2021 Reading Log – Part One

I decided to change the title of these posts to a more appropriate name, since I’m not going to give any of the books I read a proper review.

Atomic Habits – James Clear
I heard about this book on some podcast, but I don’t remember which. It is a straight forward guide on how to recognize your current habits, how to make good ones, and how to stick to them. It was a good and quick read.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
For various reasons, I have been avoiding reading this for a long time. I am glad I have read it, however. At first, the “comedy” felt really aged and even toward the end I really didn’t care for the repetitive and circular “humor”. As I continued reading, the rest of the story and characters really started to grow on me. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. Overall, I’m glad I finally read it even though the humor was really hit or miss for me.

The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
Another Russian classic knocked out. This one was a little bit more for fun. The humor can be a little dark in this one even though the overall “feel” to the story is kind of childlike. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translated this as well as the last Dostoevsky book I read, so that has lead me down a strange rabbit hole of their history. I know it is said that they “poetry” of the Russian language does not translate, but it is hard to ignore all the work they have done. Back to the story, it finishes as a love story, as all good stories do.

The Code Book – Simon Singh
This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I think I was worried it was going to be more technical than I wanted to read in my free time. It turned out being more historical than anything. It was a good read, but towards the end I realized how old it was. At the time of writing this the book just passed the 20 year mark. Some of the ciphers mentioned in the final chapters of this book are no longer considered secure despite them being lauded in the book. I think a modern book of this nature would be really interesting to read.

Hate Inc. – Matt Taibbi
I’ve been listening to Matt Taibbi on various podcasts, including his own, for a while now. I finally decided to read something by him. This book is, from what I understand, a compilation of a series of blog posts centered around the topic of how the media is influencing its consumers and various issues with its content. While I have liked a lot of Matt’s typically dry humor, there are moments where I can’t tell if he is just trying to be funny or actually just kind of losing it a bit in these writings. Maybe it is a little bit of both. Either way, it was enjoyable and pretty educational/enlightening. There seems to be a pretty poor sense of “truth” or “factualness” in the media that has been getting pretty apparent as of late, but Matt points out how long it has actually been going on with plenty of examples. This is probably another important read for anyone.

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson
I had pre-ordered this book and was delightfully surprised when it showed up on my Kindle. Reading through it, I felt that it read a lot “faster”, not taking me near as long to read as the first “12 Rules” book. That could be due to a lot more stories and anecdotes included in this one, or maybe just an easier read. I will say that I don’t feel that as much useful/applicable information out of this one. This could be due to the looser feel to the second 12 rules, or maybe just the rules themselves. However, there is nothing for me to argue against or complain about in the rules outlined. They are solid bits of advice and the argument for them are solid. I’m interested in where Jordan Peterson goes with his next book or whatever he is working on next.

The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross – John Marco Allegro
Another of Allegro’s work. While I don’t know how much I buy into the theories here, there is a lot of evidence here of mistranslations of various religious texts over the years. It really appears that playing the centuries long game of telephone mixed with a little meddling from the powers that be have warped religious and historical texts time and time again. I believe if I continue to read more from John Marco Allegro, I’ll come to the same consensus over and over. Other than those somewhat obvious conclusions, I do think there is a lot of wild connections or assumptions made here. I feel like the fact that the author can make some of these connections is more evidence of how these texts could be easily misunderstood. I feel like the logic behind finding references to the “Sacred Mushroom” over and over again is not wrong, but it could easily be replaced with some other plant/fungi/etc. I enjoyed the read.

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain – Lisa Feldman Barrett
A very short and quick read about the brain. This felt like a more-serious (but there are some jokes in there) version of one of Mary Roach’s books that gets right to the point. A hand full of commonly held myths debunked and a few good things to keep in mind while thinking. I’m sure most could benefit from reading this, even if only in the slightest amount.

The Quick Fix – Jesse Singal
At the time of writing this, this book’s author is under fire for something on the Internet. I’m not really sure why and can’t be bothered to really look into it, as after reading this, Jesse Singal seems like a reasonable and sane person. As for the book, it is a nice set of examples in the pop-psychology “field” of “too good to be true”. Jesse explains failures, unintentional and some not so unintentional, in research and associated published studies in the behavioral psychology field that have had some impact on life. One thing to take away from this book is a reminder that easy fixes are hardly ever the real fix.

The Infernal City & Lord of Souls – Greg Keyes
I’m combining both of these books into one entry as they are part of a duo that could have been one book. This combo is part of The Elder Scrolls of video games, expanding a bit on a specific event in the lore. I feel like there are far too many stories going on in these two books, with about five different stories following various characters during the events detailed. Some of the writing is pretty bland and there are some strange choices made throughout, such as a character begin referred to by only her last name and then by only her first half way through the second book. I had to look that to make sure I knew who the author was actually referencing. With so many characters, it was easy to mix up the fantastical names. While I enjoyed filling in some missing bits of lore, it felt like a third party was hired to write this for the team behind The Elder Scrolls. Even though this is true, I don’t like that it really felt that way while reading. Would I recommend these to anyone? If you really wanted to be filled in on some lore not detailed in the games, maybe. However, I would probably point to a Fudge Muppet video on the topic of Umbriel first.

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