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Hande Z (Singapore)

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Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion
Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion
by David Zweig
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fly low, fly steady, 8 July 2014
This is not a book for egomaniacs. It is the opposite - it glorifies those who work hard and stay out of the limelight. It is about a breed of professionals like structural engineer Dennis Poon, a specialist in designing the structural strength of super-high buildings. Most people do not know him whereas they might know the architect. Another example is David Apel who creates fragrances for the big name fragrance houses.

The idea of this book is not just to contrast the two conflicting personality styles, but also to show which the author David Zweig, thinks is the more admirable. He believes that modern culture inclines towards self-promotion and almost everything we do must have a self-promotional angle to them; but this is what reduces the value and quality of what we do.

This is a book in praise of humility and conscientiousness - qualities of professionals.


Buddhaland Brooklyn
Buddhaland Brooklyn
by Richard C. Morais
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Learning to adapt to Western culture and falling in love with a woman, 5 July 2014
This review is from: Buddhaland Brooklyn (Paperback)
A young Japanese boy, Seido,was sent to a Buddhist temple to be trained as a priest. Neither he nor his older brother knew why he was chosen from among the four children in their family. When Seido was in the temple, his family perished in a fire. As a grown man and schooled in Buddhism, Seido was sent to build a temple in Brooklyn. Learning to adapt to Western culture and falling in love with a woman, Seido learnt the meaning of Buddhism in its fullest sense. He also understood a long forgotten event which shed light on the question why he and not his sibling was chosen for priesthood.

This book is at times humourous and amusing, but for the most part it is a tract on the difficult questions of life and the Buddhist way of dealing with them. It deals with the problems ignorance can bring, but knowledge is not necessarily a boon unless one knows how to handle it.


William Shakespeare's Star Wars
William Shakespeare's Star Wars
by Ian Doescher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Will the dew rust a light sabre?, 25 Jun 2014
The concept for this series (there's 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'The Jedi Doth return') is ingenious. This book is fun to read. I am giving it 3 stars and not 4 because the Shakespearean language of the author though admirable, does not match that of the Bard. It is an unfair comparison perhaps, but I thought that the reader should not expect too much. Here's an example of the text from Scene 8:

Han: Now dropping out of light speed's frantic rush
We enter swift unto the area
Where should there be great Alderaan in view.
But pray what madness meets the Falcon's flight?
Is this an ast'roid field I see before me?
The ship hath wrought a course direct and true,
Yet no Alderaan may here be found.
O errand vile, O portents of great ill!
What shall it mean, when planets are no more,
For those who make their wages by the stars?

Luke: What news good Han?

Han: - The ship's position hits
The mark, and yet no Alderaan there is.

Luke: I pray thee, marry, say: what canst thou mean?


Harry's Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save it
Harry's Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save it
by Harry Leslie Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stand up for Harry?, 25 Jun 2014
This is an easy book to review but not rate. I therefore took the mid point between 2 and 4 stars and gave it a 3-star rating. This is an immensely readable book and the reader may think that he can feel Harry's breath down his neck. Harry has a lot of gems for those in his generation or coming shortly after him. He has a way of describing life in England from the 1930's when he was a child - living in a 'doss house'.

However, the tune and tone of this book is utterly negative. Harry is 91 but he has chosen to gripe about it and blame the poverty of his family and all the poor in Britain through the ages on the giant corporations, government, and the spoilt youth of the present. His description of life may be dead accurate (the beauty of this book) but his conclusions and analysis may not be completely sound. Yet, his aged, defiant voice will strike a chord with many of us. When he has completed the book, the reader may very well think that Harry might be 91% right.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2014 8:41 AM BST


1001: Whiskies You Must Try Before You Die
1001: Whiskies You Must Try Before You Die
by Dominic Roskrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.40

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To go with 1001 nights, 22 Jun 2014
This book does not cover all the whiskies in the world but it seems like it has. It is a much bigger compilation than Ian Buxton's '101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die'. It is also slightly more up-to-date - this is a 2012 publication (Buxton's is 2010). Aside from that the information from both are informative and interesting. These books concentrate on the description of the whisky but have basic information about the distillery. Dominic Roskow's 1001Whiskies will make an excellent companion to Michael Jackson's 'Whisky: The Definitive World Guide' which focusses on the major distilleries of the world.


The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-afghanistan Frontier
The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-afghanistan Frontier
by Hassan Abbas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.09

5.0 out of 5 stars How the Frontier was lost, 18 Jun 2014
The Talibans, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, are names we read and hear in news media every day, but what do we really know about them other than the impression that they are Islamic terrorists? Hassan Abbas grew up and was educated in Peshawar. He spent some years as a senior police commander in the hot frontier of Pashtun territory before he turned to the academic life in Washington DC. His book provides a history of the Talibans; a history that connects Britain, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and the USA. He gave a detailed account of the Taliban's rise in the 1990's, its dispersion after the American 'war on terror' after September 11 in 2001, and how and why the Talibans are coming back.

This is an illuminating work that explains which tribe in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is fighting which - and why they are fighting. It explains the role and reception of Al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan history. He also explains with great clarity the cultural habits and attitudes of the tribal people in that region. Without an understanding of their history and culture it will be difficult to have any effective engagement with the main parties there and hope that peace can result.

The problem with understanding Pashtun culture and attitude is that they are full of nuances. Hassan explains these nuances with the insight and experience of having lived there among them. Do we even think that the Talibans do not watch Hollywood movies and how such a seemingly innocuous omission could have serious practical consequences? Hassan retells a story (that now, removed from time and space, seems comic): A Taliban raided a village home searching for their North-Western rivals, saw a poster of Sylvester Stallone in his 'Rambo' gear. He immediately ordered the occupant of the room to 'Tell your cousin that he must surrender his weapon'.

It may appear that even the CIA did not know enough about the Pashtuns and the Talibans (not the same) and that might have led to a great deal of wrong decisions being made leading to the American war in Afghanistan as well as decisions made in the war. Perhaps this book was published too late. Perhaps not. Readers hoping for a wider historical context might like to supplement their reading of this book with Peter Tomsen's 'The Wars of Afghanistan', published in 2011.


A Tale for the Time Being
A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Make time for this, 16 Jun 2014
Naoko was a 19-year-old who decided to write the story of her pathetic life before she ends it. She wrote in a diary under the cover of Marcel Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time'. She tells the sad story of her grand-uncle Haruki#1 who was a Japanese suicide bomber in the Second World War. She tells about her father's many attempts at suicide after he lost his job in Silicon Valley and had to move back to Tokyo, jobless and depressed. Naoko was raised in America and lived like an American. She could not fit into life in a Japanese school. She was subjected to severe bullying.

Her diary was washed up on the beach of an island in British Columbia. It was found by Ruth, a writer of Japanese-American descent. Ruth started reading Naoko's diary. She and her husband, Oliver, became enthralled by it. Ozeki weaved the thrill of a detective novel into the book and has the reader captivated by Ruth's efforts to find clues and trails that might lead her to Naoko who she thought might still be alive.

The wonder of this book is that it uses time, quantum physics, and philosophy to transport Ruth - and the reader - to a vantage point in which the meaning of life becomes a little clearer.


Why We Write
Why We Write
by Meredith Maran
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice appetiser, 15 Jun 2014
This review is from: Why We Write (Paperback)
This book is a structured account by 20 (American writers - Isabel Allende now lives in California) on the reasons they took to writing as a vocation. Some of the authors are well-known in Britain, but most are better known in America. The editor provided the basic person history of each author (such as his date of birth and best known books). At the end of each account, the author concerned provided some quick and personal tips intended for people who are thinking of writing as a career. Many gems can be found in the pages of this book, but many of the authors will probably impress a British reader as a little too egoistic and self-indulgent; and their advice a little pedantic (Don't write for the publisher; write for yourself).


Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity
Trying Not to Try: The Ancient Art of Effortlessness and the Surprising Power of Spontaneity
by Edward Slingerland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trying a trifle too hard, 15 Jun 2014
This book is probably longer than it needs to be. It is more like an advertisement for the different Chinese versions (from Confucianism to Taoism and Buddhism) of achieving a calm and relaxed mind in order to perform physical tasks more efficiently. The only unifying thread in the book is that a calm and relaxed mind is essential - which is not saying a lot that we do not already know. The problem with this book is that the author referred to anecdotes and fables to illustrate the importance of 'wu wei', which he translated as 'doing nothing'. Basic Taoist teaching adhere to the principle of 'achieving everything by doing nothing', but that principle is the bedrock of a certain philosophy of life, whereas the author here tried to incorporate that as part of a practical tip for efficient personal performance. A great deal of the different ancient philosophical perspectives seemed to have been lost in the writing of this book.


Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto
Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto
by Matt Kibbe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.42

3.0 out of 5 stars It hurts, 15 Jun 2014
This book will appeal to Americans who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement in the United States, but because that movement is a fractured one (in the sense that it has no uniform and unifying principles), not everyone who is a Tea Party person will agree with the book in its entirety. As an aphorism, 'Don't hurt people; and don't take their stuff' is admirable, and if that were all, the book is fine. However, the book tended to rail against big government and the governments of George Bush (junior) and Obama (not surprisingly).

Neutral English readers might prefer to read Edmund Fawcett's 'Liberalism', 2014 Princeton University Press for a more academic, historical account of the principles of liberalism and libertarian ideas.


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