I finished reading The Kite Runner a couple of weeks ago. Here are my postmortem thoughts:
At the recommendation of a long-time Smooth Harold reader (thanks, Nic), I finished Robinson Crusoe over the weekend. Regarded as the first novel written in English and first published in 1719, it’s a story about high-sea adventure, shipwrecks, castaways, gratitude, hard work, and international intrigue.
What I like most about the book is Defoe’s poetic commentary on human behavior. For example, after Robinson nearly drowned at sea for the first time, he quickly swore off his selfish ways and committed himself to God, before changing his mind after disaster had been averted: Continue reading…
My wife and I have been reading classic literature this year. She finished Jane Eyre last week before starting Great Expectations, and I tackled Out of Africa and Old Man and the Sea before moving to Robinson Crusoe. We both agree: it’s inspiring stuff—and much better than junk food reading.
We also agree that those wordy, overblown, or otherwise melodramatic introductions by semi-popular modern authors are lame. I understand it’s a marketing ploy to sell more re-released books, and you can always skip ’em. But they get in the way of great literature. I have yet to read an author introduction that I enjoyed. Let me get to the book already, or at least call the thing an “author retrospective” and put it in the back of the book.
I was 15 the first time I read Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. I remember thinking when discovering it: “Really? A Pulitzer Prize book that’s only 127 pages? I can do that!” And I did.
I liked it. It was an easy read. I felt for the man, and it was inspiring. Last week, I finished it for the second time, some 14 years after I first read it. My feelings haven’t changed much, but I appreciate Hemingway’s metaphors more so this time than the last. Some updated thoughts:
By recommendation, I finished reading Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen last month. Though hardly a page-turner, I have a stronger appreciation for Africa after reading this book than by reading or seeing any other material on the subject. It’s a true story about a Danish transplant and her experience running a farm in east Africa.
It’s not the easiest read. I lost interest from time to time for a page and a half. But a compelling short-story is always within reach, making the effort worth it. For example, consider this little gem of an observation:
“Native [Africans] dislike speed, as we dislike noise, it is to them, at the best, hard to bear. They are also on friendly terms with time, and the plan of beguiling or killing it does not come in to their heads. In fact the more time you can give them, the happier they are, and if you commission a Kikuyu [Kenya’s most populous ethnic group] to hold your horse while you make a visit, you can see by his face that he hopes you will be a long, long time about it. He does not try to pass the time, but sits down and lives it.”
Lovely reading. And a great book if you want to improve your writing.
After a seven month hiatus (having only read 4-5 books last year), I caught the reading bug again. To stay the course, here are a dozen classics I’d like to read in 2009:
War and Peace
The Adventures of Huck Finn
In Search of Lost Time
The Stories of Anton Chekhov
The Catcher in the Rye
For Whom the Bell Tolls
I’m currently reading
Out of Africa and plan to re-read the following: Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, The Old Man and the Sea, and To Kill a Mockingbird (I remember liking them in high school). Off a recommendation from a well-read friend, I’m also excited to read Water for Elephants and The Kite Runner. And for cheap thrills, I’m going to read The Firm and The Rainmaker, two Grisham novels I missed.
Anything I should add?
Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, Of Mice and Men, Measure for Measure, the complete Jane Austen collection, Man’s Search for Meaning.
I finished reading the popular Life of Pi last night. In sum, it’s a clever endorsement for zoos, storytelling, and the existence of God, either allegorically or literally.
Author Yann Martel’s use of metaphors is inspired and makes me feel inadequate as a writer when it comes to creatively describing objects, emotions, and experiences. For that, I was in awe — and laughing at times. Overall, I give the book four stars out of five for dragging a little in the first and second acts. Chapter 97 is my favorite.
If I were a disoriented high school or college student, and were forced to answer the following discussion guide questions for a homework assignment, these would be my answers:
Though I’m embarrassed to say it, especially given that my livelihood (read: writing) depends on it, I’ve seemingly broken up with nutritious reading this year. Without noticing, I’ve gone more than seven months without reading a single book (okay, maybe one). I’m not even sure why.
I still read junk literature on a daily basis (i.e. online articles), but those don’t count. I need more Hemmingway, Austen, and Potok in my diet. Unfortunately, I have no desire to open a book, due to a prolonged state of atrophy and laziness. I want to fall in love again and admire my wife and colleagues who remain passionate about the medium.
Have you ever broken up with books? If so, how did you rekindle the fire?
I’ve always thought these two looked eerily similar, and now I have proof. Ferriss is clearly a strawberry blonde Steve-O. And with that, I have finally become a niche celebrity blogger. It only took me three years.
See also: Book review: The 4-Hour Work Week
After a quick and entertaining three days, I finished reading The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself by Rodney Mullen, the most influential skater in history. No, it’s not a how-to book, as my wife first believed
Written in 2004 with the help of author Sean Mortimer, The Mutt has less to do with skateboarding and more to do with lifehacks, storytelling, business, relationships, and trying to please an impossible father. Mullen is obviously neurotic, but he comes off being genuine and likable in the book. And it’s easy to see how he became the greatest in his field, arguably more so than Tony Hawk, due to his insane work ethic. Just reading about his stingy regime makes me feel lazy, but it’s also motivating.
Write a lot. Then buy this book. Or vice versa.
Don’t let the name mislead you—The AP Guide to News Writing will help you become a better writer of everything except maybe books. This quick and worthwhile read is full of helpful tips, professional counsel, and practical ways to further flex your prose.
Wow. Just wow. The 4-Hour Work Week is the most influential book I’ve read in years. Author Timothy Ferris, though a self-proclaimed extremist, dishes on slowing down your life, getting out of the rat race, outsourcing menial tasks, ditching your RSS feeds, batch processing email instead of checking it every 15 minutes (if not more), reducing unnecessary information consumption in favor of productivity and real learning, how effectiveness trumps efficiency, and how the idea of “retirement” is grossly flawed. In short as the book description tells, “Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.”
Ferriss defines the new rich as those who favor mobility, experience, and service in favor of materialism. He counsels in great detail how to setup an automated online company for newbies (easier said than done, though possible) and how to focus your daily work efforts without letting fluff work get in the way. Best of all, Ferriss delivers it all in a very grounded, balanced, and hilarious way despite what his sensational title and clever tagline suggest. Overall, the book is unthinkably smart and of value to any person over the age of 18. I resolve from here on out to work smarter while striving to do what I love further still. That and more world travel, of course. :)
On that note, I’m planning my attempt to ditch the Internet for an entire year. I don’t have all the kinks figured out, and twice weekly email use will have to stay, but I will triumph within the next five years. Just you watch.
From Lee Iacocca‘s book Where Have All the Leaders Gone?: “The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?”
Don’t have time to read every popular business book out there? Read the book summaries at either Wikipedia or Wiki Summaries. These “Cliff Notes” of sorts work great for buzz terms, new ideas, and heavy meme books like the following:
The list could go on and on. Just Wiki a popular book and have at it. Of course, this isn’t a substitute for that excellent thing called actual reading, but it’s a great way to stay up to date, if not refresh yourself on the key ideas of emerging (or repackaged) concepts in business.
Because it’s written for already good companies. A majority of US businesses being run by entrepreneurs have yet to prove themselves. Therefore, I would like to see From Nothing to Good. Then I’ll focus on taking my company the rest of the way.
I only got through half his book, but plan on finishing it once I’m good.