Tag Archives: Books

REVIEW: ΜΠΟΥΚΟΥ

ΜπούκουΜπούκου by Φαίη Κοκκινοπούλου
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Διαβάζοντας το Μπούκου της Φαίης Κοκκινοπούλου, θυμήθηκα κάτι που είχε πει ένας κόουτς σε ένα σεμινάριο αυτογνωσίας κάποτε (ο Γιασάρ):

«Όταν οι άνθρωποι κλαίνε, τους αφήνω να κλάψουν. Δεν παρεμβαίνω, όπως δεν παρεμβαίνω όταν γελάνε. Για μένα το κλάμα και το γέλιο είναι το ίδιο: αγνές εκφράσεις συναισθήματος. Χρειάζονται και είναι απαραίτητα και τα δύο»

Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι μερικές φορές όταν κάποιος κλαίει δεν είναι προφανές αν είναι από χαρά ή από λύπη. Θαρρώ πως αρκετοί άνθρωποι οι οποίοι γελάνε ασυνήθιστα πολύ αυτό που θα ήθελαν στ’ αλήθεια να κάνουν θα ήταν να κλάψουν.

Το Μπούκου θα μπορούσε κάλλιστα να χρησιμοποιηθεί στα σεμινάρια του Γιασάρ: τη μια διαβάζεις και γελάς κάτω από τα μουστάκια σου, την άλλη γυρίζεις σελίδα και ξαφνικά βρίσκεσαι να επαναλαμβάνεις τις ίδιες 3-4 σειρές για να βεβαιωθείς ότι αυτό που μόλις επεξεργάστηκες στο κεφάλι σου είναι στ’ αλήθεια αυτό που νομίζεις. Όντως, το Μπούκου αγγίζει το ένα τραγικό θέμα μετά το άλλο με την ίδια ελαφρότητα που πετάει τις εμπνευσμένες και αστείες παρομοιώσεις ή τις κωμικές περιγραφές και καταστάσεις της ιστορίας. Αυτή η αποδοχή καλών και κακών μαντάτων και συμβάντων στη ζωή των πρωταγωνιστών με την ίδια στωική, σχεδόν βουδιστική ηρεμία, η οποία όμως ποτέ δεν ξεπερνάει τα όρια της απάθειας, δίνει μια αίσθηση ωριμότητας και ισορροπίας στη γραφή και στα λεγάμενα. Ταυτόχρονα, και με την παρουσία της ίδιας δεκτικότητας στη ροή των πραγμάτων, μερικά σημεία είναι τόσο ειλικρινή και γεμάτα ατόφιο συναίσθημα και αίσθηση δικαίωσης, που μια ή και δύο αναγνώσεις δεν φτάνουν.

Η πλοκή ακολουθεί τη ζωή της ομώνυμης οικογένειας που ζει σε ένα χωριό κάπου στην Ελλάδα το δεύτερο μισό του 20ου αιώνα. Αποτελείται από τον κλασικού ελληνάρα πατέρα που μια ζωή θέλει «παιδιά» (αγόρια), τη γυναίκα του που συνεχώς απογοητεύει τον άντρα της διαρκώς αποτυγχάνοντας να εκπληρώσει τον διακαή πόθο του, και τα επτά κορίτσια τους που το σοβαρότερο παράπτωμα της ζωής τους είναι που δεν γεννήθηκαν αρσενικά. Μετά από μια έξαρση ενδοοικογενειακής βίας, οι δρόμοι τους τους φέρνουν στην Αθήνα. Από εκεί βλέπουμε τα πράγματα από την οπτική γωνία 4 διαφορετικών μελών της οικογένειας (;) και την μεταμόρφωση τους.

Διαβάζοντας το βιβλίο διέκρινα δύο ξεχωριστά αλλά συναφή αφηγηματικά ρεύματα: τον μαγικό ρεαλισμό του Gabriel Garcia Marquez στο Εκατό Χρόνια Μοναξιά, και τον χιουμοριστικό, συμβολικό σουρεαλισμό που απαντάται σε ταινίες όπως το Underground του Emir Kusturica ή το Amelie (και άλλες ταινίες) του Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Οι χαρακτήρες του Μπούκου είναι όχι μόνο ολοζώντανες καρικατούρες (με την καλή έννοια) των οποίων η αλληλεπίδραση δίνει μια ιστορία που φαντάζει τόσο αληθοφανής όσο και εξωπραγματική, είναι αρχέτυπα που συναντώνται (και) στην σύγχρονη νεοελληνική κοινωνία, ή τουλάχιστον στο πρόσφατο παρελθόν της.

Θα μπορούσα άνετα να φανταστώ το βιβλίο να γίνεται σενάριο για ταινία στα πρότυπα των προαναφερθέντων η οποία θα ξενέρωνε τους σοβαροφανείς, θα σόκαρε τους ευερέθιστους και θα προκαλούσε πολύ κλάμα και γέλιο μπουρδουκλωμένα αλλά και πολλές συζητήσεις. Θα ήταν «ψαγμενιά» η οποία όμως θα μπορούσε να μιλήσει με την ειλικρίνεια της σε ευρύ κοινό και θα το άφηνε να σκεφτεί τι είναι ο άνθρωπος και η διαφορετικόττηα, τι είναι η οικογένεια και πόσο ρόλο παίζει άθελα μας στον προσδιορισμό της διαφορετικότητας του καθενός μας. Αλλά και πως

«η ζωή είναι μικρή, ρεεεε. Συνέλθετε. Στην τελική, τα ίδια σκουλήκια θα μας φάνε. Μικρά, άσπρα και πεινασμένα, θα τσιμπολογούν από πτώμα σε πτώμα και θα ρεύονται φλέβες και σαπισμένο κρέας».

Ευχαριστώ τις εκδόσεις Mamaya: χωρίς την ευγενική τους χορηγία του βιβλίου, η παραπάνω ειλικρινής κριτική μάλλον δεν θα υπήρχε αυτή τη στιγμή.

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REVIEW: NEVER LET ME GO

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this on my phone.

 

This book is quite remarkable. For more than half of it it gives off very few clues on what it’s all about, what these weird kids were doing cordoned off in a special school somewhere in a remote corner of an apparently alt-universe England. You go through their lives through Kathy’s -the protagonist’s- memories, which are incomplete, the possibility always hanging that her memory’s playing tricks on her. She says so herself. And if we don’t grow fond of the characters per se, it’s because there’s something terrible about them being left unsaid, politely ignored. It is something that makes people surrounding them, their “guardians” in that odd sub-space Hogwarts, cry when these children inadvertently show emotion and, say, sing and dance to Judy Bridgewater’s Never Let Me Go I’ve added above – a song that doesn’t strictly exist in our timeline, mind you. I’ll let you unfurl its story on your own.

The whole style of the book was reminiscent of Murakami. Is it a Japanese thing or is my mind playing tricks on me pigeonholing Ishiguro precisely on the basis that both authors are Japanese? But wait a second: more-or-less short and simple sentences, matter-of-fact, every-day situations, relationship- and memory-focused narrative… maybe it’s not just me.

Anyway. Once the secret of the book is revealed, just as matter-of-factly as anything else the characters might be talking about, the genius of Never Let Me Go is truly made clear; I can’t recall ever reading a story with less hand-holding on its central premise, such slow exposition and thus such complete suspension of disbelief. So I’m left here thinking that Its story is precisely what would happen if what’s true in the book was true in real life. And as a wanna-be writer of a similar kind of fiction, I can think of no praise more sincere.

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REVIEW: ON HAPPINESS

Mark Manson on HappinessMark Manson on Happiness by Mark Manson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get it here. If you don’t want to give out your e-mail address, wearing a peg leg, an eye patch and dying of vitamin C deficiency might work for you.

We’re very, very bad at judging what makes us happy.
No matter what happens, everything’s going to be okay.
Be creative. Be grateful.

Sounds clichay, but it’s advice I’d love to be able to keep in mind always. and to his credit, Mark Manson made it sound profound. It is, actually, and it takes skill to turn a well-meaning but worn saying into something usable. The guy writes well and he seems to have a knack for the self-development genre, as his best articles comfortably show.

How long was that little .pdf pf the book? 30 pages? Something like that. Read it. I hope it’s as good for you as it was for me. Even half that would be great. Won’t take you more than an hour.

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REVIEW: ΑΠΟ ΤΗΝ ΑΥΤΟΕΚΤΙΜΗΣΗ ΣΤΟΝ ΕΓΩΙΣΜΟ

Από την αυτοεκτίμηση στον εγωισμόΑπό την αυτοεκτίμηση στον εγωισμό by Jorge Bucay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Πώς να διατηρήσουμε την αυτοεκτίμηση μας: ένα σύντομο μνημονικό απ’ τον κύριο Μπουκάι:

Verdadero (πραγματικός/η)
Autónomo (αυτόνομος/η)
Limitante (οριοθέτης/ρια)
Orgulloso (περήφανος/η–με την καλή έννοια!)
Receptivo (δεκτικός/η)

Όλα τα αρχικά μαζί VALOR: αξία.

Βιβλιαράκι δανεισμένο από τον Γιάννη τον Καταζά το συμφάνταρο στη Σαμοθράκη, τον ωραίο τύπο που πήραμε μαζί άδεια για camping εκεί. Ο ίδιος ήταν πολύ ενθουσιασμένος με το βιβλίο αυτό· εμένα από την αρχή μου κίνησε την περιέργεια το εξώφυλλο που είχε memes για να δείξει τις διαφορετικές συναισθηματικές και ψυχολογικές κατάστασεις και βρήκα ότι ήταν πετυχημένο.

Το βιβλίο ήταν βασικά για τις ενοχές, τον φόβο και τα όρια.

Δεν είχα ξαναδιαβάσει Μπουκάι και βρήκα ότι ο αφηγηματικός τρόπους που χρησιμοποίησε εδώ, που δεν ήταν άλλος από ένα πάρε-δώσε, μια συνεχής ερωταπάντηση με μια φανταστική ή και πραγματική—δεν ξέρω—γυναίκα με την οποία υποτίθεται είχε πιάσει κάποτε την κουβέντα, δεν με ικανοποίησε. Η γυναίκα έκανε διαφορετικές ερωτήσεις από αυτές που είχα εγώ στο μυαλό μου και έτσι συνεχώς είχα την εντύπωση ότι η συζήτηση έβγαινε εκτός πορείας. Όταν κατάφερνα να συντονιστώ πάντως με τον οιρμό είχε ενδιαφέρον και βρήκα ότι οι συμβουλές του, αν και τώρα μήνες μετά δεν θυμάμαι και πολλά (εκτός από το αρκτικόλεξο που έγραψα στην αρχή) εκείνη τη στιγμή που φαινόντουσαν σωστές.

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REVIEW: Η ΤΕΧΝΗ ΤΟΥ ΝΑ ΕΙΣΑΙ ΕΥΤΥΧΙΣΜΕΝΟΣ

Η τέχνη του να είσαι ευτυχισμένοςΗ τέχνη του να είσαι ευτυχισμένος by Arthur Schopenhauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Δανεισμένο απ’ τον φίλτατο Τοπούζογλου.

Βασικά πήρε του Σόπενχαουερ ολόκληρη τη ζωή για να καταλήξει στο ότι η ευδαιμονία, η απόλαυση σε καθαρά επίπεδο αισθήσεων είναι απατηλή—μόλις κανείς φτάσει εκεί, γρήγορα επιστρέφει στο baseline επίπεδο του «τι κάνεις; καλά μωρέ»—το οποίο σαν συμπέρασμα είναι πολύ κοντά σε αυτό που είχα δει σε ένα Ted Talk σχετικά με την «επιστήμη της ευτυχίας» (αλλά και στο βιβλίο του Mark Manson που διάβασα πρόσφατα με τίτλο On Happiness) το οποίο και αυτό έλεγε ότι βασικά είμαστε πολύ κακοί στο να προβλέπουμε τι θα μας κάνει ευτυχισμένους και ό,τι καλό ή κακό μας συμβεί που αλλάζει τη διάθεση μας δεν είναι αρκετό για να μας κρατήσει για πολύ εκεί.

Εκτός αυτού όμως, ο κος Μουντρούχος στο βιβλιαράκι του αυτό επέμεινε αρκετές φορές στο ότι είναι πολύ πιο σημαντική για την εξασφάλιση της ευδαιμονίας σε βάθος χρόνου η αποφυγή καταστάσεων που μπορούν να απειλήσουν αυτό το baseline και να μας στενοχωρήσουν/βασανίσουν/καταθλίψουν. Για αυτόν—και συμφωνώ απολύτως—το πιο σημαντικό αγαθό το οποίο συνεισφέρει στην αποφυγή της κατάθλιψης και της στενοχώριας είναι η καλή υγεία, αφού μόνο με αυτή μπορούμε να απολαύσουμε την ευδαιμονία· χωρίς αυτή όλα φαίνονται στενάχωρα και η ζωή δεν μπορεί να είναι απολαυστική.

Οι παρατηρήσεις του κυμαίνονταν λίγο-πολύ σε αυτό το επίπεδο της πλάγιας απαξίωσης της ευτυχίας/ευδαιμονίας ως επιθυμητής κατάστασης και στην εστίαση στην αποφυγή της δυσκολίας και δυστυχίας ως πιο σημαντικής από την ίδια την ευτυχία.

Σημείωση: η μικρή αυτή έκδοση ήταν πάρα πολύ όμορφη και σωστή, με πλήρη μετάφραση όλων των σημειώσεων και παραπομπών. Τα συγχαρητήρια μου για μια καλή δουλεία στον Πατάκη.

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REVIEW: THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caught it in audiobook format.

I was expecting something in the vain of Replay, the book that, so they say, inspired the movie Groundhog Day. In Replay, the protagonist goes over the same ~25 years again and again and lives the period between the ’60s and the ’80s countless times. Here, it’s the period between Harry August’s birth in 1918 and his eventual death in the ’90s of the same illness every time (I forget what it is) that goes over and over and over.

Clearly, if you cannot see the point of time-loop stories such as these, the premise might sound boring. And in the case of Harry August it did get boring at some point. I thought character development was rather shallow for all the lives they had gone through; yes, they, because—minor spoilers ahead—Harry isn’t the only person to have the gift of apparent immortality in his world. There’s a whole club of them, in fact, but at no point during the story did I feel as if the lives and storylines of the other characters really matter. To top it all off, the bad guy’s motive was very hazy and his relationship with Harry could have been more meaningful and intricate. It was an opportunity lost, especially at a point closer to the end of the book when everything, or so I thought, pointed to Harry having actually fallen in love with the bad guy. Claire North didn’t go through with that, though.

I realise it must be very difficult to write characters that are immortal in the conventional sense while managing to weave a narrative that makes them neither amazingly powerful on the one hand— still somewhat relatable—nor too much like a mere mortal in their wishes, desires and motivations on the other. Harry August and many of the book’s other special characters seemed to fall closer into the latter part of the spectrum above—they had all this power, yet could do so relatively little with it to break their curse of what the Buddhist would call samsara, the pains of (repeating) earthly existence.

What’s more, the world itself didn’t change almost at all between Harry’s different incarnations (if you exclude the plot-related accelerating technological progress), which disappointed me a lot since half the reason I read books like this is for the alternate histories and timelines that emerge. Replay, again, did a better job.

All in all Harry August was an okay book. I found Claire North’s rationalistic, deterministic, somewhat strict writing style enjoyable and quite fitting, and props go to her for writing a book such as this in her ’20s. Regrettably though it fell short in most other respects. It didn’t use its own material sufficiently well, I found.

In other words, I would recommend Replay before The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August if you want to read about a character who goes through time loops.

PS: I went back and read my review for Replay. I seriously remember I had enjoyed it more. Well if you look at that!

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REVIEW: SAMARKAND

SamarkandSamarkand by Amin Maalouf
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Went into this book completely blind apart from the name of the writer which sounded sort of familiar.

I quite enjoyed the book’s first part, set in medieval Central Asia. I don’t think I would have been able to follow the court intrigue the visionary poet Omar Khayyam found himself in as well as I did if I hadn’t played Crusader Kings II as an emir or sheikh a couple of times. You might take that as a suggestion to play Crusader Kings II before reading Samarkand, if you wish. Actually, no: you should definitely take it as a suggestion to play Crusader Kings II, even if you never ever end up reading Samarkand!

Apart from the plot involving the various characters, I thought the progression within the specific time frame worked really well, and I found the story of the Assassin fort and its spiritual liberation through Khayyam’s ambiguous poetry deeply satisfying. It’s historical fiction done well, with just enough details to help create vivid mental images and just the right amount of vagueness and mystery thrown in to make for a pleasant, flowing read.

That said, I still haven’t checked whether there’s any semblance of truth in Samarkand’s portrayal of the story of the book’s central piece, Khayyam’s magnum opus, the Rubaiyyat, nor have I really checked whether the poet Khayyam actually existed or not, or to what extent the story Samarkand tells is a story purely invented by Maalouf. I suppose there must be some truth in it, as the millennium-old poems themselves, wherever they appear in the book, were quite a pleasure to read, and believe me, you would never catch me saying that I’m big on traditional poetry. In any case, after this experience, I have zero interest in finding out the “true” story of Khayyam and his timeless tome, whatever it might be; some illusions are best left unbroken.

Sadly, the second part of the book which is set in 19th and 20th century Iran and tells the story of how the original manuscript ended up sinking with the most famous shipwreck of all time, the Titanic, I frankly did not care for at all, and that’s the biggest part of the reason why I’m not giving Samarkand at least an extra star.

Close-off trivia: famous musician Isaac Maalouf (whose music reminds me of Thanasis Papakonstantinou’s jazzier pieces) is the writer’s nephew.

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REVIEW: CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD #3

Conversations with God: An Uncommon DialogueConversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue by Neale Donald Walsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What would a holy book—a supposed hotline with God—read like if it was written today? Would it be enough to jump-start new religions the way the Bible or the Quran did in their time?

What would God have to say about marriage? Child rearing? Aliens? The nature of the individual soul and how each one is an instance of God, of creativity, of consciousness discovering itself and who it wants to be? How about sacrilege? Sin? Free Will? Life after death? Can God be insulted? What is the divine dichotomy (I love this concept)?

Instead of the typical, monotheistic concept God we’re used to who is worshiped as if He/She/It was a vengeful, entitled asshole, God here appears as the real deal, the creator full of compassion and love the Big Guy from the Bible is supposed to be, and it’s incredibly refreshing. Next to this Creator, I can’t believe what all kinds of mass religion crap is passed off as ultimate truth. There’s just no comparison. It’s staring at the sun on the one hand—impossible without looking away lest you go blind—and having one of the warm light LED lamps on the other.

In fact, I can easily see pieces of Conversations with God be used 200 years from now in the same way the Bible is quoted today, with the difference that the former draws from profound sources and delivers meaning and advice that can be useful to people living in the 21st century instead of the trite, hollow, more traditionalist than insightful Old Testament passages that so often make their appearances in American media and try to pass themselves off as spiritual—and which frankly annoy me to no end.

To drive the point home, even though I did thoroughly enjoy CwG#3 in audiobook format unlike the first two which I read on my Kindle, I must say I would recommend reading the books instead of listening to them. If audiobooks are your thing then the audio is also great, especially the fact that God was voiced by a woman as well as a man taking turns in the conversations. Τhe actors were excellent to boot—I imagined the male God as a cross between Morgan Freeman (damn movies!), Dumbledore and an aged Eddard Stark (what a sense of imagination! /s) and the female one as President Roslin from Battlestar Galactica. However, not being able to highlight incredible insights that appeared every other “page”, it seemed, was a problem, and that alone would count as reason enough for me to actually get all three books in paperback—just to underline the hell out of them! Literally? Heheh.

Deciding whether to give this four stars, as I did for #2, or five, as I did for #1, took me all of about 80 seconds. “Feck it”, I decided. I’ve recommended this book already to pretty much everyone I’ve talked to about books with whom I share even a remote interest in spirituality or anything transcendental. At this point, that it’s just more of the same, which was my main issue with #2, isn’t a problem. While there’s little really new “content” here, only reiterations of the same basic teachings, don’t they say that repetition is the mother of knowledge?

In case this review didn’t manage to convey my enthusiasm and my belief that this book can only enrich your life in some way and that anyway you should definitely read Conversations with God, here are my respective ones for #1 and #2.

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REVIEW: SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND

Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good read I went through in audiobook format. The nature of the book made me feel as if was actually following a series of superb university lectures on our species as a whole instead of reading a book on the topic, which, incidentally and as the title states, is precisely the ambitiously broad, sweeping topic of Sapiens.

Mr. Harari’s choronicle of humanity is marked by the pivotal moments in human history, what we understand today to be its big turning points: the cognitive revolution, when our ancestors seemingly started to communicate about ideas and common myths and create art; the agricultural revolution, which brought private property in the picture, kickstarted civilization (life in the city) and effectively”caged in” our forefathers (more on that later on); the scientific revolution, which shifted our belief system to the result-oriented materialism of the scientific method, and the industrial revolution which has recently resulted in the fundamental shifts we are going through right now, the kind of changes that have made it possible for me to write this review and you to read it.

Fairly standard issue up to this point, right? What you’ll really find in Sapiens, though, is no ordinary retelling of our myths of history; the fact that one of the book’s central themes is that the agricultural revolution was actually “history’s biggest fraud” should give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here.

I’ll shamelessly quote The Guardian’s review of the book — where, by the way, I first found out about Sapiens through Mr. Harari’s article/promo for this book –also tellingly– titled Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history” (isn’t it?)

It’s a neat thought that “we did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us.” There was, Harari says, “a Faustian bargain between humans and grains” in which our species “cast off its intimate symbiosis with nature and sprinted towards greed and alienation”. It was a bad bargain: “the agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud”. More often than not it brought a worse diet, longer hours of work, greater risk of starvation, crowded living conditions, greatly increased susceptibility to disease, new forms of insecurity and uglier forms of hierarchy. Harari thinks we may have been better off in the stone age, and he has powerful things to say about the wickedness of factory farming, concluding with one of his many superlatives: “modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest crime in history”.

There are plenty of interesting ideas to write about off of Sapiens. You may read the rest of The Guardian’s review for the gist, because I feel there’s just too many of them to mention here. But there are three in particular that I found exceptionally intriguing:

1) What seemingly sets humans apart from our faunal brethren and sistren is our ability to create fictions and myths–anything from religion to ideology to stories–and group around them, team up around them, live for them, die for them.

2) Imperialism is a nasty word with virtually zero positive connotations today. However, If you look at human culture around the world, from language to cooking to music to politics to art, empires and imperial activity have been responsible for most of what we recognize as the common and not so common heritage we treasure so. How come I’m writing in English right now and you get to understand my thoughts expressed on this screen? Alexander the Great spread what’s deemed today as enlightened Greek culture in what was then the known barbarian world–by conquering, butchering and intermingling loads of different peoples, of course. Same for the Romans, British etc.

3) It follows from the above that if there is a single one-way trend in human history is that we’re moving one step at a time from separate communities to larger, more complex organisations to a single, planetary consciousness, and it’s not just the invention of global telecommunications that’s led us here.

Consider, for example, as Mr. Harari invites us to, that in most cases what we recognise as individual, uniquely national dishes and cuisines is what’s left of global empires of the past: Italy had no tomatoes, no pomodori, before the 16th century; chili isn’t at all native to India, and so on.

Sapiens is full of such insights that in my opinion more than deliver what is promised on the cover: a brief history of humankind. I can safely put it next to Christopher Lloyd’s What On Earth Happened or Bill Bryson’s  A Short History of Nearly Everything and add it to my core list of mind-expanding, impossibly broad works of non-fiction, and I wish I could mention everything I agree on with Mr. Harari in this review and his input I think is very significant.

The reason I’m giving Sapiens just four stars is that I find the book did not place too much emphasis on the way humanity is being detrimental to the health of its environment and planetary ecological balance (ancient sapiens killing off megafauna everywhere on the world nonwithstanding) and how this fact can and will mess everything up for us. Harari seems to envision as rather more possible a future where people as a species will become obsolete by emerging artificial intelligence or enhanced homo sapiens 2.0 godlike biotech creations that would be even more alien and incomprehensible to us than what we, the sapiens of today, would look like to people of the ancient world.

If any of this comes to pass, the greatest revolution yet is still ahead of us. But honestly, what’s most probably heading our way is somewhere between the technological dysutopia (no sp) imagined by the author and the ecocidal nightmare we’ve been moving into for a while. What’s interesting is that we’re going into this with an unprecedented feeling of unity: a global consciousness, as can be shown by the mere existence of Sapiens as a book, is reaching species. rather than national, racial or whatever, levels. Provided we stay alive for the show, it will all be incredibly exciting, not just impossibly depressing.

Wait a second: we’re already living it, aren’t we?

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REVIEW: SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES: AND OTHER LESSONS FROM THE CREMATORY

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the CrematorySmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe I first heard of this book on Mysterious Universe, if I’m not mistaken, and read it in audiobook format narrated by the author herself, which by the way is a medium of delivery which I believe is in fundamental and intuitive ways superior to the printed word. Having the author narrate her stories, thoughts and observations directly to you can create a powerful emotional connection, the non-verbal qualities of which should not be underestimated. The effect this one had on me was that of a profound book, which it is, but with the attributes of a captivating, paradigm-shifting motivational speech, TED talk or the like. I’ve had this experience before with The Power of Now and others that don’t readily spring to mind but are likely sitting somewhere on my audiobook shelf.

What makes this book special? Well, all I can say is that listening to what Ms. Doughty had to say about death and “our” relationship with it really made me think. We don’t cremate people in Greece, nor do we embalm them, but the fear of death is still something that governs most people and our lives to a degree we’re too scared to even consider. The way we treat our elderly and rob them from the right to a “good death” is definitely something we have in common in many globalised cultures. At some point, she said something close to “in 19th century Britain, nudity or sex was taboo; today, in what we consider our free-minded and progressive society, it is death is the greatest taboo of all.”

I’m writing this review from an internet cafe in Ioannina and I’m running out of time, so keep this: if you want to have your attitude towards death in general questioned and think deeply about the ailments of our necrophobic society, don’t miss Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. The writing was captivating, too; it took me just 4 days to finish.

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