Zen: Beginner’s Guide — Ian Tuhovsky

I do like books about Zen and i’ve read a great many throughout my life: so where does this one stack up?

I really enjoyed it.   Ian has a very approachable style of writing and digs into all aspects of Zen, mostly for the beginning practitioner; but i would also suggest that this is a great book for the Zen curious who have no interest, whatsoever, in pursuing a practice; or for those who maybe just want to dabble a little and see if it’s for them.   And it’s also a good book for those of us who practice alone, either due to where we live or other circumstances, but need a little support and/or guidance occasionally.

It’s verily worth the 99p i paid in a Kindle sale.

My only criticism is that there’s a fair few typos that a bit of mindfulness in the proof reading would have prevented which, to be honest, i found rather amusing considering the topic of this book.

Ian’s Page

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The Sun Also Rises — Ernest Hemingway

My first taste of Hemingway and, honestly, i really have no idea what all the hype is about.

The Sun Also Rises is nothing but rich-alcoholics-get-bored-with-Paris-so-go-off-to-a-fiesta-in-Spain-for-a-week-to-get-drunk-there-instead.   They mostly do nothing but drink alcohol of various types and expenses of which Hemingway will inform you like any decent, decadent, wealthy alcoholic would.   They eat when they get hungry, sleep when they feel they need to and watch a few bull fights; about which, Hemingway is rather keen to portray to the world that the local Spanish know him to be an “officianado”, and that everyone must accept that it’s the height of art and wonder to brutalise animals for the entertainment of drunks.

Oh, and there’s lots of pathetic drunken arguments with pathetic drunken people arguing about other drunken people, or about people who won’t get drunk with them — with a good dose of antisemitism thrown in, which was only necessary if Hemingway was eager to portray his antisemitic credentials to the world as it bought absolutely nothing whatsoever to the actual story.

Blah, blah, blah…

…mostly, it’s all just typical drunken alcoholic boring twaddle written down through the haze of a hangover the next morning.

And now i can’t be bothered to write another word about Hemingway ever again, and i certainly won’t be reading any of his other books.   I gave him a chance and he failed miserably — but failing miserably is what alcoholics do best.

Ernest’s Page

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Wabi Sabi — Beth Kempton

I really enjoyed Andrew Juniper’s book, Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence so i thought i’d may as well give Beth’s book a read as well.

However, unlike Andrew’s book, which i seemed to remember focussed more on the actual aesthetics and the Zen side of Wabi Sabi, with Beth’s book we look deeper into the lifestyle and world view of this wonderful concept.

In reading this book you soon become aware that Beth really has done a lot of homework, lifework, career work and academic work on Japan, and she does a wonderful job of bringing another take on the concept of Wabi Sabi to us non-Japanese readers who are always eager to learn more.

When it all boils down to it, it’s essentially a self help book coming from a really interesting angle.   There’s plenty of food for thought in here for anyone looking to make their life even a little bit better tomorrow than it was yesterday.   I’m fairly certain that everyone could find at least one thing in here to help improve their own lives in a really good way.

Beth’s Page

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Paris By Starlight — Robert Dinsdale

If you’ve enjoyed any of Robert’s previous books then definitely give this a read.

Once again, Robert takes a really challenging, real world issue and wraps it up in wonderful, magical, story telling.   This time we’re taken into the world of war refugees who have travelled thousands of miles to find a new home.

As is usual in the real world, the politicians welcome them and say all the usual things that they’re supposed to say, but in the streets there are those who need to hate and any difference to the Paris they claim as their own will not be tolerated.

As with Robert’s previous stories, we also have the PTSD character, Hayk, who finds enemies around every corner.

This story really takes one into the lives and issues of refugees and asylum seekers, and in some places it can be challenging for anyone with a decent heart.   People, through no fault of their own have their lives torn apart, their homes destroyed, and lose loved ones and friends to the evils of war.   All these people are looking for is a place to be safe and at peace with what remains of their families and friends, something too many of us take for granted.

Well done, Robert.

Robert’s Page

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Wake Up — Bonnie Myotai Treace

Having recently restarted my meditation practice, which is going really well, i thought it about time to give this a read.

I would firmly put this book on the shelf for anyone interested in Zen and deepening their practice: lots of little nuggets of info in here, well presented and easily read.

Also contains a good list of further resources at the back of the book.

Bonnie’s Page

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The Measure of a Man — Kathleen McClure

I once wrote in another book review that “maybe we could all use a dose of ‘silly’ now and again”; likewise, this is a fun short story that will certainly give you a nice little dose of said silly that you didn’t even realise you so desperately needed in this totally messed up world that you take so seriously.

A rat bites a werewolf in the subway, and yes, just like being bitten by a werewolf things also begin to change when you bite werewolves: even if you are just a tiny subway rat.

All good fun, and with the usual non-stop flowing writing that Kathleen’s so good at.

So stop reading the newspapers over breakfast and getting all depressed about things you can’t do anything about, go download this short story and read it instead, then phone in sick and have a nice, silly day off from your serious lives.

Kathleen’s Page

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A Man — Keiichiro Hirano

A man dies who isn’t who he claimed to be.   Left behind is a wife, daughter and step son of the imposter, and also an ex-girlfriend and the family of the man who he claimed to be.

In steps Kido to figure it all out for everyone, a lawyer whose own life is a bit on the rocks.   Kido becomes obsessed tracking down the real Daisuké and figuring out who the imposter really was and why he would do such a thing.   And while the tracking goes on through the book Kido begins to question his own life and failing marriage.

In Kido’s searching for the real Daisuké and the imposter’s true identity we are taken on a journey about life itself: who are we really if we can just jump into someone else’s past and assume the rest of their life as our own?

Keiichiro’s Page

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Atomic Habits — James Clear

This book is a must for everyone who wants to improve their lives in any way at all.

James dives deep into how our human brains work and how we’re hardwired, and gives great, sound advice as to how to use this hardwiring to our advantage instead of being mindless slaves to it.   I just wish i’d read this 40 years ago, but, it’s never to late to change and i look forward to the benefits that this information can bring to my life moving forward.   I would even go so far to say that his book should be essential reading at all schools: the sooner people can get this stuff into their heads the better their lives and their futures would be.

It’s definitely a keeper and a book that i know i’ll be re-reading some time in the future once i’ve done some work on it all.   In the meanwhile i just have to get on with the process as i’ve got some annoying habits to be rid of and good habits to build.

I repeat, once again, this book is a must.

James’ Page

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The Queen’s Gambit — Walter Tevis

I am at a loss as to how many 5 star reviews this book has.   I can only imagine that it’s from people who never read fiction but play a lot of chess and are over-extending their enthusiasm for the game by proclaiming any book that mentions a chess game as a masterpiece of writing — regardless.

One can only imagine all the anorak and fingerless-glove wearing train-spotters who read books about people on trains and give them 5 star reviews just because there’s a train in the book: Thomas the Tank Engine has so much to answer for.

All i can say is that i managed to finish it, but it isn’t anything to get excited about in any way: unless you have wet dreams about chess games.

The suggested drug abuse and dependency never actually materialises.   Sure, Beth has her moments of alcohol exploration as most teenagers do, she even tries a bit of pot at a party — OMFG — and sometimes she even takes a tranquilliser or two to get to sleep; but i’d hardly call any of it drug abuse as she only manages to lose one game of chess, ever, due to having a bit too much wine and then never drinks again for the rest of the book.   It’s like the gender/sex discrimination it reportedly deals with: i would imagine that most women would gladly be the first in the queue to have a few grumpy old men being annoyed at being beaten at chess by them instead of the real gender/sex discrimination real girls and women have to deal with every day.

And — shock and horror for middle class suburbia — there’s even the suggestion that Beth may be a lesbian, or at least bi-curious.   Oh the wildness, call the morality police before it all gets too far out of control!!!

To put it all mildly, it’s all very nicely portrayed and sanitised for the middle class, chess playing people of it’s day.   Even the children’s home is positively idyllic compared to what a real one is like — and yes, i was in a children’s home.

I really don’t think this book has aged well at all.

All in all, a disappointment, but if you like listening to chess matches on Radio 4 and don’t like anything too risqué then it may just get you a little tingly where it matters.

Walter’s Page

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A Rose Point Holiday — M. C. A. Hogarth

After all the shenanigans of the first three books, Reese moves into her new home, Rose Point, a dilapidated run down castle.

Gone are all the nasty people wanting to enslave, imprison and kill her and Hirianthial, and in their place she is given a castle full of staff, the new horses and dogs, plus some Eldritch peasants to Lady it over and win to her side, all while preparing for the winter holiday season and all the protocol and guests that that entails for her new status — not to mention her upcoming wedding.

Admittedly the plot may sound a little dull after the earlier books, but it actually works really well and it’s a really nice and enjoyable ending to this tetralogy, though technically it should be read before the “Epilogue” at the end of Laisrathera as the wedding comes after the events of this book.

All in all, this whole series is well worth a read.

M. C. A. Hogarth’s Page

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