Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo is a murder mystery that is set in Sweden and deals with some serious psychopaths similar to the movie 7. I cannot say that I would recommend this book necessarily. It is a little too dark, and not well written enough, and there is no real substance, theme or message to it. It is, in a word, a kind of pulp. Maybe a good book to pass a voyage or plane ride, where you don't want to think much, but that is all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is a novel which, like most of McCarthy's novel, explores the root of human nature via dramatic landscape and desolate environment. In this case the book shows us the relationship of a boy and son in a post-apocalyptic world and how they struggle to find the meaning of existence when the future of human life on earth is questionable. The writing is excellent as always, and the nature of the novel is somewhat dark, but still a thrill and thought provoking. I highly recommend this book, but maybe start with Blood Meridian or All the Pretty Horses if you have not read McCarthy before.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The picture of Dorian Gray presents a snapshot of a time of British nobility and opulence, well captured and obviously admired by Oscar Wilde's disposition. In the novel the recklessness, vanity, and weakness of Dorian Gray is captured by his portrait which ages and suffers for his conscious. The portrait indeed contains his soul and thus the reflection of it torments Dorian who has not lived a life of virtue. The story present a clear picture that people do have souls and that standing up for what is right and noble is food to keep the soul young always.

This book is a classic, the writing impeccable, the thoughts fantastical.

"Often... he would creep upstairs to the locked room, open the door with the key that never left him now, and stand, with a mirror, in front of the portrait that Basil Hallward had painted of him, looking now at the evil and ageing face on the canvas, and now at the fair young face that laughed back at him from the polished glass. The very sharpness of the contrast used to quicken his sense of pleasure. He grew more and more enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul. He would examine with minute care, and sometimes with a monstrous and terrible delight, the hideous lines that seared the wrinkling forehead, or crawled around the heavy sensual mouth, wondering sometimes which were more horrible, the signs of sin or the signs of age"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse

Sweet Mandarin is a true life story of 3 generations of Chinese and how they made their living in the restaurant business. I found the story inspiring, showing the pleasure of hard work and accomplishment. Despite this, I also found elements of the story to be a bit cliched in the sense of the "immigrant struggle". This is unfortunate, since the struggle is real and people who immigrate and start business deserve massive praise.

I recommend this book for people who want to have a peek behind the Chinese restaurant owners world, and how their values are transferred down the generations.

It is also a book which connects England and Hong Kong and contains some history of both places. I enjoyed that aspect after my recent trip to Hong Kong, the city of business, without a doubt.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a masterfully written novel with beautiful/childlike descriptions and similes everywhere. It will want to make you be a child again and to appreciate the beauty of everything around you. It is a heartfelt story about death, a little girl, and the power of words. I strongly recommend it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is a well written novel by Kazuo Ishiguro who leads the reader to conclusions with the minimum of detail and seems to have a cap on all the minutia of human interaction.

The novel to me centers around a satire within a satire. The first one being that cloned humans who are created for the purpose of donating organs are subhuman, born into the world without reason, and bound to an unavoidable fate of donating organs till they die. I kept on wondering in my head why the characters didn't just try to make a run for it and escape their fate, till I remembered their whole situation paralleled the human condition with death. How as the use of technology grows in our society we are all becoming dehumanized. Or trans-humanized if you will. Anyway, it was a surprisingly deep novel. I strongly recommend it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Disapearance of Childhood by Neil Postman

In the disapearance of childhood Neil Postman makes the argument that the differences between adults and children are disappearing due to the following factors:

  1. Children wearing adult clothing, adults wearing children's clothing, like jeans, sneakers etc..

  2. T.V. bringing adult themes and education to children without them having to learn to read or to think critically about the messages. This same phenomenon "dumbs" adults down to the level of children.

  3. As more information is coming from t.v., games, and the radio, school is losing its importance as the "fountain head" of intellectual engagement.

  4. Childhood is itself a new concept, which started around the time formal schools were created. Around the 1300s-1600s.

I found the book quite engaging and interesting, and find it difficult to believe Postman wrote it in 1982 and it remains so accurate. One point he made about learning new languages returning us to a childlike state of dependence and simplicity I really liked. And he suggests that computers will keep everyone in a child like state since they stress perpetual learning, especially of new languages as in programming languages. I think he is right on the mark!