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Whether you love the authentic feel and smell of a paperback, or if you like the convenience and and storage of using an electronic library, like a Kindle, you need to know the differences between the two.

and  it’s in your head…

That’s right! Your brain reacts very differently when you read words on paper instead of reading words on a screen. You’ve actually trained your brain to think  based on what device you’re reading on. When you read a book your eyes move down the page in a chronological order – left to right & top to bottom. However, when you read on a screen your eye constantly darts over the page looking for the most ‘important’ piece of information, processing it before it continues scanning – this happens because of the way web pages are laid out, you tend to scout around the ads and instead look for titles and hyperlinks.

This phenomenon is called the bi-literate brain – it means that you use different parts of your brain that do different things. Linear processing occurs on paper and nonlinear processing happens with screens.

But what does all this mean?

Well, as you may have experienced in your own life, there has been a massive shift away from paper to computers – think about how many hours you spend on your laptop, tablet and phone versus the time you spend with a book in your hand. The brain is like many of your muscles and the old saying applies: “use it or lose it”. By neglecting books you are losing the ability to process complex linear text, which makes it much harder for you to understand similarly complex ideas.

You see, linear processing works like building a Jenga tower. If we read something we don’t quite understand, then the foundation for everything else we read will be less stable because we haven’t fully understood the connections between these ideas that are presented in dense chronological order. Have you ever been reading a book and realised you’ve read two paragraphs and are unable to recount what has just happened? If you miss some of the founding blocks, by the time you reach the end the whole tower will come crashing down.

BUT THERE IS A SOLUTION!

That’s right, you can regain your deep reading skills by putting a side time each day to read a book. A PAPER book. and just like that, you’ll pick it right up again. The digital age is dominating our lives, screens everywhere demand our attention with beeps and flashing and fancy scrolling options. But books feel different, they carry memories in the way they smell. And reading a book everyday is going to make you a much better thinker.

Thank you to Oscar Ferrer, from Flickr for this image.

Further Reading.

http://niemanreports.org/articles/our-deep-reading-brain-its-digital-evolution-poses-questions/

http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-18/your-paper-brain-and-your-kindle-brain-arent-same-thing?utm_content=bufferf4439&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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Story 5.5

Writing 6.5

Characters 6

Readability 5

I’m almost hesitant about writing this book review. No, scrap that, I am really nervous. Why? Well Heart of Darkness is a classic. Heart of Darkness is a deconstruction of human nature, it teaches about love and jealousy and life – It’s been compared to Hamlet!

But… I didn’t enjoy reading it…which is odd, because I enjoy reading trashy novels as well as books brimming with life. This is something I want to talk about, later on in this post, but for now I’ll keep to the review.

Conrad narrates this story through the main character who I found to be very difficult to empathize with, or even understand. I think this is because he’s a canvas, of sorts, on which we imprint our own personal experience and values.

The book begins with the main character undertaking a journey into the centre of Africa – the Heart of Darkness. On his way (via steamboat – it’s 1899) he hears about the enigmatic and mysterious Ivory Hunter, Mr Kurtz. By all accounts Mr Kurtz is a enviable man, a gifted hunter, a poet, a dancer, attractive, smart – all the things anyone would want to be. Finding Kurtz takes up a good portion of the book, while suspense and anticipation is built toward this moment. But when we finally meet him and our expectations are totally wrong. We’re left thinking, what’s happened to the great Kurtz?

“He had summed up – he had judged. “The horror!” He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth – the strange commingling of desire and hate.”

I’m glad I finished this book despite not enjoying the majority of it. I found the language dated and complex, and the characters untenable, but the idea of the book is quite interesting – what happens when you take a great man out of his great place, and put him into another place. Will he still be great?

Has this happened to you? Have you ever been reading a book and wondered if you should still keep reading it? Did you finish it? Do you regret not finishing it?

I’d love to know how you feel about this.

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“Shadow heard himself laugh, over the sound of the music. He was happy. it was if the last 36 hours had never happened, as if the last three years had not happened, as if his life had evaporated into the daydream of a small child, riding the carousel in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, on his first trip back to the States, a marathon journey by ship and by car, his mother standing there, watching him proudly, and himself sucking his metal popsicle, holding on tightly, hoping that the music would never stop, the carousel would never slow, the ride would never end. he was going around and around and around again…

Then the lights went out, and Shadow saw the gods.”

This is a book of mythic proportions, novel ideas and epic battles. In America, historically a penal colony and immigrant-settled, it asks what happens to the gods who are brought with the settlers. What of the leprechauns of the Irish-Americans, and how about Thor and Odin and Loki? Where do these gods go when there people leave their homelands? Perhaps, if you read the book, you might meet some of these American Gods.

We first meet the main character, Shadow, in prison where he’s serving a small sentence for participating in a bank robbery. He’s the kind of guy that drifts through life, not questioning much, trying not to think too much but a pleasant enough fellow. Throughout the book Shadow faces impossible scenarios, heartbreak, betrayal. He’s a middle man that becomes a meddler. Oh and magic – there’s magic too.

Throughout the book Gaiman carefully crafts each of his character as though they were playing poker at the table with the highest stakes. Secrets are kept hidden, intentions played close to the heart. It’s a writing trait that gives the novel a sense of mystery, and leaves you wondering what’s going to happen next. You will be constantly trying to decipher the simultaneously elusive and omnipresent Mr Wednesday and his schemes.

“‘However, that is not my favourite. No, my favourite was one the called The Bishop Game. It had everything: excitement, subterfuge, portability, surprise. Perhaps, i think from time to time, perhaps with a little modification, it might…’ Wednesday thought for a moment then shook his head. ‘No, its time has passed’.”

Another highly satisfying aspect of this book are the back stories that feature throughout the story. They’re not integrated, but dispersed as separate chapters which moderate the pace of the main story. These back stories are narratives in themselves which give colour to the novel, but also give some historical background that feels genuine and authentic.

This only way I can describe this book is as if Alice got lost in the Matrix, or better yet, Neo got lost in Wonderland. It’s an anomaly, a love story, a war and a journey of personal exploration. But mostly, it’s a lot of fun!

For anyone who has seen and read the Song of Ice and Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones) this is an interesting read. Personally I started reading the books after watching series 4 of the show and I found it useful, not limiting, that I could image a tangible representation of each character.

101 Books

This Slate article has been making the rounds recently, and it’s something we’ve talked about briefly here on 101 Books before.

That being, how do you imagine the characters in the novels you read?

Do you have a good sense of what they look like? Can you see them clearly in your head? Or is it more of a vague, kinda, sorta image that comes every time you read their name?

If you pick up on specific details the author writes, then you’ll have a decent sense of the character—but do most of us actually formulate images based on what’s written—or just how we want to imagine the character in our heads?

Specifically, for those of you who have read and watched The Lord of the Rings, how do you imagine those characters—and how did you imagine them BEFORE the movies were released?

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The Map

Posted: August 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Mystery

Story 8.5

Writing 7.5

Characters 9

Readability 8.5

“She lay pressed against the sheets, contemplating her options – terror was not something Olivia felt – at least not for years, and all she could think was, who or what could have been so stupid as to break into her room and rifle through her luggage? Some impoverished local looking for money or perhaps a passport? Someone who believed he was dealing with a poor befuddled middle-aged Englishwoman. What an idiot, and a dull joy stirred in her loins, the anticipation of the sadist, of the silent predator.”

Olivia, a mystical woman with dark secrets, pursues August Winthrop across Europe, shadowing him as he unlocks the clues of a great mystery. August, T.S. Learner’s protagonist, has inherited an old chronicle that contains secrets leading to a hidden treasure – but it isn’t easy. Throughout August’s journey he is pursued by a core of deadly organisations headed by even deadlier individuals. But what price is August willing to pay? And what could this treasure possibly be?

T.S. Learner’s “The Map” is a very intriguing mystery novel that combines incredibly likeable characters with a sense of intrigue that propels you further into the story with a hunger to unravel what’s the chronicle is leading August towards. 

One of my favourite parts about this book is how authentic it feels despite being a work of fiction. A big factor in this book’s authenticity is the way Learner blends myth and religion with history to create a totally believable sense of being. She consistently juxtaposes the mystical properties of chronicle and its religious weight against August’s firm sense realism set in the context of post World War Two leading into the start of the Cold War. 

“Digging carefully, he scraped away at the surrounding gravel and pulled free a miniature statuette of an angel, wings unfurled, a primitive almost demoniac depiction. The whitish clay it had been modelled from looked familiar. August realised with a shock where he knew it from – it was made of the same material as the statuette that has been thrust into the mouth of Copp’s corpse. Bone, human bone.”

The map is an exciting book. It keeps you on the edge of your seat as you await what happens to characters which grow on your the more you read. It feels genuine, the emotions is crafted with particular care for realism. in this book nothing is taken from granted, and yet luck plays a very interesting role. 

This book is 500 pages and I knocked it over in less than a week – it’s the kind of book you get lost among. 

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Science Fiction

Story 8

Writing 7

Characters 6.5

Readability 7.5

“She smiled and let go of my arm. Some piece of clockwork had completed its cycle. My calling Hazel ‘Mom’ had shut it off, and now Hazel was rewinding it for the next Hoosier to come along. 

Hazel’s obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a text-book example of a false karass, of a seeming team which was meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done, a text-book example of what Bokonon calls granfallon.”

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Kurt Vonnegut’s writing style, Cat’s Cradle will probably seem like a bizarre story – it could probably be better thought of as a collection of thoughts made fiction.

To really understand Cat’s Cradle you need to first understand its context. Written in 1963, it is an allegory to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 – a tale about the end of the world.

The story begins at the start of Jonah’s (our protagonist – in the loosest sense possible) journey to document the events the day Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed by nuclear warheads. His investigations lead him to a remote research facility where he is told about Ice 9 – a chemical substance with the potential to destroy the world.

This book explores human nature in a detached manner that hits at the surreal. The characters aren’t really people and as you read you will find it hard to empathise with Vonnegut’s characters. Instead, they are constructions of ideas; belief and desire given a persona within the pages of this book. At times it can be frustrating and yet at others quite funny.

“Hello,” he said to me sleepily

“Hello,” I said. “I like your painting.”

“You see what it is?”

“I suppose it means something different to everyone who sees it.”

“It’s a cat’s cradle.”

“Aha,” I said. “Very good. The scratches are string. Right?”

“One of the oldest games there is, cat’s cradle. Even the Eskimos know it.”

“You don’t say.”

“For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces.”

“Um.”

At only 206 pages long, the book boasts 127 chapters. It jumps from moment to moment unapologetically, which gives the book an energy and liveliness far greater than the plot itself creates. Truly reading this book is like trying to solve a riddle you don’t quite understand – the story takes many turns, each well concealed, so much so it feels that the story doesn’t quite know which way it’s going to go next.

This book is different. Appearing to be simple it’s actually quite complex. Within the short 200 pages it has a lot to say; about science, religions, morality and humanity – how dangerous is Ice 9, and what is the religions of Bokonon?

Definitely worth a read.

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Romance, drama 

Writing 8

Story 6.5

Characters 9

Readability 8

 

“Tess knew that she must break down. Neither a religious sense of a certain moral validity in the previous union nor a conscientious wish for candour could hold out against it much longer. She loved him so passionately, and he was so godlike in her eyes; and being, though untrained, instinctively refined, her nature cried out for his tutelary guidance.”

Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a coming of age story that pits white against black in an ominously grey world.

Set during the turn of the 19th Century among rural England, we’re first introduced to Hardy’s heroine, Tess, shortly after we find out that – far from being common folk as they have always believed they were – the D’Urberville family are in fact descendants from an ancient line of nobility. Only time can tell if such knowledge will help or hinder Tess and her family.

This book is complex, be it religion, philosophy, love or nature, Hardy never glosses over something, instead he explores deep within. In regards to the way he vividly describes each environment, this level of detail can, at times, become tedious – I found that sometimes my eyes glossed over 5 or so lines of mountainous detail without actually processing much of it. And yet we can forgive Hardy because of the industrialisation and centralisation that is occurring throughout Europe at the time of his writing. In fact he entwines personal struggle with environment interestingly.

Being a young man of the 21st Century, I was quite surprised by how engrossing I found this book. Although its moral lesson are very much set within its own context, (that being 1891) Hardy explores aspects of human nature with truthfulness that is, at times, disarming and yet at other times, hilarious. This book will make you cry, it’ll make you laugh and it will most likely make you slam it shut from frustration more than once – and yet it won’t be long before you’ve opened it again and become lost in Tess’ world.