Has a book, or a number of books, ever changed your mind?

Friday, 21 November, 2014

I can’t say I can think of a book that changed my mind, or the way I thought, some movies for sure, but then it’s possible they were based on a book. Obviously though certain books have had an impact on some people, and a dozen academics speak about the titles that brought about changes in their perspectives:

Reading The Second Shift (1989), by Arlie Russell Hochschild, was a revelation. When I graduated from college, I had refined the tools of academic success, but I didn’t know where to aim them. It wasn’t until I read The Second Shift that I understood what nonfiction could do: reveal ourselves to ourselves, without pity or condescension, and with great stores of empathy. I do what I do today – write about the triumphs and struggles of everyday people, of how we pinch and squeeze and fit ourselves into the boxes created by broad social and economic trends – because of that book’s example.

These are the thoughts of Allison Pugh an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. I agree that non-fiction can force us to confront ourselves, but I also think that fiction can be as equally persuasive.

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“Life In Half A Second” by Matthew Michalewicz

Monday, 10 November, 2014

Adelaide based entrepreneur and author Matthew Michalewicz was good enough to send me a copy of his book, Life In Half A Second, late last year. I read it, finally, for the first time last month. Then I read it a second time, between, for – I guess – good measure, dual readings of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson.

First to the title. If the four or so million years that the Earth has existed were to be crunched down into a twenty-four hour time frame, then the average seventy year human life span would equate to just half of a second of that time. Half of one second. That might as well be all the time you have to do whatever it is in life that you want to.

With the time we have in such short supply therefore, you need to be clear about what you want from life, and how to go about achieving whatever that is. The good news is the formula, if you like, for achieving this, if you like, success, is, of itself, pretty straightforward. As in five main points, straightforward.

  • Define your goals. Precisely. Then visualise them. Constantly.
  • Align your goals with your desires. What you want must be in sync with your passions.
  • Evaluate, and if need be, change your environment. Hindrances must be eliminated.
  • Map out a path to reaching your goals. Lists and baby steps will be essential.
  • Act. Reassess, and alter if necessary, your plan, and the steps you are taking.

That’s just the merest outline of what is required. A whole lot of effort will be needed if you want to get anywhere though. And that’s why “Life In Half A Second” is my sort of thing. No adherence to a philosophy, dogma, or some dubious or doubtful guru is included. Just some thoughtful planning, and then loads of hard work.

In fact the hard work part is one reason people don’t prevail. It seems many of us simply don’t want to put in the hard yards. Or to take the requisite leap of faith in ourselves. It’s all too hard. How could it ever be possible, and the like. Of course it was once believed a mile couldn’t be run in less than four minutes. Oh really?

And so I’m going to give it a go. I already feel overwhelmed as I write this, but it is, after all, a case of do or do not. Sharing your goals with others is also part of the process, perhaps the only thing I’m not so sure of, however a modest financial objective, and the writing of a novel manuscript, possibly not for publication, are two I’ll mention.

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Some of the best film adaptations of books

Monday, 27 October, 2014

If you think that the hit rate for films that have been successfully adapted from books is low, then this list of features that are regarded as such, might change your line of thinking, offer some hope, what have you.

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How much fiction is in fact based on non-fiction, or actual events?

Monday, 27 October, 2014

It is widely assumed that the work of many fiction writers is in some way autobiographical, or based, in part at least, on their personal experience. Why then go to sometimes elaborate lengths to disguise their writing as fiction?

Eager to find a form of expression for ideas or feelings that would upset a status quo we are all heavily invested in, writers have often invented stories quite different from their own biographies or from the political situation in which they find themselves, but that nevertheless reconstitute the play of forces, the dilemmas and conundrums behind their own preoccupations.

So there’s some actual doubt, I’d say. You never know how useful that might be one day.

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The favourite books of the famous and influential

Wednesday, 15 October, 2014

It occurs to me I’m not reading enough books at the moment. Therefore I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” last week, and am about to start “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson, after I’ve read “Life in Half a Second”, by Matthew Michalewicz, a tome I think I need to read. And absorb.

I’ve had to cut back on the movies I watch to do achieve though, but I’ve probably been a little over-weight films these last few years anyway.

Long story short, I’m often on the look out for reading ideas, so this list of the favourite books of people such as Bill Murray, Michelle Obama, Robin Williams, Olivia Munn, Hillary Rodham Clinton, James Franco, and forty-four other “cultural icons”, might have come along at just the right time.

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The smartwatch, based on the codex rotundus… or bookwatch?

Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

Codex rotundus

The arrival of what is effectively a smartphone you wear on your wrist, in watch style, caused a splash a month or so ago, but how about the codex rotundus, a circle shaped book, about nine centimetres across, that almost looks like it could be worn as a watch, as wearable technology.

And dating from the late fifteenth century, on top of that. How old hat does this make that smartwatch look then?

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Is there a way to accrue more life points so there’s more time to read?

Wednesday, 8 October, 2014

This is why we struggle to make it through our reading lists… books, articles, websites, social media, what have you. If time to take in all this material is broken down into “life points”, then we are possessed of a maximum of forty million of these units as of age five.

Given how much there is to potentially read though, likely many trillions of life points worth, if not much more, it quickly becomes clear that care must be taken in how this all too limited supply of points is allotted.

If you live in a developed nation, your average life span is about 80 years. Most children learn to read at 5 years-old, so we only have about 39.5 million life points to invest in consuming content. Of course, this presumes you do not sleep, and instead lay in bed for eight hours each night, flicking through shit on your phone.

Via Hypnophant.

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The autobiographical story behind classic works of fiction

Tuesday, 7 October, 2014

Harper Lee’s 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a book that I am finally reading now, may not be strictly autobiographical, but it appears to be based in part on Lee’s life. I wonder though, what work of fiction is not, in some way, autobiographical?

Not too many, it could be.

She wrote the book in the years following the death of her mother in 1951, and in the story Scout too has lost her mother. And even the character of Dill, who lives next door to the Finch family during the summer, is modelled on her childhood friend Truman Capote, who would spend the summer with his aunt in Alabama while his mother visited New York.

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How reading the “Harry Potter” books made me a better person

Thursday, 18 September, 2014

Not only will you be treated to a gripping yarn when you read the “Harry Potter” books, you may also emerge a better person, says a study that found readers of the saga tended to become more empathic by the time they had read through the series:

For decades it’s been known that an effective means of improving negative attitudes and prejudices between differing groups of people is through intergroup contact – particularly through contact between “in-groups,” or a social group to which someone identifies, and “out-groups,” or a group they don’t identify with or perceive as threatening. Even reading short stories about friendship between in- and out-group characters is enough to improve attitudes toward stigmatized groups in children.

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Authors are earning less, but books are getting longer, how so?

Friday, 1 August, 2014

Even though authors today are earning less than they did in the past, the length of books – in terms of number of pages – has increased. Books published last year, for instance, were, on average, more than twice the size of those written in 1904.

So what accounts for this trend? One thought is that ebooks do not impose the same cost restraints on writers, and accordingly there isn’t a great deal of difference in a book that is one hundred pages long, compared to one that is one thousand pages.

Obviously part of this experiment meant finding average book lengths for a cross-section of time long enough to mean anything. So I went 110 years back to 1904, and did some research for every 10 years. So I Googled “Best Books of… 1904… 1914… 1924… etc.” and Google’s wizardry helped me out quite a bit, because the search results display an immediate gallery of books. It ends up being a combination of prize winners, best sellers, and attention garners. Perfect.

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