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NonFiction

Chinese Calligraphy: An Introduction to Its Aesthetic and Technique by Chiang Yee, 蒋彝

I've always found calligraphy fascinating. I love studying the ancient scrolls in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan all the while wishing I understood more Chinese to appreciate them more. This book lays out different aspects of calligraphy in 11 chapters from the origins of calligraphy, techniques, and the cultural significance of calligraphy in Chinese culture.

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Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen by Guy Standing

This was an exciting book! I've always thought that a UBI (Universal Basic Income) was a good idea. The author lays out clear arguments for a UBI, explains common misconceptions and arguments made against UBI, and gives suggestions how it could be funded. I'm now even more in favour of a UBI than ever before.

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Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński

This is the second Kapuściński book I've read so far this year. This author has a poetic way of describing current events, and turns them into a Homer-esque epic. This book is about the last Shah of Iran that was eventually kicked out of power in 1979. I don't know much about this part of the world but Kapuściński puts things together in away that gives me the narrative of what happened.

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How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century by Frank Dikötter

A good overview of 8 dictators of the 20th century that heavily relied on their 'cult of personality' to hold onto power. I read a lot of history, so for me this book felt light to me. The chapters on Hitler and Mao Zedong weren't all that revealing to me as I have read a lot about those dictators. The other chapters were more interesting to though.

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Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks

Excellent, heart-breaking examples how tech algorithms are used against the poor, coloured, and sick to deny them government benefits they are entitled to all under the guise of 'stopping fraud', or 'helping those most deserving'. It's ridiculous that people can think we can split homeless people into deserving and not deserving help. All human beings deserve a place to live, a decent job, and health care.

This book should wake up those in non-targeted groups because once governments finish beta testing these techs against the poor, they could, and probably will, turn them against the rest of the population too.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #19 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Tech #Algorithms

The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat by Ryszard Kapuściński

What a short and powerful book. It was incredible to hear the descriptions of the palace life of the Ethiopian Emperor. I had never heard this story before. Kapuściński turns these interviews into a very compelling narrative. His book is divided into three sections: The Throne, It's Coming – It's Coming, and Collapse. The Throne, details the intricate details of daily palace life. It's Coming, It's Coming is about the rebellion against the King. Finally, Collapse is about the end of the very long lasting Emperor Haile Selassie.

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Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping by Roger Faligot

Incredible book about the secret world of Chinese spies. The author has been researching the secret security service in China for decades and the depth of his knowledge is on display in this novel.

I am well versed in the history of China, but it's really interesting to hear about the history behind the history. For example, there is a chapter on Tiananmen Square where he describes the discussions and role of the security service behind the scenes and everything that led to the decision to attack the students.

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Minoan and Mycenaean Art by Reynold Higgins

I am fascinated by history and especially Greek history. I am a proud Greek-Canadian. In fact, I'm Cretan (not a cretin!), so the Minoan civilization is of particular interest to me. I've visited the palace of Knossos and other sites around Crete, but I also am eager for some 'book' knowledge of Minoan civilization too.

I enjoyed this book, but it is academic in tone, so this book is not particularly exciting. It is a very informative book though. There are many color pictures with detailed descriptions. Most of the art they talk about is pottery. I'm not sure if that's only what has survived, or it was a conscious choice.

A few interesting things from the book:

  • Minoan potters influenced the Mycenaean potters even after being conquered by the Mycenaean's ~1450 BC
  • Minoan pottery can be seen in frescoes in the Egyptian city of Thebes. This means that the Minoans were doing trade with them.
  • The famous Minoan 'bull sculpture' is actually a pottery vessel for liquid. The filling hole is one of the ears and the liquid can be poured out of the mouth.
  • The 'double axe' symbol may have been an offering for the Goddess Athena. They found many gold double axes in a temple on Crete. This symbol is dear to me because I inherited a double cross gold necklace from my father. It's amazing that the symbols from ancient Minoan civilization live on in modern Crete.

I should probably read the modern history of Crete. I bought a very large book about the history of Crete when I last visited. So many books, so little time!

Rating: ★★★★ Book #7 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Crete #Minoan #Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Art #Greek #BronzeAge

Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny by Witold Szabłowski

I was turned onto this book by my Polish friend. She is a huge cheerleader for all great Polish writers, such as this author and others like Olga Tokarczuk. I'm also very fond of original, funny, and clever book titles. It turns out I wasn't disappointed by this book.

In the first half of the book, they talk about the dancing bears in Bulgaria. It talks about how they were banned, and then rounded up to be rehabilitated in a nature park. It tells this story from different perspectives: the bear trainers, their families, and the people working at the bear park.

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Rocks & Minerals by Robert F. Symes

(DK Eyewitness Books)

Another solid entry into the Eyewitness Guide series. This one seemed like it barely scratched the surface of the topic. Rocks & minerals are so omnipresent in everything that it's hard to cover it all. There is also a lot of difficult vocabulary that it's hard to keep things straight.

As with all DK Eyewitness books, they take an arguably dull topic, and make it interesting. You even learn a few things while you read this.

I buy these 'for my kids', but am the first to read them. I'm happy to know these beloved books from my childhood are still bringing joy to people in the world.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #102 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #NonFiction #Kids #EyewitnessGuides