This one might be a bit of an unpopular opinion but I can't help but say that I was really disappointed by this book. Maybe at the time of publication I would have found the book to be more revolutionary, but at this moment in time I wasn't all that special.
Warning below section contains spoilers for Ender's Game
***Young Ender Wiggin thinks he is playing war games at the Battle School, high in orbit, but he is engaged in something far more desperate. Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever-harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly.***
Which honestly sounds like a really interesting book, however, I believe it was executed really poorly.
In Ender's Game we are presented with a Main Character that excels at everything without so much of a struggle. Reading how Ender is able to beat impossible odds at the battle school time after time gets old pretty quickly.
The whole reveal of the final battle felt somewhat bland and, back on earth, I still have no idea how Ender's siblings were able to take over the world through blogging (But hey, silver linings, perhaps there's hope for us Coil bloggers after all), being a weird way to lay the setup for the next novels.
There is not much of an explanation for character's behavior leaving us with the impression that in the future all kids are a bunch of psychopaths. Once you know who is the good guy and who the bad guys the story develops pretty much as you would expect, without much being done in terms of character development.
Overall the writing felt pretty bad, but is what you would expect for a Sci-Fi novel aimed at teens. A combination of strange descriptions and switches between the first and third person perspectives without much of a way to signal them.
Side note: If you get the edition with the Author's introduction go ahead and skip it, or the whole book for that matter, you are better off without reading it. I ended up giving away the whole series to a charity project where I hope they will be better received.
You can find the rest of my reviews here. Be sure to join our ongoing giveaway on r/CoilCommunity. As usual Coil subscribers get some extra content:
One of the hardest things to adjust to after I moved out to live by myself was that I now was in charge of what to eat, that meant that if I didn't cook no else would. Now, being a CS graduate you might assume that cooking wasn't exactly my strong suit, and you would be right. But don't worry, I have gotten a bit better at it after some months of practice.
Anyway, I thought it would be nice to recommend you the two cookbooks I have been using for a while in case you're struggling with the same issues or just want to try out new recipes/techniques.
SALT, ACID, FAT, HEAT is widely regarded as one of the best Cookbooks out there and has amassed plenty of awards. In it, Chef Samin Nosrat set outs to teach you the elements of good cooking through the title's four simple elements. Unlike most typical cookbooks that get you started with recipes right away, this one is divided in two parts.
The first one features a lengthy chapter for each one of the four elements, teaching you how to make better decisions while cooking by guiding you through the whys and hows of good cooking. This sections prepare you to better improvise while you cook so you don't have to follow recipes as strict rules.
The second part is a bit more familiar, consisting of recipes arranged by the type of cooking being done. It also includes some suggested cooking lessons as well as suggested menus for when you're running out of ideas on how to pair a meal.
SALT, ACID, FAT, HEAT is also available as a series in Netflix in case you would prefer to check it in that format.
Cooking for Geeks is the other book I have been relying on for the past months, as with the previous book, this one is not entirely focused on the recipes, having also plenty of interviews with experts on different cuisines. Moreover, it has some 'labs' for you to try to better understand the concepts behind the techniques that you are using.
It also has plenty of recipes for you to try, its Mac & Cheese recipe is the reason my sister has been urging me to cook the last few times I have gone to visit my family.
Both books encourage you think outside of the box while cooking, and more importantly provide you with the tools to do so. Additionally both give some important tips on how to arrange your kitchen, as well as utensils and ingredients that you should always keep close at hand.
“Trying to thoroughly answer a stupid question can take you to some pretty interesting places.”
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (a NASA engineer turned full time cartoonist) is one of my favorites books, usually my go to book for gift exchanges, but being a fan of his web-comic XKCD this should come as no surprise.
If you know you have a geeky sense of humor this book will certainly be to your taste. I mean, just look at the disclaimer at the start of the book:
“Do not try any of this at home. The author of this book is an Internet cartoonist, not a health or safety expert. He likes it when things catch fire or explode, which means he does not have your best interests in mind. The publisher and the author disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting, directly or indirectly, from information contained in this book.”
Despite the title warning you about the 'serious science' the book is really easy to read, each question takes you only a few minutes to read through, all being filled with charming illustrations and a clever sense of humor. Munroe, backs up his claims through the use of math, computer simulations, and the inputs from experts in the field, this makes for an interesting learning opportunity while you think on the most absurd of scenarios. Take a look at the following questions if you don't know what I am talking about:
What if a glass of water was, all of a sudden, literally half empty?
What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry critter) in one place?
How much Force power can Yoda output?
The book is perfect for reading in small amounts, but most likely once you start reading you will find it pretty difficult to stop. If you are still unsure if this is the book for you, you can read some questions, and answers, as the ones included in it by following this link.
As a final recommendation, if you decide to buy it, go with the hardcover edition of the book, it is way more enjoyable than the paperback and kindle editions.
All images were taken from xkcd.com, credits go to Randall Munroe
You can find the rest of my reviews here. Coil subscriber can find some of my favorite quotes from the book below:
For part 5 we will be focusing on Cato the Younger (234- 149 BC) a roman statesman and orator. You can find the rest of this series here.
Cato had a great influence in roman politics, this influence was based mostly on what he did rather than what he said, a truly remarkable feat for anyone involved in politics. He is remembered by his frugality and strict moral code. He was a man that stood for what he believed in, opposing the reign of Caesar until his last breath. He ended up taking his life through a gruesome suicide when it became clear to him that Caesar was not to be stopped.
Below are some notable quotes by Cato the Younger.
“In doing nothing, men learn to do evil.”
“By liberty I understand the power which every man has over his own actions and his right to enjoy the fruits of his labour, art and industry, as far as by it he hurts not the society or any member of it…”
“Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise.”
“Consider in silence whatever anyone says, speech both conceals and reveals the inner soul of man.”
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing freedom of speech. Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”
“To say that private men have nothing to do with government is to say that private men have nothing to do with their own happiness or misery; that people aught not to concern themselves whether they be naked or clothed, fed or starved, deceived or instructed, protected or destroyed.”
“Bitter are the roots of study, but how sweet their fruit.”
“After I'm dead I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.”
“I will begin to speak, when I have that to say which had not better be unsaid.”
“For some people there is no comfort without pain. Thus; we define salvation through suffering. Hence, why we choose people who we know aren’t right for ourselves.”
“The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.”
“Flee sloth; for the indolence of the soul is the decay of the body. “
“The primary virtue is: hold your tongue; who knows how to keep quiet is close to God.”
“Don’t promise twice what you can do at once.”
Before you go, make sure to give our ongoing giveaway in r/CoilCommunity a check, you can find all the details here.
Coil Subscribers can see below for some extra content:
In a backward chronology, the ancestors of any set of species must eventually meet at a particular geological moment. Their point of rendezvous is the last common ancestor that they all share, what I shall call their ‘Concestor’
This is the general idea followed in this book, as we are taken along a backwards trip in time through the history of evolution. Teeming with awe-inspiring facts about modern world animals, as well as accessible explanations of complicated phenomena; it is hard not to end with a new found respect for life and its evolution on this planet.
Dawkins is at his best when he is focused on talking about biology/evolution. He is able to explain interesting concepts really easily and bring into light examples that might not be obvious at first sight, such as:
“An individual organism can be a universal ancestor of the entire population at some distant time in the future, yet without passing on a single bit of her DNA to that population!”
Well surely an universal ancestor would pass some of his DNA to us, but the issue relies on how DNA is passed on:
“For any piece of DNA (‘gene’), you are equally likely to pass on the version you inherited from your father or that from your mother. Just by chance, you could happen to give all your mother’s versions to your child, and none of your father’s. In this case, your father would have given no DNA to his grandchild.”
There are plenty of fascinating ideas on this book, from exploring when Human Culture truly took a turn to our current status, Why did we started walking on two legs? How long does it take to breed for dog-like qualities in foxes? What's the origin of the axolotl?... This makes for a really entertaining read all throughout the book.
That is not to say the book is without issues, some passages felt a bit out of place, i.e. his ramblings about race and sporadic attacks on religions, and overall felt just like clutter in an already large book, I mean the book is almost 800 pages long, and the subject at hand is interesting enough on itself, not to get sidetracked on these topics.
Keep in mind that these are really small issues when compared to the strengths of the book. I would also advise you to give The Selfish Gene, it is a smaller read but no less important.
You can find the rest of my reviews here. Also, don't forget to give r/CoilCommunity a check, I hear they have a contest starting soon.
See below for some extra quotes for Coil subscribers
I feel like continuing with the horror trend that I established in the past few weeks with the likes of Le Fanu and Ray Bradbury. This week we will be focusing on Horacio Quiroga and his short story The Feather Pillow (El Almohadon de Plumas).
Quiroga (1878-1937) was a writer from Uruguay, master of the short story genre. His tales tend to feature a jungle setting and you can see in them a fascination with the themes of death, tragedy and sickness.
If you think you are having a bad time through life, you might want to take a look at Quiroga's to help put things into perspective. His life was plagued with tragic accidents and suicides. When he was only two months old his father accidentally killed himself by firing a gun he was carrying. Eventually his mother remarried, however on 1896 his stepfather suffered a stroke leaving him almost paralytic. This caused his stepfather to commit suicide by using his feet to fire a shotgun, to make matters worse he did this while Quiroga was entering the room he was in.
In 1901, he published his first book, but his happiness was cut short after two of his brother died of Typhoid fever. In that same year, one of his writer friends decided to challenge to a duel a journalist who had given him bad reviews, Quiroga concerned for his friend's well being decided to inspect the gun he would be using at the duel, while doing so he accidentally fired the gun and ended up killing his friend. Horacio was taken into jail by the police and eventually released after the nature of the accident was proven.
Quiroga was married for a few years and had two children, but his wife committed suicide in 1915, while their oldest daughter was just 4 years old. He eventually remarried and had a third child.
In the year of 1935 Quiroga started experiencing symptoms of cancer, a diagnosis that was confirmed in 1937. Quiroga decided to end his life by drinking a glass of cyanide, but his tragedies wouldn't end there, after his death his two oldest children committed suicide, one in 1937 and the second one in 1952.
Ok, so... after traumatizing you with the tragicness of Horacio's life, let us get back to the Short Story.
The Feather Pillow features a young couple of newly weds, Alicia and Jordan. After a few months living together Alicia starts getting sick. Although they bring in a doctor to check upon her they are unable to determine the cause, with Alicia getting worse by the day. The story is really well told and instills in you a sense of despair and hopelessness. You can find the full text here.
Feel free to check out the rest of the Weekly Reading Series. As usual Coil subscribers get a little bit of extra content.
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank
For the past 2.5 years I have been reviewing my own days in a journal. At first, it was an activity I had to force myself to do; now, it is a part of my day I look forward to. There's something really calming about spending a few minutes away from everyone, from every distraction the world has to throw at us, and just spend your time thinking about how you are living your days, how you are making progress towards your goals and how you're curbing any bad habits that you may have.
Journal writing is also a pretty good way to think about your problems, whether you are looking for some way to relieve stress through writing about your feelings or taking a deep dive searching for possible solutions. It is also a terrific way to explore new ideas.
“This is what the best journals look like. They aren’t for the reader. They are for the writer. To slow the mind down. To wage peace with oneself.” – Ryan Holiday
Let us not forget that keeping a daily journal will help you improve your writing, you get to try different styles while reflecting about your day until you manage to perfect your narrative voice. Not to mention that you will find it easier to start writing about almost any topic due to this practice.
Reading old entries can help you put into perspective how much you have grow since the time you wrote them. Seeing the way you use to think and the things you deemed important in the past can be a really humbling experience. As Ray Dalio puts it: “It seems to me that if you look back on yourself a year ago and aren't shocked by how stupid you were, you haven't learned much”
If you want to start your own journey with journal writing I recommend you give this book a check. You should also check out the CoilCommunity subreddit, I heard they got some awesome new mods, and the ability to search Coil Content by different categories (Coil staff if you're reading this please add this feature soon).
Coil subscribers can find my favorite journal below:
Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .
Well technically I haven't finished this book yet as there are still 59 days left in the year, but I believe I have read enough to write a review about it.
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday is a pretty handy book, it is a source of sound advice to start or close your day, to help bring things into perspective and assign them the right weight in your life.
If you have enjoyed The Stoic Quotes series you will certainly like this book. I like to couple it with my own journal writing so I can add my own thoughts on the matters as well keep all the good quotes close at hand.
The book consists of 366 meditations, organized by a common topic, and are meant to be read one each day. If you choose to disregard that recommendation you might find the book to be a bit too repetitive. Each meditation consists of a short quote translated by the author and a follow up text on the issue, giving you his own view on the matter at hand. The translation might not be the best available, but they are good enough for the job.
If you want to enjoy the books at its full potential I would advise you to stick to the one meditation per day recommendation, as this is meant to be a small dip into Stoic philosophy with each passing day.
You can find the rest of my reviews here. Coil subscribers can find some of my favorite quotes from the book below:
It's life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.
I do not think there is a way to write a review that makes justice to this book while avoiding sounding like an idiot in the process, I am sorry Srdan, I tried. So far I have read four books by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov being my favorite and the best novel I have read, but this one is a really close second.
The story follows Prince Myshkin, a young man that returns to Russia after spending years being treated for his epileptic fits in Switzerland. On his way back Myshkin befriends Rogozhin, the son of a merchant who is obsessed with the beautiful Nastasya Fillippovna. Eventually, Myshkin makes her acquaintance and ends up falling in love with her in spite of her self-declared baseness.
Myshkin is presented to us as a truly good man, one who is always honest and has no problem forgiving others for their failings, capable of seeing only the good on the people around him. It is from this innocent nature of the Prince and his interactions with the society he had just entered into that the plot of the novel develops. Speaking of this society, the novel contains a wide array of secondary characters (to the point where it becomes difficult to keep track of them) each with his own strengths and weaknesses, not a single one being all good or all bad, that make the setting and developments a lot more believable and entertaining.
The Idiot is capable of evoking a wide range of emotions in its readers, making you care about the characters and their troubles. In it, Dostoyevsky delves into many interesting topics as are his thoughts on capital punishment (he was, after all, sentenced to a mock execution himself), nihilism, Christ as human being instead of a deity, the church, among others.
Bear in mind that The Idiot is not an easy read, but it is a really remarkable novel, and one that is certainly really worth doing.
You can find the rest of my reviews here. See below for some of my favorite quotes from The Idiot:
Obviously the best way to find the next book you will read is to follow my Book Reviews and Weekly Reading Series, but what if you want to explore other options? I can only post so many recommendations after all. Below are some recommendations, in no particular order, to find new interesting books to read.
1.– Asking those around you: Now, this one might bring you really different results depending on the people you frequent or get to meet, but a really fun way to discover new books is, every time you meet someone you admire, ask them which are his favorite books, the ones that have make the most impact on their lives.
2.– Successful People's Reading Lists: Plenty of successful people publish lists of the most important books they have come across, from Bill Gates to Ray Dalio. This can be really good start if your social circle does not provide you with good recommendations.
3.– Goodreads: I have had plenty of success with this one, you can think of it like a Facebook for books. You can write reviews, mark books as 'read' or 'to-read'. It has its own algorithm to recommend you books depending on the ones on your list. You can also sort through lists defined by genre, author, year of publication... where users vote for their favorite book. Additionally you can request recommendations from other users.
4.– r/suggestmeabook: Another one of my favorite ways to find new books, simply create a new post with a small description of what you are looking for or whatever books you have enjoyed in the past, and watch as reddit users come with plenty of relevant recommendations. While the subreddit is focused around books you can also use it to find short stories.
You could also check out my book recommendations post for more books. In case you haven't heard, I am running a giveaway, you can find the full details here. Coil subscribers can find my Goodreads account below as well as some extra content.