⭐⭐⭐⭐Rating: 4 out of 5.
Any story that explains the meaning of the world, the intentions of the gods, and the destiny of man is bound to be mythology. You think of mythology as a set of fanciful tales. The Greeks didn’t think of their mythology this way. Surely you must realize that. I’m talking about living mythology. Not recorded in any book — recorded in the minds of the people of your culture, and being enacted all over the world even as we sit here and speak of it. So you see that your agricultural revolution is not an event like the Trojan War, isolated in the distant past and without direct relevance to your lives today.
As we, the Takers, see it, the gods gave man the same choice they gave Achilles: a brief life of glory or a long, uneventful life in obscurity. And the Takers chose a brief life of glory, bringing the whole thing to the point of collapse in only five hundred generations. Man is the trailblazer, the pathfinder. His destiny is to be the first to learn that creatures like man have a choice: They can try to thwart the gods and perish in the attempt — or they can stand aside and make some room for all the rest.
I had to face it: I didn’t just want a teacher — I wanted a teacher for life. Over the next decade, he taught me all he knew of the world and the universe and human history, and when my questions went beyond his knowledge, we studied side by side. Someone has to stand up and become to the world of today what Saint Paul was to the Roman Empire. Is it really so impossible in an age when a stand-up comic on television reaches more people in ten minutes than Paul did in his entire lifetime? In my experience, you never really know how you’re going to handle a problem until you actually have it. —Daniel Quinn
A humbling account of the extant homo species’ extent of mythology in its everyday lives and it’s blinding unawareness of it. The story we tell ourselves about us, maybe different than we presumed and may be coloured by hubris. A sense of control is always what we desired, but in there lies a big assumption; that we can simply keep on tuning things without letting the interplay of systems settle in their balanced states. Like Icarus, the man that should not fly too high in the sky because of the heat of the sun, nor too low near the sea, because of the dampness that clogs his feathers. The sun’s heat in the atmosphere gets ever warmer, slowly melting our wax. So too, is the dampness of the sea reaching greater heights with rising water levels and more evaporation. All that makes the zone where Icarus can still fly without perishing to complacency or hubris speedily smaller, until both he and we meet one of those limits. A good example of how fictionalizing stories can help us examine our naive narrative, to see where it will leads us and lets us choose whether we want to take corrective action or that we rather enjoy our the brief moment of glory.
I give “Ishmael” five stars.
At the time of Lord Byron’s Hellespont swim, he had published some poetry but had not yet established himself as one of the great Romantic poets. His successful crossing, though, got his muse talking, and he produced “Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos,” a satiric poem in homage to the swim and to the Greek myth of Hero and Leander. Leander, a young man from Abydos, falls in love with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite who lives in a tower in Sestos. Every night, Leander swims the four miles of the Hellespont to visit Hero, guided by her lamp. One night the lamp blows out, and he drowns, overcome by the waves and currents. She throws herself from her tower to join him in death.
Byron, however, escaped with a bout of fever and chills, but for all his jaunty tone, he felt that swimming coaxed him out of melancholy, opened up his creative stores, and gave him access to his best self. In truth, the Hellespont became a touchstone for him and the strenous swim was what loosed his imagination. In time, “Byronic” would be a label for our most passionate seekers, swimmers, and artists. Byron came to represent a “concentrated mind,” as well as “high spirits, wit, daylight good sense, and a passion for truth—in short a unique discharge of intellectual vitality.” — Bonnie Tsui
This well-travelled story mentions the myriad motivations people have to jump in the water. Together these tales make a good case for swimming in the open water and why, see quote above, it makes for a more rewarding dive. Ranging from the Icelandic hero, Guðlaugur Friðþórsson to the Greek Hero, and from the Japanese Samurais to the Oceans Seven Swimmers. Each bring their own inspiring aspect to the table and the total sum makes swimming outdoors an admirable and worthwhile endeavour. The key is to not be afraid of the water’s depths, its darkness and its potential to draw you down. Ultimately, you’ll arise from the water anew; that’s what John would do with you.
I give “Why We Swim” four
“There’s an expression in classical music. It goes, ‘We went out to the meadow.’ It’s for those evenings that can only be described in that way: There were no walls, there were no music stands, there weren’t even any instruments. There was no ceiling, there was no floor, we all went out to the meadow. It describes a feeling.”
— TOM WAITS
I know she’s reading this right now. (HI.) I felt like we went out to the meadow tonight, only we weren’t playing music. In the best conversations, you don’t even remember what you talked about, only how it felt. It felt like we were in some place your body can’t visit, some place with no ceiling and no walls and no floor and no instruments. — John Green, TATWD
After following John Green’s work for many years, I had never got around actually reading one of his books.
For me it was a feast of recognition, due to many of its real life coincidental counterparts! Knowing how he is as a person, and seeing how you show your own characteristics and traits in your own work was a big eye-opener for me. I guess, since I preferred non-fiction for its objectiveness, this book showed and taught me and what good fiction can do, what it can make me feel — me as a reader.
I give “Turtles All the Way Down” five stars.
After reading the book Running with the Pack, I was delighted to find that there was a book that dived even deeper in the bond between wolf and man. For me this is the best type of philosophy book, one that is interspersed with more light-hearted moments from the author’s life, contrasted with constructive and deeper musings on the events in his or her life. I noticed that it took me a lot longer to get through the book, just because it took a while for the messages to sink in and understand them. Therefore, this is definitely a book that would not be better as an audiobook, because I think I would miss things because there’s no time to mull them over. One thing that happened during the reading of this book, is that all the notes and highlights I took on my e‑reader got deleted, due to me shuffling around some settings. This felt like a setback, one that temporarily makes you not want to be reminded of your mistake and discontinue reading the book. However, because I was so close to finishing it, it would have been silly not to. It made me think that the memories and lessons we gain from reading a book, if they are forgotten and we can no longer rely on our (digital) memory. Of course that is not the case, but it showed me how easily your brain delegates the task of remembering to a third party. Not sure if this topic is mentioned in the other book from this author about external memory, but it made me look forward to read that one as well!
A personal and relatable account what it means to give up alcohol in your life and how it impacts ones relationship with others. The subtle humor in this book was great and made the whole book a pageturner for me. The most important lesson in this book was the impact of a relapse after a prolonged period of abstention. Realizing the impact it can have, makes it so that you do not need to make this mistake yourself to learn from it. Another great lesson was that of just bluffing, even though you have not finished writing the book, mentioning that you want to publish one can help you make it happen, even if you don’t expect it. All in all, I would recommend this book to every young person reading and doubting their own intake of emotion-surpressing drugs.
The pacing of this story was quick and kept the attention easily, even if one’s recently abstaining from caffeine. Talking about the history and impact of society’s most accepted and widespread drug. Michael Pollan did a great job in relaying his experience with temporarily abstaining of coffee and later on using it as a tool, but insinuates it will creep back to an everyday ordeal. For the coming weeks I would like to follow his plan and just drink coffee on Sunday mornings and only then. Perhaps Saturdays could work as well, but I usually tend to do my long run on Sundays, so it would beneficial for that too. I appreciated the appearance of Matthew Walker and his view on caffeine’s effect on the sleep quality. I do notice, that even when I drink coffee in the morning that my sleep is impacted, so that would be a good motivation. One of the more insightful bits was about the difference in spot-focus and canvas focus, the latter would enhance creativity by loose association. Caffeine enhances the spot-focus and therefore linear thinking and might thus reduce one’s creativity. Knowing what it can and cannot do, might help one use it for the right use cases. Without coffee, there wouldn’t be this catalyst for the age of reason. The fact that it was a replacement for alcohol in the seventeenth century was new to me and that the coffee-houses played a big role in the enlightenment by exchanging ideas, so much so that the first modern encyclopedia found its origin in one of the coffee-houses in France.
As alluded to in my previous review, I figured out a way to copy my notes of the book to my computer. Which will make the process of writing reviews of ebooks a little easier in the long run. Talking about long runs, this book was a great summary of the journey into running not all that dissimilar to mine. Let me list some of the things in the book that I liked; First, there was the term ‘wild runner’, used for a running not affiliated with any athletics club, which amused me quite a lot. Secondly, the fact that you can run with any weather, except when the road is covered in black ice. Which is very true, because I have ran in all weather times and the most dangerous one was while it was slippery as hell. Let me add though that running in the middle of a field with thundering clouds above is something that also needs to be avoided. Thirdly, the lesson that if your persist long enough, eventually you’ll gain the strength and the skill that is required. Fourthly, that nothing is as frustrating as seeing someone run while you are injured yourself, that is a weird kind of jealousy, that makes me feel super sorry for the people that are permanently disabled. Lastly, the fact that you need to warm up cold water in your mouth to prevent digestive issues. I do know that cold wind can play a role in how the bowels feel, but I never made the connection with temperature of the water I consume. Luckily, my running backpack has a water bladder that warms up through the heat of my back, so even to the water in the drinking tube might cool down out in the cold, it will always be followed by warmer water. In the end, the book describes the life of an average runner and is therefore maybe more relatable than the stories of the accomplished runners. The fact the book was written in Dutch, the examples used were rather familiar so that must have helped as well. All in all, an enjoyable quick read!
The title of the book was what triggered my curiosity and as the title of the English translation, it is clear that this book had a good marketing team. The book wasn’t bad, the information about the title’s topic was very kept to a minimum. Some blog posts have written a more concise and extensive overview on the topic. However, a little repetition never hurts and there were a lot of things I had changed over last two years that made me feel good about my choices and the path I am on. Furthermore, the biggest lesson for me was that being optimistic has a significant impact on one’s life expectancy — extend it up to seven years — compared to more pessimistic people. Being aware that correlation is not causation, there is still a lot of merit to this observation and something I would want to work on the coming years if not decades. As a sidenote, this was the first book in which I extensively used the note-taking feature on my e‑reader to help me improve my vocabulary and highlight the sentences that resonate with me and that I would like to use in the summary. However, I find that many of these are in Dutch and not all of them would work well after translation. So for now, I’ll leave it at this and in the future I hope to extend this review with those lessons, after I figure out how to export them to a more manageable format instead of having to type it word for word. Even though the latter seems better for retention of the information, I think I would be less likely to do it for most of the books I read.
Knowing more about a person’s upbringing helps you better understand their personalities and traits. As an avid watcher of the programs that the author presents on Dutch television; ‘Keuringsdienst van Waarde’ and ‘De monitor’, I would like to know more about the presenter’s personal views. in the former program the goal is mostly to discover the truth behind all the promises that the food packages make, while in the latter, a more broader and idealistic goal is pursued, with the help of the stories from everyday people that write in. All in all, I was surprised at how well it was written, from a linguistic perspective, which makes sense knowing that he read a lot when he grew up, you pick up on a thing or two while you do so, I like to believe. The main topic of the book was the relationship with his ambitious and artistic father, which differs hugely from my own upbringing, as are the time and place of course. I found it to be a worthwhile read, with plenty of funny and recognizable examples. The only thing that was missing for me, was a bridge between his early past at primary school and how this affected his bond with his dad. For example, when he became a father himself and how this might have changed his relationship with his own dad. I doubt there will be a sequel.
The myth of Achilles is a story that has fascinated me ever since I was younger, so it was time for a deep-dive. Without spoiling too much of the story, I was a bit disappointed that the expectation with regards to his heel were not met. I have come to learn that this was added to the story at a later moment in time and hence might be imagined, but so were many other parts of the story. Apparently, hearsay is difficult to correct, once it has spread among the populous, almost like a (corona)virus of the mind. Honestly, I liked the well-known ending better, but I appreciate this more realistic version of the death of a half-god. For me there was definitely a part in the middle of the book with which I struggled and luckily the pace picked up later on. The fact that the protagonist was such a wuss from the start out might be the cause. All in all, after this, I am looking forward to read more stories of mythology, both Greek and Norse.