Book Review: Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono

Published: October 23, 2012

“Very interesting and informative. Full of stats and specifics that allow you to form an opinion based on the evidence.”

fourandahalfstars

What Is ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’ About?

You are about to become obsolete. You think you are special, unique, and that whatever it is that you are doing is impossible to replace. You are wrong. As we speak, millions of algorithms created by computer scientists are frantically running on servers all over the world, with one sole purpose: do whatever humans can do, but better.

That is the argument for a phenomenon called technological unemployment, one that is pervading modern society. But is that really the case? Or is it just a futuristic fantasy? What will become of us in the coming years, and what can we do to prevent a catastrophic collapse of society?

Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy explores the impact of technological advances on our lives, what it means to be happy, and provides suggestions on how to avoid a systemic collapse.

Why Did I Read ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’?

My interest in this book started about six months ago after I attended a tech conference in Amsterdam. The main guest speaker, Federico Pistono, gave an insightful presentation explaining what we could expect to see in the job market over the coming years due to the effects of ‘automation’.

More or less, this was the presentation:

Having now read the book, whilst making lots of notes along the way, I’ll now attempt to summarise the most intriguing elements of Federico Pistono’s work.

What I Like About ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’?

Firstly, to find out the average percentage on whether your job will be replaced – click on this link: http://www.bit.ly/npr-job-machine

The book is divided into three parts:

1) Exploring the topic of technological unemployment and its impact on work and society (The stats are predominately focused on the US economy, with assurances that the same argument applies to most of the industrialised world)

2) In the second part he delves into the nature of work itself and the relationship between work and happiness.

3) The last part is a bold attempt to provide some practical suggestions on how to deal with the issues presented in the first two parts.

We begin by looking at the definition of exponential growth and see how this associates itself with Moore’s Law (that computer power doubles every 2 years), along with a look at applying the definition of intelligence to Google.

Federico explores the trends in automation and its perceived impact on retail and other industries. As well as the importance of ‘human contact’ when purchasing and shopping.

“The trend is clear. Companies in the manufacturing sector are automating and the typical statement that “people will find something else to do” is simply a cop-out that does not look at the reality of the situation…”

He explains the long terms pros and cons to the introduction of 3D printers and automated construction – the impending model for house construction that will remove professions. As well as the environmental benefits of automation: reduced wastage, employee accidents, and so on.

There is an interesting section on the rise of assistance technology such as Siri and Google. Google have made no secret of their intention to move away from being considered a Search engine and to focus on becoming a fully established assistant capable of supporting everyday needs and tasks, recognising languages and accents.

“Just as cavemen could not imagine the complex cities and societies we live in today, neither can we anticipate in any accurate detail what is soon to come.”

Social factors and trust issues are given their due credit. Social acceptance whether it be fear, uncertainty, doubt, ignorance, or special interests may block the next generation automation for a while, but not forever.

“Even though we have the technology and the capability to provide the world’s 7 billion people with free and unrestricted Internet access, only one third of the world is connected to the global mind.”

We look at occupation lists and the percentage of workforce allocation, which shows that only one real large scale profession has been invented in the last 50 years.

“The reality is that the new jobs created by technology employ a very small fraction of people, and even those jobs tend to disappear soon after they are created.”

Fredrick talks of his frustration in addressing this issue with economists. Keen to enter into detailed discussions on why this might not be an issue. At the time of writing he had still achieved little beyond being dismissed off hand.

“I have read several books, watched hundreds of debates and interviews on this subject, and I have not so far heard a single argument to support the idea that we can make this work, or how.” – Federico’s passion for this topic is apparent throughout.

He then turns his attention to the work ethic and work identity, looking at the mentality of the everyday worker.

He talks of how the current economy rewards the wrong skill sets with manipulation, selfishness and aggression topping the characteristics of the successful.

Half way in, we get the first mention of the ‘Happy Planet Index’, or the ‘Satisfaction with Life Index’ as recommended replacements to GDP.

There is a big review on ‘happiness’ and in particular our interpretation of happiness. As he puts it:

‘The marketing tools used by corporations in order to sell more products rely on our inability to adequately predict what makes us happy.’

‘Numerous studies have established that unemployed people are in worse mental and physical health than employed people.’

And yet there seems to be a balance that must be struck to find the optimal work / happiness level. The higher percentages of happy populations are in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and The Netherlands – all known to commonly work shorter working weeks. Where as Greece, Poland, Hungary, Russia and Turkey – known for working longer weeks – rate lower on the ‘happy’ scale.

The conclusion of which seems to indicate that work is an enabler for purpose and drive, but not a flat out requirement to achieving happiness.

I love this quote:

“The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living”

Solutions

We then reach the final third of the book, full of suggestions on how to live a self-learning, happy, stress free ‘simple’ life.

“Live simpler lives, escape from the rat race of obsessive materialism and reduce the stress, overtime, and psychological expense that typically go along with it.”

“It is possible to find an improved balance between leisure and work, focusing life goals on personal fulfilment and relationship building instead f the all-consuming pursuit of economic success.”

He mentions a couple of useful learning tools:

Apple iTunesU (which delivers university lectures from the major universities around the world, for free).

Khan Academy (a free online service containing courses for almost anything: https://www.khanacademy.org)

And goes into other areas such as:

  • Grow your own food
  • Eat well
  • Reduce your carbon foot print

    He also discusses Open Source projects referencing services such as Kickstarter to fund new ideas and research concepts, in particular drawing attention this TED talk on open source ecology:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S63Cy64p2lQ

    The key point is that he advocates self-employment, spending only when you have to and reducing your working week for a less stressful life.

    A significant portion of this section is self-help on how to ‘live smart’:

  • Writing down the good things that happen to you
  • Exercise
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Setting small achievable targets
  • And so on…

    Working its way finally into the realms of financial advice, challenging your spending habits, the need for insurance and the ‘pay now consume later’ culture.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’?

    It’s a bit of a giveaway that I first became interested in this book six months ago and I’ve only just finished it. This is an educational self-help book that at times is easy to digest and other times collects dust.

    Good Or Bad?

    Was it any good? Yes, very interesting and informative. Full of stats and specifics that allow you to form an opinion based on the evidence.

    Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.

    Would I read it again? In parts, maybe. There are numerous sections which you could revisit throughout.

    Here are some other reviews:

    Star Wars – Lords Of The Sith by Paul S. Kemp
    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

     

    Have you read A Game For The Young?
    Share your comments #agamefortheyoung

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  • Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    Published: 1988

    fourstars

    “One of those books that you could return to many times over.”

    What Is ‘The Alchemist’ About?

    Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.

    Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognising opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

    Why Did I Read ‘The Alchemist’?

    This is a story that has been known to carry a large number of life lessons. It’s very quotable, considered a masterpiece, but is also a quick read. So it served a few purposes to read it.

    I also recall Will Smith mentioning it in a motivational video, which subliminally logged it somewhere on my ‘to do’ list.

    What I Liked About ‘The Alchemist’

    The Alchemist begins in Spain and follows Santiago’s journey as a shepherd. He’s endearing from the start, Santiago carries a torch for a girl in a nearby town and is using a book for a pillow. Humble beginnings always strike a chord.

    His dreams are interpreted by a gypsy and he’s given the first omen that a great treasure awaits him near the Pyramids of Egypt.

    Santiago then has a disorientating conversation with a man who turns out to be the king of Salem. He knows more about Santiago than can explained and the story gives you it’s first reference to the ‘Personal Legend’ – the desire that you craved as a child but was forgotten and weighed down as you got older by the pressures of adulthood.

    The book has barely got started and is already heavy on the metaphors and the use of story telling to deliver its messages. But from early on there is something unmistakably interesting and engaging about this story.

    Quotes from ‘The Alchemist’:

    • “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
    • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
    • “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
    • “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
    • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
    • “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
    • “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”
    • “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
    • “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
    • “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
    • “Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
    • “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”
    • “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”

    Early into the boys journey he is robbed and loses all his money, challenging his commitment to his ‘Personal Legend’. I assumed this would be an adventure story that moves at pace from location to location, but things take a different turn when the boy is employed at a jewellers for a year, whilst he rebuilds his fortune to fund his travels. Again, there are more tales and metaphors along the way.

    As I read it, I started to think of ‘The Alchemist’ as one of those books that I could return to many times over. It has so many metaphorical tales, powerful quotes and words of encouragement. I can see how so many have taken this story to their hearts.

    The book ends with a touching twist, a feel good factor which allows the story to come full circle and conclude his journey. Lovely ending.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘The Alchemist’

    There is a somewhat dream like sequence where Santiago, having learnt to listen to his heart, begins talking with the desert, the wind, the sun and ‘the hand’ – referring to the six days creation.
    The message seems to be that he has learnt the language of the world by living in the present, but for me it was an odd period of the story that went a bridge too far.

    This is an old school story, set amongst sand and camels, flocks of sheep and Egyptian pyramids. It’s not for everyone, and certainly requires the right mindset going in.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Of course, I read this story sort of knowing it was going to be, but that created an expectation that I was happy the book lived up to.
    Would I recommend it? Yes, it’s a quick read but more than worth the amount of time it takes to digest.
    Would I read it again? Yes.

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

    Published: 3rd March 2005

    “A simple story told in a very interesting way.”

    threestarsandahalfstars

    What Is ‘Looking For Alaska’ About?

    Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words – and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

    Why Did I Read ‘Looking For Alaska’?

    The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns are both great John Green novels that I’m glad I’ve read. That in itself was all the justification I needed.

    What I Liked About ‘Looking For Alaska’

    Straightaway it’s apparent that it’s a John Green novel. You’ve got young characters, witty dialogue, a coming of age story told in the first person, references to history and memorable quotes made by interesting & influential people.

    Green splits the chapters via an ominous countdown (e.g ‘110 days before’), it’s quite clever as it gives a sense for the passage of time, but also indicates that something is coming.

    I loved the fascination that Miles had with remembering the last words of senior figures throughout history. A great way of offering something interesting as well as being quite funny at times.

    Green was able to do a significant amount of social commentary within the telling of this story. There’s a whole section on woman’s rights, a bit on pornography, parts where characters discuss religion, and this is all whilst sandwiched amongst drinking games and drunken pranks.

    Another thing I enjoyed was the use of layers. Miles often addresses the layers between him and other female characters to define how close he is to that person. His pants, his jeans, her dress, etc. This gets deeper in meaning the further you go into the story.

    ‘Looking For Alaska’ deals with tragedy well. Almost as if it’s being bolstered by personal experience. It’s essentially a simple story told in a very interesting way.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Looking For Alaska’

    It’s all a bit cliche to begin with. The protagonist (Miles) is a bit of a geek and falls in love with a girl called Alaska almost instantly. In fact for the first 20% of the story I really didn’t know where it was going (and not in a good way).

    The previous John Green books that I’ve read have all been about ‘something’ and that ‘something’ has been quite apparent early into the story, played out within the dynamic of friendships and the banter between young adults wise beyond their years. But with this book, there didn’t appear to be any theme for great lengths of the story.

    Though it takes a while to get there ‘Looking For Alaska’ addresses loss (in this case the loss of a friend). The acceptance of death and how the characters deal with it personally and outwardly. But for me it took too long to get there. For many readers I suspect what would measure this novel is whether they believed the second half made up for the first.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Yes. This isn’t a bad story at all, it’s just overshadowed by Green’s subsequent novels.
    Would I recommend it? Of all the John Green novels, this one I liked the least. If you had to pick up one John Green book, this wouldn’t be it for me. But it’s worth a read.
    Would I read it again? No.

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett

    Published: 5th November 2015

    “A thought provoking, subtle mystery.”

    fourandahalfstars

    What Is ‘The Hidden Legacy’ About?

    1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.
    2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .
    Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.
    But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.
    Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .

    Why Did I Read ‘The Hidden Legacy’?

    For the first time, and hopefully not the last, I was able to read a novel written by someone local, published and successful. Considering this is GJ Minett’s debut novel, a lot can be said for the following this story achieved in the Kindle bookstore, peaking in sales to gain that all important ‘Best Seller’ accreditation.
    This is not only inspiring to me, but an encouraging story to any ‘would be’ writers thinking of giving it a go.

    What I Liked About ‘The Hidden Legacy’

    Firstly, I read this story on my iPhone using the Kindle app. Has anyone else tried that? It’s not nearly as bad an experience as you might think.

    The opening to this story is fantastic. Very well written. Like all good mysteries it gives you just enough to go on and yet nothing really in terms of motivation. So you start hooked before you’ve really got going.
    I liked the layout of this novel, it felt quite unique. There wasn’t lots of chapters, but instead pockets of time concerning different characters broken up by four main parts. It allowed the novel to flow.
    There were some lovely parts in this story, textured descriptions and a tone of realism throughout. In certain sections you could tell the author had laboured over each sentence. Ellen’s first visit to Primrose Cottage in particular was a stand out moment where Minett seized an opportunity for some interesting and creative writing.
    The story has a maturity to it. An old soul. I wouldn’t say that it’s incredibly intense nor a slow burner, instead I came to think of it a bit like a scented candle that was relaxing and easy going to read, but with enough intrigue to keep me interested.
    I can’t say I’ve read a book like this before, which is praise in itself. And though it’s a bit of cliché, I’ll admit I didn’t see the ending coming.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘The Hidden Legacy’

    This isn’t the kind of story I would normally read, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I do tend to prefer stories where the stakes are a little higher.
    The main plot is reliant on you accepting that an incident from a playground in 1966 is still remembered throughout the country forty years later, and that it would cause some form of media hysteria if the identity of the killer (now rehabilitated) was made public. This is a little challenging to accept if you spend to much time thinking about it, especially with the story grounded in so much realism.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Yes. Really glad I read it.
    Would I recommend it? I would, with the caveat that this isn’t a ‘thrill ride’. It sits comfortably in the ‘Crime, Thriller & Mystery’ genre and it knows what it is: A thought provoking, subtle mystery.
    Would I read it again? Maybe. This is one of those novels you could return to after a few years, but you might not get as much second time round knowing where it’s going.

    I was happy to read that GJ Minett has another book due out this Autumn – I’ll be adding this to the list: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lie-Wait-GJ-Minett-ebook/dp/B01F91HUPC/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1467402269&sr=1-2

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

     

    Any suggestions?

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: One Shot by Lee Child

    Published: 2005

    “I didn’t find Jack Reacher to be a particularly likeable or relatable character.”

    fourstars

    What Is ‘One Shot’ About?

    Six shots. Five dead.
    A heartland city thrown into terror. But within hours the cops have it solved. A slam-dunk case. Apart from one thing. The accused gunman refuses to talk except for a single phrase:
    Get Jack Reacher for me.
    Reacher lives off the grid. He’s not looking for trouble. But sometimes trouble looks for him. What could connect the ex-military cop to this psychopathic killer?

    Why Did I Read ‘One Shot’?

    Reading a Lee Child novel (or a ‘Jack Reacher’ novel even) was sort of inevitable. More than enough smoke has been made from Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and this came across like the perfect holiday read.
    I also held the suspicion that this would be closer to the sort of novel I was hoping to read when I read Tom Clancy – Support and Defend.
    That’s it. Nothing more.

    What I Liked About ‘One Shot’

    The overall story was well thought through, a tight and compact plot that doesn’t get bogged down with too many sub plots.
    ‘The Zec’ is an interesting and memorable villain with a great backstory. He had the persona of a Bond villian, but with motivations that were grounded and believable.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘One Shot’

    I wasn’t able commit to this book for more than half an hour at a time. My biggest issue was that I didn’t find ‘Jack Reacher’ to be a particularly likeable or relatable character – this just wasn’t for me. Reacher never seemed really tested or anything other than completely in control which isn’t especially endearing.
    I also thought that some of the other characters looked to him too desperately for my liking.
    When Reacher is explaining what he’s figured out it is often dragged out, almost like he’s gloating.
    The ending is satisfying but a bit too easy going. Everything sort of goes to plan. Reacher goes through the motions and then taunts his adversary. I would have preferred some difficulty or something not going in his favour.
    This perhaps is my fault. I may have put these novels on a pedestal before giving one a chance.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? I would still say that it’s a well written page turner. A good holiday read, but it’s not as clever as it wants to be.
    Would I recommend it? No, not this one. I reckon there’s better Reacher novels out there which would have earnt Lee Child his reputation.
    Would I read it again? No.

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett (currently reading)
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    Published: March 1969

    “Very good… This is a worthy read to tackle the subject matter.”

    fourstars

    What Is ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ About?

    Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

    Why Did I Read ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’?

    Slaughterhouse Five was mentioned in a recent book I read which prompted my interest. This was followed by me watching two interesting ‘Crash Course’ videos dedicated to the analysis of the novel and it’s numerous metaphors and hidden messages:

    The more I read about this novel, the more it became apparent that this was an important piece of anti-war literature.

    What I Liked About ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’

    The first chapter feels autobiographical, the author introduces himself and sets the stage. It feels like it’s going to be a first person account of a horrific incident in the second world war with thought provoking anti-war messages along the way. The author even talks about the process of writing the book and the difficulties he had reciting everything. Things then suddenly switch into fiction and the perspective changes to that of the story’s protaganist Billy Pilgrim.
    Initially this was disorientating, but as I read on I warmed to the narration and began to understand that everything had been intentional.

    There is a wonderful section within the novel where Billy Pilgrim is watching an old war movie backwards (or he sees it that way) and he describes, with a certain poetic irony, a bombing run against Germany in reverse. The flames are sucked out of the city and the debris is collected back together and transformed into buildings, the shattered metal casing of the bomb is pulled together and flies into the sky back into the bellies of the planes. I loved this.

    The introduction of aliens and flying saucers were a surprise but I viewed these as metaphors to make the reader look inward on the human race from a third person.

    Kurt has a one liner that he calls on throughout the novel whenever someone dies: ‘And so it goes”. When it’s used its often in the wake of something tragic but it also carries an awkward humour.

    Due to the fleeting timeline that the author has created with Billy Pilgrim’s time travel, it means that he’s able to have multiple stories running at the same time based in different time periods but using similar themes of abduction / arrest and therapy / alien observation.

    There’s some powerful social commentary to be found in this book. The quest for a happy existence and the class system are poignant subjects.

    The destruction and the aftermath of Dresden is suitably haunting. The landscape is compared to the surface of the moon, the hills of debris are jagged on closer look and fragile to touch. Overwhelmingly it was destruction that told you clearly that no one was supposed to live. No one was expected to survive.

    The sentiment of this story seems to be summed up perfectly by the exchange between Billy and an old war veteran. When referring to the bombing of Dresden, he says: “It had to be done”, Billy replies: “I know”, the Veteran says: “Pity the men that had to do it”, Billy replies: “I do”, and then “It must of been hell” to which Billy replies “It was”.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’

    Because of the jumping timelines, the reference of aliens and the mixture of world war tragedy – its all very displacing and uncomfortable in parts. There were sections of the story and I did’t enjoy frankly.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Yes, very good. I’m embarrassed to admit my ignorance to the Dresden bombing prior to reading this novel, so I’m glad to have learnt an important piece of history in such a unique way. This is a worthy read to tackle the subject matter.
    Would I recommend it? Not for everyone, so very much dependent on the reader. I would emphasise it’s an important moment in history which deserves to be read about.
    Would I read it again? Possibly. This would be an interest read second time around.

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

    Published: October 16, 2008

    “Pure entertainment on the outside, with a deeper meaning in the middle.”

    fourandahalfstars

    What Is ‘Paper Towns’ About?

    Quentin Jacobsen has always loved Margo Roth Spiegelman, for Margo (and her adventures) are the stuff of legend at their high school. So when she one day climbs through his window and summons him on an all-night road trip of revenge he cannot help but follow.
    But the next day Margo doesn’t come to school and a week later she is still missing. Q soon learns that there are clues in her disappearance . . . and they are for him. But as he gets deeper into the mystery – culminating in another awesome road trip across America – he becomes less sure of who and what he is looking for.

    Why Did I Read ‘Paper Towns’?

    A little while ago I read ‘A Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green and was genuinely moved. I also watched the film and loved it.
    I’ve been following vlog brothers on You Tube for some time now and also read ‘Parable of The Sower’ based on John Green’s recommendation – which is fantastic.
    I’ve recently been drawn into the channel ‘Crash Course’ which is interesting and not too long ago I watched this video, during which Green mentions his novel ‘Paper Towns’. I also watched the trailer for the film based on this novel:

    What I Liked About ‘Paper Towns’

    Very early in you can tell that this is a John Green novel or certainly that it was written by the same author as ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. Lots of witty dialog, the occasional mention of an historical or scientific fact and in general teenagers speaking older than their years. But where as ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ came across like a deep and meaningful sad story – Paper Towns is coming across like pure entertainment.
    This novel is really funny in parts – there’s a student party which is done really well and generally the banter between the students makes for some great moments.
    Paper Towns is broken into three parts:
    1) The first part is Margo and Quentin’s night together, where they work through a series of revenge pranks set up by Margo.
    2) The second part is Margo’s disappearance and the finding of clues that may lead to where she’s hiding.
    3) The third part is a road trip to get Margo.
    What’s interesting is the ‘bite size chunks’ in which the story is given to you.
    The first part is, for the majority, broken up by the tasks as Margo goes on her ‘tongue in cheek’ rampage of revenge.
    The second part is broken up by the clues that Quentin finds explaining the disappearance and possible location of Margo.
    The third part is broken up by the hours that pass on the road trip.
    The actual concept for this novel is a GREAT idea. Educational, cultural and littered with social commentary. It was the perfect excuse for a combination of love story, mystery, road trip and slapstick young adult fiction.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Paper Towns’

    Paper Towns is a coming of age story and a really good one. However, as good as it is, it’s also a mystery for a large portion, consisting of Quentin sitting around thinking about the clues Margo has left for him. That process, though interesting in parts, does occasionally need filler so that the story can allow for time to pass.

    Good Or Bad?

    Was this book any good? Yes, very good. I can recall thinking that it was pure entertainment when I first started reading it – but this quickly became pure entertainment on the outside, with a deeper meaning in the middle.
    Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.
    Would I read it again? Probably not, although I’ll be watching the film soon.

     

    Here are some other reviews:
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    Misery by Stephen King
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler

    Published: 1993

    “Fantastic! This was more than a novel, it was an experience.”

    fourandahalfstars

    What Is ‘Parable Of The Sower’ About?

    In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.
    Lauren Olamina is an 18-year-old woman with hyperempathy syndrome — if she sees another in pain, she feels their pain as acutely as if it were real. When her relatively safe neighborhood enclave is destroyed, along with her family and dreams for the future, Lauren grabs a backpack full of supplies and begins a journey north.
    Along the way, she recruits fellow refugees to her embryonic faith, Earthseed, the prime tenet of which is that “God is change.” Against a backdrop of horror emerges a message of hope: if we are willing to embrace divine change, we will survive to fulfil our destiny among the stars.

    Why Did I Read ‘Parable Of The Sower’?

    Ever since reading ‘The Fault In Our Stars‘, I’ve subscribed to and frequently watched videos posted up on the You Tube channel: Vlog Brothers. Among the videos I came across was this one:

    After reading Tom Clancy’s – Support and Defend, I was keen to read something more inspiring, so the timing of me watching this felt like fate – not that fate is something I believe in.

    What I Liked About ‘Parable Of The Sower’

    The novel starts with excerpts from ‘Earthseed’, a book of bible like passages that I initially thought might of been from a different writer or poet, but later on it becomes apparent that these are excerpts from the book our protagonist is writing. It’s a lovely welcoming, which is followed by an opening where she talks about her dreams. I was only five minutes into the first chapter and already I was engaged in a way that told me that I was going to enjoy this story.
    From the outset this novel challenges the existence of god in quite a thought provoking way, discussing the preference of god’s treatment dependent on your background and wealth.
    This is 23 years old and yet is disturbingly current in its description of a dystopian future, Octavia E. Butler depicts a very realistic and surreal world, but doesn’t focus on the larger cities or the larger population issues at first. She starts with the local communities and neighbourly disputes. A great way to get to know the characters at a personal level whilst being brought into a larger conflict – very subtle and delicate in it’s delivery.
    The story concludes by treading on the toes of inventing a religion. Finding truth in what you know to be real and prescribing to a new belief system. “God Is Change”.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Parable Of The Sower’

    I found it very difficult to find flaws in this novel. Any criticism I can think of is petty and desperate, but when pushed I would say that the ending isn’t very climatic – the story merely stops, primed for it’s sequel.

    Good Or Bad?

    Was this book any good? Yes. Fantastic! This was more than a novel, it was an experience. The last book I read that felt this big was ‘The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman’. It’s also the first of a two-book series. The sequel, ‘Parable of the Talents’, has now been added to my list.
    Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.
    Would I read it again? Possibly. This feels like a novel that would offer even more the second time around.

     

    Here are some other reviews:
    Tom Clancy – Support and Defend by Mark Greaney
    Misery by Stephen King
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Paper Towns by John Green
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Tom Clancy – Support and Defend by Mark Greaney

    Published: July 22, 2014

    “A decent page turner, but not for me.”

    threestars

    What Is ‘Support and Defend’ About?

    Support and Defend is a political thriller novel in the Tom Clancy universe.
    After a terrorist attack on a former Israeli commando, Dominic Caruso, the nephew of President Jack Ryan is on a mission to find the man who is responsible for the death of his friend. The trail leads him to White House Staffer, Ethan Ross. Ross has enough information to destroy the U.S.’s intelligence effort. Declared FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ he flees with operatives to Venezuela’s General Counterintelligence Office. Caruso is on the trail, but Iranian Quds Force assassins, Hezbollah terrorists and the Russians are not far behind. This hunt takes him from the Georgetown neighbourhood to an island in Panama to the snowy Alps in Europe.

    Why Did I Read ‘Support and Defend’?

    I was interested in reading a political thriller. The novel I’m writing treads on the toes of a few genres, a political thriller being one of them, so a Tom Clancy novel felt like the optimal choice for a mixture of politics and action. But I’ll admit that I initially didn’t realise that this wasn’t written by Tom Clancy. Though he died back in 2013, I assumed this was an old novel being re-published. I soon realised that this is a campus novel which exists within the ‘Tom Clancy Universe’.

    What I Liked About ‘Support and Defend’

    You have to acknowledge the amount of research that has gone into building a realistic environment in which a plot such as this can be played out.
    Going through the various departments in government office and their responsibilities was particularly interesting, although how much was fact and how much was fiction was difficult to gauge – which is credit to the author.
    Mark Greaney was also clearly well informed or has a practical understanding of cryptology, and devised a believable method in which a whistleblower would go about leaking information – again this points to good research.
    True to the genre, when the action kicks in (especially during the third act of the story) it flows very well. I got the impression that this was where the author was in his element. The final chapters in particular felt like short sharp bursts which would quickly switch from character to character giving you brief versions of their perspective. The speed it does this adds to the sense of action and everything builds to a satisfying conclusion.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Support and Defend’

    I thought I wanted to read a Tom Clancy novel and a part of me has enjoyed it. It’s a political thriller, it’s a spy novel, so you get all the ingredients which are intriguing to read. But this story ticks just about every cliche there is, and in some respect you switch off at the familiarity of the setups and the scenes that are described.
    The writing in this novel isn’t particularly stylistic or memorable – it’s a very practical writing style. You get a simple overview in terms of the atmosphere, it’s not very poetic in it’s description. The characters get their own snippet of detail although again it’s all very cliche.
    The dialogue also grated on me at times, people would say the longest drawn out version of what needed to be said, it was apparent that the author was guiding you through the thoughts of the characters rather than have him talk normally.
    Several times in the story you are told information or taken through the events of a situation and then, a few chapters on, a character will recite what happened to another character. So you have to deal with characters figuring out things that you already know which isn’t particularly interesting. I suppose it’s a consequence of the writing style – but I would of liked a few of the chapters to be handled differently.
    At times the detail was overkill, maybe I’m missing the point, but you’re given the names of computers including the specs and brand names as well as the full names of guns including the manufacturer and the year they were released. It felt like showcasing research rather description for the benefit of the story. I’ve since learnt that this is Tom Clancy’s writing style, suitably adopted by the author to fit into his universe – but it’s not a style I enjoy.

    Good Or Bad?

    Was this book any good? To be clear, I don’t think this is a bad novel. It’s actually a very good version of what it is, considering all the complexities and the plot evolving into something bigger and bigger with each chapter. It just wasn’t for me, it felt too familiar.
    Would I recommend it? Maybe, if you want to read a political thriller revolving around a whistleblower, FBI agents and terrorists then this is worth a go.
    Would I read it again? Nope.

    Here are some other reviews:
    Misery by Stephen King
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
    Paper Towns by John Green
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Ask The Dust by John Fante

    Published: 1939

    “I’m glad to have experienced Fante’s writing style.”

    fourstars

    What Is ‘Ask the Dust’ About?

    Arturo Bandini arrives in Los Angeles with big dreams. But the reality he finds is a city gripped by poverty.
    When he makes a small fortune from the publication of a short story, he reinvents himself, indulging in expensive clothes, fine food and downtown strip clubs. But Bandini’s delusions take a worrying turn when he is drawn into a relationship with Camilla Lopez, a beautiful but troubled young woman who will be responsible for his greatest downfall.
    ‘Ask the Dust’ is an unforgettable novel about outsiders looking in on a town built on celluloid dreams.

    Why Did I Read ‘Ask the Dust’?

    ‘Ask the Dust’ was recommended to me but with the warning that it was unique. It’s achieved a large amount of praise over the years and is widely regarded as a classic in American literature.
    This novel was first published in 1939?! To think that it would still be relevant is mind blowing. Besides, a unique writing style warrants attention.

    What I Liked About ‘Ask the Dust’

    The writing style of John Fante, or specifically ‘Ask the Dust’, reads at a pace that resembles thought. Fante seldom dwells on description, whether that be location, character back story or atmosphere. Instead you move through the story at great speed, buying coffee, eating, drinking, falling in love, falling out of love and arguing with characters for no apparent reason. The sentences are short and sharp with abrupt punctuation – it would seem almost rushed if not for the pockets of genius sprinkled throughout the book:

    Page 23: ‘My plight drove me to the typewriter. I sat before it, overwhelmed with the grief for Arturo Bandini. Sometimes an idea floated harmlessly through the room. It was like a small white bird. It meant no ill-will. It only wanted to help me, dear little bird. But I would strike at it, hammer it across the keyboard, and it would die on my hands.’

    What I love about this novel more than anything is that it was written 77 years ago and is still being read. John Fante died over 30 years ago and to think readers are out there still discovering his work is inspiring.

    Touching on the character of Arturo Bandini, some of his self loathing inner monologues are at times both depressing and yet amusing – his remarks on his failings as a writer felt semi-autobiographical.
    It was also quite a unique experience to follow a protagonist that was for the most part distasteful and random in behaviour.

    The ending is heartfelt and stays with you for some time afterwards.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Ask the Dust’

    I found that, due to the fast pace of the story, I was a bit desensitised to some of the dramatic elements in the story. The writing style didn’t allow you to dwell on emotion for any great length of time.

    Some of the decisions made by Arturo are erratic and difficult to understand. Also the reactions of the characters to those decisions are equally peculiar. That being said, this does make the story very unpredictable and when a story is crafted with such a distinctive style you wonder if that was the idea to begin with.

    Good Or Bad

    Was ‘Ask the Dust’ any good? Yes good, but with some disclaimers.
    Would I recommend it? Yes, but with the best will in the world, this isn’t for everyone. I suspect the writing style is quite divisive and could put off many readers before they really got started with it.
    Would I read it again? No, but I’m glad to have experienced Fante’s writing style.



    Here are some other reviews:
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr
    Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan


    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.


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    David P. Philip


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