December Book- Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Summary:

 

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

My Take, Why it’s worth a read:

 

I’ll be honest.  I don’t know if I loved this book or not.  However, it had nothing to do with Aziz or the way it was written.  My inability to figure out my feelings on this book have more to do with the subject matter.  This book got me thinking a lot about love, relationships, and how we go about experiencing them.

As a single person, I couldn’t figure out if I was hopeful because of all the options that we didn’t have before or if in the end it was overwhelming and would lead to me spending my life alone.  Aziz takes no real stance on if the way romance has changed is good or bad and perhaps it’s because there’s no definite answer.

Regardless of your current relationship status, this book will make you think about love in a different way and anything that expands my mind is something I feel comfortable recommending to others.

Favorite Quote

“Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that. Ideally, though, we’re lucky, and we find our soul mate and enjoy that life-changing mother lode of happiness. But a soul mate is a very hard thing to find.”

About the Author:
Aziz Ishmael Ansari is an American actor and comedian. He starred as Tom Haverford on the NBC show Parks and Recreation.

Ansari began his career performing standup comedy in New York City during the summer of 2000 while attending New York University. In 2007, he created and starred in the critically acclaimed MTV sketch comedy show Human Giant, which ran for two seasons. This led to acting roles in feature films, including Funny People, I Love You, Man, Observe and Report, and 30 Minutes or Less.

In addition to his acting work, Ansari has continued to work as a standup comedian. He released his debut CD/DVD, entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, in January 2010 on Comedy Central Records, and still tours nationally between acting commitments. In 2010 and 2011, he performed his Dangerously Delicious tour. This tour was self-released for download on his website in March 2012 and debuted on Comedy Central in May 2012. He completed his third major tour of new material, Buried Alive, in the summer of 2013. His fourth major comedy special, Live at Madison Square Garden, was released on Netflix in 2015.

His first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, was released in June 2015.(

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November Book- The Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy #1)

Lord of the Silver Bow (Troy, #1)

 

Summary:

He is a man of many names. Some call him the Golden One; others, the Lord of the Silver Bow. To the Dardanians, he is Prince Aeneas. But to his friends, he is Helikaon. Strong, fast, quick of mind, he is a bold warrior, hated by his enemies, feared even by his Trojan allies. For there is a darkness at the heart of the Golden One, a savagery that, once awakened, can be appeased only with blood.

Argurios the Mykene is a peerless fighter, a man of unbending principles and unbreakable will. Like all of the Mykene warriors, he lives to conquer and to kill. Dispatched by King Agamemnon to scout the defenses of the golden city of Troy, he is Helikaon’s sworn enemy.

Andromache is a priestess of Thera betrothed against her will to Hektor, prince of Troy. Scornful of tradition, skilled in the arts of war, and passionate in the ways of her order, Andromache vows to love whom she pleases and to live as she desires.

Now fate is about to thrust these three together–and, from the sparks of passionate love and hate, ignite a fire that will engulf the world.

Readers who know the works of David Gemmell expect nothing less than excellence from this author, whose taut prose, driving plots, and full-bodied characters have won him legions of fans the world over. Now, with this first masterly volume in an epic reimagining of the Trojan War, Gemmell has written an ageless drama of brave deeds and fierce battles, of honor and treachery, of love won and lost.

My Take, Why it’s worth a read:

This book was a masterpiece. The writing style was perfect for the story that was told. Taking a different characters’ point of view every few pages of the book revealed all of the different emotions that were being felt. At one point, I was sad and disgusted of the act of Helikaon, burning 50 men alive, but at the next moment, I felt his hatred and understood the reason for his actions. The story does not follow a specific path, and it merely moves along telling the story of dozens of people. It is a brutal book revealing the harshness of war and death, love and rape, and trust and treachery.

This has been the first book so far that I have really enjoyed that was about the times of the Trojans. The great thing about this book was it was a mixture of many things. It had the interesting aspects of the Trojan, Dardanian and Mykene peoples life and showed the different cultures and how they interacted with each other. It also had two people who by a glance had fallen in love, yet the circumstances facing them kept the possibility of them being together forever impossible. And finally, it had the harshness of the times. Men being burned alive, more being tortured to death to prove points, and women being raped for the fun of it.

This book is no fairy tale. Many are brutally killed and more are savagely beaten, but it is no harsh war story either. There is love that is born with the characters that gives them the will to battle and so the story goes on. This book is worth the read.

Favorite Quote

“We make choices everyday, some of them good, some of them bad. And if we are strong enough – we live with the consequences. To be truthful I am not entirely sure what people mean when they talk of happiness. There are moments of joy and laughter, the comfort of friendship, but enduring happiness? If it exists I have not discovered it.”

About the Author:
David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, Legend, Gemmell’s works display violence, yet also explores themes in honour, loyalty and redemption. With over one million copies sold, his work continues to sell worldwide.

October Book- The Winter King (The Arthur Books #1) by Bernard Cornwell

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“Fate is inexorable.”

Summary:

Uther, the High King, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos – threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade, As he struggles to unite Britain and hold back the enemy at the gates, Arthur is embroiled in a doomed romance with beautiful Guinevere. Will the old-world magic of Merlin be enough to turn the tide of war in his favor?

My Take, Why its worth a read:
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved myths and legends especially anything about King Arthur.  Cornwell does a great job of mixing historical facts and fiction.  This isn’t the typical tale of Arthur as told in Le Morte de Arthur or The Once and Future King. The Winter King is told in a third-person point of view from a soldier that was close with Arthur.

Though there have been plenty of stories written about King Arthur, his knights, and his time period, Cornwell does a great job of putting a fresh spin on the classic legend.  I would recommend this book (and series) to anyone who has an interest in legends or King Arthur.

Favorite Quote:

“That man is my Arthur, a great warlord and a hero who fought against impossible odds to such effect that even fifteen hundred years later his enemies love and revere his memory.”

About the Author:
Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother was English, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name, Cornwell.

In June 2006, Cornwell was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 80th Birthday Honours List.

Cornwell’s latest work is titled Azincourt and was released in the UK in October 2008. The protagonist is an archer who participates in the Battle of Agincourt, another devastating defeat suffered by the French in the Hundred Years War. However Cornwell has stated that it will not be about Thomas of Hookton from The Grail Quest or any of his relatives.

September Book- Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. …live in the question.”

Summary:
In 1903, Rilke replied in a series of 10 letters to a student who had submitted some verses to the well-known Austrian poet for an assessment. Written during an important stage in Rilke’s artistic development, these letters contain many of the themes that later appeared in his best works. Essential reading for scholars, poetry lovers.

My Take, Why it’s worth a read:
I always underline in books, either for the wise quotes that teach or the pure beauty of the passage. About ten pages into this book, though, I gave up underlining as nearly every sentence was a combination of beauty and wisdom. These letters (to a young man he never even met) are inspiring in their honesty, teaching to cherish your solitude.

These ten letters from Rilke are a must-read for any hopeless heart who wants to be an artist–any kind of artist. The content of these letters isn’t so much a how-to on writing poetry as much as a how-to keep your artistic spirits up. Rilke expounds vividly on the importance of solitude, faith in one’s own vision, the excruciatingly frustrating nature of love, the fears of the future and monetary success, and how to soberly deal with the prevailing and daunting societal giants such as religion and the Great Art that came before you. These letters can be thumbed through in the time it takes to guzzle down a few cups of coffee but contain enough heft and heart to be kept close at hand for the dark times to come, those nervous moments when you look at the page, canvas, your secondhand acoustic guitar, and wonder, why bother?  Rilke addresses these types of questions throughout his letters.

Favorite Quote:
“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

About the Author:

Rainer Maria Rilke is considered one of the German language’s greatest 20th century poets.

His haunting images tend to focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety — themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets.

He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two most famous verse sequences are the Sonnets to Orpheus and the Duino Elegies; his two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzerland

August Book- Brave New World / Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley

"The greater a man's talents, the greater his power to lead astray."

“The greater a man’s talents, the greater his power to lead astray.”

Summary:
Far in the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs, all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining Savage Reservations, where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his
distress…

Huxley’s ingenious fantasy of the future sheds a blazing light on the present and is considered to be his most enduring masterpiece

My Take, Why it’s worth a read:

I enjoyed this book so much because I found it amazing how accurate it was becoming which lead me to deep thought and conversations with others.  Originally written in 1931, Huxley does a eerily good job of predicting how our ‘infinite appetite for distractions’ would be our undoing.  I see it on a daily basis.  Our reliance on technology, love for reality TV, dislike of intellectual or challenging conversation. Belief that life is supposed to be easy instead of challenging.  We’re quickly moving to a society that would prefer the illusion of happiness as a group vs the freedom to be an individual with things such as pure truth and beauty.

Brave New World has been overshadowed by Orwell’s 1984 for most of the past few decades.  As a society we are constantly worried about the government or “Big Brother” controlling our lives through suppression.  Through externally imposed oppression.   But what Huxley does such a terrifyingly great  job of showing in this book is that we may not need Big Brother to deprive people of our autonomy, maturity, or history.  He believed that we would come to love our oppression without realizing it.  We would adore our technologies and undo our capacities to think.

In 1984, Huxley, added people are controlled by inflicting pain.  In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.  In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us.  Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Give it a read and see if you think Huxley was as on point as I do…

Favorite Quote:
Brave New World:
“But I don’t want comfort.  I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness.  I want sin.”
“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”
“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

Brave New World Revisited:
“The wish to impose order upon confusion, to bring harmony out of dissonance and unity out of multiplicity is a kind of intellectual instinct, a primary fundamental urge of the mind.”

About the Author:
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through his novels and essays Huxley functioned as an examiner and sometimes critic of social mores, norms and ideals. Huxley was a humanist but was also interested towards the end of his life in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. By the end of his life, Huxley was widely acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time.

July Book- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

“It is never a mistake to say good-bye.” – KV

Summary:
Told with deadpan humour & bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut’s cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon &, worse still, surviving it …

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding ‘fathers’ of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he’s the inventor of ‘ice-nine’, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker’s three ecentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness. Felix Hoenikker’s Death Wish comes true when his last, fatal gift to humankind brings about the end, that for all of us, is nigh…

My Take, Why its worth a read:
It’s a short quick read that really gets you thinking.  Vonnegut uses Cat’s Cradle to discuss (in a rather funny and biting satire way) issues like religion, politics and the possibility of humanity managing to destroy the world.  He creates his own religion in the book to show us just how much power we give up to dogma and tradition.  How people can be taught to believe anything if there is cause for it. Through the main character John, you will find yourself re-examining  a lot of things that are now “normal” parts of our world.

Favorite Quote:

“Life is a garden, not a road. We enter and exit through the same gate. Wandering, where we go matters less than what we notice.”

About the Author:
Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student paper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in WW II.

After the war, he attended University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology and also worked as a police reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He left Chicago to work in Schenectady, New York in public relations for General Electric. He attributed his writing style to his reporting work.

His experiences as an advance scout in the Battle of the Bulge, and in particular his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden, Germany whilst a prisoner of war, would inform much of his work
.Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana’s own Eugene V. Debs) and a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.  The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat’s Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973

June Book- The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)

Summary:
Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

My Take, Why it’s worth a read:
I’m a huge fantasy nerd.  After finishing series like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Inheritance Cycle, The Sword of Truth, and Wheel of Time etc.  I was actively seeking a new series to dig my teeth into.  I came across this book on accident but can’t express how glad I am that I did.  The book has everything a fantasy reader could want: “magic,” myths, an imperfect hero, love, bards, fighting, but most importantly it transports you to another world every time you open its’ pages.  Rothfuss creates an intriguing storyline where anything can happen.  Kvothe’s appeal is in his realism. Though blessed with some incredible talents he still has to fight for everything he achieves.

This book (and series) has a certain amount of reality in it because things don’t unfold how you expect them to.  You don’t ever know how or even if a problem will be solved which keeps you turning the pages quicker than you’d believe  I’ve read two of the3 books and honestly have no idea how the series will end.  Of all the fantasy series I have ever read The KingKiller Chronicle is in my top 3.  My only warning is that the third book isn’t out yet so once you blow through the first two books (and if you like fantasy books, you will) you’ll be stuck just like me, waiting.  But I suppose there are worse problems to have.

Favorite Quote:
“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”

About the Author:
Patrick Rothfuss was born in Madison, Wisconsin and received his B.S. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1999 after spending nine years as an undergraduate exploring various majors such as Chemical Engineering, Clinical Psychology, and others. He contributed to The Pointer, the campus paper and produced a widely-circulated parody warning about the Goodtimes Virus.

He graduated in 1999, received an MA at Washington State, and returned to teach at Stevens Point.  In 2002, he won the Writers of the Future  2002 Second Quarter competition with “The Road to Levinshir”, an excerpt from his then-unpublished novel The Wise Man’s Fear.  Rothfuss subsequently sold the novel to DAW Books.

In August 2012, Rothfuss began a monthly podcast called The Story Board  on fantasy, featuring authors such as Terry Brooks and Brandon Sanderson. The Story Board ran for 8 episodes.

Rothfuss organizes the charity Worldbuilders, which, since 2008, has raised over $2 million for Heifer International a charity which provides livestock, clean water, education and training for communities in the developing world.

Rothfuss’ first novel, The Name of the Wind, was published in 2007. It won a Quill Award (for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror) and was listed among Publishers Weekly’s “Books of the Year”.  It also won an Alex Award in 2008. The Wise Man’s Fear was published in 2011 and reached Number 1 on the New York Times Hardback Fiction Best Seller List.