On Gene Wolfe

Gene WolfeI first discovered Gene Wolfe through one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, who wrote about Gene in a collection of nonfiction called A View From the Cheap Seats. I had not yet read any of Gene’s work when he passed away in 2019. His passing prompted me to finally read his work and I started with his more popular work The Book of the New SunIt was through this four book saga that I grew to love his writing. I later picked up a collection of short fiction title The Best of Gene Wolfe and I knew that he was going to become a favorite of mine.

His writing is unique in a way that seems to tell a story that is just a glimpse into a larger universe vastly different from our own (or perhaps in a very different time than our own). The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a great example of this and is a short story that can be found in the collection mentioned above or in other collections. Though this is something that I really enjoy about his writing, I can see how it could put others off of it because there are many instances where the reader may feel like they don’t know much of what is happening though the characters do because they are inhabitants of that universe. Much is inferred from his prose and perhaps that is one aspect that draws me to it. There is a mystery that can unravel the more attention to give it, but it will never quite reveal itself to you in its entirety.

As a gift to myself (as a reward for losing weight and getting healthier0, I recently purchased a Folio Society print of The Book of the New Sun which is a beautiful edition and includes an introduction by Neil Gaiman himself.

It’s a little difficult to discuss how his work has impacted me because, much like his stories, it touches on aspects that I am not overtly certain of myself. I don’t have any personal stories in relation to him or his work like other authors in this series. I simply enjoy his work. I wish I had known about him and his work earlier then perhaps I would have such stories. From what little I do know, he seemed like a down-to-earth guy who enjoyed life and sharing joy. I will likely learn much more about him as an author the more I delve into his stories. All I can really say is that I look forward to reading more of his work and likely rereading it for his work has aspects that I hope to one day instill in my own writing.

Book Hangover

Book Hangover is real and I have been experiencing one of late. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, I would define a book hangover as the inability to move onto a new book due to a lingering connection to the story you recently finished. Basically, you are still processing or thinking about the events or characters of the story you finished and need to take some time before moving on.

This can occur after reading a great book or a story you connected with strongly. It happens to me from time to time and usually occurs after I finish a series I really enjoy. There are many definitions the internet will provide because this is a fairly common occurrence but it affects people in different ways. There are several good memes out there that will give you a laugh. I enjoyed a few while writing this post. It's just a book;

The term “hangover” makes it seem like a bad experience, but I don’t consider it to be bad in any way. Yes, I am not yet ready to move on from a story I recently finished, but I just experienced a great story and need some extra time. Granted, a book hangover can be caused by a less-than-ideal experience or even a traumatic one (I’ve never cried during a book but some events can hit hard), but I wouldn’t consider relatively negative experiences in fictional worlds bad for us. It just means we were invested and being invested in a story or character is a good thing. I just wish more of us were as invested in our real-world friends and family (though these are longer-term commitments that require much more effort but they are that much more worth it).

Stories are amazing things. Books are simply vessels for stories. We create the connection and our imaginations bring the world and characters to life. My favorite, absurd description of reading a book goes like this: Reading a book is just staring at a piece of dead tree and hallucinating.

I’m curious if you have ever experienced a book/story hangover. Can you think of a book, series, tv show, or movie that stayed with you long after you finished it?

I think I am near the end of my own book hangover and will be ready to move onto the next experience. I wish you all a great story in the near future.

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul Monster Edition Volume 1 CoverTokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is the first manga/graphic novel series I have read. I originally watched the show and have always heard the source material was better (as is often the case), so I recently read the entire series and it is a ride. I have a lot of thoughts about this series, but to keep things spoiler-free, I will refrain from going into details and will focus on the story and characters without giving anything away (except for the initial events that set up the entire story).

First, the premise. This series centers around the dichotomy of humans and ghouls. Ghouls look like humans, but can only survive by eating humans. Their consumption of humans increases a type of cell in their bodies that allows them to wield organic weapons that extend from their bodies (this is actually pretty cool for fight scenes). They blend into human society in order to survive and several ghouls try to live “normal” lives. Some even try to sustain themselves without killing while others throw caution to the wind and kill as they please. This is of course a problem, and the Commission of Counter Ghoul (CCG) is a specific agency aimed at eradicating ghouls from human society by tracking and eliminating ghouls.

The story follows the character of Ken Kaneki. He is a normal, shy, human college kid. After an accident, he receives an organ transplant but the organs were from a ghoul. Ken finds himself forced to navigate ghoul society once he realizes he can no longer eat human food. He is no longer human but he is not quite a full ghoul either.

Ken’s journey is a long and arduous one as he attempts to adapt to his new circumstances. I won’t go into details as this would defeat the purpose of this recommendation, so I hope the information so far has peaked your interest or maybe helped you realize this may not be a story for you.

I will add a few warnings though. This story is gruesome (if you couldn’t tell by the premise) and Ken Kaneki may have the worst luck of any character I have ever read. Sui Ishida took the “kill your darlings” idea and ran with it because this series delves into psychological aspects that are rare in any form of literature. This goes without even mentioning the physical aspects involved in this story. Another warning is that this story goes in unexpected directions and some storylines or characters may not get a clear cut resolution, meaning some things may seem unresolved. I know this can bother many readers, myself included, but I also felt the overarching story wraps up as well as it can. Sui Ishida provides a brief, personal story at the very end of the series about his time working on the story that I think contributes to providing a satisfied end.

My last warning is more a heads up about a major change that occurs halfway through. This series is split into two parts. The original Tokyo Ghoul is 14 volumes and covers much of Ken’s journey. The second part is titled Tokyo Ghoul:re which consists of 16 volumes and begins 2-3 years after the events of part one. The time gap and changes to characters/events proves to be a hard adjustment for many fans mainly because there is not much explanation as to how it happens. It does get briefly explained later on and hopefully by the time you get this far (if you choose to read it) you will be absorbed in the story and will need to know how it concludes.

The show follows the main storyline fairly well but there are significant changes to several events and some information or arcs are left out. These missing events are what cause some confusion in the show. Though I still really like the show, I will admit I enjoyed the graphic novels much more. Each volume can be read quickly and I think the artwork is fantastic.

I realize this is the first graphic novel series I’ve recommended, but I’m sure I will be exploring more storylines in this format so there will be more to come. I honestly believe great stories are available in any medium and I hope this one is not a barrier for you. If you are already familiar with this medium, I hope this story interests you. There is so much I’d love to discuss about this story and how it comments on our own society, but this is just a brief insight for you to see if you would like to read it yourself.

Happy Reading.

The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was ThursdayThe Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton was first published in 1908. I put G.K. Chesterton on my list of authors to read after several authors whose work I enjoy had mentioned him as an influence on their own work and desire to be an author. The book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is actually dedicated to G.K. Chesterton.

This book is actually a short, quick read and is a strange but fun mystery that involves an undercover policeman infiltrating a group of anarchists. The story is surprisingly accessible despite being written so long ago and there were only a few instances of behaviors, word use, or societal impressions being somewhat dated.

The story keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next but the ending is surprisingly open to interpretation, which has me remaining uncertain how I feel about the whole venture. Regardless, I think it was a good read and it is always interesting to read stories written long ago even if it is to catch a glimpse of a past world.

I’m sure there are several other Chesterton stories that I may enjoy better than this one, and I am going to try a few more of his novels to better understand his influence of modern authors (and of course to enjoy more good books). If, like me, you were completely unaware of G.K. Chesterton prior to him being mentioned in a book (or perhaps even this blog), then you may now be interested in sampling his work or finding out more about him. This one is a good start I think because of its brevity.

Happy Reading.

Genius Foods

Genius Foods book coverI have been focusing on my physical health quite a bit lately and this lead to learning more about how food influences our physical and mental health. Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal is a great resource and overall interesting book that delves into nutrition and health.

Max Lugavere lists a “genius food” with each chapter for a total of 10 important foods to include in your diet. Each chapter delves into a different affect within the body that is influenced by the foods we eat. Sometimes things get a little technical as far as biology and chemistry, but Max does a good job of making sure you can understand these processes without needing a science degree. There is a lot of great information that I took away from the book and have already started implementing to improve my mental and physical health.

I had started my health-focused mindset long before discovering this book, but this book has reinforced and supplemented my diet and exercise habits, and I already have a lot more energy, have lost a total of 15 pounds, and I am well on my way to reaching my health goals for this year. I had a lot of weight to lose so this change little but significant.

This book came out in 2018, but Max began his journey into how food impacts the brain several years ago after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He delved into how the disease manifests and what can help reduce and prevent further development. His journey was an extensive one that eventually produced this book. Paul Grewal is a medical doctor who provides snippets within each chapter about the topic discussed, practical application, or examples of how he has seen or treated certain symptoms for patients in relation to each topic. There is a “Genius Plan” discussed in the final chapter that outlines a diet and exercise regiment that, if followed, will result in vastly improved health. I admit I am not attempting that regiment but am continuing my own journey with a few modifications made as a result of the new information from this book. The regiment seems a little restricting, but that is why I’m sure it would work very well. My own regiment is proving to be a great improvement for my health.

Overall, I think this book has a lot of great information about how our diets impact our physical and mental health. Not just which foods are good, but how our bodies process different nutrients and how they can affect us at different times. This is why I’m recommending this book. I think you will learn a lot about how what you eat affects you mentally and physically, and you may likely change your diet or be more conscious about your food choices once you know more about certain food items.

As for me, I am continuing my health journey. It was hard to get started, but know I am on a roll with keeping up with exercise and focusing on what I eat. I have more energy which makes it easier to exercise, and I am happier overall. I’m already seeing other positive changes like clothes fitting better. I’ve always known physical health is linked to mental health. I’d just let myself go a bit over the past several years because I was happy and content (and quarantine weight is real as well). Now I am happier and equally content. I’m also overly excited about becoming a father and want to be healthy so I can ensure I can live a long happy life with my wife and children.

I hope that you eventually give this book a shot if you also want to improve your physical and mental health or simply want to know more about how our food choices impact our bodies and minds. Perhaps this can be the seed that makes you start your own journey. If so, I wish you the best of luck and feel free to contact me if you want an accountability buddy.

Happy Reading.