Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 20: 5 Books

71. What is History? by Edward Hallett Carr

I was all set to begin today with Kon-Tiki (see below), but when I was walking to my regular Saturday morning therapy session with my new social worker Joanne, I found this book on the street. What an amazing collection of lectures by the author on the philosophical implications of the concept of "history" and "historians," as these terms are understood from a European/American perspective! I had already read the first 2/3 of it by the time I walked the 30 blocks from my home to my appointment!

I was actually blown away by this book; it is not often that a book that I find in recycling rocks me to my core by laying bare the workings of Western education and exposing a fundamental truth that knowledge is as much a product of those who "create" it and tell us that it is important as it is of the things or events that are supposedly important in the first place.

Wow -- this is REALLY deep stuff. On the surface, this book is an exploration of the notion that history as we know it, as it is studied in school and written about by scholars, actually represents an almost equal participation from both the events and historical figures themselves AND the historians and writers commenting and creating insights on those people and events. Something about my mood this morning when I read this book, though, made me draw a much deeper connection regarding all "knowledge" in this world -- or at least the kind that I have learned so far in my limited time on this planet.

72. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

As readers will remember from my earlier entry on the book Columbus Was Last, I have long been fascinated with explorations into who were the first people to "discover" the Americas. Four of Thor Hyerdahl's books have been on my shelf for several years now, and I am finally getting around to reading them in chronological order of publication date.

Kon-Tiki is a very famous book, published in 1950, detailing the author's testing of his hypothesis (now a proven theory) that the various Polynesian islands (Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, etc.) were originally populated by early residents of the west coast of South America (now Peru), sailing west across many miles of ocean on balsa wood rafts. What an adventure story!

Reading like a novel, this true story is well-researched and detailed enough for even the most scientifically-minded to sit up and take notice of Hyerdahl's postulates regarding the initial peopling of Polynesia. I am really looking forward to reading his follow-up book, Aku Aku, on the building of the famous Easter Island statues.

73. The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People by E. E. Evans Pritchard

Everyone should read a famous social anthropologyical monograph written during the height of British Imperialism. The Nuer are an indigenous people of Sudan in Africa, and Pritchard was sent by the British government to chronicle their inner workings, presumable so that the British government might better and more efficiently subjugate these people to British Imperial rule.

The arrogance of the white man can be astounding at times.

Taken in stride as a reflection of the age from whence it came, this is a well-written book by one of the "fathers" of modern social and cultural anthropology, my undergraduate major at Duke University, from which I graduated a million and a half years ago.

Especially in light of today's earlier book, What is History?, I couldn't help but think the entire time that I read this book, how much of the author's experience and research represents "the truth" of The Nuer (i.e. the way these people really see and understand themselves and the significances of their own social, political, religious, etc. institutions as would be discussed between educated native speakers of their language), and how much are simply guesses on the part of Pritchard -- or worse yet, misinterpretations based on language mistranslation issues or possibly even purposeful misdirection on the part of the Nuer, who may not have wanted a white outsider to really know about their lifestyle and its meanings?


74. The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems by Chuck Norris

Sometimes, I buy a book just for shits and giggles, and this particular book is an example of just such an impulse purchase.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Mr. Norris filled this book with some wonderfully insightful personal  and career stories and some very valuable life insights.

Carried throughout the book is an underlying tribute to the author's brother, who died as a soldier in Vietnam, and it is this source of motivation that informed much of the author's personal philosophical quest to find deeper meaning and ultimately happiness in martial arts, movies, life and love. I found this book VERY inspiring -- so much so that I will be keeping it and rereading certain dogeared pages going forward as I reconceive my own life and career over the coming months. Funny enough, I think that maybe Chuck Norris's insights into the deeper meaning of the human condition are just what I need at this moment in my own life.

In all seriousness.

This is a witty and well-written, inspiring self-help book

75. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a new winner for "Most Inspiring Get Rid of Your Junk / Clean Your Home and Life Book..." and it's name is Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui!

As my readers will see from all of the orange price tags in my cover photos of today's books, this afternoon provided a very profitable browsing session at The Strand Bookstore. I dogeared SOOO many pages in this book that I don't even know where to begin. THIS will actually be my bible for cleaning up my home and my life, starting next week, during my October focus on eliminating clutter from my apartment and my mind so that I can clarify and refocus my life and career going forward. Sometimes, we are very lucky to find a method to guide us through our moments of madness; this book represents just such a solution for me...

Focusing on the underlying symbology of most, if not all, clutter, this book REALLY resonated with my own personal battle to get rid of extra crap from my life. So much so this will most likely be the first book that I [re]read as soon as my 100 Book Challenge is finished!

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