Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

The Sirens of Titan – book review

If you read my posts on this blog you might be wondering does he read anything but Vonnegut (see excerpt about the author below)? Most of my earlier posts had to do with non fiction and leaned towards a lot of self improvement stuff. More recently I have enjoyed escaping into Kurt Vonnegut’s work, which in a way is both a joy but is not lacking in some pretty interesting lessons about humanity.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut is both an interesting read or listen depending on your choice of formats. I listened to this book on Audible.com. This book centers around maybe a half a dozen characters with Malachi Constant also called Unch at times. Much of the novel is centered around an invasion of Earth from Mars orchestrated by the character Winston Niles Rumfoord. As with many of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels he takes you on a bizarre journey that in the beginning is a bit difficult to understand, but as you read on he really develops some interesting themes and the character development is excellent. There is both a bit of humor at times and often times a feeling of sadness as some pretty horrific things happen to Malachi Constant and his family.

The audible version of this book is narrated by Jay Snyder and is 9 hours and 20 minutes in length. The paperback version is 336 pages long and available for $12 – $14.

Recommendation

If you choose the Audible version, you will really enjoy the narration by Jay Snyder, he does an excellent job, which is not easy when you read a Vonnegut novel. I have to be honest I was a little lost at times during the reading of this novel, but at the same time I was very interested in the characters and ultimately what would happen to them. Kurt Vonnegut has a real talent for character development delving deep into human behavior and psychology. Of course I liked it spending the better part of the weekend listening to it. This novel is both a great escape from reality and at times takes you on an emotional roller coaster.

Excerpt about 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.

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

 

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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.

 

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

Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership

I just finished the book Extreme Ownership written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. This book was written by two Navy Seals who led forces in the city of Ramadi, Iraq. While much of this book is about missions that occurred in Ramadi, the true purpose is to outline the leadership lessons learned during the war with the insurgency. Each chapter reviews a different leadership principle and the authors take turns providing examples on how this leadership principle applies to business.

I’m not going to go into each of the leadership principles covered in this book, but one that comes up over and over in the book is the idea of taking extreme ownership of everything, leaving  your ego at the door, and taking responsibility for all outcomes.

What I liked:

  • The stories about the Navy Seals operations are compelling and help to illustrate a particular leadership principle.
  • The authors are knowledgeable and apply these principles learned on the battle field to situations in business.
  • I actually listened to the audio book and the narration by Jocko and Leif was very good, although the recordings by Jocko had some kind of click in them, which was a bit annoying.
  • Several really great principles are outlined throughout the book and they are explained in great detail, providing why the principle is important.
  • The way the leadership principles are delivered makes a big impact, after all these two guys were Navy Seals commanders.

What I didn’t like:

  • Most of the leadership principles in the book are not really anything new. Although this can be true of a lot of books and it didn’t really detract from the message.

Overall:

I really enjoyed the book and while some of the principles are well known, the way they are delivered and woven together helps to reinforce them for the reader. The authors do a great job of using leadership principles learned in the military and providing examples of how they can be used in a business setting. The authors are now consultants and have a lot of experience helping companies implement the leadership principles outlined in this book. I will read or listen to this book again, it is very inspiring.

Namaste

 

 

Book & Product Reviews

Observations about “Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”

I recently started listening to the audio book A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. I’ve always loved Eckhart Tolle’s quotes, but have never read or listened to any of his work. This book from Audible.com is about 9 1/2 hours, which makes it great for my long daily commutes. This Audible version of Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose is actually narrated by Eckhart Tolle himself, which I really like because he is flat out brilliant.

Eckhart Tolle - Awakening to Your Lifes Purpose eckhart tolle picture1

At this time I’ve listened to about 4 hours or what amounts to several chapters in the book. While I never like to give away too much in these posts, as to not spoil it for the reader; I am really enjoying this audio book. Tolle spends a lot of time talking about how the ego has prevented us from being ourselves, from finding any sense of our true self. He also spends a lot of time discussing our material desires that are driven by ego or sense of a false self, and how we cling to roles that we so closely identify with as we feel they define ourselves by these roles.

This is really an incredible audio book because it makes you question everything you think you are and value. If you have questions about a world where we seek to divide groups of people, where material wealth is king, where we seek to feel superior to others, and live a life stroking our egos then you will really enjoy Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

Namaste