Monday, September 1, 2014

A Good Reading Weekend

A day at the beach, or two, often leads me to have less time to whittle away watching TV or playing video games, of which I also finished a game I’d been struggling with since March, Thief.  I have to give it to Square Enix, they know how to make a game I end up liking even when I start out hating it.

The two books I slogged through this weekend were The Aladdin Factor, for book club, and The Name of the Rose.  The books really couldn’t be any more different and yet I found them both diverting and thought provoking in their own right.  The first book is a self-help book, one I was less than excited about when I saw it was from the same group who wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.  The second book was recommended to me by a friend, so I didn’t know what to expect.

The Aladdin Factor is your typical self-help book.  I read Chicken Soup for the Soul at least a decade ago, and yet this book still seemed familiar.  The book is not really a book, so much as a series of small vignettes that are composed of all kinds of fonts, making it slight eyesore as you plod through the text.  There are lots of little stories, one of every variety and in that vein, the authors capture lightning in a bottle by doing a little bit of everything.  Like most self-help books, this one promises that anything can be done and you just have to ask. What is not really discussed is all the failures that are comprised of all the asking.  The idea is, ask and ye shall receive, which is ‘plagiarized’ from the Bible (so to speak).  There isn’t anything in the book that gave me an ‘ah ha’ moment, but there were a few areas that I thought could be reflected upon.  In all self-help books, I find it is more what the reader brings than what the author puts forth.

The second book I finished was The Name of the Rose.  When I first started reading this book it was a few months ago and I mentioned it to a cousin, who commented that it reminded her of Da Vinci Code.  While I can say it isn’t quite like that book, it has a lot of similarities to it.  The book was written in 1980 and what I found most striking about it was how dated the book seemed by the prose alone.  The book was originally written in Italian and I almost want to believe something was lost in translation, but that isn’t the case.  Mr. Eco wrote a riveting story about murder in a monastery in Italy in the 1300’s.  The time and location of the story made it interesting by itself, but the story came to life through the eyes of the protagonist, Adso, a novice monk following behind a master monk, so to speak. The murders continued to become more confounding as the novel went on and the ending left a little to be desired.  I found myself wanting to read more and more, yet my attention broke many times and I ended up skimming long chunks of passages.  I wonder now if Mr. Eco would have written so eloquently knowing the audience has a much shorter attention span.

Both books were interesting in their own right, but I can’t give either a true ringing endorsement.  I like to read and any reading enhances your life.  Giving a book a chance is the best thing any of us can do.

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