Five for fighting seemed a clever title earlier when I was thinking of what to call this post. At past midnight, though, trivialities can appear overly clever. Like, for example: Five For Fighting. When I think of a better one, it will change.
One afternoon, stuck in a bookshop had me amassing books. Part of my mind clinging to logic said to keep it at two titles. Given everything else that had to be read, two was enough. To be honest, I visit that shop a little too frequently and ‘two’ is constraining but, well, the books will always be there, right?
Skittish and hurrying back to the apartment, I added both to an an existing to-read list:
01 Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
Foremost of Soviet Satires, Bulgakov’s work is one of the 20th century’s best novels. At least, that’s what wikipedia said about his work. Nabokov’s Lolita is a classic, too but I had to stop halfway through reading it.
So far, Bulgakov’s offered an interesting window into another time and place. Let’s see if my reading appetite is at all refined.
“If it is true that cowardice is the most grave vice, then the dog, at least, is not guilty of it.”
02 Quiet – Susan Cain
“I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of ninety-two, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was “timid and shy” but had “the courage of a lion.” They were full of phrases like “radical humility” and “quiet fortitude.”
One refuge of a book to come back to between meetings. It makes being too stuck in one’s head seem less abject.
03 Perfect Rigour – Masha Gessen
“On March 23, Grigory Perelman, the fearsomely brilliant and notoriously antisocial Russian mathematician, rejected the one-million-dollar Clay prize for solving the Poincaré Conjecture. He reportedly said through the closed door to his spartan apartment, “I have all I want.” In Perfect Rigor, Masha Gessen gives a convincing picture of Perelman and the strange world of Soviet mathematics in which he came of age.”
I’m still at the portion where reader’s are treated to glimpses of Russians training budding geniuses. Grigori’s story is something close to my heart but learning about Rushkin, his mentor, is an entire universe. One I’d prefer to explore, too.
Masha Gessen cast a spell the moment I had this book in my hands. Two hours spent in that store just convincing myself that I didn’t need another book and she still won me over!
“My friend, Thomas Jefferson is an American saint because he wrote the words ‘All men are created equal’, words he clearly didn’t believe since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He’s a rich white snob who’s sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So, yeah, he writes some lovely words and aroused the rabble and they went and died for those words while he sat back and drank his wine… This guy wants to tell me we’re living in a community? Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America, and in America you’re on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business…”
Higgins reminded me of Palahniuk’s dialogues though he’s not exactly Chuck. Filth darkened underbellies exposed through fiction like hints of truth behind every joke. Though I doubt anyone could ever be Chuck Palahniuk.
05 Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
“Foaming is a huge reward,” said Sinclair, the brand manager. “Shampoo doesn’t have to foam, but we add foaming chemicals because people expect it each time they wash their hair. Same thing with laundry detergent. And toothpaste—now every company adds sodium laureth sulfate to make toothpaste foam more. There’s no cleaning benefit, but people feel better when there’s a bunch of suds around their mouth. Once the customer starts expecting that foam, the habit starts growing.”
Started reading this a few pages at a time months ago. I’m far from done but it’s insightful, practical, and I can’t say it hasn’t earned multiple applications.
Finishing these books before 2014’s end will be nothing less than a fight.