001-2020 Odyssey

Title: The Odyssey

Author: Homer (translated by W. H. D. Rouse)

One terrific role that Sean Bean also portrayed was Odyssey in the film ‘Troy’. In fact, when I read the book I pictured him being the character in the story line.

Other than in the film ‘Troy’ I had read two other books, both from Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles, and Circe) in which Odyssey was also featured as a prominent character. This brought me to research if there was a book written of the story of Odyssey, and that is what now leads to the book review.

He is a prominent, clever and heroic mythical Greek who rules over the kingdom of Ithaca, and has one son (Telemachos) with his wife Penelopeia, and is then summoned by King Agamemnon and Menelaos to fight against the Trojans for the wrongs committed by Paris and Helena (wife of Menelaos). That is where the great 10 Year war takes place, until finally the Greeks overrun the Trojans with the ingenious idea of Odyssey to build a large wooden horse, dubbed the Trojan Horse. The book doesn’t take place in the war, but rather after the war what Odyssey encounters in his travels to get home to his kingdom.

In fact, it would be almost another decade after the war before he finally returns home. He didn’t offer proper sacrifices to the gods, and had insulted one of the mighty gods’ children (Poseidon’s son, a cyclops), which resulted in his ship being redirected on the ocean, him performing some tasks and meeting Circe, and finally losing his ship to the ocean and being stranded on a island of a goddess (daughter of Oceanos).

Eventually he does return home, but then at home some intruders await, and with the help of his son, and goddess Athena, he removes them from his home, and finally can live his life further.

What kept me stuck to the story is how the Greek gods become involved with the mortal lives, and sometimes help them, or give them an ultimatum of what will come to pass should they not take a certain decision. And also the lessons that some of the tasks bring with them.

This is my fourth Greek Mythology book, and every time I become more and more hooked to them.

Summary

The translation by the author of the Homeric text to English was well done. The link he makes to the Trojan war lines up very well. However, there are a few areas where some characters of the Trojan War story don’t line up with the story of the characters of the film ‘Troy’. Examples are King Agamemnon, Menelaos and Helena. Nevertheless, the adventure that Odyssey goes through after the Trojan War, and how he makes amends and is finally permitted to get back home is fun to follow, and, you learn a little bit of ‘history/mythology’ in the process. The rating I like to award is 4.9/5

025-2019 Range

Title: Range – Why Generalists triumph in a specialized world

Author: David Epstein

I started with the synopsis of the book, and thought that this would be something different to the world of specialized individuals.

Have you ever heard that if you want to become really good at something (novice/semi-/professional) you need to put in at least 10,000 hours of training into that sport? This is where the book comes in and says that there is not one single-way to success.

In all chapters the author practically takes one scenario of someone that specialized, and one that took a slightly different route and both ended up having successful careers. And to showcase this, he started the first chapter with two well-known figureheads: Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

He tells a short version of Tiger Woods’ story, where he specialized from a young age and focused all his attention on one sport: golf. Roger Federer, on the other hand, only focused on one sport (tennis) much later in his life, and before-hand took part in a few sports. The comparison between two athletes shows the powerful message the author wishes to portray: namely, that early specialization is not the only way to succeed in everything.

In fact, the author strongly supports the notion that we shouldn’t specialize from an early age, but that we should ‘sample’ a few years and then later on decide on the most favorable alternative and focus our full attention on that. He also brings out that in many cases, human beings change much during their lifetimes and that the specialized decisions we make for our future might actually not be a good idea for all matters, because the future self for whom we’re making a decision now, might not have the interests still in future.

  • Somewhat, I understand where he is coming from
  • However, for some decisions (university degree) it is not always possible to have a ‘sampling period’ because higher education is unfortunately expensive
  • Therefore, I do agree that we change a lot during our lifetimes, and that our interests change constantly, but one good choice might be a gap year, or a year/more working before we make a commitment to study to attain more independence and learn more of ourselves

Summary:

The comparisons between ‘early specialization’ and ‘sampling’ show an interesting perspective on the commonly accepted status quo of how triumph is achieved. It also shows that we should not be afraid to make a change in our lives when we have already specialized too much in our work, because it could sometimes lead to something better.

Also, it is more fun to have a broader knowledge of many things than too much of one thing. The rating I award for this book take a 4.3/5

024-2019 Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Title: Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki

I bought the pocket-sized booklet of this top-seller, and am really satisfied with what I got from this read.

The approach followed by the author to tell this story is quite interesting. And it all starts with the entertaining title of the book. Before I bought myself a copy of this book, I wondered how he would give financial advice from a poor man and rich man’s perspective, and was given the answer straight away in the first chapter when he confirmed that the story is based on his time of growing up. His real dad being the ‘poor dad’ of the story and his ‘rich dad’ being the dad of his best friend. And the way he tells the story (/teaches the lessons as he grows up) was really well done.

He emphasizes on multiple occasions that schools only teach us the skills to become active and contributing members of a functioning society. Which is needed of course, for a society to function the way it does today. But there is more we could learn for ourselves, and live somewhat differently, making our lifestyles a little better.

This financial knowledge is introduced in this first book and has the following disciplines: 1) The Rich don’t work for Money, they make Money work for them; 2) It’s not how much you make, but how much you keep; 3) Mind your own business; 4) The history of taxes and the power of corporations; 5) The Rich invent Money; 6) Work to Learn – Don’t Work for Money; 7) Overcoming obstacles; 8) Getting started – There is Gold everywhere

Especially the first chapter was a little tricky for me to get in. “Don’t work for money”. I really had think on that, and even when I thought I had understood what was taught, when I read the subsequent chapters I understood more and more that that initial understanding wasn’t quite right. And gradually I learnt what he meant, and now believe I understand his lesson much better. So much so that I try and look around me for potential business ideas.

The great thing about growing up in a developing country, and then moving to a developed country, is that chances are that some ideas in place in the latter country have not yet been implemented in the former country. Thus, I look and see whether that business idea would have any feasibility in my home country.

Lesson 2 of the book I have already implemented before starting off the book, and lesson 3 is currently in progress. Having read the lessons and already seeing that to some small extent I was already on the right path, I was really excited to think of ways to take the next steps and improve my asset-base 🙂

Lesson 6 also gives good supporting reasons why we should never stop learning, and should in fact invest into our education, more so than make ‘conspicuous consumption’.

Summary:

The book was a fun read, teaches the lessons in a clear and understandable way. After every chapter there is a summary of the matters that were discussed in the chapter (however, the summary is almost written in the same manner that the chapter was written, and therefore it feels like the summary is not helpful). The lessons are sound, and the author strongly urges the reader to understand what the reader just read. The book got a rating of 5.7/5

023-2019 Think and Grow Rich

Title: Think and Grow Rich

Author: Napoleon Hill

I did finish this one some time ago but neglected to write a review before the year had ended. That’s why (even though we’re already going strong into 2020) I still title it among my 2019 reads.

Somewhere I once read that this was the book that was most commonly read by most millionaires. Once I turned the last page, I could understand how that could be true.

Even though the book was written a long time ago, the lessons it gives still hold strong value today as much as they did in the early 20th century.

The book is split into the following disciplines: 1) Desire; 2) Faith; 3) Auto-suggestion; 4) Specialized knowledge; 5) Imagination; 6) Organized Planning; 7) Decision; 8) Persistence; 9) The Power of the Master Mind Group; 10) The Mystery of Sex Transmutation; 11) The Brain; 12) The Subconscious Mind ; 13) The Sixth Sense…….off by heart 🙂

The order of the disciplines is not by random, but purposefully set in an order that the author wishes to get to the reader. With each of the disciplines taught the author gives the lesson, an illustrative example and then a session to reflect on the lesson learnt in the chapter. The examples used are of people from the early – mid 20th century, but they are clearly set out that the reader can still properly relate to the lessons.

Summary:

The book wishes to teach value to every reader, uses good examples to illustrate the 13 disciplines, and frequently links the disciplines to each other, so that the reader doesn’t see them as one, but sees the connection between them. The lesson is taught in not-too-lengthy chapters, and the examples are very well explained. This book thus got my rating of 5.7/5

PS – it’s on my reading list in the next few months so I can see and reflect, and relearn the principles, and sharpen my knowledge of them. 🙂

022-2019 Think

Title: Think – Why You Should Question Everything

Author: Guy P. Harrison

Just before I packed for my trip to Europe I bought a few book. This was one of them.

The title straight-out told the reader the message it wishes to teach the reader of the book.

I will be honest, the book wishes to teach that we should become more skeptical about what we hear and read, rather than just relying on the information blindly. It gives many different examples of common beliefs (Yeti, Big Foot, Ghosts, etc.) for which no scientific evidence could be presented, but which are held to be true by many. It goes into depth for some where some contradictory evidence could be presented, however, the same core message remains throughout each chapter, that we should also question everything that we come across.

At some point it gives a lengthy list of biases and influences we are all exposed to, yet not know we are currently experiencing (ie. anchoring bias, confirmation bias, etc.). This is one I would definitely have anyone go through and understand, because these biases are deeply ingrained that we don’t even realize we have been infected.

However, because the chapters always come back and focus strongly on the core lesson, it does come across to be repetitive, and that goes through the whole book, which may have the reader lose interest.

Rating:

The lesson is very clear, and is well illustrated in all chapters. The book also gives a valuable list of biases which any skeptic should be aware of in their lives in order to identify situations where they may become fooled in. However, because the message is repeat in different case studies for the whole book, it became a little uninteresting. My final rating came to a 3.6/5.

021-2019 This will change everything

Title: This will change everything – Ideas that will shape the future

Author: John Brockman

This was an interesting find on the bookshelf a few months ago. Yes, unfortunately I wasn’t very active recently on my blog to give you some of my latest reads, but I have a few on the line up today so I hope you will be as excited as I am for what is to come. 🙂

When I bought the book back home I read the first chapter in the store and noted that it may be interesting to read a book about predictions of the future.

That’s exactly what I got from the read (which I only finished a few minutes ago). It takes the ideas that some people have about what is expected to come next and possibly make a significant impact to our lives. Some of the contributors have even challenged the question that the author posed to them “what will change everything?” by stating that something that big is too big to occur in a small space of time, because everything denotes that not just one small area is impacted but all/multiple areas need to be impacted where many of us will feel the change having impacted our lives.

The topics range between different industries and sciences, which is great for any reader who wishes to get some great perspective of multiple areas they wish to read up on.

All contributions made to the book are valuable, however, the following contributions and contributors really stood out for me: 1) Daniel Goleman – that we can use software to scan a product and see whether the process that was undergone in the manufacture of the product has many or fewer than average harmful impacts on the environment. 2) Andrian Kreye – that our current approach for generating electrical energy is through harvesting (burning coal, solar panels, hydraulic transmission, wind energy) electrical energy and not through manufacture thereof. 3) Marcel Kinsbourne – it is the brain that experiences changes, and therefore by changing the brain will lead to changing everything. The brain is plastic, and that by changing the circuitry in the brain can lead to repercussions throughout the neural network. 4) Helen Fisher – the brain is referred to a verb, and not a noun, because the brain is constantly doing something. Understanding brain chemistry can open up avenues to change who we are and what we want. 5) Mark Pagel – When humans grow in the womb, it starts from one cell (the zygote), which then multiplies to two, then four, then eight, etc. Eventually this all leads to the formation of a human being, that will be birthed, and then grow from a child to an adult. As the first cells divide, and steadily form body parts they lose their potency (ie. they forget how to go back to their earlier stage). If we would lose a limb, our body will never regrow that body part. But if we could somewhat understand whether we could change the cells’ potency, maybe we could have injured body parts regrow, and thus heal more naturally. 6) Jonathan Haidt – Local populations adapted to local circumstances by a process known as coevolution, where genes and cultural elements change over time and mutually influence each other. 7) Aubrey DeGrey – Progress accelerates only when given impetus by human motivation. Something or someone has to be the engine room for change to lead.

If any of those may have sparked some interest, I would really recommend that you read up on them, because the old adage is really true here, that ‘the more knowledge you attain, the more you realize how little you truly know’ because the vaults of knowledge that have been accumulated throughout the centuries is breathtaking.

There are some repeats of some topics, but if you pull through them, i am sure there is one/more that will definitely spark your interest and what could also excite you for the future.

Summary:

I enjoyed having a glimpse at some of the ideas that some contributors made to the book, and dream of a world where that may be a reality already. Some topics also did spark my interest to consider reading up more into them. But not many of them had this impact (which is to be expected because we all have our own thoughts) and ultimate made me settle for a rating of 4.1/5.

020-2019 How to Win Friends and Influence People

Title: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

One recommendation I heard from the grand mister Warren Buffet was that he took a public speaking course somewhere called the Carnegie Institute (correct me if the name is not right). On another video I watched it recommended nine books that every individual should read at least once. And that was where I heard of this book, written by Dale Carnegie.

I would say that I am 90% made up of introvertism, maybe even more, and only 10% extroverted, and this only shows up when I am with friends. When we talk about complete strangers, then my introvertism shoots up even higher to 98%, with the 2% extrovertism relating to only asking a stranger for directions 🙂 . Now, taking this book, I feel that I could improve that ratio to become more extroverted, and possibly get a little more out of life.

What is great about the lessons it teaches in the book, is that many of us can relate to many similar/equal real-life experiences we have faced, and now see that we could have actually addressed those situations in a different manner. I definitely got that feeling with many of the chapters.

As the book notes to the reader, it’s very true that we are more interested in ourselves than in anyone else. But that’s where the book wants to tell you that you should also step back and become more interested in the people around you. I had this lecture being given to me by my parent, but never really took much notice from it. Now, having had a chance to gain life experience, I can reflect with more value on the book as it readily pointed out what many of us are doing wrong, and how we can improve on our habits to enjoy life a little better.

The true value isn’t derived by those who merely read the book, but by those who study it and apply it to their lives, and constantly going back to revise. By constantly learning, you are getting more out of these lessons than you might have without applying them at all.

The lessons that are taught are not restricted to any age, but are applicable from an early age. The lessons are also not limited to our personal lives, but are also valid in our professional lives.

Rating:

The rating was definitely not difficult to determine, because the value that I derived is tremendously valuable, and will be valuable to everyone else that wants to get their own copy of the book. The book definitely goes onto my few 5.9/5 books.

019-2019 Circe

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

This is currently the third book review I am making on Greek Mythology. If you’re thinking that a pattern is developing, let me assure you, I have developed a deep interest in Greek stories. They are truly fascinating, and the next one is on Alexander the Great and maybe even the Persians 🙂

Coming back to the book, have you ever heard of the word ‘Circe’? Nope? Neither did I before either. I’ll put you out of your misery. It’s a Greek goddess, daughter of Helios, the god who drives his chariot across the sky and brings the sun into the sky. He took this responsibility over from Apollo, after one of Apollo’s sons (or bastard children) had an accident whilst driving the chariot…………(For more on this, read the book ‘Mythos’)

Circe is one of the children of Helios and a sea nymph, who does something very naughty to another sea nymph (Scylla), and as a punishment is exiled to live the rest of her life on an island alone. Now, being a goddess, ‘the rest of your life’ is unimaginably long. However, she is later permitted to get some visitors (humans and gods), and so her life story is told.

She teaches herself the craft of herb mixing, potions, she has a child with Odyssey, brings him up and then later her son is taken on a voyage, with Athena’s blessing, to go and fight a pending war. Later she gives up one of her most precious gifts for love.

It’s a really beautiful story, showing the hardship’s that the lower gods went through below the nobility class of the Greek gods. But also what the child goddess had to go through being a less desirable daughter than the other siblings. A story that shows build of character and maturity.

Rating:

The story has beautiful content, also shows an important life lesson that we can all take something from away. It shows that love can make even the mythological Greek gods do crazy things, and not just humans. The rating is definitely a 5/5

018-2019 Song of Achilles

Title: Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

The first book I recommended that you should read was ‘Mythos’, and I stick to that, as long as you wish to get a bigger picture on a large part of Greek Mythology. However, if you only wish to read a true classic of one piece of Greek Mythology, specifically about Troy and Achilles, then drop that book and pick up this one instead.

The first time I was introduced to the story ‘Troy’ I saw it as a film. The fighting stunts, the actors, the setting of the story, and just all of it was truly mesmerizing. However, what sets the book apart from the movie is that the story covers more on Patroclus, a companion of Achilles, and the years they grew up and lead to the 10 year war that they fought for King Menelaos against the Tojans.

The author has a true talent to have the reader not just read the words, but become alive in the story as it unfolds chapter after chapter. And as you live in the story you just don’t want to stop. Amazing!

Living with Patroclus and Achilles as they both grow up was truly spell-binding, and for a time I believed I truly lived among the Greeks in another life-time. Patroclus had his titles removed, and Achilles was pushed by his sea-nymph god mother to strive for glory for the battle that would be the battle of millennia. Both had somewhat hard lives, but life was never easy in any generation, so we can relate.

Rating:

The author has definitely become one of my favourites for any upcoming books, so this might be slightly biased :). The story is well written, and mesmerizing, and one understands so much more of Achilles’ and Patroclus’ lives when they finally reach the war against the Trojans for all the additional background that comes with this book. The book definitely goes on my 5.3/5 rating.

017-2019 The Richest Man in Babylon

Title: The Richest Man in Babylon

Author: George S. Clason

Do you remember when you received some money from parent, or grand-parent, and then didn’t know what to do with it? Do you maybe even remember your parent telling you that when you start receiving a salary you should put away 10% as savings?

I admit, I vaguely remember being told this wisdom, and it made sense to me, but not where the 10% came from exactly.

Well, if you’re up to enhance you financial wisdom, not knowledge but wisdom, then this financial basics introductory is exactly for you. You don’t need a degree in finances to follow, because the idea of transferring this wisdom to the reader was to be simple.

The book aims to give every reader the wisdom that was used in the ancient times of Babylon to enhance one’s wealth, and potentially accumulate more. (Exactly what we all want 🙂 )

The book is written in a conversational tone that could be interpreted as the elder teaching the younger a lesson, a lesson to ‘cure the lean purse’.

The book gives the reader seven cures to anyone who wishes to improve their financial position, and also to accumulate wealth on top of that. I on purpose didn’t post the seven cures that are listed in the book, because i strongly feel that in order for one to truly get value from this book one needs to read the wisdom in the context of the book, rather than in a book review here from me.

Rating:

The book is cleverly written in a tone of a conversation between a ‘teacher’ and a ‘student’ and presents the wisdom in a very simple manner. Meaning, the book wishes to ensure the reader understands the lessons are very simple, and can be applied by anyone who wishes to make it part of their life. The wisdom is truly valuable, and deserves the high rating of 5.5/5