Last Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I thought it fitting to make this the last recommendation of the year (and last of the weekly recommendations). The book is in itself a time machine as most books are. It was originally published in 1895, but holds up well in 2018. Of course, the language is a little dated but not so much to cause difficulty in reading. It may even increase your vocabulary as several words in it aren’t commonly used anymore.

It is still an entertaining book. Enough so that it has been made into movies as recently as 2002. I’m sure in 1895 this book would have been considered outlandish, entertaining, and even frightening, but today I’m afraid it would seem just another story. There is an enormous amount of science fiction today that includes time travel. However, this story is the first mention of the concept (I would be more than happy if someone proved me wrong here). It is always interesting to go back and read books like this that seem to be an integral building block to one of today’s most popular fictional subjects. As a writer, it is also interesting to read what had inspired other writers throughout the years. You begin to notice similarities the more you read whether they may be intentional or not.

Time travel has always been of interest to me because it is very hard to pull off in terms of making it believable or at least practical. There is always a chance missing a small incongruity that ends up debunking the whole concept. These are often in the form of paradoxes but sometimes can just be continuity errors. Either way, they bring in doubt which greatly weakens the story.

H.G. Wells was very clever when he wrote this story because he made it simple with no complicated processes that could easily have initiated such an error. He introduces the machine itself without diving into the technical aspects about how it works (a technique often used by Christopher Nolan in many of his films). He does so in a way that makes it simply believable. We don’t need to get to the nitty-gritty. We just want to see what happens next. Wells then has the traveler go so far into the future that no one could ever refute what happens in the story. Too many time-travel stories make the mistake of setting the future to within one or two generations which quickly dates them, such as Back to the Future. In this book, the character travels hundreds of thousands of years. The world we see through the time traveler (since that is all we know him by) is one that is, for all we know, plausible.

Through clever writing and an engaging narrative despite several dated terms and a standard Victorian structure, The Time Machine holds up for modern audiences. It is shorter at around 120 pages and broken up into 12 chapters, which allows you to break up the reading if you don’t want to read it all in one go.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Art Matters by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell. This book is less a traditional book and more of a small collection of essays that are both a defense of art and its importance to humanity and a call to action to not give up on your dreams. There are four sections of this little book and each page is filled with Neil’s words accompanied with brilliant illustrations by Chris Riddell. This book is one I already consider essential to anyone who aspires to create anything. It’s short enough to be enjoyed in one, brief sitting.

I was fortunate enough to see Neil in person last month (the day before this little book officially released), and he read a section from it called “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming.” This section was also from his book A View from the Cheap Seats, but before that it was originally given as the second annual lecture of the Reading Agency in 2013. This section goes on to detail the importance of (you guessed it) libraries, reading, and daydreaming. The importance of aspiring to create thing that did not exist before. To put forth into the world something it has never seen. It details how libraries are havens for more than just books. It informs us…..well….I shouldn’t give it all away and spoil it for you.

This tiny little book, so small it could easily be overlooked, has not become one of the most important books in my personal library. It is important because it is a reminder. It is something I can easily pick up when my self-doubt tries to overwhelm me into giving up on my aspirations of being a writer myself. It washes away that doubt and replaces it with inspiration to get back to it and write. I simply flip through the pages and my brain is rinsed of negativity and the imagination glands begin to pump out ideas. Of course this makes this book even more valuable to writers and artists, but it is important for everyone. Each of the four sections have been previously printed or recorded, but they are all collected here in a convenient, pocket-sized book, for you to enjoy when you most need it.

I know it is the holiday season and Christmas is only a few days away. If you need a last-minute gift idea for the creative person (or anyone who likes books), here it is. If you don’t get this book as a gift this year, go out and treat yourself.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. My now father-in-law bought this book for me over a year ago and I just got around to reading it last month (that to-be-read pile never decreases). Of course, Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis is best known for writing the Chronicles of Narnia series. I haven’t read that series, and now that I think about it, this might be the first of Lewis’s books that I have read.

This book reads as a collection of letters sent by Screwtape, a demon/devil, to his nephew, Wormwood. The letters offer advice on how to effectively tempt a human in such a way that they end up in Hell as sustenance for fellow demons. Though I am not a religious man, I enjoyed this book for several reasons.

The first being the historical context and reassurance that humanity has suffered the same or similar societal issues for at least the past 100 years. This book was published in 1942. Many of the tricks that Screwtape offers his nephew to persuade his patient are also reflections on human nature and its social interactions. I was surprised to find many of the behaviors spot on even for today, nearly eighty years after they were written, in a time drastically different due to technological advancement and the connection of humanity across the world by the ambivalent internet.

I know that C.S. Lewis had a crisis of faith at one time and that J.R.R. Tolkien, along with another friend, helped him during this time. The result ended up with Lewis bolstering his beliefs and going on to write many theologically influenced books, including this one. Lewis even dedicated this book to J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis and Tolkien were best friends as they taught at Oxford and remained friends their entire lives. They often reviewed each other’s works and offered advice. I could go further into their relationship, but I’ll refrain because I’ll end up talking more about Tolkien than Lewis, or this book of his that I’m recommending.

The letters often refer to a war and how it could be used to win the battle for the human soul. This war refers to World War II, but I wouldn’t be surprised if World War I had some influence as well. Apparently there are many ways for us humans to be influenced toward sin and other actions. There is also many ways we can seemingly be redeemed (and fairly easily). This book is considered “Christian apologetic novel” and honestly I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it has many interesting lectures I think anyone can enjoy. Lewis stated that he had a hard time writing this book because Screwtape was such an abhorrent character (being a demon). Luckily for us, he was able to produce this interesting religious and social commentary.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This book is classified as a children’s book and, at only 83 pages with illustrations, can be read in one sitting (which I did in about an hour). The Little Prince was first published in 1943 and captured readers world-wide. It has been adapted into film a few times with the most recent being in 2015 as an animated movie produced by Netflix, which is where I first discovered the story. I was browsing when I came across it. I watched the trailer and thought it was interesting, added it to my queue, and decided to read the book before watching it. I never knew this story existed before I saw the trailer. I didn’t know anything about Antoine de Saint-Exupery either. Again, I find myself discovering new things because someone liked a story enough to adapt it into another medium in hopes of spreading the story to a new/larger audience. I myself experienced it for the first time.

Honestly, I’m surprised I’d never read this book before. Maybe I appreciate it more now that I’m older than I might have when I was younger. This book is one that holds elements that entertain children but remind adults something we may have forgotten. A reminder about what is important. It also reminds it’s okay to grow old, but we should never grow up, even when there is plenty of adulting to do.

What’s so great about this book is its transience. It can be picked up, read quickly, and read many times throughout one life to help keep a stable perspective in the chaotic world we inhabit. There are infinite points within this book that can by analyzed and broadened or delved into to make a grand allegorical statement, but it is also something that can be enjoyed without the need to build it into something beyond itself. It is a story that goes beyond the page, and these types of stories are important.

If you’ve read this story before, then you know what I mean. If you were like me a few months ago and had never heard of it, spare an hour to give a read and see what you might get out of it. Some books are meant for children. Books like this one remind us that we are all children.

Happy Reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This book is extremely well written and gives a glimpse into a way of life that I think was obscure even when Geisha were common in Japan. This book is a complete fiction as Mr. Golden overtly informs us, but it is written to be almost a believable and enticing memoir. The story is enthralling in its simplicity and accuracy, which was honed by the significant research done by the author.

I remember when this book became a huge hit. It was originally published in 1997, but became a movie in 2005. I was probably too young to appreciate the story and again too young to appreciate the movie when it originally released. Though I do recall overhearing that the soundtrack for the movie was exceptional. I have always been a fan of John Williams work, so this one aspect kept me intrigued. However, I didn’t read the book until just a few weeks ago, and I still have yet to see the movie.

I can’t say what prompted me to read this book when I did. I had bought it a few years prior at a used book sale put on by my local library. There were plenty of copies because, as stated earlier, it had become a huge hit over a decade ago. I knew it had to be good since it made a stir not only in America, but across the globe. I had just finished a science fiction book I greatly enjoyed and was piddling around for a day or two trying to decide what to read next when I happened to pick this one up seemingly at random. I was quickly drawn in and enjoyed it immensely.

This is the only book Arthur Golden has written (so far) and I am not sure if he plans to write any more. It’s been over twenty years since this book came out, but I’m always one to never say never.

You may have already read this book or have at least heard of it already. If you haven’t read it, give it a try. If you think it is something beyond your area of interest, you may be surprised as I was (though I do read biographies and memoirs from time to time). It is never a bad thing to open your mind to new ideas or broaden your horizons. Having a better understanding of other cultures and other people makes more empathetic. This book is a work of fiction, yes, but it is based in history and facts from the time.

After all, books are meant to show us things we’ve never seen before. To transport us places we may never go (even if it is somewhere we are capable of going). Through them we can experience impossible things like going into the past or completely different worlds. We can learn so much within the pages of a book. Even if the contents are completely fabricated. We may learn even more because they are.

Happy Reading.