Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
By: Malcolm Gladwell
I never read books at the time when it gets real popular and everyone’s reading it. I always wait until the initial craze has died down (I did this with Harry Potter). When this book hit paperback like a month ago, I decided to check it out at long last, see what the craze was all about. The intial concept sounded interesting, th idea that our minds make snap judgements without even completely processing it consciously and in a rational manner. The author goes on to explain that there needs to be a balance, that sometimes this technique doesn’t work in our favour. But it does happen and the author explains it through various examples.
I was really intrigued by the concept (the fact that another writer wrote a book, Think, to rebuke this book shows just how profound Gladwell’s argument is). However, after the first two chapters, the enthusiasm weared off; as interesting as the examples were, it seemed like the concepts Gladwell are trying to support through these examples had become repetitive and that some of the concepts used to explain his overarching argument are just too simple to even need 10 pages worth of examples to back it up. I guess my expectations for this book was too high; I was expecting some profound revelation from all these smaller concepts, but in the end, it was just way too simple (I’m not a psychology major and I managed to pick it up 1/4 into the book). The book is interesting in that it does discuss about studies that have been conducted and about specialists who are capable of making such quick decisions. Otherwise, the structure and the argument is simple and straightforward with nothing ultra-unique to add to the idea.
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The Alexandria Link
By: Steve Berry
For starters, I think Steve Berry is amazing, 1 000% more amazing than Dan Brown. He doesn’t follow a formula in his suspense plots, he always chooses the most interesting historical mysteries as the central issues of his stories and his characters are radically different from one another. This book is the second one featuring the character of Cotton Malone, a former US agent who became a book store owner and resided in Copenhagen. Without giving away too much of the plot, basically what happens is that his son is kidnapped by this fairly obscure organization who wants to prod Cotton into unveiling the Alexandria Link. The plot gets even thicker with political conspiracies back in Washington and political implications. It’s a fantastic read, all of the characters we’ve come to know in the previous Cotton Malone adventure, The Templar Legacy, makes an appearance in this novel. What’s even better is that all the characters’ roles expand a bit over the course of the novel, which is great. I suppose the fact that the entire plot is carrying out back and forth between Washington, Europe and Asia, adds to the pace of the novel.
Initally, I found Stephanie’s strand of the storyline in Washington DC far more interesting than Cotton’s; the political intrigue and the colourful array of politicians made for some very good scenes. Cotton’s strand was a bit slower at the start; then again, his part started with a bam (no pun intended). But those strands, along with Henrik’s (which was also a fun read), came together wonderfully. The implications of the possibilities raised in this novel were quite intriguing, which added to the excitement of it all. Overall, a terrific read, especially if you want to unwind from reading a lot of textbooks and nonfiction (which I was doing prior to reading this book).
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The Children of Hurin
By: JRR Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)
Being the Tolkien fanatic I am, when I heard that The Children of Hurin was going to be released, I was beside myself. Granted, this story has shown up twice (well, when I was reading anyways) in The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales but seeing as Tolkien’s son Christopher had pieced the story together using all of his father’s notes, I figured it was going to be more fleshed out than the other two versions. And personally, I think it was more fleshed out and far more exciting to read than the previous versions.
For those of you who haven’t read either versions, this story is considered the longest of the “Lays of Beleriand”, stories from the First Age of Middle Earth. It focuses around the family of Hurin, a man who had descended from one of the three houses of Men (I hope I got that right, it’s been a while) and who challenged Melkor (who is even more sinister than Sauron) head-on. His defiance caused Melkor to place curse on all of Hurin’s family, particularly his children, that they may suffer all throughout their life. And his children—Hurin and Niniel—did suffer greatly. It’s a very tragic story; no matter what Turin did, he just could not escape Melkor’s curse.
There were certainly a lot of parts that I don’t remember having been in the story from the other versions, especially those involving Morwen and especially at the end, which I won’t mention of if you’ve never read any of the versions. What’s great about this story is that, although it is set in an earlier age of Middle Earth when none of the defining places we know from LOTR exist, it’s still relatively easy to follow and you don’t need to have read The Silmarillion to understand events that have happened before, really. But technicalities and chronology aside, the heart of the story is still as intact as it was in the other versions (maybe even more so than in the other versions—then again, I haven’t read the story for a few years now): the tragedy of Hurin’s family is very poignant and despite of Turin’s rash decisions and attitude and Morwen and Nienor’s stubbornness, you really feel for this family. I think that’s the key to this entire story: the tragedy of it all. Alan Lee’s illustrations spread throughout the hardcover edition is a plus; his artwork is always a pleasure to skim through and the images he contributed to this story really helps bring the story to life, really. Overall, this is a very enjoyable book to read (all bias aside) and well worth checking out.
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I was debating about this for a bit…with summer rolling in and with me having no job and all these books piled up, waiting to be read, I decided, why not? Make a book blog to jot down my thoughts about the books I’m reading…it’s not like I’m doing much of anything else anyways…but I’ll try to post up a review whenever I can. For starters, and this shows up on my website, here’s my reading list as of today:
+ Book of War featuring
Sun Tzu’s Art of War and von Clauswitz’s On War
+ Norman F. Cantor’s Civilization of the Middle Ages
+ Jane Austen’s Emma
Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic and Sister
+ Selected Works of Elizabeth I
+ Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals: A Selection
Steve Berry’s The Alexandria Link
Niall Ferguson’s Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire
+ N.A.M Rodgers’s The Command of the Oceans: A Naval History of Britain, 1649 – 1815
+ Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power to Think Without Thinking
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin
Patrick Gardiner’s Kierkegaard: A Very Short Introduction