Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Reviews: 16 - 20 of 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them - I decided to listen to the new audio book of this, and it was lots of fun. The audio book is narrated by Eddie Redmayne (who plays Newt in the movies), and there is a new forward added by J.K. Rowling. I read the actual book back in high school for fun, but the audio book is very cute, with sound effects and growls for different animals. I definitely recommend giving it a listen if you get the chance!

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko is a book I still reference in conversation all the time. Most lists of financial books everyone should read include this book, and there is good reason. The book is based off the research these two men did about the typical millionaire in 1995-1996. Until that point, most advertisers had a particular flashy lifestyle in mind when marketing to "millionaires", and these men set out to understand who millionaires really are and then sell their info to advertisers. Happily, they decided to use the info to write this book as well, so we can all benefit from the habits of millionaires. The book sets out to dispel the myth that all millionaires drive brand new luxury cars, live in mansions, and make sure to wear the latest fashions. In reality most "millionaires" (meaning that their net worth is over 1 million dollars) are average people who are very good at saving and investing wisely. Most of who we would look at and assume they are millionaires are actually very cash poor and spend more then they are worth to keep up their lifestyle. This book outlines spending habits and characteristics of millionaires, making it seem much more possible for you to become one yourself if you knuckle down and make wise financial decisions. I loved this book, and definitely recommend that everyone read it. Everyone is bound to learn something they can apply in their own life. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is a makeshift biography on Chris McCandless, a young man who died in the Alaskan wilderness while living off the land in 1992. Krakauer follows the trail of McCandless' young life from a well-off family of the Washington D.C. area through college and through going "off the grid" to his family and friends for several years before he died on his biggest journey. Chris believed that people were too commercialized and that the only way to live a true existence was to shun modern civilization and make it on your own with what you could find - to live "honestly". He did ok on a few trips by himself, but he underestimated the hardships and desolation of Alaska. He ends up stuck and alone with very little food and eventually becomes too weak and starves to death.

I'll tell you ahead of time: this story is very much biased to try and make you like McCandless. The author, Krakauer, sees similarities in himself and Chris McCandless and tries to add deep meaning to Chris' death. This doting appreciation of a kindred soul couldn't mask the truth of Chris' life and mistakes: that he was a spoiled middle class guy who turned against his family because they live up to his personal ideals. As Krakauer references the few journal entries Chris wrote on his trip, he tries to lead the reader around to thinking Chris saw the error of his ways, but there is no proof of that in the information that was found. I'll confess, I read the book because I found the film interesting, but the book did little to kindle that interest. Obviously this is my opinion, but McCandless seems to have been a pretentious know it all of a guy who committed the same error so many people do in their twenties - thinking they are invincible. Obviously he was not, and now there's this book trying to make people like him when in reality making people like him was the lowest thing on his list of priorities. The book references that Chris was Tolstoyan, but he missed the big messages Tolstoy put into his more famous works: that your life is only as valuable as you are to those you love, and when you live only for yourself you will live a meaningless life. So how could a boy be "Tolstoyan" that renounced his family and the company of anyone and wound up dead in the wilderness only to be found by hikers months later? Doesn't add up to me. Nice try, Krakauer. I still don't like Chris McCandless. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro tells of the events of Darlington Hall, a large English hall from the 1930s to 1956. Mr. Stevens has been the butler at Darlington for all this time, and by 1956s the estate has been sold to an American man. His new employer allows Stevens to take a motoring trip to see some of the country, and Stevens uses it as an opportunity to try and rehire Miss Kenton, a former housekeeper who left the life of service to have a family. The story follows Mr. Stevens' trip and his reminiscences about things that happened both in his personal and professional life before the second world war.

The story's underlying theme for Mr. Stevens is the question of following his love or being what he feels is the best he can be in his profession. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton have a very passive aggressive romance over the years, ending when Miss Kenton has clearly waited long enough and decides to marry someone else. All this happens with the backdrop of Lord Darlington, a Nazi sympathizer and owner of Darlington Hall, hosting events with German state officials and other influential people from around Europe and America. The story is beautifully written and gives an interesting look into the classic life of English service. While Mr. Stevens seems to have given up so much in his life, he is happy in his old age knowing he did his duty with dignity. He still seems to wish he could turn back the clock with Miss Kenton though. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Tenth of December by George Saunders was recommended as "a very important book" to me, so I decided to give it a read. The book is a collection of short stories, some that have obvious meanings and some that seem to have no meaning at all. As with any collection like this, some of the stories stuck with me and some are gone. The Semplica Girl Diaries is a strange way to look at how we define what is appropriate commercialism. This story seems to get stranger and stranger once you realize what is happening and why. Victory Lap shows a young, parentally controlled boy's inner turmoil over whether he should help his neighbor who is being kidnapped. Puppy shows what happens sometimes when we think we are making a choice for someone's own good. Escape from Spiderhead is a sci fi story of human experimentation on murderous criminals. While I didn't necessarily understand each story at the time, after they've soaked in for a while I started to see the deeper implications in a few of them. The book will certainly make you think, and probably about topics you've considered but in a completely round about way. I still don't give this book quite as much credit as others, but it's worth a read. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you about Into The Wild. The boy was very disrespectful to his parents and pushed fate too far.


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