Book 174: Talkative Man by R. K. Narayan

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Talkative Man by R. K. Narayan

Finished reading on May 23rd, 2015

Rating: 7/10

This is another one of Narayan’s stories taking place in the fictional city of Malgudi. This time the story is narrated by an aspiring journalist, whose family fortune enables him not to worry about his livelihood.

One day a man in a blue Oxford suit turns up in Malgudi and stays in the train station’s waiting room apparently working ‘on a project for the UN’.
To start off the stranger seems quite annoying, and the station master is trying to get rid of him, as the waiting room isn’t really meant for people to stay there for days on end. The journalist is trying to help and ends up inviting the stranger to stay at his home.

The story gets quite mysterious as one day a woman arrives and tells a part of the stranger’s story, and we hear more of it later on because the journalist goes snooping around in his letters…

All-in-all in this novel we’re dealing with a classical Don Juan – a charmer and a liar, who has many women chasing him for one reason or another.

It is interesting, although mostly I just felt bad for the townsfolk who were fooled by the stranger, and especially for the young girl that falls for him and the poor taxi-driver who hopes to be able to get a fancy car if he keeps driving around the generous stranger.

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Book 173: Jason and the Golden Fleece by Apollonius

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Jason and the Golden Fleece by Apollonius of Rhodes

Finished reading on May 23rd, 2015

Rating: 7/10

This is the classic tale of the Argonauts who go out to get the Golden Fleece as Jason was ordered to do. Among his companions are Heracles and the twins Kastor and Polydeukes and countless others whose names didn’t say much to me.

Basically it’s a long naval expedition where the heroes meet quite a lot of challenges and are saved many a time by the intervention of goddesses Athena and Hera who for some reason support Jason.

It was more interesting than I dared to hope and quite clever as well – accidentally leaving behind Heracles, their strongest hero and then coming across a ruler who wants to box with one of the members of the crew.

My favourite part however was where the little boy Eros came in – where he has apparently just cheated when playing with Ganymede – now that’s an ingenious part!

It’s just another one of the stories with a fancy fellowship on a mission, not unlike what came along more than two thousand years later.

Although a piece of classical literature, you shouldn’t be afraid of reading it – it’s a manageable length, although there seem to be hundreds of characters, you don’t really have to follow along with them all.

I’d even consider it quite suitable as a bedtime story if it weren’t for Jason cutting down the earth-born men who grew out of dragon-teeth and Jason and Medea’s wedding night…

Book 172: Genius by James Gleick

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Genius by James Gleick

Finished reading on May 21st, 2015

Rating: 9/10

Richard Feynman is a name that you might most likely have heard if you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory or if you’ve taken a course in particle physics. I can make checks in both đŸ™‚
“Genius” is one of several biographies of Feynman, who seems to me as the best example of a misunderstood genius, despite being highly acclaimed and having gotten a Nobel prize in physics.

I picked this book up quite soon after reading his correspondence, and as I’ve read “Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman” last year, most of it didn’t seem new, but it was still interesting and it gave a better idea of Richard Feynman as a person, and it was the first time I could actually read about his contributions to physics.

The thing that strikes me the most about Feynman, was the way he worked – not reading the new paper in physics fully, but only until he got an idea of the problem and then trying to solve it himself and spending a lot of time on questions that he never published anything about, although many others would have. That’s just curious. The first explains his great grasp of physics, the second is just a mystery to me, as in my imagination you’d try to publish any significant results. Maybe that’s just it though- he probably didn’t see it as significant enough or as not a big enough contribution?

The book did change my opinion of Feynman in some ways, as previously I had seen him as an ingenious joker, and now I’m not so sure, as it all seems quite tragic.

I did like that you do see quite a lot of his contemporary physicists, so you won’t get the idea that he was the only one working on it, but you see it as everyone contributing something – some more, some less, and find out about their relationships, and you see Murray Gell-Mann, Julian Schwinger and Freeman Dyson appear in the story – it brings Feynman out of vacuum and gives a broader view of everything.

I feel like there’s no reason for me to actually do a short overview of Feynman’s life, as that’s what Wikipedia is for. Rather I’d just say that if you’ve enjoyed stories about Feynman, this biography might be enjoyable, and if you’re studying physics, it’s also quite motivational. I dare you to start reading this and not want to pick up a physics textbook!

Also, I’d really recommend reading “Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman” before this one.

Book 171: Pagoda, Skull & Samurai by Koda Rohan

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Pagoda, Skull & Samurai by Koda Rohan

Finished reading on May 19th, 2015

Rating: 8/10

“The moral of the story is….” would be a way to finish off a review of these three stories by Koda Rohan, a 20th century Japanese novelist. I got this book when I first got into reading books by Japanese authors like Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata, however I never picked it up for long, as the idea of having to deal with a samurai story was just a bit too much.

Now I’m that much smarter…

“The Five-Storied Pagoda” had the strongest moral in a story I’ve ever read and tells the story of two builders, one who is well-known and loved, and the other who is considered a simpleton and slow. The latter gets the idea that he’d like to build the new pagoda, although the contract has been already given to the first. It’s an interesting tale, as you find out how the abbot deals with it, and although it at first seems too much as if he’s just breaking the bread in half between the two, it’s so much more difficult and there are real mind-games going on, that make it very realistic and the end even more so.There’s also a little touch of supernatural in the story that kind of lost me for a while…

“Encounter wit a skull” was my favourite out of these stories, and also the shortest of them. It’s about a wanderer who wants to take a dangerous journey over a mountain in bad weather and meets a mysterious young woman living in a lonely mountain hut and goes on cheerfully with their discussion as to who should get to sleep in the bed or stay awake – the poor stranger who’s a guest or the young woman. It was quite funny until you get to the end of the story.

The last story, “The bearded samurai” reminded me the Lord of the Rings, though I doubt anyone else would see the resemblance. Here we have the story of a samurai who has been captured and is telling his story as he awaits for a capital punishment. First the samurai is depicted as a purely evil and vain creature, while as the story progresses you start to like him.

In general the stories were quite entertaining and thought-provoking.

Book 170: Don’t You Have Time to Think? by Richard P. Feynman

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Don’t You Have Time to Think? by Richard P. Feynman
Finished reading on May 3rd, 2015
Rating: 9/10

If you’ve ever thought what could a famous scientist possibly communicate about with other people, then this collection of Richard Feynman’s letters is a great one to read, as you can read his correspondence with other scientists, relatives and fans.

I quite liked it – you can see what Feynman’s attitudes were on different subjects, and I’d even say it’s inspirational .

I very much enjoyed the letters he wrote to students, who were asking for advice on what to study, and Feynman’s advice to always study what you’re interested in and do what you love, no matter where it might take you, but possibly still keeping your grades up đŸ™‚

I was thinking of reading this and then continuing straight with Gleick’s “Genius”, but now I feel like I’ve gotten quite a good idea about his life and work, so I might not get to “Genius” quite as soon.

Now I want to read Feynman’s Lectures On Physics instead….

Book 169: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Finished reading on May 2nd, 2015
Rating: 8/10
Having not read any reviews or blurbs about the book before starting it and just knowing how it’s considered a great book, I went into it rather blindly, which was probably for the best.

The story goes around an extended family and their lives and troubles, of which there are so many… Among the characters are twins Esthappen and Rahel, their mother Ammu, grandmother Mammachi, great aunt Baby Kochamma and uncle Chacko, his ex-wife Margaret and their daughter Sophie and finally a factory worker Velutha.

The story is told in several flashbacks, so already in the beginning of the book you find out about some events that are only told about in more detail in the end. I found it quite interesting, although confusing in the beginning as well. Since the topic of death is represented in the book I think it’s a fascinating way of basically playing with the reader -if someone dies in a book in the beginning and we don’t know much about their situation at all, it doesn’t elicit much of an emotional response, while when you get to know them after that and see their lives, it makes it ever so much sadder.

Also since events happen without the reader knowing what came before or why, it keeps you reading – you might know someone ends up dead for half the book, but it won’t stop you from reading.

As for the story – it is sad and disturbing – not sad enough to make me cry, but just enough so feel bad for the characters and wish for a sudden miracle to change their lives – that doesn’t happen though.

Without wanting to discuss the plot of the book, I’d just say in conclusion that there are several characters that I despised for their actions, although they wouldn’t take the blame for what happens 100% – rather they just make things worse, but then there are characters who don’t mean anything bad, but it’s just careless of them, or they do things in a fit of rage etc.