Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Left Hand of Darkness

Book Review

I wanted and want to like this book. Ursula Le Guin is this famous female science fiction author, and oh so many people like and love her writing and... and... and, well, I just don't. I recall reading other books of hers a number of years, okay, fine, decades ago, as a kid, and I didn't like those books then, and I'm not a fan of The Left Hand of Darkness now. I think Susan or Claire or both really like this book, which made me want even more to like it. I didn't. I am not a Le Guin fan, it seems. Even now, I wish I recalled what the other books were, so that I don't read them again. They were either A Wrinkle In Time or the Earthsea Trilogy, because, hey, they are considered Le Guin's kids books and I was a kid when I read them. Maybe I read both. I don't know, I don't recall. I do recall not being a fan of the story I had read, and that's fine.

So, this book.

Lots of terms that the reader is supposed to pick up from context (or, let's be realistic, search for the term on the Intarwebs these days) began to annoy me. There's a level of explanation required to properly world-build, and, eh, Le Guin errored on the too vague side. With an entirely foreign Envoy, surely explanations could be easier.

And the required suspension of disbelief that any sufficiently advanced planet wouldn't capture and kill any being who landed on their planet from the Void just boggles the mind. Consider our history, and, say, the Inquisition or the witch hunts or the level of blind violence in the last century? No, no interplanetary human, single or otherwise, would be allowed to live, much less have the freedom in the book.

Upside, the plot moves quickly, and is interesting. If only the words hadn't gotten in the way.

So, if a Le Guin fan, this book is worth reading. If a classic science fiction fan (this is the book that put Le Guin on the science-fiction map), this book is worth reading. If you're neither, eh, go ahead and skip, read Wrinkle or Earthsea instead.

But the very use of the pronoun in my thoughts leads me continually to forget that the Karhider I am with is not a man, but a manwoman.
Page 94

Okay, why must an entity who is both a man and a woman in our classically defined gender roles be a manwoman? Why is she not a womanman? I'm more than a little annoyed that the male gender comes first, even from a woman author.

Here man has a crueler enemy even than himself.
Page 96

An enemy, in Karhide, is not a stranger, an invader. The stranger who comes unknown is a guest. Your enemy is your neighbor.
Page 97

“I didn’t expect to see you here, Lord Estraven.”

“The unexpected is what makes life possible,” he said.
Page 120

... small cups of a fierce liquor were served, lifewater they called it, as men often do, and they asked me questions.
Page 134

Yep. Alcohol. Totally life water. :eyeroll:

If you play against your own side you’ll lose the whole game. That’s what these fellows with no patriotism, only self-love, can’t see.
Page 144

To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof. Thus proof is a word not often used among the Handdarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or to belief: and they have broken the circle, and go free.
Page 151

To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
Page 151

Here, the government can check not only act but thought. Surely no men should have such power over others.
Page 152

I felt that the truck was going east, and couldn’t get rid of this impression even when it became plain that it was going west, farther and farther into Orgoreyn. One’s magnetic and directional subsenses are all wrong on other planets; when the intellect won’t or can’t compensate for that wrongness, the result is a profound bewilderment, a feeling that everything, literally, has come loose.
Page 168

It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give.
Page 170

Kindness there was and endurance, but in silence, always in silence.
Page 170

I was extremely ill after the last examination; the other, a middle-aged fellow, had some disorder or disease of the kidney, and was dying. As he could not die all at once, he was allowed to spend some time at it, on the sleeping-shelf.
Page 179

Imagine that. Someone dying, allowed to die.

I never had a gift but one, to know when the great wheel gives to a touch, to know and act. I had thought that foresight lost, last year in Erhenrang, and never to be regained. A great delight it was to feel that certainty again, to know that I could steer my fortune and the world’s chance like a bobsled down the steep, dangerous hour.
Page 190

Estraven asleep looked a little stupid, like everyone asleep: a round, strong face relaxed and remote, small drops of sweat on the upper lip and over the heavy eyebrows.
Page 201

I giggled at this one.

He lay in the tent, writing in a little notebook in his small, rapid, vertical-cursive Karhidish hand. He hadn’t been able to keep up his journal during the past month, and that annoyed him; he was pretty methodical about that journal. Its writing was, I think, both an obligation to and a link with his family, the Hearth of Estre.
Page 209

"You hate Orgoreyn, don’t you?”

“Very few Orgota know how to cook. Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession. . . . Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.”
Page 212

Ignorant, in the Handdara sense: to ignore the abstraction, to hold fast to the thing.
Page 212

“A man who doesn’t detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a thing as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it.”
Page 213

“I’m glad I have lived to see this,” he said. I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Page 220

“Fire and fear, good servants, bad lords.” He makes fear serve him. I would have let fear lead me around by the long way. Courage and reason are with him. What good seeking the safe course, on a journey such as this?
Page 228

Tormer’s Lay had been all day in my mind, and I said the words,

Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.

Two are one, life and death,
lying together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.

Page 233

“We are dualists too. Duality is an essential, isn’t it? So long as there is myself and the other.”

“I and Thou,” he said.

“Yes, it does, after all, go even wider than sex...”
Page 233

I certainly wasn’t happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can’t earn, and can’t keep, and often don’t even recognize at the time; I mean joy.
Page 242

Estraven meanwhile engaged in his customary fierce and silent struggle with sleep, as if he wrestled with an angel. Winning, he sat up, stared at me vaguely, shook his head, and woke.
Page 242

“Why did you come alone—why were you sent alone? Everything, still, will depend upon that ship coming. Why was it made so difficult for you, and for us?”

“It’s the Ekumen’s custom, and there are reasons for it. Though in fact I begin to wonder if I’ve ever understood the reasons. I thought it was for your sake that I came alone, so obviously alone, so vulnerable, that I could in myself post no threat, change no balance: not an invasion, but a mere messenger-boy.

"But there’s more to it than that.

"Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal and not only political: it is individual, it is personal, it is both more and less than political. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou. Not political, not pragmatic, but mystical.

:In a certain sense the Ekumen is not a body politic, but a body mystic. It considers beginnings to be extremely important. Beginnings, and means. Its doctrine is just the reverse of the doctrine that the end justifies the means. It proceeds, therefore, by subtle ways, and slow ones, and queer, risky ones; rather as evolution does, which is in certain senses its model...

"So I was sent alone, for your sake? Or for my own? I don’t know. Yes, it has made things difficult. But I might ask you as profitably why you’ve never seen fit to invent airborne vehicles? One small stolen airplane would have spared you and me a great deal of difficulty!”

“How would it ever occur to a sane man that he could fly?”
Page 259

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” I went on, “except acute chronic fear.”

“Fear’s very useful. Like darkness; like shadows.”
Page 267

“It’s queer that daylight’s not enough. We need the shadows, in order to walk.”
Page 267

On the blank leaf glued to the inner back cover I drew the double curve within the circle, and blacked the yin half of the symbol, then pushed it back to my companion. “Do you know that sign?”

He looked at it a long time with a strange look, but he said, “No.”

“It’s found on Earth, and on Hain-Davenant, and on Chiffewar. It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness... how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow.”
Page 267

We lay in the tent for three days while the blizzard yelled at us, a three-day-long, wordless, hateful yell from the unbreathing lungs. “It’ll drive me to screaming back,” I said to Estraven in mindspeech, and he, with the hesitant formality that marked his rapport: “No use. It will not listen.”
Page 268

His loyalty extended without disproportion to things, the patient, obstinate, reliable things that we use and get used to, the things we live by. He missed the sledge.
Page 269

Hunger can heighten perception, but not when combined with extreme fatigue;
Page 270

To those fishermen-villagers who live on the edge of the edge, on the extreme habitable limit of a barely habitable continent, honesty is as essential as food. They must play fair with one another; there’s not enough to cheat with.
Page 272

“Sometimes you must go against the wheel’s turn,”
Page 276

And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend’s voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?
Page 279

I did not know if I had done right to send it. I had come to accept such uncertainties with a quiet heart.
Page 280

I had not had in mind when I spoke the contemptibility of suicide to these people. It is not to them, as to us, an option. It is the abdication from option, the act of betrayal itself. To a Karhider reading our canons, the crime of Judas lies not in his betrayal of Christ but in the act that, sealing despair, denies the chance of forgiveness, change, life: his suicide.
Page 286

“Estraven would be a good man to pull with, on a crazy trek like that. He was tough as iron. And never lost his temper. I’m sorry he’s dead.”
Page 294

Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherf--king Sad

Book Review

I'm not convinced this book needs a review per-se. It's an itty-bitty book. I picked it up when I was at Powells picking up a book I had already purchased online (mmmmmmmmmm... used books, such a wonderful, wonderful thing). As I was wandering around the bookstore (I think I was in the literature section, looking for nicely bound Hemingways or Fitzgeralds), this one caught my eye. It was on a carousel, along with a number of other small books, clearly set up for an impulse purchase. So I impulsively looked.

And subsequently bought.

I figured at the time that I was purchasing it to signal to the publisher that I wanted books like this to exist. Tonight, however, I needed this book. Today was a f--king crappy day. The score is 5-0, with my score being the zero, and that's a good thing health-wise, but the 5 hurts and it hurts a lot.

If you are in the grip of a depression, or even "just" a depressive episode, or really really sad, this book can help. It reminds you that you can get through this. It recommends ways to get through this. It tells you to keep going, because there's beauty on the other side.

If you are not in the grip of depression, this book is a rah-rah-rah. It reads like a rah-rah-rah-you-can-do-it. And that's okay, this isn't the moment for you to read this book. See the previous paragraph to understand when could be the moment for you to read it.

The book is short, less than a half hour read, even if you read slowly. It's worth reading, however, if you are in the moment of need.

How To Be Bored

Book Review

I'm pretty sure I picked up this book during a moment of complete not boredom, but perhaps in a moment of known not doing. The title intrigued me, so I decided to try it.

The book is short, takes maybe two hours to read, but it isn't a fast read. The main message is, "Look, you're filling your life with busy-ness, and with that busy-ness comes anxiety because you aren't giving your brain enough time to process all the short events, enough time to relax. So, take time to relax, to be bored if you will. Here are some ways to do it."

What caught me off-guard was the different definition (than mine) of "bored." To me, bored is the tired feeling one has when one is unoccupied and uninterested in finding a stimulating activity. The book's definition is more the feeling of engagement one feels when in a state of relaxed concentration. Or maybe the nature of slowing down and being. In that state of being, you can still do activities, but you're not in my definition of bored, you're in that relaxed concentration state. In the slowing, you're taking time to let the brain engate with itself instead of being driven by the world.

The book is in three parts: the why of this book, the ways of being (book-defined) bored, and where being bored is important. The why is self-evident for anyone with any level of anxiety surrounding today's ALWAYS ON THE GO life. The ways include writing about the inner-self and reflecting, reading (yay!), going to see artwork and being with the art, not just rushing through to check off yet another box on the accomplishment list, and concentrated contemplation with activities such as painting, bird-watching, fishing. The where is also self-evident, pretty much everywhere in life, work, relationships.

The book has a list of another dozen or so source material and inspirational books to read, going into depth for the topics. I've read Flow, among that list, having been working in a bookstore when it was first published, and being fascinated by it even then.

That I exceeded the 10% limit of quotes from the book tells me that the book made a stronger impact than I realized it would when I read it. For this, I have to say, the book is worth reading.

Related: we are the first generation to banish boredom. This does not bode well for society.

The Song of Achilles

Book Review

Again, I don't know why this book was on my reading list, or what motivated me to put it in my library request queue, but I'm glad I did. It is a well written, hauntingly beautiful retelling of the Achilles story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

With this book, I made the mistake of waiting until the last possible moment to start reading it. Most books take me three days to find enough time among Life™ to finish a book, at most a week. This book read slowly, so it took me the full three days to read, when I expected it to take me a day (which is about 4 hours of actual reading time, tops).

When I started reading, however, I didn't want to go my usual pace. I slowed down, because I wanted this book to move slowly. I wanted to be in the beauty of story-telling, to allow the story to unravel at its pace not mine. I stopped many times to look up characters, discover their story, learn a little more about Greek mythology.

Once I slowed down (threw my reading schedule out the window, actually), I really enjoyed this book. I strongly recommend it.

A hundred servants work for twenty days beating out the racing track and clearing it of stones. My father is determined to have the finest games of his generation.
Page 2

Our ragged alliances prevailed only when no man was allowed to be too much more powerful than another.
Page 13

“Yet other boys will be envious that you have chosen such a one. What will you tell them?”

“I will tell them nothing.” The answer came with no hesitation, clear and crisp. “It is not for them to say what I will do.”
Page 37

I stopped watching for ridicule, the scorpion’s tail hidden in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not.
Page 44

I can smell him. The oils that he uses on his feet, pomegranate and sandalwood; the salt of clean sweat; the hyacinths we had walked through, their scent crushed against our ankles.
Page 63

Thetis sees many faults, some that are and some that are not.”
Page 80

The beginning of our studies, if it is possible to call them that. For Chiron liked to teach, not in set lessons, but in opportunities.
Page 82

“There is no law that gods must be fair, Achilles,” Chiron said. “And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone. Do you think?”
Page 84

“What will you answer?”

“I do not know,” Achilles said.

“That is an answer for now. It will not be good enough later,” Chiron said.
Page 90

Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.
Page 134

She did not know that I almost asked him, a hundred times, to be a little kinder to her. You do not have to humiliate her so thoroughly, I thought. But it was not kindness he lacked; it was interest. His gaze passed over her as if she were not there.
Page 140

“The sons of Troy are known for their skill in battle, and their deaths will lift your name to the stars. If you miss it, you will miss your chance at immortality. You will stay behind, unknown. You will grow old, and older in obscurity.”
Page 164

And here we have the motivation in meaning. All of life is fleeting. Very, very, very few people are remembered even mere decades after their deaths. Immortality in the form of a song, a story? It will still die.

“I do not think I could bear it,” he said, at last. His eyes were closed, as if against horrors. I knew he spoke not of his death, but of the nightmare Odysseus had spun, the loss of his brilliance, the withering of his grace. I had seen the joy he took in his own skill, the roaring vitality that was always just beneath the surface. Who was he if not miraculous and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?
Page 167

The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death.
Page 168

Even into death.

“It’s not true,” I said. The blood in my face fired my voice. It rang loudly down the beach. Odysseus raised an eyebrow.

“True is what men believe, and they believe this of you. But perhaps they are mistaken."
Page 175

I watched them marching, rank on cheerful rank. I saw them dreaming of the plunder they would bring home, and the triumph. There was no such dream for us.
Page 187

"You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”
Page 207

If there was a rebellion against his authority, now would be the time. The very thought of it seemed to anger him, and his voice grew rougher. This was a frequent fault of his: the more precarious his position, the more unlikable he became.
Page 219

Our world was one of blood, and the honor it won; only cowards did not fight. For a prince there was no choice. You warred and won, or warred and died.
Page 220

Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. “No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.”

“But what if he is your friend?” Achilles had asked him, feet kicked up on the wall of the rose-quartz cave. “Or your brother? Should you treat him the same as a stranger?”

“You ask a question that philosophers argue over,” Chiron had said. “He is worth more to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else’s friend and brother. So which life is more important?”
Page 299

Priam’s voice is gentle. “It is right to seek peace for the dead. You and I both know there is no peace for those who live after.”
Page 350

She wears a cape, and it is this that undoes her—that allows her to be pulled, limbs light and poised as a cat, from her horse.
Page 351

"No capes!"

The Salt Line

Book Review

Do not know why this made it onto my book reading list. Likely from some BookRiot post, if I had to guess. It dropped from the library, so I read it. And enjoyed it.

A large number of other book reviews (which I read when I was trying to figure out why I added the book to my reading list) commented that the ending was weak, which I don't agree with. The ending wasn't a large, hugely climatic, GOOD VERSUS EVIL ending, not at all. It was, honestly, what I would classify as a Life™ ending. Nothing huge, some parts good, some parts bad, all parts uncertain. I'm less interested these days in a nice, happy-ending, all-the-loose-ends-tied-up-with-a-bow type endings anyway. I was satisfied with the ending.

THAT all said, ugh, do I have a mid-book comment (with a slight spoiler, so ignore if you don't want that spoiler):

"Okay, so, you kidnap 10 people, kill one, then death-march the remaining 9, and are SURPRISED when one kills two of your own when escaping your captivity? Really? Really? #whowritesthiscrap?"

The writing / dialog along that part of the story was weird.

I enjoyed the book.

Edie, of course, was practically invisible among these people who saw their financial bounty as proof of their superior intellects and talents.
Page 13

Now her scalp was bristled with fine hairs, and she couldn’t stop running her hands across it, listening to the rasp against her dry palms.
Page 24

Love freshly shorn scalps!

He watched his mother and father carefully, listening to their desires and complaints, noting that so much of what seemed to aggrieve them in life was tied to money: how there was never enough of it to live as they wished, and how the culture of its use was abstract and unspoken, with rules that everyone was expected to follow without ever having been taught them.
Page 54

“It’s not right,” Mickey said. His face shined with tears. “You pay as much I did, you expect some things.”
Page 107

Why, instead of screwing around with the idea of virtues, hadn’t he been coming up with ways to let money do what it does best: create power? The key was to find the right vessel for that power. That was capitalism at work.
Page 109

What a pleasure, a luxury, to be carried to bed by someone you loved and trusted, someone with the physical power to move you gently and tenderly, to slide you between cool covers at the exact moment you slid back down into sleep.
Page 124

Even after you’ve heard Violet’s story, there’s a look in your eyes. I know it well. And all I can say to it is that what you want to hate about her—her ugliness and her meanness—you created. Yes, each of you. You’re complicit in the acts of evil that made her who she is. You’re complicit because you’ve let yourself be comforted by lies. You’re complicit because all of those comforts you have in-zone come at a price, and Violet is one of many of us who’ve paid the bill.
Page 177

Okay, this idea of original sin has always annoyed me. How can I be responsible for something when I wasn't even alive when it happened?

There's no f'ing way someone is complicit in these "acts of evil" if they didn't know, and had no way of knowing. You can't blame a person for ignorance, they don't know any better.

Willful ignorance, however, that's a different matter entirely. Blame all you want on those.

“Or maybe they’re driven by their ideals,” Edie said, thinking about June’s story. Thinking about Violet.

“That might be worse, honestly,” Wes said. “Ideals make people stupid. Believe me, I know.”
Page 186

But every so often, for weeks, months at a time, his dissatisfactions coalesced into an impenetrable fog, so that even his anger seemed pointless and small. These fogs had happened enough times that he recognized, from somewhere outside himself, the pattern. He could, for a while, tell himself: This will pass. This isn’t you. This is some stew of chemicals and hormones in your brain, translating stimulus into despair, and if you take these meds or do this exercise or spend this amount of time a day out in the sunshine, the recipe will change, and you’ll see clearly again. Wait for it. Just a little longer.
Page 214

“Far from it,” said Hakim. “What I’m asking of you is scarier. It would require you to live your life.”
Page 221

“I don’t think there’s any nobility in misery,” Hakim said. “There’s certainly no nobility in suicide. I was once like you. I saw the world and grieved. I didn’t see any reason for it. For existing. So much pain and so little point. Yet I had a life! This was a fact. It would one day end. This was also a fact. And I could end it whenever I wished. This was my reassurance. ‘I can always end it tomorrow,’ I told myself. And then I discovered something.”

"There was a large garden on the premises and helping with it gave me something to do. When I despaired, I weeded. I lost myself in the physical process, the repetition. I pulled and pulled, and one day I pulled myself out of my sadness.”
Page 222

Beth had been intrigued by his distance, he knew. More certain she wanted him because she was less certain she was wanted.
Page 227

Or the job she quit, because she thought she hated it, and she no longer needed it, only to discover that hate is relative—that when you have no money of your own, no outside force shaping your days, you might long for even some low-wage drudgery?
Page 235

The abortion wasn’t the great loss of her life, but it would probably always be the greatest mystery.
Page 235

Like many people who derive their sense of goodness from their religious affiliation rather than their actions, Teddy was able to soothe himself with the belief that this was part of God’s plan, and if the child were meant to survive, God would protect her.
Page 281

"Do you want kids?” “No,” Edie said. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

“Well, you’re young yet. You may change your mind.”

“Women your age always say that.”

Marta laughed.
Page 352

Wes felt the moment coming when he’d have to do the decent thing again, the thing he could live with, even if it meant not living.
Page 347

Edie wouldn’t miss Andy, Berto, Ken. But she could put her arms around each of them, feel their hearts thudding against her own—proof that they all lived, still. Was that the point of a hug? Two human hearts thudding together, testifying?
Page 375

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance

Book Review

Mom recommended this book to me after I finished A Man Called Ove. What I didn't understand immediately was why Mom kept recommending to me books where the spouse had recently died. Now, I'm pretty sure she's been recommending them to me because they are light, but they also show how there's more after the sorrow of that parting.

This book smacks of Defending Your Life (1991 movie starring Albert Brooks) with its telling of the life of Harriet Chance nee Nathan. The story-line bounces from current time, back to when she was a year old, and all the way through all the times she failed to choose herself during life. We hear of how again, and again, and again, Harriet's deferment to authority and others causes her to become smaller and smaller.

And you know what? It's is hard not to defer to authority. Some people can. Most people cannot.

The story is about redemption, how one can forgive, and how one can choose a different path, no matter when in life that choice is made. I found out this was the point of the story not through the story, but through the author's note at the end. And the study notes. Why do books include study notes at the end?

The book was cute, but I really couldn't get past the Defending Your Life ("NINE DAYS!") feel of it. I kept waiting for the trial at the end, or the movie screens, or an explanation about the Candidate and Chancellor stuff with Bernard. Didn't happen, seemed odd.

I don't recommend this book. If you're a fan of the author, sure. Otherwise, skip it.

Somebody to commiserate with. Somebody you can complain to. Somebody to listen to you without offering advice. How is it that you’ve so rarely managed to achieve this? Why is female fellowship forever so elusive to you? Are you different from other women?
Page 30

Sunny Acres promotes health and active living, but it nurtures dependence.
Page 32

Have you released your independence at long last? Have you finally stopped tracking the progress of that other incarnation of yourself, the one who didn’t bow to the expectations of society, the one who didn’t opt for the easy way out, the one who wasn’t going to have children until she was thirty? Or have you simply lowered your standards?
Page 53

Why does it always come to this between her and Caroline? As though they’re out of patience before they’ve even begun. It doesn’t seem to matter how firmly they resolve themselves to diplomacy or civil obligation, after the briefest of exchanges their relationship devolves into this prickly state of nervous exhaustion. They’re forever plagued by the same old pettiness, still stung by the same insults, still harboring the same old resentments.
Page 68

The fruits of self-pity were no less bitter at seventy-eight than they were at sixteen.
Page 68

And when I began to suggest we break off the association, new qualities emerged in my lover: Jealousy. Possessiveness. He became a tyrant with his opinions. He lowered my opinion of myself. And such was my guilt by then that I began to need this, too. It was as if by punishing myself, I could undo everything that came before. The less respect he paid me, the more I needed him to achieve balance. For here was the love I deserved, the love I had earned.
Page 104

You sometimes wish you could ask the other you for advice, or guidance, or clarity, or at the very least a little perspective on the life you’ve muddled so badly. If only that other you could take you by the hand and walk you back through the misbegotten paths of your life—the botched decisions; the cowardly retreats; the circumstances you might have controlled, avoided, or otherwise been spared—to the very beginning, where it all started going wrong. You sometimes wish the other you could tell your story.
Page 112

Be honest, Harriet: you don’t even know why you’re crying in the kitchen. You have zero emotional clarity at this moment. Your emotional self has no borders, no shape, no horizons. You can’t tell rage from sadness, anymore. You’re lost at sea emotionally.
Page 197

And lastly, there’s the truth, plain and shabby as a hobo’s trousers, that you believe yourself to be worthless, though you don’t fully know it yet, at least you haven’t formally acknowledged it.
Page 223

“What if it’s too late?” “There’s always that possibility. But don’t let it stop you from trying.
Page 232

It’s amazing the things we can talk ourselves into when we’re desperate for a result.
Page 276

If we’ve learned one thing digging up all these old bones, dusting them off, and holding them to the light, we’ve learned this: While the days unfold, one after the other, and the numbers all move in one direction, our lives are not linear, Harriet. We are the sum of moments and reflections, actions and decisions, triumphs, failures, and yearnings, all of it held together, inexplicably, miraculously, really, by memory and association.
Page 293

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Book Review

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is one of four novellas in Stephen King's Different Seasons. The movie The Shawshank Redemption is based on this novella, but to say "based" minimizes how closely the movie follows the book. Given the movie is one of my top five favorites, has one of the best movie lines ever in it, and was watched by me less than two weeks ago, when this book became available from the library, all my other books were pushed aside to make time for this one.

That's all nice, but I'm really not sure how to explain how powerful this book and the movie are. The differences in details are small enough that it doesn't matter which you consume, both are incredible and worth experiencing. I recommend both of them.

And that best movie line ever?

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

“Yes. I suppose it would. I understand, and you don’t need to worry.”

“I never worry,” I said. “In a place like this there’s no percentage in it.”
Page 24

In spite of the problems he was having, he was going on with his life. There are thousands who don’t or won’t or can’t, and plenty of them aren’t in prison, either.
Page 25

An alternative to staying simon-pure or bathing in the filth and the slime. It’s the alternative that grown-ups all over the world pick. You balance off your walk through the hog-wallow against what it gains you. You choose the lesser of two evils and try to keep your good intentions in front of you.
Page 56

I have told you that he had something that most of the other prisoners, myself included, seemed to lack. Call it a sense of equanimity, or a feeling of inner peace, maybe even a constant and unwavering faith that someday the long nightmare would end.
Page 59

He had a Bible quote for every occasion, did Mr. Sam Norton, and whenever you meet a man like that, my best advice to you would be to grin big and cover up your balls with both hands.
Page 60

Things come in three major degrees in the human experience, I think. There’s good, bad, and terrible. And as you go down into progressive darkness toward terrible, it gets harder and harder to make subdivisions.
Page 76

When you take away a man’s freedom and teach him to live in a cell, he seems to lose his ability to think in dimensions.
Page 97

Andy wasn’t that way, but I was. The idea of seeing the Pacific sounded good, but I was afraid that actually being there would scare me to death—the bigness of it.
Page 97

So what did he do, I ask you? He searched almost desperately for something to divert his restless mind. Oh, there are all sorts of ways to divert yourself, even in prison; it seems like the human mind is full of an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to diversion.
Page 111

After all, you can’t lose if you don’t bet.
Page 120

Andy was the part of me they could never lock up, the part of me that will rejoice when the gates finally open for me and I walk out in my cheap suit with my twenty dollars of mad-money in my pocket. That part of me will rejoice no matter how old and broken and scared the rest of me is. I guess it’s just that Andy had more of that part than me, and used it better.
Page 121

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.
Page 121

Wondering what I should do. But there’s really no question. It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Page 129

I find I am excited, so excited I can hardly hold the pencil in my trembling hand. I think it is the excitement that only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.
Page 130

A Man Called Ove

Book Review

When I had finished Beartown, Mom and I talked about the book, about how I found it difficult to read once The Conflict Event happened. Mom suggested that I read "A Man Called Ove" next, then, as the book was by the same author, Fredrik Backman, and it wasn't as heavy. I had a few other books lined up, but picked it up this week.

To quote Mom, "It's cute."

I enjoyed this book. It made me cry. I was honestly confused why my mom would suggest a book about a man whose wife had passed away and the grief surrounding that, knowing the sorrow and depression and stress I'm having now in my life, but was willing to trust her, because she is my mom, and the world is always going to be okay when your mom is holding you as you cry.

And yes, I cried a few times while reading the book. I wouldn't expect most people to cry when reading it, though. A few moments struck home, and so, yeah, I thought, sure, crying is fine right now, so I did.

A Man Called Ove (pronouced oooo-vay) has been made into a movie. I'll likely watch it, then complain the book was better. Just as Ove would have.

I'm rating this book as "Strongly Recommended" because it's more than worth reading, but it's light-hearted enough not to be necessarily strongly recommended, but rules are rules, and one shouldn't have half rankings, so strongly recommended it is.

Also drives an Audi, Ove has noticed. He might have known. Self-employed people and other idiots all drive Audis.
Page 10

I giggled at this, but only because my car is an Audi.

It was more an argument where the little disagreements had ended up so entangled that every new word was treacherously booby-trapped, and in the end it wasn’t possible to open one’s mouth at all without setting off at least four unexploded mines from earlier conflicts.
Page 81

I am sad that this is the way of several of my relationships.

But Sonja would not have been Sonja if she had let the darkness win.
Page 202

“We can busy ourselves with living or with dying, Ove. We have to move on.”
Page 202

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." -- Shawshank Redemption

Has never liked the feeling of losing control. He’s come to realize over the years that it’s this very feeling that normal folk like and strive for, but as far as Ove is concerned only a complete bloody airhead could find loss of control a state worth aiming for.
Page 215

She married him. And now he doesn’t quite know how to carry on without the tip of her nose in the pit between his throat and his shoulder.
Page 215

In the other direction, I don't quite know how to carry on without the smell of him.

Maybe their sorrow over children that never came should have brought the two men closer. But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.
Page 246


Maybe neither of them forgave themselves for not being able to give the women they loved more than anything what they wanted more than anything.
Page 246

Sometimes it is difficult to explain why some men suddenly do the things they do. Sometimes, of course, it’s because they know they’ll do them sooner or later anyway, and so they may as well just do them now. And sometimes it’s the pure opposite—because they realize they should have done them long ago. Ove has probably known all along what he has to do, but all people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like “if.”
Page 282

But we are always optimists when it comes to time; we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.
Page 287

It is difficult to admit that one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time.
Page 305, repeated on page 309

Something inside a man goes to pieces when he has to bury the only person who ever understood him. There is no time to heal that sort of wound.
Page 325

And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps.
Page 325

Love is a strange thing. It takes you by surprise.
Page 326


Book Review

I picked up the book from the library after reading the Book Riot article , "Why Do You Always Assign Books with Ghost Babies?". I had originally placed the short story books on hold, and checked out Beloved, but pushed the short stories out to "maybe someday" and started in on Beloved.

This is the first Toni Morrison book I have read.

It was a punch in the gut.

It was a punch in the gut in ways that I wasn't expecting. The dominant theme of slavery was the expected punch in the gut. Except my expectations weren't strong enough.

People can be horrible to each other, outright physically and more subtly mentally and emotionally. It is easy in the day-to-day flow of life not to understand the scale of these horrors, both culturally but also individually. That I understood the why of Sethe's actions after her 28th day of freedom was another punch, her story being fiction or not.

With most books, I like to highlight the quotes that are meaningful to me. I quickly realized that I might have to quote 40% of the book if I did it with this one. Which, without the story, seemed... wrong. So, I didn't except for a few that seemed good advice to me in my current state of anxiety.

The book is, of course worth reading. It won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It is an incredible book. It is a sad book. It is a punch in the gut book (and if it doesn't punch you in the gut, you're an asshat). I don't recommend reading it when depressed, however. Or when suffering a recent loss. Read it when you're balanced, or surrounded by classmates, or loved ones who will discuss the book with you. Or maybe watch the movie. I'll add it to my movies-to-watch list now.

Dollars and Sense

Book Review

Having read Predictably Irrational by Ariely, and being fascinated by just how much we are so bad at being "rational," I was excited to read this book, about being irrational with money. I was excited mostly because I expected that Ariely and Kreisler would both show how everyone is weird with money, and suggest ways to counteract our weirdness.

I was not disappointed.

This book is a fantastic explanation of human quirks around money, and a quick summary of ways to combat our quirks.

I recommend this book. For maximum effectiveness, when reading, don't skip to the end.

We decide how much to eat not simply as a function of how much food we actually consume, but by a comparison to its alternatives.
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Another place we see this kind of comparison is with quantity (so-called bulk) discounts.
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It seems that discounts are a potion for stupidity. They simply dumb down our decision-making process. When an item is “on sale,” we act more quickly and with even less thought than if the product costs the same but is marked at a regular price.
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Happiness too often seems to be less a reflection of our actual happiness and more a reflection of the ways in which we compare ourselves to others. In most cases, that comparison is neither healthy nor good.
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In some ways, the concept of regret is itself just another version of comparison. With regret, we compare ourselves—our lives, our careers, our wealth, our status—not to other people, but to alternative versions of ourselves.
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A curious finding about the way we categorize money is that people who feel guilty about how they got money will often donate part of it to charity. 2 Let that sink in: How we spend money depends upon how we feel about the money.
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We’re easily led astray by emotions, selfishness, impulse, lack of planning, short-term thinking, self-deception, outside pressure, self-justification, confusion, and greed. We might consider those the Ten Financial Sins. Not Deadly Sins, but certainly not good.
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We could “virtually” end the trip before we get into the unpleasant stuff by, for instance, celebrating the end of the trip the night before we check out.
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Another solution would be to prolong the trip. After we get home and deal with reentry into everyday routine, we can make time to talk over memories and experiences, look at the pictures, and write some notes, all while the journey is fresh in our minds. Spending time savoring the vacation brings the experience into our regular lives and this, too, can give us a softer ending.
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The pain of paying is, as it sounds, the idea that we experience some version of mental pain when we pay for things.
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The term “the pain of paying” was based on the feeling of displeasure and distress caused by spending, but more recently, studies using neuroimaging and MRIs have showed that paying indeed stimulates the same brain regions that are involved in processing physical pain.
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When we experience any pain, our first instinct is to try to get rid of it. We want to ease our pain, to control it. When we see pain coming, we flinch, we duck, we avoid it.
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Avoiding pain is a powerful motivator and a sly enemy: It causes us to take our eyes off value. We make faulty decisions because we’re focused on the pain we experience in the process of buying, rather than the value of the purchase itself.
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The point is, we can increase or decrease the pain of paying that we feel at any time, for any transaction. But we should do so deliberately, based upon how much we want to enjoy or limit our spending, rather than just letting it increase or decrease without our knowledge or control.
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When we fill up our car with gas, we watch the dollars spin by on the gas pump. Aware of our spending, we feel the pain of paying and perhaps contemplate buying a more efficient vehicle or finding a carpool group. But at home, the energy meter is usually outside or hidden. We rarely look at it. Moreover, the bill for the usage in any one day or week doesn’t come for a month or more. And then it is often deducted directly from our checking account. Thus it’s impossible to tell what we’re spending at any one moment. So we are not as aware of our spending and we do not feel the associated pain.
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In some cases, it feels almost free right now. We’re not paying until the great, unknowable, optimistic future, when we may be a lottery winner or a movie star or inventor of the solar-powered jetpack.
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When we pay for a restaurant meal with a credit card, do we really feel like we’re paying right now? Not really. We’re just signing our name; the payment will be sometime in the future. Similarly, when the bill comes later, do we really feel like we’re paying? Not really. At that point, we feel like we already paid at the restaurant. Not only do credit card companies employ the illusion of time shifting to alleviate the pain of paying, but they do it twice—once by making it feel like we are going to pay later and once by making us feel like we already paid. This way they enable us to enjoy ourselves, and spend our money, more freely.
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Credit cards also make us value purchases differently. They seduce us into thinking about the positive aspects of a purchase, in contrast to cash, which makes us also consider the downsides of the purchase and the downside of parting with our cash.
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Free is a strange price, and yes, it is a price. When something is free, we tend not to apply a cost-benefit analysis to it. That is, we choose something free over something that’s not, and that may not always be the best choice.
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Another effect of free is that once something initially costs us nothing, it becomes very difficult to start paying for it later.
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A dollar clearly is not a lot in the scheme of things, particularly for something that enriches our life.
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Taking the pain of paying into account, the recommended method for splitting the bill with friends is credit card roulette. When the server drops off the check at the end of a meal, every one puts down their credit card. The server picks one, and that one person pays the entire bill.
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ANCHORING occurs when we are drawn to a conclusion by something that should not have any relevance to our decision. It is when we let irrelevant information pollute the decision-making process.
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We don’t ever get to doubt decisions that we make unconsciously, that we don’t pay attention to, that we’ve forgotten, or those we’ve been using thoughtlessly forever as a foundation for our lives.
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We stand on the shoulders of giants . . . even if those giants are the giant mistakes we ourselves have made.
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Investing in anything causes us to increase our sense of ownership, and ownership causes us to value things in ways that have little to do with actual value.
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They found that people who held a coffee mug in their hands for more than thirty seconds were willing to pay more to buy that mug than were those who held it for fewer than ten seconds or not at all.
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We feel the pain of losses more strongly than we do the same magnitude of pleasure.
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If we’re very sensitive to small fluctuations over time, one solution is to simply make a long-term decision and stick to it.
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Sunk costs are costs that are permanently in the loss column of our life-ledger. They are ours, we can never get rid of them, we own them. We don’t just see the dollar amount, we see all the choices and efforts and hopes and dreams that went along with those dollars. They become weightier. And since we overvalue these sunk costs, we’re less willing to give them up and we are more likely to dig ourselves deeper into a hole.
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too. A friend of Dan’s was conflicted about whether to get divorced. His life was consumed by this decision. At some point, Dan asked him a simple question: “Imagine that right now you were not married to this person, and you knew about her everything you now know, but you’ve just been friends for the last ten years. Would you now propose to her?”
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One way to overcome the traps of ownership is to try to separate ourselves psychologically from the things that we own, in order to more accurately assess their value.
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When the sender offers less than a third of the total amount, the receiver most often rejects the offer and they both go home with nothing. People actually refuse free money in order to punish someone—someone they don’t know and probably won’t deal with ever again—just for making an unfair offer.
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Ultimately the problem is that we have a hard time paying for knowledge and acquired skills. It’s hard for us to account for the years spent learning and honing those skills and factor them into what we’re willing to pay. All we see is that we’re paying a lot for a task that didn’t seem too difficult.
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This is what expectations do. Expectations add color to the black-and-white images we hold of our future selves.
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Once again, past performance is simply no guarantee of future success. But go tell this to our expectations. Just because something went well in the past, that doesn’t mean it will in the future.
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When we pay before we consume something, it reduces the pain we feel at the time of consumption.
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Hopefully the rest of us are not jerks, but we are like Vinny sometimes, when we, in our failure to recognize our behavior, rely upon our expectations to evaluate our choices and determine our spending.
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Today our reality is clearly defined, with details, emotions, and so on. In the future, it is not. So, in the future we can be wonderful people. We will exercise, diet, and take our medication. We will wake early, save for retirement, and never text and drive. Imagine how enriched the world would be if everyone wrote the great American novels we’ve said we’ll start “any day now.” The problem, of course, is that
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That’s what happens when we add emotions to the decision-making mix: Now tempts us, but the future doesn’t.
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Much of what makes us so emotionally detached from our future selves is the fact that our future selves are so poorly defined. We often imagine our future selves to be entirely different people than our present selves.
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That’s because self-control requires not just a recognition and understanding of the temptations of now, but also the willpower to avoid them. And willpower, by definition, requires effort—the effort to resist temptation, to refuse our instincts, to turn down a free marshmallow or fancy bike gear or anything that has any emotional resonance.
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That’s because another important way we value things—a way unrelated to actual value—is by assigning meaning to a price. When we can’t evaluate something directly, as is often the case, we associate price with value.
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In Predictably Irrational, Dan showed that we are conditioned to see high price as a stand-in for effectiveness.
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While few people consider maximizing frequent-flyer miles to be the key to a life worth living, it’s tempting to maximize anything that’s easily measurable.
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Money works the same way. It isn’t the final goal in life, it’s a means to an end. But because money is much more tangible than happiness, well-being, and purpose, we tend to focus our decision-making on money instead of on our ultimate, more meaningful goals.
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doing. Well, they didn’t understand what he was doing, but they were not dismissive. They were trying to understand. They were using the money question as a proxy in an attempt to learn. Seeking monetary terms was a bridge for them to reach out, to translate the intangible, incomprehensible steps Jeff was taking into a language they could understand: money.
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When it comes to making financial decisions, what should matter are opportunity costs, the true benefit a purchase provides, and the real pleasure we receive from it compared to other ways we could spend our money.
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What should not matter in a perfectly rational world? 

Sale prices or “savings,” or how much we’re spending at the same time on something else (relativity) 
The classification of our money, where it came from, and how we feel about it (mental accounting) 
The ease of payment (pain of paying) 
The first price we see or previous prices we’ve paid for a purchase (anchoring) 
Our sense of ownership (endowment effect and loss aversion) 
Whether someone appears to have worked hard (fairness and effort)
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What can matter:

 Whether we give in to the temptations of the present (self-control) 
The ease of comparing the price of a product, experience, or widget (overemphasizing money)
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Language, rituals, and expectations are in a different group from the other factors because they can change the experience.
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Think about transactions in terms of opportunity costs by considering more explicitly what we’re sacrificing for what we’re getting.
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When we see a sale, we shouldn’t consider what the price used to be or how much we’re saving. Rather, we should consider what we’re actually going to spend.
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We should try not to think in percentages. When the data is presented to us in percentages (for example, 1 percent of assets under management), we should do the extra work and figure out how much money is really on the line.
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Money is fungible. Every dollar is the same. It doesn’t matter where money comes from—our job, an inheritance, a lottery ticket, a bank robbery, or our gig moonlighting as the bassist in a jazz quartet (dare to dream)—the money is all ours and it belongs, in fact, to the general “our money” account.
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... remember that using mental accounting to categorize our spending can be a useful budgeting tool for those of us who can’t do constant, instantaneous opportunity cost calculations.
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Maintaining some pain of paying helps us at least consider the value of our options and the opportunity costs that lie within. The pain helps us pause before purchasing and consider whether or not we really should spend our money then and there—it helps us consider opportunity
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This is why the best solution for the pain of paying may be as simple as “Don’t use credit cards.”
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When it comes to spending, trusting our past decisions contributes to the problems of anchoring, herding, and arbitrary coherence. So we should question seemingly “random” numbers, prominently placed MSRPs, and insanely high-priced products.
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... question the prices we set ourselves. We should avoid doing something all the time, like getting a $ 4 latte, just because we’ve always done it before. From time to time, let’s stop and question our long-term habits.
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We overvalue what we own and what we might lose
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We should watch out for trial offers and promotions. Marketers know that once we own something, we will value it more and have a harder time giving it up.
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Sunk costs cannot be recovered. If an amount is spent, it’s spent. The past is past. When making decisions, consider only where we are now and where we will be in the future.
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The world isn’t fair. Sorry. Let’s not get caught up in whether something is priced fairly; instead, consider what it’s worth to us. We
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Let’s also recognize that there is value in knowledge and experience.
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Craftspeople have perfected the art of making what they do look effortless, but it’s not. From Picasso to parenting, sometimes the most difficult jobs look easier than they really are.
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But let’s be careful not to fall for false effort. We ought to watch out for too much transparency.
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If the description of something, or the process of consuming something, is long-winded and overblown, we’re probably paying for that description and process, even if it doesn’t add any real value.
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Watch out for irrelevant effort heuristics:
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remember that language and rituals can change the quality of our experiences, so we should embrace them to enhance experiences if we so choose.
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Expectations give us reason to believe that something will be good—or bad, or delicious, or gross—and they change our perception and experience without altering the true underlying nature of the thing itself. We should be aware of the source of expectations—whether it’s the pleasure of dreams and aspirations or the irrelevant allure of brand names, biases, and presentation.
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As with language and ritual, we—Dan and Jeff—want to acknowledge, again, that expectations actually can alter our experiences. We can use such expectations to our advantage or they can be used by others to take advantage of us.
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We don’t want to be manipulated unwillingly or unconsciously by someone else, but if we choose to be manipulated or design a system to do so ourselves, that’s okay.
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We overemphasize money Prices are just one of the many attributes that signal the value of things.
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Consider using other criteria, even when they’re hard to measure.
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A price is just a number, and while it can be a powerful part of a decision, it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, mean everything.
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When we don’t have any specific idea about an item’s value, we should do some research.
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Every time we face a situation where we know less than others and that gap can be used against us—which is the case in much of life and for people of all persuasions—we stand to gain a whole lot from studying up even a little bit. 1
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Use simple tools to help us imagine our future self more vividly, specifically, and relatably. 2 It can be as simple as having an imaginary conversation with an older “us.” Or we can write a letter to an elderly version of ourselves. We can also simply think about what our specific needs, desires, greatest joys, and toughest regrets will be when we’re sixty-five, seventy, ninety-five, one hundred.
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We can start with self-conversations, but we should also put in place other systems that help us become emotionally invested in our older selves. The more we can make the future defined, vivid, and detailed, the more relatable it becomes, and the more we’ll care, connect, and act in our future selves’ interests, too.
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A Ulysses contract is any arrangement by which we create barriers against future temptation. We give ourselves no choice; we eliminate free will.
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Common financial Ulysses contracts include things like preset limits on our credit cards or only using prepaid debit cards or even canceling all of those cards and only using cash.
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Another way to combat self-control problems is through REWARD SUBSTITUTION.
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What if we tried to bypass our inability to be motivated by future reward altogether and replaced it with another kind of present reward?
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The gold coin made the act of saving salient by changing what people were thinking about as they were going about their day.
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We should react most strongly to the method that maximizes our money—a bonus for saving, which is free money—but we don’t. We are more influenced by something that shapes our memory, attention, and thinking, such as the coin.
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There are several ways to use this checking balance rule to our advantage, to use it to trick ourselves into saving. For example, we can move a little bit of money out of our checking and into a savings account. That way, our checking account will be artificially too low and it will get us to think that we’re poorer than we really are.
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from ourselves. Yes, if we stop to consider it, we know we’re hiding it and where. But we can take advantage of our cognitive laziness and the fact that we don’t regularly think about how much money is in our other accounts—and we think about it even less if it’s automatic deposit and we don’t move the money ourselves every time. So, tricking ourselves is an easy and useful strategy.
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We react differently to “Oh, this coffee is $ 4 a day” than to “Oh, this coffee is $ 1,460 per year.”
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Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Book Review

I so wanted to like this book. I so wanted this book to be magical. I so wanted this book to transform me. Alas.

GIrls Made of Snow and Glass is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale. It is cleverly done, with all the characters in place, but with many dimensions to and insights of the characters.

And that's where the story lost me. The story has many words dedicated to the internal beliefs, the internal turmoil, the internal confusion of the two main characters and their limiting beliefs that I read probably three times my already fast clip just to get through yet another sob story about how one can't be loved and the other doesn't want to be her dead mother. We see the agony of the inner turmoil through the actions of the secondary characters, the fears of a father who has lost his wife, the greed of a powerful man who has lost his health, the desire for home and family of a young woman who lost both too young, the yearning to understand of a construct thrust into life and allowed the freedom to grow. Not the two main characters though, we're forced to endure every little "I can't be loved," "My father is cruel, but I can't break free of him," "My father is loving, but I need to breathe," "He's perfect, perfect eyes, perfect teeth, perfect hair." No wait, that last one was the crap Twilight series.

Much of the growth of the characters happens suddenly, just at the right time needed to yield a happy ending. I read too many happy endings. I'm glad for this one, yay happy ending when I need something uplifting, though I'm more likely to move to a technical book next. This one was too much angst. It's a fan rating.

They loved her mother, and Lynet looked like her mother, so they thought that they loved her, too.
Page 6

“You’ve left me behind,” Mina said softly after Lynet had lapsed into silent thought for too long. “Where did you go?”
Page 8

Lynet kept her head down. It was easier to talk about it when she wasn’t looking at anyone else—or at herself.
Page 9

But that’s what I am, she thought. That’s what I’ll always be.
Page 34

“There’s nothing you can do about it, nothing you can change, so what’s the point in knowing the truth? Why would I tell you, except to hurt you?”
Page 71

People aren’t rational when it comes to affairs of the heart.
Page 102

“Because I love the winter, too. The world here is frozen, and so it never changes, and so it is always what I expect it to be. There’s a comfort in that.”
Page 125

How can I make him happy again? she asked herself, but the reply was merciless: He doesn’t want to be happy.
Page 126

“I wish I knew how to make you happy without forgetting who I am,” she said, choking on the words. “But … I still love you, and … and I wanted to say good-bye.”
Page 161

It was only the dead mothers who were perfect—the living ones were messy and unpredictable.
Page 334

Who might she have become if her mother had never left, or if her father had been a loving man?
Page 364

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Book Review

This book wasn't originally on my loose, more-than-a-little-disorganized-not-really-a-true-list, to-read list. I have a number of books that I'm actively looking forward to reading, and while I lurve me a Heinlein, I'm more likely to read a new book these days than one I've already read.

That said, after Rob read Artemis, he started in on The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and suggested I read the Heinlein lunar revolution book before reading Artemis, there being some similarities (I haven't read his review of Artemis yet). Easy enough to do. So I did.

And remembered why I love Heinlein so much. Yes, he has opinions I find offensive. Yes, he has ideas about humans that fundamentally could absolutely never work. But, yes, he has a way with words, a way that draws you in and makes you wish that people were more than our natures, that we could be his idealized version of ourselves.

I love the idea of people being rational. We are not.

I love the idea of a small government that respects the rights of its people. Its people are fragile, irrational beings, capable of incredible cruelty to each other. One cannot respect all the rights of a person when said person cannot respect the rights of another; cannot be rational when irrational acts creates a "might makes right" belief; cannot be fair when a victim cannot speak up or out for fear of retaliation, banishment, exile, or death.

His ideas are lovely on paper, and impossible in life.

The story, though, wheeeeeee, what a ride. Heinlein totally missed out on the fiction part of the future, with everyone communicating over hardwired telephone lines. The communicator doesn't exist yet, even though the Internet was predicted in the early 1900s. Which is fine, the story works, and would work with current technology with only a few other adjustments. A wifi connection is not going to work through a hundred kilometers of lunar rock, so there would still be hardwire connections of a sort.

Still, I enjoyed this book the second (third?) time through. Worth reading if you're a Heinlein fan, or want insights into how a revolution c/should be done.

Remember Mike was designed, even before augmented, to answer questions tentatively on insufficient data like you do; that's "high optional" and "multi-evaluating" part of name. So Mike started with "free will" and acquired more as he was added to and as he learned - and don't ask me to define "free will."
Location 18

By ship, of course - and, since a ship is mass-rated almost to a gram, that meant a ship's officer had to be bribed.

Some were bribed, they say. But were no escapes; man who takes bribe doesn't necessarily stay bribed.
Location 227

Tourists often remark on how polite everybody is in Luna - with unstated comment that ex-prison shouldn't be so civilized. Having been Earthside and seen what they put up with, I know what they mean. But useless to tell them we are what we are because bad actors don't live long - in Luna.
Location 257

Girls are interesting, Mike; they can reach conclusions with even less data than you can.
Location 1098

A man can face known danger. But the unknown frightens him.
Location 1349

"The trouble with conspiracies is that they rot internally. When the number is as high as four, chances are even that one is a spy."
Location 1372

Revolution is a science only a few are competent to practice.
Location 1379

It depends on correct organization and, above all, on communications. Then, at the proper moment in history, they strike. Correctly organized and properly timed it is a bloodless coup. Done clumsily or prematurely and the result is civil war, mob violence, purges, terror.
Location 1379

As Prof says, a society adapts to fact, or doesn't survive.
Location 2248

Easier to get people to hate than to get them to love.
Location 2254

Mike listened at all times in workshop and in Wyoh's room; if he heard my voice or hers say "Mike," he answered, but not to other voices.
Location 2345

Here, Heinlein predicts Siri.

Nothing frustrates a man so much as not letting him get in his say.
Location 2565

"Oh, 'tanstaafl.' Means ~There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.' And isn't," I added, pointing to a FREE LUNCH sign across room, "or these drinks would cost half as much. Was reminding her that anything free costs twice as much in long run or turns out worthless."
Location 3179

Where do you start explaining when a man's words show there isn't anything he understands about subject, instead is loaded with preconceptions that don't fit facts and doesn't even know he has?
Location 3196

Here we are, two million males, less than one million females. A physical fact, basic as rock or vacuum. Then add idea of tanstaafl. When thing is scarce, price goes up. Women are scarce; aren't enough to go around - that makes them most valuable thing in Luna, more precious than ice or air, as men without women don't care whether they stay alive or not.
Location 3214

Mike drew parallels from XVIIIth century, when Britain's American colonies broke away, and from XXth, when many colonies became independent of several empires, and pointed out that in no case had a colony broken loose by brute force. No, in every case imperial state was busy elsewhere, had grown weary and given up without using full strength.
Location 3295

We had Mort in a twitter; he was yelling for help.
Location 3450

In a twitter. I giggled.

Women are amazing creatures - sweet, soft, gentle, and far more savage than we are.
Location 3631

But was best we had, so we organized First and Second Volunteer Defense Gunners of Free Luna - two regiments so that First could snub lowly Second and Second could be Jealous of First. First got older men. Second got young and eager.
Location 3901

Thing that got me was not her list of things she hated, since she was obviously crazy as a Cyborg, but fact that always somebody agreed with her prohibitions. Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws - always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good" - not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.
Location 3967

This particular quote changed my attempts at classic Stoicism a bit. When I'm angry, I've been asking myself, "How have I been harmed?" Usually, the anger is the result of an action I don't like done by someone else, but I'm not actually harmed. This realization helps me let go.

"I almost needn't have bothered; more than six people cannot agree on anything, three is better - and one is perfect for a job that one can do. This is why parliamentary bodies all through history, when they accomplished anything, owed it to a few strong men who dominated the rest."
Location 3981

"Why not admit that any piece of writing was imperfect? If thin declaration was in general what they wanted, why not postpone perfection for another day and pass this as it stands?"
Location 4060

All drug had done for me at catapulting had been to swap a minute and a half of misery and two days of boredom for a century of terrible dreams—and besides, if those last minutes were going to be my very last, I decided to experience them. Bad as they would be, they were my very own and I would not give them up.
Location 4321

The only thing we truly have is ourselves.

Is mixed-up place another way; they care about skin color - by making point of how they don't care. First trip I was always too light or too dark, and somehow blamed either way, or was always being expected to take stand on things I have no opinions on.
Location 4980

I saw Yankees play and I visited Salem. Should have kept my illusions. Baseball is better over video, you can really see it and aren't pushed in by two hundred thousand other people. Besides, somebody should have shot that outfield.
Location 4987

I laughed at this.

"A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers... and its greatest strength is a 'free press' when 'free' is defined as 'responsible' and the managers define what is 'irresponsible.'"
Location 5048

This planet isn't crowded; it is just mismanaged... and the unkindest thing you can do for a hungry man is to give him food. 'Give.' Read Malthus. It is never safe to laugh at Dr. Malthus; he always has the last laugh. A depressing man, I'm glad he's dead. But don't read him until this is over; too many facts hamper a diplomat, especially an honest one."

"I'm not especially honest."

"But you have no talent for dishonesty, so your refuge must be ignorance and stubbornness. You have the latter; try to preserve the former."
Location 5063

"Comrade Members, like fire and fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom - if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant."
Location 5895

"But if representative government turns out to be your intention there still may be ways to achieve it better than the territorial district. For example you each represent about ten thousand human beings, perhaps seven thousand of voting age - and some of you were elected by slim majorities. Suppose instead of election a man were qualified for office by petition signed by four thousand citizens. He would then represent those four thousand affirmatively, with no disgruntled minority, for what would have been a minority in a territorial constituency would all be free to start other petitions or join in them. All would then be represented by men of their choice. Or a man with eight thousand supporters might have two votes in this body. Difficulties, objections, practical points to be worked out - many of them! But you could work them out... and thereby avoid the chronic sickness of representative government, the disgruntled minority which feels - correctly! - that it has been disenfranchised.
Location 5918

"But, whatever you do, do not let the past be a straitjacket!"
Location 5920

"I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent - the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority... while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?
Location 5921

Voluntary contributions just as churches support themselves... government-sponsored lotteries to which no one need subscribe... or perhaps you Congressmen should dig down into your own pouches and pay for whatever is needed; that would be one way to keep government down in size to its indispensable functions whatever they may be. If indeed there are any. I would be satisfied to have the Golden Rule be the only law; I see no need for any other, nor for any method of enforcing it. But if you really believe that your neighbors must have laws for their own good, why shouldn't you pay for it? Comrades, I beg you - do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is so worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
Location 5939

The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys.
Location 5950

It may not be possible to do away with government - sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive—and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?"
Location 5951

"Manuel, when faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand, then look at it again."
Location 7125

Seems to be a deep instinct in human beings for making everything compulsory that isn't forbidden.
Location 7402


Book Review

When I started reading this book, I became very excited at its potential to teach me about the passions for hockey that The Art of Fielding taught me about baseball. The beginning of the book was about the passion for the sport, how it can overwhelm you, how great players are obsessive and can never really leave. The book whispers about strength and weakness of the athletes, about coaches and how their decisions can make or break a player, about how a team is more than the sum of its players.

While the book is heavy-handedly, overwhelmingly full of quotable parts, beautiful commentaries about human nature and becoming a better person, I was all-in, enthusiastically looking forward to recommending this book to everyone.

And then the act of violence that is the narrative conflict of the book happens.

Suddenly, the book becomes difficult to read. I didn't read it more slowly, I did read it less enthusiastically. And that's fine. The book isn't REALLY about hockey, it is about human nature. It is about who we believe, about being a better person, about becoming more than we were by our actions.

It's a good book, worth reading.

“Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.”
Page 3

He was the one who saw the makings of a brilliant coach when everyone else saw a failed player.
Page 33

There are two things that are particularly good at reminding us how old we are: children and sports.
Page 37

We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likeable people. They’re almost always obsessive and selfish and inconsiderate. That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.
Page 43

Their home is white and precise, an advertisement for right angles. When he’s sure no one’s looking, Benji silently nudges the shoe-rack one inch out of line and touches a couple of the photos on the wall so that they’re hanging ever so slightly crooked,
Page 44

One of the hardest things about getting old is admitting mistakes that it’s too late to put right. The worst thing about having power over other people’s lives is that you sometimes get things wrong.
Page 54

Hockey is a simple sport: when your desire to win is stronger than your fear of losing, you have a chance.
Page 56

All adults have days when we feel completely drained. When we no longer know quite what we spend so much time fighting for, when reality and everyday worries overwhelm us and we wonder how much longer we’re going to be able to carry on. The wonderful thing is that we can all live through far more days like that without breaking than we think. The terrible thing is that we never know exactly how many.
Page 59

You never stop being scared of falling from the top, because when you close your eyes you can still feel the pain from each and every step of the way up.
Page 60

Not a second has passed since she had children without her feeling like a bad mother. For everything. For not understanding, for being impatient, for not knowing everything, not making better packed lunches, for still wanting more out of life than just being a mother.
Page 63

Not that any of this feels the slightest bit better as a result. All he knows is that he keeps disappointing people. Always.
Page 65

“Culture is as much about what we encourage as what we permit.”
Page 66

What was it she said to him? “Have you ever considered not feeling so sorry for yourself?”
Page 67

Her colleague is single to the extreme, whereas Kira is fanatically monogamous. The lone she-wolf and the mother hen, doomed to envy each other.
Page 74

This evening he’ll hold one of his last training sessions with the A-team, and when the season is over he’ll go home and — deep down — will wish what we all wish whenever we leave something: that it’s going to collapse. That nothing will work without us. That we’re indispensible. But nothing will happen, the rink will remain standing, the club will live on.
Page 94

That tendency exists in all sports: parents always think their own expertise increases automatically as their child gets better at something. As if the reverse weren’t actually the case.
Page 132

People sometimes say that sorrow is mental but longing is physical. One is a wound, the other an amputated limb, a withered petal compared to a snapped stem. Anything that grows closely enough to what it loves will eventually share the same roots.
Page 138

“For me, culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit.” David asked what he meant by that, and Sune replied: “That most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”
Page 210

If Peter has learned one thing about human nature during all his years in hockey, it’s that almost everyone regards themselves as a good team player, but that very few indeed understand what that really means. It’s often said that human beings are pack animals, and that thought is so deeply embedded that hardly anyone is prepared to admit that many of us are actually really rubbish at being in groups. That we can’t cooperate, that we’re selfish, or, worst of all, that we’re the sort of people other people just don’t like. So we keep repeating: “I’m a good team player.” Until we believe it ourselves, without actually being prepared to pay the price.
Page 214

She never told him how much that hurt her.
Page 231

No social scientist nor any member of a sports team really knows what makes them who they are, the leaders we follow. Only that we don’t hesitate when we see them.
Page 248

An object in motion wants to keep going in the same direction, and the larger a rolling snowball gets, the more of a fool you have to be to dare to stand in its path.
Page 250

Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple. So the first thing that happens in a conflict is that we choose a side, because that’s easier than trying to hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time. The second thing that happens is that we seek out facts that confirm what we want to believe—comforting facts, ones that permit life to go on as normal. The third is that we dehumanize our enemy. There are many ways of doing that, but none is easier than taking her name away from her.
Page 273

It doesn’t take long to persuade each other to stop seeing a person as a person. And when enough people are quiet for long enough, a handful of voices can give the impression that everyone is screaming.
Page 273

People were so quick to decide what the truth was that they bought pay-as-you-go phones just to be able to tell her what she is without her knowing who they are.
Page 274

“Big secrets turn us into small men.”
Page 277

There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.
Page 293

Because if you love hockey, if you love anything, really, you’d really prefer it to exist inside a bubble, unaffected by anything happening outside. You want there to be one place, one single place, which will always be exactly the same, no matter how much the world outside might change.
Page 294

“What is it with hockey?” the bass player asks.

“What is it with violins?” Benji counters.

“You have to switch off your brain in order to play it. Music is like taking a break from yourself,” the bass player replies.
Page 320

Fighting isn’t hard. It’s the starting and stopping that are hard. Once you’re actually fighting, it happens more or less instinctively. The complicated thing about fighting is daring to throw the first punch, and then, once you’ve won, refraining from throwing that very last one.
Page 343

Sometimes life doesn’t let you choose your battles. Just the company you keep.
Page 354

The love a parent feels for a child is strange. There is a starting point to our love for everyone else, but not this person. This one we have always loved, we loved them before they even existed.
Page 357

“I don’t have any children, David. But do you want to hear my best advice about being a parent?”


“‘I was wrong.’ Good words to know.”
Page 365

Another morning comes. It always does. Time always moves at the same rate, only feelings have different speeds. Every day can mark a whole lifetime or a single heartbeat, depending on who you spend it with.
Page 379

People don’t often say thank you in Beartown. Nor sorry. But this is their way of showing that some people in this town can actually carry more than one thought in their head at the same time. That you can want to punch a man in the face but still refuse to let anyone hurt his children. And that you respect a crazy bitch who walks in here without being afraid. No matter who she is.
Page 391

The Light Between Oceans

Book Review

I commented to Mom not long ago that I read too many happy ending books. Said happy ending books do not prepare one for real life. Real life rarely has happy endings. Sure, sometimes things work out and work out very well, but bad things happen to good people, and the universe is truly random. Bad things happen, through no fault of anyone sometimes, through active hostility and assholery other times.

Mom responded by suggesting this book. "This one doesn't have a happy ending," she said. She was correct. This book doesn't have a happy ending. It does, however, have the right ending.

If you want the short version, I'm told there is a movie. I haven't seen it.

This book reminded me of Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), which describes the real-world phenomenom of good people doing horribly wrong things, and how they rationalize the wrong to themselves. They do it one small decision at a time. No decision seems bad, each is close to the previous decision, but in total a very wrong action occurs.

This is pretty much what happens in this book. And then it all comes crumbling down.

Couple all of this with a woman's desire for motherhood, and yeah, you don't get a happy ending.

I started and finished this book in less than a day. I read this one so fast from start to finish, I didn't have time to set up an in-progress page. I'll admit to being sick, and sitting for hours to read it instead of sleeping, but it was still an engaging read. The writing is really close to being great, but tried too hard and is "only" good. The book itself is worth reading.

If he can only get far enough away—from people, from memory—time will do its job.
Page 13

Of course, the losing of children had always been a thing that had to be gone through. There had never been guarantee that conception would lead to a live birth, or that birth would lead to a life of any great length. Nature allowed only the fit and the lucky to share this paradise-in-the-making.
Page 21

His body craved sleep, but he knew too well that if you don’t eat you can’t work.
Page 41

He knows keepers who swear under their breath at the obligation, but Tom takes comfort from the orderliness of it. It is a luxury to do something that serves no practical purpose: the luxury of civilization.
Page 43

“Is that so?” asked Tom, as amused as he was surprised. He had a sense of being waltzed backward.
Page 48

“I’ll tell you if you really want. It’s just I’d rather not. Sometimes it’s good to leave the past in the past.”

“Your family’s never in your past. You carry it around with you everywhere.”

“More’s the pity.”
Page 53

“If I can’t talk about the past, am I allowed to talk about the future?”

“We can’t rightly ever talk about the future, if you think about it. We can only talk about what we imagine, or wish for. It’s not the same thing.”
Page 55

If the war had taught her anything, it was to take nothing for granted: that it wasn’t safe to put off what mattered. Life could snatch away the things you treasured, and there was no getting them back.
Page 57

Able to cure and to poison; able to bear the whole weight of the light, but capable of fracturing into a thousand uncatchable particles, running off in all directions, escaping from itself.
Page 96

A life had come and gone and nature had not paused a second for it. The machine of time and space grinds on, and people are fed through it like grist through the mill.
Page 105

“Then why upset them? Please, Tom. It’s our business. My business. We don’t have to tell the whole world about it. Let them have their dream a bit longer."
Page 109

As he put it decades later, that sort of experience either gives you a taste for death, or a thirst for life, and he reckoned death would come calling soon enough anyway.
Page 169

This is a small community, where everyone knows that sometimes the contract to forget is as important as any promise to remember.
Page 183

History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent.
Page 184

That’s how life goes on — protected by the silence that anesthetizes shame.
Page 184

“But it’s not always plain sailing, even when you’ve found the right girl. You’ve got to be in it for the long haul. You never know what’s going to happen: you sign up for whatever comes along. There’s no backing out.”
Page 200

There was a need in Isabel that he could now never fill. She had given up everything: comforts, family, friends—everything to be with him out here. Over and over he told himself — he couldn’t deprive her of this one thing.
Page 202

Tom was very still, sensing bodily the relief that would follow the unburdening of the truth about Lucy.
Page 213

"Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot ’em both, and then it’s too late.”
Page 214

“Christ—the quickest way to send a bloke mad is to let him go on re-fighting his war till he gets it right.”
Page 214

“You’re the one who always says that if a lighthouse looks like it’s in a different place, it’s not the lighthouse that’s moved.”
Page 219

A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.
Page 220

She’d reached her edge, that was all. Everyone had one. Everyone.
Page 285

There was nothing he was going through that the stars had not seen before, somewhere, some time on this earth. Given enough time, their memory would close over his life like healing a wound. All would be forgotten, all suffering erased.
Page 302

“There’s nothing you can do,” her father had said. “Once a horse bolts, you can only say your prayers and hang on for all you’re worth. Can’t stop an animal that’s caught in a blind terror.”
Page 310

When it comes to their kids, parents are all just instinct and hope. And fear. Rules and laws fly straight out the window.
Page 328

He is embraced by nature, which is waiting, ultimately, to receive him, to re-organize his atoms into another shape.
Page 365

“Sometimes life turns out hard, Isabel. Sometimes it just bites right through you. And sometimes, just when you think it’s done its worst, it comes back and takes another chunk.”
Page 370

"I’m not sure if or when I’ll be able to speak to you again. You always imagine you’ll get the chance to say what needs to be said, to put things right. But that’s not always how it goes."
Page 374

“You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it?”

“I choose to,” he said. “I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget.”

“But it’s not that easy.”

He smiled that Frank smile. “Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”
Page 384

Putting down the burden of the lie has meant giving up the freedom of the dream.
Page 386

"Izz, I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past.”
Page 396

Years bleach away the sense of things until all that’s left is a bone-white past, stripped of feeling and significance.
Page 398

No point in thinking like that. Once you start down that road, there’s no end to it. He’s lived the life he’s lived. He’s loved the woman he’s loved. No one ever has or ever will travel quite the same path on this earth, and that’s all right by him.
Page 408

The Last Battle

Book Review

This is Book 7 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

I think this book should have been titled Further Up and Further In to be honest, what with the sixty page denouement after the Last Battle.

I have to say, this book was a lot more obvious in the allegorical sledgehammer department. Hey, look, there's a false god. Hey, look, there's a greedy, manipulating, ape of a man who twists and turns the word of God^H^H^HAslan for his own purposes. Hey, look, there are a bunch of people cowed by the words of said ape of a man! Hey, look, there are people who think for themselves! Hey, look, there's the kingdom of heaven. Hey, look, there's a literal Gate.

The Sledgehammer of Allegorical Christ didn't lessen at all during this book. There are the Dwarves who turned away from God, refusing to believe. There is also the lesson that, welllllllll, if you didn't really know the Christian God, but were good and steadfast and trustworthy, then, hey, whatever god you prayed to was a valid substitute, and you can still come into Heaven.

The ending of this book, though, wow, they all died in the end. Though, really, that's kinda the point, no?

The book was a fast read. I'm happy to have read the series. I'm not likely read it again.

“Kiss me, Jewel,” he said. “For certainly this is our last night on earth. And if ever I offended against you in any matter great or small, forgive me now.”
Page 123

Eustace stood with his heart beating terribly, hoping and hoping that he would be brave. He had never seen anything (though he had seen both a dragon and a sea-serpent) that made his blood run so cold as that line of dark-faced bright-eyed men.
Page 149

Very few troops can keep on looking steadily to the front if they are getting arrows in their faces from one side and being pecked by an eagle on the other.
Page 155

A man who is fighting a dozen enemies at once must take his chances wherever he can; must dart in wherever he sees an enemy’s breast or neck unguarded.
Page 163

But in Narnia your good clothes were never your uncomfortable ones. They knew how to make things that felt beautiful as well as looking beautiful in Narnia: and there was no such thing as starch or flannel or elastic to be found from one end of the country to the other.
Page 167

So, cords are my good clothes? If so, sign me up!

“I wish she would grow up. She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age. Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”
Page 170

Sums up much of American culture.

“Only I think you and I, Polly, chiefly felt that we’d been unstiffened. You youngsters won’t understand. But we stopped feeling old.”
Page 174

They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly.


"They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out."
Page 185

Then Jill and Eustace remembered how once long ago, in the deep caves beneath those moors, they had seen a great giant asleep and been told that his name was Father Time, and that he would wake on the day the world ended.
Page 188

This would have been amazing, to see Father Time wake.

This part of the adventure was the only one which seemed rather like a dream at the time and rather hard to remember properly afterward. Especially, one couldn’t say how long it had taken. Sometimes it seemed to have lasted only a few minutes, but at others it felt as if it might have gone on for years.
Page 192

This could be an interesting set of stories surrounding Narnia. A collection of tales about how different Talking Animals and people lived, and ended up heading to Stable Hill at just the right time to enter the Gate at the Ending of the World.

You could see all the rivers getting wider and the lakes getting larger, and separate lakes joining into one, and valleys turning into new lakes, and hills turning into islands, and then those islands vanishing.
Page 195

Where have I read that recently?

The Dogs were still with them. They joined in the conversation but not very much because they were too busy racing on ahead and racing back and rushing off to sniff at smells in the grass till they made themselves sneeze.
Page 198


"Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?”
Page 200

"For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him."
Page 205

Sixteen: Farewell to Shadowlands

If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else.
Page 215

The very first thing which struck everyone was that the place was far larger than it had seemed from outside.
Page 222

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are — as you used to call it in the Shadowlands — dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
Page 228

The Silver Chair

Book Review

This is Book 6 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

I did not like this book. This would have been the first book of two books triggering my rule "stop reading a series after two consecutive bad books," except it is the second to last book of the series, and, well, I intend to read the whole series. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I have this book from the library.

Part of my dislike of this book is the shallow treatment given to the long trek the main characters, and the seriously little sh-ts said main characters are. Though, really, Pole and Scrubb likely are little sh-ts, as they are kids, and how could one expect a kid to be honest and thoughtful and strong and good and steadfast, without the experience needed to understand how important these characteristics are.

Of course, many adults also lack these characteristics, so I'm unsure why I was so frustrated with these kids, except maybe that Christ-Analogy told them what to do and they ignored him. How many times does someone get to see Asland? How many lives never saw him? Pole sees him, talks with him, receives instructions from him, and still ignores his words. Frustrating.

I will, of course, finish the series, since I'm reading all these classic children's books. I'm glad to be done with this one. Blah.

Jill suddenly flew into a temper (which is quite a likely thing to happen if you have been interrupted in a cry).
Page 3


"Now a job like this — a journey up north just as winter’s beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn’t there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen — will be just the thing. If that doesn’t steady a chap, I don’t know what will.”
Page 76

Jill thought that when, in books, people live on what they shoot, it never tells you what a long, smelly, messy job it is plucking and cleaning dead birds, and how cold it makes your fingers.
Page 84

“The bright side of it is,” said Puddleglum, “that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”
Page 85

Puddleglum! What a great character! He spends his time imagining the worst and is delighted when things aren't so bad! Too bad the kids ignore him.

“And why were you so stiff and unpleasant? Didn’t you like them?”

“Them?” said the wiggle. “Who’s them? I only saw one.”

“Didn’t you see the Knight?” asked Jill.

“I saw a suit of armor,” said Puddleglum. “Why didn’t he speak?”
Page 92

I'm laughing at that. He also takes things literally.

“Oh, bother his ideas!” said Scrubb. “He’s always expecting the worst, and he’s always wrong."
Page 93

But delighted when wrong - very Stoic in his imagining the worst and being able to accept it.

“That’s all very well,” said Puddleglum. “But what I was saying was — ”

“Oh, shut up,” said Jill crossly.
Page 104

Oh, look, Jill being a b--ch!

If you want to get out of a house without being seen, the middle of the afternoon is in some ways a better time to try it than in the middle of the night. Doors and windows are more likely to be open; and if you are caught, you can always pretend you weren’t meaning to go far and had no particular plans.
Page 125

How often they woke and slept and ate and slept again, none of them could ever remember. And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived on that ship, in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not been only a dream.
Page 154

“Where I come from,” said Jill, who was disliking him more every minute, “they don’t think much of men who are bossed about by their wives.”
Page 166

Well, Jill, go back to the horrible world you live in, where women are second-class citizens.

Thirdly, the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.
Page 190

"All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so."
Page 190

"It would not have suited well either with my heart or with my honor to have slain a woman."
Page 194

Note to self, grow up to be an evil empress.

"And all’s one, for that. Now, by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his likeness, and then all shake hands one with another, as true friends that may shortly be parted."
Page 200

Kiss... his likeness. Uh, false idols much?

“Friends,” said the Prince, “when once a man is launched on such an adventure as this, he must bid farewell to hopes and fears, otherwise death or deliverance will both come too late to save his honor and his reason."
Page 202

Jill held her tongue. (If you don’t want other people to know how frightened you are, this is always a wise thing to do; it’s your voice that gives you away.)
Page 224

Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are the most childish and the stupidest grownups who are the most grown-up.
Page 253

Waking Gods

Book Review

This is book 2 of The Themis Files.

I enjoyed the first book enough to read the second book, and this was the second book. It starts about a decade after the last one ended, where everyone has pretty much become used to having a large (like 200' large), alien robot hanging out on the world doing book readings and press conferences.

And then another robot shows up and starts killing everyone.

The book moved at a more frenetic pace than the first one did, which is reasonable given the first one needed to world-build and this one can coast along on those words. Not everyone dies in the end, and we don't see enough of the characters we saw in the first one, and the rough edges have been smoothed off everyone's personality, all which contributed to this being a typical sophomoric book: less good than the first, but sufficient.

There's one more book in the series, coming out in May, which I'll read. I think this book is better experienced on audiobook, to be honest.

Military people — people like me — need intelligence to be useful. We need to know what’s going on. Without intelligence, take my word for it, you do not want your fate in the hands of the military. We do not improvise.
Page 18

Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.
Page 18

— Do you remember what you told me the second time around to get me to take this job?

— I do.

— You said: “I found you a military post where you’ll never have to kill anyone ever again.”

— I know. I still intend to keep that promise.
Page 21

People do what people do, and you’ll be miserable in the end because you’ll blame yourself for something you really have no power over.
Page 43

Every thought you have is a physical process. We know this for a fact, we can see it happening. We also know that emotions can be described in similar terms. Obviously, what you see, hear, touch, taste, smell is tied to your body.


Your soul, if you had one, the part of you that can’t be summed up as a bunch of atoms, would have no physical presence, couldn’t hear, smell, touch, or see anything. It would be incapable of thinking. No thoughts whatsoever, no sense of self. It wouldn’t feel anything either. Your soul would be… a hole… emptiness. There’s nothing special about that.
Page 46

I still find it impolite to give anyone lessons in their field of specialty.
Page 56

It’s not that I dislike the tame version of her — she’s doing it for me. I’d have to be a real asshole to blame her for it — but sometimes I wonder if she’s wiser or just broken. The thing is, she doesn’t seem unhappy. She says she’s happy, and a lot of the times I believe her.
Page 57

— Before Ms. Resnik became… Ms. Resnik, she was a little girl, with a mother of her own. No relationship is perfect, and I imagine that this little girl knew exactly what kind of person she wished her mother to be. Do not underestimate how powerful the wishes of that little girl are, to this day.
Page 58

"If I have, in any way, willingly or not, led you to believe I was remotely interested in your opinion of me, it was my mistake. It will not happen again."
Page 105

I started small and tried to make Themis move by a distance of one. I didn’t know one what, exactly, but I figured I’d probably end up somewhere on the empty lot in front of the hangar.
Page 109

I laughed at this. "One, in the appropriate unit."

"I still disagree with you. I think this is a bad way to die. It’s pointless. I just don’t have anything better to offer."
Page 124

While I am reasonably confident you are not “the chosen one,” you are without doubt one who has been chosen.
Page 125

We cheat and we lie at peacetime because we know the other side does it too. This might be war, and in war, you don’t try to scam your allies.
Page 129

The cost of an eradication effort is, generally speaking, inversely proportional to the population density.
Page 132

"Four million dead is indeed terribly sad."

"I don’t mean that. I mean it’s sad that their deaths aren’t as important just because there are so many."
Page 154

"And therein lies the fundamental difference between us. You would not sacrifice your principles for a greater good. I would not stop to think about it. I am… pragmatic, and you, Dr. Franklin, are an idealist."
Page 194

"Parents feel a great deal of responsibility for the way their children turn out, but there is very little a parent can do that will remotely rival the influence a friend or lover can have."
Page 199

I started out thinking I could remove the bad from the world one piece at a time until there was none left. The world, unfortunately, does not work that way.
Page 203

Remove a bad man from power, and a year later the person you put in his place is just as corrupt. If a policeman stops a drunken man from beating on his wife, what are the odds he will never have to go back? Can he really prevent anything, or is he just delaying the inevitable?
Page 203

Well, you’re not special, no more special than every other magnificent thing in the universe.
Page 233

Kara had the most beautiful smile when she was proud of herself. Smug, like you wouldn’t believe. Made you want to punch her in the face, but it was beautiful.
Page 244

I sure wish you were here with me. I’m better with you around. You know when I’m about to do something dumb. You put your hand on my shoulder to stop me from doing it, or you don’t and we do something even dumber together. Either way, I know everything’ll be OK. I’d give anything to have you with me now. See if you’d put that hand on my shoulder or not. I’d feel a whole lot better if you were here to help me plan this thing.
Page 259

Remember how unhappy I was awhile back? I didn’t even know I was, but I was. It was because I thought I had to be someone else.
Page 260

I’d never do anything if I waited for good ideas.
Page 266

Now I’m overanalyzing everything, wasting time thinking about wasting time.
Page 289

American War

Book Review

In the Susan Slack, Kristin asked for dystopian book recommendations. Rob immediately responded, "American War." He responded emphatically, "American War." I added it to my library hold list, not expecting it to drop into my borrowed list until next year. Well, it dropped, and I read it, and wow. This book is good.

The book tells the tale of Serat growing up through the end of the second American Civil War. The war triggered on the ban of gasoline and oil, with the South saying, "Nope." We see, as in most dystopian novels, how people can be awful to each other. What makes this book particularly difficult to read is that we can see our current culture, political environment, and temperament, what we have right now, become this world. We are in the declining years of the American Empire. Other empires will rise after its fail. This book gives the tale of a fictional and completely plausible version.

This book is worth reading, even if you don't really like dystopian fictions. Be in a place where death is bearable, though, it's a rough read.

"Bury me in the same grave because I can’t go on alone. Life’s not worth living alone."
Location 499

This was in the days before — before Julia Templestowe became the rebel South’s first martyr, its first killer, the patron saint of its war.

It is often forgotten: There’s always a before.
Location 579

If you lived in the South during that war, maybe you were never forced from your home at gunpoint, but you knew someone who was. Maybe you didn’t lose a loved one when the Birds came and rained down death with no rhyme or reason, but you knew someone who had.

Now for most of people, just knowing wasn’t enough to make them take up arms — not everyone can face the thought of getting shot or torn to bits by shrapnel or, even worse, getting captured and sent to rot in Sugarloaf or some other detention camp.

But damned if it didn’t make you want to do something.
Location 1262

Work provided purpose, a sense of place, a sense of agency.
Location 1389

But for the refugees who paid or begged Martina to write these pleadings on their behalf, hopelessness was no impediment to hope.
Location 1398

“Ahh, it’s all long gone now. Time buries time, my mother used to say."
Location 1652

“No matter what they tell you, some things are just wrong, war or no war.”
Location 1692

Even then, at such a young age, she understood that smile for what it was: a mask atop fear, a balm for the crippling insecurity of childhoods deeply damaged. They were fragile boys who wore it, and their fragility demanded menace. Sarat knew the boys better than they knew themselves. And she knew there was no winning this dare. That was the point — for there to be no winning, only different magnitudes of losing.
Location 1879

“Yeah, but I bet you the whole time he was busy being mean, the other guys were busy fighting,” another replied. “Mean don’t mean nothing.”
Location 1933

“I’m not sorry and none of them can make me sorry. They’re liars and cowards, all of them. They pretend like this is normal, like it’s normal to live this way. But it’s not normal. Your dad’s right. We’re just waiting to die, waiting for the Blues to come up over that fence one day and kill every last one of us. I’m not sorry. I’m not the one who’s wrong.”

“I don’t think you’re wrong,” Marcus said. “I’ve never thought you were wrong.
Location 1943

She moved the clipper slowly, in part out of caution but also to prolong the act; the shearing felt good against her skin. Soon the clipper glided along smoothly, and no more hair fell.
Location 2003

I f'ing understand this sensation.

“That’s what an empire is,” he said, “an orchestrator of gravity, a sun around which all weaker things spin.”
Location 2162

"But my father was a doctor, and he wanted me to study medicine. He used to say the only truly stable profession is blood work — the work of the surgeon, the soldier, the butcher. He said all industries rise and fall but as long as there’s even a single man still alive, there will always be use for blood work."
Location 2202

It seemed sensible to crave safety, to crave shelter from the bombs and the Birds and the daily depravity of war. But somewhere deep in her mind an idea had begun to fester — perhaps the longing for safety was itself just another kind of violence — a violence of cowardice, silence, submission. What was safety, anyway, but the sound of a bomb falling on someone else’s home?
Location 2434

She’d learned recently that solid land was not the natural skin of the world, only a kind of parasitic condition that surfaced and receded in million-year cycles. The natural skin of the world was water, and all water on earth was connected.
Location 2441

"He said people think of that war now the way they think about most wars: just a bunch of young men killing young men on the orders of old men. But he said it was women who were left to clean it all up in the end, women who rebuilt the scorched Southern country and nursed what was left of those young men."
Location 2460

What is the first anesthetic?


And if I take your wealth?


And if I demolish your home, burn your fields?


And if I make it taboo to sympathize with your plight? Family. And if I kill your family?


And God…

…Hasn’t said a word in two thousand years.

Good girl.
Location 2467

“You see, we have a habit in this country of deciding the wisdom of our wars only after we’re done fighting them, and I guess we decided the war I’d been sent to fight wasn’t a very good idea after all."
Location 2579

“I sided with the Red because when a Southerner tells you what they’re fighting for — be it tradition, pride, or just mule-headed stubbornness — you can agree or disagree, but you can’t call it a lie. When a Northerner tells you what they’re fighting for, they’ll use words like democracy and freedom and equality and the whole time both you and they know that the meaning of those words changes by the day, changes like the weather. I’d had enough of all that. You pick up a gun and fight for something, you best never change your mind. Right or wrong, you own your cause and you never, ever change your mind.”
Location 2584

“Do you know how to use a knife?” asked Gaines, pointing the blade toward her.

“Everyone knows how to use a knife,” said Sarat.

“No, everyone knows how to stab.”
Location 2598

"But I also believe that all reasonable people of the world — regardless of race or ethnicity or religion — yearn for the same right to liberty, democracy, and self-determination. These are truly universal human ideals, and what we do today to advance them is the most important gift we leave for our children. Wars are temporary; these principles are not."
Location 2622

"I saw in the people of this country a spirit I had rarely seen elsewhere, a dedication to liberty so overpowering, it made of many, one."
Location 2630

Of course others had suffered; some arrived at the camp missing limbs or sight or kin and some were nothing but hollow shells in the shape of the living, but she had suffered too.
Location 2667

And as she imagined these possibilities, Sarat thought of something else: of desertion, of treason against one’s own. But what the man and his son had done didn’t feel to her like treason, only the grim work of the hopeless.
Location 2792

Sarat paused at the threshold. She tried to steel herself for what she might find inside, tried to preemptively imagine her mother’s body, the life gone from it. But she was incapable of making herself imagine it. Instead, her mind recoiled and offered only a feeble, child’s defense: My mother cannot be dead because she is my mother. Everyone else can die but not my mother.
Location 3086

Once, during a rare moment of candor, Miss Dana told Karina that all their lives the Chestnuts had lived at the feet of rivers and walls. Always bounded, always trapped — trapped by movement, trapped by stillness.
Location 3173

The room, dark and dank, smelled overwhelmingly of that sweet bile, that old fossil fuel smell. The scent always jump-started ancient memories in Karina’s mind, memories from a childhood spent on the other side of the world: army jeeps refueling, well fires wild and unquenchable, wounds tended to by the light of headlamps. To her, the smell of any old-world fuel was invariably the smell of war.
Location 3229

She knew from experience that there existed no soldier as efficient, as coldly unburdened by fear, as a child broken early.
Location 3253

Husbands never wore black. Husbands were never confined to that kind of passive declaration, were never compelled to sulk across the world for the remainder of their lives, walking signposts of mourning. Husbands were permitted rage, permitted wrath, permitted to avenge their loss by marching out and inflicting on others the very same carnage once inflicted upon them.
Location 3300

And what she understood — what none of the ones who came to touch Simon’s forehead understood — was that the misery of war represented the world’s only truly universal language. Its native speakers occupied different ends of the world, and the prayers they recited were not the same and the empty superstitions to which they clung so dearly were not the same — and yet they were. War broke them the same way, made them scared and angry and vengeful the same way. In times of peace and good fortune they were nothing alike, but stripped of these things they were kin. The universal slogan of war, she’d learned, was simple: If it had been you, you’d have done no different.
Location 3312

“He’s doing real well,” Karina said. She knew the Widow Bentley hated it when she interjected, so she did it as much as possible.
Location 3332

She soon learned that to survive atrocity is to be made an honorary consul to a republic of pain. There existed unspoken protocols governing how she was expected to suffer. Total breakdown, a failure to grieve graciously, was a violation of those rules. But so was the absence of suffering, so was outright forgiveness.
Location 3401

She had seen them do these things both publicly — in defiant, chest-thumping speeches — and privately, pragmatically, in the backrooms of Atlanta and Augusta. She saw them do these things and she was disgusted by it. They were to her nothing more than prideful, opportunistic captains, arguing over the boundaries of long-obsolete star maps as all the while the opposing armada’s cannonballs tore their hull to shreds.
Location 3673

"He’s caught up in the old way of doing things, still thinks he’s in the desert, still fighting that old, faraway war. All that tradition he’s saddled with, it’s too late to shake it off."
Location 3697

The exits came as they always did, in a cascade. As soon as the shame of being the first fighter down was gone, the men’s threshold for pain suddenly plummeted, and those who knew they had little chance of winning were almost happy to find themselves in a headlock or an arm-bar from which they could tap out.
Location 3755

Instinctively, they expected of him the same chivalrous defiance they believed they themselves, placed in the same position, would show.
Location 3771

It had once belonged to Layla’s mother, and had reached that useless middle age between novelty and antique — it was simply old.
Location 3925

“So let him,” Sarat said. “I’m not afraid to die.”

“That’s because you’re young and you think dying’s quick,” Bragg Sr. said. “But they got ways to make dying take just as long as living.”
Location 4251

“All these old men want it to be like it was when they were young. But it’ll never be like that again, and they’ll never be young again, no matter what they do. And it’s not just ours that do it. It’s theirs too. Imagine if the North had just let us be. Imagine if they didn’t fight us tooth and nail, kill all those innocent people, just to keep us from having a country of our own and doing things our own way — would it really have been so bad? No, of course it wouldn’t. But it wasn’t that way when all those old people that run everything were young, so they can’t let it be."
Location 4298

Rising, she looked at the hollowed remains of the guard and she felt the inverse of fulfillment — the empty undoing of a castaway who, rabid with thirst, resorts to drinking from the ocean.
Location 5024

"They didn’t understand, they just didn’t understand. You fight the war with guns, you fight the peace with stories."
Location 5093

“Why’d you do it?” she asked me.

“I just wanted to know.”

“Don’t ever apologize for that,” she said. “That’s all there is to life, is wanting to know.”
Location 5178

"They still think the miracle is that he survived. But bad people survive too; lucky people survive. The miracle isn’t that he survived, the miracle is that he’s healing.”
Location 5260

“But I’ll love you anyway. And your brother will love you anyway. And your nephew will love you anyway. That’s what family does. Take what time you need, Sarat. Heal how you want to heal.”
Location 5289

“Come here,” she said. I shook my head.

“I’m scared.”

“Good,” she said. “Now you have something you can kill. Come here.”
Location 5434

She held the nail in place. “One soft one to set it, one hard one to drive it,” she said.
Location 5471

“My people have created an empire. It is young now, but we intend it to be the most powerful empire in the world. For that to happen, other empires must fail."
Location 5570

"It said in the South there is no future, only three kinds of past — the distant past of heritage, the near past of experience, and the past-in-waiting."
Location 5769

“Sarat told me you were a sweet boy, Benjamin, but you must understand that in this part of the world, right and wrong ain’t about who wins, or who kills who. In this part of the world, right and wrong ain’t even about right and wrong. It’s about what you do for your own.”
Location 6030

The Art of Fielding

Book Review

This is a book about baseball, in the way that the Chariots of Fire is a movie about running. Baseball is a part of this book, but it isn't a book about baseball. It's a book about a kid who wants nothing more than to play baseball, who has incredible natural talent, who is willing to put in the work, who finds someone who can help him achieve his baseball dreams, and who makes a mistake.

Sorta. Because it is a book about baseball.

The title refers to a fictional book in the book, also about baseball. The fictional book is a zen-like non-fiction book on how to be the best shortstop ever, from the best shortstop ever. The quoted passages of the fictional book inside this also-fictional book (the one I read, not the one I read about the character reading), are inspiring and very zen, which I liked. I was expecting baseball in this book, and got it.

What I wasn't expecting in this book was Stoicism and the realization of just how much I f'ing know about baseball. I was also not expecting to understand the want and the need to play baseball. Well, not so much baseball, but the need for movement, the need for flow, the need for the joy of being so excellent at something to the point of stillness in action. I may have had moments of brilliance in my ultimate career, but it wasn't consistent, I didn't own it. I had glimpses, though. Enough to understand what this book is trying to say, with the beauty of baseball and the stillness in action.

Growing up, baseball for me was exactly how Affenlight, the college president in the book, views baseball:

Baseball—what a boring game! One player threw the ball, another caught it, a third held a bat. Everyone else stood around.
Page 64

After being with Kris for years, I learned about baseball through osmosis, just being near and hearing what he had to say. It was years before I understood enough, and he started talking strategy to me, explaining some of the nuances on the field, describing what pitch was going to happen and how the players would adjust to the play that would likely occur, watching the play happen as he described. His enthusiasm ignited mine, and I began to enjoy watching the game, seeing it through his eyes. I still didn't (and don't) like to go with big groups, and I won't go to a game without a baseball-knowing companion to talk to me through the game (which is to say, I still don't go to games much), but I will enjoy a game from time to time, actually enjoy it. I'll watch a game on the television at a bar.

I thought I understood baseball at a fairly good level.

And then this book happened. I see now, in retrospect, that Kris gave me a coach's perspective, a strategist's perspective of the game. I still didn't understand, hadn't seen yet, what a joy baseball could be. This book is about baseball, but it's about the joy of being incredible, talented, hungry, obsessed with a single-minded goal of performing in a sport flawlessly, with excellence. Harbach does an incredibly good job of showing the reader the mind, the thoughts, the need to sacrifice for that goal of perfection. This book gave me a player's perspective of baseball.

I strongly recommend this book. I liked this book more than I was expecting. I will buy you a copy.

All his life Schwartz had yearned to possess some single transcendent talent, some unique brilliance that the world would consent to call genius. Now that he'd seen that kind of talent up close, he couldn't let it walk away.
Page 6

And we are off to a good start in the book, a good quote on only page six. I have high hopes for this book. No, wait, a book about baseball, I don't have high hopes.

He should have known that Sophie would spill the beans. Sophie always spilled the beans. She was as keen to get a rise out of people, especially their parents as Henry was to placate them.
Page 25

I understand Sophie.

Henry looked toward third base to see if Coach Cox would put the take sign on. "Letting him swing away," he reported.

"Really?" Rick said. "That sounds like a bad i---," but his words were interrupted by an ear splitting ping of a ball against aluminum bat.
Page 41

Okay, so, the pitch count is 3-0, runner on first (so, not scoring position). Typically in college ball, the coach will call for the batter not to swing at the next pitch. The count is forcing the pitcher to throw three strikes in a row. Early in a game, the coach is going to want to tire that pitcher out a bit, don't swing. In this case, the game was tied in the ninth, the batter was the team's slugger (though he was known to choke), and we don't know the number of outs, but presumably not enough to hold back the call to swing for the fences.

Why do I know this much about baseball?

“Runners on first and second,” Rick said.

“I bet he wants you to bunt.”

“What’s the bunt sign?”

“Two tugs on the left earlobe,” Henry told him. “But first he has to give the indicator, which is squeeze the belt. But if he goes to his cap with either hand or says your first name, that’s the wipe-off, and then you have to wait and see whether — ”

“Forget it,” Owen said. “I’ll just bunt.”
Page 42

Henry had never felt so happy. Freshperson year had been one thing, an adventure, an exhilaration, all in all a success, but it had also been exhausting, a constant struggle and adjustment and tumult. Now he was locked in. Every day that summer had the same framework, the alarm at the same time, meals and workouts and shifts and SuperBoost at the same times, over and over, and it was that sameness, that repetition, that gave life meaning. He savored the tiny variations, the incremental improvements — tuna fish on his salad instead of turkey; two extra reps on the bench press. Every move he made had purpose. While they worked out, Schwartz would recite lines from his favorite philosophers, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus — they were Schwartz’s personal Aparicios — and Henry felt that he understood. Every day is a war. Yes, yes it was. The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Done: there was only one of those. He was becoming a baseball player.
Page 47

If he wanted? Of course he wanted. It was the wanting, the incredible strength of the wanting, that had prevented him so far.
Page 65

Desire seems to be a strong force in all the recent literature I've read.

Locker rooms, in Schwartz’s experience, were always underground, like bunkers and bomb shelters. This was less a structural necessity than a symbolic one. The locker room protected you when you were most vulnerable: just before a game, and just after. (And halfway through, if the game was football.) Before the game, you took off the uniform you wore to face the world and you put on the one you wore to face your opponent. In between, you were naked in every way. After the game ended, you couldn’t carry your game-time emotions out into the world — you’d be put in an asylum if you did — so you went underground and purged them. You yelled and threw things and pounded on your locker, in anguish or joy. You hugged your teammate, or bitched him out, or punched him in the face. Whatever happened, the locker room remained a haven.
Page 106

On the way to the door a wave of courage swept over him, and he pressed his hand to Owen’s smooth forehead, above his bandages and bruises. Owen’s eyes stayed closed. His flesh felt surprisingly warm, and Affenlight’s first impulse was to call the nurse. Then he realized that it wasn’t the heat of a fever, just the average animal warmth of youth.
Page 122

Every guy on that bus, from Schwartz down to little Loondorf, had grown up dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. Even when you realized you’d never make it, you didn’t relinquish the dream, not deep down.
Page 149

Schwartz, for his part, had vowed long ago not to become one of those pathetic ex-jocks who considered high school and college the best days of their lives. Life was long, unless you died, and he didn’t intend to spend the next sixty years talking about the last twenty-two.
Page 149

He already knew he could coach. All you had to do was look at each of your players and ask yourself: What story does this guy wish someone would tell him about himself? And then you told the guy that story. You told it with a hint of doom. You included his flaws. You emphasized the obstacles that could prevent him from succeeding. That was what made the story epic: the player, the hero, had to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph. Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn’t do this alone; they needed a coach. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer.
Page 149

As she squeezed liquid soap into the stream of hot water, an objection crossed her mind: What would Mike think? It was a nice gesture, to do somebody else’s dishes, but it could also be construed as an admonishment: “If nobody else will clean up this shithole, I’ll do it myself!” In fact, some version of that interpretation could hardly be avoided. She turned off the water.
Page 155

I have had this exact arguement / discussion with myself. I was sitting for friends and when their kids went to bed, I cleaned the house. I'm still unsure how they took the clean up. I needed movement. I wanted to help. I still torture myself about that, if they thought I was judging them. I wasn't. I wanted to help.

When Affenlight caught the flu or fell into one of his grim moods, she would frown and ignore him. He’d dismissed this as a lack of sympathy, and even perhaps a form of stupidity, but maybe it was wisdom instead. Had he learned — would he ever learn — to discard the thoughts he could not use? It remained an open question, how much sympathy love could stand.
Page 165

“Every day. For a thousand people, you cannot do things right. You must simply do them. Do you understand?”
Page 181

The quote is from the college's chef.

“It’s only Americans who insist on asking everyone what they do.”
Page 190

"So where to you work?"

The pitch was a forkball right where Schwartzy wanted it, low and outside.
Page 200

Forkball? A term I don't know!

At the last second the ball skidded off a lump tucked in the grass. He shifted his glove and fielded it cleanly — no such thing as a bad hop if you were prepared.
Page 201

He could feel some part of himself willing it to rain. He’d never quite discarded the childhood belief that he could alter the course of distant or natural events with his mind.
Page 207

“I’m just wondering what it’s like, to be so good at something and know it. For a while in high school I thought I wanted to be an artist, but I gave it up, because I could never convince myself that I was good enough.”
Page 209

“So what’s it like to be the best?”

Henry shrugged. “There’s always somebody better.”

“That’s not what Mike says. He says you’re the top — what is it, shortstop? — in the entire country.”

Henry thought about it for a moment. “It doesn’t feel like much,” he said. “You really only notice when you screw up.”
Page 209

Starblind sighed that sigh of his — a long, exasperated, put-upon sigh, as if other humans had been designed especially to annoy him.
Page 222

In his life he’d passed through long periods of gratefulness and good cheer, but he’d scarcely even imagined this level of thorough contentment with things as they were. His chronic restlessness had fled. He wanted nothing new. He wanted only to hang on to what he had. It was almost excruciating.
Page 229

It was amazing the way people hemmed each other in, forced each other to act in such narrowly determined ways, as if the world would end if Henry didn’t straighten himself out right now, as if a little struggle with self-doubt might not make him a better person in the long run, as if there were any reason why he shouldn’t take a break from baseball and teach himself to knit, to play the cello, to speak Gaelic — but no, God no, he had to work hard and stay focused and grind it out and keep his chin up and relax and think positive and keep plugging away, subscribe to every stupid cliché Mike or anyone else could throw at him, working and worrying until he started having panic attacks, for Christ’s sake, which wasn’t tragic either but was far from a promising sign.
Page 248


“What are you doing?”


“How many can you do?” He shrugged.

“You can always do one more.”


“Sort of like Zeno’s paradox,” she said. “I mean, with the pull-ups. If you can always do one more, how can you ever stop doing pull-ups?”

Henry shrugged. “You can’t.”
Page 250

Unless she was just paranoid, living in her head again, but you always lived in your head and you had to go with what you felt.
Page 252

For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.
Page 256

Once Henry stepped out on the field, he was totally alone. There was that aloneness on the screen: that implacable, solitary blankness on Henry’s sweat-streaked face as he backhanded a ball and fired it into the glove of his pudgy first baseman. Not that Henry withdrew from his teammates; in fact, he was more animated on the diamond than anywhere else. But no matter how much he chattered or cheered or bounced around, there was always something frighteningly aloof in his eyes, like a soloist so at one with the music he can’t be reached. You can’t follow me here, those mild blue eyes seemed to say. You’ll never know what this is like.
Page 258

You’ll never know what this is like. Baseball, in its quiet way, was an extravagantly harrowing game. Football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse — these were melee sports. You could make yourself useful by hustling and scrapping more than the other guy. You could redeem yourself through sheer desire.
Page 259

Batter versus pitcher, fielder versus ball. You couldn’t storm around, snorting and slapping people, the way Schwartz did while playing football. You stood and waited and tried to still your mind. When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you fucked up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?
Page 259

How could you learn anything, accomplish anything, build any kind of momentum toward becoming a good person, unless you felt at least a little bit comfortable first?
Page 290

She depended on men too much, Mike this Daddy that, needing one to rescue her from the next; even Chef Spirodocus was a man, of a sort. Maybe she needed more women in her life, that was why her mind latched on to Judy Eglantine, but she’d always gotten along better with men and that was unlikely to change much here, where most of the women were younger than she and would no doubt shun her and be scared of her and call her a slut no matter what she did. Was that too pessimistic? In any case, she’d have to rely on herself.
Page 293

He wasn’t in a box he could think his way out of. Nor was he in a box he could relax his way out of, no matter how many times Coach Cox or Schwartzy or Owen or Rick or Starblind or Izzy or Sophie told him to relax, stop thinking, be himself, be the ball, don’t try too hard. You could only try so hard not to try too hard before you were right back around to trying too hard. And trying hard, as everyone told him, was wrong, all wrong.
Page 305

The shortstop has worked so hard for so long that he no longer thinks — that was just the way to phrase it. You couldn’t choose to think or not think. You could only choose to work or not work.
Page 305

He felt a touch of sadness now that it had happened, now that he knew what it was like. Not because it wasn’t enjoyable, or wouldn’t be repeated, but because one more of life’s mysteries had been revealed.
Page 308

“Schiller,” he said. "‘Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man. And he is only completely a man when he plays.’"
Page 312

She certainly wasn’t going to watch baseball, which among team sports struck her as singularly boring. It was so slow, so finicky. This one a ball, that one a strike, but they all looked the same.
Page 315

Literature could turn you into an asshole; he’d learned that teaching grad-school seminars. It could teach you to treat real people the way you did characters, as instruments of your own intellectual pleasure, cadavers on which to practice your critical faculties.
Page 328

“Doubt has always existed,” Aparicio said. “Even for athletes.”
Page 328

Starblind was Starblind the way a dog was a dog and a shark was a shark. You didn’t expect moral distinctions from a shark.
Page 338

All he’d ever wanted was for nothing to ever change. Or for things to change only in the right ways, improving little by little, day by day, forever. It sounded crazy when you said it like that,
Page 345

The dream of every day the same. Every day was like the day before but a little better. You ran the stadium a little faster. You bench-pressed a little more. Your swing grew a little simpler. Everything grew simpler, little by little. You ate the same food, woke up at the same time, wore the same clothes. Hitches, bad habits, useless thoughts — whatever you didn’t need slowly fell away. Whatever was simple and useful remained. You improved little by little till the day it all became perfect and stayed that way. Forever. He knew it sounded crazy when you put it like that. To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he’d ever craved since he’d been born.
Page 345

Henry knew better than to want freedom. The only life worth living was the unfree life, the life Schwartz had taught him, the life in which you were chained to your one true wish, the wish to be simple and perfect.
Page 346

You made sacrifices and the sacrifices made sense.


You stoked the furnace, fed the machine. No matter how hard you worked, you could never feel harried or hurried, because you were doing what you wanted and so one moment simply produced the next.
Page 346

Sometime in elementary school his class had read Anne Frank’s diary, and Henry, terribly alarmed, asked why Anne hadn’t simply pretended not to be Jewish. The way Peter escaped from the Romans by pretending not to be Christian. Peter got in trouble for that in the Bible, but if you put it in the context of poor Anne, who was not only real but also a kid, didn’t it make sense? What difference did it make what religion you were if you were dead?


He didn’t see how a religion, which was a freely chosen thing, could mark people so irreparably.
Page 348

But people didn’t forgive you for doing what felt right — that was the last thing they forgave you for.
Page 363

Why was the younger person always the prize, the older person always the striver? Ever since adolescence Pella had been gathering experience in the role of the younger person, the clung - to one, the beloved. That was the idiot hopefulness of humans, always to love what was unformed. Really it made no sense. What were the old hoping the young would become? Something other than old? It hadn’t happened yet. But the old kept trying.
Page 363

Everyone always reaching back through the past, past their own mistakes.
Page 363

There was something much sadder in it than that. Something like constant regret, the sense that your whole life was an error, a mistake, that you were desperate to redo.
Page 363

It was pain that Henry had craved and demanded, purposeful pain, or so it had seemed, but what broke over him now was all that pain in its purest state, pain that meant nothing, could not be redeemed, because it all led only here, and here was nowhere.
Page 378

Before he met Schwartz his dreams were just dreams. Things that would peter out harmlessly over time.
Page 378

Schwartz would never live in a world so open. His would always be occluded by the fact that his understanding and his ambition outstripped his talent.
Page 407

And beyond all that he’d never be as good as he wanted to be. He’d never found anything inside himself that was really good and pure, that wasn’t double-edged, that couldn’t just as easily become its opposite. He had tried and failed to find that thing, and he would continue to try and fail, or else he would leave off trying and keep on failing. He had no art to call his own. He knew how to motivate people, manipulate people, move them around; this was his only skill.
Page 407

And this is so how the way of people. We want one thing, when we are REALLY REALLY good at something else. Because we are good at that something else, we don't realize how hard someone who isn't good at said thing struggles.

A pill was the opposite of what he wanted. A pill was an answer that somebody else had worked hard to come up with. He didn’t want that. A pill was small and potent. He wanted something huge and empty.
Page 419

Talking was like throwing a baseball. You couldn’t plan it out beforehand. You just had to let go and see what happened. You had to throw out words without knowing whether anyone would catch them — you had to throw out words you knew no one would catch. You had to send your words out where they weren’t yours anymore. It felt better to talk with a ball in your hand, it felt better to let the ball do the talking. But the world, the nonbaseball world, the world of love and sex and jobs and friends, was made of words.
Page 420

The students’ mistakes lay ahead of them, were prospective and therefore glorious. His own lay in the past. They might have been glorious too, his own mistakes.
Page 431

Most likely the string of errors was perfectly looped, without any ends at all. There were no whys in a person’s life, and very few hows. In the end, in search of useful wisdom, you could only come back to the most hackneyed concepts, like kindness, forbearance, infinite patience. Solomon and Lincoln: This too shall pass. Damn right it will. Or Chekhov: Nothing passes. Equally true.
Page 431

Deep down, he thought, we all believe we’re God. We secretly believe that the outcome of the game depends on us, even when we’re only watching — on the way we breathe in, the way we breathe out, the T-shirt we wear, whether we close our eyes as the pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand and heads toward Schwartz.
Page 467

Other cards offered aphoristic rules in Affenlight’s precise hand: With a small group, assonate, as in writing; with a large group, alliterate.
Page 492

She’s been reading too much, he thought — had drifted across that line that separated what you might find in a book from what you might do.
Page 494

He wondered how Emerson had done it — whether Emerson really had done it, after all. It was one thing to hear President Affenlight tell the story, one thing to imagine Emerson kneeling in the dirt in his suit, tears in his beard, lifting the simple wooden lid off a simple wooden casket. Your mind stayed trained on the emotional, the intellectual, the symbolic. Emerson became a character in a play, and his act became a myth, a source of meaning. You didn’t think about what Ellen Emerson’s decaying body looked like, or how it smelled: you couldn’t think about that if you tried.
Page 500

A person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most, that work of building a soul — not for your own benefit but for the benefit of those who knew you.
Page 503

He snow-coned the near half of the ball, somehow held on as his stomach smacked the ground.
Page 512

I laughed at this! I know what snow-coning a baseball is!

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Book Review

This is Book 5 of The Chronicles of Narnia.

In terms of Christian allegory and stories with morals, this book pretty much hits one upside the head with the Sledgehammer of God. There's no light hand in this story, to be sure.

Continuing the Narnia tale, Lucy and Edmund go back to Narnia, along with their cousin Eustace, who's the 1950's model for Dudley Dursley. He's a little shit, know-it-all, arrogant, lazy kid. We could call him a Well Actually and be accurate. He goes off by himself, turns himself into a dragon, learns his lesson through loneliness and loss of connection with all his human friends - why they didn't immediately kill the dragon flying over the camp? - and needs to be restored only through the grace of Aslan washing away his sins in special water.

And then he drops from the story.

There are a number of other smaller lessons learned, don't eavesdrop on others, turn towards God for strength, getting everything you want is a Bad Thing™, regaining your throne is as easy as walking into the top government house and declaring you are the king works every time even when you're a slave, and, for all the flat-earthers, Narnia is flat with the oceans having an edge.

One of my frustrations with the book is Lord Rhoop, who was found on Dark Island, where your dreams (literal dreams, including nightmares, not daydreams) come true. He escaped, yay he was rescued, and HE LEFT OR LOST ALL HIS MEN ON THAT ISLAND. They celebrate this guy's rescue, but he was a horrible leader, all of his men were dead or left for dead. This is a horrible result. None of the men who went out with the seven lords of Narnia were ever found. So, in Narnia, the only people who matter are named royalty?

I'm five books into the series. I'll be finishing the series. I really hope for fewer eye rolls.

But when she looked back at the opening words of the spell, there in the middle of the writing, where she felt quite sure there had been no picture before, she found the great face of a lion, of The Lion, Aslan himself, staring into hers. It was painted such a bright gold that it seemed to be coming toward her out of the page; and indeed she never was quite sure afterward that it hadn’t really moved a little. At any rate she knew the expression on his face quite well. He was growling and you could see most of his teeth. She became horribly afraid and turned over the page at once.
Page 165

And here's an example the sledgehammer shows up. Oh, look, Lucy is doing something she isn't supposed to do, and HEY LOOK, God^H^H^HAslan is watching here, insisting she do the right thing.

Now Lucy had wanted very badly to try the other spell, the one that made you beautiful beyond the lot of mortals. So she felt that to make up for not having said it, she really would say this one. And all in a hurry, for fear her mind would change, she said the words (nothing will induce me to tell you what they were).
Page 165

Yep, human nauture.

“Well,” said Lucy to herself, “I did think better of her than that. And I did all sorts of things for her last term, and I stuck to her when not many other girls would. And she knows it too. And to Anne Featherstone, of all people! I wonder are all my friends the same? There are lots of other pictures. No. I won’t look at any more. I won’t, I won’t"—and with a great effort she turned over the page, but not before a large, angry tear had splashed on it.
Page 167

“It did,” said Aslan. “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?”
Page 170

“Child,” he said, “I think you have been eavesdropping.”


“You listened to what your two schoolfellows were saying about you.”

“Oh that? I never thought that was eavesdropping, Aslan. Wasn’t it magic?”

“Spying on people by magic is the same as spying on them in any other way. And you have misjudged your friend. She is weak, but she loves you. She was afraid of the older girl and said what she does not mean.”
Page 170

Adults explaining human nature. Peer pressure is hard to resist.

Several of the sailors said things under their breath that sounded like, “Honor be blowed,”
Page 193

This is where dreams — dreams, do you understand — come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”
Page 197

Would be horrific.

“Because,” said the Mouse, “this is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear.”
Page 212

Ramandu. “In this island there is sleep without stint or measure, and sleep in which no faintest footfall of a dream was ever heard. Let him sit beside these other three and drink oblivion till your return.”
Page 228

For the tortured mind, this is heaven.

"A good many who had been anxious enough to get out of the voyage felt quite differently about being left out of it. And of course whenever anyone sailor announced that he had made up his mind to ask for permission to sail, the ones who hadn’t said this felt that they were getting fewer and more uncomfortable. So that before the half-hour was nearly over several people were positively “sucking up” to Drinian and Rhince (at least that was what they called it at my school) to get a good report. And soon there were only three left who didn’t want to go, and those three were trying very hard to persuade others to stay with them. And very shortly after that there was only one left. And in the end he began to be afraid of being left behind all on his own and changed his mind.
Page 233

“Or perhaps there isn’t any bottom. Perhaps it goes down for ever and ever. But whatever it is, won’t it be worth anything just to have looked for one moment beyond the edge of the world.”
Page 252