Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Robin by Dave Itzkoff. This is a very thoroughly researched biography of Robin Williams. Nearly every account mentioned within these pages are told from first-hand experiences by the people who were in Robin’s life at the time. It opens with the recounting of Robin’s childhood and education before quickly diving into his start in comedy. From there, it tells an unbiased account of Robin’s life all the way up until, and shortly after, Robin’s death in 2014.

Normally I’d add a quick statement about how a book like this might not appeal to many people, but in this case, I think this one does. Robin’s life and career has been experienced by millions of people. He was an icon and will continue to be one as future generations are introduced to his work. He was a well established film star by the time I was born but I was a huge fan of his. I was influenced by him. Inspired by him. I still am. Maybe even more now that I have a better understanding of who he was. I picked up this book simply to get to know him, and I’m glad I did.

I grew up watching several of his movies. His work in Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, as Genie in Aladdin. I loved all of these movies (especially Hook). Some of his movies I think mean more to me know that I’ve grown up. I also still need to see many of his movies that I didn’t know he had made or were made well before my younger years. A few in particular that are on my watch list after reading this book are The Fisher King and Good Morning, Vietnam. This book does include a complete list of Robin’s works both on-screen and off and includes the awards he was nominated for or won. It’s always interesting to discover how a movie was received in its time when you only know it after it gained a reputation. Some of his movies that are iconic now did not fare well in theaters.

For anyone who may only be interested in this book as a means to find an answer, you need only read the final few chapters. Though I hope you care enough to read all of it to fully understand him as a man. After all, there is a difference between knowing and understanding.

I won’t say too much because this isn’t just a story. This is a man’s life. A man that you may very well already have an opinion of, be it high praise or possibly even no appreciation at all. To me, he was a man full of life and empathy. He genuinely cared about others more than you would expect from any one. The world needs more people like him. I hope I can spread a fraction of the good that he did…I miss him.

This book is for anyone who wants to a peek behind the exuberant force that was Robin Williams. I think you’ll be surprised what you find.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is 1984 by George Orwell. I’m was actually surprised that I haven’t recommended this book before now. Many think the title 1984 is an inversion of the last two digits of the year it was written, which was 1948 (published in 1949), but I’m not sure this was ever confirmed.

This book takes place in a dystopian future where the world is continually at war (as is common in many dystopian futures). The war is referenced but not really commented on besides how it is used to oppress the people and explain shortages of everyday items such as chocolate or razer blades. You may have heard some of the terminology from this book, such as Newspeak, Thought Police, and Big Brother. The popular slogan of the government in the book is also something you may have heard. It goes:

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

This book is thought-provoking in many ways and shows both what a human, and human society, can endure under an oppressive establishment. It also highlights humanity’s desire to be free and independent. There are several concerning things that are considered common practice in this dystopia. The most frightening for me was the main character’s occupation. Winston Smith works in a government building where his job is to “correct” past news articles to align with the current government’s views and actions.

For instance, he changes something as trivial as the chocolate ration. An article a few months earlier state that the ration has been changed from two bars a day to one bar (I’m paraphrasing this just to give an example so don’t quote me). The government, aka Big Brother, is reducing the ration again to only half a bar, so Winston is given an article to change. He changes it to read that the ration was actually one-quarter of a bar several months ago. So now, the people will read and believe that the new ration of half a bar is actually an increase in chocolate and they will all be happy about this improvement despite the reality that they will be getting less. There is a whole department dedicated to the changing of past information. This is terrifying on so many levels.

Ironically, 1984 returned to the bestsellers list last year (2017) because of today’s political climate. I first read it a few years ago (maybe 2015). Despite the sometimes somber content, I enjoyed it because it was interesting, thought-provoking (I like pondering new ideas), but also frightening because there have been some countries in the world that may have experienced similar events in the past.

This book was banned in 1950 in Russia. Even owning a copy at the time was cause for arrest because it was considered anti-communist propaganda. It was also banned in several countries in Europe at this time along with Orwell’s novella Animal Farm, which was also considered a political commentary.

I couldn’t imagine reading this book and realizing I would be living certain aspects of it. I’m thankful I can read it comfortably and allow it to improve my understanding of the world, people, society, the past, and allow me to understand how fragile information can be. It makes me feel responsible to ensure that facts aren’t muddled when there is irrefutable evidence. It also makes me feel responsible for my neighbors. To stand up if anyone tries to take away their freedoms, even if mine are in no way threatened. This book is both a warning and a call to action to prevent injustices.

Most of this books follows Winston as he tries to live a better life without being caught. He attempts to love someone he shouldn’t. He goes places he otherwise wouldn’t be allowed. He does things any of us would, but he has to always be looking over his shoulder. You may be surprised how this book ends, but I hope it makes you think. After all, some of the best books help us grow.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is One Day by David Nicholls. This book came out in 2009 and lasts 448 pages. I find a lot of books when they are being made into movies (I worked at a movie theater for years). This one is no exception. I saw a movie trailer and was interested and therefore went and read the book. I enjoyed the movie, but of course liked the book better. There are few movies that I tend to think are better than the book, but there are some. This movie stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess and the screenplay was written by David Nicholls himself.

This book has many mixed reviews and I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to give you a fair warning about this one. The book is a little depressing, but I think it does several good things that many might see as simply terrible. One of the main characters, Dexter, is kind of a dick. The other, Emma, is not entirely likable either. (This really makes you want to read it, right?) Hear me out. These characters aren’t great people and they don’t get treated terribly well either. They do, however, represent a more realistic portrayal of life than most fictional stories do. They don’t end up living the exact lives they dreamed. They don’t immediately notice their flaws (if at all).  It is a story about youthful aspiration and compromises made throughout adulthood. The book spans 20 years and these two weave in and out of each other’s lives. They have good days and bad, but they are always drawn back.

Another aspect that drew me to the book was the structure. Each chapter effectively tells each character’s story for that year. Some years, the two characters don’t interact with each other at all. I wouldn’t consider this book a love story. Nor should you expect it to be even though love and relationships do occur throughout. It focuses on loneliness and how we find our way in this strange world of ours.

Yes, this book does come with a warning, and I don’t think everyone will enjoy it. I do think it has the ability to resonate with people, which is why I am recommending it.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Armada by Ernest Cline. This is Cline’s second book and came out in 2015. His first, Ready Player One, came out in 2011, was hugely successful, and was turned into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which was released earlier this year and was a blast. The movie did change a few things up but it was true to the overall story. Of course, the book was a bit better.

Armada is not as intricate as Ready Player One and it doesn’t have as many pop-culture references, but it is a fun ride nonetheless. It still has a small tie to videogames but it centers around an alien invasion. For lack of a better explanation, think of Armada as a vague cross between Ender’s Game and Independence Day.

The title is the name of the game in the book that Zack Lightman plays with his friends. Unbeknownst to him and pretty much everyone else on the planet, the popular videogame is actually a training/scouting program for a military branch tasked with preventing an also unknown but impending alien invasion. That is probably all I should tell you so as not to spoil anything.

If you liked Cline’s first book, you will enjoy his second. If you haven’t read either of his books, I suggest you read Armada first. Both are fun in their own quirky, science fiction ways. Fun fact, both of Ernest Cline’s books have audio versions narrated by Wil Wheaton.

Happy Reading

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen. I first read this book when I was around 12 years old, but I still remember several scenes from this story vividly. The story follows a young man named Mark as he goes on his first solo camping trip across a desert. The trip is supposed to take a week, but while out in the middle of nowhere, a mysterious beam of light appears and transports him through time to a distant future (it somewhat reminds me a bit of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells in this aspect). Don’t worry, there are no aliens, technically, since it is still Earth.

Mark gets effectively tossed into this seemingly new world where he has survive while trying to figure out how to get back to his own time. The more I think about this book the more I am reminded of other stories that have similar elements, such as The Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the movie 12 Monkeys. Anyway, Mark builds a new life in this strange world. A life that is made worthwhile through love and familial bonds, which in turn makes it worth defending. Worth fighting for. The ending was also one of the first that left me, as a fairly young reader, amazed. I can’t give away too much of course, but it is an unexpected ending that is somewhat tragic.

This book was published in 1998 and is 256 pages. It’s a quick read that is often classified as young adult, but of course there are no real age limits on books. It’s just another perk of being an adult. You can read anything you want. I’m not sure how popular this book is (I have yet to come across anyone else I who has read it), but I think it deserves a larger audience. Hopefully you’ll give it shot. If you do, let me know what you think.

Happy Reading.