Walden — Henry David Thoreau

After reading Into the Wild, where this book gets a fair bit of mentioning, one just had to see what all the fuss was about.

It certainly starts off incredibly well with the first 25% of the book — being mostly one chapter titled, “Economy” — explaining the ins and outs of what leads Thoreau to Walden Pond and away from a normal life and the cost of doing so.   And it is very clear in this first quarter that Thoreau is a very capable writer who can get straight to the heart of the matter and keep the reader’s attention.

But then we begin the second chapter, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”, and thus the tedium begins: word after word of pointless, boring tedium.   Was it so utterly dull for him sitting by the pond, day after day after day with no one to talk to, that he just sat and wrote words for hour upon hour and simply spewed them forth upon pages enough to make up a reasonable amount to call it a book in order to sell it so he didn’t have to get a real job?

I just found myself reading paragraph after paragraph with a totally numbed out mind, noticing only a few words of interest here and there but mostly it’s just babble: babble, babble, babble, babble, blah, blah, blah.   I tried, i really did, but i just cannot see why people so rave about this book.

Maybe chapter 3 onwards is back to the standard of chapter 1, but i simply could not get through chapter 2.

So, inevitably, it got …


Henry’s Page

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A Child at Heart — Christopher Phillips

Those of us interested in longevity and remaining young, fit and healthy as long as possible, realise early on that it all begins in the mind.   If the mind is not on board for an extended lifespan then the brain and body simply isn’t going to go there.

While this book doesn’t look specifically into the longevity benefits of a youthful mind it still has plenty to teach us.   This book is a wonderfully detailed look at the minds of all stages and ages of life and how we interact with each other — and Christopher isn’t shy of giving plenty of thoughts on what is wrong with our current view and treatment of young people and how that is impacting on adults and society as a whole.   As Christopher is a parent himself this book does give a few thoughts on parenting without being preachy about anything and i would definitely recommend it for parents or aspiring parents.

But Christopher is also very clearly a Socratic philosopher, and this book, i feel, continues the ideas of Socrates in how society, not just parents, should relate to and listen to young people.   I do find it incredibly disheartening that after more than 2000 years since Socrates execution for simply doing what Christopher prescribes in this book that adults still aren’t engaging with young people and giving them their rightful place within society.   And then adult society has the audacity to blame young people for causing the problems.

Whether you’re a parent, a philosopher, a youth worker, or someone simply interested in creating a better world, this book is a very good read and well worth getting a copy.

Christopher’s Page

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The Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy — Miyamoto Musashi

Another book that’s sat on my Kindle for years unread, but having just finished David Kirk’s books it really felt like the right time to read this.

It’s hard to judge this book in any real contemporary terms because it simply has no place in the contemporary world.   It’s an anachronism from a time and place that is no more and will never be again.

It is aimed solely at the samurai warrior, but maybe there are those who are ultra competitive who do contact sports, and also military personnel, that could still gain a lot from reading it: which doesn’t apply to me.

It is, however, an incredible view into the mind of one of the greatest strategists (swordsmen) from Japanese history, and it really gives you the genuine thoughts and attitude of a Samurai in regards to fighting and killing with swords.   It’s probably the most amoral thing i’ve ever read, and in that aspect alone it’s quite wonderful because it is so genuine and fascinating.

Musashi’s Page

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Bushido: The Soul of Japan — Inazo Nitobe

I’ve always found Japanese history, particularly that of the Samurai, fascinating, but living on the other side of the world in a completely different time, and in a completely different culture, one can never truly know what these people and the time and place they lived in was really like.

What we can do is simply enjoy these snap shots from the past about a culture long gone that we may still have something to learn from.

Originally published in 1900, the setting for this book is between the end of feudalism and the beginning of modern Japan and is, to my mind at least, a wonderful view of the past and what that can possibly mean for the future.

A very interesting book for anyone who enjoys reading and learning about Japan, especially the historical influences of Bushido on modern Japan.

I only gave it 4 stars on goodreads as it does use some very long and not often used words; i found myself using “Look Up” on my Kindle a great deal which did detract from the flow of the book.   Having said that, it’s definitely worth the effort and you do learn a few things along the way, so please don’t let that put you off an otherwise really good book.

And thus begins my little, Japanese reading festival, next book up is Child of Vengeance by David Kirk.

Inazo’s Page

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — Robert M. Pirsig

It’s one of those ubiquitous books that’s kept turning up on library shelves, charity shop shelves and bookshop shelves throughout my life and yet i’ve always walked away from it, until now.

I’ve always had quite a deep interest in Zen and it always seemed to me that putting it with motorcycle maintenance just wasn’t something i wanted to know about.   But now i have a motorbike that needs some maintenance, and this book turned up in a “Kindle Deal” for 99p, i thought the time was right.

But oh, how wrong i’ve been all these years.   It’s not a book about Zen, or how to fix a motorbike while practising Zen, it’s a wholly different thing altogether.

In fact, it’s a road trip book where our narrator takes his son on a road trip on an old motorbike across the USA.   But it’s a road trip with a difference.

At it’s heart it’s a book about insanity, the condition of society and its relationship to technology, and a fair bit of Greek philosophy as well; and it’s all broken up with the story of the road trip.   And it’s simply, awesome.

With hindsight, i’m happy that i’ve never read it until now as i’m much older and it really blended nicely with my own life experiences: having dropped out of a Philosophy degree course for much the same reasons and now many years later i can look back and see things more clearly.

And the ending in the “Afterword” is what truly completes this book.   It really is a masterpiece of writing.

Robert’s Page

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Other Minds — Peter Godfrey-Smith

One incredibly interesting book for anyone who enjoys learning about evolution — and cephalopods, of course.

Written by a philosopher, the writing is really accessible and really engages the reader: unlike a lot of scientists’ approach to this subject.   It dives deep into the world of the evolution of large brains and intelligence and how they have evolved along completely different evolutionary paths.

It also explores the world and habits of cephalopods, particularly octopuses, but a fair bit about cuttlefish as well.   These really are the most incredible creatures.

Well worth a read.

Peter’s Page

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