April showers and the onset of the long rains in Kenya ensured plenty of reading time!! Having said that, in terms of reading choices, the month did not get off to the best of starts. Zambezi was possibly one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It was a weak plot that was badly written. One of those where it feels like the author is constantly sitting on your shoulder and explaining every little thing – I definitely prefer the books where the author gives their audience some credit for intelligently being able to put two and two together?
The second disappointing book was After You by Jojo Moyes. This was one of those sequels that, to be honest, just didn’t need to be written. One of the strengths of Me Before You (which I loved!) was the dynamic between Lou and Will, and without that dynamic both Lou and the sequel were just…meh. And Lily – Lily is a brat. While I accept that it is sometimes nice to have everything neatly wrapped up in an ending, and that you sometimes want to know what happens with certain characters after the end of a story…you really don’t need to write a book about it. Or turn it into a trilogy. I’d already bought Still You before I read this…maybe I jumped the gun a little!
I guess one of the good things about hitting rock bottom early in the month is that the outlook can only be positive from there. The Song of Achilles, a retelling of The Iliad through the eyes of Patroclus, close companion of Achilles, is compelling reading for anyone interested in Greek mythology and the classics.
On The Shortness of Life was my first experience of Seneca, and I am hooked. A collection of essays to fictional friends gives some great life lessons. It is definitely one I will re-read just because as slow as you go (the book is only ~100 pages) there are so many ideas and associations that you’ll probably take away something different with each reading.
Black Box Thinking was my audiobook for the month and it made for wonderful listening. It is a thought-provoking exploration about why more organisations and professions don’t use failure to improve their success rates, and the ways in which they could harness the lessons learned. A lot of examples were drawn from the airline industry but the medical, social work and corporate world generally are also considered.
Emotional Intelligence intrigued me, but it was written more in the style of a textbook (which I should probably get used to now that I am going back to school). It was nonetheless an interesting glimpse into neuroscience and what affects emotional intelligence, and why it is key to work with younger kids to develop their emotional intelligence skill set.
Shoe Dog was a great memoir from Phil Knight, founder of Nike. I loved the inherent geekiness in his character, and his candid story about how a team of misfits that were passionate about running changed the sports shoes industry. Key takeaway – cashflow, cashflow, cashflow (I really empathise with and understand this – any entrepreneur will!). Also, I think fell a little bit in love with Johnson when I read about his conversion of a barn in the middle of New Hampshire into a Fortress of Solitude that he has filled to the rafters with books and reading chairs. Even more so, when it followed that he converted a second barn into somewhere anyone could read and furnished it with spillovers from his collection.
John Green’s latest offering Turtles All the Way Down wasn’t his best work and very much a story in which nothing really happens. However it was still an interesting portrayal of a teenager suffering from OCD and anxiety, and being John Green, it was immensely quotable.
I had picked up The Dharma Bums on one of my trips to San Francisco from the City Lights bookstore, which was itself a hub and meeting point for many of the writers and poets from the movement associated with the Beat generation. It’s been on my list for a while but I am glad I finally got round to reading it. Although it felt somewhat naive and very American in its approach and outlook to spirituality and enlightenment, it was still a spirited story about two young men on a quest for their personal truths.
So, the summary:
- Zambezi (Tony Parks): ★
- After You (Jojo Moyes): ★★
- The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller): ★★★★
- On the Shortness of Life (Seneca): ★★★★★
- Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Daniel Goleman): ★★★
- Shoe Dog (Phil Knight): ★★★★★
- Black Box Thinking (Matthew Syed): ★★★★
- Turtles All the Way Down (John Green): ★★★
- The Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac): ★★★