Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Player Piano – book review

As you may be able to tell by now, I am quite a Kurt Vonnegut fan. I believe this is my third book review from Kurt Vonnegut. This was Kurt’s first novel published in 1952 and didn’t get much notice, which is a bit odd considering it is an excellent read or in my case listen on Audible. The narration is performed by Christian Rummel and it is incredible considering all the different characters that are included in this book. If you have read my book reviews before you know that I try not to spoil it for you focusing more on the themes and my own opinion of the work. If you want to know more about Kurt Vonnegut see the excerpt from Wikipedia below.

I swear Kurt Vonnegut could see into the future as the themes from this book have many parallels to what is happening today in terms of technology replacing many jobs that were formerly done by humans. The primary character is Dr. Paul Proteus the head of Engineering at the Ilium, New York plant. The premise of this novel shows the divide between the rich and the poor as machines take over the work formerly done by those they have displaced. There is also a lot of emphasis on blind corporate loyalty and competition for jobs by the elite who are paid 10 to 100’s times the salary of the common man, who by the way lives across the river over the bridge. I won’t go into how it all unfolds, but it all becomes very interesting. Some themes for me included:

  • Man vs. Machine
  • Rich vs. Poor
  • Educated vs. not Educated
  • Collective vs. Individualism
  • Blind Faith in Technology vs. Individual Expression
  • Planned Society vs. Capitalism / Free Enterprise
  • Relative comfort vs. Struggle

Recommendation

I flat out loved this book, the parallels with today are uncanny and the characters are incredibly complex in some ways and at the same time simply symbols of the themes mentioned above. You become emotionally attached to some of the characters such as Dr. Paul Proteus and appalled by others such as his wife Anita. While the battles expressed by the themes provide the opportunity for the author to provide a decisive conclusion to the questions posed in this book, the ending leaves the door open to debate, much like is the case today. If you like Kurt Vonnegut’s writing you will love this book, and if you haven’t had the chance to read or listen to his work, this is a great opportunity to begin where it all started.

A picture of a middle age Kurt Vonnegut

Wikipedia Excerpt

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister’s three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat’s Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut’s breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book’s anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death(1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut’s son Mark published a compilation of his father’s unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut’s short fiction including 5 previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut’s writing and humor.

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Welcome to the Monkey House

Welcome to the Monkey House

Hopefully you have heard of Kurt Vonnegut the author of “Welcome to the Monkey House” and many other science fiction novels. Kurt Vonnegut (see excerpt from Wikipedia) is a famous writer of fiction, who I used to read when I was in high school and then in college. I would often escape the world by reading his novels, particularly enjoying the stories that came from an incredibly creative mind.

I listened to “Welcome to the Monkey House” on Audible, and it was narrated by several different people, which actually made it more enjoyable. This 11 1/2 hour audio book is a collection of short unrelated stories, with each of the 25 stories ranging from 12 – 45 minutes in length. As I mentioned below Kurt Vonnegut is incredibly creative and he doesn’t disappoint with this book. The stories range from incredibly funny, very odd, to some pretty sad commentary on human behavior. Given the relatively short length of each story you could read or listen to one or more in a brief period of time, which only added to the enjoyment. The fact that they are totally self contained allows you to pick it up listen or read one of the stories and not have to worry about a time lag when you start reading again as is the case with a novel.

As kind of a side note; I recently listened to “Breakfast of Champions” one of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels and it was extremely interesting. Maybe I will write a book review on it in the near future.

Recommendation

Now if you are very young some of these stories may not resonate with you as there are a lot of references to things that happened in the 1950’s and 60’s. People like JFK and things like landing on the moon. On the other hand most of the stories are pretty much timeless and are pure science fiction. Kurt Vonnegut is a master at creating interesting if not quirky characters and exploring the oddities of human behavior and motivation in his stories. If you choose to listen to the book on Audible you will be thrilled by the excellent narrators chosen to read this book. If you are looking for a bit of a respite from reality then I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed listening to all but a couple of the stories and it kept me entertained for days.

Enjoy!

 

Excerpt from Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister’s three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat’s Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut’s breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book’s anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death(1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut’s son Mark published a compilation of his father’s unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut’s short fiction including 5 previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut’s writing and humor.

Book & Product Reviews

Can’t Hurt Me

David Goggins Cant hurt me

I just finished listening to Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. This audible book was over 13 hours and 30 minutes in length and I enjoyed every minute of it. Most of it is narrated by Adam Skolnick with David Goggins mostly commenting during and after Skolnick read the chapters. I won’t give away the whole plot because quite frankly in-depth book reviews that give you a blow by blow description of the of the book just ruin it for you.

So why should you read or listen to this book? Well #1 it is an extremely inspiring story of someone who had to overcome unbelievable odds to achieve what he did. This guy literally tortured himself to get through both Navy Seals and Army Rangers training. There are some brutal descriptions of the pain he endured and his incredible will to succeed. There are many episodes where he did some crazy things like running 100 mile ultra marathons and even set a Guinness book of record for the most pull-ups completed in a 24 hour time period.

This is truly a mind over matter story, where David does some pretty insane things to make him what he calls hard or a bad mother fucker. Yes there is lots of swearing in the book, but you would have already guessed that if you have seen any of his YouTube videos. While the things he did to his body seem a bit crazy his motivation was geared towards making himself mentally tough.

I highly recommend you check out this book. It was so interesting that I listed to it in less than two days. In fact I found it so damn inspiring that I started running again, even getting my lazy ass out in the rain this morning for another run. If you are operating on anything less than 100% effort in your life you need to check this out. I’m going to plug the audio version because there is a lot of commentary by David Goggins during and after the chapters that would not be in the written version. Often the primary narrator would ask David questions and so you get some additional insights only available on the audio book.

While much of this book is about David Goggins overcoming physical challenges, there is certainly lots of lessons that can apply to any challenge your are facing in your life. As David says often in the book “Roger That”.

One last thing I want to mention. Sometimes we get way to comfortable in the work we do, or we become victims due to our own whining and complaining. We kind of give up and feel sorry for ourselves making our problems at work or at home more significant than they really are. Yes, I do this shit too. This book will give you a different perspective on life. After listening to this book I wrote on my whiteboard the following:

Whiteboard can't hurt me

Sorry about the swearing.

Namaste

Book & Product Reviews

The Power of Now

The Power of Now

I have listened to the audio book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle a number of times but this is the first time I’ve written anything about it. The premise of the book as you might expect is the value of living in the present moment, in the now. The audio book is over seven and half hours long, with the hardcover version of the book containing 208 pages. I really enjoyed this book probably because I tend to get lost in thoughts of the future, which frankly have me missing the great things that I am should be experiencing in the present moment. 

Maybe you don’t have this problem but instead you are thinking about what happened yesterday or a decade ago, spending most of your time living in the past. In either case whether you spend your time living in the future or the past we are missing out on the serenity available living in the present moment. Sounds easy, but take the time to notice what you normally think about and you will notice that your thoughts are often centered around what I have to do later, tomorrow, or next week. In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle makes a compelling case for living in the present moment, the only real moment you have. 

I love listening to or reading books by Eckhart Tolle as they help ground me and remind me to live in the present, where I can focus and enjoy life more fully. If I am feeling like I am living too much in the future I listen to The Power of Now or A New Earth Awakening. I highly recommend this book and would love to know what you think, so don’t feel bashful about leaving a comment.

Below is a pretty good introduction into Eckhart Tolle’s philosophy.

 

A bit about the author from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eckhart_Tolle

Eckhart Tolle (born Ulrich Leonard Tölle, February 16, 1948) is a spiritual teacher. He is a German-born resident of Canada best known as the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. In 2008, The New York Times called Tolle “the most popular spiritual author in the United States”. In 2011, he was listed by Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world. Tolle is not identified with any particular religion, but he has been influenced by a wide range of spiritual works.

Tolle said he was depressed for much of his life until age 29, when he underwent an “inner transformation”. He then spent several years wandering “in a state of deep bliss” before becoming a spiritual teacher. He moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1995 and currently divides his time between Canada and California. He began writing his first book, The Power of Now, in 1997 and it reached The New York Times Best Seller list in 2000.

The Power of Now and A New Earth sold an estimated three million and five million copies respectively in North America by 2009. In 2008, approximately 35 million people participated in a series of 10 live webinars with Tolle and television talk show host Oprah Winfrey. In 2016, Tolle was named in Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.

Namaste