Tag Archives: books

Monthly book roundup – 2019 January

Books finished in January:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Vareopptelling (2013) av Erlend Loe. Underholdende og iblant ettertenksomt om lyriker som tar ærlig og dramatisk oppgjør med både seg selv og sine kritikere. Vanskelig å tenke seg annet enn at det er Loes egne tanker som skinner gjennom i jeg- personens og omgivelsenes ambivalente syn på fortellerens karrière og kanskje forfattergjerningen generelt.

Fvonk (2011) av Erlend Loe. Bok om vennskap mellom en mann som har litt å slite med etter å ha vært innblandet i økonomisk medlemskapsjuks (“ukultur”) og en statsminister som trenger litt tid borte fra rampelyset. Ikke så engasjerende.

Dette livet eller det neste: roman (2017) av Demian Vitanza. Roman basert på opplevelsene og fortellingene til fremmedkrigeren Tariq. Boka er strukturert som en samtale der bare den ene partens svar vises og basert på intervjuer forfatteren Demian Vitanza har gjort med Tariq i Halden fengsel. Grunnen til at Tariq sitter der er at han i 2015 ble dømt for å ha planlagt terrorhandlinger og ha støttet terrorgrupper i Syria. Ifølge boka stemmer ikke dette, der får vi stort sett høre om at han jobber som frivillig med å frakte mat, medisiner og syke og at han aldri er med i noen gruppe. Imidlertid er Tariqs motiver for ikke å fortelle om mer alvorlige ting så åpenbare, og diskuteres til og med i boka, at det er vanskelig å holde det at historien han gir kanskje ikke er sann mot boka. Oppveksthistorien og radikaliseringsprosessen blir derfor mer interessant. Tariq har foreldre med pakistansk bakgrunn, men ender opp som mye mer radikal enn dem, og med nesten bare venner med annen utenlandsk bakgrunn. Han virker ofte reflektert og gjennomtenkt, noe som er givende for fortellingen og kanskje et utgangspunkt for hele prosjektet. Det gjør det også ekstra vanskelig å vite hva han “egentlig” tenker, men det må man akseptere. Anbefales.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.

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Monthly book roundup – 2018 November

Books finished in November:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Slutten på verden slik vi kjenner den (2015) av Erlend Loe. Doppler vender hjem. Opp- og nedturer. Flere interessante situasjoner når han er tilbake i hjemlige trakter enn på reise i Sverige, som i Volvo lastvagnar. Absurditeten historien, som ikke er det mest interessante, tas et hakk opp med Dopplers tilværelse som kokk og pornoskuespiller i København. Anbefalt, men Doppler, første bok i trilogien er den viktigste.

Stille dager i Mixing Part (2009) av Erlend Loe. Jeg prøvde hardt å se forbindelsen til Andreas Doppler gjennom hele boka, men selv om det var enkelte elementer jeg kunne se en linje gjennom, fikk jeg det ikke helt til å stemme. Jeg fikk meg derfor en god latter da jeg fant ut at “Stille dager i Mixing Part” ikke var tredje bok i trilogien om Andreas Doppler, men derimot var sin egen frittstående roman. Vi følger en dramaturg og hans familie på ferie i Tyskland. Ikke alltid så spennende å følge handlingen, men en god del komiske scener redder boka.

Volvo lastvagnar (2005) av Erlend Loe. Doppler fortsetter sitt liv i skogen, denne gangen i Sverige, hvor han møter to mennesker som får stor påvirkning på tilværelsen hans. En liten nedtur fra første bok om Doppler, ikke like morsomt denne gangen, men vi får tro det er en reise han må gjennom(?). Forfatteren opptrer litt for aktivt i teksten etter min smak. Anbefalt, for man vil jo følge Dopplers veier.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.

Monthly book roundup – 2018 October

Books finished in October:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Doppler (2004) av Erlend Loe. Doppler slår seg i hodet og skjønner at han må flytte fra kone og barn og ut i skogen. I skogen lever han alene, forsøksvis i en jeger/sankertilværelse, men diverse hensyn, primært behovet for skummet melk, gjør at han holder seg i nærheten av sivilisasjonen. Etter hvert får han også selskap av en elg og forskjellige mennesker. Doppler forfekter et nobelt syn om at naturen er for alle, men stjeler også uten hemninger fra både andre mennesker og butikker. Han får det for seg at “flinkheten” er den store samfunnsfienden, men her vil jeg si at han forveksler flinkhet med materialisme og statusjag. Dopplers tanker og tilværelse får en til å tenke seg og gir mye både å kjenne seg igjen i og ikke å kjenne seg igjen i. Ikke minst er boka også morsom. Anbefales.

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are (2018) by Robert Plomin. Popular science book about DNA. Fascinating material, often based on twin studies. No doubt DNA is powerful, however, one is left with a few question. For instance, it is not clear how much variance the estimated genetic propensities explain, even if they are predictive. And there are many unqualified statements about the importance of genes, with the point that it is in narrowly defined populations and environments only underlying. Should be kept in mind regarding statements about parents/schools/X “matter, but do not make a difference”. And the social sciences have found many environmental and institutional effects. The book has also been forcefully criticized by fellow scientist Eric Turkheimer on is blog, both for lacking references and for more fundamental errors – it is by now unclear how that will unfold.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.

Monthly book roundup – 2018 July

Books finished in July:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2013) by William B. Irvine. Introductory book about stoicism and its value as a philosophy of life. The book serves both as an elementary history of stoicism and an introduction and guide to stoic practice (or at any rate the author’s versions of these). Irvine repeatedly battles the supposed negative connotations of the word “stoic,” which I do not recognize, but I guess that is his experience. To me it was good that the he also spends quite some time marking out the differences between the stoics and the cynics. E.g., I learnt that the cynics placed a much heavier emphasis on asceticism. The concrete advice on various stoic techniques for a good life I found the most valuable:
-Negative visualization the most important tool. Visualize loss of relatives, friends, material goods etc. Makes us appreciate what we have more.
-Things that happen to us are relatively insignificant- realize by imagining our reaction if that had happened to others.
-Think about that an experience might be the last – enjoy and concentrate on it more.
-Sometimes actually lived as we had lost various things. Both prepares us specifically and for deprivations in general.
-Wait for need to arise before satisfying it. E.g. thirst.
The suggestion that we should set as goals as that what we already have, I find somewhat problematic. Being happy with what we have is often good, but may deter improvements and good developments. The counter-argument that a stoic should still strive and has a duty to be useful and not seek fame and fortune, but maybe gain it as a side effect, is somewhat unsatisfying. Recommended. (H/t: Marc Andreessen.)

The Wild Shore: The Three Californias Triptych, Book 1 (1984) by Kim Stanley Robinson. Life in a small fishing village in 2047 in an isolated US which has been the target of a nuclear attack. A realistic if somewhat boring portrait of life in such a village, which would presumably resemble life in similar villages 100 years ago, and getting in contact with the wider world. Not recommended.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.

Monthly book roundup – 2018 April

Books finished in April:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World (2018) by Charles C. Mann. Two approaches to growing population and increased pressure on various resources: Wizards see innovation technological and scientific solutions, Prophets believe in restraint and cutting back. These two schools are represented by the agronomist Norman Borlaug, father of the green revolution (in particular the development of higher-yielding crops) and William Vogt, one of the founders of the environmentalist movement. A good book that contains a lot of what should be common scientific knowledge, however, it is fairly dense at times and one needs to really pay attention to get the material. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to do that at the moment, perhaps another time. Recommended for those who have the ability to pay attention.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.

Monthly book roundup – 2018 March

Books finished in March:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (2017) by Malcolm Harris. Argues that today’s adolescents and young adults spend too much time and effort on homework and building a resumé in order to get into college and get a job, and then only obtain precarious employment when eventually in the labor market. These are valid concerns for at least some young people today, however, the book’s hysterical tone, over-generalizations and lack of nuance do not do the author, nor the understanding of and thinking about solutions for these challenges any favors. Not recommended.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.

Monthly book roundup – 2018 February

Books finished in February:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

The Years of Rice and Salt (2015) by Kim Stanley Robinson. People being reincarnated between different “realms” in an alternate history novel. Perhaps I could have worked more on this book, but I am not such a fan of these things, so I put it down quite quickly.

Nutshell (2016) by Ian McEwan. Love triangle. I did not relate to the characters, who could have done with a more even distribution of sympathetic traits. The plot with a fetus as storyteller was mostly weird. Did not finish.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.