Nearly four years ago, I have heard of a reading challenge consisting of reading one book per week throughout the whole year. Not trusting official institutions to educate me, I was eager to outsource yet another part of my education. As invaluable as those reading hours are, at times the reading itself ceases to be an effortless wander of the mind, and begins to resemble work. And that is slightly inconvenient for obvious reasons.
The year 2015 then has been a sloppy year, since I managed to finish only around 40 books. Partly because I eased my pace for the reasons mentioned above and partly because of my five week trip to China. Of these 40 books, I’ve picked three that for various reason stay in my mind.
- The Bed of Procrustes – Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms; written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Bed of Procrustes is the only book of Taleb’s Incerto that has not been translated to Czech yet (officially). I’ve looked for this book around bookstores of few European countries, my brother searched for it in Vancouver, but we couldn’t find it. On Amazon UK, it hovered around £15, which thanks to weak Czech currency, is quite a lot for a book of 120 pages. Believing I knew better, I waited… until I found one copy in the most unlikely places of all, an English section of a bookstore located in the capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu, in not entirely English speaking China.
The price tag reaching the equivalent of £22 made it the most expensive price per page book I have ever bought. And you know what? It was worth every penny. Taleb recently posted on his Facebook page, that:
“A book isn’t just its contents; it’s a state of mind.”
And The Bed of Procrustes delivers.
It shines the mind-set of flaneur from every page. It’s crisp, elegant, yet emphatic. It’s like a mentor – encouraging, guiding, and, at times, admonishing. I keep it close and whenever clouds lurk in, or thoughts swirl around restlessly, it gives me a peace of mind, an emboldening nudge, and a reminder that a philosophical reasoning is a way to find the answer. A lot of value then, in 120 pages, and my book of the year 2015.
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Tough call it was for the second place, as I couldn’t quite make my mind between Fahrenheit 451 and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which too made a lasting impression on me and I keep returning to it months after I’ve read it. However for the purpose of picking a book for other qualities besides great writing (which would make Rushdie’s Satanic Verses conquering and commanding the first place), I had to go with the Fahrenheit. The message of the book is as actual as it can get and I would wager what we call Orwellian could just as easily be called Bradburian. The fact that my text editor accepts Orwellian whilst underlying Bradburian only confirms the lack of attention paid to bottom-up changes driven by individuals striving for eradication of any conflict, whether moral, physical, or purely of thought.
Orwell’s newspeak thus meets Bradbury’s fire brigades in a shared obsession for smoothing out the language and the thinking of loudmouths and troublemakers.
- The Truth – An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships, by Neil Strauss
I read Strauss’s first major hit, The Game, few years ago and became interested in his writing. Since then I only read Emergency and skipped all other publications, however Strauss never quite left my radar, so when his latest book, The Truth, appeared in the bookstores, I gave it a go.
I dived in and very much enjoyed the first third of the book, however for some reason, I struggled through the second third and almost put the book down. Luckily I haven’t done that, got to the rather good last third and finished the whole thing. So why do I bring it up when I find myself admitting it didn’t match up with the other contenders?
Because I believe the core question of the book, that is the male perspective of relationships and what is natural for males, is actual and important to examine. A certain shift is happening, which is reflected by the amount of relationship coaches offering their services on the market. Neil takes us into his messed up world of relationship with open heart and guides us through with the utmost openness and honesty (and balls – it takes balls to speak the truth as he does).
In my eyes, Strauss takes the male approach to relationships, the indifferent, polygamy-is-my-nature, screw-commitment one, and presents the other – the approach of openness, intimacy, and hard work. And that is important – if only for the sole reason of knowing it exists.
To conclude – even though I didn’t enjoy the whole book, I still give it a prominent place in my library and look forward to reading it again. And if you find yourself struggling with some parts of your relationships, I have a hunch you may find a piece of value in it too.
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There has been more gems hidden in the books I have read in the past year, however I know there is nothing worse than an overwhelming, daunting list of (any) recommendation, therefore I narrowed it down to three.
For the year 2016, I will reading and will do my best to keep up with the challenge. I dare you to try it too. If it seems impossible, give yourself a tangible goal of reading say 30 pages every day, or one book in two weeks, and see what happens. The benefits are there, you only need to choose carefully and keep your eyes open.
I wish you good luck and all the best in 2016.