Breaking Night

“Many nights, I longed for home. But it occurred to me as I struggled for a feeling of comfort and safety: I have no idea where home is.” — Liz Murray, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard

Breaking Night is a memoir of Liz Murray that describes her journey from living on the streets to making it into Harvard. The title Breaking Night means staying up through the night until the sun rises. Liz was born to drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. At age fifteen, when she lost her mother, she found herself on the streets.

Eventually, Liz went back to school and then was awarded with New York Times scholarship which enabled her to go to Harvard.

I listened to Murray’s book on Audible where the author had narrated the book. It was really touching and saddening. When Liz and her sister Lisa were growing up, their parents would use all the money received from welfare on drugs so after burning through that money in two weeks, there was no money left for food or anything else. Liz occasionally went to school and she was somehow passed up in grades every year. When she was twelve, she tried to get a job to buy stuff but no one would hire her as she was too young. And then, one day her mother sat her down saying “I’ve got it, baby I’ve got it. I’m sick. I have Aids”..

“Life has a way of doing that; one minute everything makes sense, the next, things change. People get sick. Families break apart, your friends could close the door on you”. — Liz Murray, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard

I don’t know. It’s really hard even to start to process all the hardships described in this book. I was often walking around in a daze because I was so impressed and bothered by the book. The childhood spent figuring out why your parents are acting like this and what they do behind closed doors or living in an apartment where shower was flooding so badly you had to stand on a bucket.

And then the AIDS, the abusive boyfriend, having no place to live while figuring out the studies and where to keep the books and making through it all. It was really something special. I very much enjoyed reading this and would rate the book 4/5 stars

“But avoidance allows you to believe that you’re making all kinds of strides when you’re not.” — Liz Murray, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard

How-To Read Breaking Night

1. It’s very inspirational and will help you realize that sometimes your dreams are closer than you think. And that sometimes you have to make choices like Liz made between pizza and a bus ticket.

2. It’s not one of those annoying self-help books. If you know what I mean. Okay Murray does say “It took everything I got” a lot but other than that it’s just facts and how she kept trying. There are no senseless life advices to be found here.

3. Audible and the audiobook edition is wonderful because author has narrated the work herself. I warmly recommend it.

Have you read this? Would you be able to make it if you were homeless?

21 Lessons for the 21 Century

“Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.” — Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

21 Lessons for the 21 Century is the newest work of best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, first published just few weeks ago. We learned about the past from Sapiens. We learned about the future from Homo Deus. And in 21 Lessons for the 21 Century we embrace the NOW.

It’s hard to form words to describe my excitement and adoration for this book. As previous books, it certainly doesn’t let you down. 21 lessons cover many interesting topics about truth and how we are post-truth species and how some fake news only lasted for 700 years… So what you’re getting now is nothing.

Book is divided in five parts. First part explores the technological challenges: you might not have a job when you grow up because the world is changing so fast and because many jobs will be lost and it is still uncertain whether new jobs would come in their place. How big data is always watching and what would happen in case of a digital dictatorship. We are not equal now and we’ll be less so in the future because who will own all the data?

Second part explores political challenges of 21 Century. Humans have bodies…or do we, as separation of online and offline world is decreasing. And the immigration. No one seems keen to emigrate to Russia. Third part of the book is called ‘Despair and Hope’ and it is more philosophical and already offers some answers on big global questions like terrorism, wars and religion.

“Truth and power can travel together only so far. Sooner or later they go their separate ways. If you want power, at some point you will have to spread fictions. If you want to know the truth about the world, at some point you will have to renounce power.”— Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

Fourth part is exciting because it combines truth and science fiction (just kidding…or not). We do not only groupthink, we are also post-truth species. If you think propaganda spread out by Putin or Trump is bad, just imagine how some fake news lasted for centuries. Or forever. And we get to science fiction. You love movies and series like The Matrix, Westworld and Black Mirror. I know I do. But all of them seem to imply that machines would take over or that our authentic selves are trapped somewhere.

Last part, funnily, because I always tend to think that Harari is a hopeless pessimist, gives some hope and advise. By learning to adapt fastly, you might survive as change is now the only variable you can trust. And also a lot can be learned by just observing the world.

Perhaps, unlike Sapiens and Homo Deus, this book did not shock me and completely alter how I see the world (Homo Deus made me love evolution theory and turned me into atheist from agnostic). 21 Lessons for the 21 Century is deeply thoughtful and it mainly questions big global trends, not as much giving direct answers. This was also much more personal as Harari questions Judaism and openly discusses him being married to a man as well and his personal journey on how he came to understand reality through meditation for example. It’s a bit repetitive on fictional stories we love to weave though I guess that’s essential here. I loved this and would give it 5/5 stars

“To run fast, don’t take much luggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy.”— Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

How-To Read 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

1. Read, digest, think. And then think more. Maybe start meditation?

2. You should read Sapiens and Homo Deus before tackling this one although it’s great independently as well.

3. Not a book that will revolutionize your thinking, though definitely great tool for deeper reflection on the world.

Have you read it? Would you want to read it? Thoughts?

Kim Kardashian

She continues to lark about as cameraman starts to walk away. “Excuse me, are you leaving?” I’m Kim Kardashian. I’m the dopest of the ropest person in this class. I’m dope on a rope. When someone off camera interrupts, define “dope”, Kim, she answers “Dope is Kim”. / Kim Kardashian, 5th grade

Sean Smith’s biography Kim portrays the life of world’s top reality tv star. It’s no other than Kim Kardashian. The book was first published in 2015 and it describes Kim’s childhood in Beverly Hills, her Armenian roots, her turbulent relationships and of course her rise to become what she is today.

I’ve long been fascinated by reality tv. I don’t like watching it but I like how genius the concept of it is. Basically making fun of people, of usually very rich or very pretty people when in reality they’re far from that.

This book is a light read and it reveals a very different kind of Kim. Kim who as a girl dreamed of being not Madonna, but a wife and a mother.

The book covers Kim’s life pretty well. Describing the parents and siblings of Kim and then explaining her childhood growing up in Beverly Hills. Then, we move on to her dramatic relationships. She married for the first time in 2000 with Damon Thomas, later filing for a divorce, then she had a short marriage with Kris Humphries before meeting her current husband Kanye West. As for career, she appeared first on few episodes of Simple Life, then leaked a sex tape (coincidence, I don’t think so?) and then launching ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ in 2007.

I liked how book offered some insight to the reality tv (which we all know is scripted). For example, the book tells about that one time when Kardashians hired a porn star to be a babysitter. Funnily enough, they filmed Bree Olson for like 15 hours and in the end, her footage amounted to just barely over 5 minutes in the show.

And yes. It’s not that easy to be a reality tv star. As the book states, if you’re an actress, you can win an Oscar or an Emmy. A musician like Kanye will win applause for taking home a Grammy or a BRIT Award. Problem Kim has as a brand is: how can she be judged to be successful?

“People who think Kim can’t be taken seriously because she posts are confusing because she posts naked pictures of her famous rear online are confusing the brand with the person.”

I liked reading this and I like Kim more now because of this book… I think biographies like this give you a basic idea of who the people are as well as some basic facts about them. However, I do enjoy more reading autobiographies or biographies that have been written together with the person of interest (as that of Elon Musk) so that is why I call this light. Also, what the hell with the star sign and star chart chapter that went on for about 9 pages? I don’t know why the author decided to include it?
3/5 stars

How-To Read Kim & Fun facts
1. It’s very light read. Smith has written a ton of biographies, so far I’ve only read two but he’s pretty good. Not an expose but still entertaining. Like did you know, Kim is very religious?
2. Bunim/Murray … Google that. Are they genius or are they just taking over the tv? …And the world?
3. A brand or a person? And what to keep in mind when we watch reality tv.

Thoughts? Reality TV… yay or nay?

Picture credits: cover of the book, Kim Kardashian featured image: Kim Kardashian profile shot by Shelby Skrhak, Weekend Update Kim Kardashian Saturday Night Live Nicki Minaj by Zennie Abraham

The 33 Strategies of War

“Do not fight them. Instead think of them the way you think of children, or pets, not important enough to affect your mental balance”
― Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

The 33 Strategies of War is a 2006 book written by American author Robert Greene It is a book that describes war tactics… in your own life, in everything from business negotiations to family quarrels…

You might remember my earlier review: 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene’s first book. I guess numbers are attractive and so I half-accidentally stumbled upon this book on Audible and decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed. The 33 Strategies of War is a book that combines the knowledge of great classics such as  ‘Art of War’ and ‘On War’ and expanding that knowledge and making it much more practical to use these strategies in your daily life.

 

“Events in life mean nothing if you do not reflect on them in a deep way, and ideas from books are pointless if they have no application to life as you live it.”
― Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

I loved this book. It gives you countless  and countless of good guidelines on how to lead your life. Although, from time to time that advice can be quite realistic or even brutal. Preface of the book starts with some nice examples from Greek mythology. Ares was the greek god of war,  however Athene was the goddess of warfare and that is the often case in other mythologies. Point of war is not in killing, but in strategy. Not being the pawn, but the player.

Book has been divided into different strategies of warfare, every chapter giving you more insight on them. These strategies include: Self-directed warfare, organizational warfare, offensive warfare, defensive warfare and unconventional (dirty) warfare. Every chapter of the book contains own sub-strategy and it is (just as in 48 Laws of Power) purely genius. Couple of examplesfrom chapters under the dirty warfare. Chapter 23 is called Weave seamless blend of fact and fiction. Point of this chapter is to teach you how to confuse and to distract your enemies from what you are doing or what is goind on around them. Feed their expectations and manifacture their reality to match their desires. Or Chapter 28 is called: Give Your Rivals Enough Rope to Hang Themselves: The One-Upmanship Strategy.  “Life’s greatest dangers often come not from external enemies but from our supposed colleagues and friends who pretend to work for the common cause while scheming to sabotage us.”  Point is to confuse our enemies in these games they are playing.

“Your mind is the starting point of all war and all strategy. A mind that is easily overwhelmed by emotion, that is rooted in the past instead of the present, that cannot see the world with clarity and urgency, will create strategies that will always miss the mark.”
― Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

To most of you, all of this might sound shocking, terrible and you might not to want to use these strategies though I think everyone should at least know of them. I adored this book also because it made so much easier to understand world politics and actions of world leaders such as Trump or Putin. It also has enabled me to see through people and recognize the strategy they are playing if they are. What I didn’t quite like about The 33 Strategies of War was how often it repeated the same examples used in the previous book. It was good in a way because I knew the example and could see it both from strategy and power perspective, however I still wanted more of novel ideas.

5/5 stars

“You may think that what you’d like to recapture from your youth is your looks, your physical fitness, your simple pleasures, but what you really need is the fluidity of mind you once possessed.”
― Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

How-To Read The 33 Strategies of War
1.
If you love Art of War and On War, this should be your next read. And it’s perfect for history lovers.
2.
Quite a heavy book, it will probably take a while and for that it is the perfect book to listen to on your way to work for example.
3.
Umm… business is business?

Check out this awesome video:

Featured image: Photos: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons…Soldiers in front of the wood of Hougoumont during the reenactment of the battle of Waterloo (1815), June 2011, Waterloo, Belgium, British artillery in action by John Warwick Brooke . And the video is linked here from the youtube site

Mao: The Unknown Story

“We the Chinese nation have the spirit to fight the enemy to the last drop of our blood, the determination to recover our lost territory by our own efforts, and the ability to stand on our own feet in the family of nations.” /Mao Zedong

Mao: The Unknown Story

Mao: The Unknown Story is a 2005 biography of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976) written by Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday. In conducting their research for the book over the course of a decade, the authors interviewed hundreds of people who were close to Mao Zedong at some point in his life, used recently published memoirs from Chinese political figures, and explored newly opened archives in China and Russia.

Chang has previously written Wild Swans which was her autobiography. Mao is a highly interesting book and also it’s a brick with over 800 pages.

I remember reading this years ago in high-school (I read everything but school books) and I was shocked by it. Book begins with following line: “Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world’s population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth century leader.” It does not just tell about Mao and his life. It also tells of death of over 70 million people and not just that but how they died.

“The country is so beautiful, where so many heroes had devoted their lives into it. Sorry that the Qin Emperor or the Han Wu Emperor lacks a sense for literacy; while the founders of the Tang and Song dynasties came short in style. The great man, Genghis Khan, only knew how to shoot eagles with an arrow. The past is past. To see real heroes, look around you.” / /Mao Zedong

It’s another devastating book. It’s great book for history lovers as it covers Mao’s life, The Long March, opium trade, campaigns against Mao’s opponents, Sino-Japanese War, Korean War… But then I remember detailed descriptions of how people died of hunger or because they were enemies of the state and for reasons I can’t understand. I think it’s also a great reminder when you think of China now. China is economically strong nuclear superpower. But it was achieved at unimaginable cost.

“People who try to commit suicide — don’t attempt to save them! . . . China is such a populous nation, it is not as if we cannot do without a few people.” / Mao Zedong

There is a one big downside to this book, it’s extremely biased against Mao. He did a lot of bad things yes but can we really blame one man for deaths of millions. It’s like if you see a bunch of money lying around, would you pick it up? If you see power, would you grab for it?  In the book he is portrayed as the most evil man that ever walked this earth. Void of emotion. And that bothered me a lot in this book because nonfiction and biographies are supposed to be more neutral no matter how evil the person was. On the other hand, Mao did hold the absolute power over China for many decades and could have stopped all of it or at least lessen the amount of the dead. He didn’t so that also says  a lot.
4/5 stars

How- To Read Mao: The Unknown Story
1. It’s a fantastic book to get a general picture of 20th Century China. It’s also a brick, over 800 pages long and it will take time to read through it. Also many deaths.
2. It’s extremely biased against Mao. Perhaps for a great reason but it’s definitely not neutral if that is what you’re looking for.
3. If you want to read something less biased, read Chang’s auto-biography + biographies of her mother and grandmother called ‘Wild Swans’ (1991)

Thoughts?

Featured image credit