I first read this book as an early teen after hearing the word “machiavellian” pop up around public figures at the time like George Bush Jr. and Tony Blair (yes, I grew up in that era). I had no idea what this word meant as a thirteen-year-old and so, when I looked it up and saw that it was related to a person, I was looking through the works by him in no time. When I first found the list, I was initially thinking about reading the “Discourses on Livy” and when I realised I had to look up a word in the title, I proceeded on to an easier title: “The Prince” is what I read instead. Honestly, I’m glad I chose this one first because it really does explain a lot. It is written quite simply and so, I didn’t need to do much looking up, annotating and researching. I noticed immediately that the first part concerns gaining power and the second part concerns maintaining it. I can honestly say that I was shocked that many political figures were actually so much like this in real life - especially concerning the second half of the book. When I re-read it, I like to concentrate a lot of my attention on to Chapters 17-19 because these are the ones I believe to hold the key to the machiavellian identity. When I went to university, I was 20-years-old when I wrote my essay on machiavellian authorities and powers on the Renaissance stage and how they had an impact on to how certain characters of a play were viewed. If we apply this to real life, we can’t actually be much further from the truth as a machiavellian is not a particularly villainous person or a psychopath - just one who knows how to gain and maintain power and they know how to do it very well. I have read this book over ten times in my life and I still own the first copy I bought when I was thirteen (it is the same copy I re-read). It now contains various annotations from over the years and never fails to shock me into realising what people will do for power, some of the quotations are absolutely timeless in every sense of the word. They will make you shudder to see that the rules of the machiavellian prince are applicable from every world leader from the malevolent Genghis Khan to the charismatic golden-boy, Barack Obama.
This is a book about, you guessed it, breathing and how to breathe. The science of breathing is an interesting story because it is only when you actually think about your breathing that you begin to breathe manually. James Nestor admittedly has his own sinus problems when it comes to breathing but there are things that are better about his explanations of these experiences than other aspects. First of all, he has massive chunks of anecdotes and autobiographical information followed by explanations on top of scientific explanations on top of just a one-sentence seeming ‘example’ from some time in history. The book, though easy to read, is badly organised and has though it grabs your attention at the beginning with the brilliantly written prologue, it falters to keep your attention throughout the blocks and blocks of scientific stuff and various pieces of information about various sects and histories. So, I want to have a look at the main pros and cons of this book and how they come into play throughout the text.
This is a book I first read when I was fifteen years’ old and honestly I can say that I was so entranced by it and so invested in it, I really didn’t want it to end. It took me a while to read because upon first time, there was a lot of stuff about Ancient Greece and the Trojan War I had to look up whilst doing so, especially the stuff concerning geographical locations and the section about the ships. However, when I finished it, I felt some sense of loss, like I had finished something that had just changed my life entirely and I had no idea what it would do to me in the coming future. From the raging wrath of Achilles to the burial of Hector, breaker of horses - this book came to change everything I had once believed about war. In war, there’s always a side that’s less violent, a side that’s right and a side that’s moral - but not here. Not in “The Iliad”. In this text, both sides were as violent and blood-thirsty as each other and both had a complete disregard for the well-being of anyone on the other side. They were trained to hate each other and racially, though they may not be so different - they were completely different in all of their views concerning the key woman and her status - Helen of Troy. This book was one of the most immersive things I had ever read in my life and I have read it a few times since, I have even taught it to students who have called it one of the greatest war books they have ever read. Why? Well because it’s not all out war. It’s rage, it’s difference, it’s backstabbing and deception, it’s regret and sadness and finally, it’s a one-on-one showdown between the two great heroes of the epic from the two opposing sides: Achilles of the Greeks and Hector of the Trojans. And the prize? Well, nothing but the dignity of their side over the death of innocent Patroclus. Patroclus who meant zero harm whatsoever and only want to fight on behalf of Achilles, who would not. All in all, we could say that this is Agamemnon’s fault for stealing Briseis from Achilles in the first place. But this is not a feasible excuse for Achilles’ behaviour of rage, wrath and ignorance.
I was fairly young the first time I read this - around ten or eleven. I’m not going to lie to you, I had my dictionary at the ready and was looking up strange words left, right and centre. First time around, I didn’t really get it, so I went back and read it again and scared myself half to death because, after reading it once, I knew what all the words meant now. For a few days, I didn’t get much sleep and I was up most nights thinking about those weird children and the haunting coldness of Bly Manor. I would re-read the book over the years because the way in which the ghosts psychological enrapture the children is so incredibly intense even though the text itself is relatively short. You’d imagine you would need a long novel to build that kind of atmosphere, but Henry James does it in a short amount of time, leaving you with a shivering and shuddering feeling long after the text has ended. The last time I read it was when I was teaching it, maybe last year some time in the Spring. The students I was teaching it to often admitted that the text felt very dark because of the fact the bad things were happening to children. I think that much like novels such as “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty and “Suffer the Children” by John Saul, Henry James offered us a darker look at hauntings and horror through his writing of the innocence and child-like nature of Flora and Miles. It is not only frightening, in some cases it is rather disturbing too.
I am admittedly a ‘Plain Jane’ type or person. There is nothing interesting about me, nothing that intrigues anyone about my being and my interests are conventional and appropriate to who am I overall. I am in no way a person of interest to anyone and my character is in no means extraordinary. And that is exactly how I want it to be. Being a ‘Plain Jane’ does not mean resigning yourself to a life of indifference, content and often boredom, it actually means that your personality never gets challenged by communities and your willingness to ‘open up’ emotionally, psychologically etc. to others is within your own grasp so tightly that you only give out what you want people to see. But what is a ‘Plain Jane’? A ‘Plain Jane’ is often a woman who is considered by others to be boring, uninteresting and in nature, morals and ethics, plain and unadventurous. The way in which it is named is somewhat after the character from the book “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte - the ‘Plain Jane’ being the eponymous narrator in comparison to the character that the love interest, Edward Rochester, is interested in - the decorated Blanche Ingram.From this novel, I learnt to live with my ‘Plain Jane’ abilities and more than often, it has worked in my advantage - and so, this is what I want to go through today. Here are five advantages to being the ‘Plain Jane’ of the family.
I first read this book in school whilst I was first reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and even though Harper Lee’s book absolutely wowed me, this book hurt me in ways I couldn’t even imagine. If you want to read about how African American people are mistreated by the justice system, and how they are systemically made to look evil and violent then you definitely need this book. I recently re-read it and it made me cry yet again like it did last time. There’s something incredibly dark and uncomfortable about this book and yet, it is enlightening because it teaches us so many things about injustice, prejudice and the value of human life as seen by three different sides: the teacher, the individual and the reader. It is unbelievably moving in its writing style, its storytelling technique, its politics, its time, era and order, the way in which America is prejudice against the outsider and finally, we get various lessons in what it means to be alive and what it means to die. The high emotional stress of this book gets me every time I pick it up and ever since I first read it, I have been moved by it every single time. There’s nothing more emotional than seeing someone convicted of something they didn’t do and absolutely nobody believes them. They turn to their teacher and yet, it almost feels like it could never be enough. There’s something holding it back and stopping it from having a contented ending. You’re left feeling a little hollow and a little guilty, as if you wanted to scream out that this man is innocent. It is heartbreakingly good and the book will always remain with me for as long as I live.