A Moveable Feast

A Moveable FeastThis week’s book recommendation is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. This may be a book that is more interesting for writers or historians, but I think it’s an interesting read. The book is a memoir of Hemingway’s time in Paris. It was published in 1964, three years after his death in 1961. A “Restored Edition” was published back in 2010 and includes several sketches by Hemingway at the time along with other materials not found in the original publication.

Hemingway isn’t a colossal figure in my eyes as he is for many others. I’ll admit I’ve only read a few of his books, this being one of them, and several short stories (my favorite probably being “Hills Like White Elephants”). I understand why people like him and why he is such a figure in the literary world, but he didn’t instill a desire to devour everything he ever wrote that many claim to experience. I’ve experienced that feeling with other writers though. We all have our own tastes.

So why am I recommending this book? Because I like it. Simple as that. I like the truth of it. It’s a memoir, not a fiction. It details his life while in Paris and life was a lot different in the 1920’s than it is today, almost 100 years later (yeah, we aren’t too far away from 2020). Memoirs and biographies are like glimpses into the past where the world is the same but of course strangely different. I really enjoyed the final few chapters because they bring in F. Scott Fitzgerald. The two of them were good friends and there is a scene with Fitzgerald’s car breaking down that stuck with me because it would be considered absurd today. Maybe it was the sign of the times. Maybe people trusted each other a bit more back then (probably), or maybe it was the carelessness of these two writers with their lives outside of their written work. Who knows?

If you are interested in Hemingway, writing, or history, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Even if you don’t care for any of those things, you may still like it. If this book is outside of your comfort bubble of interest, try it anyway, or scroll to the top of the page and look at my other recommendations.

Happy Reading.

Man’s Search For Meaning

Man's SearchThis week’s book recommendation is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Though this book takes on that penultimate question of humanity, it does so in a way that is derived from experience (an experience that pushes the limits of the human mind and body) and a careful examination of that experience. Vicktor E. Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist. This book details his experience and observations during his time in concentration camps. A majority of these reflections take place in Auschwitz.

Please try to prevent yourself from letting that information bias your opinion of this book. In fact, I suggest you try to temporarily forget what you know of World War II as you read it to better grasp what this book is attempting to discover. This book is a record of events and a psychological analysis of the human mind. The themes found here are dark at times and unveil some of humanity’s worst traits, but there is a triumph. Human history is plagued with injustices. This book doesn’t try to make sense of those injustices, it tries to make sense of the human mind and the differences between individuals. It attempts to discover what humanity really is.

This book was published in 1946. The first half is Viktor’s experiences in the concentration camps. He spends time analyzing the camp guards, but he spends even more time analyzing his fellow prisoners. The second half delves into Logotherapy, which is Viktor’s theory that human nature is motivated by a search for a purpose for one’s life. This search is individual and suggests that each person discovers their own answer to what their meaning is.

Most copies of this book are printed as a small paperback. Small enough to fit in a pocket and is roughly 150 pages. Despite its brevity, this book has the potential to cause introspection for the reader that in turn causes analysis of others. At the base of it all is a hope for humanity.

I often recommend books that have positively impacted me and that I greatly enjoy. Some of my past recommendations were purely entertainment picks. Many were books that opened my mind by making me questions certain things in this world. This book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is something a little more. Maybe because it is steeped in history or straightforwardly examines the very definition of humanity. Something about it resonated with me, and I believe I will return to it several times throughout my life.

Happy Reading.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

TolkienThis week’s book recommendation is J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. This is the first biography that’s made it onto my book recommendations list and I feel it is a good alternative to outright recommending The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or any of his other tremendous works. I say this because anyone who knows me knows that I have a slight obsession with Tolkien’s works, which in turn made me feel like recommending his work was a cop-out as far as a book recommendation goes since his magnum opus is so popular.

So instead of writing a very lengthy recommendation on LotR, I am going to discuss the man himself. Humphrey Carpenter is an excellent biographer and definitely did his homework. He is also the only biographer (that I know of) to have gotten permission from J.R.R. Tolkien himself to write it. He therefore had access to a lot of material any other biographer then or since wouldn’t, making this biography one of the best out there about this man. It covers nearly the entirety of Tolkien’s life. From birth, into the wonders of childhood, through the Great War, and beyond into academia and fatherhood (not to mention the parts about writing a few books that caught the world’s attention). I found the time at Oxford the most interesting, but I’m biased toward academia myself. And despite being a non-theologian, I did find Tolkien’s faith and resolve toward it a bit inspiring considering the conflicts it caused among family.

I won’t cover any details because I don’t want to spoil anything in this great insight into the man behind the epic, but there is a good deal about his friendship with C.S. Lewis. I have no doubt that you will learn more than just about Tolkien from this book. So if you like Tolkien, or just like biographies/history, give this one some consideration. It’s good to read a little history from time to time. It’s like a glimpse into the past.

Happy Reading.

Yes Man

Yes ManThis week’s recommendation is Yes Man by Danny Wallace. Yes, there was a movie made inspired by the book. Yes, the movie was good and conveyed the message fairly well and it was funny. Yes, Danny Wallace himself had a cameo in the movie.

The main reason I recommend this book is because it has the potential to change perspectives for the better. I remember I read this book for the first time after going through a real rough patch and it helped me a lot. Imagine, you hear some guy on the bus say that people should “say yes more,” and then you decide to make that a life mission. Danny did. He said yes to EVERYTHING for an entire year. Even small things, and the stuff he experienced was quite impressive (good and bad). That’s right, this is an autobiographical account.

The point is, our lives are very much within our control even when it feels like we have no hands on the wheel. The way we approach life directly corresponds to how our life moves forward. This book not only shows you how saying yes to absolutely everything can improve parts of your own life in ways you thought weren’t possible, it also shows you why you shouldn’t say yes to all things. It just suggests that you simply “say yes more” and get a little more out of life than when you would if you’d said no.

If you’ve seen the movie, check out the book. The book is almost always better anyway, and in this case, the book is quite different and is an actual true account. I’d let you borrow my copy, but I lent it out and it disappeared. It may be time for a re-read.

Happy Reading.