Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Walking Can Help Increase Your Creativity

Walking can help unleash your creativity, help you solve problems and sort through your thoughts. Besides the many health benefits of walking, can be a relaxing format to study and dissect ones thoughts. Through many personal experiences of my own this has assisted me greatly. Just today I was out for stroll struggling to think of a subject to write about, and it suddenly hit me, as many things has done during my walks around my apartment complex.

How is this so? I can only speak for myself that it has to do with disconnecting with ones current problems, we can sometimes get so bogged down by many things such as a stress and daily life issues that may occur. Walking acts as a anecdote in this sense, taking us out of our offices, classrooms and allows our heads to breathe. A walk gets us out of our standard places, as we are interacting with the world new images, thoughts and ideas can pop into our heads, as long as we let it come.

For a writer or critical thinker this can get our creativity juices flowing once again, and can elevate ourselves to a different level of thought, new ideas and thoughts come to me in my walks sometimes more than others, but I can attribute many views and actions as a result of walking.

Walking can also increase one's motivation, I have always felt invigorated after a short walk makes me want to write, and significantly increases my mood and my outlook for the day.

Walking among other things, can help control your blood pressure, maintain weight and lowers your risk of stroke.

So much can be gained for the mind body and spirit even if you are not much of a fitness person, walking is free, simple, and can open your mind so why not give it a try? Theirs even more benefits of walking listed here.

Walking isn't the end all solution, but can be a great assistance to ourselves when we run out of ideas, writing prompts and free writing are also great alternatives.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekly Book Review Round Up: 8/16 - 8/23

Since the success of my last weeks post, I figured I would continue the traditlion weekly, highlighting the new book reviews that I find on the web, here is this weeks list:

The Book Connection - "Hearts of Courage" by John Tippets : Review

The Book Lady's Blog - "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood : Review

Enchanted by Josephine - "The French Mistress" by Susan Holloway Scott : Review

Burton Review - "The White Queen" by Philippa Gregory : Review

The Lateiner Gang Book Review Spot - "Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow" by James Rollins : Review

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist - A Novel By Mohsin Hamid

In no book in my recent memory, have I recalled a book that has so much in so little as this one does. At less than 200 pages, Mohsin Hamid creates a story with as much character, heart, and wit as longer novels. Along with an engaging and unique writing style, creates a truly memorable experience for the reader.

The entire story is told from a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan,from a second person narrative. Our protagonist, Changez meets an American tourist and discusses his entire story.Changez, a Pakistani who immigrates to America at the age of 18 to attend Princeton and subsequently moves on to a high paying job to work for a New York evaluation firm leading up to 9/11.

And that is where the story begins,taking us through his job, his relationship with the much trouble Erica, and how the recent political happenings drastically change his life.

The characters are well designed but the center piece of the show is Changez,we really get inside his head and his story is quite believable. This is an attribute to the author as he made a ivy league grad with a envious starting salary, great looks and personality, really come off as sincere, but also with the many problems that end up around him, we feel a bonding with him, which great writers achieve with their characters.

The writing is engaging, you feel Changez is having a conversation with you which adds to the connection. However you would never confuse his talking in this book with a real life conversation, as due to the restrictions of the narrative mode,he must say everything for everyone essentially, so it could come off as feeling a bit gimmicky.

The book wishes to defeat stereotypes about Muslims as it is plainly stated in the book. But it does not, as some of you may be thinking, turn America completely against Changez, quite the contrary, Changez after 9/11 and other experiences, changes his view about America, its patriotism and its foreign policy, ultimately leading to a very different life for him.

In conclusion, you would be hard pressed to find such an intriguing and emotionally enticing book as this in such a short fashion as this one. A great story for any book reader.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Second-Person Narrative

A rather unique writing style I have heard of, but have just started reading a novel set in this mode (review should be up in a couple of days). Not too many write in second-person it would seem difficult to pull off. In this narrative form the main character is "you" which may or may not be the subject but it is through another person the story is told.

An example would be the book I'm reading "The Reluctant Terrorist" which the entire novel evolves during a cafe dinner in which the Changez (the main character) talks to another person, but changez does all the talking and what is taking place in this cafe as he tells his story is all through his talking: 'I see you ordered the green tea.' 'Look the waitress has come to take our order.' for example.

This could be seen as more of a gimmick, but I find it quite engaging, I place myself as the one he is talking to, and so far has made for a quite enjoyable experience.

While there aren't many, have you read any of these sort of books? What was your experience with them? Please tell me.

Top Five Books Everyone wants to have read, but no one wants to read.

Yes my title is a paraphrase of the famous Mark Twain quote:

“A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read."

Of course there are many classics that are very enjoyable, however the books in this list are unlikely to be considered one of them:

The Bible

Ah, the holy book, the book that so much of classic literature is influenced from as well as billions of people. Aside from the religious context, how many really just want to read the Bible? Either for enjoyment or historical information, very little, a very long and rather boring book to read for todays standards. But if you must, I recommend the King James Version.

Shakespeare plays

Many plays from Shakespeare have continued to shape plays and story telling for centuries, but the bard has more recently is being looked on with disdain and contempt mostly from education and that keeps people from really reading and enjoying the works, as it is usually associated with academia . and the use of early modern English usually keep people away, so most people think that people who read Shakespeare are "scholarly" and "intellectual."

Ulysses - James Joyce

The great James Joyce masterpiece ( or so we hear) popularized the narrative mode of "stream of consciousness" which can be insightful, however, is to most people less than thrilling.

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

One of the most important philosophical novels of our time, influenced many people in political as well as philosophical thought. But is also one of the longest books ever created at 1368 pages. For most political science junkies this is required reading; for the average guy: check the cliff notes.

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

You cannot have a list like this without including Charles Dickens, the amazing author, the one who everyone has heard of, whose works are so beloved by everyone! Well, thats not quite the case, although an excellent writer, he has a distinct and difficult writing style that is hard to read especially in Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.


There is a very good reason while these books and many others have this type of persona, I have listed plenty. But these are the ones people tend to think of when they think of the "classics." Our change of culture, language and technology have resulted these changes, with so many current books out there that are easier to digest, people tend to forget the books of years past, and read for ease than for the understanding of past literature.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Alternative Reads

A new genre has recently caught my attention: Alternate History

What is it you may ask? Well it is a bit more fictional than historical fiction, which takes a real historical setting and makes a story in it. Alternate History on the other hand, invents new history and goes off the what if's of the past, present and future.

It varies quite a bit from the not so far off possibilities of : What if the south won the civil war? What if Japan overtook Hawaii after pearl harbor?

To the more original: What if Islam took over America? What if 99% of America was engulfed by a huge energy field destroying everyone and everything in it?

The latter I was referring to was Without Warning by John Birmingham, the only alt history novel I have currently read, but it peaked my interest in the genre and while I'm not reviewing it, has opened the door to me.

The genre is promising, it requires much creativeness along with a realness needed more so than others. So that aspect intrigues me, the human reaction of the events in these books, the best sellers in this genre to me would be the one with portraying the most likely human reaction.

The former I was referring to was Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno while being a interesting premise, fails in aspects of the characters and the overall understanding of this world providing very little description and more about the characters. Which is alright, but you fail to get much connection with them.

I'm wondering what Alternate history novels you have read? I would love to hear about them, as I am always seeking book recommendations.

Here are a few reviews on these books worth mentioning

Without Warning:

Prayers for the Assassin:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Book Review: Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma

In Ahmadou Kourouma's last published novel "Allah is Not Obliged" he takes us through the war- torn nations of Liberia, Sierre Leone and Côte d'Ivoire, in the eyes of a child soldier (Birahami) in the form of a first person written journal. Birahami describes for us ( in usually very little detail) the many people he has met and the atrocities he has seen.

Birahami tells us his short biography early on, a rotten childhood dropping out of school 3 years through primary school and eventually ends up in different warlord factions in Liberia. Moving from army to army by making up stories, while in search of his Aunt.

And that is essentially the plot. In understanding that is not the point of the book, it is still rather flat. While in the process of telling this lackluster story, he tells us much of what the situation is of these civil wars and the many true stories of the warlords and countries so it is as much a history book as it is a novel.

While the first person narrative would make for a more personal and emotionally capable platform. It fails to do so, Birahami does describe the plenty of human atrocities that did occur such as mutalation, cannibalism and plenty of rape and murder. But is all too spread out unrelated and rather cheaply put together, it tries to fit too much into too little of pages and the reader is thus incapable of any sort of emotional reaction. So what we have is part a history book, a part novel and a mostly depressing book.

The narrator of this (Birahami) puts the acts as plainly as day leaving no suspense for anything and the many inconsistencies of the writing throughs you from place to place and doesn't allow the reader to settle in on the story. He deviates many times from the story, such as a dead body he recognized to be someone he knew, and continues to give a 2 page biography on the victim.

Birahami tries to keep things funny but this also fails, he uses vulgar language and is constantly explaining words and idioms such as 'ultimatum' and 'out of the blue' in a rather condescending tone that ends up being quite redundant.

The inconsistencies I pointed out earlier also come up, as for being so young how is he to know all that he knows? He describes in the form of a professional historian writer the conditions and the happenings of these countries, but is quite ignorant of other items that appear in the book.

In conclusion, the setting and the history is quite interesting and informative and should be read by anyone interested in the history. But besides that specific reader, the books' overall story is quite dull, the protagonist is bland, and is neither funny or heart wrenching as it is claimed to be. In the end you feel saddened and depressed for the many wrong doings going on in the world, and quite ticked that you even read it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A few good book reviews

While I am in the process of writing my first book review for this site. I began searching the web for reviews to see what's popular and what's being reviewed. Here are a few new book reviews:
Format: [blogname] - [book being reviewed] : [link]

Half Deserted Streets - "Mortal Friends" by Jane Stanton Hitchcock : Review

Mostly Fiction Book Reviews - "The City and the City" by China Meilville : Review

She Is Too Fond Of Books - "The Center of the Universe" by Nancy Bachrach : Review

Notice: I do not endorse or support these blogs, I chose them for the quality of the review specifically.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free Audiobooks at Librivox

I'm just posting today about a service all book lovers on-the-go should know about.

At Librivox you can download all kinds of audiobooks that are in the public domain. Which if you are in the US means any book released before 1923. It is a project that is being ran by volunteers doing the recordings, most of them which are of high quality. I have used their service for years downloading anything from nonfiction essays to dramatic plays.

The volunteer base is constantly working together on bringing more audiobooks out, as their is a lot of books left to do. I have just begun contributing myself to the project. I have a page going up soon on this blog that will show all of my recordings.

But please give them a try if your looking for some free audiobooks!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Feeling

I just finished the excellent novel by Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns and after completion a rush of great joy and happiness came over, almost moving me to tears.

Not every book can do that to me, it has been quite awhile since this phenomenon occurred. And it is the best feeling ever when you read a book and you become filled with...emotion for a lack of a better term.

Of course this depends on the type of book, I would not expect this feeling to come from say, American Psycho.

It strikes me as amazing in this book; where 95% is sad and depressing but that spread out 5% makes it all worthwhile. And you begin to appreciate the small victories in the book, leaving you with a sense of happiness. Now how is that to be? With so much wrong in it the little things that are right make us call it a happy ending.

I Apologize if this seems vague if you have not read it. But you must it is an amazing story and my favorite book of the year. So go buy it, read it. And report back so we can have a discussion on this.

In the meanwhile lets ponder this. What book have given you this euphoria that I have described? I would love to hear about it in the comments section or via email.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why Do You Read?

A friend not too long ago asked me this question. It was a normal conversation over coffee about the many things occurring in our lives and surroundings until we came to my favorite topic: Books.

Myself being a avid reader, him on the contrary. So it quickly turned into a one sided talk about recent reads, favorite classics and the great authors. As I began to bore him with my endless monologue on the great writer Edgar Allen Poe. He interrupts and sharply asks me:

"Ryan, why do you read so damn much?"

That question threw me off my game, startled I sat in awe of his inquiry. I never really thought about it I replied.

Now that I am writing here in retrospect I have thought of many: to be entertained, to learn, to laugh, to cry, to escape, to feel something profound. But at the time I assumed it was innate, to not read is simply unfathomable to me, the habit was built into me and took its grip a few years ago and be ended. Simply because my thirst for these feelings have never fully been quenched except through books. Sure the movie and TV show now and then can be entertaining if you find the right ones but nothing can deliver like a book.

Writers long before my time have been trying to decipher the impact of reading and literacy, here are some of my favorite quotes:

“We read to know we are not alone.”

- C.S. Lewis

"Except a living man, there is nothing more wonderful than a book."

- Charles Kingsley

"The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television."

- Andrew Ross

I love these quotes because they remind me that, through the amazing tool of language we can connect still with writers centuries and perhaps millenniums past no other outlet like that is available except maybe slightly through art and architecture. Decartes put it best however:

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.”

That is why I read.

I must apologize if this seems too indulgent, but I must settle this question first before continuing to better understand myself and you.

Why do you read?

In future posts I will be writing more on books but also on more of these speculative questions, if I knew more about it I would tell you, for it remains to be seen.

If however you enjoyed my post and might be interested in future posts please subscribe to my blog, it is free and nothing to be lost, but only gain.

I look forward to your answers in the comments and hopefully we can have a conversation about this question, you can also email me personally at