Archive for category Books

2017.08.15 Sapiens

It is rather rare to come across a book that is educational and interesting to read at the same time. Some focused on laying down a great deal of facts, but failed to or didn’t bother to connect the dots; and some couldn’t seem to get even the fact right (no, I am not talking about most of the self-enrichment books).

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is a rather rare book.

With more than 400 pages, it did not attempt to offer much that I didn’t know. Instead, the author spent most of efforts in rationalising why history of humankind progressed the way it did. In other words, connecting the dots and forming insights.

Though the title writes “history”, it is not quite a history book. Quite often, I found myself contemplating life and the choices I made in my life while reading it. It made me think about myself and for myself. How many history books, or books in general, do that?

It is rare also in the sense that the author values objectivity higher than political correctness. He questions things that we’ve all been taught positively, agriculture revolution and individualism for example, and “praises” capitalism for uniting the world. The unconventional ideas do not make the book weird, they make it insightful.

I recommend this book to all, not only to know our own story, but as a member of the master species of this planet, “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

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2017.06.12 David Copperfield (not the Magician)

断断续续的用了半年时间,终于读完了狄更斯的大卫科波菲尔。

刚开始还真有点不适应两百年前的英语,感觉有点像读惯了白话网络文学的中文读者回头去啃晚清小说,虽然语言类似但总是有那么一点点不自然。两百年的时间里某些单词的含义也经历了明显的变化,印象最深的便是 ”gay” 和 “want”。

狄更斯经常使用 “gay” 来形容心情高兴,这层意思在现代英语几乎完全消失。We had a gay old time down at the dance hall.

而 “want” 在大卫科波菲尔里更多有“缺乏”和“需要”的意思,而非“想要”。比如,For want of anything better to do I read newspaper for a while.

不得不说,虽然起步不易,但读到后面小说却越来越引人入胜。昨晚晚饭后硬是一口气冲刺读完了最后四章才意犹未尽地把书放下。

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2016.10.13 平凡的世界

最近花了几个月的时间断断续续的读完了路遥的“平凡的世界”。是好书吗?确实是。叙事平稳,结构清晰,人物刻画鲜明,某些段落的代入感很强。

但也是有某些方面我不是太喜欢,特别是觉得书中但凡高中教育的人物都多多少少有点为高尚而高尚的酸气。不知道是不是30多年前的知识青年受时代影响本来就这样,还是路遥过度的把某些人物保尔柯察金化了。

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2016.07.09 The Girl with All the Gifts

前几年吸血鬼泛滥,这几年流行丧尸。在大众对该题材开始有审美疲劳的阶段,有这样一本视角和观点都很新颖的小说出现,既偶然又必然。很多看过该作电影的预告说挺像The Last of Us的,我觉得基本可以判定为没读过此书。

语言简单流畅,学习英文的朋友们可以读读。

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2016.06.11 The Armageddon Rag

This is undoubtedly the weirdest book written by George Martin. Yes, many of his books are weird, but the creativity and Martin’s quite unique writing style normally offer tremendous fun to read. However, “The Armageddon Rag”, which is probably the 19th Martin’s books I read, is just weird.

Perhaps it is due to the cultural background that the story sets in. I am, after all, not grew up under influences of Rock n Roll nor I could easily associate myself to the anti-war movement took place decades ago in a foreign country. Throughout the book I found myself standing as a third person afar from all characters and utterly uninterested by things happening among them, a completely un-GRRM reading experience.

It appears that this book was indeed a commercial failure for Martin. It almost made him quit writing – this was the period in his life that he went to become a screenwriter. Fortunately, he gave himself a second chance in fiction book writing.

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代表人类历史的100件物品

在柏林工作很享受一边走路上班一边听Podcast的感觉,书反而读的少了许多。说来也巧,昨天刚读完的一本书其实原本也是BBC Radio 4和大英博物馆推出的一个Podcast系列。因为实在是喜欢,今年五月我在参观大英博物馆的时候就顺手买了一本实体书。

History in 100 Objects

书如其名,结构很简单,就是以100件物品写的100篇文章,基本按照人类历史发展的趋势安排。洋洋洒洒600多页,读的过瘾,又受益良多。

我发觉自己非常喜欢历史,开始也搞不清楚为什么,读多了渐渐才摸清了几点缘由。一来历史就是故事,很多闻名的历史事件本身都是很棒的故事;二来历史发展基本遵循逻辑,兴衰都有原因,不会很突兀的就发生了;三来历史从来就不是单个时间单个地点单个人物的组成,而是地理宗教人种生态农业物理外交等等参杂在一起的多面体,仅是听不同历史学家对同一事件的不同观点就已经非常有意思了。

(说完这三点,夹带点私活:为什么中国的历史教育很失败?因为三点中它一点都占不全。历史书特别是关系到党的都是杜撰的,编的差根本不能用逻辑串在一起,例如前一年还在延安为生存艰苦奋斗后一年就百万雄师过大江,这种跳跃式发展让人摸不着头脑。而且为了扭曲着突出党统治的合理性,把其他的因素或者简化或者阉割 – “真理只有一个,就是你们课本上的。”)

对该书感兴趣的朋友其实不用买书,网上官方的Podcast都是免费的。

Apple iTunes | British Museum | BBC Radio 4

最后你们猜猜:100件物品里有多少是中国的?

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《国史大纲》

一直仰慕钱穆先生这种潜心做学问的大家,《国史大纲》也从很久以前就出现在必读书单上,直到最近才有机会阅读。

钱先生在全书很明显的流露出对儒家文化的羡仰,以及对孕育出该文化的春秋时期以及严格尊儒的汉朝的褒奖。另一方面,先生对入侵但不能融入汉文化之蛮夷和得政无名施政无道的某些朝代展开非常中庸的评价。虽治史各家难免掺入个人情感,但全书的角度和叙述方式却非常客观,此点在对清代和元代的描写中很容易看出。后者应该是唯一一个没有得到先生任何正面评价的朝代。

读后有几点心得。

灿烂的中华文化洋洋洒洒几千年,人民却长期处在一种很催悲的状态中。如果不是出生在春秋战国的封建王侯,或者从汉到晋的士族大家,中华儿女可以选择幸福投胎的加在一起应该不到500年。大多数时候不是战乱,就是由腐败滑向分崩离析的战乱深渊,而腐败很多时候都体现在强加在农民身上的高赋税。

先生最爱强调得到政权的名正言顺,以及施政时的正义追求。好不容易唐朝两个都占齐了,却坏在了后期君王管理上的放任,特别体现在税收管理上的松懈和对胡人的置之不理。后者直接引发了安史之乱,汉文化从此在无翻身之地。

之前我就一直被两问题困扰。一,孕育了华夏文化的黄河流域现今如此荒芜,之前是怎么维持那么多人口和一个伟大文明的发展呢?先生在书中单辟一节论证这个问题,顿感醍醐灌顶。二,为什么很多朝代都是先西再东,先北后南,此点的解答贯穿《大纲》上册,非常有逻辑,有兴趣的朋友真的应该好好读读。

全书结尾,钱先生单留一节只著题目:“抗战胜利建国完成中华民族故有文化对世界新使命之开始”。如若先生活到现在,不知他对这题目的成立与否还有多少信心。

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