Welcome to my second weekly dispatch on what I’ve been reading. Owing to my weird approach to reading, I tend to finish books in clusters, and this week I polished off the novel The Martian, the horror short story anthology 999, and three nonfiction books (Principles of Tibetan Medicine, The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga, and How Pleasure Works.) The only one of these that I’ve completed a review on is Principles of Tibetan Medicine, but reviews of the others will be in the works in the upcoming week(s.)
The star of my completed pile was Andy Weir’s The Martian. It’s a spectacular science fiction read that’s engaging from beginning to end. Readers who love science will find it particularly fascinating and well-researched. For the yogis and yoginis out there, Ray Long’s book on muscles as applied to Hatha Yoga is well-organized, easy to follow, and easy to use.
The completion of several books this week creates openings in what fiction and poetry I’ll be reading on Kindle in the coming weeks. Drum-roll please… I will be starting the following books this week:
1.) Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan: Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 2012, and this 2006 book is about a benevolent land owner who is killed on orders by Mao Zedong, and is subsequently reincarnated as a series of farm animals.
2.) I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison: The title of this collection of short stories is also the title of the most prominent piece in it. The 1968 Hugo winning story is a post-apocalyptic tale of artificial intelligence run amok.
3.) The Aeneid of Virgil: I’m overdue to read this epic poem by the famous Latin poet written during the first century B.C.
In nonfiction, I made an impulse purchase this week that I’m about half way through reading. It’s called Zen Mind, Strong Body and it’s by Al Kavadlo. I’m having minor buyer’s remorse, not because it’s a bad book, but because it turns out to be a collection of blog posts, and so I could have probably gotten all this for free by digging around the world wide web a little. (Moral: always read the fine print on the dust jacket. I wouldn’t mind, but it was a bit pricey for rehashed blog posts.) Kavadlo is a personal trainer and advocated of calisthenics and advanced bodyweight exercises, and he has many interesting ideas on both mind and body. It has provided some interesting food for thought, but I don’t really need the hundreds of pictures of the author with his shirt off.
I’m about halfway through Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s latest book, Antifragile, and would like to make some headway on that in the upcoming week. While I’m a fan of Taleb’s work, I’ve gotten bogged down in this one because it keeps going and going and going on about a rather simple concept–i.e. that some things become stronger or more robust when exposed to stressors. I’m not sure the book needed to be this long. I suspect that Taleb is the kind to throw a world class tantrum if an editor took a hatchet to a word of his writing–and now he has the following to make it work. He’s a smart guy and raises many excellent points, but he seems like a major prima donna. At any rate, maybe he’ll surprise me in the second half with something novel and interesting–in lieu of endless restatement of his (admittedly fascinating) thesis.
I also started a book a few weeks back called Zen and the Brain by James H. Austin that I’d like to get back to. It examines what science has to say about the practice of meditation from the perspective of a neuroscientist who’s also a Zen practitioner.
At the end of last year, I did a post about the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge. It’s a sort of scavenger hunt for readers. There are 25 categories of books, of which one is supposed to read at least one book each. If you can count the same book for several categories (I don’t see why not as long as they fit the description) then I have so far covered seven categories. (Not bad for the first month of the challenge.)
-Collection of short stories: 999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense
–Author of a different gender: Tears in Rain (Rosa Montero) and Principles of Tibetan Medicine (Tamdin Rither Bradley) [Both females]
–Science-fiction novel: The Martian
–Collection of poetry: Leaves of Grass
–A book recommended for you by someone else: The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga
-A book originally published in another language: Tears in Rain (Spanish)
–A book published in 2014: The Martian (Some might dispute this as it was self-published in 2011, but not picked up by a publisher until 2014.)