Month: May 2009

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Date of Publication: 1998, Picador USA

Number of Pages: 226

Synopsis (from back cover): Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham’s deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose.

Review: I had several reasons to read this book. First, Mrs. Dalloway is one of my favorite books and the film adaptation of The Hours is one of my favorite movies. So, I was prepared for something profound, but I was not expecting a book that would speak to me the way this one did. Michael Cunningham has a way of describing his characters’ thoughts and feelings that makes me feel like he’s inside my own mind. The fears, sensations, and oddities of Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa are so much like my own and it forced private feelings that I have never really acknowledged to come to the surface. Reading this book was a a very personal experience for me, but I believe that any reader will be able to enjoy it. Cunningham explores an incredible variety of emotions and demonstrates a unique understanding of human nature. I would recommend this book to pretty much everyone I know.

Rating: 10/10

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Shinto: The Kami Way by Dr. Sokyo Ono

Date of Publication: 1962, Tuttle Publishing

Number of Pages: 112

Synopsis (from back cover): Shinto, the indigenous faith of the Japanese people, continues to fascinate and mystify both the casual visitor to Japan and the long-time resident. This introduction unveils Shinto’s spiritual characteristics and discusses the architecture and function of Shinto shrines. Further examination of Shinto’s lively festivals, worship, music, and sacred regalia illustrates Shinto’s influence on all levels of Japanese life.

Fifteen photographs and numerous drawings introduce the reader to two millenia of indigenous Japanese belief in the kami – the sacred spirits worshiped in Shinto – and in communal life, the way of the kami.

Review: As someone who is interested in all things Japanese, I was really excited to read Dr. Sokyo Ono’s Shinto: The Kami Way. This book is held as the standard introduction to Shinto for Western readers, and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The author, a recognized expert on the subject, presents Shinto to the reader in plain, simple language. The bare essentials of Shinto are explored, including the architecture and layout of Shinto shrines and the rituals and festivals that are celebrated within. Unfortunately, I was seeking a more philosophical discussion of Shinto, and the author really only includes a short chapter in the back of the book that delves into the actual beliefs of Shinto. Still, the influence of Shinto on the daily life of the Japanese is addressed throughout the book and gives Western readers a glimpse into the way the Japanese have evolved along with their indigenous beliefs. I would recommend this book to all readers interested in world religions and philosophies. This is definitely a must-read for anyone who hopes to understand the Japanese people even a little bit.

Rating: 7/10

The Geeks’ Guide to World Domination by Garth Sundem

Date of Publication: 2009, Three Rivers Press

Number of Pages: 245

Synopsis (from back cover): Sorry, beautiful people. These days, from government to business to technology to Hollywood, geeks rule the world.

Finally, here’s the book no self-respecting geek can live without – a guide jam-packed with 314.1516 short entries both useful and fun. Science, pop-culture trivia, paper airplanes, and pure geekish nostalgia coexist as happily in these pages as they do in their natural habitat of the geek brain.

In short, dear geek, here you’ll find everything you need to achieve nirvana. And here, for you pathetic nongeeks, is the last chance to save yourselves: Love this book, live this book, and you too can join us in the experience of total world domination.

Review: Yes, I consider myself to be a geek. But despite what the author claims, this book seems to be meant for geeks and nongeeks alike. For nongeeks, topics such as nuclear energy, thermodynamics, and the subtleties of the Klingon language are explained in easy-to-understand terms that even the nongeek brain can grasp. For geeks, there are ample opportunities to indulge in our various geeky obsessions…for me, the sections on J.R.R. Tolkien were particularly satisfying. This book gives geeks a reason to be proud of their geekiness, and gives nongeeks the ability to pretend that they are geeks…which of course, all nongeeks wish they could do.

Reading this book will give one the ability to impress anyone he or she encounters. You’ll be able to show off your shadow puppet-making skills, impress people with your expert martial arts moves, and help out your friends be making them chain mail armor. In all seriousness, this book is both entertaining and informative. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their knowledge of both absurd and useful topics.

Rating: 10/10