Tag: Penguin (page 1 of 2)

Who can be Frazzled when laughing their ass off?

Mindfulness is not for me. I don’t know why, but I’m not buying it. That was until I realized mindfulness does not have to involve yoga, and that instead it can involve loads of laughter. Frazzled is mindfulness with humor.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have done yoga. But although it did clear my head a bit, it did not help me ‘find inner peace’. It just made me hungry at the end of the exercises. That’s why I’m not into the whole mindfulness much. Inner peace is not something I’ll find through meditation, since I’m not made for sitting still for long periods of time. Therefore, I never touched mindfulness-books or magazines. Until I got my hands on Frazzled. Why did I pick it up? Mostly because the cover looks cool, and ‘frazzled’ is a funny word.

Every person I know, will at some point deal with major stress. We drive ourselves crazy, until our heads explode. I’ve hit that figurative wall a couple of times myself, where it showed that the biggest problem was slowing down my own mind. When you are driving yourself insane, it is hard to go back to the rational and sane side again. That is what Frazzled is all about: people driving themselves insane, and helping them to prevent it. And Ruby Wax steps into this topic with humor as well as personal stories. She shows that everyone can go nuts, even when you have everything to live a perfectly happy life.

Frazzled makes you laugh, helps you see things in perspective, which are both good things against stress. It isn’t fuzzy, it isn’t vague and about being able to stand on your head and feel like you’re part of the universe. The message of the book seems to be that there is only one you, and you have to live with you in a relaxed way while being happy with who you are. Does it help? I don’t know yet, but I have started the six-week-plan by now, and I have laughed every week up till now.

Five hundred years ago no-one died of stress: we have invented this concept and now we let it rule us. Rest has become a dirty word, and our idea of satisfaction is answering the last email. We’re sleepwalking through our own lives. Ruby Wax shows us how to wake up from this stupor with a scientific solution to modern problems: mindfulness.

Ruby Wax. Frazzled / Penguin / 9780241186497

The adventures of Tom Sawyer has a double meaning

Every kid dreams of running away, finding treasures, play all day, and just have one adventure after another. This spirit is the one that Mark Twain captures in the classic The adventures of Tom Sawyer.

When I was a kid I wanted to have all kinds of adventures, but often my ‘walking away’ ended up with walking only a couple of hundred meters and always returning home before dinner. I don’t think my parents were ever worried, although I once did get grounded because they couldn’t find me for several hours (I was playing hide and seek with friends in a park that was just a bit further away than my usual playground).

This spirit of mischief, of seeking adventure, was perfectly captured by Mark Twain in The adventures of Tom Sawyer, but there is more to this book then meets the eye.

Tom Sawyer is a boy from a different time, a time when the colour of your skin truly meant your fate and future. A time in which everyone, no matter the class or fortune, spoke with the local accent. This ‘southern twang’ creates a certain vibe in the book, makes it feel genuine. You can almost feel the summer heat, hear the crickets sing in the grass, smell the hot dust.

Tom Saywer, being a boy from his time, might not be minding politics and trivial facts about race and class, but the adult reader will notice all these little aspects of life in the time of The adventures of Tom Sawyer in a very subtle way. It makes reading the book, even though it is rather old and has not the most breathtaking plot, a double experience. At the one hand, there is that reminder of the adventures that you wanted as a child. It pulls out your inner child, and you should cherish that feeling. On the other hand, there is the feeling of comparing history to the present when it comes to politics, race, class, and similar topics which could be helpful as we should allow that very valuable lesson to soak in in these times a bit more.

The adventures of Tom Sawyer is a classic, and will remain so. It has now a permanent place on my bookshelves.

The adventures of Tom Sawyer
A boy made for mischief, Tom constantly grieves his Aunt Polly with his cunning tricks to get out of school and to lead an idle life of swimming and larking by the banks of the Mississippi. His scrapes vary from whitewashing a fence to witnessing a murder and from running away to be a pirate to hunting by night for buried treasure – but each episode ends with Tom ingeniously on top, as the hero of the village and the envy of all the other boys.

Mark Twain. The adventures of Tom Sawyer / Penguin / 9780143107330

Magnus Chase is Percy Jackson all grown up

In just a couple of years, Rick Riordan seems to have become the master of mythology for young adults. And now he dives into the Norse world, with the Magnus Chase trilogy.

I loved the Percy Jackson series, and decided wisely to skip on the next series. I wanted to keep the feeling after that first series, and accept that there was always an end to a story. But then there was Magnus Chase. No new Greek or Roman stories, no we are going north this time. And Rick Riordan also kicks it up a notch.

As we have come to expect from Riordan, there are always gods that want to mess with people’s heads and creatures that are rather unpleasant and unfriendly. Every religion has them, the good and bad guys. But compared to the Norse gods, the Greek gods seemed like a bunch of lovely fellows. Reasonable too. The Norse gods are a whole different game. Made up mostly from gods of war, creatures hardened in the cold and dark landscapes of Scandinavia, Magnus Chase meets a whole different range of danger than Percy Jackson. So if you thougth that Riordan had battles before, think again.

When looking at the original Norse myths, they often end bad and bloody. That seems to be one of the major differences between this trilogy and the earlier series. Magnus Chase starts with the hero dying, because in Norse legends the greatest heroes came from Valhalla. The tone of this book is also set by this fact. The main character is older, surrounded by more adults, and the gods and side characters put more emphasis on their age. It seems Riordan is trying to reach his earlier readiers, that have grown up alongside his books, as well as a whole new  range of readers which would be the older ones that still love a good and suprising fantasy novel.

If you do like your battles, your myths, and some sarcasm, but you feel too old for main characters that are 12 or 14 years old, Magnus Chase gives you quite a run for your money.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer
My name is Magnus Chase. I’m orphaned and living rough on the streets of Boston. And things are about to get much worse.
My day started out normally enough. I was sleeping under a bridge when some guy kicked me awake and said, ‘They’re after you.’ Next thing I know, I’m reunited with my obnoxious uncle, who casually informs me that my long-lost father is a Norse god.
Nothing normal about that. And it turns out the gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Apparently, if I can’t find the sword my father lost two thousand years ago, there will be doom. Doomsday, to be precise.

A fire giant attacking the city?
Immortal warriors hacking each other to pieces?
Unkillable wolves with glowing eyes?
It’s all coming up.

But first I’m going to die. This is the story of how my life goes downhill from there…

Rick Riordan. Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer / Penguin UK / 9780141342443

The Tao of Travel is a tiny box of inspiration

Paul Theroux might be THE name on travel writing. His books have inspired a whole new generation of writers, just as he was inspired once. All of his inspirations are now combined in The Tao of Travel.

There was once a time when Paul Theroux was just a beginner in the area of travel writing. A time when he too read books to get inspired, to get clues on where to go next, tips on how to travel and develop his own unique style. It is easy to forget that the big names in a business were once starters too. The Tao of Travel reminds you a bit of this little fact, which helps as a sort of strange reassurance when you are starting yourself with something as well.

Don’t expect a Theroux-travel story in The Tao of Travel, because it is a rather simple compilation of all travel writers and writers that have inspired Theroux. It is a large collection of quotes grouped together based on theme.

Themes such as travelling by train, what state of mind writers were in while travelling, how to pack, where to spent the winter months, or what to do when lost. The Tao of Travel makes for a fun little book that should be in your collection if you enjoy travel-books, or if you enjoy Theroux’ work. If you are looking for some inspiration yourself, it is great too. But for everyone else, you can just skip it and move on to another book. This is an item for collecting, nog for actual reading.

The Tao of Travel
A compendium of travel writing from a master traveller Paul Theroux celebrates fifty years of wandering the globe by collecting the best writing on travel from the books that shaped him, as a reader and a traveller. Part philosophical guide, part miscellany, part reminiscence, The Tao of Travel enumerates ‘The Contents of Some Travellers’ Bags’ and exposes ‘Writers Who Wrote About Places They Never Visited’; tracks extreme journeys in ‘Travel As An Ordeal’ and highlights some of ‘Travellers’ Favourite Places’. Excerpts from the best of Theroux’s own work are interspersed with selections from travellers both familiar and unexpected, including Vladimir Nabokov, Henry David Thoreau, Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and more. The Tao of Travel is a unique tribute to the pleasures and pains of travel in its golden age.

Paul Theroux. The Tao of Travel / Penguin / 9780141044262

The world’s literature brought together in Penguin’s Little Black Books

Something to read, and something to collect. Penguin combines them by releasing their little black classics. Or little black books, because it sometimes feels like guilty pleasure.

9200000048910119It is a smart move, to publish little extracts of well-known books. One or two chapters, a couple of poems, or just one essay from a known writer. Bind them all in little, stylish books and create a serie of them. It will make your readers want to collect them, because at some point you want to have them all.
The first set are 80 books, becaus Penguin Books excists 80 years this year, but recently they have created 46 more small novels. And some are a true delight to read. Like How to use your enemies  by the Spanish monk Baltasar Gracián. Full of useful tips and tricks on how to actually use ones enemies.

The balance between non-fiction and fiction, as well as between poetry and stories is well maintained as all forms are published in the tiny books. Over 80 years, Penguin Books has collected more than enough authors to keep publishing new tiny booklets to entertain their public and the collectors of fine literature. And to get access to new readers by creating the possibility to get to know famous authors, by starting lightly with a small amount of pages. Because that is what these little books are. They give the possibility to taste some of Bronte’s work, while also taking in some of 1001-and-1-night, and starting on the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Mark Twain.

With Penguin’s Little Black Books, you will be able to read all the world’s greatest writers, without needing a library for yourself to be able to house all these books. And when done with one, there is always another waiting for you.

Little Black Classics / Penguin Books  / 9780141398877



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