Review: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a collection of twelve books of the personal writings of Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.  Aurelius was a practitioner of Stoic philosophy and Meditations is the result of analysis of Stoic philosophy and the application of it to his life.

Don’t despair, the book isn’t nearly as long, boring, or complicated to read as you’d expect.  It is quite the opposite.  Short and to the point; Meditations gets to the heart of the issues Aurelius was contemplating and sets out reminders on how to live a good life.

A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behaviour, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’ insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style.” (GoodReads blurb)

I read Gregory Hays’ translation and in his introduction he describes how philosophy was more than a set of ideas to Aurelius and his contemporaries:

“But philosophy also had a more practical dimension. It was not merely a subject to write or argue about, but one that was expected to provide a “design for living”—a set of rules to live one’s life by.”

Meditations, then, is a kind of journal and serves to remind us of simple truths about how we can best live our lives;  a blueprint for successful living.  I enjoyed reading it; he was my kind of guy.  He contemplated life, death, and change a lot; but he also dealt with the smaller, yet equally important, stuff like handling other people.  For example:

“The best revenge is not to be like that.”

I liked that.  When people talk about Meditations, though, they tend to describe it as life-alteringly profound.  And profound it is; but I think a lot of what you find in Meditations you may have heard in some form before.

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the colour of your thoughts.”

This book is a very eloquent reminder of some key pieces of advice that without doubt will help you in your life but which you may already have encountered.  But read it because he’s an interesting guy and he has a great way of putting things.  It’s a classic for a reason.

There’s some advice we may have forgotten as we continue to industrialise and incorporate technology into our lives:

“The world as a living being—one nature, one soul. Keep that in mind. And how everything feeds into that single experience, moves with a single motion. And how everything helps produce everything else. Spun and woven together.”

Even back then people were aware of how important it is to look after nature and each other because we’re all connected.

All in all, to my relief, Meditations wasn’t what I was expecting.  It was a far easier and more comprehensible book than I was expecting having been written so long ago.  It was a pleasant and highly quotable read.

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

Review: The Element by Ken Robinson

The Element is a popular personal development book about finding your element; the intersection of your natural talent and your personal passions.  This book is often included on lists about creativity and while it features the stories of many creative people, it is not actually about creativity.

The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. The Element draws on the stories of a wide range of people, from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney to Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons; from Meg Ryan to Gillian Lynne, who choreographed the Broadway productions of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera; and from writer Arianna Huffington to renowned physicist Richard Feynman and others, including business leaders and athletes. It explores the components of this new paradigm: The diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities.
With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the element and those that stifle that possibility. He shows that age and occupation are no barrier, and that once we have found our path we can help others to do so as well. The Element shows the vital need to enhance creativity and innovation by thinking differently about human resources and imagination. It is also an essential strategy for transforming education, business, and communities to meet the challenges of living and succeeding in the twenty-first century.
(GoodReads)

The Element is much more about the education system; the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all system that can’t meet the needs of a varied and diverse society.  Robinson shows us this by collecting the stories of creative and successful people who despite their problems fitting into the education system managed to find success and happiness in finding their element.

The stories are quite interesting.  I especially enjoyed reading the earlier chapters.  The book is very well written and Robinson is an interesting and humorous writer.  Unfortunately, toward the end of the book I began to lose steam because I had different expectations of what this book was about.

It is an interesting and inspiring book, especially so if you’re interested in the education system and changing that system to suit an enlarged definition of intelligence.

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

Review: Writing Well by Mark Tredinnick

I first read Writing Well by Mark Tredinnick a few years back.  It has held pride of place on my writing book shelf because it is one of the most helpful and beautifully written books on writing I’ve read so far.

Writing Well is a guide to expressive creative writing and effective professional prose. The author, a poet, writer, editor and teacher, explains the techniques required for stylish and readable writing. Everyone who wants to improve their writing can benefit from this book, which describes how to: identify topics that inspire you to write, get into the habit of writing regularly, develop ideas, construct effective arguments, choose words for maximum effect, use grammar correctly, structure sentences and paragraphs appropriately, write with integrity. The book is enriched by examples from great modern writers, and includes a variety of exercises and suggestions for writing activities. Mark Tredinnick practises what he preaches, making his book highly enjoyable as well as technically instructive.”  (GoodReads)

In the prologue of The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker writes:

“It’s not just that I welcome advice on the lifelong challenge of perfecting the craft of writing. It’s also that credible guidance on writing must itself be well written, and the best of the manuals are paragons of their own advice.”

Writing Well fits this description and is, indeed, a paragon of its own advice.  I really enjoyed reading it.  Tredinnick provides useful advice and fantastic exercises to get you flexing your writing muscles.  He includes example passages from well known works to illustrate his points and this, too, was wonderful to read in addition to being illustrative.

My favourite chapters were Sentencing, which gave an in depth look at the structure of different types of sentences and when to make use of them; and Poetics, which was about the art of creative writing.

It was a useful and inspiring read.  This book isn’t just for fiction writers, but anyone looking to improve their writing whether you’re focusing on fiction, poetry, or report writing for work.  It’s a book you may well read more than once – I’ve just finished it for a second time.  If, like me, you enjoy reading books about writing improvement this one has got to be on your list.

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

Review: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I’ve read a few different books about creativity within the last 2 years written by different types of creatives.  I’ve read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert who is a writer, the artist Austin Kleon’s two books Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work, and most recently The Crossroads of Should and Must by artist Elle Luna.

I’ve enjoyed all of these books and while you might be wondering how many books about creativity you can read before it gets monotonous I’ve noted that every creative has their own way of conjuring creativity and has had different experiences within their various creative fields.the-creative-habit-by-twyla-tharp

“Creativity is not a gift from the gods, says Twyla Tharp, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life: In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative. In The Creative Habit, Tharp takes the lessons she has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career and shares them with you, whatever creative impulses you follow — whether you are a painter, composer, writer, director, choreographer, or, for that matter, a businessperson working on a deal, a chef developing a new dish, a mother wanting her child to see the world anew. When Tharp is at a creative dead end, she relies on a lifetime of exercises to help her get out of the rut, and The Creative Habit contains more than thirty of them to ease the fears of anyone facing a blank beginning and to open the mind to new possibilities.” (GoodReads)

Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is about her approach to creativity as a choreographer.  You don’t have to be interested in dance to enjoy this book because it is firmly centred on her creativity method.  I enjoyed reading the book.  She is smart and interesting and naturally this makes for good reading.  Her approach is completely different from what I’ve previously read.

Her advice is very practical and comes with exercises.  While I didn’t feel the exercise sections were really necessary after reading her chapters, she goes into detail and some of you may well find these sections helpful.  If you’re interested in creativity you will probably enjoy this.

lilolia review rating 3 stars good

 

Review: The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran

The Dhammapada is a collection of the sayings of the Buddha in verse form.  It is one of the most widely read of the Buddhist scriptures and the most essential.  There are many translations but I chose Easwaran’s because of a recommendation – the source of which I can’t for the life of me remember.

“As irrigators guide water to their fields,
as archers aim arrows, as carpenters carve
wood, the wise shape their lives.”
145

The Dhammapada is an easy and enjoyable read.  It is full of simple wisdom some of which may seem likeThe Dhammapada Eknath Easwaran common sense but is lovely to be reminded of from the Buddha’s unique perspective.  He has a very simple and down to earth way of delivering essential truths which is the essence of his teachings.

“…the Dhammapada seems more like a field guide. This is is lore picked up by someone who knows every step of the way through these strange lands. He can’t take us there, he explains, but he can show us the way: tell us what to look for, warn about missteps, advise us about detours, tell us what to avoid. Most important, he urges us that it is our destiny as human beings to make this journey ourselves. Everything else is secondary.”
Eknath Easwaran, The Foreword

The Dhammapada is described as a handbook to the teachings of the Buddha but it is Easwaran’s informative introduction on Buddhism and the text that give an extra insight to the seemingly simple words of the Buddha.  I enjoyed reading his introduction and it serves as a great starting point not only for this text but for Buddhism on a whole.

If, like me, you’ve never read any Buddhist texts (or much about Buddhist teachings) this short book of verse is a great place to start, particularly Easwaran’s translation.  The opening verse of the Dhammapada is a profound reminder that our lives are shaped by our minds and we become what we think:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
we are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those
whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts
give joy whenever they speak or act. Joy follows
them like a shadow that never leaves them.”
2

It happened that earlier this year I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, then some weeks later Easwaran’s Dhammapada, followed by The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which in retrospect could not have been better planned.  I didn’t read them back to back but each prepared me for the next and I think I was able to take a great deal more from each one’s message for having read them in this order.  Obviously you don’t need to read them like this but if you’re interested I enjoyed this reading order.

I enjoyed and recommend reading The Dhammapada.  A wide variety of translations exist but I found Eknath Easwaran’s Introduction a highlight of reading this book.  He has also done translations of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita which I hope to get to at some point also.

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

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Review: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

I have found that I’ve read many books at just the time I needed them, no matter whether they were fiction or non fiction, and on occasion the order in which I’ve read some books has been just right that it helped me fully digest or appreciate the books that came later.

This is true of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for me.  I’m sure by now everyone has heard of this book.  It has been translated into over 30 languages and even Oprah sings its praises.  I’ve been meaning to read it for ages but honestly if I’d read it before now (no pun intended) I’m not sure I would have got the message.  Earlier this year I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse which led me on internet travels of Buddhist thought and I’m currently reading Eknath Easwaran’s translation of The Dhammapada whose introduction was very interesting reading.  Both those books got me into the right frame of mind for The Power of Now.

It’s not the easiest self help book to get through.  At first I wasn’t really comfortable with the question answer style of certain parts as I prefer a narrative style but you do get used to it.  You may or may not be familiar with some of the ideas that form the basis for Tolle’s message.  Your familiarity with or exposure to some of the concepts in the book could potentially affect how you feel about it.  Stick with it, read slowly, let it percolate.

I do think it is an important book for us all to read at some point.  It’s a short book but best read slowly.  There is a lot to take away from The Power of Now but the most basic message as you may have guessed is related to time.  There is no time but Now.  The past is but memories and the future is imagination, the only thing you need to concern yourself with is now.  This is quite liberating if, like me, you often find yourself worrying about a future that doesn’t exist yet and a set of problems that may never exist.

The more time that passes since finishing it the more I realise about its implications for my life.  I’m sure that no matter what you’re going through; good, bad, or meh, there’s something for you in this book that will help you.  If you’ve already read this book I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

 

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Review: The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki

The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick is a broad but short book on all social media platforms.  This book covers a lot quickly.  It is the Fast and Furious of social media guides.the art of social media guy kawasaki peg fitzpatrick

This book is for everyone one from bloggers to social media managers because it introduces you to all the ways you can use social media to your advantage.  The personal blogger learns how to effectively share content across a range of platforms and will provide you with details of ideal image sizes and strategy for each platform.  It is a great intro for those of us still deciding which platforms are best for our needs.

For the social media manager of a large company this book will jump start your engine and give you plenty of ways to go beyond sharing of content to driving marketing campaigns and accompanying events on social media platforms.  This book definitely has a lot for those looking for a more aggressive social media strategy across multiple platforms.

I think it is a great book for all who use social media.  It really opens your eyes to multitude of ways you can reach people.  It is definitely a must read for all who work in the area.  It may not teach you everything – it is a short book after all – but it will inspire you.  At the very least you will be totally blown away by the Peg Your Post section.

My personal strategy is to stick to a few platforms that I particularly enjoy using rather than try to spread myself across them all but even so I learned a great deal from this book.  I highly recommend it for those looking to up their social media game.

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

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Review: The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

I sat down and read this book cover to cover in an hour.  It is a fabulous, thought-provoking, and inspiring book filled with drawings, word art, and great advice.  In the way it is written and designed it gets you thinking practically and creatively.  I found it part inspiration and part workbook which was very helpful.The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna Review

The GoodReads blurb: “Who hasn’t asked the question “How can I find and follow my true calling?” Elle Luna frames this moment as “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire. And it was her own personal journey that inspired Elle Luna to write a brief online manifesto that, in a few short months, has touched hundreds of thousands of people who’ve read it or heard Elle speak on the topic. Now Ms. Luna expands her ideas into an inspirational, highly visual gift book for every recent graduate, every artist, every seeker, every career changer.  The Crossroads of Should and Must has a universal message—we get to choose the path between Should and Must. And it gives every reader permission to embrace this message. It’s about the difference between jobs, careers, and callings. The difference between going to work and becoming one with your work. Why knowing what you want is often the hardest part. It gives eye-opening techniques for reconnecting with one’s inner voice, like writing your own obituary (talk about putting life in perspective). It talks about the most common fears of choosing Must over Should—money, time, space, and the ultimate fear: total vulnerability—and shores up our hesitation with inspiring stories of and quotes from the artists and writers and thinkers who’ve faced their own crossroads of Should and Must and taken the leap. It explains the importance of mistakes, of “unlearning,” of solitude, of keeping moving, of following a soul path.  Presented in four chapters—The Crossroads, The Origin of Should, Must, and The Return—inspired by the hero’s journey outlined by Joseph Campbell, The Crossroads of Should and Must guides us from the small moment, discovering our Must, to the big moment—actually doing something about it, and returning to share our new gifts with the world.”

As the title suggests this book is great for people seeking their life calling and for people who are at a crossroad in their life and not sure what to do next.  This short book will guide you through sorting through the basic questions you need to answer to get to the root of you and begin to formulate small actions you can take to move forward.  Luna’s idea isn’t about making a decision and making an overnight transformation.  It is about the process or journey to your ‘Must’ which is far more achievable and sustainable for us all.

I loved the quotes throughout and I especially liked the questions Luna asks you to ask yourself and the suggestions she gives for what you can do.  I made a few notes along the way and brainstormed my answers to the questions she poses in the book.  Reading this book was a great exercise in working out my direction.  This isn’t a book about abandoning your job to pursue your passion without a plan.  This is about helping you work out how you can live your passion and pay your bills.  But at the same time it proposes that you not be afraid of a path which has no easy answers or no set guidelines.

For no other reason than to know yourself better I recommend this book; from its questions which get you to examine your Shoulds so you can know your prison, its prompt for you to define your must-have money vs. your nice-to-have money, to creating your ‘what-are-you-so-afraid-of’ list, you are bound to learn something about where you’re at and where to next.

A lovely book to boost your life and creativity for anybody and everybody.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

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Review: The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer

This is the first book I have read about social media of any kind and I’m happy (and relieved) it was a good reading experience.  I suppose I was expecting a lot of jargon and details I wouldn’t understand let alone make use of.  The Tao of Twitter is a short and very useful book for everyone using Twitter, beginner or advanced user.  Whether you use Twitter for yourself, your blog, or for an organisation you will benefit from reading this book.the tao of twitter

If you’ve ever wondered what Twitter is all about and how to make the best use of it The Tao of Twitter has the very simple answers.  A lot of the information was reinforcement for me of a strategy I already use but there was also a great deal of clarification and ways to expand.

The most important takeaway for me as a blogger was to remember that Twitter isn’t a place where you can just broadcast your blog posts etc. it’s about connecting with people.  Getting the most out of Twitter involves following the 3 Taos of Twitter; connections, content, and helpfulness.

Schaefer is engaging and light in his explanations and there are many examples of real life stories of how Twitter works to help you get to grips with the power of Twitter and how to harness it for your own needs.  I highly recommend this book to Twitter users.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

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Review: Super Brain by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi

I could not have started the year off with a better book.  Super Brain is an incredible book, part neuro science, part self help book, it was the perfect combination of fact and guidance.  On the cover it says: “Unleashing the explosive power of your mind to maximise health, happiness, and spiritual well being.”  It is this and so much more.super brain chopra tanzi

Two pioneers in health–Dr Deepak Chopra and Prof Rudolph E. Tanzi, one of the world’s foremost experts on the causes of Alzheimer’s–share a bold new understanding of the brain and a prescriptive plan for how we can use it to achieve physical, mental and spiritual well-being. (GoodReads)

Super Brain describes eloquently and backed up by scientific fact how the brain works and then shows us how we train it sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.  Super Brain explains how this training can result in either the brain using us or us using it as is supposed to be.  It provides guidance on how you can retrain your brain for maximum health, happiness, and spiritual well being.

In each chapter the authors talk about an area or function of the brain and also deal with a specific problem that many of us face in society.  For example the book explains and offers guidance on memory loss, depression, overweight, anxiety, personal crisis, self-healing, maximum longevity, among others.  And even if you don’t deal with any of these in your life the book is so well written and interesting that you will enjoy it for the simple fact that we all have a brain and it’s wonderful to better understand it and our particular nervous system because they are the vehicle through which we experience life.

The beautiful message of this book for me is that you have control over your brain and therefore your experience of life.  My favourite line in the book comes from pg 167:

“…every thought is an instruction…”

I enjoyed and highly recommend this book.  It was a fantastic read and I’ll be reading the follow up Super Genes later in the year.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

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Review: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

I finished Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon a few days ago and I enjoyed it so much that I just went right to the next one, Show Your Work.  Both have been very helpful to me personally and I’m sure if you are creating anything at all you’ll find this book, Show Your Work, very beneficial.  There may be some things that you already know but Kleon has a great way of putting things so that you’ll feel reaffirmed in your strategy.share your work austin kleon

“In his New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon showed readers how to unlock their creativity by stealing from the community of other movers and shakers. Now, in an even more forward-thinking and necessary book, he shows how to take that critical next step on a creative journey getting known. Show Your Work! is about why generosity trumps genius. It s about getting findable, about using the network instead of wasting time networking. It s not self-promotion, it s self-discovery let others into your process, then let them steal from you. Filled with illustrations, quotes, stories, and examples, Show Your Work! offers ten transformative rules for being open, generous, brave, productive. In chapters such as You Don t Have to Be a Genius; Share Something Small Every Day; and Stick Around, Kleon creates a user s manual for embracing the communal nature of creativity what he calls the ecology of talent. From broader life lessons about work (you can t find your voice if you don t use it) to the etiquette of sharing and the dangers of oversharing to the practicalities of Internet life (build a good domain name; give credit when credit is due), it s an inspiring manifesto for succeeding as any kind of artist or entrepreneur in the digital age.” (GoodReads)

I really enjoy Kleon’s voice and he has a great sense of humour which makes for great reading.  This book really expands on a point (the main takeaway for me) that he touched on in Steal Like An Artist“Share the dots but don’t connect.”  In other words, share your process, share snippets of how you do what you do.  Don’t give everything away but don’t just share the end product.  Share your process, inspire others, teach others, create a conversation, and thereby connect more deeply with people.  The internet has changed the game and connecting with people by letting them into your world is the best way to get people to care about what you do/create.

I highly recommend this concise book.  There’s great advice and I’m sure you’ll be left feeling inspired or recharged.  I think Steal Like An Artist and Share Your Work are best read together in that order and at 200 pages combined you’ll be through them in no time.  I know I’ll be going back to these books because there were such great quotes throughout and the advice really is great.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

Review: Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

This is another book about creativity and how to get on living a life in the creative industry.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as it is concise, very cool, and full of good advice structured under 10 main points.  It’s really a quick and easy read.  It has lovely drawings and really great quotes.  I jotted down a few notes while reading this.  Kleon has a great writing voice too so all in all a must read for anyway working in any creative field or anyone who pursues creative endeavours of all kinds.  It’s actually a book for us all because we’re all creative in some way and this little book will help you get back into it or dive deeper into it.

https://lilolia.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/review-steal-like-an-artist-by-austin-kleon/

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side. (GoodReads)

I especially liked that there’s a recommended reading list at the end.  I love further reading lists!  I particularly liked this line in the book: “…you are a mashup of what you choose to let into your life…”  This book left me feeling full of energy to pursue my projects with zest and joy and I’m sure it’ll do the same for you if you have a creative project or hobby.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I know of Elizabeth Gilbert from her Eat, Pray, Love success.  The cover of her latest book Big Magic completely drew me in and then the “Creative Living Beyond Fear” subtitle really spoke to me too.  big magic elizabeth gilbert

I consider myself a creative person (but really we all are) and I always have my hand in some kind of creative pursuit but since I am a self taught creative (my tertiary education is in the social sciences) there tends to be a bit of fear or anxiety surrounding my freedom to create without feeling like a complete fraud.  Just like when I began this blog years ago I felt I had no right to do so because I knew nothing about the world of blogging.  But it has turned out to be a wonderful creative outlet.

If you recognise yourself then this book is for you.  It is just as much for anyone working professionally in the creative arts as anyone enjoying working on creative arts in a non professional way.  I really enjoyed this book and it is chock full of great lines that you will no doubt see as affirmation style images on Pinterest.  It is inspiring and realistic.  More importantly it is a guide to just how we should be treating our creativity to enjoy it more fully as well as foster it.

This is not about being successful in the creative arts; this book is about creative living for the sheer love of it.  No doubt there will be those that dislike this book but I am not one of them.  I have a number of creative passions that I love working on and this book has given me the boost to keep on keeping on.  My biggest take away from this book is a personal one.  Your creativity (and ability) is no less legitimate than the next person’s regardless of education or any other external factor.  Your experience is unique so get stuck in.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s a quick read and if you’re intrigued by it go ahead and read it.  If you’ve read it what did you think?

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

Review: Langford’s Basic Photography by Michael Langford

Langford’s Basic Photography was first published in 1977 and continues to be updated with the most recent 9th edition published in 2010.  This photography book comes highly recommended and is the prescribed textbook for some courses.  Michael langford's basic photographyLangford is a well accomplished and respected photographer and teacher.

“Michael Langford, renowned author, teacher, and practitioner, is a legend because of his skill that balanced art and technique. He inspired and taught thousands as Photography Course Director at the Royal College of Art, London, UK.” (GoodReads blurb)

You would then, given the above, expect this book to be extraordinary and while I will say that it is in fact well written and jam packed with technical details, it was not the book I needed.  This book is much more for the absolute beginner.  I would recommend it for anyone interested in film photography and film processing since this book covers those areas in great technical detail.  I, however, am in love with digital photography and the digital darkroom.  Sadly, digital is covered only fleetingly.

I enjoyed the first chapter, What Is Photography, because of the theory element and the references to notable professional photographers and their works.  The two chapters on the technicalities of light and lighting were also useful to me.  I particularly liked that each chapter had a summary and project section at the end.  All in all, though, the book isn’t for me.  Too much of a focus on film photography and not enough of a challenge to keep me going.  I think there are better books out there for the beginning digital photographer who has chosen the self study route like myself.

The Langford’s Advanced Photography book is the next step after this one and I’ll still have a look at that one to see what it covers because there truly is a great deal of detail in Langford’s style so I’m hoping my disenchantment with this Basic one is purely a matter of mismatched level.

 

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

An absolutely great book all introverts should read.  This book is written in such a way that extroverts will enjoy it too and even understand themselves a bit better.  I found this book personally very self-affirming and it gave me hope and power.  Cain describes the world of an introvert, the different kinds of introverts, and how we live in a world geared towards extroverts.  Since one third of all people are introverts, this book is for everyone wanting to understand andQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking bring out the best in introverts who bring a lot to the table with a different kind of power than the one that is generally accepted.

Here is the blurb from GoodReads:

“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.  In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”

The biggest take away from this book for me (besides the immense self-affirmation) is that introverts and extroverts are like yin and yang.  They are opposites but belong together.  The best teams are not made up of one or the other but a mixture of both.  We support and uplift one another if both are catered for living and working environments.  Cain talks about the world as celebrating an extroverted way of being which I completely agree with.  This book will bring to light all the advantages of quiet power and why introverts are the way they are and how they get stuff done.  Reading this book was like being in an interesting conversation with a well spoken and knowledgable person who understands the world of introverts intimately and who makes reference to interesting case studies and research along the way.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to introverts, parents and spouses of introverts, and anyone who manages people in the working environment.  In general, this is a book for everyone though because we will all find ourselves understanding the people around us a little better for having read it.

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

Review: Biko: A Biography by Xolela Mangcu

There were many people who sacrificed their lives for the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.  One such man was Steve Biko,Biko: A Biography creator of the Black Consciousness Movement and a gifted leader.  His life was taken by the Apartheid police when he was arrested at a road block and taken to be interrogated and tortured for 22 hours.  Ultimately, he died of severe head injuries in police custody.

He was famous for his slogan “black is beautiful”, which he described as meaning: “man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being”. (Biko, Steve (1986). I Write What I Like. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. 103–104.)

Here is the blurb from GoodReads:

“The first comprehensive biography of an exceptional and inspirational leader who changed South African history. As leading anti-apartheid activist and thinker, Biko created Black Consciousness, which has resonance to this day. His death by torture, at the hands of the police, robbed South Africa of one of its most gifted leaders. Biko’s intellectual legacy cannot be overestimated.”

I have always been intrigued by Biko primarily because I find his message of self love very inspiring.  To me his message is one for all of humanity.  I found this book by Mangcu very informative in both the academic and personal areas of Biko’s life.  I learnt a great deal about the struggle from another perspective.  Mangcu writes in such a way that both Biko’s philosophy and life are equally easy and pleasurable to read.  He is eloquent, informative, and I enjoyed reading this book.  I highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in the struggle against Apartheid who is keen to go beyond reading Mandela’s great book A Long Walk to Freedom.  Mangcu’s biography of Biko’s life also has a personal connection as his own brother knew Biko.  There is also a wonderful bibliography of works to carry you further in your reading should you choose to do so.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

 

Review: The Sacred History by Jonathan Black

I thoroughly enjoyed Black’s previous book The Secret History of the World so when I came across The Sacred History of the World I knew I was going to enjoy it.  Black writes his non fiction books in such a way that you can’t help but be drawn into them.  Here is the blurb from GoodReads:

The Sacred History: How Angels, Mystics and Higher Intelligence Made Our World

“The Sacred History is an account of the workings of the supernatural in history. It tells the epic story of angels, from Creation, to Evolution through to the operations of the supernatural in the modern world.  This tale of how people and peoples have been helped by angels and other angelic beings is woven into a spellbinding narrative that brings together Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Elijah, Mary and Jesus, Mohammed, Joan of Arc, the angels who helped Hungarian Jews persecuted by the Nazis, and stories from African, Native American and Celtic traditions.  Told from the spiritual point of view, The Sacred History relates every betrayal, every change of heart, every twist and turn, everything that looks like a coincidence, every portent, every clue, every defeat, every rescue moments before the prison door clangs shut. This is the angelic version of events.” (GoodReads)

Essentially this book is about looking at the world and its history from the perspective of idealism as opposed to the more prevalent perspective of materialism.  This is the history of the world from a non secular outlook.  I found it fascinating and again Black has succeeded in communicating a story that we may know but telling it from a perspective that I had not considered.  What I found incredibly interesting was Black’s recounting of important cultural stories from the distant past all the way up to modern times.  I have always found the creation stories of other cultures as well as their myths and legends very interesting and nowadays we tend to look at all those stories as nothing more than fiction.  In this book Black presents these stories as a means to understanding the evolution of human consciousness, to see what these stories have to teach us from the perspective of idealism.  I really enjoyed this book and took my time with it.  If the blurb appeals to you, I’m pretty sure you’ll find this an interesting read.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

 

Review: Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

This book has been on my ‘to read’ list for quite a while and it’s a daunting prospect as it’s 600+ pages long. However Madiba has been in hospital for over 50 days now and since he has been on my mind more than ever I thought it a better time than ever to read it.Long Walk to Freedom

I’m so glad I did. 600+ pages or not I have read it every night before going to bed without fail putting it down only because I could no longer keep my eyes open. He has an incredible voice and great humour. You may think that this book is only about his political life and the struggle against inequality and later Apartheid but as he explains his personal and political lives were later inextricably linked. This book is not actually about the great atrocities committed in the name of Afrikaner Apartheid. As a young South African I know from history classes that a great deal of the violence has been left out. What he communicates, though, is his philosophy, his character, how he came to be the leader of the struggle.

I loved this book. I loved it because of all the culture he tells us about, all the stories from South Africa long gone. I enjoyed hearing what times were like in those days especially for a Xhosa man in the Transkei. He has such a wealth of cultural knowledge and that was one of the parts of the book I loved the most. I particularly enjoyed the part where he talks of the great Xhosa Commander of the Xhosa army fighting in the 4th Xhosa War. A man 6 feet tall called Nxele (aka Makanna) who was banished to Robben Island. He tried to escape the island by boat but drowned and since then “…the memory of that loss is woven into the language of my [Xhosa] people who speak of a ‘forlorn hope’ by the phrase Ukuza kuka Nxele…” Naturally it was very interesting to read what part each of the great men in the struggle played. Hearing about those times through Madiba’s eyes was incredibly eye opening.

This book is about the man, the real man. Not the man we think we know or the man Madiba has been made out to be. He was not this perfect idol but he was indeed a great man as well as a normal man. This book is him setting the record straight in a sense. So we would know him in context. The message I received was that he never intended to dedicate his life so wholly to the struggle it turned out that way because he simply could not turn away from it but that it had nevertheless been a long and difficult struggle – a long walk to freedom – with a great many sacrifices. This is without doubt the most interesting and captivating autobiography I have and will ever read. Every South African must read this book in fact every person from the African continent must read this book. If you have any interest in Nelson Mandela or South Africa, you must read this book. I highly recommend it.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent