Category Archives: reading

The Remains of the Day (1989)

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of Day is a well-crafted and completely compelling novel. Who knew a story from the viewpoint of an English butler/house manager could be so enthralling. The title takes place in 1953 as said butler recalls his past life, work, family, and dignity. While The Remains of the Day is thought provoking it can feel a bit tedious, as a butler’s history is wont to do. However, I did laugh often and found myself unable to put the book down. I don’t often find books that everyone should read but this is one of them.

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Haruki Murakami and not going for the hat trick

I don’t recommend reading Murakami books in a row. I went from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2014) to Norwegian Wood (2000). These works are the opposite of uplifting and motivational. They delve into the darkest corners of mental illness and isolation. While they can be pretty sad they are well written works that take you on a journey of discovery and coming of age. Other reviewers hate Murakami, calling him a one trick pony and detesting his use of sexual description and scenes. It’s a work of fiction and he is creating a world that behaves like ours (usually). I would not stoop to call any of it unnecessary or distasteful– because it isn’t real. These are concepts in which he engages us and drives us to think and consider. Plus they make up a small percentage of the actual story. Perhaps people like having their mind in the gutters continually, so to speak. At any rate, I’m re-reading Cannery Row as a jump start into something completely different and less depressing.

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Star Wars: Hand of Thrawn

This two volume set, Specter of the Past (1997)  Vision of the Future (1998), follows events over ten years after Return of the Jedi. Much more should have changed in the New Republic and the fledgling Imperial Empire. That said, reading about the same characters, planets, organizations, and goals becomes a real slog. There are some compelling events but again only a Star Wars fanatic would sit down to read the Thrawn trilogy preceding these works, really making a pentalogy. The first three books are worth a read, the latter two a Wikipedia entry. Like everything else in life though it needed more Lando.

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The Time of Contempt (The Witcher): Andrzej Sapkowski

My 2013 reading habits were more useless than a shriveled up baby Voldemort being held by worm-tongue. So it is with great pleasure to announce that I wrapped up The Witcher titles until the next volume rolls onto tablets in June/July. While the 3rd book suffers from translation issues and a tumultuous political story-line it manages to capture the magic (pun-intended) of the prior works. These are quick-must-reads for any fantasy fan. Sapkow keeps the story moving and the right moments, guaranteeing that you are never bored and continually in wonder.

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Stars Wars: Scoundrels (2013)

I haven’t read too many Star Wars titles, maybe 2 or 3. They were enjoyable but missed some of the no-good pirate feel, opting to focus on Luke and his drama. So when Timothy Zahn released Scoundrels I had to jump. I mean look at that cover. Any Star Wars fiend will admit to its more than enticing imagery. Hilarious in parts, exciting to no end, and full of new  characters: Scoundrels is pure Star Wars heist antics.

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Coming Up For Air (1939)

I should have a decent post on this thoughtful book in a bit. For now here is my prelim review:

Just about half way through and I have to say that Coming Up For Air is a contender in the Orwell catalogue. While it isn’t as heavy handed as Nineteen Eighty Four or Animal Farm, nor as visceral as Down and Out in Paris and London; it is a great deal more compelling than Burmese Days. Mostly because Burmese Days tended to characterize the plot and players in rather plain ways. The final act was rather lackluster as well.

The messages Coming Up For Air gives us, really show how little life has changed (comparing Pre/Post WWI with today): war, economics, family, education, class systems, and free will. We’ll see if Orwell can deliver on the engaging set-up.

Orwell does indeed deliver. As a note, immediately following the publication of this title came his two famed works. The three should be generally sold as a set.

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Reason in Revolt: Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science

I just can’t get through this book. Reason in Revolt – Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science usurps honest science and attempts to prove Marxist claims. My GoodReads review is as follows:

Making my way through this book and am finding it a poor scientific read in light of works by Jared Diamond, Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. New Atheism works also do much to explain current scientific developments, history, etc. without brow-beating capitalism. The authors open up with threats against the Big Bang and The Standard Model? They continue to praise “prophecies” made my Marx/Engels but fail to register their philosophical shortcomings. Reason in Revolt is straddling a fine line between cogent argument and lunatic rambling.

I’d rather read true science works that admit to faults and improvements in a given field. One of my best friends recommended this title and I’m not quite sure what his reasoning really is. Perhaps (like Ron Paul-ites or conspiracy theorists) they see a firm relationship between human politics/economics and evolution/star formation. My opening rant went like this:

I’ll start with the opening problems. 1) Trying to invalidate The Standard Model and The Big Bang to prove his coming treatise on the human condition. 2) Likening Marx to Galileo.  3) Not getting anywhere thus far with the capitalism bashing, other than people are greedy and the third world is suffering- not much of an argument when there are real non-profits and citizen-philanthropist (see Bill Gates) looking to alleviate the greed/capitalist destruction.

I’ll end with the pluses: 1) Proclamations against religion.

I’m not a fan of trying to use cosmology or basic biology/genetics to make a political/economic statement; since it often sounds like the ravings of the mad and is suspect. Yet Neil DeGrasse Tyson often illustrates why NASA is good for us: http://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisbarth/2012/03/13/neil-degrasse-tyson-invest-in-nasa-invest-in-u-s-economy/
If one cared to dig deeper there is a reason this work remains a fringe piece and not a scientific text, and it sure as hell ain’t “the man”.

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