saying" since Berns identifies the three key areas of what makes an iconoclast to be perception, fear response, and social intelligence - and, not surprisingly, the parts on perception and "See What I'm Saying" has quite a lot in common even if they tackle the field from different angels.
"Iconoclast" literary means "a smasher of Icons" and means someone who thinks differently, goes against the stream, and turn the tides. Many great inventors, artists, or successful entrepreneurs are iconoclasts. Berns looks at the biological (genetic) factors that affects whether one turns out to be an iconoclast or if one are statistically more average - and he does it so well! He both succeeds in summarising the advanced scientific theories of the day in a readily comprehensible way and constantly uses well-known persons as example, to illustrate the narration (Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, etc). I.e., Berns has succeeded in writing a popular-scientific page-turner on such an exotic subject as the biology of geniuses.
Not only does he identify where the true iconoclasts differs from the more common mortals, he also tells us how to become more iconoclastic if we want to and have the perseverance for it. (I.e., all iconoclasts isn't born such, many are (self-)made into one.)
What also is very interesting is all cases were Berns shows that recent research has proved older, sometimes well-known findings as wrong. This is a great aspect of books like this one or Rosenblum's "See What I'm Saying", that they survey the very cutting edge of science and packages the findings in an for the average person easy-accessible way. Huge thanks!
I am wondering a bit over the appendix over the iconoclast's pharmacopoeia. Why is it made into an appendix? Was it the author or the publisher that didn't want it as an integrated part of the book? Might it even be a compromise between integrating it or leaving it out altogether to have it as an appendix? Anyway, it is a quick account for how drugs, both legal and illegal, might make or break an iconoclast. Basically, in the cases were a drug really can help, they should best be avoided anyway because they come with severe unwanted side-effects. Still, I think the appendix rather belongs in the book since it makes it more complete.
Very educating and entertaining - warmly recommended.
(Swedish, 22 December 2011)
For months, I've been trying to borrow my sister's copy of this hyped novel. However, she had already lent it to a friend whom hasn't returned it yet. Thus, on my way abroad, I bought the book on Arlanda airport and proceeded to read it on both my flights and the three hour wait at the Frankfurt airport in between. That left me with only the last chapters that I finished off the day after. Great as a travelling companion.
What is "Cirkeln" ("The Circle") then? It is a hyped Swedish novel surfing on the wave of magic and the supernatural in the wake of Rowling's Harry Potter, targeted at teenagers or young adults.
To be honest, it isn't that original and like so many contemporary novels, it is rather movie-like in it's disposition (don't know whether this is because modern authors are influences by all the movies of the day or if they deliberately have had a movie adoption in mind while writing). Yet, it is rather well crafted and keeps the readers attention throughout the whole of it.
I won't spoil anything important, but the outline of the plot is that a number of very different teenage girls that only have in common that they go to the same school all of a sudden are brought together by their awakening witch-powers and an external threat.
Given how the novel ended, it would surprise me greatly if one or more sequels aren't in the making. ;-)
A bit average, yet read-worthy.
When I first read the title, I immediately thought about the huge Swedish housing projects of the Fifties and Sixties, where the so called "Million Program" suburbs to Sweden's larger cities was built. And, sure enough, Social Engineering is used in this context in English too: "Social engineering is a discipline in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behaviours on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups." However, in this book, Social Engineering is more about person-to-person communication and influence.
Although used in parenting, sales, by doctors, etc, Hadnagy's focus is on how it is one the one hand maliciously used by con-men, scammers, and crackers, and on the other by security guys to do penetration tests and educate companies in order to make them less vulnerable to the malicious kind.
Since Hadnagy illustrates the text with real case studies, it is not only entertaining but often even thrilling to read. He tells about a lot of James Bond-stuff going on to use Social Engineering to gain access to companies digital networks - i.e., no firewalls, anti-virus programs, or other technical counter measures can help if the bad guys can trick an employee to open the door for them, most often without the victim even realising it.
Although Hadnagy over and over again stresses the importance of gathering solid information on the target and to train each technique until it becomes a second nature, and really rehearse every attach vector before launching, the most interesting parts are, of course, his descriptions of key aspects of the juicer techniques like elicitation, pretexting, and persuasion. I especially like the chapter on psychological principles used within social engineering.
If one had the time and the drive to learn all of the techniques Hadnagy identifies, one would get a lot of benefits from them without becoming a professional penetration tester or a bad guy. Since all of these tools can be used with either good or bad intent, you could use them to just become a better communicator and help you family, friends, and co-workers with them.
In the end, the true merits of the book lies in educating you on the risks of attacks by evil social engineers. By just reading it, you might not be able to see through the carefully prepared pretext used by an attacker, but you might be better equipped not to make potentially exploitable exceptions from office policies when under social pressure to do so. (Like not plug in the USB-stick and open the pdf to help the cute, crying blonde in distress even if her story is totally believable - after all, she might be out to rob your company dry, putting you out of a job.)
(English, 1 December 2011)
Although this claims to be a book on how to use Neuro-Linguistic Programming to raise you children and make theirs as well as your own life happier, I have to say that there are less NLP and more common sense in it (or possibly the NLP and common sense happens to coincide for most of the recipes in the book).
It is really a huge collections of scripts on how to catch yourself from using the same (probably inherited) none-working ways to deal with your kids whenever they act up - and instead try something else, something new, something fresh. The book, of course, suggest recipes for typical domestic disagreements between parents and children.
Even if it is written as a reference book where you can look-up a typical situation after you have had an unsuccessful one and check how you should have dealt with it (or how you might have tried to deal with it better), if you read between the lines, it really all boils down to help you see your own habits and break free from them and help you see the big picture - i.e., the situation at hand from both your, the child's/children's, as well as a neutral bystander's/"fly on the wall's" perspective. Naturally, then it is easier to understand and pinpoint misunderstandings and find constructive compromises.
The first thing I tried from the book was to try not to nag when my son seems to ignore what I am saying and instead take a few minutes to join him in his activity - so that I can discover that he often is so absorbed by it that he literary cannot hear me and that I, by joining in, can get his attention and suggest that he takes a pause from his activity to do whatever I originally wanted him to do. I cannot say I always remember to do this, but when I do, it not only often have worked, it has been pleasant times for the both of us.
To me, this is less of a book to refer to as a manual when one have had a failure and want to succeed better next time a similar situation occurs, and more of a book to read to jog your mind and extend your toolbox so that you have more options to choose from when situations arise.
Alas, no book in the world can make you always evaluate every situation from every perspective and never fall into old habits. At times, you will be deep in your own head and act on autopilot. This book can only offer a chance to be that slightly less, if it agrees with you.
One funny thing about it, being written by a British author, was that I sometimes stumbled on her English. Most often, it was the fact that she wrote about "eating" tea and not drinking it. I guess it is because tea-time in Britain means scones or something similar and not just tea, but it still made we flinch every time she used it.
(Swedish, 25 November 2011)
With the Higgs particle maybe been found all over the news - CERN is down to the probability 1 in a 1000 that what they see is just random noise and won't officially say they've found the Higgs particle until they're down to 1 in a 1 000 000 - it as a great surprise to stumble on the best and most concise summary of the motivation for the whole LHC project I have ever seen (pages 211 to 215). And I have even been a small cog in the data-grid co-project necessary to process all the data that the particle accelerator at CERN produces! What makes it even cooler is that Davies finished writing this book in 1992, long before the Large Hadron Collider was built.
What's good about this book, besides the above? It raises big, tough, unanswerable questions about the nature of our universe at especially what might be beyond it. It touches not only on hard-core physics and math, but on philosophy and computer science, too. It is well written, entertaining and educating in the sense that it is pretty accessible even for people without university studies in the field at hand.
On the other hand, while for instance the theories of the ancient Greek philosophers he refers to are timeless and set in history, the very physics he is conveying to us is in constant development and even the underlying mathematics aren't totally constant either. This unfortunately makes you question throughout the book how much of the stuff he presents as the latest and most ultimate findings already have been deprecated in favour of even more recent and mind-blowing research during the twenty years since the book was published.
Also, since he is cramming so many huge ideas into one small book, I sometimes lost my bearings and felt a bit confused.
I think it would be good to compare this book with the currently latest by the author himself or by Stephen Hawking, just to make a sanity check regarding where the physics frontier is right now. However, it still is a good read if you aren't afraid of unanswerable questions and chapters on trying to decide between uncheckable theories based on their individual merits.
(Swedish, 5 November 2011)
It is going better than expected to read qualified literature to my soon-to-be three-years-old at bedtime. Not only does he have a great time, I am also eager to read on, to see what will come next.
As with most, if not all, of Jansson's novels, there is a very special, Fenno-Scandian atmosphere present, that adds an extra dimension to her stories. In "Trollvinter", this atmosphere is in places (especially the beginning) reinforced by lack of interference - since most of the usual characters are sleeping their winter sleep, the all seeing narrator voice can spend some time, describing the environments uninterrupted. This both builds atmosphere and suspense. Without giving away too much, this winter, for unknown reasons, Mumintrollet (the Moomintroll) and lilla My (Little My) wakes up from the usual November-to-April winter sleep and get to experience this for them totally mysterious season of winter ("it has grown snow out of the ground!").
In the stead of the members of the family that keeps on sleeping, they meet a lot of new acquaintances - some that just will pass by and others that will stay around for other books, as usual.
I still hold "Farlig midsommar" to be Jansson's best Moomin novel, but "Trollwinter" isn't far behind, due to its intense atmosphere and wintry imagery.
(Swedish, 1 November 2011)
Oh my god.
"Lilla stjärna" easily outshines all of Lindqvist's earlier horror novels, both in literary quality and in creepiness. Especially in a very important key sense. While all of the others involved zombies or vampires or whatever the bad guy in "Människohamn" really was, "Lilla stjärna" doesn't contain anything supernatural. Nothing, nada, zilch. Sure, Theres has an uncanny ability to sing that borders on the supernatural, but however improbable, someone human could possess it. No, the real creepiness of this novel is that it - or something similar - could happen. It really could happen any day, anywhere - even in your neighbourhood...
Looking at the grand picture, Theres and Teresa aren't that unlike the Oslo-bomber/Utøya-shooter Anders Behring Breivik or the September-Eleven Pilot terrorists. Bot on another level, they are totally different. Because they are just kids and girls too. This novel is creepy for anyone but if you are a parent of an adolescent child, I wager that it is extra terrifying, because how do you protect your child for what happened to Teresa? (In Theres'es case it's easier. I'll take it you'll never-ever will do what her anonymous real parent(s) did to her...)
Lindqvist already was the shooting star of the Swedish horror scene. With this title, he has fortified his stronghold as the unthreatened Arch-writer of Swedish horror. It is quite nice to see that his novels so quickly gets translated and published abroad, too. It's just a bit irksome to think about what international readers will think about Sweden after reading them. I mean Mankell's Wallander novels have caused streams of German tourists visiting Ystad and in the wake of Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy, tourists are taking guided tours around Lisbeth Salander's and Mikael Blomkvist's neighbourhoods on Södermalm in Stockholm. However, will Lindqvist's international readers rather run screaming away from Sweden or will they be curious enough to come, too? (I would recommend the Stockholm archipelago of "Människohamn" as the most see-worthy of all his settings so far.)
"Lilla stjärna": does it contain unnecessary violence, blood, and gore? Sure. Is it totally unbelievable? Well, eh, no, not enough... Is it terrifying on multiple levels? Yes, I'm afraid it is. Not cannot-sleep-without-leaving-the-light-on terrifying but rather this is immediately disgusting to read (you know you want it) but, come to think of it, gaaah!, where are our society going?
Quality contemporary horror. You have been warned.
(Swedish, 29 October 2011)
This is actually a compilation of a number of shorter stories, of which the one about the invisible child is the most well known. In a way, Jansson has written fables with pretty obvious morals. For instance, one of them is clearly a variant of the classical "Peter and the wolf" story (you know, from where the expression "cry wolf" comes). On the other hand, all of Jansson's Moomin novels are of this kind - it is just much more obvious in the short story format. Thus, Sniff gets to confront his greediness in one story, the invisible (subdued) child gets to be heard and seen (respected) again, and so on. However, my favourite story has to be the one were the whole normally winter-sleeping Moomin family gets woken up just before Christmas and very naïvely interprets what this mysterious impending event Christmas is (apparently threatening and demanding) and how it affects people (apparently with stress and anxiety). ;-)
In this format, we lose some of Jansson's typical language and atmosphere, but enough remains to make it a worth-while read anyway.
(English, 25 October 2011)
This is a mere trifle but as a pendant to the epic Twilight Saga, it - of course - needs to be read. I have to confess that I got quite nostalgic when reminded of the events of the last Twilight novel, "Breaking Dawn", even in this roundabout fashion, through the eyes of the one of Victoria's army that survives the fight with the Cullen cove and the Quileute wolfs.
Food for thought, what might have happened to Freaky Fred? The one of Victoria's army that completely avoided the fight?
(Swedish, 20 October 2011)
The married couple Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril have done it again, written a successful contemporary police thriller. However, "Paganinikontraktet" doesn't reach the same greatness as "Hypnotisören", even though it gets a bonus by the readers already being familiar with the main characters of the police force and greeting them as old friend.
Actually, they build up the story and the suspense quite well. It is mainly the pretty hastily ending and the lacking of depth in the portrait of the main evil guy that makes me give this novel a harsher review than their first novel.
To put it in other words: this is very contemporary and will be greatly successful both within Sweden and in translation to other languages, but I doubt that it will survive as a long time classic.
However, I like Joona and have high hopes for future titles in the series. These novels would be ideal for long flights with boring stops at odd airports, as they are page-turners. They just aren't timeless classics.
(English, 17 October 2011)
What a precious little gem. It started out endearing. Then I got a bit put-off as I found the middle years quite improbable - I would have liked it a bit better if Dex had been less successful and Em's life a bit less drab. When they found each other anew, I found it endearing again. Then the brick wall hit me square in the face and I found the end deeply touching, making me re-evaluate what came before and seeing it in a much more favourable light.
All in all a great read. Sure, it could have been better polished in places and, as goes for most books, could in an ideal world have been better adjusted for my personal taste, but in the end it gave me a great reading experience. You could say that the first three quarters was sneakily but elaborately setting the stage for the brilliance of the end. I was not only deeply touched but the day I read the end, I was actually a bit shaken. That is just how great novels should be - they should connect with you, stir something up within you, make some fibres of your core resonate.
The originality of the format wasn't bad either. The one day of the title is actually about the same date over twenty years. I.e., the story unfolds by key-hole increments each year. Needless to say, Nicholls have to be rather clever to convey the full story through these annual glimpses, but he does pull it off.
It started out as OK but totally won me over in the end. Read it.
(Swedish, 7 October 2011)
I was going to wait until Fexeus' book came out as a pocket, but when Fredrik Praesto recommended it, I went out and bought the hardcover any way.
This is the tome where Fexeus dots his i:s and crosses his t:s. His two first books were only the beginning where he performed his reconnaissance before the big assault in the forth book (the unfortunate third book was just that, a detour to satisfy all questions from people just wanting to get laid).
"Konsten att få mentala superkrafter" is a self-help manual for people who hate self-help manuals. Really, it is a smorgasbord of surveys of the latest research findings in fields like creativity, happiness, relations, counter bad habits, get a better memory and more. Fexeus has surveyed the state of the art research to find the methods that really works. While at it, he also exposes and deflates a lot of popular methods that simply don't work (he also explains why they don't work as well as what their appeal is and why people get duped by them).
Fexeus writes well with a lot of humour. Yet I was struck by how often he uses contemporary references to lighten his narration - references that are easily got right now but probably not in ten years. I.e., it annoyed me that he put so much effort into a book that would in just a few years feel dated. Why don't aim for a timeless classic? Then, in the afterwords, Fexeus actually addresses my worry. As he sees it, much of today's state of the art research will be replaced by new, unexpected findings in the years to come and thus, before the references to contemporary culture get dated, Fexeus expects much of the core information to get outdated or invalidated. Then he might get around to write a new, updated book.
The book is at the same time very entertaining and educating. However, to really benefit, you - of course - have to do the exercises. In that sense, the book is rather demanding. Even if most exercises are small and quick ones (these I paused a few minutes in mid-reading to do), the really rewarding ones are naturally a lot tougher and more time- and effort-consuming to do (these I didn't take time to do). Hence, although you will gain a better general understanding of a lot of subject by readings the book, you won't get any mental superpowers without investing the necessary time and effort in the associated exercises. (So, if you would end up exposed to some rouge virus and have to spend months in quarantine, be sure to bring this book!)
One really neat trick in the book is that the page numbering doesn't count up but down. I.e., the book starts at page 561 and ends at page 0. Thus, you always throughout the whole book know exactly how many pages are left to read. Not so in conventionally page-numbered books! What an excellent illustration on the importance of thinking outside the box - get new perspective on life!
Really, this thick tome should be seen as the practical companion to his two first, more theoretical books "Konsten att läsa tankar" ("The Ard of Reading Minds") and "När du gör som jag vill" ("When You Do What I Want You to"). Together, these three make a really ambitious tour into the human psyche.
Well worth reading. Well worth actually taking the time to do all exercises. Too bad time appears just too precious for that investment...
(English, 20 September 2011)
Metaphor: a literary figure of speech used to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea. For example, Shakespeare's Romeo's line "Juliet is the sun."
This title had surprisingly much in common with Rosenblum's "See What I'm Saying" although the latter is about all our senses and Geary's book is focusing totally on metaphor. Of course, both books is ultimately interested in how me make out the world around us - Rosenblum on how we sense it and Geary on how we make sense of it. Geary argues that metaphor (i.e., advanced or more or less abstract analogy) is the tool of choice for our minds to learn and relate to the world around us. He takes us on a grand journey around metaphor in learning, advertising, economics, art, body, science, innovation and even therapy. Quite fascinating - for instance, when stocks are rising agent metaphors (Dow Jones fought its way upward) are generally used while dropping stocks evokes object metaphors (NASDAQ dropped of a cliff). Quite revealing of human investment psychology that according to the common metaphors, stock exchanges fight their way upwards as living entities while they crash down as dead things under influence of external forces...
Geary shows that metaphors truly are all around us and that all kinds of language, form the earliest hand signs to today's modern grammars, probably developed from metaphors. A new metaphor is easy to spot as it makes us see something in a new, refreshing light ("Laughter is the mind sneezing"). An old familiar metaphor easily becomes a cliché ("We are in over our heads"). But eventually, the metaphor moves pass cliché to become a word or expression so commonly used that we've forgotten that it ever was a metaphor ("I see what you mean").
Another aspect I found really interesting was the use of metaphor in a form of therapy called clean language - where the cleanness is about carefully use neutral language and repeating the client's metaphors back to her, in order to keep the client re-experience her own metaphors, thereby revealing more and more about them and ultimately leading to the client self reaching a breakthrough and gaining new healing perspectives on whatever problem she's suffering from. Powerful stuff! Of course, carefully selected metaphors are used in advertisement and politics to manipulate us all the time. Thus, a working knowledge of metaphors and the ability to spot and analyse them is only good for you.
This is a fascinating and well-written book but the theme itself is so abstract that it makes the narration suffer a bit. It annoys me that I often forgot early parts of a chapter before I reached the end of the same, something I think was due to the sheer abstractness of it all. Yet, a metaphor can be quite concrete.
Also, one has to mention all close relatives to metaphor - such as the synechdote (part of something is used to refer to the whole thing), allegory (an extended metaphor wherein a story illustrates an important attribute of the subject), and parable (an extended metaphor narrated as an anecdote illustrating and teaching a moral lesson).
A very educating and interesting book but, in the end, I still liked Rosenblum's "See what I'm saying" better due to it being the more concrete of the two.
(English, 9 September 2011)
Yet another quality title from the Pragmatic Bookshelf. Lester has written a very practical, up to date, and to the point guide on how to make yourself hirable, where to find the job of your dreams, how to land an interview, how to succeed at the interview, and - once you have your ideal job - how to keep yourself hirable and see to it that you can hit the road running hunting for the next job, should the current employer suddenly go belly up.
To me, that currently am enjoying my so far best job ever, the most giving parts was the ones on how to create a stellar résumé and how to keep yourself hirable, as an insurance should you unexpectedly lose your current job. I already consider my résumé to be top notch and well maintained, but Lester - coming from the legal environment of the USA - gave me some interesting perspective of what to keep out of your résumé. For instance, why disclose your age - either directly or by listing the years you went to school? Weirdly enough, after reading this book, I am considering trimming my résumé down, weeding out certain information!
It is not only with regards to discrimination laws Lester's book is heavily US-specific. However, it is obvious that Lester has had beta-readers from all over the world, because he makes an excellent job of always stating that so and so is how it works in USA and that it very well may be different in other countries. Also, most of the material covered is universal enough to work in most parts of the world. Actually, occasionally, I found it quite fascinating to gain such a keyhole perspective on the IT-field work place situation on the other side of the Atlantic. What I found most alien is that you can quit or be fired on the same day, without the mutual notice times you are bound to in Sweden, for example. There are two lessons to be learnt here: 1) the work environment is harsher in the USA, and 2) you can easily get lulled into a false security in Sweden, losing your competitive edge.
This book is targeted at computer professionals wanting to hone their job hunting skills but has a lot to offer to both to students of computer science, making their first appearance on the job market, and job-hunters from other lines of work.
I especially want to mention all the great real-life examples Lester has used to illuminate dos and don'ts throughout all chapters of the book.
(Swedish, 7 September 2011)
"Farlig midsommar" is to date the best of the Moomin novels I have read. Interestingly, just like "Kometen kommer", it contains a natural disaster but were the comet of "Kometen kommer" brought a gloomy feeling of imminent doom, the volcano eruption and subsequent flooding (some sort of Tsunami? The volcanic mountain having split and dropped half the mountain in the ocean?) only results in a feeling of release and adventure.
As usually, Jansson drops some of the characters of the previous novels and adds some new ones line the depressed and paranoid Misabel (Misan) and the earnest and eager Whomper (Homsan) who, with their key personality traits, greatly affects the Moomin family's exodus from the Moomin valley during the flood. (This is how Jansson work, she uses a Comedia Del'Arte-like character gallery with very out-chiseled personalities to drive the story in the direction she wants.)
The best part of the book is when the extended Moomin family evacuates from the roof of the soon to be submerged Moomin house onto a theatre building that luckily floats by in the right moment. Being totally naïve to the concept of a theatre, it is hilarious to read about all their creative interpretations of all unusual things in the building - things that an grown-up reader directly associates with a theatre. Then, when they get educated and decides to stage a play of their own - epic! (I'm currently grinning from the memory of it.)
Anyways, the often satirical theatre parts of course were written with grown-up readers in mind but I can attest that the novel was heard with great interest by the two-and-a-half years old I read it to.
(German, 2 September 2011)
Mittermeier is a well-known German comedian that I have seen numerous times on German television. In this book, he has written an auto-biographic account of when he and his wife got their first kid, from the time they were still without kids over the pregnancy and birth to when their daughter was a few years old.
For me, with a toddler at home, I can recognise myself in surprisingly much of what he writes, even-though we are from different countries. His book clearly shows that there are a lot of general truths about bringing kids into the world - at least within (North) Western Europe. Most if not all noteworthy achievements and great developments of Mittermeier's daughter was pretty much the same for my son.
Also, it strikes me that Mittermeier and his wife seems pretty decent people, much on the same wave-length as myself. I think (or the book gives me the impression) that we would get a long great with lots of common views and experiences (either he is the genuine article or he has succeeded very well in getting the tone just right in this book).
His profession as comedian comes across rather thick, without getting in the way of the focus on his daughter. However, you pretty quickly establish that he has a general pattern for the chapters - introductory stand-up comedy-like discussion of some subject, central narration of some aspect of his daughter's development, and then a punch-line based on the introductory subject. After a while, this pattern got a bit predictable - but, hey, he is a professional stage comedian...
(English, 26 August 2011)
Who could have know that our five senses are so interesting - and so intertwined!
Basically, Rosenblum - who has his own perceptual psychology lab, has written a book on the latest research on each of our five senses as well as the latest theories and findings on the inherent multi-sensory nature of the human brain. That we experience taste from smells has been known for a long time but, apparently, it is only in the last ten years that researchers all over the world had proved that our human brain doesn't discriminate the sources of information but uses virtually all senses to augment what is seen/heard/felt/smelt/tasted - and this totally without us being conscious of it.
Rosenblum has found people with exceptional skills to illustrate all major aspects, like the blind guys that uses echolocation just like bats to lead mountain-bike tours for other blind! He then goes through a lot of research to conclude with how much of these exceptional skills we all unconsciously use in our everyday life. Yes, you and me both use echolocation to support our eyesight - however, unlike bats, we don't make high pitch sounds ourselves but rather use the surrounding ambiance to, for instance, pick out where we are relative to the walls of a room.
So, a book on state-of-the-art research by a researcher - that cannot be easily read, can it? But it is! Rosenblum has clearly written it with the general public as his intended audience and, also, he writes very well. I especially liked his elegant and unobtrusive way of surveying the different pieces of research he referred to. Generally, he just stated a finding in a sentence or two, without bogging the narration down with either the name of the responsible researchers nor a full bibliographic reference. Instead, if you do want to know more, you go to the notes section and look-up the page number where Rosenblum mentioned the experiment. There, the citations are kept, preceded by the beginning of the matching sentence. This is probably the key factor in keeping the book really easy to read.
I liked this book immensely. The people with exceptional skills are fascination, like the fly-fisher that from experience can determine the sort of trout and even age and gender of the fish from how it pulls on the fishing line, but the latest findings on how able we all unconsciously are, are even more fascinating (like the fly-fisher, we are able to determine a great deal about an object by poking it with a stick - i.e., by using an intermediate object as antenna).
Another intriguing part is all the unbelievable experiments that the different researchers have come up with (Tongue Display Units, transient brain lesions, rubber hand illusion, etc). Many of them seems totally strange and insane until you stop and think about it. Yes, they would be sprung from a trippy brain if they were the first in a series of experiments. However, if you picture them as the latest or ultimate in a long series of experiments, even the most far-fetched are probably nothing more than an addition or twist to the preceding one, and so on, back to a quite harmless initial attempt.
The most fascinating part is, however, the concluding chapter that combines all sensory skills in an unified theory on the multi-sensory brain, complete with ramifications that makes for a rather controversial theory on how human languages once were formed!
Mark my words, not only for science nerds.
(English, 12 August 2011)
This title is totally different than Bateson's subsequent book "Mind and Nature". In the latter, Bateson clearly states that it was "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" that created the base that made "Mind and Nature" even possible but after having read "Steps...", I understand that it wasn't the writing of "Steps..." that facilitated "Mind and Nature" but Bateson's total career up to then, as "Steps..." isn't anything else than a collection of most of Bateson's previous works (well, most academic papers at least - naturally lengthier works wouldn't fit) with some sparse comments added before the book got printed.
Even if "Mind and Nature" at times was challenging to follow, it at least was written with the aim of being readable and convey Bateson's grand ideas on science. Being a collection of shorter works from the Thirties the the Seventies, "Steps..." is naturally pointing in all sorts of directions and with each paper written with a different intended audience in mind. Thus, "Steps..." is a lot more demanding on the reader - but surprisingly rewarding nonetheless.
You see, you soon catches on to Bateson and can see how the seemingly random changes of field of study through his career still contains a red thread and that he, in each new field, is able to build on the knowledge gained in the previous one, leading up to the unifying theory presented in "Mind and Nature".
The book is divided into seven parts where, for example, the second contains papers with insightful theories based on comparisons of our Western society with the Iatmul tribe on New Guinea and the Balinese (oddly enough, in many aspects, the primitive Iatmul are more alike us in the Occident than the Balinese!).
The second part also contains a ghastly paper on morale and national character written in 1942 that tries to analyse German, English and American national traits - both to explain the war (German parenting!) and to recommend the most efficient propaganda to keep the Allied morale high. As Bateson is born in Britain but already then worked in the US, he offers some really interesting insights in the difference between English and American character - and why Americans wrongfully consider the English arrogant and why the English wrongfully consider the Americans boastful. The rest is just a terrifying time-machine into the World War II mindset... Evidently, even objective scientists was affected by the times. I am impressed that Bateson didn't exclude that paper - but as he want to show how he has learnt and developed throughout his career, it is kind of fitting to include it.
The third part covers the years he worked with Schizophrenics. It gave some interesting in-depth coverage of the illness and also offered a really convincing theory along the lines of it being the behaviour of the parents that ultimately leaves the child no choice but to develop Schizophrenia as defence. On the other hand, I have heard nothing of this theory from any other source so either it never caught on or it has been disproved in the meantime. Interesting nevertheless. This part also includes a paper with a theory on Alcoholism that, aside from Bateson's Cybernetic theory on the subject, also contained the most in-depth behind the scene account of how Alcoholics Anonymous works. Very revealing! They deliberately go for a pseudo-religious approach to support their members who really have hit rock bottom.
The fourth part included, among other things, a fascinating consideration of the problems whales, dolphins, and other mammals face with regards to communication and languages. When Bateson wrote about the unverifiable possibility of whale languages, my thoughts, of course, directly went to Clarke's "Dolphin Island".
In the papers of part five, Bateson closes in on the thoughts he later would work out in "Mind and Nature". However, he doesn't end there - in part six, he comes out as a environmental alarmist. Although written in the seventies, many bits of these papers feels eerily current, with our global warming and related climate changes. However, it is clear that Bateson was really pessimistic about the human race and the earth back then and as we've made it to 2011 without any of his bleaker forecasts coming true, I think we can safely say that although he was extremely insightful in matters of epistemology his fears on how threatening humankind's collective mindlessness is to our earth luckily was a bit exaggerated. However, they shouldn't be shrugged off - even if the worst didn't happen, his argumentation for the need of a more enlightened humanity is still valid.
I had hoped to, by now, have written a neat high-level summary of Bateson's intention with the book but, alas, I find that I have only listed a handful of details from it. Thus, I turn to Bateson's own daughter whom, in her new foreword to the year 2000 edition, offers the following excellent categorisation on what emerging pattern is visible in the collection of Bateson's life-long works in "Steps of the Ecology of Mind":
The process with which Gregory was concerned were essentially process of knowing: perception, communication, coding and translation. Ergo epistemology. But basic to this epistemology was the differentiation of logical levels, including the relationship between the knower and the known, knowledge looping back as knowledge of an expanded self. Ergo a recursive epistemology. Ideally, the relationship between the patterns of the biological world and our understanding of it would be one of congruence, of fit, a broader and more pervasive similarity than the ability to predict in experimental contexts that depend upon simplification and selective attention. It strikes me as being useful to refer to Gregory's ecology of mind as a epistemological ecology to contrast it with the largely materialistic ecology of academic departments. It seems essential to underline that recursiveness is a necessary feature of such an epistemology (and perhaps of every epistemology, since every effort to know about knowing involves the cat trying to swallow its own tail).
See? You either love this stuff like me or run screaming from it. Your loss if you are of the latter kind. ;-)
(English, 21 July 2011)
The best thing with this book is that it constantly gives you moments of clarity, moments were Bateson makes you see and understand more than usual. To me, this is a breath-taking feeling. Sadly, after a short while, I cannot remember any of these wonderful insights but since Bateson wants to make a point regarding how living species think, I cannot but hope that some of his genius sticks in the back of my head.
In a sense, this book is totally unnecessary, pointless, and superfluous. However, to me, it is totally wonderful, literary mind-blowing, and quite a treat to read. I have a "Walk on Water" Neoprene protective pocket book sleeve in black with the word "Bible" printed in gold on the front. This is by far the most worthy book ever to have fitted in it (ironically, my pocket edition of the latest Swedish Bible translation is too thick to fit in the same book sleeve).
Although written by a scientist (a very well-educated biologist - I'm constantly surprised of all Bateson's insightful references to other fields than his own, the then very young field of computer science not the least) this book is science in the Antique Greek form. I.e., it is not practical, applied, or even proved. It is pure thought-work. Bateson makes an account of how far he has come, wrestling some huge questions he has pondered in some form for over fifty years.
If I try to sum the book up in one sense, I could say that Bateson argues that both the process of creative cognition (thinking) and evolution are dual stochastic systems (made up of two separate systems each with a random component and a selective process - in the case of evolution, the one stochastic system is the ever-ongoing reshuffling of the parents genes in the new off-spring and the other is the survival-of-the-fittest by the ever-ongoing changes in the habitat of the same).
Although the book is quite filled with difficult words, it isn't that hard to read (granted, I've had to re-read a paragraph here and there but more often because I've been distracted rather than that the paragraph has been too cryptic). Actually, the glossary is, in a way, harder to read. For example, the explanation for the word "prochronism" ends with the epic sentence "Prochronism is to ontogeny as homology is to phylogeny" (of course, to make sense of that, I had to look-up all the other three terms in the glossary as well).
Now, how can a so utterly theoretical book about, I guess, epistemology (how we know, think, and decide and the limits of knowing, thinking, and deciding) be so interesting and entertaining? Well, in this case, the way there is more giving than the destination. It is Bateson's careful analysis and the parallels and analogies with virtually everything that are so gratifying to read. He really transmits the feeling of everything's connectedness. Also, he is very educating in the details, even if his complete picture is harder to make out. Especially, let's say that he is right - creative though is analogue to evolution. So what? How can we benefit from that? Here he don't have any answer to give us. Instead, he ends the book with an even larger question: what is the relation of consciousness to beauty (ugliness) and the sacred? Bateson states that he had to write this book before he could tackle that question, although I am unsure if he ever got around the write that book, too.
(Swedish, 14 July 2004)
Closing in on two and a half, it can be readily argued that my son is too young to be read none-picture books too. However, it worked over expectation to read "Trollkarlens hatt" (The Magicians Hat) to him as a bedtime story (of course, most chapters lasted at least two bedtimes). In the end, I'm just keeping up the good work as initiated by my parents. I wasn't even four when they the first time used Selma Lagerlöf's "Nils Holgersson underbara resa genom Sverige" to the same end. It helped me along to a nice vocabulary that came in very handy in school. ;-)
Unlike "Kometen kommer", that is a rework from the Sixties of the original "Kometjakten" from the Forties, Jansson never rewrote "Trollkarlens hatt" from 1948. That the language doesn't feel at all dated is a good marker of Jansson's magical, almost poetical prose. The small differences that exists between Jansson's Fennoscandian East-Swedish as used by the Swedish minority in Finland and the Swedish of Sweden only feels very at home in the Moomin valley.
Unlike "Kometen kommer", that after all had a bit of doomsday feeling under the comet closing in, "Trollkarlens hatt" is a much more sunny and comical narration of what transpired during the spring and summer when the Magician's hat was found. The previously presented inhabitants of the Moomin valley get further defined (think Comedia Del'Arte) and the set are completed with some newcomers - all with their of distinct intricacies.
Simple, but very refined. For examples, the two ending lines: "Nu stiger den svala hösten in i Mumindalen. För annars kan det ju inte bli vår igen." ("Now the frisk fall steps into the Moomin Valley. Because otherwise the spring couldn't come again." My translation.)
(Swedish, 4 July 2011)
What's good about it? It is in Swedish (always easier to read one's native tongue), at the same time it rehashes almost everything from other sources I've already read, it's also an excellent survey of the whole fields of (self-)hypnosis, and it has got an marvellous collection of to the point induction methods that one is urged to gain proficiency in (at least in the ones one feels works the best) before making any endeavours into the area of actual change-work.
Also, Praesto seasons the narration with his own experiences - often offering honest accounts of mistakes he made and learnt from, so that we can learn from them, too. Indirectly, we learn some Neuro-Linguistic Programming from him as well.
Then, what's not so good about it? Well, it is a bit on the thin side and offers little new for me. However, I would recommend it as an excellent entry point for any Swede that is curious about self-hypnosis.
(Also, to briefly separate content from form, I really love the high-quality paper the book is printed on!)
(Swedish, 1 July 2011)
This is really a transcript of five, or so, open lectures with questions and answer sections, held at the annual Science Day at the Faculty of Medicine at Umeå university (my old Alma Mater).
The theme for the day was "Food as Medicine" and although it was cutting edge medicine the researchers talked about, they kept it at a level understandable for a layperson. Really interesting stuff!
The lasting impression I had was one of "we've learnt really much about the human body an how it processes the food we eat and drink but what we really learnt is how little we still know...".
For instance, during the eighties, there was an outbreak of gluten intolerance among Swedish children on an epidemic scale. The research showed it to be linked to the contemporary trend to breast feed less and use more gruel (Sweden is probably world leading in toddler gruel consumption). The gruels and breast milk replacements of that time contained a dose of flour and hence gluten and it hit the kids at a sensible time, triggering the allergy. However, the breast milk replacements and the gruels have since then become more like real human breast milk and breast feeding has picked up again and the frequency of gluten intolerance has dropped - but not to the low level before the outbreak. Instead, it has parked on a slightly higher level and no-one can yet explained that difference. I.e., the quest continues.
I also want to add that, according to that lecture, it looks like the best way to protect kids from allergies might be to expose them to allergens around the age of four to six months WHILE STILL BREAST FEEDING THEM. (I.e., keep breast-feeding them as their main source of sustenance but let them experience tasting portions of ordinary food stuff - but no salt or spices.)
Other lectures in the book included trends in what the people in Västerbotten (the Swedish landscape I'm from) have been eating from the 1920:ies up to today, combined with what they've worked with (compare working as a lumberjack in wintertime to sitting in front of a computer) and their patterns of diseases, the ever-ongoing debate regarding the best diet (interesting comparison on long term effects of low fat, low carbohydrate high fat, and Mediterranean diets), a very interesting piece on how the general public misinterprets the intake recommendations printed on the boxes and bags of our foodstuff, and a lot more.
I really love pieces of popularised science like this, that still comes directly from the scientists themselves, without being filtered by the medias.
(Swedish, 29 June 2011)
I learnt really little new and the form of a long, long list of facts and tips in a larger section of women and shorter for men doesn't really invite to use it for reference but is more suited for reading through the whole thing. Still, it is an excellent survey of the field of human orgasms, combining theory and anatomy with programs to awaking the orgasm within you and tutorials on how to touch yourself or your partner in order to induce an orgasm (boy, did this paragraph come out dry...).
This is a book one really should take notes when reading, because once you've finished it, you cannot for you life remember the parts at which you said to yourself "I should remember this".
The most interesting section - but also the least believable - was the one on male multiple orgasms. Despite the book, I don't think I am going to experience any of those anytime soon...
(German, 28 June 2011)
Phew, Neuhaus is only human after all. I didn't like this, the fifth case for Bodenstein and Kirchoff, as much as their previous cases (especially the very good third one), mostly because Neuhaus this time has made a dangerously view on the climate a ground for the plot. It doesn't matter whether it is her own view or if it just is a tool she used to build a juicy story on top off - I am afraid that she will indirectly fool the masses (worrying about people referring bluntly to "having read that ..." leaving out or forgetting completely that the source it was a fictional detective story, not Nature Journal). In short, this time around, I personally found one of her bearing choices a bit questionable, which by necessity coloured my opinion of the novel.
Other than that, it is a typical work by Neuhaus - a myriad of more or less important characters, a plot with many dimensions, and policemen and women with human faults and traits.
Excellent criminal story and a page turner at that but far from Nobel prize material.
(English, 13 June 2011)
This what somewhat of a disappointment. Brennan recommended it in her "Hands of Light" but after having read it, I think she over-valued it a bit. Yes, it is rather written from a Occidental than an Oriental perspective, but it still isn't as clear and lucid as "Hands of Light" but contains some mystic, even if it of the Western rather than the Eastern kind.
As with most of the books of this esoteric type, given the time and effort to really do the exercises, it would probably be more giving. However, I've lately read a lot of other similar books with a lot more inviting exercises than in this one (once again, "Hands of Light" is a good example).
I like Schwarz core opinion that more people should learn about Chakras and esoteric energy work in order to better use and take care of their bodies and thus live better and healthier lives but this isn't the best book to learn it from.
Schwarz comes across as a really interesting man who lived an interesting life and it might be the case that I would like any of his other books better. However, I will probably not read one any time soon.
(German, 5 June 2011)
She really keeps them coming - here is another excellent detective story from Neuhaus about Bodenstein and Kirchoff. As she always has an small army of main and supporting characters in her novels, Neuhaus has here virtually made a whole village part of the plot.
What better way to practise one's German than by an easy-to-read page-turner?
(English, 30 May 2011)
This is basically a whole book on how sexual fantasies can be of use in therapy since Maltz is a successful therapist (Boss is a journalist). In a roundabout fashion, this is a way to stress the fact that no fantasy is totally bad and that all women, not just the ones in need of therapy, should embrace their sexual fantasies without worry.
In this rather clinical setting, the fantasies doesn't get that exciting as they are rather dissected than freely told. Still, it is interesting to get some insight in the width of female sexual fantasy and, of course, nice to see it used in an unexpected way in therapy.
However, even as far from all of Maltz's clients are victims of (sexual) abuse, enough are two make for a depressing read on how they need to accept their fantasies on order to finally seal the scars from the abuse.
In the end, Friday's "My Secret Garden" is a better read.
(English, 19 May 2011)
At the airport on Malta, on my way home, worried that the Gladwell book wouldn't last all the way to Stockholm (it didn't), I picked up this title as a backup. It seemed rather fitting as a souvenir from Malta.
Bradford served time on Malta during the Second World War, took a liking to the island, and return to it with his sailing boat after the war. It was during this time he researched and wrote his own book on the Great Turkish Siege of Malta 1565.
I must confess that my most vivid source on the Siege of Malta before reading this book was a story featuring the first and second Phantoms in the Swedish edition of the Phantom cartoon during the Eighties. Not surprisingly, Bradford's book enabled me to spot errors in even my faint memories of the cartoon story (mostly with regards to the marine vessels the relief force arrived in).
Although mostly summarising, Bradford makes an excellent presentation of the event leading up to the Turkish invasion (the Ottoman empire expansion, the Maltese Order having lost it previous stronghold of Rhodes, etc) and the horrible siege itself.
It is worth mentioning that Bradford very fairly defends the Turks from historic accusations of cruelty by pointing out their strategic reasons for the same. He also describes a lot of equally cruel deeds committed by the Christians against the Turks. Bradford simply succeeds in reviewing the events of the siege with pretty objective eyes. The people of the sixteenth century simply lived by other codes than we do today. Yet, I am struck by how modern their way of reasoning were (in the cases that diaries and eye-witness testimonies had survived to modern times). Why do we tend to make the mistake of thinking that all generations preceding our grandparents had simple minds just because they had to make do with simpler means than all the technology we drench our lives with today?
All in all, the core of the book is really simple: the Turks needed to capture Malta because of its strategic important location in the Mediterranean. The Turks needed it to be able to launch further invasions to Sicily and the Italian mainland. The Maltese Order, following their Crusader heritage, were sworn to defend Christianity against the Muslims, and thus needed to hold Malta because of the same strategic importance. However, Bradford succeeds in making the book engaging by focusing on the people involved on both sides - from the commanders down to the foot soldiers and even the Maltese inhabitants of the island.
A gripping but bloody piece of history.
(English, 13 May 2011)
Gladwell is the famous author of such insightful book as "The Tipping Point" and "Blink". He is also a journalist with regular pieces in The New Yorker. This volume is a collection of his best writings previously published in that newspaper. It spans a lot of subjects, from Ketchup to dog whisperers (which the title refers to), from the Enron crash to hair dye, etc. True to his form, he always focuses on the people behind the stories and especially what makes them cognitively unique (i.e., what insights and stroke of genius - or, like in the Enron case, failure or misconception - these people had that ultimately made the story worth writing).
Being so diverse, it is really hard to sum it up better. It is really readable, as all Gladwell's books. I especially found the pieces on the birth control pill - why it was designed to follow a 28 eight day cycle and what number of menstruations during a life time that is really normal - and how to find the best school teachers - why isn't their pedagogical skills measured - the most entertaining, because they made me consider aspects I hadn't thought of before.
A lot more diverse than his other books but thought-provoking and entertaining nevertheless.
(German, 11 May 2011)
In this, the third police thriller starring Oliver Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff, Neuhaus has come up with a really dark and sinister plot. It is her most extreme one so far, yet it isn't totally implausible. It could have happened, however unlikely, and that contributes to the greatness of the novel. It's a real page-turner, at least for me.
Like in her previous novels, Neuhaus brings a smaller army of people into the story, which makes it necessary for the reader to concentrate in order to be able to keep track of them all. Although her characters perhaps isn't the most carefully chiseled in literature, their sheer multitude makes the novel come to life anyway.
To this date, this is my favourite Neuhaus thriller and it makes me eager to read her fourth and fifth ones, too.
(English, 6 May 2011)
I had intended for my five hundredth book reviewed on this page to be a novel of fiction but as I didn't keep closer track of the actual number of the books I've read lately, it ended up to be this one, a text-book on spiritual healing. However, it was so interesting that I think it is worthy to be the five hundredth one after all.
Let me begin by accounting for a couple of associations I made while reading. First of all, lets compare Brennan's book with Emoto's "Messages from Water and the Universe". Both are about spiritual energies which cannot be proven to really exist by traditional western science (at least not yet). But were Emoto makes the ill-advised mistake of trying to give his ideas a veil of authenticity by pretending to use pseudo-science to prove them, Brennan - with her schooling and background in western science - never bothers to try to prove the unprovable. Instead, she puts her scientifically trained mind to use in presenting her model in a clear way. She is fully aware of that her notion of how her healing work is just a model and that her results might be due to aspects of reality that her model - although seemingly fitting - fails to acknowledge. Where Emoto's feeble attempts to use pseudo-science to prove his ideas only makes them less believable to me, Brennan's matter-of-factly description without trying to prove anything only makes her more believable. Which brings me to my next association - the difference between Tolkien's carefully matured fantasy world and the less convincing worlds of other successful fantasy writers. Tolkien had fiddled with his fantasy world for close to a lifetime before actually writing the Lord of the Ring. No wonder that his narration rather matter-of-factedly makes his world come through as genuine. Other authors dream up their fantasy world during only a few years, while working on a particular book. Of course these worlds will lack the same depth as Tolkien's. Brennan's book on healing might not be as good as the works by Tolkien, but compared to Emoto's book, Brennan's system simply has more depth.
Although Brennan's book is about healing, I liked the following citation (free from memory as I couldn't find it by quickly browsing through the huge book): "the goal is enlightenment, the by-product is healing". Brennan's model is about the human aura - our really auras as she really describes seven layers of auras with different functions and purposes, hints at an eighth and a ninth layer, and keeps the door open for even more that she or her colleagues haven't been able to make out yet. According to her, it is really a learning process that takes time and requires lots of practice. She includes introductory exercises for anyone interested in learning how to see their own (first layer) aura and the goal of enlightenment mentioned above is thus, to her, the process of making one's senses gradually more sensitive in order to be able to make out more an more of the spiritual side of reality.
(It is not debated within Western science that our brain makes an excellent job of sorting out just the impressions from our senses that we need to navigate our realities without becoming overwhelmed. For example, at a crowded party, you are easily able to drown out all other voices than the ones of the people you are currently talking to - until someone suddenly speaks your name from the other side of the room. It thus cannot be ruled out that there might be things like auras for us to sense if we deem it worth while. By the way, it reminds me of that cruel experiment with kittens put in boxes with either just vertical or horizontal lines while still blind after birth. As their eyes-sight is activated, depending on the kind of lines in their box, they apparently weren't able to see the other kind when let out of the boxes...)
Anyway, Brennan has written a textbook on spiritual healing, intended to be used in courses on the same topic. As such, it was pretty dry in places but, overall, it was really interesting to read. For instance, I really liked her vision of spiritual healers and Western science medicine doctors working side-by-side on their patient, collaborating - not competing - and complementing each others unique perspective.
I also liked her theories on why our souls is put in mortal bodies on this earth to learn and progress and how, when working on higher level auras, the healer often only becomes a channel for spiritual guides. However, how come spiritual guides always seems to be describes as good? Is there no mischievous spiritual beings beyond our world?
Come to think of it, the most entertaining and intriguing pieces of this book isn't the ones about healing but all other details that Brennan includes in order to present the healing in its right setting.
(German, 11 April 2011)
With Neuhaus' second novel (release in the same year as the first one - busy lady), she establish the duo Kirchhoff/Bodenstein as the basis of a series of crime/suspense novels.
In this one, it is a environment activist that has died a violent death and through his stubborn fight against a new local highway, he has made a lot of enemies so there is no shortage of suspects for the police to sort through.
This novel held a special appeal to me because it contained some computer savvy youngsters who's enterprise Neuhaus got pretty right - all reasonably plausible, nothing embarrassing wrong.
All in all a pretty average police novel, but still a page-turner and Neuhaus does a decent job at revealing more about Kirchhoff and Bodenstein in order for us readers to get to know them better.
(German, 5 April 2011)
Objectively speaking, this is a pretty conventional crime/suspense novel - think Mankell's Wallander or P.D. James' Dalgliesh. Since Neuhaus' two main characters are a woman (Pia Kirchhoff) and a man (her boss, Oliver von Bodenstein) and the man is of noble origins, one cannot but think of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley. In other words, you've seen (read) it before.
On the plus side, German crime/suspense novels are new to me, so I find the German flavour rather refreshing. Neuhaus also has a knack for huge set of characters and knows how to throw out this and that red herring for her readers to be led on by. Perhaps, she doesn't carve out any deeper person portraits or explore any psychological depths, but at least she keeps the suspense up and makes it hard to put down the book (one just have to see how it all ends).
Well crafted but average detective story about a quite recently established local murder-solving police team led by Oliver von Bodenstein and his newest employee Pia Kirchhoff that returns to police work after over ten years as a house wife.
In this, Neuhaus debut, the team has to untangle the death of a stunningly beautiful woman with what turns out to be a very questionable life-style and wicked relations.
(English, 28 March 2011)
Now this was interesting. The concept of working with the human energy field to treat pretty much any condition is appealing. However, the crux is the usual - you must believe in order to set things in motion and if you have had any decent schooling, you are probably, like me, pretty sceptical of things like Bruce's Energy Work that science cannot confirm or deny yet (there seems to be pretty solid scientific indication that there is a volatile human energy field but it is a lot harder to prove the effects of Energy Work, or, when the effects are solid, prove their real cause).
Anyways, the concept of Energy Work is nothing new if you generalise the idea to cover the ancient Chinese Qi - still in use in Qi Gong and Taiji - or different Yoga disciplines. However, Bruce book is very Western in the sense that it is to the point and very descriptive. He also describes (prescribes!) progressive exercises that goes from simple physical movements to purely in-mind energy work that should generate the same or very similar kinetic feelings at the actual basic physical touches (i.e., you begin by brushing the fingers of one hand with the other's, you progress to experiencing the same fingers being brushed by an imagined ball of energy and if you've done it right, you will actually feel it brush you fingers).
From there, it progresses to identifying energy blocks and different conditions and use imagined energy tools to dissolve them (how about a imaginative energy work blowtorch to torch a tumour from within?).
OK, the book actually deserves better than being ridiculed by me. I had intended this mini-review to be more serious as I actually like the message. However, on a different level, the inadvertently incorporated ridicule is a very good illustration on the fundamental problem of how to benefit from any appealing concept if it requires one to dare to jump of the pillar of hard science...
I wish I would take myself the time to actually experiment with Bruce's exercises. Who knows? They might work.
(English, 21 March 2011)
I was recommended this book (or some other of Emoto's books) by a enthusiastic fellow student in a Taiji class a while back. However, it wasn't until recently I stumbled over it in the bibliography of Wiseman's "Your Psychic Child" and realised that it actually was Emoto that fellow student referred to. It come highly praised but, frankly, it is totally lost on me. Why? Because Emoto makes the poor choice of using the language of hard science to convey a message that isn't supported by hard science at all. Even worse, Emoto claims to prove all kinds of wild theories just by doing some pseudo-scientific experiment. I'm sorry Emoto - it just doesn't work that way. You wold be better off telling the world of your ideas without the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. It might very well fool some but it totally alienates others, like me.
To be more specific: Emoto's research can be summed up as exposing water to different words with positive (for example love or gratitude) or negative (for example hate) meanings, then freezing it, cutting up the ice crystals, photograph them, and correlate the aesthetics of the resulting ice-crystal image with the emotion the water was exposed to. Emoto claims that love and gratitude create the most beautiful and well-formed crystals while negative emotions causes malformed and broken crystals.
Now my first question that needlessly to say isn't addressed at all by Emoto in the book: how is the water sample isolated from the intention of the experiments until it is frozen? I.e., how do they handle the modern science problem of the measurement interfering with what's being measured?
Let me elaborate on that. Twice in the book, Emoto describes polluted lakes producing malformed ice-crystals. Then huge crowds gather by the lakes to pray and send positive emotions to the lake, after which frozen samples suddenly produces beautiful crystals.
If the water molecules of the water in the lake reacts to the thoughts of the people gathered, what prevents the water samples from reacting on how the experiments expects them to turn out?
Furthermore, Emote describes a water sample on his desk in Japan being the focal point of coordinated prayers from Israel. Great - evidently, it works over huge distances. Then how should the samples be isolated from the expectations of the experimenters? Clearly, it won't help to ask someone random to collect and freeze the sample as it evidently can be affected by the experimenters expectations over a distance.
However, the above logical lapse isn't the most appalling about Emoto's reasoning. Nope, that would be how he describes a similar pseudo-scientific experiment and then immediately use it to make claims to have proved all kinds of crazy theories.
Clearly, a man that hasn't got the basic idea of formulating a hypothesis, then invent an experiment that proves or disproves the hypothesis, shouldn't try to give his ideas false credibility by shrouding them in a veil of pseudo-science.
Dear Mr. Emoto, your ideas has merits of their own. They have appeal in their inherent beauty. Please don't undermine them by presenting them in this fundamentally flawed way.
(P.S. Emoto means that the simple act of putting the words love and gratitude on stickers on your water bottle will make the water more healthy and beneficial for you to drink. That is so easy to do that it cannot hurt to try, can it?)
(Swedish, 17 March 2011)
Another interesting title from Juul, the world-famous Danish children/family psychologist. He always has a lot of ideas worth pondering, even if it isn't so easy to practise he's advice all the times. For instance, he uses an example of seeing one's teenage son mid-day on the city square with a beer in the hand and his advice is to wait until you both are at home and then just tell him that you don't approve but that you are too upset to discuss it right away without it resulting in a quarrel. This way, Juul argues, both parties have time to think things through before ventilating the issue again. According to Juul, this is the best way of getting one's message across to the teenager without it getting stuck on pride or other affectionate feelings.
In this volume, the most interesting topic he visits is the one about patterns of modern child rearing and particularly what's good and what's not about it. Also, where will the future take us? As a dad, this is essential reading for me and I hope enough will stick to the back of my head in order for me to be a good father.
(Swedish, 11 March 2011)
What a disappointment. Given Fexeus' earlier books, I expected another equally good survey into the realms of influence/manipulation and how we humans are genetically programmed to behave. No such luck. Apparently, a lot of the feedback Fexeus has received on the first books was of the type "how can I use this to get laid". So he wrote this book to answer that question. However, unlike the earlier, theory-driven books, this one is totally practical with only some indirect theories. Bummer...
Actually, the book is no more or less than 168 practical tips on how to act, dress, flirt, mingle, talk, touch, etc in order to get laid (or at least nurse a fling with the object of your desire).
Not what I expected but at least I could smile at the tips I somehow naturally have learnt and others were interesting as I saw their potential use within my own already established relationship.
Rumours has it that Fexeus' fourth book will come out this year. I hope that will be more in line with his earlier ones and less like this not so interesting title.
(English, 10 March 2011)
The map is not the territory. This is supported by serious/classical/scientific research fields, such as general semantics. I.e., each of us filters most of the impressions from our senses in order to fit them into our particular model of the world (or reality-tunnel with Robert Anton Wilson's choice of word). An effect of this is that different maps can have different strengths and weaknesses. Representing one example of a model of the world, I like the one Wiseman presents in "Your Psychic Child" a lot. It is simply a compelling and nice model, that claims that all people have psychic abilities but that children and especially the now emerging generations are more open and have more innate abilities than the general grown-up. Wiseman also prescribes a private and personal connection with the divine that circumvents classical religion (yet I cannot say that I have noticed more spiritually advanced kids here in Sweden, although Sweden is more secularised than the US). Another compelling aspects is the ease with which she treats trance - no big deal, no mysticism - just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to enter a light trance, then let your intent open your psychic abilities. Very cool. Very inviting. Get your energies sorted and you can achieve anything. This is really probably the best quality of the whole book - the ease of it all.
However, much of the book is really just common sense, if you see past the psychic stuff. Of course you should teach your kid to avoid or deal with persons, things, and activities that are energy-draining to them. Of course we should find private time for ourselves and ensure that our children can have it, too. Of course we should avoid toxins and pollutants. In this way, Wiseman's model of the world overlaps most peoples' pretty well. It is when you start theorising about the parts where her model differs to most peoples' it starts to get interesting. Clairsentience, clairaudience, clairvoyance - what if they all are less of supernatural abilities and more of extra-sensitivity to the associated sense? Could it possibly be the case that some of us instead of filtering the overload on our senses out interpret them as feelings, sounds/voices, or visible impressions? Of course, it gets a lot trickier with mediumship, when you get messages from the already dead...
Anyways, in my opinion, a lot of the advice on how to support your spiritually advanced kid applies to your normal kid, too. In this sense, this is a book for every parent. Perhaps you can dig out some gold nugget from it? Of course, if you are curious of the supernatural and psychic abilities, the book will be a lot more readable to you.
The book is also interesting from a rather unexpected aspect: it acts as a looking glass to the contemporary American society. Since Sweden view more Hollywood movies and American TV-series than Swedish ones and since we wear a lot of American apparel, etc, one would think that the differences between our societies would be small. Yet they aren't. Especially when it comes to family life and child rearing, it feels like there is some fundamental cultural difference that is hard to put one's finger on. It's like Swedes and Americans have different core beliefs regarding what children are and how to threat them. (But even if our motivations differ, we might come to the same conclusions - i.e., don't do drugs).
I liked the book. Wiseman's language often might be a bit too colloquial for my taste, but she has probably chosen that style with her intended audience in mind. It had a lot to offer as a basic guide into spirituality for adults, too, not only being a handbook for parents that want to support and nurture any psychic ability their offspring might possess. I liked the message that there are divine creatures looking out for us and trying to contacts us despite most of us being closed. That part gives a nice "what if?"-feeling. I will probably lend it to other parents I spend time with.
(English, 4 March 2011)
In the second volume, Grinder and Bandler basically generalises their meta-model on language patterns from volume one to work on all modes of communication (such as tonality, body language, etc). Where the first book was overall pretty convincing, the second offers some really surprising claims - often accompanied by the authors' observation that the same claims have taken the longest time for the people they've trained to believe and learn. Here a lot of the stuff their later books on Neuro-Linguistic Programming focuses on is presented for the first time but anchored within a theoretical framework that make them a lot more acceptable to me.
The parts I consider the best in this volume are the ones on incongruity (for example when body language and tonality don't match the words you are saying) and what the authors call "fuzzy functions" where input or output from one sense gets represented in another (a really simple example would be when you see (visual) someone sneer and represent it by feeling (kinesthetic) bad - it quickly becomes more complex than that).
This volume was interesting on another level than the first volume. At the same time that it made bolder claims, it wasn't as easy to follow as the first one. However, I think both should really be considered as companions and one should probably read them both in order to get the most of what the authors are saying.
What a nice surprise. This was the book that started the all of the Neuro-Linguistic Programming movement. Yet, it isn't really NLP at all since Bandler and Grinder back then only were documenting their research on what all different disciplines of therapy have in common.
In the book, they have distilled the language patterns of (successful) therapist in such a structured way that they can be formalized and even learned. They call their model the meta model, since it only focuses on the structure of the verbal communication between client and therapist and is totally content independent.
Although they have based their research on the field of transformational grammar, which is rather complex, the book is pretty easy to follow (although I must confess that I had use of my university courses in compiler techniques and theory of computation).
To me, the book has two strengths: 1) all the examples of impoverished maps of the world that causes people grief and the corresponding examples on how therapists enrich the same maps to give the clients more choices and thus enable them to leave the grief behind and become more harmonious. It doesn't take a genius to start pondering what restricted model of the world oneself uses and how to expand them (compare with Robert Anton Wilson's reality-tunnels), and 2) all the concrete tips on how therapist should train themselves to be able to spot the grammatical give-aways of the therapeutic non-well formed communications that the therapists should help their clients with. Regardless of whether you are a people-helper or not, it might be beneficial to become more sensitive to how people say things and what that might mean.
An interesting piece of research on language patterns that was very entertaining to read. Although the intended audience is therapists, it is pretty interesting for curious non-therapists, too.
(German, 16 February 2011)
Compared to "Irrungen, Wirrungen", this is quite a different novel. I found the main characters of "Irrungen, Wirrungen" a lot easier to relate to and identify with and that novel was curious of the new political movements in another way than "Frau Jenny Treibel" that is more critical of both the old and the new ways (at least the backsides of them both).
Both novels are excellent time machines to the Berlin of the late nineteenth century but this novel focuses more on the society of the new middle class - the industrialists and the academics.
What always surprises me with this kind of novels, regardless of whether they are written by Austen, Strindberg, or Fontane, is how modern they feel. I must be harboring some rather silly prejudices that equates old with simple and primitive but, of course, just because the people of that time didn't have computers or electric toothbrushes doesn't mean that they didn't have refined minds.
Although read-worthy, I recommend "Irrungen, Wirrungen" before "Jenny Treibel".
(German, 27 January 2011)
The plot can be summed up that a officer of noble heritage meets and has a love affair for a while with a poor girl of the people. He then decides to end it and follow his family's wish that he should marry his cousin basically for her wealth's sake. However, he never forgets his first love and neither does she. A simple plot we've seen often before? Yes, but I can assure you that Fontane has crafted the novel well. As all now historical novels, it acts as a time machine - this one to the Berlin of the late nineteenth century. The German in it is naturally a bit dated, but luckily I could read most of it without problems.
Not only is Fontane contemporary with August Strindberg, both wrote novels that reflected the democratic and socialistic movements of their time. This is very evident in the way that Baron Botho is interested and intrigued by class equality but yet when put to the test takes the easy route of doing what his family and society expects and is faced with life-long regret and doubt.
To me, as a Swede and naturally more familiar with Strindberg and the particular brand of the Swedes view of ourselves, our society, and our heritage, it is rather interesting to read this piece of German late nineteenth century fiction. Even as Sweden and Germany is neighboring countries with only a stretch of the Baltic Sea in between them, Germany is still more continental and caught up in European affairs more than Sweden. Thus, it was enlightening to read Fontane's fictional description of Berlin after the Franco-Prussian war with new democratic ideas making their way into society.
However, the one clause I will remember the most is "eines absolut kakerlakigen Schweden mit Kaninchenaugen": i.e., "an absolutely cockroachy Swede with rabbit eyes"... What did Fontane have against Swedes?!? ;-)
(English, 19 January 2011)
Who-ha, how to describe this book then? It is a handbook for group sessions in mind-expanding exercises conducted in trance. There are exercises in tuning your senses to become more sensitive of the world. Other exercises creates a group mind and explores the possibilities of that. Yet others are about astral travelling, spiritual guides, and the like.
All looks pretty interesting but the main drawback is that it is intended to be used by a group of five to eleven people, preferably with at least one person who already taken part in such a group. Also, the exercise should be limited to once a week and the book contains a lot of exercises (about 15 for each of the books four parts). I.e., to really try the book on for size, you would need a lot of like-minded that can attend weekly sessions for about a year.
Net verdict: looks interesting but impossible to evaluate by yourself.
(English, 30 December 2010)
Well, as a biography on Wilson, this book is rather thin. The actual biography section isn't even the largest in the book. Instead, there are a lot of appendices on different aspects of Wilson's authorship. Still, if you enjoy Wilson's books and novels, chances are that you will find Wagner's book on Wilson worth to read as Wagner mimics the characteristic style of Wilson throughout it.
What I found most interesting was Wagner's account on the influence of T.S. Elliot, Ezra Pound, and - primarily - James Joyce on Wilson and Wilson's life-long fascination with the same. Thus, indirectly, the book contains some insights in the works of these famous author's and poets, too. (I tried to read Joyce's "Ulysses" in fifth grade or so and even as it was in Swedish translation, I had to give up pretty quickly. Perhaps the time and my ability is more ripe now?)
Another important part of Wagner's book is his list of Wilson's books and novels with short summaries of the topics and his personal comments on each. This is a good guide when looking for another book by Wilson to read.
An unconventional biography on an unconventional author - actually pretty suiting. Also, it's quite interesting to read a biography that contains an introduction by - and interview with - the subject of the same. ;-)
(German, 23 December 2010)
Given Havener's profession as stage magician and mind-reader and his earlier book, "Ich weiss, was du denkst", I had expected more of the same - insights in psychology and how to read people. However, to my surprise, this volume was something else! This is actually somewhat of a manual for your brain, were Havener writes insightful about what makes us tick and Spitzbart gives the medical background, supported by the latest scientific findings.
I have marked two sections on pages 73 - 77 and 126 - 128, both by Spitzbart. The first is an excellent summary on depression and burnout; why it happens and how to avoid it, the second is the best sum-up I have ever read on how to keep your brain fit which, in fact, can be read as a general advice on general lifestyle from the brain's perspective (for example, you should regularly exercise your body in order to keep the muscles running on fat rather than on sugar, because if you don't, there will be less sugar for your brain and thus slower thought and less happy moods - I bet you never looked at physical activity that way before?).
An excellent, entertaining, easy to read, and humorous book on life with your brain in focus. Warmly recommended.
(Swedish, 11 December 2010)
Isn't it nice when an author grows and develops his authorship further for every novel he writes? Lindqvist already showed with "Låt den rätte komma in" and "Hanteringen av odöda" that he could take a traditional horror concept - vampires and zombies - and make something new and original of them. With "Människohamn", he has progressed to something completely his own - i.e., no previously known concept - and has also deepened the framework of the novel to something I associate to puzzle detective stories, the presentation of a lot of characters and then, little by little, more and more of the background of the characters' current relationships (and thus true motives of their actions).
"Människohamn" also have the pleasant quality of being set in the Stockholm Archipelago - a beautiful area with genuine history but normally through-and-through romanticized and tourist-ridden but in this novel refreshingly used as the backdrop to a ghastly horror tale.
Personally I, of course, also liked that the main character is at my current age and that I thus could relate to and share the memories of his and his childhood gang's.
Lindqvist's three first novels really sets the expectations for his fourth rather high. ;-)
(English, 3 December 2010)
OK, I found the Subversion book in the same series rather low-level, so what possessed me to buy this title on Git? Well, even if it is low-level, it is a decent introduction and since I use Subversion at work but Git privately, I felt I could use a easy-to-read introductory primer to the use of Git, to see if I should adjust my ways and orient myself in what possibilities I have yet to make use of.
Really, a decent guide for the curious, perhaps best for the new-beginner but probably can offer at least some new insight even to seasoned computer professionals. I, for one, haven't regretted buying it.
And, yes, I still prefer Git to Subversion after reading it.
(English, 29 November 2010)
This is something as interesting as a piece of popular science on the subject of women's sexual fantasies. It proved to be a quite fascinating read as it turned out that the subject has aspects I couldn't have dreamed of even in my most perceptive moments.
First of all, I must state that it feels a bit dated in the sense that is rather typical of (but not exclusive to) white women in the UK and US in the seventies. Thus, fantasies of black men is probably a bit more prominent than in the global population of women and there is sadly a lot of fantasies sprung out of being home-bound house-wives to sexually ignorant and rough-handed men. I for one hope that the majority of educated, more liberated women in these times of gender equality (at least in Sweden) have the luxury of leaving that sad motive for fantasies behind.
That said, there is no forbidden or faulty fantasies. In women's "secret garden" is everything permitted but mind that all partners might not be able to handle hearing their woman's fantasies (and some women find that a potent fantasy might lose some of its magic by being revealed to someone else). Of course, some of the perhaps best fantasies could very well be directly unpleasant to experience for real.
Friday sorts the fantasies she collected by mail and/or interview from over 400 women into 16 categories - I am sure you can guess a lot of them - but she readily agrees that some isn't so easily categorized and that these 16 categories are subjective to herself. Friday draws some conclusions from the collected material, but she does it very carefully and, as far as possible, let the fantasies speak for themselves.
Surprisingly enough, the fantasy that made the largest impression on me by being so totally unexpected, was the woman who spiced up every sexual intercourse she had by fantasize that she was on the phone with her mother during the act! "-What are those noises, where are you, are someone with you?" The most endearing with that fantasy was that even though the fantasy mother asked about the background noises, she never asked about the screams her daughter made when coming!
The above example was perhaps a bit unusual, but it is a good example of that women don't just fantasize during masturbation or when their partners lacks the skills to satisfy them - far from it - many (perhaps) most women fantasize to spice up and gold-line any intimate relation, even when they are totally satisfied by their partner. As a man, you have to realize that this is totally OK and that you aren't threatened by this and shouldn't feel threatened or jealous. The bottom line is that if it turns on your girl more, chances are that she in turn will turn you on more.
What's more problematic is that, even today, so many women are ashamed of their fantasies and tries hard to suppress them, hurting themselves in the process. This is why even after more than thirty years this book should be read by women of all ages everywhere. All might not like reading it but most will probably feel liberated by it. So, please spread the word.
Another interesting fact that become apparent to me by reading this book was that women in general check out and in their mind undress strange men they meet even more than men admires strange females they meet. One women even confesses to having stared so openly on the crotch of a man she met in the street that the man stopped, turned to her, tweaked one of her nipples, and then walked on.
An important book, undoubtedly so more for female readers than male ones but - luckily - men can learn a thing or two too and perhaps become more perceptive to their female partners.
(English, 17 November 2010)
How interesting to compare this book to Malachi's "Living Gnosis" and books on NLP and self-hypnosis. Also, since it is heavy on symbols and symbolism, it gives a new perspective to Brown's "The Lost Symbol".
Just like "Living Gnosis", this book offers a framework for introspection and utilizing one's subconscious to improve oneself and one's life. However, Farrell's pathworking isn't tied to any religion unlike Malachi's Christian Gnosis and the subconscious and self-hypnosis qualities of the pathworking is a lot more clear than the more diffuse corresponding ones in Gnosis.
Basically, Farell presents active as well as passive pathworkings - most based either loosely on Celtic legends or Egyptian mythology - where the well-known elements from the legends make-up the framework within which you will be able to communicate with your subconscious through the symbols in the framework. In this sense, the pathworking resembles dream interpretation a lot.
There is one snag though. Pathworking is intended to be performed with one guiding leader and one or more partakers. For passive pathworkings, it it possible to record a guidance that you then can listen to while in trance - this is clearly very much alike a hypnotic induction CD - but for best results, you need a guide and thus cannot efficiently pathwork yourself.
(Swedish, 2 November 2010)
Lindqvist is Sweden's newest rising star in the field of horror writing. His first novel was the acclaimed "Låt den rätte komma in" ("Let the Right One In") that not only has been made into a Swedish movie but an American as well (the Yankees not being so huge on subtitles). This is Lindqvist's second novel and in my opinion, it is at least as good as the first one.
Lindqvist's main strength is his originality. He can dream up a new scenario, think it through, and carry it out to its end. In "Låt den rätta komma in", he gave his own twist to the concept of vampires. In "Hanteringen av odöda", he spins his story around a novel concept of undeads. However, was I really appreciated after finishing the book and contemplating it a little is that although the story is totally his own, very original, and filled of unsettling atmosphere, in the end, he doesn't contradict the canonical theory of Zombies. Even of the cause of the Zombies are totally new and even if they throughout the whole of the novel behaves rather peacefully and enigmatic, with a few sentences here and there, and with a sinister turn of events, Lindqvist's undeads conforms to the popular view of Zombies - not in the Haitian way but the way of countless Zombie movies. I really liked the sublimity of this, that I only realized it after finishing the novel.
Besides both conforming to popular Zombie lore and, at the same time, standing out as totally original, he kind of makes the same with what we call our reality. Despite writing a horror novel of an event that I do hope will never come true, with clearly supernatural elements, it doesn't really contradict our reality. In a way, it could all happen - however unlikely. In a way, Lindqvist's novel is a interpretation or theory of reality - life and death - that cannot neither be proved correct nor disproved. Who knows? He might be right and this both scares and attracts me.
Read it, I warmly recommend it. However, prepare for some downright nauseating passages. Not directly scary, not violent but disgustingly nauseating. Yuck!
(Swedish, 28 October 2010)
It only took 10 years to collect all three of Baker's novels about Millan since they are all out-of-print. That no new printing is made says something about the demand for them. Yet, they aren't bad. Sure, the novels are rather simplistic and this title is really just a collection of separate episodes that could have been better integrated. However, the novels are good-hearted with lots of warmth. They are simply memorable.
It was my parents that loaned the series at the library and read them to me and my siblings when we were kids. Thus, I have a soft spot for them. Call me a softy, but I was surprised myself that I was so moved by Millan's teddybear's role in the story that I got misty eyes (but I had to blink the tears away because I really cannot be seen crying over a children's book on the commuter train to work!).
Anyway, this is the second title in the trilogy and the main story is about the trip Millan and granny go on as a part of granny's birthday present to Millan ("Millans födelsedagsresa" translates to "Millan's Birthday-trip"). Granny isn't Millan's real grandmother but she helped Millan through some rough times and agreed to act as a grandmother for her. But she is not ordinary grandmother. Not by far. Disguised as a simple tale for children, this is really a fairy-tale of the late sixties and early seventies - a piece of what's popularly called fantasy. Granny has real powers and seems to have some profound responsibilities in the world too.
The bottom line is that I liked these novels as a kid and thus have spent a little effort on collecting them all to read for my own children in the future.
(English, 27 October 2010)
OK, I had expected more than this from the Pragmatic Bookshelf. Like all their books, it is well written, friendly, and humorous but despite its length, it is not much more than a glorified Unix man-page. Sure, I learned a lot more about Subversion than I had previously picked up just by using its basic functions at work, but I had expected more of a reference guide than a introductory guide (then again, Mason seems to soon have a new book on Subversion out, "Pragmatic Guide to Subversion" that by the sales-pitch seems to offer more details).
Really good if you are new to Version Control and programming. Just too basic if you are a seasoned professional in the field.
(English, 21 October 2010)
Gnosticism is an esoteric family of religions where the emphasis lies on a personal experience of God (Gnosis) rather than the general dogma of our more common religions. Christian Gnosticism, which this book is about, thus interprets the Bible in a somewhat different way than the Catholic or Lutheran churches. It also uses gospels not included in the common bible, like the Gospel of St. Thomas. It is really interesting to read the book as an introduction to this alternative and less known interpretation of Christianity and also refreshing to hear about a religion where creativity, individualism, and reflection are encouraged as the base of the faith rather than conformity and subduction. Quite interesting stuff for anyone curious that like to hear new perspective on things.
The book also contains a basic guide into practicing Christian Gnosticism. Surprisingly enough, if you peel away "the Living Jeshua" and the other either specific Christian or general religious stuff, you end up with an essence of self-hypnosis and positive mind-set. Actually, you can draw parallels to Eason's self-hypnosis recipes for wealth and success, for example, or Hill's "Think and Grow Rich".
I also made a more odd association to Wilson's "Sex, Drugs, and Magic" in which he writes about how some use psychedelic drugs to achieve higher awareness and how these drugs can induce panic and psychosis in inexperienced users but how guidance from an experienced user can help avoid that. What if the religious ornaments of gnosticism really is a formalized way of the same sort of guidance to cope with higher awareness induced by self-hypnosis and interpret phenomenas that otherwise would scare one shit-less as angelic beings?
As you can see above, I kind of read the book in quite an analytic mind-set. ;-)
(Danish, 7 October 2007)
I just love to read Høeg in his native language, partly because I like the atmosphere in Høeg's novels, partly because I like the challenge in reading Danish.
"Elefantpassernes børn" is Høeg's recently published new novel, another one in the vein of "Smilla's Sense of Snow" and "Den stille pige" - i.e., marvelous stories with some traits of a crime-suspense novel. Judging by the newspaper reviews of "Elefantpassernes børn", it has received a warmer welcome than "Den stille pige", Høeg's last novel before this one. However, if my memory serves me right, to me, "Den stille pige" is the better novel of the two. I found "Den stille pige" simply more thrilling and better crafted than "Elefantpassernes børn", which is very entertaining but still a bit more harmless and humorous than "Den stille pige". Don't get me wrong - all Høeg's novels contains totally over-worldly and improbable elements, but in "Elefantpassernes børn", they are served in a more tongue-in-cheek way compared to the more solemn, even noir setting of "Den stille pige". (I really should re-read both "Den stille pige" and "Smilla's Sense of Snow" again.)
"Elefantpassernes børn" is about a very unusual family, living on a very unusual Danish island (at the same time, the island is the very quintessence of Denmark), and caught up in very unusual events. It is a typical Høeg novel, yet on a lighter and more joking air than his earlier works. I challenge you to read it without smiling or laughing even once. ;-)
The Danish was interesting as usual. I, of course, didn't get everything but I only had to look up one thing, because it appeared so often and puzzled me so much: "tørret ising". It apperently means "dried dab" - some sort of dried fish.
(English, 23 September 2010)
This book is a tough one to review. On the one hand, it is a typical Wilson book: well-written, humorous, entertaining, educating, and mind-jogging. On the other hand, it really challenged my views on narcotics in a disturbing way.
Although he wrote the first version of the book in the seventies, this is the revised edition from 2000, so it is heavily updated and doesn't feel dated. On the contrary, in these times of a Californian vote over legalizing of Cannabis and talk on drug-legalization in many South American countries, it is more interesting to read than ever.
Although Wilson as a through-and-through Libertarian is pro-drugs, he tries hard to stay objective in the book (without hiding his opinions, that is). Furthermore, the book isn't about legalizing drugs - it is at its core a encyclopedia of pretty much all major drugs (narcotic effects and side-effects) and their impact on having sex (for instance, Cannabis is claimed to make sex better while Heroin is reported to make you totally impotent and uninterested of sex). However, since Wilson is Wilson, he wouldn't be able to keep to this core topic if his life depended on it and here's where the magic in the title comes in in form of the mind-altering drugs claims to induce higher awareness.
Needless to say, in this book, you learn things that goes totally against what you learned in school during the anti-drug campaigns and it is really disturbing to get the facts you've been drilled in and bought into (if not even invested in) challenged in such a convincing and, at the same time entertaining way.
To give you a few spoilers:
Because of Wilson's typical style of writing, the book is overflowing with entertaining facts like these - of which some in this book are rather controversial, to say the least.
I can recommend this book on the grounds of its entertaining and educating qualities. However, on the matter of the subject, I am more at loss. I haven't made up my mind on what to believe after reading it but I think I have ended up in a mind-set where I want to have more opinions and research on the matter presented before me.
All I do know is that the one time I have experienced a narcotic (in the fifth grade when I underwent surgery on a hernia and got a morphine shot as a preparations for the anesthetic during the operation) I had such a wonderful time that I really should stay away from drugs as I doubt I could handle them well. (The same way, I should stay away from World of Warcraft and other MMPORGs, because I would probably get an addiction problem with them, too.)
(English, 3 September 2010)
This is two books in one. The first part is a technology driven thriller, the second a references guide to the different gadgets, exploits, and elements of hacker culture and lore used in the first part. The fiction part is probably only readable for people in the computer business - not necessary hackers but at least with a notion of computer security. This part was to common thriller best-sellers as many TV-movie productions are compared to the silver screen block-busters at the cinema. However, paired with the reference part, it actually offers something new and interesting.
However, I were surprised how little new things I learned. Sure, on the offensive side, I learned of some new tools like the metasploit framework, but on the defensive side, I already knew most of the good practices listed in the book. Some things fascinated me though, like the retention time on emails in the mail servers some companies in USA adheres to. Not to prevent theft of emails in case of a security breach but to limit the extent of knowledge they would have to give to the court in case of a subpoena. Overall, I mostly appreciated the hacker interviews were each gave their opinion on what curriculum a IT security professional should have.
Weaknesses: a rather lame fiction bit, probably only readable by people already familiar with the lingo and tools. Surprisingly little new information of value for someone within the computer business.
Strengths: overall a great introductory survey of what to consider when securing ones private or corporate computer network. Probably a great book to have management read to make them better equipped to budget for security measures.
(English, 25 August 2010)
The best parts of this book is the fore- and afterwords, where Weschcke share his visions with us and puts the methods within in relation to the big picture of life. The rest is alas a way too quick and sketchy survey of different uses of self-hypnosis to achieve different self-empowerment goals - i.e., ways to grow as a human being.
It is rather grand to have Weschcke and Slate talk about spiritual guides, telepathy, and such but they never really goes deep enough to make me believe in it. It makes me a bit curious of Slate's research though. How thorough is that? Would his papers be more convincing for me?
One good thing was that the book, in a rather off-hand way, gave me a fuller picture of a lot of occult things, like Kabbalah and Tantra. The former isn't just magic quadrants of numbers and the latter is a complete system of yoga, not just pair meditation in different sex positions. Another good thing was the glossary which can server as a condensed lexicon on the occult.
The best I could say about this book is that it can serve as an appetizer. The worse that it only tickles your curiosity without ever satisfying it.
(English, 13 August 2010)
This book is about split-second persuasion, something the author have researched for a long time. Basically, the book is an accessible presentation of his findings (accessible in the sense that it is readable by common people and not just psychologists and social scientists). In fact, it is very readable as Dutton has a great sense of humour and isn't afraid to use it (at times, I winced at his lamer jokes, but often I burst out laughing).
Dutton methodically goes through the relevant areas of what he calls "flipnosis" - the art of split-second persuasion. He also spend a lot of time on the persons most likely to be masters of flipnosis, namely psychopaths. He stresses the fact that eventhough murderers, rapists, suicide-bombers and the like more often than not are psychopaths, most psychopaths are more functional ones, like CEOs, vice presidents, brain surgeons, bomb-disposal experts, etc. Dutton gives examples of flipnosis from most of these types of psychopaths. However, there is an over-representation of con-men among his examples, since con artists naturally depends on persuasion for their trade.
The book is well written and funny to read. However, to me, Dutton never really ties the sack together. I mean, I kind of loses the overall picture of flipnosis among all the relevant areas that the research touches. It's like I have read this book loaded with facts and ended up non the wiser. How ironic that a book on persuasion fails to persuade.
(Swedish, 4 August 2010)
This piece of crime and suspense has been on the Swedish best-seller lists for some time now, and it fits the criteria for a best-seller equally well as it fits the general criteria for contemporary Swedish crime and suspense literature. I.e., harsh and brutal crimes that happen to common people and get investigated by common police men and women, all with common feelings and doubts (for instance, think Mankell, think Nesser, think Sjöwall-Wahlöö). However, Kepler (which is the pseudonym for the married couple Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril), deploys less criticism of our society than, for example, Mankell and Guillou, although - here and there - a quick sentence condemns something particular, like the last reform of the Swedish psychiatric care.
Even though "Hypnositören" clearly is a crime and suspense novel, the brutality of some of the bad guys reminds me more of Lindqvist's "Låt den rätte komma in". Come to think of it, the violence of the vampire and undead aside, there is more to that comparison - but I cannot get into that without spoiling to much.
Anyways, always nice with yet another addition to the Swedish collection of crime authors. I am sure this will be another export success, translated to a number of languages.
A well composed nail-biter, hard to put down but even though it stands out in its genre, it falls a bit short of being a piece of great literature in general.
(English, 28 July 2010)
Well, what can I say? Parental leave offers a lot of joys but not that of reading. Even before going on paternal leave, I mostly read while commuting to and from work, so - naturally - when not commuting, not much get read beside the daily morning paper. For those regular visitors to this page that hasn't given up, welcome back. ;-)
To sum it up in one sentence: fascinating ideas fitted (hidden) in a hideous package.
The fascinating ideas contains secret societies, Atlantis, Goddess worship, politics, political critique, and advanced theories on the subject of freedom. This mix are very entertaining even as it gets pretty far out at times (perhaps these are the most entertaining).
However, the composition of the book (books, the volume contains the three books of the original trilogy) is awful. Often, the scenes and narrators switch in mid-sentence, giving you a sense of free fall before you can get your bearings on the story again. The narrator itself sometimes jumps between characters in a very confusing manner. Additionally, the plot is rather complex, to say the least, and the sex and drugs sprinkled throughout it is not always that motivated.
The worst thing is that the authors is well aware of this and even, as I interpret it, apologizes for it: there is a certain passage were a literature reviewer for a magazine - after just browsing the book itself - butchers it totally along the same lines as my paragraph above. If this isn't a confession and an apology from the authors, what is? So why didn't they take the extra time to shape the story up? Why did they want to keep it in this haphazard form, barring the book for ever from large parts of society. (Is that is? They deliberately wanted to keep it "underground", cherished by everyone at odd ends with main-stream society? Isn't that a pretty modest goal? By the way, via the secret societies with the Illuminati in the foreground, the book nurtures a certain degree of paranoia, so I should probably quit second-guessing the real goal of the authors...)
Once I got into the disorienting form of the trilogy, I started to enjoy the story, mostly because of the steady stream of ideas and concepts presented (some old, some new, and some just plain weird). However, I am totally convinced that this could have been refined into something much more well-written and convincing than the de facto scatter-brained and survey-like text at hand.
Try to read it if you are curious but don't get disappointed if you find that the weirdness outweighs the discussion of entertaining ideas and theories.
Eh, I actually intended to be more positive about the trilogy than the above review appears to be. What I really found entertaining was the whole notion of the Illuminati as an ancient secret society that always infiltrates every government and keeps the general public subdued through the same governments. What I really found fascinating was the concepts of magic and awareness that the main characters came to know (they, so to say, got illuminated...). It was these things that kept me going through the story.
(English, 24 April 2010)
I really thought I had already reviewed this one, but it turns out that I never did before going on parental leave. Oh well, the review is going to suffer for it...
Chopra has written a book about his own theories that marry together his modern medical education with his research into the wisdom of the ancient Indian Ayurveda (Sanskrit for "science of life") and Ayurvedic medicine. All though Chopra never really can prove his theories in the way our Western science tradition has come to demand, he argues his case convincingly that our minds has a latent ability to control our bodies to a high degree, even down to the cellular level. He argues that cases of spontaneous remissions of lethal Cancer tumors could be explained by the patient somehow reaching a positive outlook on life, deep enough to make the tumor disappear. The inverse of this is, of course, that negativism in the mind can manifest itself as disease in the body. (Stress related conditions, anyone?)
The strength of the book is the positivism it breathes and hope it instills. The weakness is that much of it, if you stop and think about it, is common knowledge. For instance, if you have a cold - it usually feels worse if you hid in your bed feeling sorry for yourself, while it feels a lot better if you, regardless of your running nose, occupy yourself with something you like. Chopra's theories based on this and the actions he describes may very well work, but perhaps the real issue is how we can change our modern life-styles to become more health inducing.
Chopra's book is unfortunately not the answer but it can very well be your ticket for the trip. I.e., read it as a key to the set of questions we should ponder well before we catch any really nasty disease.
(English, 3 April 2019)
First a quick negative observation: Hodder is a rather sloppy publisher. They have unfortunately never heard of hyphenation. Thus, many lines are sparse with huge ugly whitespaces, which makes the reading less nice. Please try to find a copy of this book from another, more thorough publisher.
As for the contents of the book, I find it truly great on two primary accounts: 1) the brain-scientist describing her stroke from the inside, and 2) the connection she makes between her right-brain experience with a trouble-free state of bliss.
In all her bad luck, suffering a severe stroke that cause massive damage to her left brain-half, Bolte Taylor still counts herself lucky to have had the chance as a brain-scientist to study a self-experienced stroke from the inside and believes that her work with her own recovery will be of immense value in the treatment of other, less knowledgeable stroke victims. Although she was more or less able to live on her own two years after the stroke, she states that it took eight years to recover all of her abilities that was crippled by the stroke. (She deliberately made sure not to recover some negative personal traits that before the stroke was heavily coupled with otherwise neutral brain-functions.)
Her book at the same times serves as an auto-biography of a stroke victim, a easy-to-follow popular-science article on the state of brain science and care of brain disorder patients, and a guide to her beliefs in the function of the left-right brain division and how we all could benefit from using our right brain halves more.
Her stroke of insight is that her left-brain crippling stroke was a crude and incapacitating way to reach the right-brain dominated state of "nirvana" that meditation, Taijiquan, Yoga, and other methods strives to achieve. To me, it was also quite fascinating to note that her own findings ties in very well with what you find in Bandler's books on NLP. For example, where Bolte Taylor speaks of the left-brain as the chatterbox that, on the one hand, defines one's ego and one's borders as a single individual, and, on the other, often serves as the critical nagger that can lead to bad self-confidence or depression, Bandler more directly instructs one to interrupt one's negative inner dialog with a forceful "shut the f*ck up!".
Overall, it is very interesting to discover parallel, inter-connecting, or complementary theories in Bolte Taylor's book, the NLP teachings, self-hypnosis text-books, and books on Taijiquan and Qigong. After reading Bolte Taylor, it seems pretty clear that most of these methods really strives to move the consciousness from primary the left-brain to primary the right. Bolte Taylor found a really quick way - unfortunately with severe side-effects.
Deeply recommended. As well as being the gripping story of a stroke victim and her way back to full recovery, it also offers a western scientific explanation to the benefits of much of the eastern traditions.
(English, 11 March 2010)
OK, I have finally found a book on self-hypnosis that I consider to be on the right level. I.e., it is instructive without being bogged down in either too much theory or too much detail. Most self-hypnosis books offers a simple induction and then goes on to present the advanced applications and leaves the reader to figure out the steps in between. Eason instead outlines suitable progressions. This alone makes the book worth its price.
I must admit that Eason, at times, get a bit wordy and that he sometimes is a bit too obvious in his attempts to introduce nested loops in the text. (I believe that they would be more efficient if they better camouflaged.) Yet, Eason so clearly is very passionate of what he writes and even with its weaknesses, it is still the book on self-hypnosis with the highest potential to actually guide one into successful usage I have found so far. (Of course, in one way, I have already failed as I pressed on and read the book through against Eason's instructions to pause and performing the suggested exercises at the right time. However, I still believe that the book will be helpful when I revisit it with the intention to really use it.)
(English, 7 March 2010)
This is the third of Gladwell's books I have read and this one is at least as brilliant as the other two. I have a bit of a bad conscience for not properly reviewing the first two but they tend to overwhelm you a bit and you want to think them through and find time to give the full review they deserve - so it never happens. Hence, "Blink" and "The Tipping Point" are still un-reviewed all will probably remain so until I re-read them.
What about "Outliers" then? You can sum it up with that Gladwell redefines - or rather updates - the way we think about success. He thoroughly and convincingly argues that success isn't an innate talent you are born with but the result of being at the right place in the right time and willing to put in the hours required to reach excellence. Cut-offs are very important too. It is an eye-opener when he show statistics from ice-hockey and soccer that shows that, if the cut-off is the turn of the year, players born in the three first months will be over-represented. After all, at the age of sieving out the talents, they were the oldest and thus on average the largest and most developed with the most logged our in their sport. Go figure. The same thing, however, can be applied to our school system. Who did the best in your first school class - the ones born in the beginning of the year or the ones born in the end of the year?
I actually associated to "Blue Ocean Strategy" when Gladwell visited the case studies of Bill Joy, Bill Gates, and others. They each got their Blue Ocean by - by chance - have had the good fortune of having accumulated 10 000 hours of experience on something new before it got mainstream and thus profitable. Take Bill Gates. The parents of the pupils in the good private school he attended actually decided to chip in to buy the school a computer - back in the days when all computers in the world numbered in the hundreds. Thus, Gates already was a computer programmer veteran before he dropped out of college to start Microsoft - he virtually had no competition. Talk about a blue ocean.
The book becomes really interesting when Gladwell starts looking at the importance of culture when looking at success. Can Asians' proficiency in mathematics be traced back to the hard labour in the rice paddies and the Asian languages' comparatively shorter words for the basic numbers than our Occidental ones? Another frightening sections is the one that correlates national airlines crash frequency with the countries' "Power Distance Index". Simply put, in cultures were the power distance is high, the first officer doesn't dare to bluntly point out the captain's error and the plane crashes before the captain has got the first officer's hints... Terrifying...
However, the red line I find most important is how the information in this book might make you a better parent if you keep it in the back of your head when raising your kids. In one section, it is shown that it is the three month summer holidays we use in the Western world that actually differentiates wealthy and poor kids in our schools. That is, under the school year, they more or less learn at the same pace but while the wealthier kids keep on learning during the summers, the poor kids actually loses knowledge over the summer holiday. Oops...
You don't have to buy everything Gladwell writes but you can still appreciate how well and though-provoking he writes. I can warmly recommend all of his books. They can only make you smarter and entertain you in the process.
(English, 23 February 2010)
The bulk of this book is written between 1948 and 1954, when the first edition came out. The second edition, with an additional third part and some revision to the rest came out in 1959. This, of course, make it possible to look through the peep-hole to the post-war USA of the time. Hysteria was still an everyday diagnosis - not totally buried as today. Apparently, it was common to carry guns on the street even in larger cities. Yet, many women seems to be employed and at least in this sense, it feels fresher than the horrid book by Capiro and Berger.
Even as the book is based on dull papers on clinical tests on volunteers and just a few actual case studies with real patients in the end, it is still quite fascinating to read. Who could have imagined that they performed so advanced tests on time distortion in the forties? They found that they by conditioning their test subject could decrease the clock time to mere seconds and still have their subjects successfully fill hours of experienced time in those seconds. A significant part of the book describes the efforts to really make sure that the subjects only tells what they experienced during the actual test and that they aren't filling it out afterwards.
One can sum their findings up that time distortion works well with what you already know but less well with unknown activities, like math. They successfully used it as a mean to enhance repetition time for musicians. I.e., in addition to their normal rehearsal, they also performed their music in experiences time during very short clock time intervals with a notable carry-over to their real performance.
Interesting stuff but a bit of a dry read.
(Swedish, 8 February 2010)
This novel has a special meaning to me and my sister, because of us sharing our last name with one of the characters and the estate, named after her family, where much of the story takes place.
I haven't read/heard this novel since I was a kid so it is quite interesting to read it with a grown-up set of eyes. Clearly, as a kid, I only cared for the suspense and the mystery. As a grown-up, I can appreciate the observations regarding gender equality in the 18th century and the late 20th century that Gripe lets the main characters observe and discuss.
The book enables you to time-travel in two senses - primarily because of the puzzle that is laid by the modern characters to get to know the lives and thoughts of the historical characters (one even an apprentice to Carl von Linné), but secondary because it takes place in the seventies - when a cassette recorder was bleeding edge technology, long before everyone had computers and mobile phones.
This is rather fascinating. The glimpses we see of the 18th century are, sort of, timeless, because of the number of years between them and us. However, the milieus of the main storyline simply feel dated, because of the thirty odd years between then and now. I wonder if, at some future date - when it has aged enough - the whole novel will feel timeless? Maybe it already does to the kids of today that haven't got any memories of their own from that time...
Gripe has written a very tight and thrilling story that interweaves the much opposed love-story of a pair in the 18th century with the curiosity of three modern time teenagers in the same village (well, two teenagers and a 12-years-old). At the same time, the story is enriched by ancient Egyptian souvenirs and some amount of supernatural mystery.
Overall, the story is very well composed and balanced between suspense and reflections on the difference in social and gender equality over the ages. This might very well be Gripe's overall best novel.
(English, 3 February 2010)
This was by far the most detailed and most complete textbook on how to facilitate hypnosis I have yet read. However, like so many other books on the subject, it is solely targeted at teaching therapist how to use hetero-hypnosis to help their clients. The contents are harder to put to use for self-hypnosis.
The book is an edited transcript of a seminar and it walks the seminar participants and the readers through a complete hypnosis session in logical steps. The authors have also tried to use hypnotic language and structure in the book itself, which makes the reading hard at places and hilarious in other.
An interesting read.
(English, 26 January 2010)
The Pomodoro technique is a method for becoming more efficient based on the use of pen, paper, and a kitchen timer. Basically, you try to complete as many focused 25-minutes "Pomodoros" every day, with five minutes breaks in between each and longer breaks after every fourth. During one Pomodoro, you should focus on one and only one task (that might or might not take multiple Pomodoros to complete).
The technique is originated by an Italian guy that used a kitchen timer shaped as a tomato - hence the name (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato). Nöteberg is a Swedish practitioner that has written and illustrated this illustrated guide to the technique. The illustrations is very simply made but actually work very well.
The technique is very simple and easy to sum up. Most of the book is about how to adapt it to different situations, workplaces, and projects. The main challenge seems to be how to handle interruptions without having to void every Pomodoro one starts.
Due to it simple underlying idea, it is well worth trying out, although I have some doubts about whether I would be able to use (adapt) it successfully in my work. Actually, I think it would be easier to use it to manage one's household chores.
(German, 19 January 2010)
von Hirschhausen is a German doctor that left medicine to pursue a career as stand-up comedian. This book is basically a number of stand-up comedy monologues on paper. Lots of jokes, but still based on an acute sense for observations on the absurdities of our modern life and the things we fill our lives with.
Light reading but not without afterthought.
(English, 10 January 2010)
Gaiman must have one of the absolutely largest hearts of all authors in human history. This story is simply endearing. Gaiman is truly a modern master of telling histories. He is a guru on legends from every culture on Earth and he knows how to draw from this extensive source to weave sagas for the modern man of the Occident. I mean - wow!
Yes, this is fantasy. Yes, this is occultism and mystery. Yet, you have a hard time reading "The Graveyard Book" without wishing that more of it really existed. You kind of feel sorry that life on Earth (to a high probability) doesn't come with ghosts, life after death and supernatural beings.
This is the kind of book you read with a grin on your face, have a hard time putting down, and finish with a huge sigh. What a brilliant and endearing idea to let a graveyard offer protection to a orphaned toddler and raise him into adulthood.
(Swedish, 6 January 2010)
This is the third part after "Skuggan över stenbänken" and "... och de vita skuggorna i skogen". This is more tightly coupled with the second part, with the first part a bit apart (and better for it, in my opinion). However, if the second part was less believable than the first, certain elements in the third is downright too good to be true. (I am especially thinking of a link that is a bit too much - too convenient.)
You cannot read the second without reading the third - but you can very well read the first part and leave the sequels alone. If you ask me, the first part is a masterpiece of simple elegance and atmosphere. The later installments are more common Gripe-mystery but, unfortunately, for every measure of suspense they gain, they lose some credibility and overall elegance. Still very decent reading, though.
(Swedish, 23 December 2009)
Interesting - the simple and atmosphere-rich story of "Skuggan över stenbänken" develops into something more complex and of an other, darker type of atmosphere in the sequel, "... och de vita skuggorna i skogen". I must confess that I liked the first part better although this part is a lot more thrilling. However, were the first was filled of brilliant everyday adventure, the second is more of a trademark Gripe mystery (compare with "Agnes Cecilia" or "Tordyveln flyger i skymningen").
Anyways, it is still Berta that narrates the story and it is still Carolin that spices Berta's life up. However, they now leave Berta's home and go to the castle Rosengåva with its strange and somewhat tragic inhabitants.
Great authorship but less probable as the first part.
(English, 22 December 2009)
Brown has done it again - written a best-selling thriller. Remember how I previously have liked his novels starring Robert Langdon ("Angels and Demons", "The Da Vinci Code") better than the other two, more USA-oriented novels ("Digital Fortress", "Deception Point")? The interesting thing is that although this novel takes part almost solely in Washington D.C. (and doubles as a tourist guide to the sights of the city), it is still more of a Langdon novel in quality. It is also less obviously written after Brown's trademark template - clearly a good sign!
I really liked the underlying idea of "The Lost Symbol" and has - of course - googled Noetic Science after having read the novel. It seems that Brown, not surprisingly, has bent and advanced the field after his own wishes but the real state of Noetic Science still looks promising (even if one needs to maintain a healthy measure of skepticism).
Perhaps this novel isn't exactly as fast-paced and thrilling as the previous ones but, in a way, it is more mature and solid than his early ones.
It was a great companion on two flights and a four hour stop-over at the Cologne-Bonn airport. ;-)
(Swedish, 17 December 2009)
What a gripping tale! So simple but so intensive - and subtle, too. It incorporates that wonderful subtlety that, for instance, is a important element of Rowling's success with Harry Potter. I, of course, allude to the author's way of giving away just enough for you to guess at what is coming but not be totally convinced that you are right. (Actually, the last chapter got rather thrilling because to the very end, it was uncertain whether it would be revealed if my main guess was right or wrong in the novel).
This is the first part of four and it begins in 1911. Since my late grandmother was born 1910, the story of Berta and her siblings gives me a idea of how my granny's childhood might have looked like - even if she is 13 years younger than Berta. Of course, it also serves as a looking-glass into the society of the early twentieth century.
It is Berta that is narrating the story that focuses on how their household, the different people in it, and their respective relations are affected by the arrival of Carolin, the new maid. As Berta is a reflective young lady, she pretty keenly describes a lot of psychological changes of the involved parties - both joyous and grievous, pleasant and irritated.
Gripe succeeds well in making the characters spring to life and her story weaves at the same time a both simple and complex story that easily keeps one's interest up. Recommended.
(Swedish, 9 December 2009)
The second of Fexeus' books is solely about influence - to an equal amount on how to influence others and how to detect when you are yourself being influenced by someone. Actually, it is really more about the latter, to educate us to navigate through a world of commercials, public elections, various campaigns, advertisements, etc. We are constantly being influenced. Fexeus opinion is that we should be as aware as possible of the different means of influence, in order to stay in control as much as possible. The flip side of knowing more of the techniques of influence naturally is that you might become better at it yourself. Eat or be eaten. You are either the hunter or the hunted.
If you ask me, Fexeus' ambition is great! He writes very entertainingly even if the language is sometimes a bit unpolished. His quest to educate us is immaculate. The people who accuses him of writing a manual on manipulation is the same people that won't let kids play in a playground since they might hurt themselves or get dirty. You cannot shelter someone from life. It is better to inform them. In the end, it is their responsibility - not the author's - what they use the information for.
Anyways, try reading this book and then make your weekly grocery shopping at your local department store. Makes it a totally new experience, doesn't it?
(English, 5 Nov 2002)
This is the second novel I have completely re-read since I started this journal. You can read my original mini-review here.
Naturally, I had to cleanse myself of Grahame-Smith's abomination "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by quickly re-reading Austen's original. It doesn't matter that I already read it, that I've seen a few movie adoptions of it, and that I just read the unfortunate Monster-version of it. I still shed a few tears when Darcy and Elizabeth finally confesses their love for each other - despite sitting at a commuter train at the time.
Austen's English is a treat to read and the novel is a historical document on the society of the upper-class Englishmen of that time. There is even some of Austen's hidden critique on the gender inequality of the times - like in the entitlement of the Longburn estate to a male cousin rather than any of the five Bennet daughters.
As a true classic, it continues to endear generation upon generation all the time. Read it!
(English, 26 November 2009)
What do you do if you have author-ambitions but not imagination or confidence enough to conceive a story? You commit a murder of lust of someone else's novel...
Grahame-Smith has taken Austen's classic "Pride and Prejudice" and first removed a lot of its atmosphere ("wallpaper") by deleting lesser characters and side-plots - effectively dumbing the novel down. Then he has replaced some and only some of the deleted material with his own Zombie stuff.
Can I say anything good about the novel? Well:
Though the positive traits don't outweigh the negative ones:
OK, it is a fresh idea but I really would like this to be a contained incident - not as the beginning of a forest fire, spreading with the wind over the face of the Earth.
Cause of a few cheap grins and reminiscence of the original classic but leaving a bitter aftertaste... You have been warned - read it if you are curious, avoid it if you can.
(English, 19 November 2009)
This title was recommended to me by my Taiji-teacher Mark. It is a wonderful textbook on Qigong, clearly written for a Occident public. I.e., the Eastern mysticism is toned down and the claims are supported by hard Western science (there is even an appendix on the challenges of comparing Western and Chinese research). In this sense, this is an excellent survey of research on the benefits of Qigong. I more than once got the urge to get my hands on different books and papers Cohen referred to. However, my chief interest was the Qigong itself, to compare it with Taiji and other means of exercise and health preservation.
Not only does Cohen tackle the subject most thoroughly, he also writes remarkably well. I have seldom read a textbook that is so easy and entertaining to read while still being very serious. It helps that Cohen possesses a rather dry and witty humour. ;-)
The book is pedagogically composed with background/history of Qigong, health claim of it, scientific support for the claims, an orientation on what to think of when practicing and tutorials on how to practise both tranquil and active Qigong. It is concluded with chapters on other aspects of Qigong life-style, like reduce stress and proper diet. Although I don't really appreciate hot beverages like coffee and tea (though Glühwein is OK), I really liked the chapter on tea with recommendations on good sorts of tea and on the proper procedure of brewing and drinking the tea. I also found the contrast between the tea-chapter and the following chapter on Qigong sex (the Art of Clouds and Rain!) very amusing (although I suddenly felt very exposed as I, as usually, was reading while on the commuter train to work).
As theory, this book is a true gem. Even if you aren't interested in practicing Qigong, the book can nevertheless be both entertaining and giving food for thought. However, as a practical handbook, you need a big portion of patience and perseverance. If you have the time, I believe that the book is detailed enough to follow. However, I think one need to go through it and compile notes and then sort the notes under each subject to really get "action cards" on how to properly perform the different meditations and forms.
Great read - but to really benefit from it, you need to start practise what it teaches, too.
(English, 5 November 2009)
What, you say, another Bandler book? Yup, and I cannot say that I notices LaValle at all - it was pretty much Bandler's voice trough and through, in some example of a down-played seminar (still a transcribed seminar but very close to a text-book narration).
The focus of this title is on selling stuff. It is targeted at sales-persons of all kinds (goods). On the surface, this makes it less interesting for me as a non-sales-person. However, in an job-interview, for instance, you are supposed to sell yourself. Furthermore, compared to his other books, the fresh and somewhat different perspective on the Neuro-Linguistic Programming can actually make the material easier to understand (this and one of his other books triangulates the material).
Like all of Bandler's books, it is filled by his trademark humour. I.e., all of his anecdotes makes it a treat to read. By and by, you, for example, learn to use the word "by" a lot - since the subconscious of your English-speaking public not only interpret it as "by" but at the same time as "buy", which - if you remember - was the focus of this boo>: to persuade the customer/clients to buy whatever you are selling.
Of course, a book like this, on the tactics of sales, is a good read for me as a consumer, too. Kind of good to perhaps be able to spot some of the tactics sales-persons and commercials expose us to.
Not one of his best but nevertheless valuable since its focus complements that of his other books.
(Danish, 30 October 2009)
I've done it again - read another auto-biography in Danish, the second one by one a Danish elite soldier.
To me, reading Danish is very entertaining and I am totally convinced that it makes me (or any Swede) smarter, too. It is something very special to come across a word or a sentence that, on first look, doesn't make sense at all but, after one has de-focused ones eyes a bit, suddenly pops out as a creative spelling of a similar/older/unusual Swedish word/phrase. Sometimes, you don't get the word until you divide it at the right place - then you have two words that independently are easier to get. Then, of course, you have the words that no longer means the same as their Swedish siblings ("rolig", for instance) and the minority of words that I cannot match to any Swedish relative ("netop", "ilt"). Those, you have to learn from the context (unless you make the extra effort to look them up), but are they just frequent enough, are they often pretty easy to learn. I have said it before and I say it again - despite having had German in school and been using German since 2001, and despite usually having great troubles understanding spoken Danish - it is still generally easier to read a Danish book than a German. All are Germanic languages but Swedish and Danish are just so much closer related. Weird, but fascinating.
The reason I got this particular title was because all fuss in the media. The Danish Defense tried to get the book stopped because they meant it would be a security risk for the Danish units in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Danish news-paper quickly published the whole book as an inlay, so naturally, the book wasn't stopped since it was already out there. Having read it, I cannot say that I find anything for the Danish Defense to get hung up on. Rathsack has changed names of fellow soldiers and officers, operations, and I believe even some geographical places. Regarding equipment and tactics, he doesn't disclose anything that isn't already out there in other books and movies (think Tom Clancy). In the end, the lawsuit by the Danish Defense only serves to give the book more publicity.
It is interesting to read and gives a peek at the hardships, boredom, and short bursts of excitement/fright in the life of an elite soldier. Not only is Rathsack involved in ordinary special operations, the Danish hunters are also used as body-guards for the Danish ambassador in Iraq. However, the most interesting aspects of the book are probably the involvement of little Denmark in the coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
No fantastic piece of literature but a fine example of contemporary history in a very entertaining language.
(English, 23 October 2009)
Here we have another American self-hypnosis book from the sixties. Is it as heavily influenced of the times of writing as Capiro's and Berger's "Helping Yourself With Self-Hypnosis"? Luckily no. Sure, there are some housewives among the case-studies but they are treated as human beings and their roles not exaggerated. The one area where the book feels a bit date is in the view of homosexuality. Even if the author is tolerant, there is an underlying current of homosexuality being an illness.
To look at the self-hypnosis parts, the book doesn't include a variety of inductions methods to choose from but the one method it does recommend is the far most elaborate I have come across so far, with, among other things, conditioning of symbols to automate the transition into trance.
However, the true strength of the book lies in the included progressions of trance phenomena to practise and build up one's confidence with before going deeper. The progressions might be a bit statically chosen but still look very promising.
The book then moves on to the usual case studies of which some are more and some less entertaining than the others. However, after the last case study, the books ends rather abruptly. Couldn't Sparks have taken five minutes to write some sort of conclusion or afterword?
(English, 7 October 2009)
What a sweet reunion. It was years since I read the Shadow series of sequels to "Ender's Game" (the other series of sequels being the Speaker of the Dead series). Now, it was a great re-union to meet all of the characters again. Some I remembered vividly. Others I had actually managed to forget. Perhaps I should have done what my sister often does and re-read the whole series before each new part.
Anyways, "Ender's Game" is a remarkable novel. "Ender's Shadow", that is a parallel story to "Ender's Game", seen from Been's instead of Ender's perspective. Both are better than their many sequels but it is, nevertheless, good to be able to follow what happens with Been, Petra, and the other members of Ender's Jeesh on an Earth that has resumed international conflicts since the alien invasion, that united Earth against the external threat, has been thwarted.
Card continues to explore the possibilities of what Earth's actual history might lead to, after the catalyst of an alien invasion has been fought off. How does the old super-powers, USA and Soviet/Russia positions themselves? What about China, India, and the league of Islam nations? And tied up in the midst of national ambitions floats the children from Battle School. However, they are far from helpless.
All in all, the complete series is more recommendable than the later parts like this one.
(English, 1 October 2009)
This book was mentioned in a recent issue of Men's Health and I happened to come across an used copy. Perhaps not what I usually read, but it was surprisingly interesting. It consists of four logical parts: 1) The introduction that accounts for the similarities, differences, and common misconceptions regarding the fields of Biology, Ethno-biology, and Socio-biology. (Perper is a biologist, so guess which variant he defends.) 2) The field observation findings, especially female proceptivity and men's conscious unawareness of the same. 3) The conclusion, touching on religion and whatnot. 4) The appendix, accounting for the choice of observational method.
Of these parts, I found the first, third and fourth interesting. I must confess that my popular belief of Biology was coloured of both what Perper calls Ethno-biology (so to say, superstitious beliefs regarding biology) and Socio-biology (how sociologists may view biology), but I am schooled enough to recognize his view of true Biology as scientifically sound. The conclusion in part three was thought provoking, if a bit hard to follow. I mean, he argues well, but it is hard for me as a layperson to verify whether his conclusions are sound or not when he tries to establish a relation between biology and the traditions our societies are based on (religion, customs, etc). The fourth part, the appendix, is interesting because he looks on the field work from a few different methodologies to identify the strength and weaknesses of each, in order to defend their choice of method.
However, the most fascinating part is the second one, were he presents his findings. To sum up really short, contrary to common beliefs, it is the females that really controls human mating dances with what Perper calls proceptivity. It is a play of advances and retreats, escalations and rebuts going through the stages of approach, talk, turning to face each other, touch, and finally body synchronization. What Perper found through field observation is that it is the females that remains in control through these stages and, furthermore, that they generally are aware and can talk of their single actions (even if they don't see the overall picture). Males, on the other hand, unconsciously respond to female proceptivity - if they are attracted by the female - but they are consciously totally unaware of the process and could generally not describe it verbally if their life depended on it. Hence the male belief in the magic of pick-up lines and such, used as rituals to get the girl but in reality totally powerless, unless the female at hand is attracted to the male using them.
This is really fascinating stuff - especially since it goes against the common knowledge of the aggressive male as initiator of the mating dance. According to Perper, most often, when the male notices the female, she has seen him first and maneuvered to have him discover her.
Not the easiest read - after all, it is a science report - but given that the subject is of interest to most of mankind, it is a very rewarding book after all. It kind of triggers an urge to learn more about Biology and Sociology in order to be able to better verify or disprove Perper's findings.
(English, 15 September 2009)
You cannot but compare this novel with "The Story of O" as both are tales of male domination and female submission. However, I must say that, on the whole, "Nine and a Half Weeks" is a lot more realistic. You get a feeling that it actually could have happened. In "The Story of O", you had this brotherhood of full-time male sadists. In "Nine and a Half Weeks", you have this man that gradually takes over the woman's life and both cares for her - reading to her, feeding, bathing, and dressing her - and uses (abuses) her. Since the abuse turns more and more advanced over time, you are left unsure whether he planned it the whole time and just were looking for a suitable victim or if it just happen, that the two happened to bring the dominance/submission out in each other.
It is rather well written and must have been rather controversial when it was first published in the late seventies. Today, it isn't really that shocking any more. These days, we are kind of used to a lot of kinkier sexual practices in books and especially in movies and TV series.
An interesting read.
(German, 10 September 2009)
This is very much a parallel to Henrik Fexeus "Konsten att läsa tankar". Havener is a stage magician and mentalist and in this novel, he shares with the reader both the background of his career and many of the basic method he uses to surprise and impress his public. Some material is the same as in Fexeus' book. Other parts is more of what you can find in Bandler's production. The best parts is, of course, the ones I haven't seen anywhere else before.
Basically, Havener stresses the ability to observe as much as possible to be able correlate multiple observations and from them draw conclusions about things you should know - to be able to give the impression that you can read thoughts.
However, what interested me the most were his references to a few motivational training methods.
The German in this book was surprisingly easy to follow, considering the subject!
(English, 30 August 2009)
This was another gem from Bandler. This one has a focus on time distortion phenomena and is a mixture of his earlier seminar transcripts and his later text books. Although this, too, is a transcript of a seminar, it is edited with the readers in mind and he actually on several occasions gives one set of instructions to the seminar audience and another to "you in literature land".
What struck me while reading this book is how information dense it is. It would really be worthwhile to read it again or to have it handy to just browse in, when one have some time to spare. Of course, to really benefit, one should take notes while reading it and then review the notes a few times. Probably, one could use the time distortion techniques described in the book to get enough time to closely study the same. Hmmmm. ;-)
OK, this was just plainly a too thin book. It is more of a survey than an in-depth description on self-hypnosis. Just too bad, because it isn't bad, it is giving you a peak on broader subjects, teasing your appetite.
The best parts is actually the ones not on hypnosis but on meditation and biofeedback. Tebbets shows how they all are more or less related and/or variants of each other.
Probably a good introduction to the field but rather thin if you already have some knowledge on the matter.
(English, 18 August 2009)
This was a disappointment. After one (1) very brief self-hypnosis induction that is stressed that one will need to learn, they go through application after application were the authors themselves have successfully taught self-hypnosis to their clients to solve their different problems. No application was especially intriguing and they naturally made no allowance for anyone that their preferred induction method might not be suitable for. A rather tedious and pointless book.
Actually, about the one thing that fascinated - and both scared me and gave me hope - was the book's total rootedness in the middle-class world USA in the sixties. Boy, have we come a long way since then! Their sections on what husbands and wives should tell themselves during hypnosis to make their marriage better are hilarious. Totally unequal. The husband is only supposed to provide financial security for his wife and the wife is supposed to allow for the husbands sexual needs. You could probably use this book as historical material in a gender equality class.
It is interesting to compare this book with Blythe's "Self-Hypnosis". Of course, the 13 years and Atlantic Ocean between them might explain some of the difference but even then the fact remains that Blythe is much more above society, much more timeless in his narration than Capiro and Berger that squarely is stuck in the sixties.
Avoid as a self-hypnosis book. Read it for a time-travelling experience to the sixties.
(English, 12 August 2009)
This was a pleasant surprise. Although it mirrors a different society, it feels astonishing fresh and up to date. I really like Blythe's tone. He gets a bit tedious at times when he at length repeats the warning not to use self-hypnosis to treat symptoms of psychological problems, but just bad habits (habitual problems). However, the real strength of the book is the multiple methods of self-hypnosis that he presents and then revisits through later parts of the book. It is simply a case of good old British professionalism and thoroughness.
Blythe's concluding section on the future of the field and on biofeedback was really interesting. Alas, his prediction on how far the developments would have got and how widespread the application would have got by today is proved by hindsight to be rather optimistic.
An excellent introductory textbook.
(English, 7 August 2009)
This volume concludes Canavan's Black Magician Trilogy. Not surprisingly, it is thicker than the earlier ones but I would gladly have seen it split into two books (which would mess up the trilogy), because the big climax could have been covered more in depth. Now it was rushed through pretty quickly.
However, Canavan has done a thorough job. She has clearly have had an outline of the plot for the whole trilogy ready before even completing the first part.
At one point in the novel, after two of the characters miraculously survived an event, I begun to suspect that Canavan had troubles killing her darlings. A few chapters later, I could see that my suspicion was ungrounded as the corpses begun to pile up...
Good fantasy - not epic, but good.
(English, July 22 2009)
Wow! This was easily the best book authored or co-authored by Bandler that I have read to date. Although it still addresses therapists helping others, it also includes much more on the subject of working with oneself. Unlike his "Get the Life You Want", that was a bit on the thin side theorywise, I find "Richard Bandler's Guide to Trance-formation" to be very well balanced regarding practise and theory. Of course, it is full of Bandler's humour, too.
I perceive this book as a survey of Bandler's research, updated as how he regards it today, but selected with the newcomer in mind. It is no easy stuff, not by a long shot, but if one would really do the exercises Bandler includes and practise a lot, I deem it possible to put the contents to good use for oneself. To help others, you probably need a lot more training.
(English, 15 July 2009)
I have known about the infamous "Story of O" a long time (at least since the mid-nineties). However, this was the first time I read it. I must say that it was much more than I thought. It must have been quite scandalous when it first was published. Today, despite the severe whippings and anal tearing, it is more harmless - not the least because of the, with modern measures, quite careful and endearing language. I mean, how often today do you hear about a man entering a woman's womb with his member? Or refer to a blow-job as a embrace? (Of course, I have read an English translation, but I hope it is true to the French original.)
No, the sex scenes are pretty harmless with today's pornographic abundance. I have a lot harder to cope with the whippings and floggings. This it pain for pain's sake with the intent to mark O physically (welts gone black, fine scars criss-crossing O's skin, even hot-iron branding...). I find all this torture revolting. Yet, it is fascinating to see how O - even though she fears the session and screams and cries throughout them - consents to the whippings beforehand and is both proud and grateful for them afterwards. Here the novel reaches unexpected psychological depths. Somewhere in the novel, I started thinking about the Stockholm Syndrome, the one where hostages identifies themselves with their captors, becomes emotionally attached to them and express loyalty to them. I think it fits O. That René shares her with others, she interprets as proof of his love. She so much enjoys the feeling of having endured each torture session afterwards that she is grateful to her tormentors for receiving them and readily consents to the next one in advance. She actually bases her self-worth on how others (mis-)uses her, making her so proud of it that she doesn't even keep her situation secret to outsiders towards the end of the novel. She also starts to love Sir Stephen, not despite but because of his harsher demands. Weird, but hardly totally fictional stuff.
The novel ends pretty abruptly. The final is an elaborate scene were O is objectified in extreme, but yet it feels somewhat like an anti-climax, as so much was built up and then just left hanging.
I believe that "Story of O" offers some insights in the psychology of dominance. At the same time, it's quite typical that all the submissive are females while almost all dominant are male. A fine example of Gender Equality...
(English, 10 Jul 2009)
In this, the second installation of The Black Magician Trilogy, the parallels to Harry Potter get more pronounced. Yet, Canavan's story is original. The similarities are more of co-incidences. For example, the traits Regin shares with Draco Malfoy are eternal elements of evil spoiled brats' total conviction that the dirty deeds they they do are justified.
In another aspect, Canavan is truly original. I cannot recall ever have read a Fantasy novel containing homosexuality as one of the supporting threads to the story.
I must mention Canavan's habit of giving Fantasy names to ordinary things, like tea and coffee, and most common insects and domestic animals. It's an at the same time both endearing and effective way of making Sonea's world more real to her readers.
All in all a pretty simple story, yet with lots of merits and quite hard to put down.
(The particular copy I lent from my sister happened to be damaged. Although no physical pages were missing, about 15 pages in the middle were missing! I.e., from one page to another, the page number jumped in mid-sentence. Extremely annoying!)
(English, 2 July 2009)
I've read a lot of Strauss' later books (both the other ghost-written ones and the "The Game" that is his own) but I must say that I am impressed by the quality of his first one. Clearly, as an author/ghost-writer, Strauss really hit the road running.
To me, the trait that stands out the most with this Mötley Crüe biography is that it is so thrilling. I actually eagerly turned page to see what would happen - even as I knew that the band presently is re-united and touring again.
In a way, the fascination "The Dirt" arose in me is related to my odd fascination "American Psycho". Somehow, the excesses and lunatics of both books are so exotic and far from me that I read them with great but unexpected interest.
Given that I grew up during the height of Mötley Crüe's career, it is a bit odd that the only one of their songs I know is "Home Sweet Home". I know a lot of the other bands and artists they meet throughout the book a lot better. Yet, it is inspiring to hear the tale of how the four members came to form Mötley Crüe and sail higher and higher on charts and fame (on infame).
It is no small wonder that they actually have survived all these years, despite abundant temporary sexual liaisons, booze binges, drug over-doses, bar-brawls and ill-conceived pranks. (The piss-licking contest with Ozzy Osborne being one of the relatively safe ones.)
The book also serves as yet another peephole into the inner workings of the music and entertainment industry and is in that aspect a bit educational. On the other hand, Mötley Crüe is an example of that you can make it despite not seeing eye to eye with the the same industry.
An interesting read that removed some and strengthened others of my prejudices about Mötley Crüe and hard-rockers.
(English, 12 June 2009)
Well, I don't know how I do it, but once again has a, shall we say un-orthodox, book found its way into my hands. Shade is one of these fellows that makes money by selling e-books and holding seminars on how to be more successful with the ladies. This, however, is no e-book but an actual paperback I purchased via the Swedish web-bookshop Adlibris. It might not be the most exclusively set book and it relies to some extent on emails Shade has received over the years. Yet, I would say that this paperback still stands at least a head taller than your common online e-book that comes packaged in so much endorsements that it gets counter-productive.
Anyway, this book has more credible feel to it. Yet the subject is clearly not politically correct. To quite crudely sum it up, Shade argues that A) females possesses a greater sexual potential than men but that they generally are B) socially conditioned to not take advantage of it and that they thus require C) men to unlock their potential by leading in the bedroom.
I am fully convinced that Shade is right about A). I mean, females are a lot more commonly multi-orgasmic than men, aren't they? And B) is a no brainer. Why do you think teenage boys with many partners are considered studs while their female counterparts are considered sluts? However, C) isn't as clear. Shade argues his case well, but it goes a bit against the idea of gender equality that is very much a reality in modern Sweden (probably more so than in other places of our world).
The intricacies of the core message aside, the really fun and fascinating stuff is all the practical tips Shade shares with the reader on how to actually lead in the bedroom. The first one, gaining the respect of your girl, is quite obvious but he offers a lot more than that - deep spot massage and advanced clitoris stimulation, really dirty talk that only is for the appropriate sexual situation and would be downright offensive in other settings, twenty minutes and longer sustained orgasms, etc. I'm talking things that made me blush! The range of hardcore technicalities is worth the price of the book alone - regardless if you are more amused or more offended by them. (Not for the faint of hearted, but you might find something worth trying on for size.)
Yes, this book is on the whole not politically correct. Yes, many would find parts of it offensive. Yes, feminists would probably go berserk. Yet I cannot fail to notice that the bottom line that Shade advocates is that we should put our ladies pleasure before our own and that we should push the envelope as far as it can go with regards to how much pleasure we give our ladies. This, at least, is in my opinion admirable.
(English, 10 June 2009)
Unlike most of Bandler's books, which are transcripts of seminars, this contains only partly seminar-transcripts. The rest is actually video-transcripts. This is a bit unfortunate, because even if you have the complete dialog and Bandler at times writes comments on what we cannot see in the transcript, you still miss the complete video. The strength in the book lies in the extensive analysis of the video transcript, down to each NLP concept used in the dialogs. Real textbook stuff. Yet, it isn't as enjoyable to read as his other books.
(English, 9 June 2009)
This is a praised novel that has won prizes. However, it never really caught me. I mean, it was good and I had no problem finishing it, but, at the same time, I didn't fall for it hook, line, and sinker. It was a nice, not great reading experience and I am still a bit bland about it. Yet I cannot put my finger on what element is lacking from it.
Nevertheless, it is a grand family saga were the narrating voice of Cal explains how he/she came about by tracing the lives of first her grandparents and then her parents, with lots of other friends and relatives in supporting roles. I wrote he/she, because that is the core of it. The main character is a hermaphrodite which, not surprisingly, carries some ramifications for him/her.
Eugenides has at the same time a creative side, imagining grand and absurd plot, and a sense for details, working hard to grant his more wild ideas some credibility. For instance, Middlesex, the area of Detroit where Cal grew up in - what a fitting name for an hermaphrodite to live in, don't you think?
Apparently, Eugenides is also the author of "The Virgin Suicides", the novel that Sofia Coppola made a movie of. As I liked the movie, I should perhaps read that novel, too.
Grand story, perfect to case boring moments away, but I didn't exactly chose to read it over other activities. The best I have to say about it is that it taught me a lot of Greek culture and of the science of human hermaphrodism.
(Swedish, 22 May 2009)
Since reading the second part of Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, I have actually started on two other novels but when the opportunity to have the third part as travel companion from Dresden to Stockholm, I of course took it. It was such a great in-flight read that I actually got quite a shock when the plane set down at the Cologne-Bonn Airport. I hadn't even noticed that the plane were landing, despite sitting in a window seat! However, as the third part is the thickest in the trilogy, it lasted over the next flight to Stockholm and the evening at home, only to end in bed before I went to sleep.
Boy what a worthy conclusion of the trilogy. Larsson ties up most loose ends and lets Lisbeth Salander even develop a little as a human being. She is really the focal point of the story. All what happens to the other characters are more often direct or indirect consequences of their direct or indirect relations to Salander.
Larsson carries out his two missions well - he both entertains and educates us with his thrilling novel. In this part, he succeeds at giving us hope that there is justice in our society and, at the same time, making us fear secret groups within the authorities that consider themselves above the law. I.e., who controls the controllers? I think it is pretty obvious that Larsson, as an old journalist, consider media as the controller of the controllers. However, when we are touching the subject of conspiracy theory - how come that Larsson died so young? Did anything in his novels come too close to reality? (Let's sincerely hope not.)
It just struck me that Larsson might be called Sweden's answer to Dan Brown - with the difference that Larsson's research seems to be more accurate than Brown's, at least in the area of computer science. (Larsson makes Salander into a plausible if yet unlikely hacker where Brown embarrasses himself with the computer stuff in "Digital Fortress".)
The Millennium Trilogy might not be Nobel Prize literature but in the category of (political) thrillers, it is simply excelling.
(Swedish, 16 May 2009)
Given Larsson's background as a journalist and given the obvious fact that Larsson has researched his thrillers carefully (like the for once plausible and not totally science-fiction description of computer wizards and their hacks and cracks), I begin to discern a pedagogical mission amid all the fast-paced action. I believe that Larsson wanted partially to educate us on the society we live in and partially make us aware of and able to discuss different elements of our society (politicians, authorities, media, laws, and the unlawful). Larsson's true skill is that all this serious stuff is swallowed unnoticed along with the exhilarating ride of reading the novel.
"Flickan som lekte med elden" picks up where "Män som hatar kvinnor" left of and we get to know Lisbeth Salander and her background better as well as the grim fate that awaits her and Michael Blomkvist as things set in motion in the first book accelerates in the second.
Given Larsson's narration skill and careful research, it is not wonder that his thrillers set in a Swedish environment are so popular in Sweden. However, since they also seem to be a huge success abroad, their literary value must transcend the typical Swedish and appeal to readers of all cultures. I.e., there must be some common denominators that is shared at least throughout the Occident.
I read the bulk of the book on an over-night flight from Montreal to Schiphol. Totally perfect in-flight reading material. I had no problem at all to zone out the cabin and bury myself in the novel.
(English, 13 May 2009)
Australian Fantasy at it's best. OK, so I have read better Fantasy but I have a read a lot worse, too. The main strengths of Canavan's novel is its originality (that it isn't obviously mimicking any other author) and the nice feature of giving a lot of common objects Fantasy names (like rat and mouse, beer and coffee, etc). All common enough to be recognized despite the made-up names but the approach contributes immensely to the atmosphere of the story.
A decent reading experience. I look forward to reading the sequels.
(English, 6 May 2009)
The faithful readers of this page knows the drill by know. Like most of Bandler's and Grinder's books from this period, this, too, is compiled by the Andreases from transcripts of seminars held by Bandler and Grinder.
"Reframing" continues where "Frogs to Princes" left off. I.e., it builds further on the six-step reframing model with more advanced reframing models and applications.
Like the other similar books, the focus is on educating therapist in cool tools for them to use on their clients. I.e., there is less to find to use on oneself. In fact, one of the parts I found most fascinating - the one where one's unconsciousness is taught the six-step reframing model to be practiced on an problematic behavior of the unconsciousness choice every night just after one's conscious mind has drifted of to sleep - is better installed by someone other than by oneself.
Although this is one of their titles with the most presented practical applications of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it is at the same time one of the thinnest on personal usages.
(English, 2 May 2009)
Ok, this not-so-thick novel was pretty weird. On the surface, it is a fantasy story about a prince with an identity crisis and the adventures he encounters in an enchanted world. Below the surface, it is supposed to packed full with Neuro-Linguistic Programming. However, as hard as I tried, I could not pick out any but the most obvious of them (plays with word like somewhere, nowhere, and - of course - the name the prince bears for most of the story: Anybody). Yet I suspect that there also might be cleverly formulated phrases that sounds like other phrases that get picked-up by the reader's subconscious while the conscious mind only gets what actually is written. At least, it was tricks like that I was busy looking for. It might very well be the case that numerous other clever tricks went right by my nose unnoticed (unnoticed by my conscious mind, that is) while I tried to "hear" such "overlayed" phrases. Anyway, I will research the book a little via Google. There might be some spoilers somewhere.
Bandler states in the foreword that this was his pet project and escape from writing lots of textbooks. It is supposed to be some sort of general, covert therapy for the reader. It will probably be beneficial to read it again and again now and then. Who knows, some positive effect might stick. At least, it makes for an exciting game to try to spot NLP constructs hidden in the narration.
The story itself is pretty thin and confusing as it repeatedly takes off in totally unexpected directions. Yet, most elements are your average Saga and/or fantasy stuff, so you feel kind of familiar, despite all the directions changes.
All in all, weird but strangely fascinating.
(English, 24 April 2009)
Wilson might have studied psychology but this book is equally much about quantum physics. It seems that Wilson, by chance, noticed the similarities between modern psychology and quantum physics and thus named this book "Quantum Psychology". It is thinner than his "Prometheus Rising" but equally entertaining (for physicist probably more entertaining). However, on the whole, Wilson tries to convey the same message as in "Prometheus Rising": that of the evolving human mind and what you can do to reach the higher levels yourself.
One of the details I found most entertaining was the war Wilson declared on the verb "be" and in particular its form "is". Apparently, some physicist discovered that much of the peculiarities introduced by quantum physics, that physicist and non-physicist alike had most trouble getting their heads around, disappeared when one rewrote the descriptions of it without using "is". Kind of makes sense, doesn't it, to defuse relativity by removing the word "is" that is most responsible for all absolute. Needless to say, in an universe governed by the theory of relativity, nothing is absolute and hence nothing "is" ever objectively and absolute something.
It just struck me that I should probably have written this mini-review without "is", in honour of Wilson's book. OK, I will try my best to write the rest of it without "is". Starting now.
Wilson and those who agrees with him call the English with out that particular word English prime or E' for short. They advocates general use of it, as E' helps us think more clearly and precise.
Other bearing elements in the book include numerous examples of how rigid traditions (religion, classical physics, Aristotelian logic) continue to influence the way we think and plague or society (politics), Schrödinger's cat, and Einstein's mouse (I had forgot about that one).
Any academician with some playfulness left will undoubtedly find this book most enjoying and entertaining.
(Swedish, 16 April 2009)
As I have read several of Bandler's and Grinder's books on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it was quite refreshing to find a book by a Swedish author on an much overlapping topic. Translated to English, the title of the book reads "The Art of Mind-Reading", but it is really about how to become a better communicator (i.e., becoming better at conveying your message as well as understanding/reading others). Like Bandler and Grinder, Fexeus repeatedly hammers in the message that the meaning of what you communicate to others isn't defined by what you meant it to be but by the result you get (what the other thought you meant). In other words, the meaning of what you are trying to say is whatever the receiver understands, so don't get frustrated by people that misunderstand you - just refine your message until it is received as intended.
Of course, Fexeus doesn't refer to the popular view on mind-reading - to be able to read others actual thoughts. He only borrows the term because he argues that with a little practise, you can pick up so many signals from other people besides the words their mouths are forming that you can learn surprisingly much of what goes on inside them (without actually reading their thoughts - something that is totally impossible anyway at our current level of technology).
It is here the book becomes a bit delicate. Although Fexeus wants to educate us in order for us to be better communicators and give us the tools to do good by helping others go from bad feelings to brighter moods, the opposite is equally possible. Fexeus threatens to come after anyone who misuses their new knowledge, but that it, of course, a pretty empty threat. However, like so many other things, this knowledge of how to communicate is only a tool and thus neither good or bad. How you use it only reflects on yourself.
What I appreciated most in the book was how Fexeus broke down the art of picking out signals in other in manageable chunks and how he outlined a course were you try to learn one element at a time until you move on to the next (patience is a virtue). Also, he use a lot of intriguing examples of which the ones from politics and commercials was among the most fascinating.
As the book has a lot of illustrations and many of them being photos, the whole pocket-book is printed on thin, glossy paper, making the book both heavier and feeling more high-quality than other pocket-books. It is, of course, not vital for the contents, but is nevertheless very nice. More bang for the buck, so to speak.
Whether you intend to really learn and use what Fexeus offers you or you just like to read about to orient yourself, this book will entertain you, sometimes shock you, and constantly jog your brain in a good way. Recommended.
(English, 12 April 2009)
Meyer proved with her Twilight-series that she is an original author but in "The Host", she really packages and super-original idea in a most pleasant novel. If I remember the backside cover blurb correctly, it said something about "the worlds first triangle drama with only two bodies". Without spoiling to much, the book is about a invasion on earth by a breed of body-snatching aliens. Luckily, the resourceful human race isn't about to give up without a fight and Meyer are there to explore the ramifications and tell us a compelling story about it.
"The Host" shares some traits with the Twilight-series, like impossible love and the frustrations of restraining oneself from the same love. This is so far really a trademark of Meyer's authorship. Another thing they have in common is non-human beings with super-human abilities. On the less positive side, "The Host" is even more American than the Twilight-series (despite a huge part of the Twilight-series being your run-of-the-mill high-school drama). At the same time, luckily, "The Host" can be said to be even more foreign than the Twilight-series.
Unfortunately, you cannot get into specifics about this novel without risking to spoil the reading experience for new readers. Thus, I better end this review here, but "The Host" was a brilliant and refreshing nail-biter of a story. It might be too contemporary to become a timeless classic, but I can recommend it warmly anyway. Read it, you will in all probability like it.
OK, I have a feeling that by reading numerous titles by Bandler & Grinder (edited by either one or both of the Andreases), I get a deeper understanding of the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. A variant of triangulation, sort of. Of course, it helps that Bandler's and Grinder's books aren't totally overlapping but dedicated to different aspects of their theories. This volume, "Frogs into Princes", is somewhat more of an introductory than the others (or I might feel that way due to having read a few of their other books before this one).
Like so many of their other textbooks, this is an edit of numerous transcripts of seminars held by Bandler & Grinder and is mainly targeted at therapist looking to expand their professional repertoire. This, of course, makes it more challenging to find personal uses of the presented theories. However, the main method explained in depth in the book, a six step model of reframing, is actually possible to use by one self on one self! This quality does not surprisingly leverage quite an interest in the fascinating utilizations of the method.
Speaking of the authors' different titles each having their own focus - actually, the next book of theirs I have procured is called "Reframing" and further expands on the subject of reframing, so evidently there are some overlapping going on between their texts.
One of my absolute favourites of the key-points the authors offers is that of generative change. I.e., instead of focusing on remedial change (to fix presenting problem X) one should rather look into generative change - to multiply one's available choices for different situations or to go for becoming better at one's already strong skills. The authors argues the case that when chooses this pursuit, any other problems disappear by themselves. There's a elegant model, don't you think?
(Swedish, 31 March 2009)
Oh my, such a plethora of broken people - a lot more than in Nilsson's earlier novels, if my memory serves me correctly. There is a strength in the numerous characters though. It is easy to find one or more that you either can identify yourself with more than the others or that you feel more for than the others. However, be warned. Even if Nilsson often has described appalling things in her novels (especially the first one, based on the cruelties of children to the lone kid that stands out), this title is really filled with misery and a lot of sexual abuse not present in her earlier works.
All characters isn't that broken, luckily. Fredrik, Gunbritt, and Katja all functions really well even if they isn't exactly normal (for whatever normal means). Others are a lot worse, with different mixes of physical and psychological problems.
I have recently in this page written about the heavy Swedish literary tradition of depicting broken people and misery. However, to me, Nilsson is on a level of her own. Most Swedish people use the misery like a backdrop, to spice up the background of their central story. For Nilsson, the misery is a very central element in itself. Even if Nilsson's novels sometimes ends on a lighter note, where the main characters has more or less successfully dealt with their personal miseries, the misery still is a bearing theme - far from the common supporting element of other Swedish contemporary works.
All in all, it was nice to get back to Nilsson. I have previously read her four first novels but have apparently missed some of her later ones. I believe this to be her seventh or eight novel - children's books uncounted. It thus seems that I have more of her works to read.
(English, 27 March 2009)
This was easily the most fascinating text-book I have read in a long time. The whole book is on pair with the chapter from "Blueprints for High-Availability" on how the NYBOT stock exchange survived the events on September 11th 2001 when the Twin Towers fell on their building, demolishing it totally.
However, "Trance-formations" is not perfect. Since it is condensed by the editor Connirae Andreas from a number of transcripts of seminars by Grinder and Bandler targeted at therapists, it is very much about how to work with others. I would have been more interested in more on how to work with yourself. On the other hand, it is a stimulating challenge to try to come up with personal usages for all of the therapy methods.
Also, near the end of the book, there is a ten page chapter on self-hypnosis with just above two pages on its utilization in combination with the different techniques the book discusses. A bit on the short side but fascinating nevertheless.
You can read this book in many ways: as a skeptic, as someone interested in becoming a better communicator, as a therapist genuinely interested in enlarging your toolbox of methods to help clients with, or just as your run-of-the-mill curious person. It would probably be entertaining for everyone.
(English, 17 March 2009)
In principle, this should be exactly what I wanted - a self-help book by one of the founders of NLP, recently written, and thus filled with the gold nuggets of his collected experience of the last thirty years.
However, it doesn't work like that for me. I think there is too little resistance. I.e., all the short chapters on how to deal with one's phobias or to quit smoking (the ubiquitous example, totally worthless for a non-smoker like me) seems on the one hand just too easy (can it really work?) and, on the other hand, lacks the necessary depth of theory (this is probably why I like Bandler's and Grinder's books from the eighties so much since they are theory-driven).
In order to use this book to your advantage, you need an open mind and to invest a lot of time to really try the outlined methods out, as described, to evaluate them and build a belief in them. I will probably continue to read Bandler's other books and might not ever get around to come back to this one (even if it might be a mistake not to).
(English, 11 March 2009)
This volume suited me in a lot of ways. It is really a number of transcripts from live seminars that Bandler have held that has been edited by the Andreases into a book. Judging from the comments on Amazon, a lot of people don't like that and would rather have seen it written more like a traditional textbook. However, I found that I liked this format a lot. Evidently, a written down seminar suits me very well.
This title is currently out of print, so I had to get hold of a used copy with some underlining and writings in the marginals. Not perfect, but at least all of the text was readable.
The book is about practical usage of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which Bandler co-originated with John Grinder. However, contrary to popular belief, NLP is not about about getting laid, even if it is (mis-)used by pick-up artist (read Strauss' "The Game" for instance). It is actually more fascinating than that. That Bandler chose to call it NLP reflects his background as mathematician/computer scientist with an interest for psychology and language. What Bandler and Grinder really did were to study successful therapist from the fields of psychology and hypnosis and mimic the successful parts of the format of their methods - without regards to the content nor theory behind the methods. You can call NLP the distilled successful elements of a range of therapeutic techniques.
Does it work? The author presents a compelling case supporting the claim and there a huge body of practitioners (both of the therapist kind and the sales person/pick-up artist variety) although I have seen some criticism of it on the Internet.
This book only covers NLP for different therapeutic uses, like quit smoking, cure phobias, work with habits and compulsions and the like. I will probably try to test on some of my phobias, to at least have given it a fair evaluation.
The mission Bandler claims in the book is to better educate people on how the brain works and how to better take control of one's brain in order to be able to run one's life instead of having one's brain run it instead (think phobias).
I found it very interesting and want to learn more before deciding if it is for real or if it doesn't deliver.
(Swedish, 5 March 2009)
Who-ha! Until now, I have been resistant to the hype, what with the new movie and all, but as my sister highly recommended the novel and lent me her copy, I read it. A surprisingly well crafted piece of an original Swedish Crime/Suspense Thriller. Too bad that Larsson died 2004, only 50 years old. He would probably written a lot of good novels, had he lived to be a hundred.
True to my habit, I will not spoil anything but it is refreshing to find that the female lead character is a computer-wiz depicted without the common naïve errors of your ordinary novel writer. See, for instance, Brown's abysmal computer jargon from "Digital Fortress". Larsson either had a understanding of computers that Brown lacks or had better advisers/proofreaders.
Sure, the novel at times makes for some spectacular stunts, but it retains a high degree of trustworthiness throughout the whole story. One feels like it might really have happened that way, if it had been real. However, some passages surely isn't for the faint of hearted... *brrr*
Not surprisingly, like with many of the novels I have given high praise on this page, this, too, contained a subtleness on precisely the right level so that I was able to guess a vital outcome before it happened. Don't you just love authors that appeal to one's own self-admiration that way?
You can safely go ahead and read this novel. The chances are really good that you will like it.
(Swedish, 2 March 2009)
This book can be summed up as be your own head-hunter. I.e., instead of apply the traditional way to job ads and compete with hundreds of other applicants, you should yourself make the job of the professional recruiter and carefully determine your own strengths and weaknesses as well as research the needs of interesting companies - preferably such ones that isn't currently advertising job openings but where you can make a strong case to how you can be of use and in what direction they should move. ;-)
Granted, this is no easy feat, but the idea to match yourself to future positions before they are publicly advertised are a good one - to go for the so called hidden jobs. Evidently, more and more jobs are never advertised because it is cheaper to recruit from a small number of strong spontaneous applications or otherwise already known or recommended candidates than to have to wade through heaps of more or less matching applications from an public advertisement.
Frykman, once a dentist that switched careers and now are on his third one, this time as an personal development and career coach, is admittedly tooting his own horn with this book as he share with us the program for job hunting he has developed. However, the program makes sense and the tools for investigating one's owns skills and weaknesses seems really helpful.
The same as Juul, Frykman lightens the book with numerous examples of successful job searches from his own experience and former clients.
I might read the book the way the devil reads the Bible but I would like to think that I at least have done much right in the cover letters I have sent with my job applications over the years. However, I have yet to make an attempt at being my own head-hunter. Who knows, one day I might.
(Swedish, 21 February 2009)
This was an interesting book about child rearing, advocating the main thesis that your child is more competent than you think (and are able to perceive). Juul has worked with children and dysfunctional families all over the world and sprinkles his narration with enlightening examples from his own experience. These are one of the best aspects of the book. Through the examples, he can really drive his points home.
The to me two most important lessons of the book is A) to really see your child and its feelings and not just what the child does, and B) learning the child to primary take responsibility for him-/herself instead of the today more common practise of teaching them to take social responsibility.
I.e., when your child searches your attention, acknowledge the child's feelings and, most importantly, verbalize your acknowledgment. Juul exemplifies this with a girl calling out to her mother when on a playground slide. According to Juul, the mother should not answer the girl with "-How good you are doing" (thereby putting pressure on the girl to always perform well in order to win her mothers approval) or "-Be careful so you don't hurt yourself" (thereby undermining the girls confidence and making her afraid). Instead, the mother should acknowledge her girl by putting names to the girls feelings: "-It looks like you are having a lot of fun. Isn't it a bit thrilling, too?" (thereby learning the girl to communicate more efficiently about feelings and moods). There is a subtle but vital difference between urging the child to be careful (putting the parents feelings foremost and being overly protective) and acknowledge the child's own feelings of joy and suspense (giving the child names for his/her emotion). Better to have a child that actually can verbalize his/her moods than only act them out, don't you think?
It might sound provoking to promote responsibility for oneself before social responsibility (responsibility for others) but according to Juul, it has been shown that social responsibility comes naturally to people that first takes responsibility for their own well-being while, at the same time, we that have been raised to first take social responsibility often put the well-being of other before our own and thus, alas, often are doing less well ourselves.
Regardless if my examples above sounds right or wrong to you, the book will be able to give you food for thought.
(English, 11 February 2009)
This book has the sub-title "There is no such thing as hypnosis". Yet the book definitely is about hypnosis. However, the sub-title is a homage to the way the book butchers any popular belief one might have regarding hypnosis. To spell it out: this book is about therapeutic hypnosis, even including some neuro-linguistic programming.
It is not an easy book - yet it is very well written. It is challenging in the way that just with a little effort, you are amply rewarded. However, if you let your mind wander, your eyes quickly glaze over, (perhaps not something one want them to do over a book on hypnosis - right, lucky there are no such thing) and you end up having to re-read the last paragraph or page. The language in itself isn't hard - it is the concepts that are staggering. Also, Heller writes in a admirable terse and succinct style which makes it important to pay close attention, lest one loses Heller's thread.
Although the book is pretty thin, it contains a surprisingly large amount of interesting concepts, with implications for how we treat our friends and family and how to recover from troubled minds. I especially found Heller's chapters on what he calls "systems" and anchors very interesting. He identifies different input and output systems that, depending on the situation, can be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (or even gustatory or olfactory). Given that you can identify which systems a troubled person is using, (is stuck in) you can use them to help the person.
Unfortunately, the book is squarely aimed at therapists who helps others and I see no direct way to practise what the book teaches on oneself.
(Swedish, 2 February 2009)
My main impression of this novel is originality - both a high degree of it and a fascinating lack of it. If we begin with the true originality, Lindqvist has written something completely new and fresh on the Swedish literary scene: a genuine horror story, and done it well. With regards to how much media cover the novel and the movie adaption of it have got, I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to tell you that it is a vampire novel. However, compared to Meyer's vampires of her Twilight Saga, Lindqvist's vampires are a whole other species (originality!) with their own quirks. Of course, they are enough alike the canonical vampire that they end up with the vampire label. Altogether, we don't learn that much of them in the novel, but the obscurity only feeds one's curiosity and adds to the appreciation of the novel.
What about the lack of originality then? Well, I find it quite fascinating that a new, young Swedish author like Lindqvist, that revitalizes the literary scene with his horror novel, still conforms to the heavy Swedish literary tradition of depicting misery and broken people. Granted, many of Lindqvist's character are more broken than most, but they don't step far from the numerous examples of Swedish crime novels by authors like Mankell, for instance. I really should read more of the twentieth century worker authors, to see if what I just summed up as "misery and broken people" really is some sort of twentieth century realism, the continuation of the movement of authors of the people that wrote about the masses for the masses. But, once again, I digress...
The strong points of Lindqvist ground-breaking horror novel is his original take on the ancient vampire legend, his choice of a bleak Stockholm concrete suburb as the setting, and his choice of 1981 as the year of the events. I started school that year, which makes me just a couple of years younger than Lindqvist's main character Oskar. Thus, I can recognize much of Oskar's environment although it, naturally, was quite a difference to grew up in a concrete complex in a capital city suburb like Oskar compared to a (dare I say) idyllic Northern Sweden village like me. (I don't think I even heard about concepts like sniffing glue and narcotics until years later...) All in all, I recognized myself enough to really appreciate the novel and regarding the details I couldn't relate to myself, well, I rather count myself lucky.
Is this novel for anyone? No - you need to be able to stomach it and I am not only referring to the nail-biting horror parts, I am to an equally large extent referring to the more revolting perversions and practices of the more broken people among the person gallery... Lindqvist isn't exactly a prude.
(English, 28 January 2009)
This title comes highly recommended and is often mentioned at the same time as Wilson's "Prometheus Rising". However, they are pretty far apart. Where "Prometheus Rising" is though-provoking and mind-blowing, "Undoing Yourself" is cryptic and obscure. Wilson's witty prose is a treat to follow whereas it is clear that Hyatt is muddling his prose deliberately to break the reading flow and play tricks with his readers. Interestingly, Hyatt's "Energized Hypnosis" is a kindergarten text-book in readability compared to "Undoing Yourself". In addition, much of the meditation techniques of the former is included in the latter as well, so unless you really want the challenge, you could go for "Energized Hypnosis" instead of this one.
Who knows? It might be beneficial to read on a subconscious level (there's a scary thought!) but personally I prefer the more clear communication of "Prometheus Rising". The red thread of "Undoing Yourself", however hard to follow, is to break free of chosen and imposed psychic confines to reach one's true potential. However, most of the book just leaves one confused and frustrated, regardless of one wants to or not.
There are some mitigating factors, though, in the form of six included sections and essays by other authors. These proved to simply be more readable than Hyatt's own chapters. I especially appreciated Rose Hartman's "On the Invocation of Eris" and Jack Willis' very practical "And Other Devices".
Clearly, I wasn't yet ready for this one. I wonder if I ever will be? I cannot for my life recommend it as something other than a challenge. You are much better off with Wilson's "Prometheus Rising".
(English, 24 January 2009)
I have had this lying around the house for a while, reading a few pages now and then. Talk about a serious sentimentally trip. Nostalgia extravaganza. Fisher has included around two hundred games from the Commodore 64, presenting each on a page with some screenshots, some trivia, a summary of the game play, and an analysis of what trends and feats that particular game represented.
For me, that got my C64 in -83 (I think) and has it to blame/thank for my present career as a computer professional (software engineer gone systems administrator to be exact), a book like this stirs an ridiculous amount of emotions. I actually bought myself an Stelladaptor to be able to connect one of my old joysticks to my Ubuntu laptop to be able to play the old games in the Vice emulator with the real feeling.
Even as Fisher has included around two hundred C64 games, it cannot be more than a fraction of the total number of games produced for the C64. I missed a lot of games I used to play, like "Jack the Nipper", and "ACE". At the same time, I was surprised to find a lot of games in the book I hadn't seen during my active C64 years.
This book really is intended for a quite small audience - but I am square in the middle of that audience and had a blast reading it and reliving glorious moments from a past when life was a lot less complicated to live. ;-)
(English, 20 January 2009)
Well, this title didn't really include any hypnosis - not any I recognize anyway. Rather, it contains a lot of advanced meditation methods to get to know one's own body and emotions better - especially a way to try to trace where a certain feeling comes from. If you can identify why you once learned a certain feeling as an reaction to some situation, you can evaluate if that feeling still is an adequate answer to the same sort of situation or if you would be better of with another approach.
Thin, not exactly straightforward but strangely fascinating nevertheless.
(English, 17 January 2009)
Blair is a hypno-therapist and self-help author that has zeroed in on the fact that you can lose the sense of time and space when reading an intense part of a gripping novel or when writing something that requires your undivided attention. I.e., the phenomena usually called "flow" that often is something you want when working or studying. Blair argues that having a "flow" episode - being caught up in the task at hand - really is a form of focused trance and as such can be used as an easy mean for self-hypnosis. I.e., instead of closing your eyes and perform whatever rituals that you usually employ to put yourself in a trance, you read out loud the induction Blair provides in the book, thus getting in a light trance which, according to Blair, enables you to benefit from reading loud any of the over thirty scripts for positive change that is included in the book (sleep better, lessen stress, get more healthy skin, etc). If none of the scripts suits you, Blair has also included templates for writing your own (complete with an induction to put you in a light trance before filling in the template, to benefit from it directly).
It is a compelling idea which makes a lot of sense. However, I am not convinced on the quality of his included scripts. I think the real value is rather in the presented background and theory of self-hypnosis which one really should put to practice by creating inductions and scripts oneself to use Blair's way.
(English, 17 January 2009)
So has Meyer's Twilight Saga come to and end. What a marvelous ride it was to read them. Not that they are Nobel Prize material (compare them with anything by Saramago for instance) but they do hold their ground in the torrent of contemporary literature.
Judging by a quick web search for Twilight merchandise, Meyer seem to have had an instant impact on popular culture. I even saw a Twilight reference on German television the other day! I guess I should see the movie, too. Just for the sake of it (not that it will come close to the total reading experience, but many movies based on novels can have qualities in them selves).
Just like in Rowling's "Harry Potter" suite, each of Meyer's follow-ups to "Twilight" swell out and is thicker than the one before. Thus, "New Dawn" is quite a tome but, at the same time, Meyer's language has got more polished than in "Twilight" where you occasionally stumbled on stilted words breaking the flow of reading.
Although I am sad to have to part with Bella and Edward for now, I am glad that Meyer has written a contained story. As much as I love Marathon reading sessions, I don't care much for neverending series (see for instance Kerr's series on Deverry). Meyer has told her tale and tied up the loose ends well. It is good so. It will be a nice reunion when one, a few years down the line, takes the time to re-read the fascinating Twilight Sage.
All in all, a great reading experience.
(English, 9 January 2009)
Who-ha! Meyer's Twilight series goes on with undiminished strength. "Eclipse" even surpasses "New Moon" but cannot rival "Twilight" as the (so far) best of the volumes. It is really a pity that I don't have character enough to ration my reading session to make the Meyer novels last longer. On the other hand, Marathon stretches of reading do support great reading experiences and we are all for great reading experiences, are we not?
In a way, Meyer's Twilight series are similar to Rowling's Harry Potter suite. At their core, both depict adolescence and the struggles of coming to terms with the emotions and struggles associated with coming of age. However, to spice things up, both places the with normal emotions equipped teenagers in environments filled with mythical elements - thus creating compelling sagas that attracts youths and grown-ups alike.
Another aspect of the comparison to Harry Potter is Meyer's originality. Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" wasn't even the first Templar heritage novel - see for instance Cappelli's "Rhapsody for a Unicorn" - but it was probably the most successful and caused an avalanche of new, more or less original, Templar heritage novels (for instance, Caldwell's and Thomason's "The Rule of Four"). The same way, in the wake of Rowling's Harry Potter, there came a lot of novels about magical kids - more or less original. Here we can identify another strength of Meyer. It doesn't matter how many shared traits we can find in Meyer's and Rowling's novel suites. Since Meyer's originality is so strong, they are all reduced to mere coincidences. Additionally, even if Meyer isn't the first to mix vampires or werewolves with teenagers, her Twilight series are original enough that few will call her a copy-cat.
"Eclipse" continues where "New Moon" left of. We learn about the events destiny throws in the way of Bella, Edward, and their friends (and foes). I will avoid any spoilers but Jacob Black and the Quilites plays an even larger rôle in this volume than in the previous ones.
I realise that these novels are not for everyone, but I do recommend you to give "Twilight" a chance. If it proves to be your cup of tea, you will wolf down "New Moon" and "Eclipse", too. Myself, I am already in conflict with myself, debating whether I should save the fourth novel, "New Dawn" for later or begin reading it on this instance.
(English, 5 January 2008)
I have had this title lying around the house for a while, reading a section in it now and then. I had hoped I would have finished it in December, to get it on 2008's count but, evidently, I didn't have resolve enough for that.
I got wind of Coach Sommer's long awaited book on Ross Enemait's web forum and thought it might be interesting to learn a little about how elite gymnasts train so I pre-ordered a copy. Imagine my surprise when I got the book and discovered that it is as much aimed at gymnastic-curious "normal" fitness enthusiasts as serious gymnasts. Even though most of the exercises are beyond my reached (unless, of course, I acquire the time, money, coaching and drive to pursue them), Coach Sommer presents each of them with the necessary progression to reach them.
Some exercises requires gymnastic rings or parallel bars to be performed on. Others are pure body-weight movements (although they require a lot more strength than your average push- or pull-up. On of my absolute favourites, that I gladly would like to be able to do within, say, five or ten years, is the Bowers: start in a free-standing hand-stand from which you perform a controlled descent into a planche and then presses back up to a hand-stand. No equipment needed, but imagine the whole body strength needed to deliberately perform the movements with full control!
Coach Sommer's has written a nice book for any serious trainee. If the exercises are too tough for you, it can still act as a great motivator and source of inspiration and new ideas on how to spice up your own exercise regime.
It is just a pity that Coach Sommer didn't acquire more professional help with the form of the book. I mean, when you print a huge batch of letter sized paperbacks - couldn't you find a layouting software that automatically takes care of hyphenation? As it is, the whole volume is non-hyphenated and there are unfortunately a lot of lines with ridiculously stretched spaces. However, even if the form wavers a bit, the contents are rock-solid.
(English, 5 January 2009)
Another treat from Meyer - and I have two more to go! Lucky me! (I pretty much didn't do anything but read yesterday.)
"New Moon" didn't reach as high as "Twilight", probably because the novelty has worn off a little, but it is still a treat for all of us that has some of our childishness left in us (not to mention sentimentality towards teenage romances - epic teenage romances, even).
In this volume, Meyer self makes references to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and I think we can establish that when teenagers (predominately girls) fussed over romance novels in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, it was over "Romeo and Juliet", Jane Austen's collected works and similar. In the late twentieth century and the twenty-first, the teenagers have acquired a taste for more easily read, more movie-like, more unorthodox and unimaginable experiences. Hence the popularity of Meyer's novel series. One can, of course, discuss if this is good or bad trend. Note though that the border between the genders are becoming more blurred. I.e., once girls read romance novels and boys adventure novels but today the novels are one and the same. That is, in my opinion, a good trend.
"New Moon" are thrilling suspense, burning romance (but kept under control, thus adding to the intensity) and fascinating adventures. I especially like that we learn more about the vampire society in "New Moon" (and another species, too, although they could have been brought to our attention a bit more subtle - as it were, I could guess it long before Bella figured it out and that made me grew a little frustrated with her).
If you are looking for some entertaining light reading, check "Twilight" out - and if you liked "Twilight", definitely go for "New Moon", too.
(English, 3 January 2009)
How do I define "Prometheus Rising"? Most people could probably not care less about it - some would perhaps even be offended by it - but to me this is a rather important book. Not in the way, for instance, Eberhard's "I trygghetsnarkomanernas land" is both important and very current in our society. "Prometheus Rising" is more timeless and general. I have previously written about books I should re-read. This title I probably will re-read pretty soon, for my own pure pleasure, the way you can watch some movies over and over again, always discovering something new and revelling in the favourite scenes (and, in this case, to better digest the contents).
But I digress. "Prometheus Rising" is about an eight layered model of the human mind where we share the first two circuits with all mammals, the third with some fellow and preceding primates and the fourth circuit is what discriminates us from all other life on earth. The emphasis of the book lies on circuits five through eight, though. Circuits that for every increase in level fewer and fewer numbers of people have ever reached. Thus, once could sum up the book as an survey of the sources and research covering this eight circuit mind model, combined with some tips on how to reach the higher circuits as well as some predictions on where mankind are going.
To me, the book is totally mind-blowing. With terminology from the book, I have had my "reality-tunnel" rocked, enlarged, and altered. I have learnt to identify others' reality-tunnels and appreciate that neither theirs nor mine is objectively right or wrong. However, in the big picture, to strive to reach higher circuits are always right.
This is no work of fiction but, at the same time, it is pretty light reading compared to most textbooks. Granted, the concepts are staggering but it is well written and full of Wilson's witty humour, which makes it easy to read and very entertaining (presumably even for bigger skepticals than me).
Now I need to encourage friends and family to read "Prometheus Rising" too, in order to be able to discuss it at length with someone.
(English, 20 December 2008)
First impression: a trifle. However, Cameron's deadpan narration somehow later on in the novel works to increase the intensity and makes the book both alive and interesting. All in all, it makes me think of Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye". If I had read "Getting the Girl" in my teens (if it had been written back then - Zusak is one year younger than me) it might have had a similar impact on me as "The Catcher in the Rye". Now I appreciate it, but it doesn't make any earth-shattering impression.
After Zusak's "The Book Thief", I had expected more (always risky with high expectations). On the other hand, this seems to be his first book, originally published in 1999 under the title "The Underdog" while "The Book Thief" came 2006. I.e., not surprisingly, Zusak has developed his authorship further with every novel. We can probably expect great things from him still to come.
Another fascinating detail in the novel is the Australian slang. I am speculating here, but as I cannot say that I seen the same expressions in other books, I wager that it must be typical for Australia. For example, "Nah, I'll be right" to decline an offer of something to eat or drink. Must be Australian or even Sydney slang, don't you think?
As an end note, I'll offer a small spoiler. "Getting the Girl" isn't just about how to be with the girl in question but also how to understand her. Get it?
(English, 18 December 2008)
Oh my, what a precious lovely little gem of a novel. And what a sentimental old sucker I am... I actually frequently caught myself grinning like a fool over the more delicate passages of the book. Perfect, entertaining, and endearing light reading for me. *purr* (Reflected by the fact that I read the 400-odd pages in four workdays, beginning Monday morning on the commuter train and finishing Thursday morning on the same train, without loosing any work hours nor sleep.)
Granted, the language is a bit stilted in places. I especially noticed a few rather complicated adjectives that broke my reading rhythm and that often easily could have been rewritten with a few extra words without losing any meaning.
But who cares about the form when the contents are so beautiful and endearing? I mused a little over the fact that something so innocent (read: fully dressed) can be so romantic and - I would argue - between the lines erotic. Here lies the strength of Meyer's novel. It balances on the edge but never stumbles onto the plump and graphic side. It keeps beautifully on the innocent side but is full of innuendo and subtle hints of ravishing emotions. Budging teenage love - what a cliché but how well played out in this novel! This is definitively not for everyone but I like it a lot and would not have any problem putting it the hands of my daughter if I ever gets one. (By the way, it was my sister that lent me her copy and urged me to read it. Sis knows that we have quite overlapping taste in books!)
Oh, I should probably touch the subject of vampires too. Yes, it is technically a vampire novel but even "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is scarier. As a vampire book, "Twilight" is only moderately scary. It offers more thrills and suspense in the urge to turn page to know how Bella's life progresses than it holds in the vampire blood sucking business.
You might call it contemporary, lightweight. and hyped - it is still a very well composed and gripping story for anyone with a bit of childishness as well as romantic flair in them. Recommended.
(English, 12 December 2008)
Once again, I have interrupted the flow of fiction and hobby-project related books with something more work related. This volume is about computer related high availability with regards to both computer systems and the services hosted on them. Marcus and Stern begins by noting that you get most effect from the cheapest of actions. As the methods and tools successively get more sophisticated and expensive, they return diminishing effects on the availability. The authors illustrates this with a ten-leveled graph and subsequently goes through each level in length, from Good System Administration Practices to Disaster Recovery.
The book has many strengths, but here are the four I like the most: 1) even though much of the contents are common sense, it is nice to have it collected and structured in one volume, 2) it is possible to read the book from cover to cover - something often not the case with textbooks, 3) the authors have a really nice, dry sense of humor and have sprinkled bits of it throughout the whole book, and 4) they have supported most chapters with brief examples from their own professional experience.
However, the most interesting chapter - by far - is the chapter on how the NYBOT stock exchange survived the events on September 11th 2001. Located in an adjacent World Trace center building to the Twin Towers, they were evacuated soon after the first aircraft struck but the building and the complete computer infrastructure were destroyed when the towers collapsed. Even so, 12 hours later, the NYBOT was operating again from their Disaster Recovery site in Queens. The chapter describes this truly amazing feat which was possible to equal amounts of good planning and pure luck. They had had the good sense to acquire a disaster recovery site a few years earlier but the plans only contained scenarios were they would be force out of their ordinary building for perhaps a couple of weeks. No-one had imagined that the whole building literary would be wiped out. Yet, mainly by improvisation, they got the DR-site going in just twelve hours and were able to continue operating from this make-shift location, until a new main site was procured and rebuilt to suit their needs.
On the subject of high availability, an abundance of lessons can be learned from the NYBOT example. I would almost say that this chapter alone is worth the price of the book - but that would be a rather thin book and without the complete volume leading up to this chapter, one would not be able to appreciate just how fantastic the NYBOT recovery really was.
For any system administrator, this is a really good read.
(Swedish, 5 November 2008)
This is something as unusual as a book about becoming a parent aimed at the father rather than the more common books focused on the mother or, in best case, at both the parents. Nilsson has used self-experienced episodes from his wife's pregnancy, the birth and the baby's first year to highlight a number of more delicate points of parenting and fatherhood not commonly described elsewhere. He openly shares with the reader his fears, frustrations, and strong emotions like love and passion as well as anger and resentment that all rose directly or indirectly from his new role as a father.
The strength of the book lies in the perspectives it gives to the reader on tough thoughts and difficult situations that are common in parenting today but that isn't necessary discussed in newspaper and lunchrooms, nor taught in parenting classes or warned of by doctors. By openly sharing his own experiences - both good and bad - Nilsson makes the reader better equipped to self handle a baby.
An additional strength of the short book is that although it is written with the fathers in mind he more or less inadvertently happens to also cover a few of the not uncommon pitfalls for the mothers in today's society. Thus, it not only can prepare fathers for parenthood but also mothers as well as enabling the fathers to lookout for things that might despair the mothers.
(English, 3 November 2008)
This is allegedly a book intended to fill the need for a standard text-book on Chen T'ai Chi in English (there are, of course, a number of them in Chinese). This is also the first T'ai Chi book I have read that is solely focused on the Chen style. Aside from that, despite being well-written, it is pretty much similar to the others with the usual sections on history and traditions as well as more practical tips on how to train and perform T'ai Chi. Not surprisingly this title also need a second reading with pen and paper nearby even of it, of course, is beneficial by just the casual read through too.
(German, 22 October 2008)
Who-ha! Someone has made his homework! This would be a quite typical modern political thriller if it wasn't for the fact that it is set in antique Rome and is based on actual people and happenings. The main character, Cicero, was a well-known Roman lawyer and politician that is perhaps best remembered for his great speeches and influence on the subject of rhetoric.
What is truly fascinating and an indisputable fact of how developed the Roman civilization was is how much knowledge of and information on it that has survived to the present day. Our knowledge of the everyday life in Rome two thousand years ago often surpasses our knowledge of life in our own countries up to the last five hundred years or so.
Armed with a lot of the sources of this knowledge, Harris must have devoted a lot of time to research the life of Cicero and his decisive struggle to make it as a top politician in Rome. Harris has then filled in all the natural gaps to present the reader with a complete modern politic thriller set in Cicero's Rome. One can only wonder where the actual historical facts end and Harris' fiction begins - and what minor details Harris might have chosen to change in order to better suit the story. Regardless of how much of the novel that really is fiction, Harris must have done a really thorough research job by turning to the best of sources. Impressive!
Aside from the novels entertaining strengths, it is a continuous source of wonder on how developed the Roman society was and how much similarities there are between the juridical and political systems of Rome and our own used today throughout the Western society. We truly have inherited a lot from antique Rome.
I would probably miss computers, Internet, Coca-Cola, and my toothbrush to name a few examples, but life as an wealthy Roman aristocrat would probably be quite enjoyable (but naturally not the life as a poor peasant or slave - we do have come longer than old Rome in some areas...).
(English, 30 September 2008)
What a worthy title to become the 400th book to be reviewed in this page! This was bought in the same shop at Wellington Airport where I bought "The Bone People". Of course, "The Bone People" is written by an author from New Zealand and it was Manja's aim to find such a novel, too. However, in the end , she settled for this title by Zusak, an Australian author.
This is another example of authors from my generation and what an author! (Of course, it remains to be proven by reading another one of his novels. After all, this could theoretically be just a lucky fluke.)
"The Book Thief" is the story of the book thief, told from start to end by the most unexpected of narrators. Someone that tries to distract himself from his work by watching the current hues of the sky. Sometimes he fails. The young girl that he gives the epitaph "The Book Thief" is one of the rare that shakes him out of his distraction. This is why he is brought to her full story and how come he is able to re-tell to us.
Zusak has a real knack for keeping the flow of the story go vigorously and steadily on, chapter by chapter. He lets the narrator observe colours in situations where one normally is to caught up to really notice them. He never lets the story get predictable, nor unrealistic, and despite all terrible things that happen, the backbone of the novel is built on love and kindness (although, at least twice, tears welled up in my eyes. You have been warned).
The novel is set in small-town Nazi-German during World War II. Naturally, the main characters are good guys while the Nazis are the bad guys. Yet, although the bad guys are vital to the plot, the novel really is more about the Book Thief and less about her adversaries. I wager that it takes an Australian author to use Nazism more as a backdrop without ending up with vulgar kitsch. I think European authors - especially German ones - wouldn't be able to reduce the rôle Nazis as much as Zusak does. They would feel the need to try to explain the unexplainable and analyze the unanalyzable to a much higher degree. Or am I just exercising my prejudice at the moment?
A truly remarkable novel. It goes right up with other great reading experiences in this page like (in reversed chronological order) "Zusammen ist man weniger allein", "Den stille pige", "Glennkill", "Ocean Sea", "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", "Girl With a Pearl Earring", "Sommarboken", "Written on the Body", and "Ender's Game". In fact, I consider these ten novels to be the best of the 400 books presented here.
(English, 17 September 2008)
I read this book now and then on the side for a period of four month. It is that kind of a book. It often leaves your head spinning. It isn't the most easily comprehended book, to say the least. Yet, like Douglas' book, it removes some of the Easter mystic and replaces it with math and physics! Tsung Hwa Jou was a math teacher working in the USA most of his life and, thus, it came naturally for him to explain both the motion patterns of T'ai Chi (Taiji) and some of the related Taoist philosophy (like the I-Ching) with mathematics and figure not unlike those in my physic school books. This is one of the two main advantages of the book, that it is written with a Western audience in mind. The other is that it tackles T'ai Chi from an impressively broad perspective. To that end, it is much more of a complete textbook than Douglas' book. On the other hand, like many great textbooks, it is not easy to get a handle on for the novice.
The life story of Tsung Hwa Jou is quite interesting. Allegedly, he got diagnosed with an incurable, terminal condition in his forties. To extend what few years he had left, he cleaned up his habits and turned to T'ai Chi. He himself believed T'ai Chi to have cured him from his illness and thus he devoted the rest of his life to T'ai Chi, both to improve his own and to teach it to others. Alas, he died in his eighties in a car crash.
This book was very interesting, despite being quite on the hard side to read. However, I think I will have much more use of it after I have taken a few T'ai Chi classes and got some proficiency in a style but want to improve my T'ai Chi further. At my current level, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & QiGong" is a more suitable choice.
(English, 16 September 2008)
"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hypnosis" turned out to be quite readable, so when I got recommended "The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & QiGong", it wasn't a tough decision to buy it.
The two titles follows the same template so, clearly, the whole series are carefully designed in a key fashion. It seems to be working - and there are a lot of guides available on a diverse collection of subjects.
Anyway, Douglas' book's main strength is its Western perspective. It cuts away most of the Eastern mystic that often shrouds subjects like T'ai Chi. Instead, Douglas draws on scientific studies to explain and motivate the gentle moving exercises of T'ai Chi. Like Temes constantly referred to how hypnosis is put to use in hospitals to complement ordinary medicine, Douglas does the same with T'ai Chi - not only how it is used in hospitals but in schools and the corporate world too.
The book's main weakness is the repetitive references to the accompanying DVD. Yes, naturally, some things are easily shown with moving pictures than on paper, but it got quite tedious to constantly read about what excerpt on the DVD that matches the current passage of the book and, over and over again, how the accompanying DVD contains just a fraction of the author's full DVD courses. I get the impression that the DVD didn't come with the earlier editions of the book and that all the references to it got somewhat violently added to the third edition. That would explain why they often breaks one's natural flow of reading.
For me, all the chapters with information on T'ai Chi and Nei Gung was most giving. The chapters with instructions on a certain T'ai Chi form was less interesting, since that form isn't one of those that one can learn in Stockholm (not to my knowledge at least). However, even if that particular form doesn't interest you, the book still has lots of value to offer anyone that it curious over T'ai Chi.
(Swedish, 8 September 2008)
OK, so I have begun taking driving lessons. To this end, I have read the latest edition of the "Driving License Book" (Körkortsboken), published by the Swedish Driving Schools National Organisation.
The book is surprisingly well written, generally with illustrated key points on the left page and a more in-depth text on the right. It has a logical disposition that begins with the simple stuff and moves on to more advanced and technical things. There is a underlying emphasis on the environment and "Eco-driving" that I believe is new for the latest edition.
I learned tons from the book. However, so far, very little has actually come in handy during my driving lessons. In the end, theory only can get you so far - then you need to get the practical down solid.
(German, 2 September 2008)
This was the fourth installment in Heitz's Dwarf-series, although he meant it to be a trilogy. However, I deem it unlikely that it ever will be a fifth part, as there are less hanging threads after this one than after the third part. There are a number of unanswered mysteries though.For example, he who has many names, how did he end up as master armourer for all beasts in the Schwarze Schlucht?
This was the darkest of all the four volumes and is packed with Heitz's trademark: fast-paced sustained suspense (not a small feat considering the length of his novels). Yet, it draws heavily upon the already established characters from the earlier volumes. They would be a lot more one-dimensional and thin if you only read this volume independently of the earlier ones. If you read all of them in their intended order, you get to know them well, and the fact that the fourth novel just doesn't deepen them much isn't a problem. By this time, they are already old friends.
While the first three novels took place under the span pf just a few years, there is a 250-years gap to the fourth one. Much has happened in the Geborgene Land. Generations of humans has come and gone while our dwarfs just has matured a bit. Of course, there is a renewed threat to the land and all defenders of the good once again need to find a way to battle the evil and prevent the looming disaster.
Somehow, I found the German in this part easier to read than the earlier. It might be due to increased proficiency on my part, but it might equally well be due to simple and fast-paced language on Heitz's part.
If you have read the first three parts, by all means, read this one, too. You'll enjoy it. If you haven't, you should try the first part, to see if you have an appetite for the rest of them.
(English, 12 August 2008)
OK, the path from "Think and Grow Rich" to "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hypnosis" might not seem especially straight-forward, but in reality, it is. Hill might not speak of self-hypnosis, but there is quite an element of it in his complex method of allowing for self-enrichment.
What is Temes' book then? It is a extensive walk-through of therapeutic hypnosis. Temes also includes stage-hypnosis but mostly to underline the differences between that type of entertainment for the non-hypnotised and all kinds of hypnosis with benefits for the one being hypnotised. Temes lists all kinds of interesting applications - to sleep better, to quit smoking, to quite nail-biting, etc, etc. Apparently, there is a increasing popularity within medicine to use hypnosis as an effective complement to ordinary medicine. (At the same time, there is a lot of resistance among doctors against something they cannot explain why it works.)
Temes constantly stresses the importance of choosing a well-merited and trust-worthy hypnotist if you want someone to hypnotise you (so called hetero-hypnosis). She also encourages the reader to practise self-hypnosis as an cheaper alternative. However, it requires lots of practise before one can acquire the same level of effectiveness with self-hypnosis as hetero-hypnosis.
Temes argues that virtually anyone can be hypnotised. However, the level of suggestiveness is individual. Some can get hypnotised just by watching a stage-hypnotist on TV. Others requires repeated practise of deep relaxation before being able to enter even a light trance.
I don't think I dare to use hypnosis instead of anaesthetic during operations and dental work, as Temes reports possible. However, I think I could put it to use to sleep better and to gain better exercising result (quite alike to the common goal-oriented practise of visualisation among athletes). Who knows, one might even be able to put it to use the way Napoleon Hill advocates, to make oneself rich. ;-)
(English, 2 August 2008)
OK, this is not a book by the late American movie star Charles Bronson. It is a book by a British convict in solitary confinement who has developed some quite extreme training habits, to keep himself fit and healthy in preparation of a distant release date.
Bronson mixes conventional training methods, conventional dietary advice, and yoga and filters it through the needle eye of what he has available and what he is able to do in his prison cell. Thus, he for example does a lot of isometric exercises using his own body - sometimes paired with a towel - as sole resistance (he calls this "psycho dynamics").
On the surface, much of it seems rather extreme but if you dig a little deeper, most if not all of it has a sane ground to it, even if Branson's packaging is a bit hard to stomach.
Alas, I will not embark on Branson's training regime. However, I find this book very valuable to gain a perspective to strength and conditioning work. There are real gems to be dug out of this rough diamond. Also, the entertainment value of the book should not be underestimated. Read it with an open mind!
(English, 26 July 2008)
This is a modern classic. It was first published at the end of the great depression between the World Wars. It has been reprinted over and over again since then. Supposedly, Hill spent over twenty years in close study of successful Americans, in search of common traits among them. The result of his endeavour is this book, which he hopes to be a complement to the ordinary school, enabling anyone to reach his or her true potential.
I really don't know what to make of it. I judge this to be a book you need to read through and through a few times before you get a handle on it. Hill constantly refers to the secret of success that all the objects of his study possesses (today, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison might be the most remembered). He never shares the secret directly with the reader. Instead, he argues that the secret is more efficient if one discover it on one's own. To that end, he dedicates chapter upon chapter on different aspects of how to grow rich, and instruct the reader to relax and enable the secret to let itself be known at the appropriate time for you.
Some parts of the book was truly boring. Others where really interesting as it lets one get a good look at the beliefs and values of the American society of the late 1930:ies. One of the stories that I enjoyed the most was Hill's own habit of, in his mind when going to bed, calling a meeting with nine successful men - some dead (like Napoleon Bonaparte and Abraham Lincoln) others still living at that time (like Thomas Edison). All in all a quite appealing way of meditation. Hill of course lets the meeting deal with his current worries and, in his mind, lets each member speak their thoughts on the issues at hand. An interesting idea, don't you think? Who would you include in your council of the mind, if you were to found one?
To sum up: will I grow rich by reading this book? No - at least not by a single read through. Might this book enable me to develop a mindset suitable for attracting wealth and success. Yes, definitely - but like all business with changing habits, beliefs, and mindsets, it requires time, effort, persistence, and - above all - an iron will. If you want it bad enough, this book can be the key for you. At the very least, it might be a bit dry and aged read, but it nevertheless is at least partially interesting and is guaranteed to give you food for thought.
(Swedish, 3 July 2008)
Marianne Fredriksson is a successful Swedish author. Ann Fredriksson is Marianne's daughter and profession coach. In this book, they have teamed up to combine Ann's knowledge in group dynamics at the workplace with Marianne's writing skills to write a hypothetical case study on what might happen to the staff of a department in times of change. Who will be a scapegoat, who will break, who will cover for the others, etc?
It is a thin book but it is nevertheless important. One can readily recognise elements from one's own career within the behaviours of the fictional staff of the problematic department. Its primary use is to educate one self of applied group dynamics to be able to identify patterns one self is caught up in and to act more consciously and not be left with one's subconscious reactions.
A secondary use is to be read by all members in a group, to try to break a bad behavioural pattern by trying to become aware of it as a group. (You might need external supervision to succeed at this.)
Thin but interesting.
(Swedish, 30 June 2008)
This one, I read as a kid. In fact, I even saw it as an Opera(!) as an even smaller kid. ;-) According to my sister, we even had it as a cassette book (this was before the compact disc). Anyway, at that time, it was mostly a thrilling story. Nowadays, I can make out a lot more satire on both the classical ways of the British and the American.
It is short - way too short - but is a nice example of a text that can be both read as an entertaining story full of suspense and as an easily interpreted satire, long, long before the Simpsons Family.
Even if he was a scandal during his lifetime, he was quite an author, that Wilde bloke.
(Swedish, 30 June 2008)
Such a nice treat! Why haven't I read this gem before? It looks like a short and simple story but the surface deceives - the story is both more complex and elaborate than it appears. For example, look at the simple means Wilde uses to convey Dorian's advanced ageing at the end (at the inside - on the outside, Dorian, of course, looks as young and beautiful as ever).
If one was well versed in Wilde's life and beliefs, as well as the political and social climate of the late nineteenth century, one probably could interpret the novel in whole other ways, make out finer nuances, agendas, and messages. However, for me, the life of Dorian Gray makes for perfect entertainment even when seen through the lens of the conventions of the present day. However, I must admit that I wouldn't mind reading some exposition which explains all the finer points of the novel (as long as it doesn't get too boring, buried in esoterical details).
Once again a timeless classic - read it.
(Swedish, 24 June 2008)
Er... OK. I regret to inform you that I am quite indifferent to this novel. It wasn't badly written but it really didn't go anywhere - and when I thought it might, it abruptly ended. To be perfectly honest, it was a bit strange. I cannot really make out any message in it. Perhaps there is none. The main character has lost his footing in life and we get to know how he copes (or doesn't) with the fact. And that is all we get. Weird.
It might be good literature. I don't know. It was definitely not my cup of tea. (Is this really supposed to be called authorship. Shouldn't it be more to it than that?)
(English, 21 June 2008)
Although Feynman was a well-known physicist and Nobel laureate (more about that later), this book contains surprisingly little science. It is really a collection of amusing stories from the fascinating life of Feynman - from childhood to fame, but more often than not on his adventures as amateur artist and musician rather than professional physicist. This, of course, makes the book a good read for a larger audience. However, I still believe that nerds might like it the best. ;-)
One of the most interesting passages in the book for me as a Swede was his description on when he was awarded the Nobel prize. Feynman really didn't want it and, as he instinctively understood, it actually complicated things for him after he got it. For example, before he got the prize, he drew crowds interested in and understanding physics whenever he was a speaker. However, after the prize, he had the delicate problem of drawing much bigger crowds of people more interested in seeing a Nobel laureate than in physic, making things hard for Feynman as he often bored them silly with his topics.
Furthermore, it was kind of nice to read Feynman's account as an regular Joe American of the elaborate ceremonies and royal touch of the Nobel party. He really liked the student-organised after-party though. :-)
Very amusing read, and it doesn't make you any dumber either.
(English, 13 June 2008)
My first complete re-read on this page! And it is not even a classic. I thought I should try to look at my performance at work and revisit the tips in Fowler's book to see if I can find any to incorporate in my professional arsenal, to become a better employee.
However, a straight read-through isn't really optimal. I really should try to read a chapter at a time with a pen and paper handy to take my own notes. Or perhaps I should ask my friends if they would be interested to form a study group to discuss the tips in the book?
You can, of course, read my original mini-review of "My Job Went To India", too.
(Swedish, 11 June 2008)
What a fascinating little book! Hägg has written a concise description of Rhetoric, its history and elements, with numerous examples from advertisement, politics, law, etc. It gives you a lot of insight and can equally well make you a (somewhat) better talker and writer and enable you to better discern and see through the Rhetorical tricks you might encounter in everyday life.
This is a book of popular science at its best. It might not be a complete textbook on the subject, but it is detailed enough that one really should make another pass through the book and take study notes to better take advantage of what Hägg has to offer.
(English, 3 June 2008)
Be sure to read the fragments and glimpses in the beginning of the novel carefully. You will not make much out of them. However, try to keep them in mind when devouring the rest of the book. When finished, go back and re-read them again. Then you can interpret them pretty much in full, right? Rather nice twist, don't you think?
When in New Zealand, one of course has to get a novel by a New Zealand author. To aid this, many bookstores on New Zealand have a shelf with domestic writers. The trouble was to pick one. In the end, I decided to get one from the current top five list. None of them particularly caught my eye, but in the end, I picked this one up. I think it was because of the Maori connection. Boy, what a great pick! I have no idea why it was currently among the top five bestsellers, but it was actually written back in -84 and won the Booker prize in -85! It seems that the Booker jury knows how to pick the winners - compare with Coetzee's "Youth". "The Bone People" was totally fascinating!
The novel is at the same time eccentric, creative, gripping, and heart-sizing. It weaves in a lot of words and phrases in Maori, but also drops of Western science, eastern philosophy, holistic medicine, traditional Maori lore as well as Maori magic. Yet the story - the core plot - is surprisingly simple but, at the same time, extremely complicated. The three main characters - the woman, the man, and the child - cannot be more different and odd. Yet, in some strange way, Holme actually succeeds in making them feel almost natural.
It cannot be a coincidence that the woman in the book is named Kerewin Holmes when the author is Keri Holme. However, without having researched it, my gut feeling is that the auto-biographical parts of the novel are rather limited (would be kind of cool if I were wrong).
All in all, it is no pleasant story but it keeps you eagerly reading on - at least if you, like me, doesn't balk at supernatural episodes.
A great read for anyone with compassion and curiosity. (Was nice too when the story swept by places we visited in New Zealand!)
(Swedish, 9 May 2008)
This is an important book. Can you recall Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts? You know, paradigm A reins unthreatened for years and years until enough anomalies have gathered in order for someone to produce a new model that accounts for the anomalies and - hey presto! - the paradigm shifts and paradigm B overturns paradigm A. For me, Eberhard's book got me thinking about Kuhn's paradigm shifts a lot. Why? Read on.
Eberhard begins with the controversial notion of enlarging the medical definition of panic disorder in human patients to fit a definition of a national panic disorder in the government. As a reader, you go who-ha, where is he going with this? Then Eberhard continues, chapter up and chapter down, to account for example upon example of how the Swedish government (and many other Western governments) constantly strives to increase the security of the citizens - often by extremely expensive legislated bans with very limited gains in saved lives - thereby passivating the citizens in extreme, often disabling the citizens' ability to cope with any form of stress, pain or conflict. I.e., the trend in the Western world is that when the going gets though, the though doesn't get going - instead the though goes soft and cries for the government to make the bad go away.
Needless to say, I had the time of my life reading this book. Not only could I recognise myself, Eberhard visited a lot of my pet peeves, making me see them in a completely different light as he constantly explains them from the notion of a national panic disorder. Example: I have for a long time complained over the decline of the Swedish school, saying that the goal of equality has been driven way too much to the extreme, striving for having all pupils slowly advancing in unison - stressing the hell out of the weak ones and severely under-stimulating the strong, taking the joy of learning out of everyone. Eberhard sees it a bit differently. He doesn't stress the notion of equality but the fear of conflicts and personal setbacks. According to him, the national panic disorder has made the government remove all notion of competition in school to increase the level of security for the pupils by removing natural competition in order to never let anyone run the risk of losing to anyone else. Of course, at the same time, the schools ability to educate is crippled and above all, the ability to train the pupils for adult life in the workplace is completely lost. As soon as the first minor everyday setback or conflict happens to the fresh adult, he or she of course promptly goes on sick leave due to stress and burn-out. How are we ever going to be able to compete on the global market with a nation of security addicts that soon won't dare to leave their homes?
It is here Kuhn's paradigm shifts come in. Eberhard offer me a peek at a new paradigm through his book and I realised that his view fit the problems with our society much better than my own, old view. Thus, I have considered what Eberhard had to say and have adopted a lot of his views to augment and upgrade my own. In reality, how often do you come across a book that offers you something like that?
You don't have to agree with a lot of what Eberhard has to say, like me, to enjoy this book. Instead, I wager that it might come in more handy if you instinctively resist all of Eberhard's thoughts. Then it will jog your brain to try to outthink Eberhard, prove him wrong, come up with a better model, explaining all oddities in our society better but without the dystopic future. I don't think you'll succeed, though. I just hope enough people read this book, ponders it, and starts to demand our politicians and the government to mend their ways and adjust their policies and politics to, once again, make us a thinking, daring, and acting people!
To sum it up: since the end of the nineteenth century, the Western governments' effort to make it better for their citizen has gained momentum. However - since the Seventies or so, much of the efforts have had unintended negative results. Like the Swedish law of compulsory helmets for bicycling kids under the age of fifteen that has contributed to the increased obesity among Swedish kids (they use their bikes less when they have to wear a helmet - at the same time, the helmet law has made little difference on the number of fatal accident among the minor cyclists).
I wonder how many of our politicians that have read and pondered this book? How many have discussed it among themselves?
I hope everyone read this book - I am currently recommending it to both family and friends.
(German, 29 April 2008)
A real feel-good novel. Not without unpleasant details, mind you, but with a genuine, underlying feel-goodness nevertheless.
In a nutshell, it is about three people messed up by life that come together by coincidence and immediately starts healing each other - subconscious at first, more deliberate later.
It is rather beautiful, too, with lots of references to art, music, history, cooking and gastronomy. (Hmmmm, a brief enumeration like this somehow fails to give the novel the praise it deserves...)
This is a book you eagerly try to find time to read and have a hard time putting down. It mostly spreads a broad smile on your face but I actually shed some tears over it, too (in the commuter train on my way to work, to the other passengers surprise, in case they noticed).
I wonder what it would be like to read in French, its original language? To bad I don't know French...
(Swedish, 13 April 2008)
A real gem and extremely current with the Olympic Games in China around the corner. Lilliehöök moved to China to learn Chinese and later to work. With a clear and observant eye, she compares Sweden to China and shows the unique traits of Chinese culture - both good and bad ones.
Personally, I learned that I would appreciate much of the nature in China and that I at least could handle the climate in the northern parts of the country. However, I would go crazy among all the people and decreased personal space in the large cities.
For someone planning on going to China or that will deal with Chinese companies or people, this book can offer valuable insights in the Chinese way of mind and help prevent fatal culture clashes.
No literary masterpiece but a good read, especially with China's share of the world market increasing.
(English, 3 April 2008)
I really don't understand what the hype is about. This novel was unfortunately not that special. Sure, the style of writing is very elaborated but comes across as overworked rather than as great literature. Also, the underlying plot is rather simple and thus doesn't really match the work that has gone into the form of the novel. I really had expected more.
At least the main character, Blue, is rather likeable in all her naïvety, despite her great intelligence. She had deserved a better intrigue than this rather banal one. It was too predictable, too. More subtleties, thank you - and more effort to get the language flowing. I read somewhere that it was so refreshing and groundbreaking with a novel that mimics the language of a research paper. The thing is, it doesn't really. It is just sprinkled with some bleak traits of papers. Any persons who interprets it a being like a scientific paper only demonstrate their own ignorance of such papers.
It is too long for its contents, too. Just rambles on. If you make a one page summary of the novel (like the condensed recaps of the previous volume(s) the latter "Otherland"-parts begins with), it would show merits. However, this reincarnation unfortunately lacks in several aspects.
I better stop here, as I have little good to say about it. To me, it was a decent idea that didn't meet its potential when realised.
(Swedish, 7 March 2008)
Another auto-biography - this time about the Swiss woman that abandons her Swiss life and own business to live with the love of her life under simple conditions in rural Kenya.
You got to admire Corinne's great resolve and persistence. Although she repeatedly gets ill due to malnutrition and malaria, she doesn't give up but instead works hard to make a future for her and Lketinga, her beloved Masai warrior.
Besides telling the story of Corinne's life, the book also offers a lot on Kenyan culture and on the differences between Masai tribal life, African bureaucracy, and life in Europe.
A good read.
(Swedish, 25 February 2008)
This is in reality a number of essays on the topic of Swedes, Swedishness, Swedish culture, and Swedish culture compared to cultures from other parts of the world. It is quite thought-provoking as Arnstberg tries hard to make the reader look at Sweden from new angles. Sometimes it is even downright provocative as he touches on subjects that is tabu in our society.
All of the book is based on material from Arnstberg's own research over the years. This gives Arnstberg a really intimate knowledge of the different subjects he touches upon and makes him well equipped to both argue his case and to point out why the general populations opinion might differ from his view.
An interesting book, yet very little actually stuck in my memory.
(English, 15 February 2008)
Jenna Jameson is just a couple of months younger than me - but we have lived totally different lives. Still, it was fascinating to be able to relate to familiar things during her youth, like popular movies and records, even as I have no experience what-so-ever of the things Jenna went through.
Yet it all boils down to the basics of love and acceptance, self-esteem and confidence - and that I can relate to, without having sex in front of a camera. It is no wonder that her mothers death when Jenna was three years old affected her family so greatly that it ultimately led to Jenna's insecurities and yearning to be loved. These, in turn, led her on a wild goose chase, making some good and many bad choices along the way. Some of the worse ones, like the drugs, should have destroyed her completely. Yet they didn't. She actually not only survived but came out on the other side stronger and maturer - and the queen of her own successful company - albeit within the sex industry.
Jenna's book is, beside being a biography of her, a look behind the scenes of the porno industry. I actually find the insights in what goes on behind the cameras and off sets a lot more interesting than the sometimes rather vivid descriptions of elaborate sexual acts (had I read it in my teens, the interest had probably been reversed).
Most biographies I have read has either been on famous dead people or living successful politicians. Some has been on famous entertainers and some has been on ordinary people with an unusual tale to tell (like "Verdensmester med vilje"). Despite Jenna's unrivalled fame within the world of porn, I am not totally sure that she should join Marilyn among the entertainers. After all, porn fame isn't really as widely accepted as other types of fame. This is even something that Jenna points out herself in the book.
On the surface, Jenna Jameson's and Marilyn Manson's autobiographies (both ghost written by Neil Strauss) are very alike - both are biographies on seekers and full of sex and drugs. However, Jenna had to do a lot more of searching before finding herself. Marilyn found himself earlier but had to search for a while to find his exact form of expression. Furthermore, both books experiment with form, mixing classic narration with diary excerpts, third-part interviews, and other novelties. I especially like the two-three pages spreads of cartoon renderings of Jenna, explaining different physical or emotional intricacies of the porn profession.
OK, this was the end of this Neil Strauss spree - but I guess I really ought to get my hands on his first, "The Dirt" on Mötley Crüe. I expect it to be rather similar to "The Long Hard Way Out of Hell" and "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" (not to mention "The Game").
(English, 7 February 2008)
All of a sudden, one sees Marilyn Manson in a whole other light. Granted, it is an auto-biography (even if it is ghost-written by Neil Strauss, the author of "The Game") so one would expect some to be left out and some to be added, in order to better fit the message Manson want to convey. However, the book is rather compelling. Even if Manson and his band are quite eccentric, to say the least, most of their allegedly performed stunts seem rather to be FUD from their numerous critics - and the FUD is even welcomed by Manson as it, in his opinion, only de-masks his critics as the hypocrites he considers them to be.
Anyway, what did surprise me - perhaps mostly because I never gave it much thought before reading the book - was just how intelligent Manson is and how much thought he has put into the band and the music. I might not share all of his opinions (but at least a few) but I can respect his views and appreciate how he come to reach them.
Actually, I have read a lot of biographies over all sorts of people throughout my life, and they are usually able to hold my attention for the duration of the read. This is no exception and in this case it helps that I can relate to much of what happens in the world around Manson as he grows up (even if we, right from the start, has somewhat different taste in music...). On the other hand, once again, I have to blurb something here about the hard-to-pinpoint but totally overwhelming cultural differences between USA and Sweden.
At times, the voyage into the mind and life of Manson was a bit unsettling but it is my firm belief that books and information like this are more enlightening more than they are corrupting. Thus, knowing about the darker sides of the modern society don't make me more at risk to start practising them - only better equipped to stay clear of them.
This is the kind of book I wish everyone would read - especially the one's it isn't at all for. Just think how interesting and fruitful discussion it would give rise to!
Brian Warner/Marilyn Manson makes a lot more sense in this autobiography than he and his band do indirectly through newspaper articles and tv news mentionings. Perhaps one should actually try to listen to some of Marilyn Manson's lyrics? At the moment - I can only recall one Marilyn Manson song - the one from The Matrix soundtrack...
(English, 30 January 2008)
This is another title from the Oxford Language Classics series (last one I read were Cobbett's "A Grammar of the English Language") and it is as newly written as in the eighties. It is a short and concentrated walk-through of the English language with regards to its origins and trends throughout history in vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation. Burchfield also covers the different variants of English (he is originally from New Zealand himself) and I was, for instance, surprised to learn how much the pronunciation differs between British and American English. I am trying to always spell English words after a British fashion, but I could conclude that when I speak (the Swedish accent aside), I use a terrible mix of British and American pronunciation. When I went to school, my English teachers still were taught and themselves taught British English. However, most of the English one hears daily in movies and television shows are American. Thus, most of my core English, I probably pronounce the British way but more recently learnt words I pronounce in the American fashion. Oh well, as long as I can convey my message...
The Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons that took over the British Isles from the Celts, were a Germanic language and surprisingly alike modern Germanic languages like German or Swedish. Then the Vikings made their mark on English with their Old Norse words. These two facts made all the really old examples of early English really interesting for me to try to decode. Clearly, I here have an advantage to native English speakers!
All in all a rather dry book but it still caught and held my curiosity throughout the torrent of information and odd facts from the history and numerous changes of the English languages.
(German, 16 January 2008)
This was a fresh flavour - a young (younger than me) German author that has written a very humorous novel about the hardship of being a genius at the time the planet was explored and measured in detail (i.e., we follow an interpretation of how the geniuses Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander Humboldt might have thought and felt during their achievements in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth).
I have no idea how much Kehlmann has researched his subjects but if I had to guess, I would say that he must have read everything there is on the two - and especially all that is around by their own hand - both (dry) scientific works and collected personal letters. Read everything - mulled it over for a while - and then spun his associations and interpretations into this fascinating, enjoyable, and entertaining story.
Who knows? Maybe Gauss really was feeling that sorry for himself and maybe Humboldt really was so proud and driven like the Duracell-rabbit. I wager that Kehlmann exaggerates quite a bit in interest of a good story and that he walks in and out of actual history after his own mind. Thus, you should read this novel as a work of fiction rather than a historical biography. However, at the same time, a lot of the events and details are probably correct and will give you a feel for the affairs of that time. History light, so to speak.
Anyway, everyone can enjoy this novel but if you have an inclination for history and science, like me, you are pretty much bound to like it! Now the quest is to lay one's hands on some of Kehlmann's other titles. He won prizes with "Die Vermessung der Welt" but his other works are probably rewarding to read too.
Later addition: Upon further reflection, a comparison with Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is in place.