January Reading And A Bit Of Serendipity

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Our Fuller’s Bookshop Book for February is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. It is a retelling of the Iliad from the point of view of a woman. Our group meets the first Thursday night of February so I will write more about it after we have discussed it.

I recently finished The Arsonist by Chloe Harper. Our group will discuss this book the first week of March. Chloe Harper is an Australian writer who writes about the Black Friday bushfires in Victoria that happened several years ago. Again I will wait until after the group meets to write about it.

I am currently reading our April book, The Everlasting Sunday by Robert Lukins about boys living in a boarding school in England in 1962. I’m not that far into it yet but I feel it might become quite ominous. More on that later.

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In the meantime, I can talk about the recently read The Shepherd’s Hut by Australian writer Tim Winton. I imagine most people who live in Australia who read this blog have read it. I will say I loved it very much and couldn’t put it down. It was a slowly drawn  story of a young man who lives in Western Australia. He had a very abusive father who had abused him for years and it became worse once his mother died of cancer. He often wished his father dead and when he does die in an accident while working on his car in a shed, the boy fears he may be blamed and heads off into the bush and desert of Western Australia.

In my opinion nobody writes about Western Australia better than Tim Winton. You feel the heat, the dust, the young man’s hunger. He comes across an elderly man living in a shack in the desert in the middle of nowhere and the story continues with the development of their relationship, the life and trials that happen upon them.

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My only criticism of the book, which some don’t agree with is I thought Tim Winton wrapped up the ending too quickly. This is a drawn out story that seemed to follow a certain, consistent pace throughout. Then suddenly the end is upon the reader and it seemed to quickly finish. I can’t say more than that as I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone. I will leave it at that for now. I did really enjoy this book though.

The serendipity I refer to is regarding a page I have put in my 2019 journal. I read a lot of book reviews. I get them from my bookshop, other blogger’s posts, the newspaper, everywhere.

I also receive publishers newsletters and magazines and often see older books referred to at times. I often exclaim to myself, “My gosh I have that book on my shelf!” and think I should get it off the shelf and read it so I can then pass it on. So for 2019 as I read reviews and notice books that are named by other bloggers, I will get that book off my shelf and place in a pile to finally have a serious look at it. If I’m not going to read it then maybe it is time to pass it along.

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So far on my journal’s Serendipity page, as I call it, I have Persuasion by Jane Austen. It is one of her books I have seen the film for but never read. So onto the pile it goes and I might finally get to it. As it is early in the year I don’t have any other books listed but I do have books by a couple of authors that have been in the winds of 2019.

I read a blurb in the Weekend Australian just before New Year’s Eve written by Mandy Sayers about her favourite books for 2018. I have a book on the shelf by her so I may grab that one. I have several books on the shelf by Helen Garner unread and I know I must read them. I hear so much about Helen Garner especially from Australian bloggers I follow. So onto the pile they need to go. I can’t think about their latest books while I still have their previous books on the shelf.snip20190124_6

February will have me listening to audible books, mainly in the car. I’m currently listening to Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick who is a New York City writer I love. I heard her speak at the Sydney Writer’s festival a few years ago and enjoyed her very much. Most of her books are memoirs of her life growing up in a tenement building of 20 apartments in the Bronx. Some of her books are of her life later in life. She is close to me in age so has lived quite a bit of life.

I love tales that take place in Brooklyn or the Bronx especially in the 1950s and 60s. She deals with a very exasperating mother which I find interesting and I feel as though I am on the streets of New York with her, trying to figure out life. Fierce Attachments has most of the book taking place in her first 25 years. They live in an apartment building that has 20 apartments in it and the interaction between the neighbours and families really draw me in. I love the New York Jewish phrases and sometimes hysteria as many of the women deal with their husbands and children.snip20190124_4

February is going to be a very busy month for us but I’ll write more about that in a couple of days. I’m trying to finish off books in January because I’m not sure I’ll get a lot of reading completed in February.

More on that later. Until then, I leave you…

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Homo Deus at Fullers Book shop

Snip20180729_1I know I talk about Fuller’s book shop quite a bit here. They have started Philosophy Cafe Evenings. I learned about them recently. I missed the first one but I caught the second one. This one began at 5:30 pm and went for an hour.  A friend who was interested in the topic went with me. It ended just after 6:30 and then we went for a Japanese meal around the corner. A fun night.

The book and subject discussed was humanism in the future from the book Home Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow written by Yuval Noah Harari (Translator- Du’o’ng Ngoc Trà). It was facilitated by Dr Ingo Fanin, from the University of Tasmania.

Good Reads describes this book as:

“Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers?”

Mr. Fanin introduced the book and then had some questions he thought of he threw out to the audience. The audience then began a discussion of humanism in the future. Topics covered the environment, technology which took up quite a bit of futuristic thinking, how humans treat each other (war), population, religion versus science and then whatever tangent it went off on before another question was asked by Mr. Fanin.

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Yuval Noah Harari

There were quite a few people there and everyone sat around the tables in the cafe so had a good vantage point to see who was talking.  I had read the book in the preceding two weeks and did manage to finish it. At times it went over my head and I had to revisit parts of it. I’m glad I read it in consecutive days as it’s the type of book if you put it down and come back weeks or even too many days later you’d forget what you had read.

I enjoyed the intellectual discussion. I also enjoyed that there were young people and elderly people and every age in between. It was good to hear what others thought of the direction of our future on this planet. Overall I didn’t find it too depressing when when the subject came up “What if technology was developed so people never died?” arose the question was asked, “What is then the significance of being murdered if you had everlasting life on earth.”   Or what if you reach a point in your life, such as old and ill and you stay at that stage for another few hundred years. Is that what we want? At what age would our life “freeze” so to speak and we live with that forever.  I thought they were interesting thoughts but was also relieved to know I will never deal with any of that. I don’t think I’d want to live forever.

Another topic is what does the world do when technology is taking over all of the jobs in the world. An example of research that stated when doctors diagnosed lunch cancer they got it right 50% of the time but when a programmed robot diagnosed it the diagnosis was correct 100% of the time.  There will be a world of billions that all surplus people. We were encouraged to then be happy we’re surplus and to enjoy all the leisure that brings. Study, educate ourselves, travel.  My question how does one support themselves over two hundred years of leisure?

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There’s some deep thinking going on here.

There were lots of ideas and opinions in the room and I really enjoyed the evening. All of this in about 70 minutes.  The Japanese food was very good afterwards and it gave my friend and I quite a bit to debrief about over dinner.  I look forward to the next Philosophy Cafe later in the year.

NB: The author is also known for his previous book, which this one leads on from, Sapiens: A brief history of humankind.

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and a tenured professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Wikipedia