arkadi cloud

NonFiction

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

This is an intense course on how to make comics, told in...graphic novel format! It is an incredible reference book for those that have ever thought of writing a comic or graphic novel. Even if you aren't interested in creating your own comics, understanding the artform and different practices helps you understand, and appreciate comics even more.

I was so smitten by this book, I have already bought McCloud's other famous work – Understanding Comics. This book is actually #3 in the McCloud's series about Comics.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #98 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #books #BookReview #ScottMcCloud #comics #NonFiction #art #GraphicNovel

Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

A whirlwind look at the exciting world of bugs, the extraordinary ways they live, breed, eat, and die. It also explains why bugs are so important on this Earth. This is the perfect book for anybody who thinks bugs are just pests and should all be eliminated.

The chapters are short and concise. I almost wish the author went into more detail in every chapter, as they often feel too short. She gives us tantalizing morsels of data about a type of bug, and then she's off and telling us about another one. This isn't a genre of books I'm very familiar with but it seems I need to read more books about bug!

Also, you will want to keep your phone at hand as you read through this book and look up pictures of these incredible bugs she's talking about. You may fall down a rabbit hole of watching Youtube videos of the bugs – you have been warned!

Rating: ★★★★ Book #94 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #books #bugs #AnneSverdrupThygeson #NonFiction

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

“This is a female text, composed by folding someone else's clothes. My mind holds it close, and it grows, tender and slow, while my hands perform innumerable chores.

This book's exploration of a historical poem, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, (The Keen for Art O’Leary), sucked me in. The poem is about an Irish noblewoman who finds her husband murdered and composes a poem on the spot after drinking some of his blood. It's passed on from woman to woman for many years and eventually is written down. This book is also about the author, Dorieann Ni Ghriofa, and her lifelong obsession about with the author of the poem, and her life. This is part biography, part poetry, and part translation. It is truly a unique work, and difficult to describe.

The first part of the book focuses on the events in the life of Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, up until her husband is murdered and she 'writes' her poem. The second portion of the book is more about Ghriofa's quest to learn more about Eibhlín, her life, and about her relations.

The first part of the book was amazing, but it sort of derailed a bit in the second portion for me. I don't regret reading this, it's such a lovely exploration of womanhood, and the connection between these two women who lived hundreds of years apart, but it was not exactly what I was expecting.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #93 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #DoireannNíGhríofa #Ireland #poetic #NonFiction #women #poetry #motherhood

Say Nothing: A True Story Of Murder and Memory In Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

'All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.' – Viet Thanh Nguyen

I knew little about Ireland and Northern Ireland before reading this book. I only knew the term 'The Troubles' but had no idea what it really meant. This is an incredible book about The Troubles in Northern Ireland from the 60s-90s. It tells the stories of IRA and Provisional IRA members and what it was like to live through those times, and then the transition to 'peace'. It is about how to move on from a violent time like that, what should you remember? What should you forget? Was it all worth it?

Who should be held accountable for a shared history of violence? It was a question that was dogging Northern Ireland as a whole.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #83 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Ireland #NorthernIreland #history #nonfiction #murder #IRA #Provos

The Parthenon Marbles: The Case for Reunification by Christopher Hitchens

This book has an amazing title, but the book suffers from a convoluted narrative which makes reading it a bit of a struggle. This book has been revised many times, and a new foreword by Hitchens has been written, but he hasn't gone back and edited the whole book as a whole. Hitchens seems like a bit of a blowhard who likes to hear the sound of his own voice, but I shall forgive him as his love for Greece seems genuine. Once you get past the 92 pages of Prefaces, Introductions, and Forewords the actual book begins.

Are the Greeks fit to be the custodians of their own antiquity?

This is the main thrust of the book, should the Parthenon Marbles be returned to Greece and reunited with the building they were stolen from? YES! The Parthenon Marbles aren't like the other trinkets the British have looted from other countries in the world, they are an integral part of a building still standing in Greece, on a very iconic historical building. The British Museum should just face the fact that Britain has become a 3rd rate country, not even part of the European Union, and is no longer an Imperial Empire. They should magnanimously give back what was stolen to the Greeks and reap the enormous bonhomie that will come back to them from the rest of Europe and especially Greece.

The structure of the book is as follows:

  • The Parthenon in History
  • The Elgin Marbles
  • Restitution Works on the Acropolis Monuments
  • Appendix 1: The Present Location of the Parthenon Marbles
  • Appendix 2: The Commons Debate 1816
  • Appendix 3: The Parthenon Gallery in the New Acropolis Museum

I want to give this 5 stars just for Greece, but it needs editing to make it a better read, more powerful read.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #82 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Parthenon #Greece #ElginMarbles #ParthenonMarbles #History #NonFiction

Fascism by Mark Neocleous

Small, clear and succinct book from the Open University Press: Concepts in Social Sciences about Fascism. It addresses a few very 'simple' questions: (1) What is the relationship between fascism, modernity, and capitalism? (2) What is the basis of the fascist attack on Marxism and liberalism? (3) Why is fascism inherently destructive?

I really enjoy books like this. Fascism is a term you hear a lot, but the meaning has gotten muddled and confused over the decades.

This is the sort of book I read, not understanding all parts perfectly, but I am thinking about it for weeks after. Reading this book felt like taking a 1 semester course in Political Science. I hope to find and read more of the books in this series.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #75 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #fascism #war #MarkNeocleous #PoliticalScience #politics #NonFiction

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

I usually steer far clear of business books. They usually are stuffy, poorly written, and humorless affairs, not this one though. Netflix co founder Hastings writes with candor about Netflix's success and failures as they tried to navigate being a creative technology company. There is humour and concrete examples throughout the book. This book feels so genuine and so bereft of bullshit and long sentences filled with academic language. This book is part biography of Netflix, and part useful lessons Netflix has learned along the way in how to run their company, the 'special sauce' if you will.

The main takeaway from the book is that we don't need to run companies like they are factories in the industrial revolution. For companies who are creating creative products, which is many, many companies out there, we need to start ditching the controls of factories.

“If you have a team of five stunning employees and two adequate ones, the adequate ones will sap managers’ energy, so they have less time for the top performers, reduce the quality of group discussions, lowering the team’s overall IQ, force others to develop ways to work around them, reducing efficiency, drive staff who seek excellence to quit, and show the team you accept mediocrity, thus multiplying the problem.”

This is one of the quotes that hit me hard. We have this problem at our workplace. I feel I'm one of the stunning employees and feel demotivated working beside dummies. The problem with my workplace is that we can't afford to hire the best. So, we will have to just trying praying every time we hire a new person, keep them from quitting, and push the others out the door as fast as possible.

This is where a lot of Reed's arguments fall apart. If you can't afford to pay the top dollar for the best employees it will be difficult to implement a lot these points of the Netflix method. The first one is 'high talent density', which is pay your best employees well, and get rid of the just 'OK' employees.

This is not to say the book is useless, you can still take things away from this book, but very few companies would be able to copy every single point in this book. I like his snappy, easy-to-remember catch phrases for a lot of the points they make: the keeper test, the 4 A's, no 'brilliant jerks' and lead with context. I don't want to spoil the book, and I won't be able to explain it adequately so you'll just have to read the book to find out more about these phrases.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #69 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #ReedHastings #ErinMeyer #Netflix #business #NonFiction

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

An unvarnished look at the morally dubious actions of the CIA from its inception to now. They sure spent an awful lot of money, to assassinate, and install some terrible people in governments all over the world. This is not the CIA you see in movies. It's actually really sad how they are spending so much money on the CIA and not being very effective. Now some will argue that we only hear about their failures, and not their successes. I believe there may be some truth to that, but very, little truth.

This history shows us a CIA that doesn't really know it's purpose. Ever president seems to struggle how to utilize the CIA, is it a secret ops force used to start military coups? (that seems to have been its main purpose after reading this book!) is it to gather intelligence about terrorists? or about North Korea? It seems like a rudderless organization.

It boggles my mind to think about the billions of dollars that the CIA spends every year. Even though they have a fraction of the money of the military, they still get billions. If only humans invested in schools, libraries, and the environment instead of bombs. This is the second book in a row that made me sad, the first being Witness Palestine. That being another book about a place Americans are pouring millions into supporting a morally reprehensible apartheid state.

It was a good read though. You get a feel for the politics of the CIA, and their relationship (or lack thereof) with the President. It makes me think, how do you run a secret intelligence service well?

President Eisenhower in 1959: “This agency demands of its members the highest order of dedication, ability, trustworthiness, and selflessness-to say nothing of the finest type of courage, whenever needed. Success cannot be advertised: failure cannot be explained. In the work of intelligence, heroes are undecorated and unsung.”

David Kay, CIA's chief weapons inspector: “Wars are not won by intelligence. They're won by the blood, treasure, courage of the young men and women that we put in the field... What intelligence really does when it is working well is to help avoid wars”

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #65 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #TimWeiner #war #CIA #spy #USA #journalism #NonFiction

Witness in Palestine: A Jewish Woman in the Occupied Territories by Anna Baltzer

”...What would you do if the wall were closing in on you? What would you do if your brother was dead, your father was in prison, and you couldn't get a job or go to school? What you do if your food sources were uprooted and people in neighboring settlements urinated and defecated in your water source? What would you do if working for change within the system failed you again and again? What would you do if you have nothing left? Remember, the walls are getting closer...What would you expect from yourself in that situation, and how does it compare with what you expect of the Palestinians today?”

I was shaken and angry after reading this. I've read many boot on the occupation but never a boots on the ground account of the daily humiliation, violence, and suffering endured by the Palestinians.

This is written in 2004 by a Jewish-American volunteer in Palestine. Sadly, I don't think much has changed. The title is very fitting because we all have to witness what Israel is doing. They only get away with things because we let them. This book is written as a journal. I've read many books about Israel-Palestine but this one really hits home because each journal entry is a focused look at the Palestinians families suffering in the conflict. They aren't just people, they are families, and neighbors. There are lots of pictures of the people in her stories too. It's hard not to be moved by such a heartfelt journal. Baltzer is very brave in the face of Israeli soldiers, but just imagine how much more brave the Palestinians who face this intimidation and violence everyday.

Read more...

The Atlas of Flags by Federico Silvestri

Flags excite me. They are so full of meaning, and history. I bought this 'for my kids', but of course it's really for me. This book doesn't cover all the flags in the world because that would be impossible. It does go through the history of flags, and the terminology. Then it discusses important flags and flag families. Some flags are related to others because of how they were created, and/or of the color schemes they use.

If you enjoy history and flags, you will like this book. It's aimed at the elementary school student, but any curious adult will get lots of knowledge out of it.

I appreciate that they authors also included Taiwan's flag in the book, albeit on the China page.

I bought this book at the Big Bad Wolf Book Fair. That fair has been cancelled for the past 2 years because of the virus. I really, really hope it comes back so I can find other gems like this to fill my bookshelf.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #54 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #flags #history #NonFiction