A Wrinkle in Time

“Qui plussait, plus se tait. French, you know. The more a man knows, the less he talks.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1)

A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel written by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1962. It is also a first book of a Time Quintet.

Book follows the lives of the Murray family. Father of Meg and Charles Wallace has disappeared mysteriously a long time ago. One day the kids meet a new friend Calvin and three strange women named: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Which. These ladies tell children that their father is in danger and that they have to travel through time to find him.

“We can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time: With Related Readings

I had a hard time getting into this novel. I guess it had been on my TBR list for a long time because but I truly learned about the existence of this book when the movie adaptation hit the theatres. I have mixed feeling about Wrinkle in Time. I felt like the younger me would have loved it but somehow magic of this book didn’t reach me as adult. And that made me confused because I still love Narnia to death.

There were a lot of good  things in this book. First, genre is funny… it’s like science fiction except that it’s fantasy and that shows in the book. I feel like it has more emotion and less technical/ science fiction-y mumbo-jumbo. I liked W Ladies and them quoting everything and everyone because the words did not come easy for them. And I liked how simple everything was. Evil in this book is mostly described as ‘The Black Thing’ or/and ‘IT’, yet you knew exactly what it was.

“Euripedes. Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Characters were well built and Meg is an unique persona. I don’t know that many main characters who’d be like her. Homely, awkward and math loving. Fantasy elements, new worlds and creatures were entertaining.
4/5 stars but I wouldn’t read it again.

How-To Read A Wrinkle in Time
1.
Short (just over 200 pages) simple and creative, perfect read for kids. I think it also has nice lessons on how things and people and places are different and how we should always fight the evil in this world.
2. First part of a quintet so there are 3 books more for those who adored this.
3. I sensed some religion-ess in this book. A bit similar to Narnia.

“A book, too, can be a star, “explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,” a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Have you read this? Thoughts?
Have you seen the newest movie adaptation? I haven’t but I found cast choices interesting.

Featured image source

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Why do we do things we do?

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst is a book by American author Robert Maurice Sapolsky. It was first published in May, 2017. This is  one miracle of a book. I don’t know where to start…

“Someone does something lousy and selfish to you in a game, and the extent of insular and amygdaloid activation predicts how much outrage you feel and how much revenge you take.”
― Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Book focuses on Robert Sapolsky’s attempt to tackle seemingly impossible question. That is to look at our behavior from every possible angle: biological, psychological, physiological…and there are some historical and cultural angles thrown in to it too.  We start with neurobiological angle: what happens in our brains when some specific behavior occurs, what effect do our hormones have on us, what is our genetic makeup, how are we different or even not that different from rest of the animal kingdom… This is not enough. Sapolsky continues by how environment affects us and also focuses on age-old question:  are we formed more by nature or nurture? And indeed as mentioned, then  we continue with psychology, history, culture…

Behave is among the best nonfiction reads ever. It’s stunning, it’s big and it’s absolutely beautiful. I learned so much and it also changed the way I see some things.  Here are some of my picks throughout the chapters of the book:

Chapter 4: Hours to Days Before: How testosterone increases confidence and optimism and decreases fear and anxiety.  Chapter 5:  Days to Months Before: Enough time for Arab spring, for a discontented winter or for STDs to spread a lot during a summer of love…and also plenty of time for our brains to change…How there’s long-term LTP and LTD. And veryy long term LTP and LTD and how they work differently in different regions of our brains.

“Testosterone makes people cocky, egocentric, and narcissistic.”
― Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Chapter 15: Metaphors We Kill By: How Rwandan genocide came to be and how metaphors were used as a weapon.  Oh the power of metaphors. I have never before realized this. During Rwandan genocide, Tutsis were described as cockroaches. And those cockroaches would steal your husband. They became something that had to be exterminated, swept away from the country. Almost 1 million people dead within 100 days.

“Some translation is needed. The Rwandan genocide did not involve tanks, airplanes, dropping bombs or shelling at civilians. There were no concentration camps. No transport trains. No Zyklon-B. There was no bureaucratic banality of evil. There were hardly even many guns.”
― Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Chapters 6 & 16: Author explained PMS syndrome.  He also explained how PMS syndrome has been used as a criminal defense. And this is not the only sort of crazy sounding criminal defense in the book. There’s also a lot of talk about the development of the brain in earlier chapters and whether a person is or isn’t fully aware of his actions and consequences of those actions due to it… Adolescence. Or. Dude, where is my frontal cortex as the chapter is called.

What else… Sapolsky uses the analogy of a car with faulty brakes to describe antisocial human behaviour. How judges give less harsh sentences after they have had lunch! Yes you read that right, judges’ rulings’ are harsher when they are hungrier. And this also works with smells. If you’re in a place that smells bad, you more likely to judge a person or a thing in a negative manner, how there was a Christmas truce in 1914 and how in many wars since soldiers had to be threatened to go kill soldiers from the opposite side. And how opposite of love is not hate …it’s indifference. And to conclude. There is no such thing as free will.

I loved this book. As you can probably tell from my review, it’s packed with loads and loads of information in a very simplified, easily understood form. Moreover, there’s a sense of humor or sarcasm in the writing and that always gets one more star from me because it’s like authors are laughing at how idiotic some of the things we do are and I really appreciate that (…we do a lot of dumb shit). Maybe the only downside to the book as I was listening to audio version were all the: “footnotes” and “i see her see i see her see i see?”. They were a bit much in spoken. All in all, a fantastic piece of literature.

5/5 stars

How-To Read Behave

1.Please read it. If you read one nonfiction book a year, let this be it. And watch this awesome video too:  https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_sapolsky_the_biology_of_our_best_and_worst_selves
2. It’s not a easy book. Writing and thinking of Sapolsky is clear and easy to understand, however it’s still nearly 800 pages long…or 30 hours on Audible. But big is beautiful.
3. I think it was wonderful book to listen to. However, if you’re not used to audio books, don’t start with this one.
4. Chew on it.
5. Sapolsky has written a lot of books so check them out as well.

How does this sound?

/Anastasia

Picture credits: Behavior CC BY-SA 3.0 Nick Youngson / Alpha Stock Images ,Christmas Truce image from Wikipedia and cover of the book used as featured image on this post.

Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

“Whether we accept it or not, this will likely be the century that determines what the optimal human population is for our planet. It will come about in one of two ways:
Either we decide to manage our own numbers, to avoid a collision of every line on civilization’s graph – or nature will do it for us, in the form of famines, thirst, climate chaos, crashing ecosystems, opportunistic disease, and wars over dwindling resources that finally cut us down to size.”
― Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Tick tock. 10 years ago Alan Weisman wrote a book called ‘A World Without Us’. Basically, the message of the book was that without us, our planet would heal.  In  2013, Weisman wrote another book called Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth? (which was brilliantly translated as ‘A World Full Of Us’ in Finnish. Countdown is another thought experiment. What if the world would go on with us?

Countdown starts with four questions and some scary facts. First question is, How many people can the Holy Land support? In some regions in Israel, there were 740 persons per km2. What will happen when Israel’s population will double by 2050? Second question, if population must remain under 10 billion, is there an acceptable way to convince all the representatives of different religions, cultures, political systems, nationalities, and tribes that decreasing the population is in their best interests? Third question, what kind of an ecosystem can support human life? What other life forms can we not live without?

In 1960’s, Israel released 50 000 strychnine chickens to nature in order to fight rabies epidemic. It worked incredibly well against rabies. Unfortunately, it likely also lead to near extinction of Arabian Leopard. Fourth question, how do we create an economic system that is not dependent on economic growth? And those scary questions and multiple examples were in just 50 first pages of the book.

“In the 1950s, Chinese people didn’t know about environment. To the Chinese Way of thinking, we are a huge country rich in resources, so we don’t need to worry about that. Until, of course, 1958. The Great Leap Forward, you know. We did many silly things. We cut trees in the mountains until they were bald. We tried to smelt iron in poor ovens. ” ― Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

 Next, Weisman takes us to different countries across the world, across Europe, Africa, USA, Asia and Middle-East. Many more scaring facts that explain how people will soon face struggle to find something to eat. Or worse, how there won’t be enough of water for everyone.

I really liked A World Without Us and this seemed even better (probably should re-read AWWU again). I love thought-provoking books and this was one of the most informative book I’ve read in a long time. Moreover,  I admire people who try to make us see these unpleasant and inconvenient truths and change our ways.
5/5 stars

How-To Read Countdown
1. I think you should start with A World Without Us if you haven’t read it yet. You’ll perfectly get this without reading that one but together they make a fascinating combination.
2. You can take a look inside at http://bit.ly/1kNW3GG 
3. Read this before having kids.
4. It’s a quite a heavy book and probably will take you some time to read it. Perhaps, you’ll need some light fiction after you’ve read this.

Countdown shots from https://vimeo.com/50872925, a recreation of an SMPTE Universal Leader that would appear at the beginning of old films. Really loved this one. Featured image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurenmanning/2979574719

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

“Sapiens rule the world because only they can weave an intersubjective web of meaning: a web of laws, forces, entities and places that exist purely in their common imagination. This web allows humans alone to organise crusades, socialist revolutions and human rights movements.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow  is a book written by Israeli author Professor Yuval Noah Harari. It was originally published in 2015 and the English version was published in 2016 in the UK and in 2017 in the U.S.  This is sequel to Harari’s previous book: Sapiens: A Brief History of HumankindHomo Deus, as opposed to the previous book, deals more with the abilities acquired by mankind  and how we became the dominant being in the world. 

I first read Homo Deus in September 2016 when I received advanced reader copy of the book from Harvill Secker. (Thank you!)  I fell in love with Homo Deus from very first pages. And that doesn’t happen to me that often that I’m ready to rate a book 5 stars without even finishing it. It immediately posed some very good questions:  How should we live? How should we keep on living? …We will now aim to upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo Deus (gods).  If we solve death or live until 150, how will it change our society?

“Every day millions of people decide to grant their smartphone a bit more control over their lives or try a new and more effective antidepressant drug. In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change first one of their features and then another, and another, until they will no longer be human.”  ― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus is extremely informative book: why do we have lawn in the front yard? Because it looks nice or because it used to be a sign of prosperity? What is the difference between humans and other animals? Can we really claim that oh animals aren’t self-conscious…that it is just their urges… Are we the superior life forms or just local bullies?

“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom – we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

I  don’t know how to begin to describe Homo Deus. It’s shocking, entertaining and incredibly thoughtful. As I mentioned before, this book poses some excellent questions that make you question your existence. Why do we think of ourselves as superior to all other life forms. Why do we have such strong faith in imaginary things such as money, gods, human rights, companies…And what will become of us if dataism succeeds. All in all, it’s clear that we can’t keep living like this.  Harari’s writing style is very engaging. He’s a bit of sarcastic and negative when he questions religion, our history, science, technology, humanity, our supposedly superior position to other life forms, humanism, liberalism, yet he doesn’t claim that he’s some expert in this matter, he just gives you a set of facts.

 5/5 stars.

Tips
1. This is a sequel to Homo Sapiens so I recommend to read that one first. As with Homo Sapiens, I really recommend this book for everyone because it revolutionizes the way you see this world.
2. Harari’s clarity in his thoughts is beautiful and makes reading any one of his books very enjoyable.
3. There’s a lot of pessimism/realism in this book. I know some people have found it too negatively written but I think it’s the truth about our history and future.

Thoughts?

~ Anastasia

 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book by Yuval Harari first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 and in English in 2014. It’s a fantastic book that wraps 10 000 years of human history in just 443 pages. Sapiens gives us very interesting topics to ponder upon: why did our species win, why do we believe in such imaginative things as gods, nations, laws and human rights. What we are really doing to our planet. And at this rate, what is ahead of us.

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Harari’s writing is very provocative and sarcastic. He questions everything about history and about who do we think we are. I think the most shocking part for me was the murder mystery at the beginning of the book, to read that how yes just 100 000 years ago, there were six different human species. And what happened to five of them? There is the interbreeding theory, yet it is also possible that we became the victorious group through a genocide. And it’s not too hard to believe that other species were hunted down and killed by our ancestors when we keep in mind what has happened in the last few centuries to aboriginal people of different countries and to other mammals.

“Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

  Needless to say, I very much enjoyed reading both Sapiens and its sequel Homo Deus written by Harari, they were both just dizzyingly good. I don’t think I fully understood the process of evolution and how we are no different from other mammals before reading it. However, I didn’t like how the author kept rambling and at times it felt like some issues were being repeated one too many times.

I’d rate this book 4/5 stars.

Tips
1.I recommend this book for everyone because it changes the way you think.
2. There’s a wonderful sequel to this book called Homo Deus.
3. Harari doesn’t use any difficult words and his thought process is very easy to follow.

To end this post, I’d like to urge you to go to watch Harari’s TED talk “Why humans run the world” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzj7Wg4DAbs and add this book on your to-be-read-pile if you haven’t yet.

Thoughts? Have you read this?

~ Anastasia