“A Clockwork Orange”, by Anthony Burgess

July 6, 2008

After reading 1984 nearly a year ago, I spent good hours sifting through the Google search results for “dystopia novels”. I think that’s how I got to this one, but I couldn’t be sure. Books often spend months at a time on my to-read list, and (un?)luckily I don’t keep track of who recommended what.

With its weird Russian-influenced Nadsat English, A Clockwork Orange became interesting pretty quickly. Here’s a sample paragraph:

“They viddied us just as we viddied them, and there was like a very quit kind of watching each other now. This would be real, this would be proper, this would be the nozh, the oozy, the britva, not just fisties and boots. Billyboy and his droogs stopped what they were doing, which was just getting ready to perform something on a weepy young devotchka they had there, not more than ten, she creeching away but with her platties still on.”

As you can see, even my not-enough-to-speak knowledge of Russian helped make this a lot of fun. It took me nearly half the audio book to figure out that “horrorshow” meant “хорошо” and not “horror show”. (That pun is actually used in the book, too.)

In the end, it turned out to be more of a coming-of-age story than an earnest dystopia. (Perhaps that’s why the ending caught me off-guard.) But if you asked me what other book I could compare it with, I wouldn’t have an answer, and this is enough to make it a great read.

  • Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.
  • What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some ways better than a man who has the good imposed upon him?
  • It’s funny how the colours of the like real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.
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Quotes from “Fourth Comings”

July 6, 2008

by Megan McCafferty.

Sequel to Charmed Thirds, sequel to Second Helpings, sequel to Sloppy Firsts.

And somewhat of a disappointment, although a necessary and unavoidable end-of-the-line (but not the series).

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Quotes from “Charmed Thirds”

July 6, 2008

by Megan McCafferty.

(sequel to Second Helpings, sequel to Sloppy Firsts)

A note on the style of writing… convoluted, antithetic, yet hilarious. Here’s a typical sentence:

“Thus, the of-the-moment, faux-antifashion fashion statement was to go out looking like you really didn’t care what you looked like when you went out.”

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Stumbling on Happiness

June 10, 2008

You may have noticed how ridiculously small the TV-screens are in most old sci-fi movies. Or how that low exam score moved from “catastrophe” to “oh well” within a few hours. Or how that long-awaited vacation is so disappointing now that it’s finally there. Or how an I love you written years ago seems so fake now. You may have wondered how you could possibly have had such thoughts or made such decisions. Now you’ve got answers.

From the also-available-in-audio shelf comes Daniel Gilbert with his great non-fiction book called Stumbling on Happiness. The author tries to answer the question of why happiness is so elusive and unpredictable.

What the book basically tells you is:

  • experience is subjective;
  • your imagination lies to you all the time;
  • your memories lie to you all the time;
  • your predictions can never be accurate;
  • you make ridiculous choices all the time;
  • you can never be sure of anything, past, present or future;
  • you are not unique.

Pretty tough truths, huh? Well, I’ve actually exaggerated quite a bit. Besides the fact that it points out uncomfortable things, I loved everything about this book:

  • It’s written in a very accessible and succinct style. If your attention slips for even a few seconds, you’ll have to rewind.
  • The author has a great sense of humor (I rarely laugh out loud).
  • Every chapter starts with a quotation from Shakespeare.
  • It will not trigger your “citation needed” alarm. In fact, it has such a solid scientific basis that the most frequent word combination after “for example” is probably “in one study”.
  • The examples given are logical and straightforward. Hey, the guy’s a Harvard professor!
  • The audio version is read by the author himself. That’s a plus because his tone of voice shows you exactly what he means.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out the inner workings of memory, imagination, and future prediction. It’s so good that I’ll probably want to go through it again in a few months. For a more thorough summary check the Wikipedia page.


The World is Flat.

May 31, 2008

by Thomas L. Friedman.

When I first heard about this book it was not amongst my priorities (for me, economics == boring). But after hearing recommendations from two different sources, I decided to give it a try. I ended up listening to the audio version instead.

What I liked:

  • Good answers to questions like:
    • Why does India have some of the best programmers?
    • Why are most of my gadgets made in China / Taiwan / Malaysia?
    • Why does Amazon.com not ship electronics to Moldova?
    • Why do I find it strange that my parents expect their employer to keep them hired for life?
  • The author really did his homework. You wouldn’t expect to be finding Linux references in an economics book, would you? (That’s just an example.)
  • Good thoughts to consider about the positive side of globalisation. The few globalisation critics I have asked couldn’t give me a good answer to what’s so BAD about it.
  • Although written from an American point of view, the book contains enough ideas for people in the third world to be worth the read.

What I liked less:

  • It is written in a very repetitive (self-help-like) style. To avoid falling asleep I listened to it at 1.3x speed
  • This is not the author’s fault, but there doesn’t seem to be a definite way for countries like Moldova to really get into the “flat world”. India made it, but it seems like we have neither their optimism nor their hard-work genes…

This book has convinced me (yet again) that this is the perfect era to live in, and that technology and globalisation are solving more problems than they are creating. The world is moving in the right direction, and there is no point turning towards the past and swimming against the current.

A quotation from the final chapter:

When memories exceed dreams, the end is near.


Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

May 30, 2008

by Gabrielle Zevin.

After the great first few sentences, I honestly expected more from this book. I liked how it was split into three parts (I was, I am, I will). But there is not much in there besides this. The ‘why’ behind many parts of the story is unclear, in fact ‘luck’ has more to do with it than I would have liked. The novel is an artificial and didactic (which I hate) story about putting ones past behind and becoming a better person. It also contains a bunch of references to movies and music, which perhaps I’d look up if I liked the story more.

Some quotes:

  • […] listen for the pauses when you want to know if someone’s hiding something.
    2/44:45
  • I was worried that you had gotten a bit, well, cynical […]. I wanted to remind you about romance. It was probably a stupid notion — a sixteen-year-old who’s not an expert on romance ought to be brought to a lab and dissected.
    3/16:45
  • Ask two people to tell you anything, you’ll get two versions.
    3/17:55
  • Screw the past.
    4/14:00
  • I think it’s in somewhat bad taste to give an amnesiac a blank book.
    4/23:40
  • It’s when you don’t need something that you tend to lose it.
    5/43:15
  • But the good thing about art is that no one necessarily knows what you mean by it anyway.
    6/11:10
  • They should tell you when you’re born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.
    6/52:15

The Quiet American

May 1, 2008

by Graham Greene… A book which views life from behind very dark glasses. Read the rest of this entry »