Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

The Fountainhead – book review

Overview:

The Fountainhead was written in 1943 by Ayn Rand who has to be one of my top 5 authors. I have read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged another Ayn Rand novel several times. More recently I have both books available on Audible. There are several key characters in this novel, but the most notable is Howard Roark who is an architect. Howard is the focal point of the book for his individualist character and the love he possesses for his work. As with Atlas Shrugged this novel pits the individualist (capitalist) against those that feel there is little meaning to life and everything should be shared (socialist). Like all of Ayn Rand’s novels there is this good vs. evil plot being played out, or you might look at it as conventional vs. innovative when referring to the central theme of architecture. I won’t give away the details of the plot or how it ends, but I can guarantee you will enjoy reading or listening to this book.

If you have Audible beware that this is a very long book and is over 32 hours. The narration is incredible as the narrator changes their voice for various characters, making it much easier to listen to. Ayn Rand does an incredible job of creating compelling characters with all their virtues and flaws. As I mentioned the key character Howard Roark is what the author would call the ideal man. A man of virtue, dedicated to his work, and idealistic.

Recommendation:

As you can probably tell I loved it. There is nothing in this book not to like and while it is a substantial investment in terms of the time to read it (752 pages), you will not be disappointed. Due to the quality of the narration and the fact that it is a novel, where much of it consists of dialog it really lends itself to the audio book format. If you choose to listen to it on Audible the version I listened to had Christopher Hurt as the narrator. While the underlying theme in this novel is philosophical, it is also entertaining and most of the characters are somewhat complex, making it fun to read.

A little bit about the Author

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand)

Ayn Rand born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum; February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in 1935 and 1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.

Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including property rights. In art, Rand promoted romantic realism. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and classical liberals.

Literary critics received Rand’s fiction with mixed reviews and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, though academic interest has increased in recent decades. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings. She has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives.

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Book Review – Stop Doing That Sh*t

I believe this is the latest book by Gary John Bishop and it’s called “Stop Doing That Sh*t“. If you read my book review of UnFu*k Yourself you know how much I enjoy Gary’s writing. UnFu*k Yourself was focused on our internal self talk and the author provided 8 rules or tenants for living a better life; helping you to begin steering your ship in the right direction. This book Stop Doing That Sh*t takes us in a different direction. Mind you it doesn’t invalidate what Gary Bishop wrote about in UnFu*k Yourself, but after listening to it a couple times it really complements it.

As I mentioned I’ve listened to this book a couple times now and found it fascinating and of course very entertaining. Gary John Bishop has a great Scottish accent and a no holds barred style of writing that gives it to you in a raw language that is easy to interpret. Basically I think his style and because he narrates the book himself make it a great candidate for an audio book. So what is this book about? Gary makes a case that the past is driving all your current and future behavior. I know at first I balked at this as I pride myself as someone who cares little about the past and rarely thinks about it. You might think the past has no hold over you, but think about what your believe and the way you act and you begin to understand that the past is running your subconscious mind. It dictates what you value, your relationships, what you think about money, and causes you to repeat behavior patterns, mostly the shitty ones.

For myself I started to realize while I don’t consciously think about the past it has molded me for both good and bad. He goes on to elaborate on the three saboteurs:

  1. You
  2. Them
  3. Life

So what you think about yourself and your limitations, how you view other people, and your outlook on life. The remainder of the book provides some insights on how you can address these three saboteurs and make some constructive change in  your life. I won’t spool it for you, but the last couple chapters give you some insights into how you can start to turn things around.

I highly recommend this book, and I recommend reading or listening to it at least a couple times, because it takes a while to really understand and come to some acceptance of the premise. You might just begin to understand how much you are sabotaging your own life and more importantly why.

Namaste

 

 

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

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Cat’s Cradle – book review

Review

After reading this book it took me several days before writing this review, primarily because I struggled with what I would write about. The whole experience of reading this book was so weird and the plot so bizarre I wasn’t sure how I might explain it.

Cat’s Cradle was written in 1963 by Kurt Vonnegut (see Wikipedia excerpt below) and this was his 4th novel. I listened to this book on Audible.com and it was narrated by Tony Roberts. The book is made up of many small chapters often only a paragraph in length, which is a bit weird but from Kurt Vonnegut it is not totally unexpected. I won’t give away the whole plot but it is essentially about a writer who is interviewing friends and children of one of the people involved in the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II.

There are a number of very bizarre characters in this book and much of it takes place on the island of San Larenzo where the inhabitants follow a religion called Bokononism created by its founder Bokonon. As I listened to this book I was starting to think this is really bizarre and makes no sense, but about half way through the book it started to grow on me and I started really enjoying it.

I think you can best describe this book if you look at the synonyms for bizarre:

strange, peculiar, odd, funny, curious, offbeat, outlandish, eccentric, unconventional, unorthodox, queer, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, atypical, unusual, out of the ordinary, out of the way, extraordinary

Recommendation:

The audio version at Audible was a little over 7 hours in length and the paperback version at Amazon is 286 pages. If you are an Audible fan you will like the Tony Roberts narration, he does an excellent job even with the voices of women. I recommend this book if you have already read a couple of Kurt Vonnegut’s books as it makes it a bit easier to understand where he is going, the characters are great,  and it has an interesting ending. I would not recommend it as your first foray into a Vonnegut novel. My reasoning is that it is a bit disjointed given the way it was written as very small chapters, with some seemingly unrelated. Like I mentioned earlier it all starts to make some sense about half way through the book, but still it is a crazy journey from start to end.

 

Excerpt from Wikipedia about the Author

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.

References:

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

 

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

Man’s Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl 2

This happens to be a review of an audio book that I have listened to a couple times. Man’s Search for Meaning was written by Viktor E. Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) first published in 1946. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. As I have mentioned in the past my book reviews tend to focus more on what you can learn from the book than some blow by blow account of the work. This book is broken up into two parts with the first part being Viktor Frankl’s experience at the German concentration camp Auschwitz and the second part being an overview of his psychotherapy method Logotherapy.

Auschwitz1

(picture of the entrance into Auschwitz)

Auschwitz was probably the most notorious of the Nazi Germany concentration camps where thousands of people were either killed in gas chambers, shot, or starved to death. Viktor Frankl starts out Man’s Search for Meaning with his account of Auschwitz from the day he arrived to the day it was liberated by the Soviet army in 1945. Prior to the Soviets actually stepping foot in Auschwitz the SS guards marched some 60,000 prisoners to the city of Wodzislaw in the western part of Upper Silesia. It is estimated that at minimum 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945; of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered.

viktor-frankl-quote

In this book Viktor Frankl spends most of his time in the first section on his observations of the guards and prisoners; much of this is difficult to read or as in my case listen to. As you read or listen to this book you will be struck by what an incredible human being Viktor Frankl was. Clearly there was something special about him aside from his education and training or maybe because of it, he was able to survive in this situation with such an outstanding perspective on life. If there is a positive aspect to adversity it is that it reveals the true character of a person, and in Viktor Frankl’s case it reveals courage, compassion, love, hope, and intelligence. There are some great lessons in this book that you the reader can take away from it, making it a must read.

LOGOTHERAPY

The second part of this book is devoted to Logotherapy, which was developed a psychotherapy methodology. I found this part of the book less compelling than the first section, but interesting enough for me to study it further.  Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning as opposed to Adler’s Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud’s will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans (Wikipedia).

Should you read or listen to this book? I found this book to be very inspiring for several reasons. First and foremost the book provides many insights into the character of man, from the dark inhumanity of the guards in the concentration camp to the contrast of spirit, love, and humanity of the prisoners. I think Viktor Frankl makes a great case for how meaning and having a why in your life can overcome almost any situation. This book is a real gem and highly recommended. While you will be shocked by the inhumanity, you will also be inspired by the greatness that exists in humanity.

Namaste