"A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it." – Michelangelo
In this Book Reviews section, I write short blurbs on fiction I have read and recommend (as not to give away the entire story.) I do the same with nonfiction books I recommend. Once a month I review a nonfiction book in more depth, one that really stands out, in the format of a blog post.
I update this section on a regular basis, with the most recent reviews on top,
10 per page. This is page 1, the oldest reviews.
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about honour, injustice and growing up in the old South. Seen through the eyes of a young girl, ‘Scout’ Finch, the story unfolds as she learns why her father, a lawyer, would defend a local Negro man, at great risk for himself and his family. Racial strife and naked hatred boil over as her father continues to represent the Black man and insist on a fair trial—teaching her, as well as the community, that the color of one’s skin could never determine one’s integrity. Mockingbirds are harmless birds, Scout discovers, the only thing they do is “sing their hearts out for us.” That’s why they should never be killed.
This book has been in print for over 75 years. It was first published in 1937 and took both the author and publisher by surprise when it became an international bestseller. The book was revised in 1981, without changing its message one bit—some contemporary examples were added.
Dale Carnegie initially conducted courses in public speaking, and soon realized adults needed even more training in the “fine art of getting along with people in everyday business and social contacts.” Carnegie tackles the basics of handling people, by not “kicking over the beehive.” He explains how it is possible to get people to like you, by becoming genuinely interested in them and making them feel important. It is possible to win people over to your way of thinking, by shifting focus and be an effective leader through honest appreciation and encouragement.
This book should be compulsory reading-material for all grade twelve students and every university and college degree. Read it at least once a year.
If you plan on reading only two non-fiction books this year, let this be one. Most of us have little idea why exercise makes us feel better, we only know it does. The real reason is, “it makes the brain function at its best.”
John Ratey, a psychiatrist, explains how, just as we sculpt muscle through exercise, we can also sculpt the brain. He demonstrates how and why physical activity is crucial to the way we think and feel. He explains the science of how exercise increases growth factors in the brain, which improve and increase connectivity in many parts of the brain—called neuroplasticity. He explains how exercise can be used to regain a sense of control in anxiety, depression, attention deficit and addiction problems. Especially with the aging brain, exercise shows an even more dramatic stabilizing and healing power.
This is not science fiction. Although this book was published in 2008, seven years later, neuroscience publications keep confirming that manipulations such as exercise, can counteract the age-related degeneration of the brain.
It is so easy to live one’s life without ever discovering what your true purpose is, often settling for a life of regret, a life of second best and the mediocre. It is possible to find one’s true calling and live a life with impact and meaning, and still do work you love. The Art of Work is a practical guide on finding and honing your purpose, through tenacity, by using failure to pivot toward a life that matters and to keep going till the very end. The essence of work (our entire lives), is not to make us merely richer, but ultimately better people.
With his deft economical use of language, Ondaatje paints a Toronto from the 1920s, which fills up with new construction projects and immigrants alike. This is a love story, poetically sculpted and interwoven with the history of the young city as men and women and machines impact each other. It is an exotic tale of power, of privilege, of desire and sheer manual labour, mixed in explosive quantities to draw the reader into the golden era of the industrial boom.
By Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient.
This short book provides a clear, actionable system to author online-platform-building. It guides you on how to connect with your readers and sell books. This is done through a Connection System, consisting of gaining permission from readers, delivering content, connecting through outreach and ethically sell your books. Whether you’re a brand new or a seasoned author, if you wish to gain thousands more readers, read this book and implement the steps
Anil’s Ghost: Winner of the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and Prix Médicis (France.) Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, crafts a harrowing story of ordinary people caught up in a complex civil war. He paints the turbulent years of the 1980s and 1990s which tore Sri Lanka systematically apart. Archaeology is the theme, but Anil Tissera, an anthropologist, unearth much more than one skeleton—each character is faced with their own ghosts. Another literary accomplishment by Ondaatje, who transports us right into the midst of the chaos, the terror, the sorrow and the beauty that engulfed every day.
Michael Ondaatje is the author of eleven books of poetry, a memoir and several novels, including The English Patient. The Cat’s Table is the story of an eleven-year-old boy who travels unaccompanied, by ocean liner, from Sri Lanka to England during the 1950s. During the 21-day journey, which takes them through the Suez Canal, the boy encounters a collection of strange and wonderfully eccentric people, including two boys his own age. The Cat’s Table refers to the most modest table in the dining hall, a fact which escapes the boy’s interest. The three boys tumble and bounce from the one high sea adventure into the next discovery.
Ondaatje charms, once more, with his economic use of words, and poetic description of ordinary and exceptional incidents and individuals.
An insightful book about snap-decision making. Drawing on the latest neuroscience and psychology, Blink argues the case why decisions you make very quickly (blink) can be every bit as good, as decisions made cautiously and deliberately (think). It explains how our unconscious has the ability to ‘thin slice,’ to find patterns in situations and behaviours. Snap decision-making can be educated and controlled. We have to learn when to blink and when to think.