Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 2016 reading list

I have mentioned previously that this year I took part in a reading competition.  The main goal of the challenge was the simply read more books, and to do so well, I felt the need to share some of the highs and lows of my reading this year.  If you're interested in the blog- you can find the contest at:

This year, I read mostly fantasy/Scifi novels, with a few historical and non-fiction books interspersed.  I read three books in German, and two children's novels.  I read two books that involved a merry-go-round that changed the age of the person riding it.  One series I read showed a world flooded by demons, both monstrous and of man.  And I explored further into the worlds of the Kingkiller, as well as Harry Potter. 

That said, let me recommend some highlights!

The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett, starts the series following three children living in a world in which humans are pushed to the brink of extinction by demons that rise from the earth every night.  Brett crafts a deeply human story of growth, determination, and survival, and continues through several more novels.  His series is yet to be complete- following the journey of the characters to see if the Warded Man is indeed the savior the world wants him to be, or if humanity is indeed doomed.  I especially enjoyed the varied perspectives in each chapter of Leesha Paper, Rojer Inn, and Arlen Barnes- and their hopes and dream while surviving their world.

Enchantment, by Orsen Scott Card, retells both Russian fairy tales, as well as the sleeping beauty story, but in a more gritty, realistic modern setting.  Without spoiling anything, I would easily say this was my favorite book I read this year.

Rogues, a compilation of short stories including some from Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin had a great many more interesting characters and tales that I expected.  I picked up the book primarily to read of Bast- the mysterious Fae character from the tales of Kvothe.  There are some beautiful tales there    

Now the lows:  Codex, by Lev Grossman, was an utter disappointment.  I had high hopes after reading The Magicians, and it basically has no ending.

The Exile of Time. This book I tried because it sounded interesting and I wanted to try an eBook.  It was free. I basically got what I paid for. Wasn't very impressiveness at all.

Reading List   

1.   Der Golan-Marathon by Yassin Nasri Jan 5th 2016 
2.     Murder List - Julie Garwood - Jan 6th 2016 
3.     The Method- Juli Zeh - Jan 11th 2016 
4.     The Lurker at the Threshold - HP Lovecraft with August Derleth - Jan 24, 2016 
5.     Absteig vom Zauberberg- Jens Walther- Jan 31, 2016 
6.     The Alloy of Law- Brandon Sanderson- Feb 6, 2016 
7.     Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury- Feb 10, 2016 
8.     The Book Thief- Markus Zusak- Feb 15, 2016 
9.     Asian American Dreams- Helen Zia Mar 15, 2016 
10.  The Shadow over Innsmouth- H.P. Lovecraft. Mar 27, 2016 
11.  The Thief Lord- Cornelia Funke April 18th 2016 
12.  Dragon of the Lost Sea - Lawrence Yep, April 20th 2016 
13.  Dragon Steel- Lawrence Yep, April 21, 2016 
14.  Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii- edited by A. Grove Day, April 27, 2016 
15.  Rogues- edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois - May 14, 2016 
16.  The Warded Man- Peter V. Brett - May 23, 2016 
17.  Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury May 31, 2016 
18.  The Desert Spear- Peter V. Brett - June 21, 2016 
19.  The Daylight War - Peter V. Brett - July 3rd 2016 
20.  The Bad Beginning- A series of Unfortunate Events- Lemony Snicket - July 18th 2016 
21.  A Wizard of Earthsea -Ursula K. LeGuin - July 20, 2016 
22.  The Exile of Time- Ray Cummings- July 28th 2016 
23.  Enchantment- Orsen Scott Card- Aug 1, 2016 
24.  Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke Aug 19 2016 
25.  The Magicians - Lev Grossman Sept 11, 2016 
26.  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorn Sept 14th 2016 
27.  The Fortunate Fall- Raphael Carter Sept 29th 2016 
28.  The Magician's Nephew - C. S. Lewis - Oct 9, 2016 
29.  Codex- Lev Grossman- Oct 26th, 2016 
30.  Elantris- Brandon Sanderson - Nov 2nd 2016 
31.  The Aquiliad - S.P. Somtow - Nov 13th 2016
32.  Die Schriften von Accra - Paulo Coelho - Nov 19th 2016 
33.  The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: exploring and conserving our natural world. - Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schienfelbein - Nov 28th 2016
34. Hyperion - Dan Simmons - Dec 14th 2016
35. Bared Blade - Kelly McCullough - Dec 19th, 2016
36. I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak - Dec 24th, 2016
37. The Magician's King - Lev Grossman - Dec 30th, 2016


The rest, you may choose to explore on your own.  I would also recommend The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus by Jacques Cousteau, Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii, and The Method, by Juli Zeh.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Learning and Being Informed

Our world has become a place of information: the internet and computers has revolutionized our knowledge base and access to nearly limitless tools for learning and study.

Yet people's understanding, wisdom, and personal knowledge of how things work, the science of basic mechanics and biology (and other fields), has it seems, not increased much at all.

The beauty of the internet, and learning in general, is being able to discover new things about the earth, about the world around our very lives.  We can learn how to determine a real emerald without shattering.

Some examples of things we commonly may not know:

-How do batteries work?  Why do they "die", whereas some can be recharged?
-Native plants in your own yard or landscaping areas, what is their benefit, versus other 'normal' plants?
-What are the chemicals added to our foods, are they safe to eat?  Why are they added?

All of these questions can have some impact on your daily life, yet people rarely know the answer to them.  With the information access at our fingertips to search online, why don't more people take advantage of learning about things, or being informed?

Add this to the feelings of hopelessness in a greater, wider world full of things that can seem daunting:

-Large corporations making huge decisions about energy, buildings, cars.
-Governments and officials deciding on wars, safety regulations, and policy on our food and energy.

Combined, with large massive changes that can affect us, and a feeling of not knowing enough about situation can be demoralizing.  Likely all of us have at one time or another felt hopeless considering the worldwide nuclear energy waste and nuclear bomb concerns, or wondering about what impacts varied middle eastern war zones have on the entire world population.

What I fear, and see happening among friends, co-workers, and people I interact with in daily life (see: magic tournaments) is a sense of inability.  People feel that they themselves cannot do anything, or change anything, about how things are going in the world, so: why bother trying?

But I'm reading "The Human, The Orchid, and the Octopus", a book put together by Jacques Cousteau and Susan Schiefelbein, wherein Cousteau describes his explorations, and later personal endeavors to alert the public, governments, and experts on the massive concerns facing our world for
overfishing and nuclear power.  And while Cousteau paints a relatively frightening picture about the state of our nuclear energy in the world- the lack of safety and security revolving around radioactive materials, and the dwindling fishing stocks, he talks a major point:

Let me repeat that, and explain.  Every person in the world has the ability to change things, at some level.  You may see yourself as insignificant, but we can make our own part of the world better for us, our children, and our communities.  That in turn can help affect regions, or states, and even countries!  You as an individual may have limits to what you can accomplish, but we can work together in small measures to create large changes.

The task before us today lies in refusing to be defeated by what we regard as impossible and in beginning our struggle for what we know to be essential.  The necessary has always proved to be possible.  Regarding survival as imperative is far more logical than accepting disaster as inevitable.
-Jacques Cousteau, Chapter 9: The Hot Peace: nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, in The Human the Orchid, and the Octopus. 

Coming back around, to the original point: Knowledge is our key to change.  Knowledge is quite literally connected to power. 

We in the 21st century have the ability to learn so much, to explore and discover so many things!  Most children are curious, yet we as a society are losing that curiosity.  With smartphones and 3G access, with cheaper education and videos and learning from the world over, why are we not pushing to learn more?

Go back to being curious.  Learn new things, use the tools we have to discover, and ask WHY.

Demand answers.  We as individuals can make change.  We cannot wait until our time is up.

One final thought to leave you with:
According to legend, there is a way to tell if a stone is an authentic emerald.  You heat it to a certain temperature, and if it shatters--it was real.  We have inherited our emerald--our Earth--only in usufruct.  If indeed it has become too late to remedy our actions, if we shatter our emerald, we are committing a crime not only against ourselves but against future generations.
-Susan Schiefelbein in The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus.