Category Archives: Books

Getting Things: Done

I got through Part 1 of ***GTD|***, which is where Mr. Allen sets up the theory and general idea behind his system. I found myself thinking that many of the techniques were far too overblown for my needs, while others were things that I already did or things that came naturally to me. It may be that my life is just very simple, and thus I don’t have any need for a robust, full-featured organizational system. Or I may have just developed my own internal systems that work sufficiently well for the work and informational load that I have. I went so far as to start reading Part 2, where Mr. Allen starts into the practical side of his technique, in other words, how to actually implement his theories. I just wasn’t getting the feeling that any of it would be useful for me.

So I’m finished with the book. I would probably recommend the book to you if you really felt that your current organizational system wasn’t working, or if you are constantly stressed out about the things you have to do. If I ever get to the point where I feel that my life is disorganized or that I’m stressed out about everything I have to do, I might consider going back and implementing the system. For now, at least, it’s not for me.

Freedom Song

I think that it is important to expose myself to different cultures around the world. So when I choose books from the library I try to span the globe when topics are concerned. My latest read comes from the sub-continent of India. aaa|Freedom Song|0375704000|aaa is a collection of 3 novellas by Amit Chaudhuri.

I enjoyed reading these three tales which paint pictures of life in India, as well as life as an Indian in London. I was, however, left wondering how accurate those pictures are. I feel the same way I often do after reading short stories. It is as if I have tuned into the show in the middle and then leave before it is over. I’m just never satisfied.

That being said, Chaudhuri’s descriptions are beautiful, his prose is lyrical and the novels were pleasant to read.

Book in Hiding

How often in life do we have the opportunity to retrace the footsteps of our ancestors? To walk where they walked, to eat where they ate… to hide where they hid? Daniel Asa Rose figured that it would come around only once in his lifetime, and so he set out with his two boys to follow the trail of his Jewish family as they escaped the Holocaust.

aaa|Hiding Places|0684854783|aaa is the account of that adventure with tales of the author’s childhood woven in. It is a story that one moment will have you laughing and the next crying. What I found especially touching was the way that Rose was able to paralell his own coming of age with that of his sons, and how this trip changed them all in the same, yet different ways.

This story is also the story of a Belgian Jewish family and their escapes from the Nazis. We learn how they used diamonds to buy themselves fake papers, how they hid in chimneys and attics, how their children were killed… and how they survived. It is a refreshingly different kind of Holocaust story, with all the gruesome details intact.

The themes of family and fatherhood run deep through this book and are its shining qualities.


Last week, I finished a book that I’ve been working on since Christmas*: aaa|The Neutronium Alchemist Part 1: Consolidation|0446605174|aaa. This book is part of a science fiction saga created by Peter F. Hamilton. Hamilton has created a huge universe, with a vast array of characters, cultures, settings, technologies, and concepts. I enjoy reading science fiction books such as this for the sheer escape value of far-out science fiction. Imagine if you will, sentient, biological starships that gestate their human captains. Or nano-scale implants that can enable humans to run programs on their own nervous systems, for example to block out emotional impulses, or tactical programs that coordinate your body’s nervous and muscle response without you even needing to think. Or souls that have come back from the dead by way of a dimensional rift, and are possessing the living, endowing them with energistic abilities and bringing some of history’s most notorious personalities back to life.

That, in a nutshell, is the universe that Hamilton has created. If you’re into far-out science fiction, with lots of weird technology, aliens, etc… this is the book for you. My one complaint is that Hamilton includes too much gratuitious sex and gore in his narrative… if it was toned down, I think it would still be a great story. But I have been able to look beyond that and enjoy the rest of the fictional universe he has created.

* It’s not a long book, and I’m not a slow reader or anything, I just don’t spend as much time on reading as I used to. These days, reading serves as a nice diversion in the middle of the work day, when I spend my 30 minute lunch break reading and eating.

Latest Reads

My train reading the last two weeks has consisted of two completely different novels.

The first was my sophomore experience with the author Adrianna Trigiani. aaa|Big Cherry Holler|0345445848|aaa did not disappoint. Trigiani writes the ordinary stories of extraordinary women. I think this is the second in a series, but I never felt as if I was coming in late in the story. We follow a year in the life of Ava Maria, Jac Mac and their daughter Etta as their relationships grow and change. Trigiani offers the reader an indepth look into life in Southwestern Virginia as well as Northern Italy.

In stark comparision to Big Cherry Holler’s easy going style, aaa|The General in His Labyrinth|1400034701|aaa was a struggle from the start. Gabriel Garcia Marquez recounts the last 6 months of Simon Bolivar’s life. General Bolivar, after being ousted from the presidency of Colombia, is taking a long slow trip out of the country with the shadow of death close at his heels.

Marquez weaves the story back and forth between the current time and flashbacks from the past. These flashbacks give the reader a look in to the General’s military conquests, interactions with other historical figures, and his former loves. Even my careful reading style found me constanly trying to figure out whether we were in the present or the past. I often had to reread passages to get my facts straight. The General was interesting as historical fiction, but I just didn’t enjoy reading it as much as I did other books by Marquez.

Blue, but not Suede, Shoe

I know that it is cliche, but I love that books can take you away…to new and different times and places. They offer the opportunity to experience someone else’s life.

The magic in Anne Lamott’s writing is that her characters live lives that are very different from my own, yet they experience and deal with very familiar issues. I have just finished reading aaa|Blue Shoe|1573223425|aaa by Ms Lamott. While at times I found the story/plot to be somewhat mundane the overall message was very uplifting.

Through Mattie, her 37 year old protagonist, Lamott forces the reader to consider divorce, single parent-hood, aging and ailing parents, love and faith. Alone, these are all difficult issues, but combined they make for a very complicated life. Mattie is a refreshing character because she isn’t the perfect mother, daugher, wife, girlfriend, etc. that everyone expects her to be. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, she manages to keep her head above water and provides her family with the support they need.

I enjoy reading Anne Lamott’s books because they are a light read without ever being fluffy. She’s entertaining and real and her stories offer insight into my own life.


Sometimes, when I don’t have anything else to read I pick up one of Peter’s books that are lying around. Luckily, most of the time I wind up enjoying them. Last week, for instance, I devoured aaa|Neverwhere|0380789019|aaa by Neil Gaiman.

I’ve read some other things by him and have like them. This was no exception. Although Gaiman’s work may be catagorized as “science fiction” I find him to be much more palatable than other SF I’ve come across. Gaiman writes about humans who come in contact with the supernatural. Interestingly enough, the supernatural creatures are very human-like.

The story takes place in the Londons… London-Under and London-Above. A man from London Above (our London) gets swept into London Under and becomes intangled in the lives of those that live there. After facing certian death on several occasions he…

Well, lets just say that I was satisfied with the ending, despite how it turned out…


Sometimes when a movie, book, band or clothing store is very popular I have a hard time liking it. I hate the feeling that I might be liking something just because it is popular.

Reading aaa|Anna Karinena|067978330X|aaa brought up some of those feelings for me. Was I reading it because “anyone who considers themselves an avid reader should read it?” Was I enjoying it because other people I know have liked it? Was I reading it so that I could show off on the train…”can’t you see the book I’m holding? It’s Anna Karenina for goodness sake! aren’t you impressed?”

I hope not.

Regardless of the reason (mainly that I’ve just always wanted to read it!) I have finally finished this 800 page Russian masterpiece. Suffice it to say that it was right up my alley. I have a soft spot for long, multiple plotted, history infused novels. This was the kind of book that I was very sorry to see end. It was like I was transported to nineteenth century Russia every day during my train commute.

There is so much to the story itself that it would be impossible for me to even summerize here. The characters are vulnerable and determined and stoic and sensitive. They wrestle with the huge issues of love and religion and politics. They wrestle with how to deal with the events of marriage, birth and death. They wrestle with who they are, who they will be and how they fit into their society.

So, not to different from how we live our lives today. Have you read it? Let me know what you thought? Want to read it? Please do, and we can talk about it!

Far(ley) before the Vikings

The last couple of weeks on the train I have been immersed in the world of ancient sefarers. My latest read has been aaa|The Farfarers|1883642566|aaa by Canadian author Farley Mowat. Mowat explores the possibility that there could have been European travelers in the Northern Hemisphere long before the Vikings traveled to “Vinland” around 1000 AD.

Mowat is know in the History world for his book, “aaa|Westviking|0308600592|aaa”, published in the 1960’s. While researching this book, in which he expresses the belief that the Norse were the first European explorers in Canada, Mowat had a feeling that he wasn’t getting the whole story. He spent the next 30 years traveling Eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and the northern British Isles looking for the missing links.

What he found opens the window to the possibility of earlier expiditions to the “New World.” Mowat has given the reader a thorough look at the facts and fills in the whole with original narrative. His storytelling style is entertaining while thoroughly convincing.

“The Farfarers” is full of historical facts and theories, but was by no means too heady for those only slightly interested in history. My one complaint is that although Mowat includes a map in the front flap of the book, the locations marked do not always represent the locations talked about in the book.

Character Study

One of the best things about reading is the chance to see the world from another’s point of view. I can know what it is like to be an Ace Spy or a 12 year old boy or a hiker in the Grand Canyon. And I don’t even need to leave the couch!

Although each of the main characters in these books are unique, they tend to sound similar. Last week, however, I read a novel with a very different kind of protagonist. A 15 year old boy with ***Asperger’s Syndrome|***. Christopher Boone has no problem with higher math, but has to work very hard to discern emotion in other’s facial expressions.

aaa|The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time|1400032717|aaa by Mark Hardon is, by the narrator’s defination, a murder mystery. At least that is how it starts out. In reality the mystery is just there to lead Christopher through a series of other life defining discoveries. He makes it through family crisis and standardized tests and deaths, and comes out scratched, but definately triumphant.

This books is an interesting look into the mind of an Asperger’s patient. It offers clear discriptions of how Christopher thinks and why he reacts the way he does to other people and situations. The book got mixed reviews on, but I would still recommend it to anyone. It was a quick read (Peter and I both finished it in a day and a half–total) and very enlightning.

Thank you to my Aunt Gabi for lending it to us and to her nephew Alex for recommending it and for bringing it across the pond from England!