Book Reviews: Fighting Off Boredom the Good Old-Fashioned Way

picture by @Suzy Hazelwood https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1457081

picture by @Suzy Hazelwood https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1457081

While FISH boasts its many movie and TV show recommendations ranging greatly from BoJack Horseman to the many Batman movies, I recognized a severe lack in book reviews and analysis in the past publication. As an individual who has always preferred the book over the movie adaption, I came to realize that I want to fix this. As the first article, I had ever written for the FISH was a book review of The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, I wanted to indulge in the nostalgia and finish my FISH experience with a number of short but sweet book reviews on a couple of works of literature that I had the opportunity to read during the quarantine period. 

 

Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behavior and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life) by Thomas Erikson

Surrounded by Idiots is the first book I will be discussing. While I do not recommend reading this book when you’re hanging out with your close friends, who might feel offense at the title, this is an interesting dive into the different perspectives and thought processes various people go through. Erikson states that every person can be divided into one (or a combination) of four colors: red, yellow, green, and blue. Each color represents a key characteristic of that individual. Red’s are seen as passionate yet commanding, Yellows are regarded as social yet overly-optimistic, Green’s can be friendly yet doormat-like, and Blue’s tend tot be analytical yet cold. While my description’s of these only scratch the surface of the complex make-up of each personality, it gives you the necessities to get interested in the book. The contents of the book include explaining how to deliver bad news to different colors, what makes different colors mad and how to avoid such topics and the group dynamic when various color personalities interact. 

I personally don’t really believe in adapting your interaction to suit different people, but this book still gave me insight into how different people may approach subjects. The title, Surrounded by Idiots, shows this the best. At first, it may sound pretentious, however, towards the end Erikson explains our warped perceptions of ‘idiots’. He explains that the people that we might perceive as ‘idiots’ for not acting accordingly are only seen as such because we don’t understand their personal thought process and logic.

Rather than taking every word as fact, however, I recommend Surrounded by Idiots for a light read. I can’t guarantee its accuracy, but it’s always entertaining to guess your friends’ and family member’s color and be proven right or wrong

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbowsky 

Currently, many students are frustrated and upset about losing their high-school experience. While this may be only a small consolation, The Perks of Being a Wallflower gives readers both realistic and romantic views of high-school. The novel follows Charlie, a freshman in high school, who is painfully shy and socially awkward. He attempts to navigate this world of highschool classes, dances, and bullies with the help of his friends Sam and Patrick and his family. Written in an unorthodox letter format, always titled ‘Dear friend,’, this novel transfers you into Charlie’s world and allows you to experience high-school even at home (whether you want to or not). 

I have mentioned many reasons to read this during quarantine, but I have to add that this is one of the rather dark and mature coming-of-age stories on the market. Therefore I’d recommend approaching this novel while knowing that the themes and subject matter includes mental illness, suicide and more. 

 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

What better way of escaping the confines of your own home and mind than by being transported to an unknown island with no adults and no rules. Lord of the Flies is a classic that every person should at least read once in their lives. It tells the story of the aftermath of a plane crash on a desert island, where the only survivors are a group of schoolboys. While waiting to be rescued they decide to establish a certain order on the island, which in itself is a beautiful area, where there are fantastic birds and deep blue seas. While food seems aplenty, so are the mysterious beasts that continue to plague the survivors. As time goes on, the reader experiences a gradual degradation of the ‘order’ on the island and with that the mental state of all the boys, who begin to return to their primitive ways.

It’s a light read with simple, straightforward language.  It’s written with a third-person perspective that allows us to explore each survivor. The story is thrilling and the feeling of terror that this novel makes you feel is less than ordinary. Lord of the Flies is not a conventional horror novel, but the savage-like change within the boys as well as graphic scenes are likely to haunt you while reading. While the work ends on a fairly positive note, I’d say that this sudden happy (?) ending is more disturbing than any other ending Golding could have chosen to conclude the story with.

 

Leben des Galilei (Life of Galilei) by Bertolt Brecht

The Life of Galilei is an outlier from the rest of the book recommendations in this article since it is an original German work and not a novel – it’s a play. In addition, it is one of the plays that I had to read to study for my German Literature class. However, in the midst of the constant analysis and in-depth reading, I felt like I hadn’t gotten the chance to truly immerse myself in the wonderful work of Brecht. In addition, I wanted to recommend this play to students who don’t take our class.

The Life of Galilei is, as the title suggests, a type of “retelling” of a significant chapter of Galilei Galilei’s Life when he tried to show the church that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa. As one can already imagine, this creates a very difficult path in Galilei’s life. He studies and researches regardless of what is thrown at him; these included the plague, lessons to students, and his blindness. 

From all the books that I recommended today, I personally felt that The Life of Galilei was the most emotionally-gripping and tragic stories I read so far. The language is complex in certain areas with metaphors and ambiguous word choice sprinkled throughout (which is probably why it was chosen to be a play for our Paper 2). It also tackles many universal thematic ideas such as the dangers of science and the importance of humanity. My favorite line can be found on page 39, where Brecht writes

“Als ich dich vorhin am Rohr sah und du sahst diese neuen Sterne, da war es mir, als sähe ich dich auf brennenden Scheiten stehen, und als du sagtest, du glaubst an die Beweise, roch ich verbranntes Fleisch.”

(translated to modern English)

“When I saw you standing in front of the telescope and you saw these new stars, I felt as if I saw you standing on burning logs, and when you said, you believed in the evidence, I began to smell burnt flesh.”

While that was a rough, unofficial translation made by me, it shows the vivid imagery that is present everywhere in the play, which is one of the main reasons why I love this play. However, to truly understand the beauty of that specific statement, I recommend you to give the play a read as I doubt I can convey the same feeling Brecht conveys through a simple sentence or two in this book review. 

 

Watching Netflix and discovering new video games are all valid means of passing time and boredom. Even I indulge myself in a TV show or two in the midst of these troubling times to distract myself, however, I came to realize that no new type of media can replace the emotions and immersion that can be felt by reading a good old-fashioned book. With this series of book reviews, I hope that I managed to remind and convince some of you to read some books during the seemingly unlimited time we have during the quarantine.