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

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”
― Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Kuvahaun tulos haulle bury my heart at wounded kneeBury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is a 1970 book by American writer Dee Brown that covers the history of Native Americans in the American West in the late nineteenth century.

Brown covers the plights of several Native American tribes.  Book starts with an overview and then one by one describes the horrors faced by Navahos, Sioux, Cheynnes, Doneghowa, Apache…eventually ending with the Wounded Knee Massacre.

“A short time later, near Gallina Springs, Graydon’s scouting party came upon the Mescaleros again. What happened there is not clear, because no Mescalero survived the incident.”
― Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

I first read ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West’ nearly ten years ago. It’s one of the most disturbing books I have ever read,  it has shattered my heart and it makes my blood boil.. each chapter being worse than the previous one. I have so many feelings about Dee Brown’s book.

His work scares me because of the fact that there was barely anyone who survived to tell the tale. And I suppose in many cases, no one did so we don’t know what happened. And what we don’t know, we cannot learn from. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee angers me because “what is wrong with the world” and also that before 1970’s there was not a single book like this and how is it that this is the only one that made it into some kind of fame. And it saddens me because of all the injustice.

Reading this inspired me because there were people who fought back. Great leaders like Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Bloody Knife, Red Cloud and Black Kettle. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee has become an icon that lasts time.
5/5 stars

“Already the once sweet-watered streams, most of which bore Indian names, were clouded with silt and the wastes of man; the very earth was being ravaged and squandered. To the Indians it seemed that these Europeans hated everything in nature-the living forests and their birds and beasts, the grassy glades, the water, the soil, and the air itself.”
― Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

How-To Read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
1.
This is one of those iconic books you really should read.
2.
Quite heavy read with 500 pages. Either it will be impossible for you to put down or you’ll read it for many months.
3. I see this as a great reminder. I tend to think that America is the land of the free when really it is far from it.

Featured image by Graham Thomson

“Nothing lives long
Only the earth and mountains”
― Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

From Fiction to Nonfiction

I recently stumbled upon a great nonfiction blog called What’s Nonfiction? In ‘About’ section, author of the blog writes:

“Back then, I read almost exclusively fiction (an easier section to pinpoint). But in recent years, I found the opposite was becoming true, and I preferred nonfiction, in its many very different categories, to anything fictional. But when I tell people I only like to read nonfiction, they sometimes look disgusted, nose wrinkle and all, like I have no imagination or can’t appreciate fine literary art.”

Blog in question also has a wonderful slug: Where is your nonfiction section please. My little quote  here above doesn’t do the blog any justice so you should go check it out.
And maybe create nonfiction section to your blog?

Anyway,I feel like same thing is happening to me. I’ve always read nonfiction. Quarter of what I’ve read in recent years has been nonfiction but now if I have to choose between reading fiction or nonfiction, I would choose nonfiction. Same goes for reviewing it. I feel like it’s my duty now, as if I have to become an ambassador of knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong. I always have and I always will love fiction. I will always love fantasy and science fiction more than anything because I’m endlessly fascinated by what human mind can come up with. And I feel like sometimes only fiction can express what must be said. Like fairytales, we know that the dragon represents great evil, however we also know can be beaten (thank you Neil Gaiman). And of course, fiction is a must. You cannot read encyclopedias to your kids (or can you?).  I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about what they read.  Please do read whatever you love. I’ve written about how I hate snobbism in reading.
All reading is beautiful.

But.
This week I read and reviewed Night by Elie Wiesel. It’s an amazing work and it changed the way I think. One of my thoughts was that you have no right not to know. If silence is a crime, then what is not knowing?  Fiction is incredible and fiction on WW2 is heart-wrenching and it gives you so much (books like All the Light We Cannot See, Book Thief.. millions of stars wouldn’t be enough to rate them) But. Six million people died because of Holocaust. Most likely the number is much greater. Then all the lives lost in World War II, all the lives lost during Mao’s rule in China, all the lives lost during Stalin’s and Lenin’s rule in Russia. What is still happening in North Korea? All the lives lost when we colonized the world, all the lives lost during the crusades. All the things we have done. All the wrongs. If not us, who will remember those events? Who will preach about them? Who will not let them happen again?

Is it not our responsibility to carry that burden? Is it not our responsibility not let it come down to WW3? And to push humans forward? Achieve greatness through scientific discoveries? To become better individuals?

Nonfiction is about the truth and very often about someone trying to uncover it. Truth is the most beautiful and most cruel thing in this world. In nonfiction, heroes often don’t win and are often unknown. If fiction puts you in shoes of an another person, nonfiction will make you walk in those shoes whether you want it or not.

So please read both. Would be happy to give you some recommendations.
Moreover, I will try to blog more about nonfiction.

How-To Read More Nonfiction
1.
Audible and audiobooks in general are super worth it. You can listen to nonfiction while you do chores. I feel like it’s also sometimes easier to concentrate when someone talks.
2. Start with a topic you like. You like historical fiction –> historical nonfiction, science fiction –> try books by Michio Kaku, thrillers –> try true crime, fantasy –> books on writing and on world building,  or if you have hobbies like cooking or sports or travel, read memoirs. Or start with author you like.  If you like Murakami, try his nonfiction books. Same goes for some other authors.
3. Keep trying. Try different nonfiction genres. Try different places. Try different ways to read.

And I’m curious. What are your thoughts on this? Have your interest switched? Have you preferred fiction and moved to preferring reading nonfiction? Or maybe from one genre to another one? Do you prefer specific genres? Why? Any  tips on how to read more nonfiction?

/Anastasia

Night by Elie Wiesel

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel

Night, first published in 1960s is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War. 

I read Night because of my earlier read Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. In that book, Sapolsky had quoted Elie Wiesel and that quote is stuck in my mind. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” It’s unimaginably deep quote. If we do not care, if we stay silent,  if we do not pick sides, the world will fall apart. I don’t think I’ve realized it before or not to full extent of that it is a great crime to remain silent. And so I was intrigued by this book.

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Night (again I listened to it) was shocking, beautiful, torturous read. It describes undescribable horros and undescribable pain. Thinking about the book makes causes me to shiver. I felt like  crying so many times but at the same time I couldn’t stop listening to this book.

Let’s start with the title. Night. It’s not just the darkness outside but also the darkness within. It’s not a night you’d imagine at first. It’s a night so full of smoke that you cannot breathe. Despair so strong that the dawn will never come. A Night that does not end.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

People lost hope and stopped believing in their God. Because why would God be silent through all of this. As one man describes: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.” It’s a scary read because it also describes how people lose not just their belief but also their humanity. Cruelty becomes a new norm. People turn against one another as self-preservation takes over. Words like Brother, Father, Friend are meaningless.

“One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Audio performance by acclaimed George Guidall was just a stunning one. I felt like it was Wiesel himself was telling the story as Guidall’s voice truthfully carried all the impossible pain.  My audio book also included Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and preface to new edition of the book and it made me so mad. Original version of the Night was over 800 pages long and it was cut basically every time it was published. And author had to plead and beg to get his work published in many countries. Imagine that.

I feel like I’m unworthy to review this book. I could write thrice as long review from what it already have and still I wouldn’t be able to describe this properly. I guess for me, the most important lesson from this and from Wiesel was how neutrality kills. How indifference kills.

Night touched me to the very core. It’s brutal but necessary read. One of the best reads of my life. I loved it and I will be haunted by it.

5/5 stars

How-To Read Night

1. Just 120 pages but it feels like 1000 pages long.  It’s a heart-wrenching book and even though I would like to urge everyone to read this, it’s a difficult book and I know some will find it hard to stomach. Then again, you have no right not to know.  We must take responsibility for humanity’s sake.
2.
Night is a trilogy so there are two more books to read: Dawn and Day. I’ve heard they’re more fragmented than Night but I cannot not leave them unread.
3.
It’s a beautiful book. Yes, it’s about holocaust but Wiesel’s thoughts on all his experiences are  uniquely expressed. So many lines make you stop and think.

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Have you read this? Thoughts?

Featured image: Smoke (Public Domain)