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.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian book coverThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was first published in 2007 and won the National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature the same year. This story is a semi-autobiographical account about a young, aspiring cartoonist who makes the difficult decision to attend high school outside of the Spokane Indian Reservation. This decision draws much criticism from those on the reservation, and turns his best friend into his worst enemy.

I hate to say that Native American communities gain very little recognition today, but I may just be saying this simply because there are no reservations near my geographical region and there are very few, if any, members of this population in my area. I must admit my own ignorance when I first thought this book was published a few decades earlier than it was, but technically the story is based on events from many years ago so perhaps that is why I had this impression. Regardless, I am surprised at how recent this book has been published (yes is was over a decade ago, but I am getting old now so what is time really?).

One reason I enjoyed this book as much as I did was because of my lack of exposure. I have had little opportunity to learn from this extremely underrepresented community. This book is a surprising insight into this community with all of the economical hardships and difficult cultural dynamics.

Though this book does take place during our protagonist’s initial high school years, I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of fifteen (or anyone whose maturity is around that age). I say this because there are some topics that, though part of life, can be difficult to read. The substance abuse, primarily alcohol, and how it impacts this community is alarming. I know this has become somewhat of a stereotype, but this book explores a few of the reasons why many turn to drinking. It is also alarming how common it is for young Native Americans to attend funerals. I hope this may be more fictionalized than it is in reality, but it feels as though it is just a hope.

This book is a great insight into a community many of us likely have little or no knowledge outside of a brief mention in history books. This story gives us a glimpse into their current livelihood, a group of people seemingly caught between holding onto their heritage and complete assimilation. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a quick, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful read that I believe you should give a chance.

Happy Reading.

My Favorite Books This Year (2020)

2020 has been a wild, scary year, but as always, books remain a great way to escape, learn, grow, and find enjoyment. I decided to put a quick “year in review” together of what I read and enjoyed. A few of these items I’m glad to say were on my list of series to read at the beginning of the year. There is just under 3 weeks left of the year, which is plenty of time to read a few more (which I will be doing), but I figured I had plenty to put into a list.

Murderbot Series

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
I started the year off going through the first several installments of The Murderbot Diaries. The newest released in May this year, Network Effect, and the next comes out this coming April titled Fugitive Telemetry. This series is simply fantastic and I am glad I now have it on my shelf.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew QuickThe Silver Linings Playbook book cover
One of my more recent reads, I really enjoyed this one and go into detail about my thoughts on book versus movie on my post about the book.

Talking to StrangersTalking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s newest book delves into how we perceive those we do not know and how a few recent events escalated the way they did. Touching on some dark material while illuminating on how we interact to others subconsciously, this book is a great insight into how we move through society and, unfortunately, how we fall into situations of miscommunication.

The Inheritance GamesThe Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The great start to a mystery I happily compare to Knives Out, one of my favorite films of yesteryear. Filled with intrigue and questionable family dynamics, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De ZoetThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
This was one that has been on my shelf for some time. I picked it up after enjoying Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas novel and wanted to read more of his work. I was surprised with this one, but pleasantly so. The story was much different than expected though the prose was beautiful and enticing.

Every Tool's A HammerEvery Tool’s A Hammer by Adam Savage
An enlightening look into the life of a main Mythbuster, this book was a great insight into building and what goes into creating some of the iconic films we all know and many love. I learned a lot about craft and making things and I really enjoyed Adam’s passion for what he does (even when things don’t turn out quite like he wanted). It was great to get to know more about him.

All The Light We Cannot SeeAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book came as a recommendation and it was a beautiful book to read. The story was interesting as it covered some of the magical, invisible experiences of our world while centered around young characters trying to make it through World War II.

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
A series on my list and an author I had yet to read. This series opened me to Wolfe’s work and I am a fan. I enjoyed this four book series and am about to finish a collection of short stories. I wish I would have read him sooner, but I am glad to have found his work regardless. His prose is not for everyone and I liken many of his stories to a veil with an entire universe hiding beneath. I intend to read more, and I will not be surprised if he becomes one of my favorite authors.

Books of the New Sun

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Always Look on the Bright Side of LifeAlways Look On The Bright Side Of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle was an interesting insight for me since I grew up on the tail end of Monty Python’s popularity. This isn’t a Monty Python book, but it is an autobiography of Eric Idle, who was a key member and creator of Monty Python so of course it is a subject covered throughout a majority of the chapters. I knew very little about Eric Idle prior to listening to this book (as read by Eric Idle himself which makes it all the better), and I am glad that I am now a little more (or less) cultured.

Eric Idle had a seemingly fantastic life with many ups and downs and screw-ups and successes, but overall I think he would agree that he has had a great life overall. One of the most surprising bits I learned from this book was Eric’s friendship with George Harrison of The Beatles. I never knew that the movie Life of Brian was financed entirely by George because he wanted to see the movie and no one was willing to produce the movie made.

This book was released in 2018 and covers many events of the past several years up to its release. Eric knew so many people in Hollywood who have unfortunately passed away recently including Robin Williams and Carrie Fisher who were two icons I dearly admired. He seemed to know everybody, and everybody knew him.

I think the Python I knew most about prior to this book was John Cleese and that was only because I had seen him in many movies and shows and knew more about his career than the other Pythons. I like John and Eric’s portrayal of him made me like him all the more. Of course, I like Eric all the more as well.

I’m glad I read this book. It has been so long since I have seen a Monty Python movie that I don’t remember much at all about them, and I have never seen their show. I intend to mend these lapses, though I have reservations about how well they will stand the test of time. I’m sure some if not many will, but we will see.

Should the shows and movies not quite tickle my fancy, I at least enjoyed this book which provides a great insight into the group that influenced much of the world. More specifically, it is a look inside the life of the man who made most of it possible.

Happy Reading.

The Man in the High Castle

man-in-the-high-castleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick was first published in 1962 and won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. I’m a fairly big fan of PKD and I’ve had this book on my list to read for some time. I’d always heard it was a great story, the title is fantastic, and the premise is definitely intriguing.

The story takes place in an alternate history where the Allies lost the second World War and the United States is split into two territories with Japan owning the western region and Nazi Germany occupying the eastern (as seen on the cover here).

I’ll admit, I had fairly high expectations for this book despite not knowing much about the story outside of what I stated above. I know Amazon has turned the novel into a series which has several seasons and I’ve heard good things. I may try the show soon as I’m sure it differs greatly from the book and perhaps may even improve upon it as it has been nearly 60 years since the book was released.

The book has several interesting characters and different stories happening simultaneously. I was most interested in the political story-lines (despite not caring for politics in general). As you can imagine, there is a lot of racism and sexism related to Nazi idealism and there are plenty of heinous practices in place throughout the novel in relation to these. Luckily, we don’t have any/many direct instances of these in the story but they are referenced and go along with much of what actually happened during the war.

As in several other stories by PKD, there is a spiritual/divine presence in the form of the I Ching or Book of Changes which is a real book you can find today. The user can determine their fortune and possible short-term future by using this Oracle book. This added an interesting element to the novel, especially as it becomes more prominent as the story progresses, but it may be a little absurd for some readers. However, I did enjoy another element of the story in the form of an alternative history novel within this novel. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a fictional book (not to be confused with a real book by this title recently released in 2015) within The Man in the High Castle which predicts a future where the Allies win the World War (aka the actual outcome of the war). The book is banned in all Nazi territories and it lies toward the center of the overall story.

One of the things I like about PKD’s writing is that it has become a nostalgic form of science fiction. This book states that the Nazi’s have already colonized other planets in the solar system, and you can take rocket flights halfway around the world in 45 minutes, but the phone system still uses operators and everything is paid for in cash. This juxtaposition we recognize today would not have existed in the 1960’s, but I find it charming and makes the book even more interesting because it is a glimpse into the time it was written despite the setting being in the future (a future that has since become our past).

I’m recommending this book mainly because it does have a high status within literature and has become a historical piece itself. The book is a bit dated, but I can understand why it made a big splash when it first came out. I don’t think a book like this would be published today (or at least to the acclaim it received), so I recommend this book with a slight warning to keep your expectations of events a little low. PKD’s writing, for me, is really easy to read and he sometimes goes off on philosophical tangents (part of what I like about it), but it all comes together perfectly and leaves you a little to think about after finishing the story. This story does not disappoint in regards to this. It is a shorter book at around 250 pages depending on the edition you get. This was the first alternative history book I believe I have read and it was an interesting one. If the premise captured your attention, you’ll likely enjoy it.

Happy Reading.