On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King

A 4*

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I bought this book because I always seek ways to learn more about the craft of writing and a guide from the best horror writer of our times is an absolute must for any who calls him/herself a writer.

I expected more of the book to be on writing, given the title of the book, but, instead, there was less than 40% of the book that actually concerned writing and any tips given by Stephen King. Instead, it was more of a memoir, still interesting but not exactly what I was searching for.

Even though the large part of it was a memoir, it was still interesting and entertaining. In the perfect way, Stephen King knows how to tell a story and get the reader engaged in it until the last page.

The advices given by Stephen King are short and precise, telling what should one do, how, and why, in a few simple sentences. And those are some great advices, that everyone who’ve done some educational reading on the subject or studied writing knows. Such things as limited usage of adverbs, precise description, the importance of just writing, day after day.

There is also this opinion that is mentioned that the great authors are born that way, and I am not sure if I agree with it or not. But in itself, the book gives tips and tools (for your own personal writer’s toolbox) to make the books you write better.

All in all, for all those who love Stephen King’s books and who search for the next book to read which could help them with their craft, this is a must.

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Writing Great Fiction, James Hynes

A 4*

“Plotting is an organic, and wildly inefficient process of trial and error.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

Writing Great Fiction is a book that has 24 chapters, each a 30 minute lecture on writing (well) great fiction. Each of the chapters, or lectures, explores a different subject, sometimes overlapping, sometimes not related at all.

The format of the book, with 24 different lectures, makes each subject being explored in a short but extensive, concise but comprehensive manner.

Each point being made by James Hynes is backed up by the examples from classic and popular works of fiction and makes the lecture much more understandable.

The tips given by James Hynes are easy to follow, interesting, and helpful. They might be repetitive at times, but it makes it easier to remember.

This book is good not only for starting writers but also for those who want to gain a deeper understanding of what they are reading and in what way it is bad or good, what makes it memorable or easy to forget.

Writing Great Fiction will be useful for aspiring writers. Just don’t forget to sit in front of your computer, writing pad, or anything else you use to write and actually do that. Write. It is the only way to learn the craft.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson

A 4*

“The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I had a privilege to listen to this book on audible. And I must say, it is awesome to have Neil deGrasse Tyson as your personal guide in the complicated theories in the creation, the expansion and the functioning of the universe. And it is not opinions, but solid-proofed theories explained by one of the most know astrophysicists of our time. In other words, if you get this book in an audio version, you will have your Neil deGrasse Tyson whisper into your ear everything you need to know about our galaxy, our universe (and maybe even our multi-verse).

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a short, direct and interesting read. The book is so short that sometimes you will feel that the information given to you is too compressed, too dry. But that is about the only negative point in this book.

The difficult theories behind the functioning of our universe are explained to you in an easier and more understandable way, but you should have at least some basic knowledge in astronomy, physics, and chemistry to read this book. And when I say basic, I mean very basic. Knowing what a planet, a galaxy, an atom, a periodic table are, with some other stuff you learned in high-school and you are good to go.

And I will not get tired of saying this, but with the awesome voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson, with his easy way to explain things, and with his funny scientific jokes, the book is only getting more enjoyable with each page.

I am a bit late, reading the book 2 years after it got out, but I understand why it was one of the best books in 2017 on Goodreads. It was a science read of the year.

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The Nerd’s Guide to Being Confident, Mark Manson

A 2*

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.”

This book was by far the earliest of the books I read by Mark Manson. And the first one I didn’t like.

What I liked about both The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked, is the snarky way Mark Manson gives his advises, infused with his own experiences and backed up by the statistical data behind. In The Nerd’s Guide to Being Confident, there was less humor to it, the arguments less developed.

The book itself was much shorter. And maybe that is the reason why there was less complexity to it.

The advises that Mark Manson gives are easy to apply to those who feel that they could get easily be swallowed by the modern world. But the tips given are less useful than those that appeared The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked.

But one of the most important points and it is mentioned in all Mark Manson’s books is this “You can do this” attitude that never fails and that mark Manson preaches. And I think this is a thing that we forget most of the time. That no matter what others think, no matter what life throws at us, we can do this. We just need a reminder from time to time. Even if it comes in the form of a bad book.

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Humans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up, Tom Phillips

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“In a list of ‘moves designed to piss lots of people off’, banning coffee in Turkey probably ranks somewhere alongside banning cheese in France, banning guns in America and … well, banning national stereotyping in Britain.”

Humans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up by Tom Phillips is cynical and funny, it is direct and simple, and it depressing and true. It is one of those non-fiction books that you will enjoy reading from the first pages till the last ones. It has a fun opening and it keeps the same humor throughout the book.

Reading it, you will learn a lot and you will enjoy it too. It is filled with fun facts and even those that are not so fun are written with humor. All the stories lead to one and only objective. To show the reader how stupid we can be, wanting it or not, but inevitably leading our race to chaos.

This book underlines our biggest and most wrecking mistakes. Our efficiency in destroying the world around us, not worrying about our future; our capacity to change the world with unforeseen consequences, sometimes lead by one sole individual; and our determination to keep doing the same things we did in the past, even knowing they were not exactly the right choices.

Humans: A Brief History of How We Fucked It All Up is well researched, proposing unique and famous stories, which are entertaining and mind-opening.

But the most important thing, it helps to remind us that all of us make mistakes. Yes, some of them are horrible. And yes, we shouldn’t ever do the same. But we are all humans and it is okay to fuck up from time to time, hopefully, on a much smaller scale.

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Fishnets in the Far East: A Dancer’s Diary in Korea, Michele E. Northwood

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“ “Anyway, it’s only for six months,” I said, trying to convince myself more than my neighbor! “Besides, I’ve always wanted to visit Asia.” ”

I got a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I must say this book was an amusing read. The Fishnets in the Far East: A Dancer’s Diary in Korea reads like a fun diary, written by someone you know. And, of course, it is sometimes as confusing as a diary can be, with a few jumps in a time-line that made me think that much more time has passed than 6 months.

Fishnets in the Far East narrates an adventure in a distant land, which keeps glued to the book till the last page is turned. And maybe by the end of it, it feels too repetitive, with the protagonists running in the same trouble over and over again, but it is funny and interesting.

Michele E. Northwood paints an incredible picture of a man-dominated South Korea in the 1980s and a troupe of dancers who tries to survive on the minimal wages they get from their sleazy agent while working in clubs and disco-bars that look more like brothels. Each moment brings new fears and hopes for the girls and, when Michele receives the news that her sister is coming, you wonder how will she survive the same world Michele did.

But as we come to know, Michele troupe was one of the only dancers who were unsuccessful in South Korea, thanks to the other members of her troupe. And actually, you won’t wonder why. The only question I’ve been having is why didn’t they leave Korea earlier if things were going as badly as said. But I guess, the hope is the last thing that dies.

Turning the last page, you will feel sad that the adventure has ended. But it seems Michele will find her way to Asia again, this time to Japan, and we can only hope that this time around, her trip will be easier and more productive.

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Everything is F*cked, Mark Manson

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“True freedom doesn’t really exist because we all must sacrifice some autonomy for stability. No one, no matter how much you love them or they love you, will ever absolve that internal guilt you feel simply for existing. It’s all fucked. everything is fucked. It always has been and always will be. There are no solutions, only stopgap measures, only incremental improvements, only slightly better forms of fuckedness than others. And it’s time we stop running from that and, instead, embrace it.”

I am a big fan of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. I have it in an audio-book format and I listen to it from time to time. It has that dose of humor and good advice that allows us to take a step back in any given situation and rethink our position on some subjects.

When I found out that M.Manson wrote a new book and with the title Everything Is F*cked, it was immediately placed on my to-read list and no longer after that it migrated to currently-reading. It took me less than four hours to finish and I enjoyed every moment of it.

M. Manson has a way of telling a story without any filter, without caring who will think what. I must say I agree with most things M.Manson says, not all of them. But it doesn’t change the fact that I see him as a person with strong opinions that are clearly stated throughout the book.

I saw a few reviews that range from “I liked this book, it was more mature than The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” to “Horrible writing, bad comparisons…”. Different people hoped for different things when they started reading this book and I think not all of them wanted to hear what M.Manson had to say.

Well, I didn’t come with high expectations for this new installment but I was surprised. M.Manson has his opinions and he is putting them down on paper. That you do not agree with them or do not like them does not mean that he is wrong or that the book is bad. Yes, what he says sometimes is rough and radical. But we got used to living in a bubble where even a single word or opinion can hurt us. There are some much harsher things happening all around us and we need to remember that. We need to fight for the inequalities to disappear, instead of being drawn to the new scandal between some celebrities on the tabloids.

For popular non-fiction, the book was well researched and when one opinion or another was given, there was a solid-base explanation behind it. The book was easy to read and had down to earth explanations of the philosophical teaching that

It wasn’t as much fun as The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck even though I hoped for it, but some chapters and passages reminded me of it, like How to Start a Cult. But I think to compare it to The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck is to be unfair to Everything is F*cked. The books are different. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck is an autobiography of sorts, Everything is F*cked is an essay on the current state of our society. The subjects explored in Everything is F*cked are broader but everything is related to the main theme of hope and human relationships.

This is a book that I recommend you to read if you have an open mind and you are not scared to hear someone to disagree with your opinions.

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