The third book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series, A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin won several awards after being published in 2000. This section of the story contains several weddings including Joffrey’s, Tyrion’s, and the dreaded red wedding. The latter is no less shocking having seen it on TV and now reading about it. In other chapters, the Night’s Watch are on the move back to the wall, Khaleesi marches onwards, and Arya travels with the Hound in one of the novel’s best plotlines. This epic book rivals the first for its staggering achievement and thrilling action.
Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the most popular books that gets recommended as a must read. It has sold over 20 million copies and translated into 24 different languages. The powerful first half of the book describing day to day life in a German concentration camp is a must read to discover the power of human resilience in devastating circumstances. The second half describes Frankl’s logotherapy philosophy. Frankl’s main message here is that people must find something to live for and that will help them survive anything, even the horrors of a concentration camp.
Steven Hyden’s book This Isn’t Happening goes into great detail on the band Radiohead surrounding the recording and release of their seminal Kid A album in 2000. Recognized as one of the top albums of the aughts, Kid A is a recording that was initially panned by critics and many fans alike. The book also takes in the history of the band leading up to Kid A as well as the aftermath of their recordings and career. Hyden is a knowledgeable music writer and here he has created a fascinating look at a polarizing album.
Prairiefire Magazine – Winter 2021-22, Volume 42 No. 4
Reading this book in early 2022 while the trucker’s “Freedom Convoy” worked its way across Canada to then occupy downtown Ottawa was a stark contrast in realities. Colson Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad, from 2016 was hugely popular – it won a Pulitzer Prize before eventually being turned into a TV show. The book follows Cora as she escapes the plantation she is enslaved on in order to find a better life. In the book, the underground railroad is an actual railroad that takes ex slaves around America through secret tunnels. Even as Cora runs further and further away from the plantation, her past is never far behind. It’s a powerful book that should be widely read.
The first book in a series that will follow the songs of the Bee Gees decade by decade. Starting off in the 60s, this volume is split between the group’s Australian beginnings and it’s first brush of international fame with their first UK albums. The book written by several authors including Winnipegger (and friend) Grant Walters is expertly written with many in-depth anecdotes about the Gibbs’ brothers writing and recording history. It is a book that will keep both the hardcore and casual fans entertained throughout.
On top of work, working towards a Business Analyst certificate occupied a lot of my time in early 2022. This book taken for the Business Re-Engineering course was a companion for a few months. Workflow Modeling is a way of looking at the design of work/process mapping to gain more insights into where process improvements can be made. Certainly, dense with a lot of information, the second edition by Alec Sharp and Patrick McDermott has several interesting business stories and is swimming with swim lane diagrams.
Prairiefire Magazine – Summer 2021, Volume 42 No. 2
A bit late with this posting, but here it goes:
A Clash of Kings is the second novel in George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Like it’s predecessor, there is a lot plot covered in its many pages. A few highlights include the struggle between Stannis and Renly Baratheon to take the crown, Arya Stark’s journey, Theon Greyjoy’s heel turn, Tyrion Lannister becoming the king’s hand and Jon Snow travelling well behind the wall. With so many characters and plot points, it would be easy to get lost but Martin does a masterful job of keeping everything together. While it doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the first novel, it is still a terrific read and the description of the war at King’s Landing is a thrill.
The first of Ryan Holiday’s big three stoicism books is The Obstacle Is The Way. Released in 2014, the book is broken into three main sections – perception, action and will. The format is familiar to some of his other books of short stories taken from history. While summarizing some of those historic lessons, Holiday can make it all very simplistic to prove his point. After several years of reading his writing, some of the stories and lessons may be blunted by being familiar but Holiday does have a unique ability to make the reader want to learn more about the many stories he shares.
Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’ 13th novel and one of his most beloved. The story follows Pip, starting as a young lad who lives with his sister and her husband in the country with dreams of becoming a gentleman in the city. His dreams come true through a secret benefactor that pays his many bills. Along the way, Pip falls for the beautiful Estella who he meets through the mysterious Miss Havisham. Great Expectations is a very good story with many memorable characters and a few twists and turns to keep the reader engaged.
Among all the self-improvement books out there, one that appears every now and again is Cal Newport’s 2016 book, Deep Work. At the beginning, the book is more scholarly but then it starts to settle in to rules to follow. Much of today’s work life involves reading emails, answering instant messages, and being tugged in 20 different directions. What Newport gets into is the importance of going deep on a project without distractions for a few hours a day. He also preaches such ideas as getting off social media, think about problems when doing other activities, focus on important tasks, and not working so late that you burn yourself out. All of these items while simple in theory can be hard to do in the office so one must find ways to incorporate deep work into their routine. A fine book about an important topic.
Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005. The novel tells of Irishman Willie Dunne who signs up with the allies to fight in WWI. The war conflict also causes much conflict for those left behind in Ireland who are under British rule. Willie has a hard time connecting with his policeman father and the love of his life who he meets just before joining. The novel is wonderfully written as it speaks of the horrors of war on both the front and home lines.
Mansfield Park is the third published Jane Austen novel that came out in 1814 but did receive any public reviews for several more years. As a child, Fanny Price is sent to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle and their four children. From there it follows the typical novel of this time of trying to find love and get married. Slowly Fanny wins everyone over but it takes several years before she becomes the most beloved. Lesser of the first three Austen novels, Mansfield Park is still widely published and has been turned in radio broadcasts, TV specials, stage presentations and movies.
A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths takes it’s title from one of the band’s most loved songs. The book starts out with extensive research into Irish immigrant life in Manchester, England before it finally lands on Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey. The band starts when Marr knocks on the future singer’s door and asks to start a band. Adding bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, the band take the nation’s indie rock fans on a nonstop ride until it all crashes down just a few years later. Fletcher’s account is very well researched and creates a vivid picture of life within the group. It can more than hold its own on The Smith’s bookshelf alongside acclaimed books by Simon Goddard and Johnny Rogan.
Jeanine Cummin’s American Dirt novel is about Lydia and her son Luca as they make the harrowing journey across Mexico to the United States. Lydia is on the run from a Mexican cartel who brutally murdered her husband and the rest of her family. Upon release, the book met with both widespread acclaim and derision for the depiction of Mexican life. Hard to comment on that aspect of the book from Canada, however, the tale is a gripping one that is hard to put down as you root for them to make it across the border to “freedom”.
Noted authors John Green & David Levithan team up for this YA novel about teens Will Grayson and his fabulous best friend Tiny who is working diligently to put on a high school play about his young gay life. Will is the more subdued, loner type vs larger than life Tiny who is constantly hooking up and trying to get Will hooked up. There are plenty of laughs and a few poignant moments as they try to get through high school life.