Monday, November 9, 2009

Book 2009_03: "Mean Genes" by Terry Burnham & Jay Phelan

As I previously mentioned, I usually don’t read any type of non-fiction books. I decided I wasn’t being very fair so I decided I should diversify the types of books that I’m reading. I like to read books recommended by someone, and I came upon “Mean Genes” on a reddit thread of non-fiction books that people should read. What did I find? That reading non-fiction books isn’t that bad.

It was a well researched book that tried to bring together and make sense out of the many publications that are floating around about how genes affect your behavior. Plus, the authors tried to make each of their points interesting by using different examples – my favorites where the anecdotes with animals.

The one that sticks out in my mind is about the overweight chimpanzee with the 150+ word sign-language vocabulary. I thought it was hilarious that the chimp became very mean and angry after people put him on a diet. The only word he kept repeating was “candy”. I can totally relate. I’m addicted to sugar, and all things chocolate and I probably wouldn’t be very nice if I didn’t have any access to both. How dare they try to take the poor chimp’s candy away?

In reality, this book is about listening and trying to abide by common sense. In the chapter relating to money, they tell us that we need to trick ourselves in order to save some money. By moving money on pay day to a savings account, and making it hard to withdraw from it, you’ll be much more likely to actually save some money.

The common thread amongst the chapters is to plan ahead. Sure, you’re genetically programmed to consume everything you see, to devour every last ounce of food around you but you can plan around these cravings and confront them head on. As always, listening to common sense is so much easier said than done.

Overall, an easy and entertaining read. Plus, it’s definitely a conversation starter – so much material to chat about!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book 2009_02: "Hideaway" by Dean Koontz

I know, it's been a long time since I've written anything. I haven't been reading much, I'm so sad. I have to learn to resist crack TV, but it's just sooooo tempting.

I know I've read a couple of books since the last time I posted, but I was too lazy to write about them. I need to stop being lazy too!

I just finished reading "Hideaway," it was pretty good. Richard recommended it. Well, he recommended Dean Koontz, but apparently he never read the book.

The book to me was sci-fi with a hint of Catholicism. The main characters Hatch and Lindsey, were driven off the road by a truck driver. She survived the drop, but he died for 80 minutes. Luckily, a doctor named Jonas was developing a new type of medicine: resuscitation. He was able to bring him back to life, along with Uriel the Archangel.

Apparently, Uriel had come back to battle Vassago, who according to mythology was one of the crown prices of hell. Vassago had latched on to Jonas' son and turned him into a serial killer. Nyebern had been influenced early in life by this book that glorified hell. Apparently, this hell was based on Star Wars, basically a bunch of Darth Vaders running around. So Nybern tried to follow the author to hell by killing his mother, sister and then himself. Jonas was able to bring him back, but he brought Vassago back as well. Which is why Uriel came back with Hatch.

It was a basic battle between good and evil, and I always love it when good wins out in the end.

One of my favorite characters was Regina, she was a young girl that Hatch and Lindsey adopted after his resuscitation. She was kind of a smarty pants, a survivor who wanted to grow up to be a writer. She had a good imagination, too, and would go on to win some writing awards. My favorite reflection in the book was the following:

She no longer talked to God. It seemed childish to chatter at Him. besides, she no longer needed His constant attention. for a while she had thought He had gone away or had never existed, but she had decided that was foolish. she was aware of Him all the time, winking at her from the flowers, serenading her in the song of a bird, smiling at her from the furry face of a kitten, touching her with a soft summer breeze. She found a line in a book that she thought was apt, from Dave Tyson Gentry: "True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable." Well, who was your best friend, if not god, and what did you really need to say to Him or he to you when you both already knew the most-and only-important thing, which was that you would always be there for each other.
I really like that thought, the idea that He is always there and I couldn't have said it better myself!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book 2009_01: Under the Volcano by Malcom Lowry

So, let me just say that this is one of those books that I did not enjoy reading.

The main character, Geoffrey was an alcoholic in love with all that is alcohol. It was so sad, his whole life revolved around how, when and where he was going to get his next drink.

His whole life, wasted, and yet he seemed happy and content with going to the bar at 10 AM and just sitting and drinking. So much time just wasted away.

There was no hope, no striving for a better future. It was a stagnant life and it almost pained me to read about it.

The story was set in southern Mexico, in the 1930s. Geoffrey was an ex-British consulate at a time when the relationship between Mexico and Britain was strained. Mexico had just nationalized many industries, including petroleum, and the Brits had lost a lot in the process.

Similarly, Geoffrey had also lost everything that he once was. His wife, Yvonne had come back to fight for him. He had let her go, but she wasn't quite ready to do the same. She had come back to search for him, the help him get through the haze. She came back on Dia de los Muertos and found a somewhat allie in Hugh, Geoffrey's half-brother.

Hugh was probably the most interesting character to me, although I did feel for Yvonne. Hugh just seemed to embody what life could be, he was always in search for adventure and he had so many stories to tell. He did always seem to regret not having fought in the Spanish Civil war, and I found that interesting about him as well.

As far as Yvonne, I really felt for her. She had lived a life for the benefit of others, her family. When she finally found someone for herself, she lost him to alcohol. I admire that she came back to fight for him, that she wasn't going to give up on her husband. It was a different time, I guess, but I do admire it. I'm not sure what to think about her fling with Hugh, though. Maybe it added another level of despair to the story.

Towards the end, they all travel outside the city and witness a dying Indian by the roadside. Apparently, there was a law that forbade them to even touch an Indian at the time. Supposedly for both of their goods. I found this incredible to believe, the level of racism must have been brutal back then.

I do believe, or want to believe, that the group was going to help the poor man. The arrival of the police stopped them however, and instead they only witnessed another act of cruelty. The cops didn't care, they all turned an eye when someone took the Indian's money. The group was forced to get back on the bus, so they never knew what happened in the end.

The story ends with Geoffrey lost in the city and Yvonne and Hugh looking for him. They were not able to find him in time, however, as he went up against the police after having recognized the Indian's mule (I believe). He finally stands up for the injustice, and looses his life in the process.

Some sources say this book was semi-autobiographical, and in a way, I kind of see it as Lowry's protest against all that is unjust in this world. It was a sad tale and a sad life, but in the end, it makes me appreciate how lucky I truly am.