Book Reviews

Angry White Men

Who is the typical lone wolf mass murderer/terrorist, what do they have in common, and what drives them to commit these violent acts? This book tries to answer this question by looking into ideology, mental illness, conspiracy theories, social failures, and failures with attracting women. If you would like a deeper understanding of who these people are this book will give you something to think about. 

Angry White Men by Audhild Skoglund. 
Published by Humanist Forlag in 2013. 185 pages.

The book is a study of several known mass killers and explores the factors and reason behind. It´s largely based on an FBI report by Kathleen Puckett, where she studied 10 lone wolf killers. The book also discusses five attackers in depth. The Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, Anders Behring Breivik, and also two Swedish killers. It turns out that several of known mass murderers and/or terrorists are narcissistic and carry a rage against some form of external enemy, they have paranoia and therefore are not seldom attracted to conspiracy theories. According to the FBI-report a majority of them have tried to connect with extremist groups, but have failed. A lot of them have also failed with women. Both of these facts are often attributed to the general problem they have with forming social bonds. What comes first of ideology or mental issues is difficult to answer. Neither education or socio-economic background seem to be a common denominator.  Some came from failed homes, whereas others had normal upbringing. The majority of the perpetrators have an intelligence of above average. 

The author does mention that right-wing white supremacy groups often have some form of antifeminist attitude. And in that there is a cultural connection. The cultural connection is also important when considering anger against the government, conspiracy theories, racism etc. Most of the lone wolf killers seem to have had problems relating to people in general and especially to women. Many of them carried a resentment, loathing or even hatred towards women. This factor seem to be quite common among most of these types of killers. The last few years this toxic masculinity has been discussed further. I would love to hear what Audhild Skoglund thinks of this debate. She has a small chapter on it, but I'm sure she could elaborate this subject more today. 

The cultural connection to white power groups as well as toxic masculinity is a real scary part. Because it implies that we all are part of our culture and therefore have some form of responsibility in how we shape it. There are lots of people here in Norway who hate immigrants and the politicians from the workers party. The lone wolf that committed the atrocities in Oslo and on Utøya on 22th of july in 2011 is not so lonely after all. 

«Det var vår kultur som gjorde at han ikke følte seg alene da han satte avgårde med en gigantisk bombe og flere skytevåpen for å eliminere forrædere av klasse A, B og C.»
Translates as: "It was our culture that made him feel not alone when he set off with a huge bomb and several guns to eliminate traitors of class A, B, and C."

The reasons why men much more often become lone wolf attackers than women do is also discussed to some extent. Some of the reasons are that men in general are more violent, men often externalises their anger whereas women focuses more inward, several of the mental issues like paranoia and narcisism is more common among men, and lastly there is also the practical reason that many more men have experience and training with weapons. 

All in all I guess the book paints a nuyanced picture of the angry white men that commit massmurder.

The literature list at the end of the book is extensive. Might pick up a few of the books there. But I must say that seing the manifests of Ted Kazcinski and Anders Behring Breivik as well as their names are a bit weird. I understand why they are there since the author has drawn her material from them, but still. Imagine that these madmen are cited authors...

I would not call this a fun book, but definitely a good read. As the more perceptive of you have noticed, I read the book in Norwegian. The Norwegian crowd can order the book from any of the online book stores we have here.
Why not order it directly from the publisher?

 I have no idea if it is available in English, but if you are interested in reading related literature all you need to do is a quick search on Amazon. 

Rating 4/6
479 books left!

#SinteHviteMenn #AngryWhiteMen #AudhildSkoglund #lonewolf #massmurderers #terrorism #bookreview #bokanmeldelse #mementomori

The Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction: An Unatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert

A dramatic history about what will be our longest lasting legacy. long after every single building has been leveled to the ground. Namely the largest mass extinction event in 65 million years. Pulitzer prize winner of 2015. 

"If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the survival of our own species as in thefulfillment of the ultimate irony of organic evolution: that in the instant of achieving self-understanding through the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creations." ― Edward O. Wilson

Right after I finished this book the last male of the species northern white rhino died. There are only two females left. About 150 years ago there was at least a million animals roaming the plains of Africa. Now it is just another species we´ve doomed to extinction. 

The title of the book refers to the first five major extinctions recorded in the world. The last being the extinction of most of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This book is both a love story to the wonders of the natural world, and it is also a tragedy. Because we are destroying habitats, making species go extinct left, right and center, wreaking havoc with the climate and in general behaves just like the worst invasive species the planet has ever seen. Kolbert takes us through different species around the world and shows us the trouble they, and we, are in. 

The author also shows us how the idea of extinction developed at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. Just around the time when Darwin was being born. Before that time most people thought that the world was created by God a few thousand years ago. The world was as it had always been. But people started to find fossils. And they didn´t always resemble known creatures. Sometimes they were of completely different build and size. I really liked this chapter because it shows how evidence slowly but surely made people change their mind. The scientific method slowly grew out of discussions and arguments like these. And paved the way for Darwins studies and later theory of evolution. Another interesting thing to note here is that even as the evidence of several mass extinctions was building up, several of the leading scientists of the day kept refusing to follow the evidence. The mass extinctions led up to the formation of the concept of transmutation of species. Which was an early attempt at explaining that species are not fixed but goes through continual change.  Jean Baptiste Lamarck was the man behind this idea, but was opposed by anatomist Georges Cuvier and geologist Charles Lyell (Which in turn highly influenced Charles Darwin). Interestingly Cuvier came around to the idea of mass extinction, but refused to accept the idea of what we today call evolution. 

"We need not marvel at extinction; if we must marvel, let it be at our own presumption in imagining for a moment that we understand the many complex contingencies on which the existence of each species depends." 

 - Charles Darwin in the Origin of Species 

Kolbert paints a rather personal picture taking us readers from researcher to researcher around the planet. She goes deep into caves in the US and tells the story of how several species of bats are wiped of the planet, she dives on the Great Barrier Reef together with scientists studying coral bleaching and she visits one of the few remaining individuals of the Sumatran rhino. 

A new concept for me was the idea of New Pangea. Pangea was a huge supercontinent that existed from about 330 mia (million years ago) to about 175 mia. The continents cracked up and has been a drift ever since. This creates and closes barriers, which in turn is a crucial part of evolution. All species has a certain amount of variation within their gene pool. These variations will continue to intermix and spread until a barrier is introduced. This could be a mountain range, a strait, a river, a desert, or a large body of water such as an ocean. But now we humans bring species all over the place. We cross all borders and introduce countless species to places they would never have reached by themselves. Some biologists call this New-Pangea. We basically recreate a virtual supercontinent again. This will obviously increase competition between species and will drive hoards of them extinct. This we can already see happening in Australia, islands in all the worlds oceans, and on mainland continents too. Some calculations show that this will reduce the number of species by a great deal. We can expect the number of mammals to be reduced to one third of today, and birds will be reduced by about 50%. To put it blunty... Go for a walk and imagining killing half the birds you see, and two thirds of all mammals. 

There is a fair chance we helped both the Neanderthals and the Denisovans go the way of the Dodo, and the rest of the great apes are next in line. 
"with the exception of humans, all the great apes today are facing oblivion." 

The term Anthropocene is introduced as a term describing the time period where we humans are affecting the entire planet. Throughout the book the author show us how we humans are making thousands of species, if not more, extinct. And the pace seem to be increasing to such a level that we are well into the sixth mass extinction since life first appeared about 3,8 billion years ago. Not bad for an achievement! Some people like to mark the start of the industrial revolution as the beginning of this mass extinction. 

At the end of the last ice age, much of the world was inhabited by huge animals. We´re talking about wooly rhinos, mammoths, aurochs, mastodonts, beavers the size of bears, sabertooth cats and you name it. The disappearance of this megafauna strangley coincides with human migration. Both in America, Australia, pacific islands, Madagaskar, New Zealand etc. The list goes on. There used to be thousands of endemic species on Hawaii, but the majority of them are now either completely gone or close to it. So.. It seems like we´ve basically eaten our way through the world. The last male northern white rhino was simply yet another large animal we´ve done away with. 

"Though it might be nice to imagine there once was a time when man lived in harmony with nature, it´s not clear that he ever really did."
- Elizabeth Kolbert

This is a beautifully written book which actually put a real downer on my mood. And for several days at that. It makes you think what we are doing to the planet. And unfortunately it does seem to get a lot worse before it possibly can improve. It the book overly pessimistic? Not really. I´d say it is probably quite realistic. It even answers the question whether life of Earth will recover. Which it surely will. It will only take a couple of million years to do it. 
And who knows what kind of species that inhabit the planet then. Perhaps some large rodents with opposable thumbs, clothes and an enlarged brain will find some strange bones in the ground.  

"Look at this! It seems like this planet was dominated by one large bipedal ape about three million years ago. weird..."


Rating 6/6
480 books left!

#TheSixthExtinction #ElizabethKolbert #Extinction #Climatechange #mementomori #Bookreport #bokanmeldelse #

Destination Mars

Destination Mars - The Story of Our Quest to Conquer the Red Planet
by Andrew May

In this book we are taken from the craze at the end of the 1800s to WWII and to the space exploration of the last sixty years or so. It is a short and exciting story which we will hear much more about in the years to come. 

"There is every reason to think that in the coming years Mars and its mysteries will become increasingly familiar to the inhabitants of the Planet Earth."
- Carl Sagan

The first Mars craze started at the end of the 1800s when italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli published drawings of canals. This halfway mistranslation  led to some really good scifi stories like The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Which, according to Wikipedia, later inspired Robert H Goddard to come up with several crucial inventions for space exploration. 

Turns out that Wernher Von Braun, one of the scientists that built the German V2-rockets, was recruited by the US after WWII. He helped develop the Saturn V which was the largest rockets the world has ever seen. They carried the Apollo-missions into space and therefore helped se man on the moon.
Who says a killing each other with massive weapons isn't good for anything?

Not long ago Elon Musk and his company SpaceX sent a Tesla and a spacesuit up into space. It was an amazing achievement. It was not so much sending vehicles into space, NASA (and others) have been doing that for more than half a century. The accomplishment was doing this with reusable rockets. Until now space flight has been rather wasteful and discarding the rockets every time something has been launched. Either by burning them as they reenter the atmosphere or by simply dumping them in the sea. 

One of the latest fictional stories about Mars exploration to make it big was The Martian written by Andy Weir. It was made into a blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon. yup, the guy who always needs to get rescued. If you liked the film you will definetely love the book. I am pretty sure that stories like that will inspire the kids today to become tomorrows space explorers. Heck... even I became a member of the local astronomy club because of The Martian.  

If you want to know more about the history of space exploration or about the plans to send humans to Mars this is a good book to start with. I knew about a few of the landers and vehicles on Mars, but there had been many many more missions to Mars than I was aware of. Wikipedia has a list of about 50 missions! Not all of them gets covered in the book, but many of them do. 

For those of you who wants to dive into the fictional stories about Mars there is quite the collection here.

EDIT: Just the other day Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will put people on Mars by 2019. Mind you this was just a few days before the Russian election, which Mr Putin won by a landslide. If they make it they will be there years before both NASA and SpaceX. We sure live in exciting times!

"Mars is there. Waiting to be reached."  
Buzz Aldrin

Rating: 4/6
481 books left!

#DestinationMars #AndrewMay #bookreview #mementomori #spaceexploration #SpaceX #ElonMusk



On the Origin of species

Charles Darwin and his work is celebrated every year on his birthday, february 12th. Reading hiCharles Darwin resting against pillar covered with vines.s iconic book has been long overdue. Here's my take on The Origin of Species. 

"He must  be a dull man who can examine the exquisite structures of a comb, so beautifully adapted to its end, without enthusiastic admiration."
 Charles Darwin commenting on the cell-making instincts of the Hive-Bee.

Last year I read The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwins travel journal from his trip around the globe. I wrote a review and I can wholeheartedly reccommend the book.  The collections he made during the trip, the following studies, and numerous experiments that led him to formulate his famous theory. Not to mention all the correspondance he did with the many experts in various fields. Whenever the term "evolution" is mentioned, it is very easy to picture Charles Darwin being the lone genius figuring things out. After all.. in textbooks his picture his usually right there. But in reality this was far from the truth as there was lots of people influencing Darwins thoughts, work and ultimately the reason that the book got published at all. Darwin was probably still a genius though. Just not a lone genius. 

The book is organized as follows. First there are a few chapters where he discusses how animals and plants varies under domestication and in the wild under nature. He then continues in discussing the struggle for existence between individuals and between species. How that inevitably leads to the survival of the better adapted, or survival of the fittest as the more famous expression puts it. There are a few chapters on difficulties and objections to the theory, the geological record, geographical dispersal of species, hybridism between species, instincts and the book is neatly summed up in the last chapter. 

Most chapters has a little overview in the beginning of the following content, as well as a nice summery at the end of the chapter. So you'd think this is pretty easy read. But no it sure isn't. Some parts are beautifully written where as other parts are more on the difficult side. Long sentences and complicated grammar makes it to be a much more difficult book than it could have been. But then again it was written almost 160 years ago and languages do change. You might even say they evolve. (pun intended). Darwin was also in a rush because other naturalists were stumbling around with very similar thoughts. Alfred Russel Wallace being the most famous of them. His letter to Darwin actually prompted him to write the book to begin with. Originally Darwin intended to write a much larger and more extensive book with all kinds of evidence, experiments, and detailed notes. But he was forced to write quickly. Which he constantly laments and almost apolagizes for. So I guess that could also make the text more difficult to read. Either way I kind of got around this by listening to the audio book during my commute to work. And then reading the carbon copy before going to bed. The audio book was in english and I mainly read a version in norwegian, but I also flipped through the 150th year anniversary edition in english. Some times I was ahead with audio and other times I was reading ahead. either way it was like deja vu the entire book.

Darwin spends alot of time in the book discussing how skilled breeders are able to change the domestic pidgeon. I'm sure that these examples worked alot better in the Victorian era when this was a very popular hobby. But now this is not very relevant any more. I wonder what species he might have chosen instead if he wrote the book today. 

So what is this evolution business anyway? Well.. Charles Darwin summed it up in the subtitle for his book. The full title of the book is "The Origin of Species by means of natural selection of the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life." See what I mean by long and complicated sentences?

It basically means that all organisms tries to increase in number, but as the resources are limited, this results in competition.  There are slight variations between individuals which gives them slightly different rates of success in this competition. The most successful will propegate and will leave more decendants than the less successful. I think you can boil down the evolutionary principle down to this. 

Or as he puts it himself: 
"As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form."

What really hit me while reading this was Darwins keen sense of observation, his ingenuity and his ability to reason. In the chapter about the geographical dispersal of species he discusses how different animals, plants and birds might spread from a continent to distant islands. It is quite obvious that winds might blow birds to distant islands, but he also discusses how these birds might bring seeds with them. Darwin actually tests how the feet of ducks might carry mud, and therefore also seeds, or how long lots of different seeds are able to survive immersion in salt water as well as in the gut of birds and find that alot of seeds germinate after weeks. He calculates the distance traveled by sea currents in the same amount of days and is therefore able to claim with confidence that almost any island can be populated from distant continents. 

During his travels the young Charles Darwin found fossilized sea shells high up in the Andes and he also experienced a major earthquake. 
" A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations: the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet like a thin crust over a fluid; - one second of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would not have produced. "
He wrote extensively about the formation of coral reefs and islands, as well as vulcanic islands. This led him to claim that the earths crust had oscillated up and down many times in geological periods. This would explain how the marine fossils were located high up in mountain ranges. It seems like Darwin were only a tiny bit away from realizing that the surface of our planet is divided into large tectonic plates. He even mentions that the he doesn't believe that the continents had once been attached to each other due to lack of evidence.

Imagine Darwin getting his hands on dated rock samples from increasing distances from the mid-Atlantic ridge as well as detailed charts of the sea bottom. I think he would be absolutely deligthed!

Would I reccomend this book?
It depends I guess.

If you've already read a few books about evolution you won't find anything new in Origin of Species. But you will find lots of interesting little stories, experiments and thoughts by Mr Darwin himself. And that I can definetely recommend! The last chapter of the book sums up the entire book. So if you're not inclined to read the entire thing you should at least read that. The article on Wikipedia is a great place to learn more about the book.

If you really want to dive in and get your hands on Darwins letters, publications etc. you should check out Darwin Online

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." 

If you want to learn about evolution in general you are probably better off reading a few books by Richard Dawkins. Especially The Selfish Gene or Greatest Show on Earth.

For the Norwegian crowd I can definetely recommend Darwins teori or Evolusjon by Erik Tunstad. Both are great! 


Why should you learn about evolution?

The theory of Evolution connects us to every other living being and proves that we are all related. Just like earthworms, emus and elephants we have evolved into what we are today. Evolution punches a big hole in the belief that humans are separate from nature. There is very little about our nature that does not find its counterpart in other animals. Albeit sometimes in simpler form.
According to the primatologist Frans De Waal whenever we try to specify something that humans are special, after a few years it is discovered in other parts of the animal kingdom. Whether it is the use of tools, use of language, walking on two legs, waging war, and even altruism has its animal counterpart. 

Evolution also punches a big hole in our tendency for essentialism. Meaning our inclination to think that species are fixed enteties in time and space. Biology is a messy field and variety in all kinds of expression is to be expected. It should not come as a surprise that sex, gender and our sexuality is complex. Homosexual behaviour is as natural as anything and has been documented in hundreds of species.

Proper knowledge about evolutionary biology should demolish the human tendency for homophobic attitudes, for racism, gender inequality etc. 

By learning and understanding evolution you will understand how and why almost all fruit and vegetables we eat today didn't exist in the past, You will understand why we cannot cure the influenza once and for all, why antibiotics work and why resistance to them is a very real danger. we might actually loose that incredible tool in a short time.

"Evolution is the single best idea anyone has ever had" in the words of the contemporary philosopher Daniel Dennett


Rating: 6/6

#CharlesDarwin #OriginOfSpecies #Evolution #mementomori #BookReview #bokanmeldelse #DarwinDay

482 books left!

Audio, ebooks or paper books?

We are already done with the first month of the year and it is time to write about my reading goals.  As well as a few lines about my relationship to audio, ebooks and paper books.

My goal for 2017 was to read at least one book per month, and as early as in june I realized that it would be easy to accomplish that. When the end of december had come and gone I had published 15 reviews and had read quite a few books more than that. 

Several of the books I read last year was first found on Storytel, which basically is an app for audio books here in Norway. You pay a monthly fee and then you listen to as many books as you want. I ride my bicycle for about one hour every day to and from work, so I have plenty of time for radio, podcasts and the already mentioned audio books. And Storytel was the introduction to several of the books I read last year. A couple of the books I listened to was so interesting that I bought them in paper too. I do the same with ebooks books. Some of the books I read or listen to are of such quality that I want them to be a part of my library. 

The different formats have their advantages and their disadvantes for sure. You can listen to your audio books every where you go, but at the same time it is difficult to stay focused. The instinct to avoid large moving objects gets priority over whatever I'm listening to. At least then I'm on my bike and the large approaching object is a bus. ebooks books are great because you can search them quickly, and they don't take up any space. But then again it difficult to borrow a ebook book from a friend. Bringing it to the beach or the bath tub can quickly become quite expensive. The paper book will never run out of battery, and it is easy to mark it, fold the corners of interesting parts and lend them to friends (the entire book, and not just the folded pages dummy). But then again searching through a paper book for a specific sentence is slow and tedious work. 

I consume books of all formats and I am usually reading at least a couple of books at the same time. Some books I read in bed, other while I'm on the bus and others I listen to whenever I can fit it into my day. But the really good ones I usually buy in several formats. I get all the advantages listed above and I can ignore the downsides. The one thing I miss so far is a link between audio and ebooks. Just as I can read a book on my iPhone, pick up my iPad and continue where I left off. I wish I could do the same when I'm crossing from audio to ebook. 

The children books of old had it all figured out. They were read aloud to you and you were told when to turn the page. Just what I need as an adult too! 

My interest in ancient history, the Middle East, and mythology led me to The Epic of Gilgamesh. I think I've heard it mentioned several times in podcasts about history. And then this fall I found it on Storytel, so I thought it was about time to learn more about it.
This poem is regarded as the first great work of literature according to Wikipedia. It is an old sumerian poem and tells the story of Gilgamesh who is king of the city of Uruk. He and his buddy Enkidu fights enemies and after Enkidu is killed, Gilgamesh avenges him. This epic adventure also tells of a huge flood that covered the earth. There are several similarities with the flood story in the Bible. I borrowed this book at the local library and the copy I read even had a line by line comparison. This flood story have probably influenced the authors of the Bible when they compiled their stories. Very interesting read for sure. The Epic of Gilgamesh would be great for a movie for children or even a blockbuster action movie. And its not too long either. 

I am now working my way through the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. I concider it to be one of the most important books of all time. Because it shows the relationships between all living organisms, including us humans. And therefore I've got several paper copies of it, I've bought it in my Kindle app, and I'm also listening to it. Expect a review coming this way very soon. 

While writing this entry I came across this collection of websites where you can download audio books. 
Knock yourself out! 

Oh yeah.. my reading goals for 2018? Well... Since I managed 15 published reviews in 2017, I will raise that to 20 reviews! 


#EpicofGilgamesh #audiobooks #bookreviews #digitalbooks #kindle #paperbooks #mementomori

483 books left!


Khirbet Khizah by S. Yizhar

Khirbet Khizah was published right after the war of 1948-49. It is about a group of soldiers who are sent out on a clean-up operation towards the end of the war. And as long as we wage war and kill each other it will keep its relevance.

"we could also see how something was happening in the heart of the boy, something that, when he grew up, could only become a viper inside him, the same thing that was now the weeping of a helpless child."

The book starts out with a handful of young soldiers who are sent to a Palestinian village. They either don't know the specifics of their mission, or they are simply reluctant to talk about it. We get to know the soldiers a little bit. They are all very young. and just like typical young men they seem carefree, crack jokes and talk about girls. After waiting close to this village they go in and herd the inhabitants away to "their side" of the newly agreed border. They are collected on board trucks and driven away.Tensions run high and it seems like people might get killed at any moment. 

Towards the end of the book the narrator, an unamed soldier, sees the irony of it all. They are Jews, a people who had been exciled for millenia, and now they are forcing other people into excile.

"This was exile. This was what exile looked like."

Even though he sees the wrong in this he doesn't intervene. The soldiers justify their actions by talking about how much better they will use the natural recources. And for a moment they seem to see how bad this is, but then they revert to their banter and starts to talk about supper. The soldiers are not portrayed as evil by nature at all. They seem to be rather normal young men. They seem more to be cold and hard towards the Palestinians due to circumstance. Which is a point I think is important to remember. most evil deeds are committed by quite normal people in abnormal situations.  

The novella is short with less than 100 pages. I think I read it in two-three hours. It is well worth the read. 

Rating: 4/6

#KhirbetKhizah #SYizhar #IsraelPalestine 

484 books left!

The year 2017 in review

The year of 2017 is approaching its (somewhat arbitrary) end, and it is time to evaluate it. My general reading goal is about one book per month. And in that regard I have had a great year because I've read at least double that. I published 15 reviews, and in hindsight I see it is a mixture of . personal stories, fiction, biographies and non fiction. I even managed to read a really good self help book, not to mention a few books on science.
2017 certainly was a good year!

Some of the books have been read in english and some in norwegian, which in turn has lead me to write my reviews in the same language. mostly anyway. I cannot seem to make up my mind on whether I should write this blog in norwegian or english. If you as a reader have an opinion I would be glad to hear it. Here is a recap of the books I wrote reviews of and a sentence or two about them. If I can I'd like to learn something from everything I read. 

Tilbake til virkeligheten, by Kim Westerberg
The title means "back to reality", and this is the personal story of the author how he got involved in drugs, and how he quit them. Literally how he found his way back to reality again. I think it is a very powerful story of how easy it can be for someone to fall victim to substance abuse. It is extremely easy to end up there, after only a few wrong turns. The way out can turn out to be very much harder. 

En av oss, by Åsne Seierstad
This is the extremely uncomfortable story of how Anders Behring Breivik ended up being the worst mass murderer in Norway since WWII. possibly the worst one in recorded history. I've read several of Åsne Seierstads books and she is a superb story teller. You actually feel sympathetic towards ABB. The author portrays him as a human being who had a very unfortunate upbringing. It does not excuse any part of his gruesome deeds, far from it. But the book shows how a young man radicalized himself through the internet. The process and his example is very relevant with as the world struggles how to deal with the problem of islamist radicalization. 

De ukjente krigerne - norwegians in WWI
Even though Norway was neutral during WWI, several thousands norwegians took part on all sides and in lots of different ways. They were soldies, sailors, nurses, dealt with logistics etc. This book is an anthology of collected stories of those norwegians. They wrote letters to their loved ones and there are other documents that help tell their story. WWI ended several empires, changed the entire map of Europe and the Middle East. This book and other stories from WWI has made me want to read more about the Ottoman empire, The Sykes-Picot agreement and other relevant topics. I feel these stories are important to understand why there still is plenty of trouble in the Middle East. 

Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Now this is a classic I just had to read. My good friend Vegard actually read and published his own review of the book. Which in turn inspired me to do the same. Since this book is a warning about the totalitarian regime of communism I figured it was a good addition to the general topic of WWI and violence. 

Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
Most people have heard about the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and I do recommend people to read it. It is still a great read even after more than 150 years since it was published. It shows what a thorough scientist Charles Darwin really was. But.. and there is always a but.... the book is abit tedious. If you are not particularly interested in biology I would instead reccommend this book. Charles Darwin kept a diary for his circumnavigation of the globe. And it truly is a fascinating read. It contains crazy adventures such as dangerous storms on the high seas, guerilla war in Argentina and even earthquakes. The diary is also a cultural gem and Darwin is the archtypical upper-class Victorian gentleman. He gets into arguments with captain Fitzroy about slavery, and the descriptions of the south american Gaucho (a kind of cowboy) or the natives in Tierra del Fuego are quite interesting. 

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To my knowledge no other book captures the Roaring Twenties quite like The Great Gatsby. It inspired me to see the film with Leonardo de Caprio. The book was alright I guess, but I am not going to read it again. To put it that way. 

Syria, en stor krig i en liten verden, by Cecilie Hellestveit
This thorough book about the conflict in Syria taught me a couple of things. The conflict in the Middle East is alot more complex than many of our understandings are. The imperial power of the US is not to blame, and neither is the religion of islam. In isolation that is. Those two factors are clearly involved but they do not describe the problems to the relevant level at all. The rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey was something I was not very aware of. I knew there was a division between sunni and shia but not much more than that. Another important thing about the conflicts in the Middle East in general and in Syria in particular is that the news in our media is very simplistic. I think ISIS (or daesh or whatever you want to call them) has been somewhat of a "blessing" for our media. Because they make it easy to tell the story about religious extremism. The focus on ISIS does however cloud all the other factions, guerillas, and divisions in the area. clans, religions, tribes, kurds, arabs etc. I for one would like to see more books like this one with both depth and thorough analysis. I can highly reccommend it!

Churchill, by Paul Johnson
If you are the slightest interested in the history of the first part of the 20th century you cannot escape Churchill. And there are lots and lots of books, documentaries, films etc about this important politician. I picked up this short book and really liked it. Its a must read!

Den fordømte friheten, by Kaja Melson
The damned freedom would be the english title of this book. It is one of the best self help books I've read. And I have read quite a few. This is one of the best ones because it teaches you not to bother so much with "success" or "how to make it", "be the best you can be" or what ever is the current slogan. Relax and remember that most of us will be average and that is completely fine.  It is a book I reccomend highly

Ready player one, by Ernest Cline
This is a really good scifi about the not so distant future. In a world where the internet have molded together with reality and more and more people are choosing fantasy over reality. Which in no way is very different from our world of today. It is a fascinating read and I am really looking forward to the movie. I believe Spielberg directed it. 

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
The colonial plundering of Africa was horrible, and the story of Leopold II abuse of the Congo can definitely match Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin in the amount of human suffering he caused. It is about the plundering of the Congo as well as the thin line between civilized man and our inner monsters. It is a good read, there are also good films to watch. 

Israel - bak muren av myter og propaganda, by Peder Morten Lysestøl
This was a historic break down of the story behind Israel. It was en enlightning read for sure. Again the topic of collapsing empires after WWI came up. The Sykes-Picot agreement, and the Balfore declaration was also central. I would like to read more books about Israel and how they fit into the bigger picture. I guess this one was an alright way into the subject.

Seven brief lessons of physics, by Carlo Rovelli
This is a book that really makes you think. What does our reality really consist of? What is time? This book, together with A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, can give you a head ache for sure. I guess my major take away from these books on physics is that reality is not very much like our perceptions of it. Our senses have evolved to solve problems relevant to creatures of our size. Which means that anything smaller than a grain of sand or larger than not-so-many kilometers is beyond our normal comprehension. The same goes for time scales shorter than a second or larger than a few decades. 

Karbon - en uautorisert biografi, by Dag O. Hessen
Now this one was a really interesting and good book. Dag O. Hessen is a professor of Biology from Oslo University and he has recently become one of my favorite authors. I have been to one of his lectures once and also heard him on the radio and in different interviews. He has a very soothing and recognizable voice. Somewhat like Morgan Freeman or Richard Attenborough. So whenever I read his books I also have his voice in my head. The book is all about Carbon and how important it is for all living organisms. Again a simplified topic from the media, the climate crisis, gets nuyanced and expanded. And it also hammers in the message that we are truly in deep sh*t if we don't fix it. The current refugee "problem" will be a gentle breeze compared to the coming storm to put it that way.

Ikke en flue fortred, by Slavenka Drakulic
How can people in was commit such heinous crimes as they do in civil wars? Whether it is the holocaust, mass murder of muslims in the Balkans, Yezidies in Syria or hutus in Rwanda it seems like mass murder, torture and horrible behaviour in general is the norm when war is concerned. This author followed several of the trials after the war in Yugoslavia. She describes the people on trial and in doing that she follows the tradition of Hanna Arendt. Drakulic shows how even mass murderers are humans, and not so very different from the rest of us. My lesson from this book, as well as the books about ABB (you know the mass murderer from Utøya), WWI, Syria etc is that most people are able to commit the most heinous acts if they are put in the right situation. or wrong I should say. It is definitely worth remembering. 

All in all I read lots of good books in 2017. Lets hope I can keep the trend going for the coming year as well. Hopefully I will continue to learn more about all kinds of interesting topics. I have lots of books lined up already! 

#aYearinReview #bookreport #mementomori #2017 #2018 #happynewyear #godtnyttår

Ikke en flue fortred - Slavenka Drakulic

Ikke en flue fortred av Slavenka Drakulic.
Utgitt på Humanist forlag i 2005.

Det går kort tid mellom hver gang en hører om massakrer, overgrep, voldtekter og tortur i forbindelse med konfliktområder. Holocaust, de utallige kommunistiske utryddelser i Sovjetunionen, Cambodia og Kina, massakrene i Indonesia på 60-tallet, folkemordet i Rwanda i 1994, massakren i Screbenica samme år, og nå senest folkemordet på Rohingyaene i Burma. Det finnes også mange mange flere massakrer som er blitt glemt. 

Til sammen i disse konfliktene over er mange millioner mennesker blitt drept. Hvem har drept dem? Hvem er disse krigsforbryterne? Er de vanlige mennesker, som deg og meg, eller er de monstre?

Denne boken forsøker å gi et innblikk i nettopp dette spørsmålet. Forfatteren Slavenka Drakulic er fra  Kroatia og har skrevet flere bøker om borgerkrigen i tidligere Jugoslavia. Der ble omtrent 200 000 mennesker drept og flere millioner drevet på flukt. Den mest kjente massakren er drapene på omtrent 8000 muslimske gutter og menn i byen Screbenica. Forfatteren var til stede under krigsforbryterdomstolen i Haag der litt under 100 mennesker sto tiltalt. Hun har tidligere hatt offerperspektiv i sine bøker, men denne gangen har hun skrevet bok om overgriperne. Hvert kapitel er viet til noen av menneskene involvert i rettsakene. Noen ganger som vitner, andre ganger som tiltalte. Først tegnes et menneskelig bilde av vedkommende, før hun går nærmere inn på hva de gjorde og hva de ble dømt for. Hun skriver i innledningen at det ble begått grusomheter på alle sider i borgerkrigen, og at hennes utvalg ikke er representativt på noe som helst vis. Det kommer også helt klart frem i boken at det er mange mordere, voldtektsmenn og andre overgripere som aldri er blitt tiltalt. I boken får vi beskrivelser av blant annet Slobodan Milosevic, hans kone, Radovan Karadcic, Ratko Mladic, en soldat som deltok i massakren ved Srebenica, myrdede vitner og mange andre. Da boken ble skrevet var både Radovan Karadcic og Ratko Mladic fortsatt på frifot. Men de er blitt arrestert og fremstilt for domstolen helt nylig. Karadcic fikk sin dom i 2016, men den er anket og således ikke avsluttet. 

I kapitel etter kapitel får vi fortalt om grusomheter som massevoldtekter, massakren i Screbenica , drap av vitner, brenning av små barn i stekeovner osv. Helt grusomme forferdelige handlinger. Som står i sterk kontrast til de sivile beskrivelsene av gjerningsmennene. Der fremstår de som helt vanlige og normale mennesker. 

Siste kapitel er helt klart det beste. Der reflekterer forfatteren rundt hvem som utfører overgrep. Er de «monstre» eller er det som hvem som helst? Våre instinkter forteller oss at det må være monstre som begår slike handlinger. For de er jo i hvert fall ikke som oss! Og vi er i alle fall ikke som dem!

Men, fortsetter Drakulic, dersom slike handlinger krever monster, må det finnes uhorvelig mange blant oss. Rett og slett pga de enorme tallene i nesten enhver av de større massedrapene vi kjenner til. Etter hvert som forfatteren kom nærmere innpå flere av morderne eller voldtektsmennene innser hun at de fleste av dem er temmelig vanlige. Flere har ingen historie med overgrep verken før eller etter krigen. De har familier, barn, interesser osv. 

«Hva om de er vanlige folk, akkurat som oss, som befant seg i helt spesielle situasjoner og tok moralsk gale avgjørelser? Hva forteller det om oss selv?»

Dette er også helt i tråd med hva mange andre har kommet frem til. Rettsakene etter andre verdenskrig viste det samme, og forfattere som Hanna Arendt har skrevet mye om det. Tittelen på boka, Ikke en flue fortred, er nettopp fra Hannah Arendts bok Essays in Understanding (1930-1954). Tittelen er en beskrivelse av en tysk fangevokter i en konsentrasjonsleir under krigen. På jobb myrder han fanger med kaldt blod, mens hjemme er han en kjærlig far som ikke vil gjøre en flue fortred. 

Det som skal til for at vanlige folk skal kunne begå grusomheter er spesielle omstendigheter, samt en grundig dehumanisering av ofrene. Vi må ikke lenger se på dem som likeverdige mennesker for å kunne myrde dem. Dette skjønte styresmaktene både i Rwanda, Nazi-Tyskland og i Jugoslavia. Og i alle andre konflikter. I lang tid før startskuddet (bokstavelig talt) iverksettes, skapes det avstand ved at ofrene distanseres, de merkes, de omtales som djevler, onde, dumme, stygge, de nektes alminnelige tjenester, bosteder osv. De må bygges opp som hatobjekt, og de må ribbes for individuelle karaktertrekk. Noe så enkelt som at en sluttet å håndhilse på muslimer i det tidligere Jugoslavia blir trukket frem som et av de mange små skrittene på veien. Når de ikke lenger anses som ordentlige mennesker er veien til overgrep og drap straks mye kortere. Det kan virke som dette er vanskelig å få til, men historien viser at det skjer altfor lett altfor fort. 

«Ondskap som oppstår av vanlig tenkning og blir begått av vanlige mennesker er normen, ikke unntaket.» - Ervin Staub

Drakulic avslutter boken med å reflektere litt rundt det ansvaret befolkningen som helhet har. De fleste tilpasset seg en tilværelse av statlig propaganda, frykt og likgyldighet. Hun sier det faktisk så sterkt at alle har vi et direkte ansvar.
«Men vender du ansiktet vekk, eller tier stille overfor urettferdighet og forbrytelser, er det det samme som å støtte en politikk som har død og ødeleggelse som mål. Det betyr ingenting om støtten er frivillig eller ikke. Resultatet er det samme. I løpet av fem års krig var altfor mange mennesker direkte involvert i den etniske rensingen til at de i fullt alvor kan hevde at de ikke visste. De visste, og de deltok, eller så brydde de seg ikke.»

Det avsluttende spørsmålet i boka er hvordan en selv ville ha oppført seg om en havnet i situasjon som krigsforbryterne.  «Hva ville jeg gjort i deres situasjon? Den ubehagelige sannheten er at det ikke finnes noe tydelig svar.»  Når så mange mennesker i så mange konflikter deltar i krigsforbrytelser over hele verden er det ikke godt å si hvordan en selv ville ha reagert i lignende omstendigheter.
Det er ganske fælt å ta inn over seg.

Rating 5/6
Anbefaler helt klart denne boken til alle som vil vite mer om vår evne til grusomheter. 

OPPDATERING: Ratko Mladic ble i dag 22. november 2017 dømt til livstid for krigsforbrytelser, folkemord og forbrytelser mot menneskeheten. Han ble dømt i 10 av 11 tiltalepunkter! 

For at en ikke skal miste helt troen på det gode i mennesker vil jeg også anbefale boken The Better Angels of our Nature 
#Ikkeenfluefortred #SlavenkaDrakulic #folkemord 

485 bøker igjen!

Karbon - en uautorisert biografi av Dag O. Hessen

Kjemi og det periodiske systemet er noe de fleste ikke har et så inngående forhold til. Noe naturfag og kjemi har en i skolen, men utover det virker det ikke veldig relevant i hverdagen. Dag O. Hessen, professor i biologi ved Oslo Universitet, gjør i denne boken karbonet og dets mange og uoversiktlige kretsløp spennende og svært aktuelt. Han gir oss også flere smarte klimaråd i slutten av boken. 

"Evig liv vil alltid være en utopi, men som deltager i karbonkretsløpet har vi alle en aksje i evigheten." 

Boken begynner med noen historier til forfatterens eget detektivarbeid etter et tjerns bidrag i karbonsyklusen. Vi får vite en god del om både fotosyntese, celleånding, karbonlager og mange andre grunnleggende tema fra naturfag og kjemi. Hele tiden fortelles det med god innlevelse og sjarm. Det krydres med anekdoter og små historier. Særlig interessant er kanskje hans observasjon om kjemifagets begynnelse. Som regel i vitenskapshistorie forbindes enkelte hendelser og oppdagelser til enkeltpersoner. Hessens gjennomgang av oppdagelsen av Karbon, CO2 og de mange forbindelsene viser at det sjeldent er så enkelt i den virkelige verden.

"Det er forbausende ofte slik at hjulet eller kruttet finnes opp på nytt, og i alle fall var det slik den gang vitenskapelige nyvinninger ikke kunne søkes opp og lastes ned med et par tastetrykk." 

Vi får en kjapp innføring i C14-metoden, som går ut på å måle mengden med radioaktivt karbon og på den måten si noe om når organismen døde, og på den måten knytter han atomfysikken til biologien. Vi får også lære at første gangen det ble oppdaget at vårt karbonkretsløp er i skikkelig ubalanse var allerede i 1957! Det er i skrivende stund 60 år siden, og vi har fortsatt ikke klart å kontrollere våre klimautslipp. 

Boka avslutter med en real kalddusj om klimakrisen vi opplever nå. Myndighetenes og oljebransjens påstand om at "ren norsk olje og gass" blir behørig avlivet som behagelig selvbedrag. Han gjør et godt argument med at vi bør bruke nettopp oljefondet til å omstille samfunnet av flere årsaker. Det er ikke bare økologisk sunt og økonomisk. Men også moralsk vil det være det rette å gjøre. Oljefondet er jo til for Norge i det langsiktige perspektivet. Det har fått sin verdi gjennom uttak fra karbonbanken, "der kontoen er bygget opp over noen hundre millioner år." 

Argumentet koker ned til følgende. Klimaet er i endring som følge av store utslipp av CO2 (og andre drivhusgasser), og dette må vi gjøre noe med. Vi kan enten iverksette noen ubehagelige endringer nå, eller så vil det tvinge seg frem noen katastrofale endringer om litt lengre tid. Akkurat som Jared Diamond kom frem til i boken Kollaps. I fjor skrev jeg en kort anmeldelse av den boken

Boken er full med referanser til forskning, artikler, og bøker. Notene på slutten av boken inneholder en lang liste over hvor man kan lese mer om temaene i boken. "How Bad are bananas" av Mike Berner-Lee får et eget underkapitel. Den boken omhandler hvor store CO2-utslipp vi har fra vårt hverdagskonsum. Hessen anbefaler boken og kommer med en anbefaling om hvordan vi kan redusere vårt eget karbon-fotavtrykk. De viktigste tingene vi kan gjøre for å minimere CO2-utslipp er få færre barn, kutte ut så mange flyreiser som mulig, kutte så mye bilkjøring som mulig (både fossilbiler og elektrisk) og ikke minst kutte ned på kjøtt. Hva kjøttproduksjon angår så utgjør ikke transporten så mye av det totale utslippet. Det spiller med andre ord liten rolle om kjøttet kommer fra pampasen i Argentina eller en gård utenfor Porgrunn. Det er produksjon av storfe i seg selv som slipper ut så mye CO2. Merker jeg får mindre og mindre lyst til å spise kjøtt fremover. Det sitter langt inne å si det høyt. 

Noe jeg ble litt overrasket over var at grønnsaker dyrket i norske drivhus kan ha skikkelig høyt CO2-utslipp. Rett og slett pga ressursbruken som kreves. Vinterdyrkede cherrytomater bør en rett og slett holde seg unna da de kan ha opp mot 50 kg CO2 pr kilo tomater! Som referanse har biff omtrent 2 kg CO2 pr kilo biff. Hvor store utslipp forskjellige varer og (u)vaner har er komplisert. Derfor foreslår Hessen også at alle mennesker i Norge burde få en egen personlig CO2-kalkulator der en selv kan følge med på sitt eget forbruk. Å leve bærekraftig må også gjøres til noe kult og fremtidsrettet, slik Tesla gjør. Og dermed noe man har lyst til å være en del av. 

Klimarådene Hessen kommer med støtter påstandene Gunnar Tjomlid kom med i Debatten 21.09.2017 fullt ut. Sortering av avfall blir ikke en gang nevnt. 

Forfatteren avslutter boka med å konkludere med at vi klarer å gjenkjenne problemet og årsaken bak klimakrisen men vi klarer foreløpig ikke la den langsiktige rasjonaliteten overstyre den kortsiktige. Jeg som leser merker at jeg lengter etter noen trøstende ord, men dette kan Hessen ikke komme med.

"Allikevel vil jeg ikke avrunde med at det går sikkert bra til slutt, for det vet vi ganske enkelt ikke."

Dette er en av sikkert mange bøker en skulle ønske de blå-blå og deres velgere leste før valget. Får håpe de gjør det før det setter i gang med oljeboringen nordpå. 

Karbon - en uautorisert biografi er en veldig bra bok. Den er nokså lettlest og det merkes at Dag O. Hessen er flink til å kommunisere fagstoff til oss vanlige dødelige. Ikke rart han av mange anses for å være vår riksbiolog. Av og til er han nesten poetisk i sine beskrivelser. 

Om sin egen død sier han "...Det vil derimot være en hyggelig tanke at jeg skal virvles videre gjennom historien, litt i trær, litt i hav, litt i kommende generasjoner på vei fra evighet til evighet."

#mementomori #Karbon #DagOHessen #Klimakrisen #CO2 

rating: 6/6
486 books left!

Seven brief lessons on physics - Carlo Rovelli

In seven brief little lessons the Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli gives the reader an absolutely astounding introduction to modern physics. From quantum theory, elementary particles, to black holes, time and space, and gravity. It is all explained in an awe-inspiring way, and it is all done in mere 79 pages. 

I had decided to read more about the conflict(s) in the Middle East and put the science books away for a while. But then as many times before I happened to pass the book store at Oslo Airport Gardemoen. I am seldom able to walk away without buying books there. And this time I picked up Seven brief lessons on physics. It looked interesting not to mention very short. So short that I was sure my books about the Middle East wouldn´t be offended by me being unfaithful to them. 

This is as already mentioned a short book, and each chapter is only about ten pages. The language is beautiful and you feel a lot smarter as you read your way through. I am sure that the author Carlo Rovelli must know the works of Carl Sagan very well. They have a very similar poetic way with words. These lessons are expanded from articles the author wrote for the italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. The book has sold more than 50 shades of grey in Italy. I am not sure if that says more about the Italians interest in science or sex, but nevertheless it is worth noticing.

"For now this is what we know of matter:
A handful of types of elementary particles, which vibrate and fluctuate constantly between existence and non-existence and swarm in space even when it seems that there is nothing there; combine together like the letters of a cosmic alphabet to tell the immense history of galaxies, of the innumerable stars, of sunlight, of mountains, woods and fields of grain, of the smiling faces of the young at parties, and of the night sky studded with stars." 

All chapters are interesting in their own way, but I especially like chapter five. It deals with the paradox and contradiction between the quantum mechanics and general relativity. General relativity deal with cosmology, astrophysics, gravitational fields, and black holes etc. Basically the physics of the very large. Quantum mechanics deal with the elementary particles, atomic physics, nuclear physics and condensed matter etc. The physics of the very small. The two areas of physics have both been extensively confirmed by experiment. But at the same time they contradict each other. And it is about here my head starts to hurt. That is actually wrong of me to say. Because my head starts to hurt all the way through the book. 

"The ´present´does not exist in an objective sense any more than ´here´exists objectively, but the microscopic interactions within the world prompt the emergence of temporal phenomena within a system (for instance ourselves) which only interacts through the medium of a myriad of variables."

In the last chapter we humans are the central topic. What are we? is everything particles and elementary forces and therefore deterministic? Rovelli tries to show us how the scientific method is like an antilope hunt where the hunters follow the tracks and tries to figure out where the animal went. The hunters have to change directions with new information if they want to eat. I quite like the comparison. He then briefly discusses whether we have free will or not, our conscience, the consequences of what we are doing to the planet. Needless to say he is not the most positive of gentlemen. 

"I believe that our species will not last long...We belong to a short-lived genus of species. All of our cousins are already extinct. What´s more, we do damage. The brutal climate and environmental changes which we have triggered are unlikely to spare us... Especially since public and political opinion prefers to ignore the dangers which we are running, hiding our heads in the sand."

This is an amazing book that will make you want to read it again and again. Because it contains so many mind blowing things about the world we live in and about ourselves. I think everyone should read it. It will definitely improve the readers fascination for natural science. Which I think is the main goal of this book. If you want to actually learn the intricate details of the topics mentioned in this book you should´ve read something else. But as an appetizer it works great. 

"Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it's breathtaking." 

Rating: 6/6
487 books left!

#bookreview #CarloRovelli #SevenBriefLessonsOnPhysics #mementomori #bokanmeldelse #Science


Israel - bak muren av myter og propaganda - Peder Morten Lysestøl

Israel er et sentrum for utvikling av high-tech, det er et av verdens mest militariserte samfunn samt også det i-landet med størst andel fattige. I år er det også 50 år siden Israel begynte sin okkupasjon av Vestbredden, Gaza og Golanhøydene. Det var på tide at jeg lærte mer om historien om Israel og Palestina. 

Kort fortalt er boken bygd opp som følger Den begynner med en grundig gjennomgang av Israels historie i de fire første kapitlene. Det femte kapitlet forteller om Oslo-avtalen og hvilke konsekvenser den hadde.  Så følger den opp med å beskrive dagens situasjon i de to neste kapitlene og i det siste kapittel får vi vite mer om hvilke trusler landet står ovenfor fremover. Boken har i all hovedsak et fokus på interne forhold og den omtaler særlig økonomiske aspekter grundig. 

Jeg har lært mye av denne boken. Blant annet at tanken om en jødisk stat er mye eldre enn hva jeg trodde. Allerede på slutten av 1800-tallet, mens det osmanske riket fortsatt eksisterte, fantes drømmen om en egen stat for jøder. i 1897 var den første sionistkonferansen i Basel, og der ble det vedtatt å bygge en egen stat. Ellers visste jeg forsåvidt at palestinerne blir utsatt for overgrep, men jeg var ikke klar over at det er så ille som her fremstilt. De blir nektet mange jobber, får hjemmene konfiskert og revet, fengslet uten dom, og mange andre slags overgrep. Gaza og Vestbredden er også omgitt av murer på alle kanter og er i praksis verdens største fengsel. 

Det norske samfunnet bruker til stadig store summer på å bygge opp det palestinsk infrastruktur, som så Israel bomber sønder og sammen ved jevne mellomrom. Dette uten at Norge protesterer så mye på det.

Det merkes at forfatteren er samfunnsøkonom, og den grundige gjennomgangen av økonomiske aspekter gir boken en faglig tyngde. Uansett om vi som enkeltpersoner velger eller ikke velger å boikotte Israelske varer så er vi i praksis med på å støtte okkupasjonen. Dette skjer gjennom Oljefondets investeringer, samarbeidet mellom norsk våpenindustri og Israel og ikke minst gjennom pensjonsfondets investeringer. Så sånn sett er alle innbyggere i Norge indirekte med på å støtte overgrepene til Israel. Kanskje noe en bør ha i bakhodet når en skal gå til stemmeurnene til høsten?

Kirkeleder Desmond Tutu sammenligner Israel med apartheidstaten Sør-Afrika. Den kjente kirkelederen argumenterer godt for seg, og det samme gjør Lysestøl i boken sin. Den palestinske befolkningen utsettes for store overgrep til tross for stadige protester fra verdenssamfunnet. 
Det positive med å sammenligne Israel med Sør-Afrika er at vi kan gjøre noe med det. I løpet av 30 år ble apartheidregimet i Sør-Afrika påvirket i positiv retning av verdenssamfunnet. Og det er også noe vi forhåpentligvis kan gjøre også i Israel. Det økende presset mot Israel gjør at flere større internasjonale bedrifter og stiftelser trekker seg ut. Blant annet har The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation trukket seg ut etter den siste krisen i 2014. Flere andre er i ferd med å gjøre det samme.

I boka er det også lagt med et kart over Vestbredden som viser omtrentlig hvem som skal ha kontroll over hvilke områder i henhold til Osloavtalen. Som dere ser selv er det litt av et lappeteppe. Noen områder skulle være under israelsk kontroll, andre under palestinsk kontroll, og noen skulle være under delt kontroll. Nå er det lite igjen av Osloavtalen i dag da israelske bosettere har tatt kontroll over flere og flere områder. Men jeg lurer likevel på hvordan det var tenkt å gjennomføres i praksis. 

Konflikten i Israel og Palestina er betent, komplisert og helt sikkert full av propaganda på alle kanter. Det er mange forskjellige aktører og grupper som ønsker forskjellige ting. Alt fra fundamentalister som enten ønsker alle palestinere fordrevet eller alle jødene fordrevet. litt avhengig av hvor de selv hører hjemme. En har mer pragmatiske grupperinger men som likevel kan ha forskjellige meninger på spørsmålet om det bør være en eller to stater. Uansett er det et vanskelig terreng å navigere i. Da jeg selv ikke kan så mye om konflikten er det litt vanskelig å være i stand til å kritisk vurdere denne boken. Stemmer påstandene? Finnes det flere kilder som påstår det samme? Er noe utelatt? Hva er overdrevet? osv. 

Morgenbladet har anmeldt flere bøker om Israel bl.a. denne. Bøkene sammenlignes med hverandre og boken til Lysestøl får jevnt over bra vurdering. Så det virker som at denne boken gir et nokså greit inntrykk av både historisk utvikling og dagens situasjon. For meg var dette en opplysende bok som gjør at jeg ønsker å lære mer. Ikke minst om slutten av første verdenskrig og oppdelingen av det Osmanske riket. Jammen flaks at jeg har opp til flere bøker innenfor temaet i lesekøen allerede. :-D 


488 bøker igjen!

#Bokanmeldelse #Israel #Palestina #PederMartinLysestøl #MementoMori 

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

The seaman Marlow travels up the Congo river as the captain of a steamer to find the mysterious Mr. Kurtz, a renowned ivory trader. As he travels up the river he descends into the horrible consequences of the colonial scramble for Africa. As well as a description how brutal and vicious europeans plundered the Congo, it is also a story about morality and the thin line between civilization and savagery. 

"A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness.
The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed
into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth." 

The book starts on a boat at the mouth of the river Thames. A group of seamen are waiting for the right tide, and Marlow decides to tell a strange story from his time in the Congo. So the narrator isn?t really Marlow, it?s one of the unnamed passengers on the boat. It?s a story within a story and the point of view changes from time to time between Marlow and the unnamed listener in the beginning.

The Thames and London is compared to the Congo river and the brutal life in Belgian Congo. Marlow imagines what roman invaders would have thought about the Thames and the English wilderness. How dark and scary it would seem. The roman colonization was not much more than plunder and organized murder. And by saying that he basically sums up the plot for the entire book. Not to mention saying that the western colonial powers are exactly the same. 

"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much."

The main protagonist in Heart of Darkness, Marlow, is based on the author himself. He follows the river upstream into the wilderness, the darkness, to find Mr Kurtz, a notorious boss of an ivory trader station. Among many seemingly random situations described we are shown how the Belgian trading company brutally exploits the african natives. In one scene the company is building a railroad and a bunch of worn out and starving workers are waiting to die. They are discarded as nothing more than used engine parts in a dark ravine.

There is a lot of talk about Mr. Kurtz but we are not introduced to him until the very end of the book. By that time he is larger than life, and it turns out that the local natives are worshipping him like a god. At the same time he is very ill, and therefore convinced by Marlow to return to civilization on his steamer. 

Kurtz is reduced from an all powerful being to a mere voice at the end. He is described as a musician, a painter and someone who could be a great politician of an extremist party. He is also able to convince both himself and others to believe almost anything. He is put up as some kind of super mensch, but at the same time he completely loses the ability to behave morally.  On the way back Mr. Kurtz unfortunately dies after uttering his final words "The horror!The horror!" 

I liked the book, and like so many my first encounter with it was through the movie Apocalypse Now. Because I had seen the movie it seeped into my imagination as I was reading the book. The author does a good job telling the reader of the cruel treatment the natives got. And he also shows the great deal of racism that permeated society. Even though Marlow clearly sympathizes with them he is also still quite racist after modern standards. 

This book was written the during the Scramble for Africa in pre WWI and I realized that this is a period I know very little about. I know some general themes about victorian times, imperialism and the "exploration", or should I say the exploitation, of Africa. But I don't think I've read any proper books about the period. Except that it was mentioned in the biography about Winston Churchhill. So I had to do a bit of reading up to get a fuller picture. And I even did some listening up, if you can put it that way. 
BBC has an excellent podcast about history that taught me a lot about the Berlin Conference in the 1880s, when European powers divided Africa. BBC has an episode about Otto von Bismarck. And last but not least they made a complete episode about Heart of Darkness itself. There they discuss the book, the author Joseph Conrad and many more related topics. Wikipedia obviously has a page about the book. This book has really inspired me to read more about colonialism and imperialism. If you have any recommendations please let me know! 

"I remained to dream the nightmare out to the end, and to show my loyalty to Kurtz once more. Destiny. My destiny! Droll thing life is ? that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself ? that comes too late ? a crop of unextinguishable regrets."

One of the better reviews and analysis of the book I've seen is the Thug Notes. 
Check it out now!

Rating: 4/6
Pages: 100-140 depending on the font size and language.

489 books left!

#HeartofDarkness #JosephConrad #bookreview #bokanmeldelse #history #imperialism #ScrambleforAfrica



Ready Player One - Earnest Cline


This book is an awesome combination of 1980s nostalgia, video game trivia, and a quest from a roleplaying game. All set in a dystopian future where almost everybody has logged on to OASIS. So if you grew up in the 80s and 90s and played more than a few video games this is definitely a book you should read.

It is 2044 and the world has gone to shit due to a combination of energy crisis, climate change and political chaos. A large part of the population has escaped into OASIS, which is a combination of a virtual reality simulator, a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) and the internet. It even has the worlds most stable currency. OASIS was created by James Halliday who will give away the company, all his wealth and control of the OASIS to the one who finds the Easter Egg he has hidden within the game. This was all revealed in his last will after his death. 

Thousands of egg hunters, or Gunters for short, searches the all the different worlds in OASIS, to be the first to solve the riddles that lead to the three keys. Which in turn lead to the final easter egg. The gunters also obsess about anything related to 1980s pop culture, which was the favorite decade of the late James Halliday. This goes on for several years before the start of the novel. So this is basically the story about how the lead character and storyteller Wade Watts searches for and eventually finds the egg. The main antagonist is Nolan Sorrento and he is in charge of the multinational corporation called Innovative Online Industries. 

I got this book for xmas last year from my friends Erlend and Øyvind. But I must say I put off reading it for one dumb little reason. The book has almost 400 pages, and after reading a few books with only about 200 that felt almost too much. Told you the reason was dumb. anyway..

It turned out I had nothing to fear because the book was very captivating. In fact I don't think I've been this caught up in a book for years. I read it on the bus, in the morning before work, after work, before I went to bed and I even dreamt about it.  I ended up finishing the book in less than a week. Imagine that I first thought the book was a bit long.

Needless to say I loved the book. I had a blast reading it, remembering old video games and movies from the 80s. Finally the endless hours I spent playing video games payed off! I really liked the way the internet of the future is portrayed. It is like a merge between the 2D internet we have today with the MMORPGs. They even put it to good use and used it as a platform for school. Imagine all the benefits! No more commuting or needing to spend money on upgrading the school building. But at the same time the author shows that OASIS has become a voluntary prison where people escape reality. Not too different from how some people use computer games today. 

While preparing for this review I learned that Ready Player One will become a movie by next year. It will be directed by no other than Steven Spielberg. I am looking forward to that. The book obviously has its own wiki website. A lot of the games mentioned can be played online for free. Just google them or maybe even start here. You can spend hours going down memory lane there. 

Andy Weir, the author of The Martian, has written fan fiction which explains a lot. But don't read it unless you already read the book. 

The book is available from Amazon.  There are also some pretty great Reviews on GoodReads

Rating: 5/6
Pages: 372

490 books left!
#Readyplayerone #EarnestCline #scifi #bookreview #mementomori #bokanmeldelse 

Den fordømte friheten - Kaja Melsom

Den fordømte friheten - et oppgjør med dagens selvrealiseringstyranni.
Skrevet av Kaja Melsom. Utgitt på Gyldendal Forlag. 151 sider. 
Påbegynt 10/5 - Ferdig 11/5

Jeg begynte denne bokbloggen med å se på hvor mange bøker jeg har igjen å lese. Sett at jeg rekker å lese et visst antall hvert år gjennom hele livet frem til den dagen jeg dør. Dette perspektivet bidrar til at jeg blir litt handlingslammet hver gang jeg er ferdig med en ny bok. Fordi det legger et press på hvilken bok skal jeg velge når jeg skal velge en ny en. Den nye boken må være "verdt det" men hvordan vet jeg at den vil være det før jeg har lest den? Tenk om jeg velger feil og sløser med tiden min? Vi har en nokså stor bokhylle, og den har en tendens til å vokse for hvert boksalg eller flyplass jeg passerer. Om ikke lenge må vi kjøpe flere bokhyller. Jeg gjorde et kjapt overslag i dag morges og kom frem til at jeg har kanskje 3-400 bøker. Med mine beregninger vil jeg bare akkurat klare å lese de bøkene jeg allerede har før jeg er ferdig her på planeten. Langt mindre kunne kjøpe og lese alle bøker jeg ønsker fremover. Litt av et press jeg legger på meg selv altså. 

Kaja Melsom kommer inn på slike problemer og mange flere i sin nye bok nye bok Den Fordømte Friheten - Et oppgjør med dagens selvrealiseringstyranni. 

Vi har masse fritid, men blir stadig mer stressa. Vi hyller kunsten "å være seg selv", men skammer oss mer enn noensinne. 

Det sies i taler, i brosjyrer om utdanning, i selvhjelpsbransjen og mange andre steder at vi kan alle bli akkurat det vi vil. Bare vi vil det nok så kan vi oppnå drømmen vår. Men det betyr også at dersom vi ikke får det til er det vår egen feil. Vi har selv ansvaret dersom vi ikke blir rockeartist, realitystjerne eller oppnår akkurat den drømmen vi har satt for oss. Ikke rart mange sliter med selvfølelsen i dag. Det er ikke alle som har evner, muligheten eller rent av lyst til å bli advokat, gründer, eller fotballspiller i champions league. Og dette er jo noe vi egentlig vet. De fleste av oss er helt middelmådige, normale mennesker. 

Boken undersøker partnervalg, trening, vekta og kroppen, "lykke" og flere andre problemer ved denne utopien som "friheten til å velge" gir oss. Den ga meg assosiasjoner til exphil fra da jeg nettopp hadde begynt på universitetet. Både Kant og Roussou blir belyst sammen med mange andre filosofer. Tenk om Exphil var like bra knyttet opp mot dagens samfunn og virkeligheten som denne boken er! Da ville langt flere fått bedre karakterer i faget og ikke minst satt mer pris på studiet. 

Dette selvpåførte ansvaret vi har for våre liv, vår suksess, vårt partnervalg og vår helse gir oss mye mer stress enn nødvendig. Det nevnes i boken at omtrent 25% av unge jenter har symptomer på depression og eller angstlidelser. 

I løpet av boken begynte jeg å lure på om det er like vanlig med angst og depresjoner blant religiøse som blant ikke-religiøse. Mange religiøse legger sin tillit til en Gud, og dermed er ikke individet like ansvarlig for sitt eget liv. Er dette noe som gir lykkeligere liv? 

Man kan kanskje si at boken er litt i korteste laget. Men samtidig er det rikelig med notater og lenker til videre lesing dersom en er interessert i det.  Melsom kommer med to råd i slutten av boken. For det første må vi lese mer tragedier eller utsette oss for de slik Melsom selv skriver det. Dette for å forstå at ingen av oss kontrollerer livets alle faktorer fullt ut. Tragedier rammer vilkårlig, og til slutt vil vi alle rammes av den ultimate tragedien. Vi dør. Dette kan gi oss en større empati og forståelse for andre menneskers valg og ikke minst våre egne valg.

For det andre må vi le mer av ting som skjer oss i livet. Og ikke minst må vi le mer av oss selv. Det gjør at vi skammer oss mindre og dette dømmende blikket vi har på oss selv blir forhåpentligvis ikke så hardt og nådeløst. For min egen del tar jeg dette som en oppfordring til å se mer på standup.
Doctors orders! 

Denne boka er en befriende motvekt til all den selvhjelpslitteraturen som finnes der ute. Men med tanke på at målet med denne boken ser ut til å få folk til å leve lykkeligere liv, så hører vel denne boken også hjemme blant den samme selvhjelpslitteratur.. Eller gjør den ikke det?

Alt i alt likte jeg denne boken skikkelig godt. Har nok en gang funnet mer jeg ønsker å lese, så jeg vil uten tvil bli satt foran vanskelige prioriteringer når det kommer til valg av lesestoff. Jeg har for eksempel ikke lest en eneste gresk tragedie. 

Rating 6/6

491 bøker igjen!

P.S. For øvrig minnet denne boken meg på denne oppfordringen fra Dagsavisen - Ikke følg drømmen din.

#KajaMelsom #Denfordømtefriheten #bokanmeldelse #bookreview #mementomori 

Churchill - Paul Johnson

Dersom du leter etter en kort og grei introduksjon i livet til Winston Churchill er dette boken for deg. Her får du en allsidig og oversiktlig fortelling om en av de viktigste menneskene i det 20. århundre. 

Dersom du googler frasen "books about Winston Churchill" finner du massevis av nettsider dedikert til kun bøker om denne mannen. Det finnes nettsider med lister over de beste bøkene. Nettsiden GoodReads.com har over 178 anmeldte bøker, og om du søker etter "Winston Churchill" på Amazon får du over 7000 treff. Det finnes til og med en bokhandel som kun har bøker av og om den britiske statsmannen. 

Så hvordan skal en velge i dette hav av bøker om en av de viktigste menneskene i det 20. århundrede? vel.. gjør som jeg gjorde og bare ta en bok du kommer over i en tilfeldig bokhandel. Særlig om den nokså kort og billig. Da er det jo i hvert fall ingenting å lure på. Jeg tok med meg den da jeg likevel kjøpte flere andre bøker i en bokhandel i Trondheim under Mammutsalget på Ark tidligere i år. Boka kosta 49 kr, og var på under 200 sider. Jeg fant ut at det var på tide å lese en biografi om WC til tross for at jeg har sett mer enn min andel av dokumentarer om mannen.

Boka er oversiktlig, kort og lettlest. Den er inndelt i livsfasene til Churchill. Unge år, årene som krigskorrespondens, tidlig 1900-tall, første verdenskrig, mellomkrigstiden, den andre verdenskrigen og til slutt siste fase frem mot hans død på 60-tallet.Gjennom hele boken merker en den intense lidenskapen for å gjøre noe stort og viktig ut av livet sitt. For som han selv sa:
"We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm."

Han var gjennom hele livet svært bevisst på hvor viktig pennen og taleferdigheter var for å påvirke mennesker. Dette var også noe han jobbet hardt med hele sin lange karriere. Det fremgår at han var temmelig utspekulert og slu gjennom at han skrev og ga ut store historiske verk om både den første og andre verdenskrigen. Dette var nok hans store livsverk, samtidig som det ga han muligheten til å selv velge hvordan historien skulle bli fortalt.
For som han sa selv: "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."

Alle ordrene han ga under andre verdenskrig gjorde han skriftlig. og det spekuleres i om han gjorde det nettopp for å kunne bruke det som bakgrunnsmateriale for fremtidige bøker. At de andre verdenslederne fra krigen døde under eller rett etter krigen gjorde også at han fikk nærmest monopol på hvordan historien skulle fortelles. Alt i alt var WC en utrolig produktiv forfatter. Paul Johnson estimerer det til at Churchill fikk publisert et sted mellom 8 og 10 millioner ord! Han fikk til og med Nobelprisen i litteratur i 1953.

Paul Johnson argumenterer godt hvorfor WC nærmest alene avgjorde krigen. På slutten av boka kommer han også med fem ting vi kan lære av WC. 
1. Sikt høyt.
2. Ingenting erstatter hardt arbeid.
3. Ikke la deg knekke av feilgrep.
4. Ikke kast bort tid og emosjonell energi på livets småligheter. Kjemp hardt, tilgi, skvær opp og gå videre.
5. Ved å følge nummer fire vil en gi masse rom til glede og lykke i livet.

Alt i alt synes jeg dette var en bra bok. Den er som sagt innledningsvis kort, oversiktlig men samtidig også spennende. Forfatteren har helt sikkert vært nødt til å ta noen harde prioriteringer over hva som skulle vektlegges og hva som ikke var så nøye i forståelsen av Winston Churchill. Til slutt i boka kommer forfatteren med noen gode tips til videre lesning, så det gjør ingenting at denne boken kanskje var litt vel kort. De som er interessert i å lese mer får noen gode tips her.

Et bra utgangspunkt for å lære mer om Winston Churchill er selvfølgelig Wikipedias egen nettside om mannen.
History in an hour har også en veldig bra episode om samme mann. 

Påbegynt 1/5 2017 - ferdig 8/5 2017
492 bøker igjen!

Rating 4/6

#WinstonChurchill #bokanmeldelse #bookreview #mementomori #PaulJohnson

Syria, En stor krig i en liten verden - Cecilie Hellestveit

Dette er boka for deg som vil vite mer om krigen i Syria. Dette er også boka for deg som tror du har oversikt over konflikten. Boka viser hvor innviklet og komplisert krisen er, og hvordan det dessverre ikke finnes noen enkel løsning i sikte.

Boka er del i to deler hvorav den første delen handler om interne forhold i Syria. Vi får en gjennomgang av geografien, folkegrupper, og historien til landet. Folkeslag som drusere, jesidier, arabere, tyrkere, kurdere, kristne, shiamuslimer, sunnimuslimer og alawitter blir introdusert. Vi får også en beskrivelse av hvordan den arabiske våren også kom til Syria i 2011. Hensikten med boken er å forklare hvordan lokale demonstrasjoner utviklet seg til å bli en regional konflikt som truer hele Midt-Østen. Og ikke minst hvordan det som styrtet flere andre land nettopp ikke var nok til å endre styresettet i Syria. Assad har et enormt stort militære og han har svært god kontroll på sine militærstyrker. På et tidspunkt var det registrert flere tusen forskjellige fraksjoner av opprørere, men uheldigvis klarte ikke de kommunisere med hverandre. eller en gang bli enig om hva de egentlig ønsket. Det sloss også flere tusen forskjellige fremmedkrigere fra over 100 forskjellige land i Syria. På alle sider av konflikten. 

Del to av boka omhandler den internasjonale storpolitikken i Midt-Østen og hvilke grupperinger som tar del i konflikten. Rivaliseringen mellom Tyrkia, Iran og Saudia-Arabia og deres kamp om "islams sjel" omhandles grundigere enn hva jeg har sett andre steder. Iran har definisjonsmakten for shiamuslimene mens Saudi-Arabia har det for sunnimuslimene, som utgjør over 80% av alle verdens muslimer. Det viser seg også at alle land med en kurdisk minoritet støtter kurdiske opprørsgrupper. men da i sine naboland og selvfølgelig ikke i sitt eget. Det gjøres rett og slett for å destabilisere naboene. Iran har lenge pumpet penger og våpen inn i Syria som støtte til araberes kamp mot Israel. Dette gjennom opprørsgrupper som Hizbollah og Hamas. Syria er fortsatt formelt i krig med Israel etter de okkuperte Golanhøydene rundt årtusenskiftet. Vi får også vite litt om forholdet mellom Natolandet Tyrkia og den russiske støtten Syria har fått i mange år.

Dette har innvirkninger på resten av Europa (vi regner Tyrkia til Europa sånn for å være generøs), og ikke minst USA. Den amerikanske invasjon av Irak og Afghanistan får mye av skylden for at ekstremismen i Midt-Østen har blusset opp etter år 2000.

Hellestveit forteller også forfatteren om den mange århundre lange kampen internt i islam mellom shia og sunni og hvordan Det Muslimske Brorskapet har holdt på siden 1920-tallet. Historien til IS blir også fortalt ganske grundig. Denne boka gjør sitt beste for å se på konflikten "fra lufta" i motsetning til Åsne Seiersdals bok To Søstre, som har et mer bakkeperspektiv.

Etter denne grundige innføringen av konfliktens alle parter og sider skjønner en virkelig at dette er et clusterfuck av dimensjoner. Obama fikk en god del kritikk da han unnlot å gjøre noe med Assad da han (eller noen andre) gasset sivilbefolkningen for noen år siden. Faren var at ved å gjøre det ville fort Nato-styrker kommet i direkte konflikt med både russiske og kanskje styrker fra Iran. Noe som fort ville fått konflikten til å eskalere og spre seg utenfor Syrias landegrenser. Det kunne ikke det internasjonale samfunn ta seg råd til. Dessverre er prioritet nummer en at ikke konflikten utarter og river med seg enda flere land. Eller kanskje heldigvis vil kanskje noen si. 

Det som for meg kanskje gjorde mest inntrykk var kapittelet om hvordan sosiale media ble både et direkte og brutalt ærlig rop om hjelp, men også hvordan det var en lakmus-test på hvor grusom både IS og Assad faktisk kunne være mot sivile. og det helt uten at verdenssamfunnet grep inn. Det ble (og blir sikkert fortsatt) sendt direkte video av henrettelser, tortur, haugevis med døde av alle aldre. 
Det sivilbefolkningen og opprørere håpet skulle overtale verdenssamfunnet til å gjøre noe aktivt ble derimot en måte å dokumentere hvor grusomme det faktisk gikk an å være uten å være redd for nettopp det. 

Det er en spennende og interessant bok som virkelig viser hvor komplisert og innviklet krisen er.  Ikke minst sitter en igjen med en følelse av at våre egne nyhetssendinger er utrolig overfladiske hva denne katastrofen angår. 

Alt i alt har forfatter Cecilie Hellestveit skrevet en svært bra bok.

Denne anbefales på det sterkeste! 

493 bøker igjen!

Rating: 6/6

#bokanmeldelse #bookreview #syria #CecilieHellestveit #mementomori #bøker 

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald


The plot in the Great Gatsby is set in the fictional town of West Egg on Long Island, New York during the summer of 1922. The narrator is Nick Carraway, a young guy who at the start of the summer just moved to the area to work as a bonds salesman. His closest neighbor is the enigmatic and super rich Mr. Jay Gatsby, who throws wild parties all the time, but his guests doesn't seem to know him. Nick meets with his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchannan. Tom and Gatsby turns out to be rivals and they in turn drive the story forward, ultimately towards its tragic end. 

The bookstore chains had a book sale a while ago, and as I am a sucker for books I went to at least five of the stores. Needless to say I bought more than a few books. If this pace continues I must get more book shelves. Anyway... I digress. One of the books I picked up was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I didn't know much about it other than it is considered a classic of American literature. And since it was fairly short and cheap I bought it together with a pile of other books. 

The narrator takes the reader on a tour of the 1920s, the roaring 20s. We are shown massive parties and the new society that has emerged after WWI. There are lots of brand new inventions that are coming to full use such as the radio, electricity, cars, photography, and the telephone.

"I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye." 

Nick is clearly impressed with all the technology and he even compares Mr. Gatsby to a seismograph right at the beginning. ".. some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away." 

Gradually we learn that few if any really knows Mr. Gatsby and there are numerous rumors about him. He might be a murderer, an ex-soldier, the lost relative of Kaiser Wilhelm, and several other rumors. Gatsby observes his parties but doesn't really participates. Nick Carraway becomes his only friend, and he has an ability of gaining the trust of many. So he learns the secrets of the different characters in the book. He learns about Tom Buccannans mistress for one thing, not to mention the true story of how Jay Gatsby got his money.

<Spoiler alert>

It turns out that Daisy and Gatsby are old lovers from five years ago. But because of the war and mostly because Gatsby still was poor at the time, their relationship couldn't get started. So Daisy married Tom, an already famous sports celebrity from a rich family. Gatsby was unhappily in love with Daisy and the only reason he bought the mansion in the first place was to impress Daisy. He threw the parties so she would see how successful he had become. Which explains why he didn't really pay them much attention. After he did get her attention he canceled all further parties, and even changed his staff. So they could be left alone. Eventually Tom finds out that his wife is having an affair, which leads to a very awkward dinner and a trip into town with all involved characters. Even Jordan and Nick are a part of this. On the way back ​Daisy and Gatsby runs over and kills Tom's mistress, and they make the grave mistake of not stopping.  The dead woman's husband is overcome with grief and after Tom tells him who's responsible he goes to Gatsby's residence. Where he promptly kills both Gatsby and himself with a revolver. In the aftermath Nick discovers that he truly was Gatsby's only friend when almost no one attends the funeral.

I found this book to be a bit of a challenge to be honest. Even though it is a short one. I think this was mainly because I interrupted myself throughout the reading. I only read a little here and there which made the whole story a bit hard to follow. But after I listened to the audio book and watched the film with Leo Decaprio from 2013 I got a lot more out of it. I must say that I did like the language in the book. There are lots of beautiful descriptions, and the language in general is very well thought out. And it shows. The rivalry between Tom and Gatsby is not only between competing men, but also between established wealth and self made wealth, between the upper class of society and the ones who desperately wants to be a part of it. It is also about the superficial consumerism that grew in that decade.  

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter?tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning? So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

All in all I liked the book.
Rating of 4 out of 6. 
494 books left!

#bookreview #TheGreatGatsby #FScottFitzgerald #bokanmeldelse

The Voyage of the Beagle - Charles Darwin

This is the personal journal of Charles Darwins from his five years onboard the surveying ship HMS Beagle. This trip ultimately led him to formulate the theory of evolution. Which in turn was published many years later in 1859 in the well known book Origin of species(1). I have wanted to read these two books for years. 

The trip was made between 1831 and 1836 and the journal was first published in 1839 as the third account of this trip. The other accounts were written by the officers on board. Charles Darwin was a young(2) collector and naturalist. But that was not his task while on board this ship. The ship already had a naturalist. His role was much more modest. He was actually only the captains conversation companion. Captain Robert FitzRoy wanted a gentleman to accompany him during the long voyage. It might have something to do with the previous captain's demise(3).

Today we would probably called Darwin a biologist but he might have known just as much about geology at the start of the journey. The journal shows what an amazing and keen observer Darwin was. Through out his journey he consistently describes he localities starting with the geology and what the minerals and types of rock mean. How do they influence the soil and what does that in turn mean for the plants in the region. He goes on in describing the climate, common wind direction, precipitation and last but certainly not least the lists the types of fish, birds, reptiles, amphibia and animals he can find. He also discusses the different people he meets along the way, both the "modern" people of South America and Australia, but he also describes the natives. Wherever he meets them. 

The listing of all the organisms found can be a bit tedious and boring at times. But the book also has some very exiting parts such as his time among the gauchos in Argentina, where they were in constant threat of local native americans. Or the time on the Falkland islands when they had to cross a river mouth during very bad weather. 
"To complete our discomforts we were obliged to cross the head of a creek of the sea, in which the water was as high as our horses backs; and the little waves, owing to the violence of the wind, broke over us, and made us very wet and cold. Even the iron-framed gauchos professed themselves glad when they reached the settlement, after our little excursion."

They lost a whale boat (small rowing boat) in a storm, they rescued sailors who had been shipwrecked for 15 months, and they met with General Rosas, who was on a punitive war against the natives. In Chile they experiences a major earthquake, which helped Darwin understand that the crust of the earth moves. It seems like he came very close to realizing how the land rises and subsides according to plate tectonics. Especially when he talks about the formation of coral reefs. He describes how a tsunami works and many other interesting natural phenomenon. So there are without a doubt some very exiting parts. 

He is sometimes funny like when he describes the effects on high altitude on the body. He completely forgets about his fatigue when finding fossils. 
"There was some imagination even in this; for upon finding fossil shells on the highest ridge, I entirely forgot the puna(4) in my delight."

Throughout the book I get the image of an upper class victorian gentleman who, no matter how stressful or dangerous a situation is, always keeps his calm. He is a master of the english language, and it is a delight to read some of the passages. Like this one where he compares the pyramids to coral islands.
"We feel surprise when travelers tell us of the vast dimensions of the Pyramids and other great ruins, but utterly insignificant are the greatest of these, when compared to these mountains of stone accumulated by the agency of various minute and tender animals! This is a wonder which does not at first strike the eye of the body, but, after reflection, the eye of reason."

He also offers some comments on the different people he encounters throughout his journey. He describes the clothes, customs and traditions of different native populations. And he seems to be amused when he encounters superstitions. Darwin is also totally disgusted and appalled by slavery in Brazil and other places. In all his descriptions of other people offer an insight into his own mind and also I guess other Englishmen of his time.  

BBC made an excellent tv-series based on the book in the late seventies. I can recommend that as well, If you have almost 8 hours to spare.
Darwin Online(5) is a treasure if you like to explore the works of Charles Darwin. 

I really liked this book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the development of the framework of natural selection. It is not, however, an easy read. I actually listened to the audio book twice before reading the book. Which was actually an alright way of approaching it. So I have without a doubt struggled with this book. The book was written almost 180 years ago and the english of the 1830s is sometimes difficult and it takes some time getting used to. 

It is almost as if our language has evolved.

Rating: 6/6
495 books left!

1. Full title - On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
2. Charles Darwin was 22 at the start of the journey and 28 years old when he came home. What had you accomplished at that age?
3. Captain Pringle Stokes killed himself during the first voyage of the HMS Beagle.  It is believed that Captain FitzRoy might have wanted to avoid a similar fate by bringing a companion along. 
4. Puna - local name for altitude fatigue
5.Charles Darwin complete publications, letters, notes, diaries and so on has been made available online for free on the website Darwin Online.  


#bokanmeldelse #bookreview #charlesdarwin #naturalselection #evolution #thevoyageofthebeagle

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The animals on Manor Farm rebels against their human master and starts to run the farm for themselves. This novel became an instant classic when it first
was published in 1944. It is still worth reading. 

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

You have to have been living under a rock if the quote above isn´t familiar. This book is about how the animals, led by the pigs, takes over the farm and how the newly acquired power corrupts the new leadership. Mr Jones had been neglecting to feed the animals for a little while and had also become quite the drunk. His men didn't really do much work either. 

The two pigs Napoleon and Snowball lead the rebellion and it all starts out well. They establish a sense of equality between the animals with a list of 7 commandments. Since most of the animals are somewhat limited in the cerebral department the commandments were reduced to "four legs good, two legs bad." Which in a sense was the essentials of Animalism.  At first every animal contributes to its capability and at the same time all the needs are provided for. The song "Beasts of England" is used to unite the animals. The lyrics is provided in the book but the melody is simply described as something in between "Clementine" and "La Cucharacha". There are several versions of the song on youtube, and I particularly like this one.  Even though it is probably not what the author envisioned. 
After just a short time in charge the pigs starts to hog (pun intended) resources and power. They do it with deceit, lying, propaganda and not to mention threatening with the return of Mr Jones, and doing so they provide the animals with an external enemy.

This story is primarily a satire of the Russian revolution, and Stalin is represented by the boar Napoleon.  "violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry people, could only lead to a change of masters", according to the writer himself. It does however have a wider application. I think the author wants to show how easily a legitimate struggle for equality and justice can turn into a dictatorship. Unfortunately this is not very uncommon. The character Snowball is probably supposed to be Trotsky, but I don't know the history well enough to be sure.

I thought I had read this book, but it turns out I hadn't. It's a good read and since its a rather short one it's done in a couple of hours. My copy of the book only has 94 pages. My friend Vegard also recently read and reviewed this book. You can read his take on it here.
My hooking point was the Russian revolution,  since I'm currently trying to learn more about WWI. 

Rating 5/6 

496 books left!

#bookreview #AnimalFarm #GeorgeOrwell 

De ukjente krigerne - Nordmenn i WWI

"Death of one man is a tragedy. Death of a million is a statistic" 
- Josef Stalin1

Denne boken er skrevet av Nik. Brandal, Eirik Brazier, og Ola Teige. 
Utgitt på Humanist forlag i 2014. 396 sider. 2
De ukjente krigerne har også en egen nettside.

Boken følger i hovedsak krigens gang kronologisk og skjebnen til mange enkeltpersoner i løpet av konflikten. Noen verver seg entusiastisk, andre mønstrer av en båt et sted og er nødt til å verve seg av økonomiske grunner mens andre blir tvangsvervet. Vi blir kjent med hva folk skrev i sine brev hjem og hvordan de opplevde alle mulige sider av krigen. Alt fra opptrening til forskjellige kampanjer og små og større trefninger. 

Mange nordmenn prøver etterhvert å komme seg ut av tjenesten til den franske, engelske, tyske eller den amerikanske hær. Noe som viser seg å være svært vanskelig. De forskjellige nasjonene trengte så mange kropper som mulig til den store kjøttkverna rett og slett. Som eksempel mistet britene alene nesten 60 000 soldater allerede første dagen ved slaget ved Somme i 1916. Under andre verdenskrig tok det mange uker før de allierte tapte så mange mennesker under invasjonen av Normandie. Totale tap for dette slaget var på over en million mann3. Ett tall som er så uvirkelig stort at det er vanskelig å forstå det fullt ut. 

Tenk hvordan det måtte være å være innrullert i en av hærene og du er på vei fremover i skyttegravene. Du vet at alle de andre troppene som har gått før deg er blitt massakrert, og snart er det deres tur til å klatre ut av skyttegraven og storme mot den sikre død. 

Mer enn 10 000 norske kvinner og menn opplevde krigen på nært hold. i tjenesten til USA, England, Frankrike, Australia, Canada, og Tyskland. 
Det deltok nordmenn på alle sider gjennom hele krigen. Men det som slår meg er at det er svært få beskrivelser fra østfronten i denne boken. Det er stort sett fra vestfronten og fra den mislykkede aksjonen i Gallipoli. Det mangler helt perspektiver fra Russland eller fra den tyske hær på østfronten. 

Det nevnes at flere av de norske soldatene fikk utmerkelser. Blant annet Nels Wold, som fikk de amerikanske styrkers høyeste utmerkelse, The Medal of Honor, etter å ha nedkjempet flere tyske maskingeværposter helt på egen hånd. 

Knut Werswick skrev boken Fra Menneske til Soldat, og han reiste også rundt i Norge i mellomkrigstiden og fortalte om sine opplevelser. Den sammenlignes med boken Intet nytt fra Vestfronten , skrevet av Erich Maria Remarque. En annen bok jeg virkelig kan anbefale. 

Boken er grundig og gjennomarbeidet. Den er nøktern og beskriver krigens grusomheter temmelig grafisk. Heldigvis lite bilder får en si: 

For Knut Brostuen virket det som de tyske forsvarerne var helt uforberedte. "Vi kom uventet over dem ...Det hele var at regne for bare moro for os, for vi mistet bare en 12-13 mand." En av disse var imidlertid en av hans beste venner i avdelingen, "en kjæk og elskværdig gut bare 17 aar.. En granatsplint rev av et stykke av ryggens hans, saa vi kunde se lungerne. Han døde på hospitalet." Dødsfallet gjorde en sersjant så rasende at han "rente bajonetten ind i livet paa en tysk fange, som nettopp førtes forbi", og Brostuen var sikker på at han helt sikkert hadde drept flere dersom ikke en offiser hadde grepet inn og stoppet det.

Jeg leste boken i utgangspunktet for å lære mer om hvordan WWI endret europa og verden, og hvordan landene i midtøsten ble som de ble. Dette forteller boken svært lite om. Det blir nevnt at det osmanske riket kollapset etter krigen, men ikke noe mer enn det. Jeg vil likevel anbefale boken fordi den gir et personlig inntrykk av hvor grusomt og forferdelig første verdenskrig må ha vært. På et europeiske kontinentet døde hver tredje mann i alderskullene mellom 1892 og 1895. Det er med rette omtalt som den tapte generasjon. Og selv om Norge som nasjon ikke var direkte involvert i denne krigen så var store deler av befolkningen direkte berørt likevel. Bøker som dette hjelper oss å huske at dette var også en norsk katastrofe. 

Rating 5/6

Jeg kan også anbefale podcasten Blueprint for Armageddon av Dan Carlin for de som er interessert i en fantastisk innføring i første verdenskrig.

497 bøker igjen! 

#deukjentekrigerne #bokanmeldelse #mementomori #førsteverdenskrig #WWI

1: Det viser seg at dette sitatet sannsynligvis ikke er fra Josef Stalin likevel. Se kildehenvisning
2: Utover disse 396 sidene er det også mange sider kildehenvisninger og plenty med tips til videre lesning.
3: Mer info om Slaget ved Somme

En av oss - Åsne Seierstad

"En av oss" omhandler Anders Behring Breiviks bakgrunn, oppvekst, og hendelsene som førte til tragedien den 22. juli 2011. Politiets aksjon som resulterte i arrestasjonen og domstolens rettsak blir også godt omhandlet. Dette er uten tvil den tyngste boken jeg noensinne har lest. 

Boka er gitt ut på Kagge Forlag i 2013 og den er en solid murstein av en bok på 531 sider. Den begynner hardt og direkte:

"Hun løp.
Opp skråningen, bortover mosen. Gummistøvlene sank ned i den våte jorda. Skogbunnen surklet rundt henne. 
Hun hadde sett det.
Hun hadde sett ham skyte og at en gutt hadde falt.
"Vi skal ikke dø i dag, jenter," hadde hun sagt til de to jentene hun sto sammen med. "vi skal ikke dø i dag."
Nå hørtes flere skudd. Raske smell, et opphold. Så en ny serie. 
Hun var framme På Kjærlighetsstien. Folk løp rundt henne, prøvde å finne gjemmesteder." 

Det er nå over to tre uker siden jeg leste ferdig denne boken. Jeg har satt meg ned foran dataskjermen opp til flere ganger uten å komme i gang med anmeldelsen. For hvordan skal en beskrive historien om hvordan Anders Behring Breivik gikk frem for å drepe alle de menneskene han drepte? En bokanmeldelse skal gjerne lokke lesere til å lese boka. Dersom det er en historie verdt å lese. Vel.. Dette er en bok som uten tvil er verdt å lese. Men vil jeg anbefale den til noen? 

Dersom en vil vite mer om ABBs bakgrunn, oppvekst og liv og hvordan det hele kunne gå så innmari galt så bør en absolutt lese denne boka. Men det er ikke lett. Det er faktisk innmari tungt, og jeg måtte tvinge meg igjennom enkelte partier. Denne historien kunne lett handlet kun om morderen, og det ville vært en bra bok, men da glemmer en de hundrevis om ikke tusenvis av mennesker rundt om i hele Norge som fikk livene sine snudd opp ned den 22. juli 2011. Og ikke minst ville en da glemt de 77 menneskene som ble drept, og de nesten 300 som ble skadet. 

Heldigvis så har Åsne Seierstad også fortalt historiene til tre av ungdommene på Utøya. Samtidig som vi følger unge Breivik på tidlig 80-tall får vi også følge familiene til de tre ungdommene. Vi får høre hvordan foreldrene møttes, hvordan ungdommene var som barn, og hva de var opptatt av. To familier fra nord-Norge og en familie fra Irak. Sistnevnte flyktet til Europa og Norge fra krig og uroligheter. De kom hit og trodde de var trygge. En skjønner fort at disse tre familiene blir involvert i terroraksjonen, og nesten like fort skjønner en at noen av disse kommer til å dø. Kanskje bare en, kanskje alle, en aner rett og slett ikke. Det ga en voksende klump i magen etterhvert som katastrofen nærmer seg. 

Etterhvert som en får høre historien til ABBs bestemor, mor og etterhvert hans egen barndom så skjønner man at han var utsatt for omsorgssvikt. På 80-tallet var det like før han ble tatt hånd om av barnevernet. Det ble han dessverre ikke, og en klarer ikke å slutte å tenke på hva som ville ha skjedd dersom han fikk en ny familie, nytt miljø og helt andre oppvekstvilkår.  Han falt utenfor de fleste sosiale miljø både som barn, ungdom og ung voksen. Mot slutten skriver Seierstad at ABB søkte tilhørighet hele livet uten å finne det. Dette er også et tema som går igjen i hennes bok To Søstre, som omhandler to somalisknorske jenter som drar til Syria og joiner IS. De fant til slutt sin tilhørighet. ABB måtte delvis finne sin tilhørighet i World of Warcraft og delvis finne den opp. Et annet felles tema mellom disse to bøkene omhandler faktorene bak ekstremisme og radikalisering. Vi får noen glimt inn i tankegodset som ABB etterhvert involverte seg mer og mer i. Teoriene om Eurabia, konspirasjoner fra myndigheter om å utradere den hvite rasen osv. Det ville vært så enkelt og greit dersom det bare var terroristens eget forkvaklede verdenssyn, men det viser seg at det er temmelig mange med disse oppfatningene. Når slike angrep er motivert ut i fra tankegods som mange tusen mennesker deler i dette tilfelle blir det veldig feil å kalle det et angrep utført av "ensomme ulver". Da det i høyeste grad er en sammenheng mellom handlinger og den overordnede ideologien. 

Forfatteren beskriver nøkternt oppveksten og bakgrunnen uten å årsaksforklare noe som helst. Så hun forsøker ikke å "legge skylden" på omsorgssvikten i barndommen eller andre faktorer. 

Seierstad var med gjennom hele rettsaken, og har hatt tilgang på det aller meste av rettsdokumentene. Dette har hun brukt for å kunne fortelle i detalj hva som skjedde den skjebnesvangre dagen 22. juli 2011. Hun har brukt rettsdokumentene til å følge terroristens fotspor på kryss og tvers av Utøya. Det blir massedrap minutt for minutt og det er helt jævlig å lese. Flere ganger måtte jeg legge fra meg boken fordi tårene bare vellet opp i meg. Det var like før jeg ropte til boka at han må da for helvette stoppe denne galskapen! Det aller meste som kunne gå åt skogen etter og under angrepet gjorde nettopp det. Vitner ringte politiet omtrent med en gang etter eksplosjonen og ga signalement på ABB, men det ble ikke fanget opp. Politiet og myndighetene ble rett og slett tatt skikkelig på senga av angrepet. Det virket som det var totalt mangel på plan, ledelse, trening, utstyr osv. 

Myndighetenes respons den 22. juli var i høyeste grad et skikkelig clusterfuck, og når jeg leste om alle detaljene satt jeg igjen med et kjempestort spørsmål. Hvorfor fikk ikke dette noen konsekvenser for regjeringen? Seierstad berører dette spørsmålet ganske kort der hun ramser opp hvor mange feil og mangler det var med responsen, men at det ikke førte til noen som helst konsekvens for de med ansvar for samfunnssikkerheten. 

Som med boken To Søstre av samme forfatter er nesten det siste kapitelet det beste. Det dreier seg om metodene hun har brukt, kildematerialet og hvordan hun gikk frem for å skrive boken. Litteraturlisten bakerst gir også pekere til flere bøker om temaet ekstremisme og menneskelig ondskap. 
Seierstad er en utrolig dyktig forfatter og jeg vil helt klart anbefale En av Oss.

Rating: 6/6

498 bøker igjen!

#enavoss #AsneSeierstad #22juli #Utøya #terror #ekstremisme #radikalisering #ABB

Tilbake til virkeligheten

Årets første bok er Tilbake til Virkeligheten og er skrevet av Kim Westerberg, en tidligere rusmisbruker.  Boken handler om forfatterens oppvekst, og hans opplevelser med rus og kriminalitet. Det er en ganske dramatisk historie som penser innom alt fra forskjellige rusmidler, kriminalitet, gjengvirksomhet til psykiske problemer og familiære problemer. Den gir et godt bilde av hvordan forfatteren selv tenker rundt sin oppvekst og reise inn og ut av rusens grep.

Forordet begynner med å fortelle om hvor vanskelig det er å vokse opp med to skilte foreldre som krangler. Først får jeg inntrykket av at forfatteren ønsker å legge skylda på sine foreldre, og han spør bl.a. "hvilke konsekvenser kan slikt føre til for et lite barn?" Men så blir bildet mer nyansert, han tar mer ansvar for egne handlinger, og han innser at det er mange som har det langt verre enn hva han selv egentlig har hatt det.  Første kapitel er også et brev til hans egen mor der han takker henne over flere sider for å ha støttet han på utallige måter. Selv når han ikke ønsket å ta i mot hjelp. For en klippe den moren må være! 

Ved å ta ansvar for seg selv og egne handlinger viser han modenhet og en evne til selvinnsikt som ikke alle har. Det er veldig fort gjort å skylde på ytre omstendigheter når en havner i vanskelige situasjoner. Han er nøktern og forteller hva han har vært med på og sier flere ganger at det er ting han nok egentlig ikke burde ha gjort. 

I løpet av ungdomstiden begynner han med hasj, amfetamin, piller osv, og det bærer riktig galt avsted. Han går inn og ut av behandlingssteder, begår lovbrudd og i en periode bor han på gata. Det må ha vært skikkelig tøft for både familien og ikke minst forfatteren selv.

Han klarer å komme seg ut av rusen, kvitter seg med gamle narkovenner og begynner et nytt liv. Det ser ut til at han klarte det nesten på egen hånd med en vanvittig stor dose indre motivasjon, fysisk trening og selvhjelpsbøker. Mot slutten av boken er han inne på noe nok alle burde tenke mer over.  Vi er alle produkter av våre vaner og våre venner. Hvilke nettverk vi skaper rundt oss og hvilke levevaner definerer oss, og skaper den vi er.
Westeberg nevner viktigheten av å kutte ut usunne vennskap/relasjoner. Det samme gjelder kosthold, trening osv. vaner bestemmer hvem du er/blir. 
Så da er jo spørsmålet: Hvem vil du være? Hva slags liv vil du leve?

I dag holder Kim Westerberg motivasjonsforedrag der han forteller om sin reise og hvordan han kom seg ut av rusen. Han livnærer seg stort sett av boksalget. Han driver mye med forebyggende arbeid over sosialemedier med pagen Sir.Westerberg. Starter opp ett nytt engasjement nå i januar med nettsiden www.forebyggern.no

Jeg likte boken hans godt! Det var lærerikt å få vite mer om hvordan han har tenkt og hvordan han ser på sitt tidligere liv den dag i dag. Vi mennesker har alle en tendens til å rasjonalisere våre egne handlinger, og forfatteren er sikkert ikke noe unntak her. Men alt i alt fremstår han som ærlig og sannferdig i sin fortelling. Boken er lettlest og består av mange korte små kapitel. Den var på ca 140 sider og jeg leste den ut i løpet av 2-3 dager. 

Ellers må jeg også fortelle om hvordan jeg fant denne boka. For det er ikke en bok jeg typisk ville valgt å lese. Men jeg kom i prat med forfatteren selv på facebook. Og han lurte på om jeg ville lese boka. Så det er klart jeg ble nysgjerrig. Jeg kjøpte boka, og han sendte den til meg neste dag. og da jeg åpnet boka så jeg at han hadde skrevet en veldig koselig hilsen til meg. og ja! Jeg syntes boka di falt veldig i smak, Kim! 

Rating: 5/6

I mars i fjor skrev jeg et innlegg om en interessant samtale jeg hadde hatt. Samtalen fikk meg til å huske hvor kort livet egentlig er, og hvor få bøker vi egentlig rekker å lese i løpet av vår levetid. Jeg regnet jeg ut at jeg hadde omtrent 516 bøker igjen å lese. Det ser ut til at jeg klarte å lese 16 bøker i løpet av 2016, så med denne boken har jeg nå 499 igjen! Wuhuu! 

#Bookanmeldelse #Bookreviews #mementomori #KimWesterberg

The Knowledge - How to rebuild our world after an apocalypse

It is early morning of the first day of the first month in the year of 2017. This is the year where Donald Trump, you know the guy who cannot control his Twitter account, gets his tiny little fingers on the nuclear button. Suddenly a world disaster such as a collapse in world economy, the dismemberment of UN,
d EU or even a nuclear war seems more likely than ever before. I sincerely hope that Mr Trump will be the best President he can ever be. But in case he is not, and we are heading for the Apocalypse, this book is definitely the book you need. 

Lewis Dartnell is a UK Space Agency research fellow at the University of Leicester, in the field of astrobiology and has won several awards for his science writing. Which is completely understandable. This is a very interesting take on the topic of how to survive after a world wide apocalypse. There are lots of books on the topic of survival catastrophies such as this list of top 15 books. But the majority of them deals with a local event where you as an individual have to survive an accident and get back to civilization again. You know get away from immediate threat, first aid, navigation, building a shelter, making a fire etc. Very much like the Boy Scout handbook

This book is something completely different. It´s a guide on how to rebuild our society from scratch. It tells the reader how to go from basic survival to rediscover all the knowledge and technology that underlines our society. How do we grow enough food for everyone? How do we make soap? How do we get metals out of bedrock and how can we make the tools we need? What about basic chemistry to making alkalines or acids? What technology do we need to reinvent to be able to perform basic medicine?

Those of you who have played the epic computer game Civilization by Sid Meier*, will be familiar with this way of thinking. What technology will I need to invent and what do I need to research to be able to maintain my cities? In many ways this book feels like the guide book to the tech tree of real life! 

It starts off with a bit of apocalypse porn, which obviously is entertaining. Dartnell goes off and discusses what kind of disasters could hit us, and what impact they would have. Then goes into chapters such as agriculture, food and clothing, materials, medicine, and how to power our technology. 

Eventually you as a reader realize that this book is a love story of technology and science. How exactly did we get to where we are today? It also describes really how little each and every one of us really knows about everything around us. 

An interesting and scary example of how interconnected we are today concerns the simple pencil. Very few people, if any, are able to construct a pencil from scratch. And by scratch I mean not only cutting down the trees, collecting the graphite and making the paint, but also making the tools you need. And even making the tools to make the tools you need.

The last chapter is about the importance of the scientific method, and how utterly dependent we are on empirical studies of the world around us. And to study the world properly we need to have instruments for precise measurements. Not to mention units to count the measurements. weight, time, volume, length etc are all be essential measurements for us to be able to deal with our surroundings and each other. 

I certainly learned a lot from this book. The word broadcasting, for instance, is the name of the sowing technique where the farmer walks around with a bucket and throws out seeds in a semicircle a handful at a time. Who would have thunk it?  

If you are at all interested in the history of science, technology and not to mention increasing your chances of surviving the apocalypse of Mr. Trump, I suggest you pick up this book. I loved it!

You should also check out the authors webpage The Knowledge, follow on Twitter: @knowledgeciv or even watch his excellent TED-Talk on the subject.

"These fragments I have shored against my ruins."
 - The Waste Land, T.S. Elliot

Rating: 6/6

#science #technology #LewisDartnell #Theknowledgebook #apocalypse #survival 

* If you haven´t played the computer game Civilization you should certainly get cracking as soon as possible. Awesome game that certainly taught me a lot about world history, science and many other things. I think I´ve played this game for more than 20 years in one way or another. One of my all time favorite computer games! 

Three perspectives on radical islam

In the last year I´ve read three important books on radical islam. 
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi, Two sisters by Åsne Seierstad and The threat from ISIS by Mah-Ruk
Ali. The first one is the autobiography of a lawyer and judge and her struggle as Ayatollah Khomeini takes over Iran in 1979 and the following decades of struggle for human rights. It was first published in 2007, so its a bit older than the other two books. Two sisters, does not confuse it with Two Towers by a very different author, is about two norwegian-somali sisters who run away to join ISIS in Syria. It is a personal story of radicalization but also of a family in desp

air. The last book in this triplet is The threat from ISIS by journalist Mah-Ruk Ali. It differs from the other two as it is more of an overview of ISIS history, the connections to Al Quaida and the longer history in the region. In hindsight I realize that the three books have three different perspectives on many of the same issues. Ebadi writes from a personal viewpoint, Seierstad writes about the gradual radicalization and the impact on the family and Ali has a more birds eye view of the relevant topics. I chose to write the reviews in norwegian this time as that´t the language I read them in. 

I also realized that many of todays problems in the middle east have a long history. In many ways what we deal with today are very much related to WWI and the division of the Ottoman Empire. This realization made me look into WWI and The Sykes-Picot Agreement. This led me to the podcast Blueprint for Armageddon by Dan Carlin. But more on that in a later review. 

What do you think I should read related to this topic?


Iran våkner  Shirin Ebadi

Forfatteren Shirin Ebadi fikk Nobelprisen i 2003 for hennes utrettelige kamp for menneskerettigheter og ikke minst kvinners rettigheter i Iran. Hun knytter sammen sin egen personlige historie med historien om Iran fra 1950-tallet og frem til tidlig 2000-tallet. Hun forteller om den Iranske revolusjonen i 1979, hvordan radikal islam tok over makten, og hvordan dette påvirket livene til folk flest og ikke minst kvinnene. Ebadi ble utdannet som advokat og begynte å jobbe som dommer midt på 70-tallet. Da opprøret mot Shaen vokste frem støttet hun det til å begynne med. En venn av henne advarte henne "Du vet at de du nå støtter kommer til å gi deg sparken så fort de tar makten?" Hvilket de også gjorde. Det ble innført mange lover for å begrense kvinners deltagelse i arbeidslivet, tvang om bruk av hijab, og en svært konservativ religiøs tolkning av Islam.  De måtte plutselig ha med seg mannlige verger, og nåde den som hadde glemt hijaben. Det religiøse politiet var uberegnelige og folk forsvant. Særlig kritikere av regimet som forfattere, kunstnere og intellektuelle. Shirin Ebadi forteller om utallige venner som rømte fra Iran fordi livet der ble uutholdelig. Men selv hadde hun en altfor stor kjærlighet til sitt fedreland til å kunne stikke av. Selv når hun fant sitt eget navn på listen over de som skulle henrettes av regimet stakk hun. Til tross for drapstrusler fortsatte hun å ta oppdrag som advokat der hun måtte argumentere ut i fra koranen for å kunne nå igjennom hos styresmaktene. Snakker om modig dame. Hun ble til slutt fengslet fordi myndighetene gikk lei av hennes stadige provokasjoner. 

Hun nevner endring innenfra som en svært viktig sak. At de må få lov til å modernisere religionen og tolke Koranen slik at de finner støtte for menneskerettigheter og demokrati. Siden 2009 har hun bodd i eksil i London pga økende trusselnivå fra ekstremister. 

Denne boken gir en viss innsikt i nyere historie i Iran, kampen mellom religiøs fundamentalisme og sekulære krefter. Vil helt klart anbefale boken til alle som er interessert i temaet. Shirin Ebadi skriver godt og boken er lettlest og har fin flyt i språket. 

Rating: 5/6 

To Søstre  Åsne Seierstad (Brageprisen 2016)

Åsne Seierstad har gjort det til hennes varemerke å skrive dyptgående bøker der grundige fremstillinger av personer og familier forteller en større historie. Denne boka er intet unntak og forteller historien om to søstre i en somalisk-norsk familie som gradvis blir mer og mer ekstrem i sin tro og ender opp med å rømme til IS i Syria. Denne boken fikk Brageprisen i 2016. For det er eneste stedet for rettroende muslimer. (Denne siste påstanden er islamistenes egen påstand.) 

De er i utgangspunktet godt integrert i det norske samfunnet, skriver feministiske tekster på skolen, og fremstår som nokså vanlige jenter. Etterhvert dras de inn i miljøet til IslamNet (grunnlagt av Fahad Quereshi) deltar på koranskole flere dager i uken. Familien merker at døtrene blir litt mer konservativ i sin tro, men tenker at dette er et slags ungdomsopprør. Plutselig en dag har de dratt til Syria, og to dager senere drar faren i panikk etter dem. 

Så begynner en heseblesende historie der faren drar til Tyrkia, mens han desperat forsøker å få døtrene i tale. De kommuniserer bare delvis gjennom tekstmeldinger og chat med sin bror. Faren smugles over til Syria, kommer i kontakt med militsgrupper, men ingen har sett noe til hans døtre. Etter hvert begynner ryktebørsen å gå og han kommer også i kontakt med IS. Det avtales en utveksling men noe går galt, det blir skyting og han blir tatt til fange. Så holdes han i fangenskap over noen dager der han tortureres og trues med at han skal drepes. Det er mye frem og tilbake i boken før han og familien rett og slett må gi opp håpet om å få døtrene hjem. Boken avsluttes høsten 2016 og da er fortsatt søstrene i Syria, gift med hver sin IS-kriger. 

Det mest interessante kapitelet er nok det siste kapitelet i boken der Seierstad forteller om hvordan hun har bygget opp sin fortelling. Hun har intervjuet lærere, klassekamerater og venner som har møtt jentene, hun har hatt kilder i Tyrkia, hun har fått informasjon av familien ikke minst. Jentene hadde god orden på skolematerialet sitt og Seierstad fikk dermed også tilgang på stiler, skoleoppgaver og annen informasjon direkte fra jentene. chatteloggene mellom søstrene og broren hjemme i Norge har hun også fått tilgang til.
Det som åpenbart mangler er direkte kommunikasjon med jentene. De har blitt forsøkt kontaktet, men tok ikke opp kontakten med Seierstad. Vi får likevel et greit bilde av hvordan de tenker og har tenkt underveis. Organisasjoner som Profetens Umma, Islam-Net og to store moskeer i Oslo blir nevnt som miljøer der jentene gradvis ble mer og mer radikalisert. Dette er bok nummer to om radikalisering, der den første var som kjent boken om terrorangrepet den 22. juli «Om en av oss». Seierstad nevner at hun skal skrive en tredje bok som skal handle overordnet om hva som fører til at noen radikaliseres og hva vi som samfunn kan gjøre for å forhindre det. Den boka gleder i hvert fall jeg meg til. 

Da boken ble trykket i oktober 2016 var de to søstrene fortsatt i Syria. Deres fremtid er høyst usikker slik konflikten arter seg nå. 

Rating: 6/6

Trusselen fra IS  Mah-Ruk Ali

Denne boken omhandler fremveksten av IS gjennom en ganske lang historie. De lange linjene fra muslimske lovskoler i middelalderen, imperialismen på 1800-tallet frem til etterspillet etter første verdenskrig, og ikke minst etterkrigstiden blir sammenfattet. De mislykkede militæroperasjonene i henholdsvis Irak, Libya og Afghanistan blir også nevnt som bidragende. En nokså detaljert tidslinje fra 1999 frem til 2014 blir også gått igjennom.  Det viktigste budskapet i denne boken er konflikten i Syria/Irak er mye mer innviklet enn hva en kan få inntrykk av på vanlige nyheter. I nyhetene får en inntrykk av at det er President Assad mot noen unevnte opprørsgrupper samt IS. Mens i virkeligheten er det mange forskjellige militsgrupper, noe vi nylig fikk vite litt mer om etter våpenhvilen romjula 2016. Noen støttes av Saudi-Arabia, noen støttes av Iran (som også støtter Assad), og så har vi kurdiske militser. USA støtter kurderne OG deres fiender Tyrkia. Russland støtter Assad, og konflikten i Syria fremstår som en slags war by proxy som under den kalde krigen. Det er allianser og fiendskap gående i alle retninger og grunnlaget for et skikkelig clusterf*ck ligger godt til rette. Og i mellom alle stridende fraksjoner har vi de sivile som blir utsatt for uendelige lidelser.  

Boka tar for seg propaganda, rekruttering og markedsføringen til IS. Grusomheten er dessverre ikke noe nytt, men den proffe markedsføringen og den helt bevisste bruken av media er noe verden ikke har sett før. Fremveksten av ekstrem Islamisme og hvordan teologi blir brukt for å rettferdiggjøre grusomhetene blir gjennomgått. både Iran og Saudi Arabia eksporterer hver sin utgave blir også nevnt. Til slutt tar boka for seg trusler mot Norge og kidnapping og drapet av Ole Johan Grimsdaarg-Ofstad. 

Boka er til tider heslig lesning og det er fort gjort å få en klump i magen av den. Men dette er nå den virkeligheten vi lever i. IS vil bli nedkjempet i sine kjerneområder og da vil kampen spille over tilbake til Europa. Det er dessverre overhengende sannsynlig at vi vil oppleve mange flere terrorangrep fra islamister i tiden som kommer.
Denne boka bidrar til en mer reflektert og grundig forståelse av bakgrunnen for denne konflikten. Og jeg anbefaler den til alle som er interessert i å vite mer. 


Rating: 5/6

#asneseierstad#mah-rukali #shirinebadi
#radicalislam #iran #bookreview 
#WWIaftermath #radicalization 

Six quick book reviews

Here are the first couple of reviews as I promised yesterday. They come in semi random sequence. They are somewhat grouped after subject.
The more perceptive of you will notice t
hat some of them are written in english and others are written in norwegian. I mostly chose the language based on what language I read the book in.

Don't hesitate to leave a comment at the end.    


Collapse, How societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond is an excellent writer and storyteller and I cannot recommend his books enough. From Guns, Germs and Steel, to The Third Chimpanzee, to this one. He draws on many disciplines such as biology, geography, anthropology, history etc. when he is making his arguments.

He lists five factors that contribute to collapse and twelve environmental problems that we are facing today. Eight of which contributed to the collapse of earlier societies.

The book has an impressive number of societies which either collapsed or managed to avoid it. With a thorough examination of the relevant factors. Environmental crisis and over population is a common topic all through the book.
He spent several chapters on the norse settlements on Greenland, which I found very interesting. Turns out that the Norse population thrived there for a longer time than Europeans have been living in America.  For some reason they stopped eating fish, and there is no good reason why they didn?t. The inhabitants of Greenland starved alot towards the end of the settlement. So this makes no sense. 

Towards the end of the book focuses on the doom and gloom of our current predicament. The overpopulation of our planet, ecological disasters, famine, wars, not to mention the climate crisis.

My impression is that Jared Diamond still finds a way to be slightly positive as he makes a good argument for our ability to solve problems. We need to make long term global plans to avoid making our entire planet an Easter Island of the future.

If this review tickles your fancy you could check out Wikipedia or the authors own TED-talk.

Rating: 6/6
#Collapse #JaredDiamond #climatecrisis #


Havboka, om kunsten å fange en kjempehai fra en gummibåt på et stort hav gjennom fire årstider ? Morten A. Strøksnes (Brageprisen 2015)

Dette er en fantastisk flott bok om havet! Intet mer intet mindre. Det fortelles med utgangspunkt i to menns forsøk på å fiske håkjerring i Lofoten. Forfatteren bruker mytologi, fortellinger, vitenskapelige anekdoter og personlige erfaringer.

Jeg likte spesielt første setning i boka: » Tre og en halv milliard år skulle det ta fra første primitive liv utviklet seg i havet, til Hugo Aasjord ringte meg en sen lørdagskveld i juli, mens jeg var i et livlig middagsselskap i Oslo sentrum.»

Boka veksler mellom den personlige jakten forfatteren og hans venn Hugo Aasjord har på håkjerring og historiske og vitenskapelige historier relatert til alt som har med havet å gjøre. Dette ut i fra et nord-norsk perspektiv selvfølgelig. Forfatterens historier utspiller seg i løpet av et år på Skrova i Lofoten. En får på den måten også et innsyn i hvordan livet på sjøen var i gamle dager.  
Forfatteren er flink med ord og jeg leste gjennom boka på noen få dager. De 300 sidene nærmest fløy forbi. Det som trakk litt ned med denne boken var mangel på inndeling og kapitler. Boken er en eneste lang tankestrøm, og selv om den er lettlest, trekker det noe ned på inntrykket. Mangelen på struktur gjør at det er vanskelig å finne tilbake til de historiene som fortelles.

Rating: 4/6
#havboka #hai #håkjerring #greenlandshark #Lofoten #Skrova #historie



A study in scarlet ? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is the first book about Sherlock Holmes. I picked it up because I hadn?t read one of the many books about the famous detective. My choice to read it in English was based on two reasons. Firstly I wanted to read it in the original language and secondly the book was on offer. Yeah I know I can be a sucker for cheap books. The story itself starts out with how the two main characters meet and the first case they follow together. I enjoyed the old fashioned language more than I did the story line itself. If you?ve seen a couple of Sherlock Holmes movies, series, cartoons etc. you know what you will get. Horse carriages racing down the dark cobbled streets of smoggy London, and not to mention mysteries. Which the famous detective solves in an instant. Maybe some of the other books are better. I enjoyed it, but mostly because of the language. I did learn a few new (probably old) words.

Rating 3/6
#sherlockholmes #drwatson #sirconanarthurdoyle #classics

Løping ? en verdenshistorie ? Thor Gotaas

Dette er en bok om løping som ikke nevner teknikk eller hvordan lære seg dette med en eneste setning. Den omhandler i stedet den kulturelle og historiske betydningen av løping i mange forskjellige kulturer fra oldtiden og frem til i dag. Det er mange korte små kapitel som er fort gjort å lese. Lettlest språk og spennende anekdoter fra det gamle egypt, hellas, inkaenes rike, kineserne, vikingene osv. En av de mer spennende historiene er den om Mensen Ernst, en norsk langdistanseløper som bl.a. sprang fra Paris til Moskva i 1832. Han brukte rett over 24 døgn på den 2700 km lange turen. Gjennomsnittlig ca. 135 km i døgnet. Gjenta det i dag den som kan!

Utrolig spennende bok for alle lesekunnige løpere!

Rating: 5/6
#løping #historie  


Off the map, Lost places, invisible cities, forgotten islands, feral places and what they tell us about the world ? Alistair Bonnett

If you like to explore new places this is the book for you. We might think the entire world has already been discovered, but this book really shows us how much adventure there still is to be had. I?ve been interested in traveling, maps and exploration even since I was a kid. So when I started studying it should not be a surprise that I chose to study geography. This book is a treasure of interesting places all around the world. Old enclaves, lost islands, break away nations such as Sealand, secret cities from the Soviet Union, graveyard settlements in Manila and the list just continues. Every chapter is dedicated to a specific place and most of them has the Google Earth location given in degrees.
This is a must read for us geography geeks!

Rating: 5/6 stars
#geography #maps #exploration #islands #planetearth #adventure



Det som ble Norge, om fjell, is og liv gjennom 2902 millioner år ? Reidar Müller

Dette er en spennende bok som rett og slett tar for seg historien til det område som senere ble Norge. Boken gaper over mye som Big Bang, når livet oppsto på jorda, geologi og tektoniske plater, biologi, geografi, paleontologi, strålingsdatering osv. Hvert av de mange temaene boka favner er spennende og omfattende nok i seg selv. Forfatteren forteller på en lettlest og entusiastisk måte om alt dette uten at det oppfattes som komplisert og tungt. Som han sier selv har han forenklet og valgt og være «mostly right» i stedet for «precisely wrong». I kapitel 1 om Nordmannen forteller Müller om DNA-testing som redskap for å spore opphav. Vi får en innføring i temaet og han forteller om resultatet fra sin egen DNA-testing. Dette gir meg lyst til å DNA-teste meg selv for å få vite mer om mitt opphav. Nøyaktig hvor mange prosent av mitt DNA stammer fra Neandertalere?

Noe av det kuleste i denne boken er fortellingen om supervulkanen som eksploderte i og rundt Oslo og definerte landskapet slik det er i dag. Eller at et fjell som var høyere enn Mount Everest lå over Norge. Dagens landoverflate ligger dypt dypt inne i det gamle gigantfjellet!

 Avslutningsvis har han tatt med en oversikt over sine kilder og anbefalt litteratur. Kan være verdt å sjekke ut noen av dem dersom en er interessert.Han har gapet over mye i denne boken, men han gjennomfører det på strålende vis. Selv leste jeg deler av denne boken på flyet mellom Trondheim og Tromsø. Det var unektelig en stilig opplevelse å lese om Norges geologi og isbreer samtidig som jeg fløy nordover. Under flyturen så jeg nettopp fjell, fjord og ikke minst isbreen Svartisen. Helt strålende!

Rating: 6/6

#geologi #biologi #historie #DNA #norge #fossiler #bigbang #vulkaner

The year 2016 in review

This year is coming to an end and many things have happened. I started out this year with the intention of reading and reviewing lots of books. The goal was to get at least 12 books under my belt. So far I've published one review, so it might seem I'm quite far away from my goal. Which is partly true. I have read more books than my goal, but I haven't taken the time to write the reviews. yet.

During this year I've become a father, I've bought my first apartment, and our lives have basically started a new chapter. It's been a crazy ride, but oh my it's been great! Before this year I would have rated the kayak trips to northern Norway as totally awesome! Which they were! don't get me wrong, but very little compares to becoming a parent. Didn't think I could cry from just looking at a baby.

But anyway... This was supposed to be about book reviews.   
The last few days of the year I intend on writing a short review of the following books: 

  • Collapse , how societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond.
  • The Knowledge, How to rebuild our world after an apocalypse by Lewis Dartnell
  • A study in scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Det som ble Norge, om fjell, is og liv gjennom 2902 millioner år av Reidar Müller
  • Løping, en verdenshistorie av Thor Gotaas
  • Off the map, Lost spaces, invisible cities, forgotten islands, feral places and what they tell us about the world, by Alastair Bonnett
  • Iran awakening by Shirin Ebadi
  • Trusselen mot IS, av Mah-Rukh Ali
  • To Søstre av Åsne Seierstad
  • Bibelen på 100 minutter, lest av Kåre Conradi
  • Sapiens, A brief history on Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Origin of species by Charles Darwin, read byRobin Field
  • Verdens beste pappa, hakkespettbok for småbarnsfedre av Per Asbjørn Risnes jr.
  • Huggorm, biologien, fobien, giften og mytologien av Karl H. Brox. 
  • A Blueprint for Armageddon, (a 25 hour podcast on WWI)

In hindsight these books reflect a mix of my personal interests (well duh..) and world events.
I have included a podcast on WWI, which I know is not a book, but it is a thorough story of the Great War, The War to end all wars.  Books, articles, and stories I've read about the unrest in the Middle East point to the division of the Ottoman Empire after WWI as at least a factor in the numerous conflict in the region today. That's why I included it in my list of books. 

#bookreviews #reading #books #2016summary

The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee - by Jared Diamond

How did humans evolve from one out of many large animals to aquire language, art, music, to become aware of its own history and place in the universe? Jared Diamond tells an exciting,  coherent and relatively accurate story in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee - How our animal heritage affect the way we live. 

A book that tries to tell a story that spans several million years will have to be very selective. Especially when it draws data from fields such as biology, archeology, linguistics, genetics, human psychology, ecology, etc The author obviously has cut a few corners but it doesn´t really matter. There is a section at the end of the book with further reading for those that want to read more about the subjects at hand. This book is a must read for those that want to learn more about our human origins. 

Brief synopsis
There are five parts to this book. It starts off with Just another species of big mammal, a short description about our evolutionary history from several million years ago up until right before agriculture was discovered about 10 000 years ago.

The second part, An animal with a strange lifecycle, deals with what makes us different from the other primates. Changes in life-cycles were crucial to the development of language and other aspects of modern human activity. We are talking about monogamy, infidelity, sexual selection, why humans have hidden ovulation and menopause (come on! what is up with that?)

Part three continues with discussions about the development of language, art, agriculture, drug use and whether we are alone in the universe or not. I found the part about language especially intriguing. It turns out that the linguistics experts have reconstructed alot of PIE (Proto-Indo-European), a language that hasn´t been spoken for thousands of years. This part also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of agriculture, which was very interesting. Because I always figured that there was no real negative side to agriculture. Well it turns out that agriculture gives you alot of calories, but the diet will be less varied. This makes you more affected by caries and malnourishment. Not to mention that you are more affected by droughts. Most diseases could not have spread if we didn´t live in large concentrations that agriculture permits.  

The fourth part of the book is called World Conquerors. As soon as people have entered areas that previously hadn´t been discovered it usually spelled disaster for a majority of the species living there. This has led to the extinction of many many species of animals, birds, reptiles etc. Too many to count. Islands like Mauritius, Madagaskar, Crete, Hawaii, New Zealand and numerous other islands in the Pacific have lost an incredible amount of wildlife when humans arrived. "Dead as a Dodo" has even become an expression. The discovery of the american continent(asians crossing the Bering Straits about 12-14 000 years ago, not that italian sailor dude) also coincided with an entire fauna of large mammals getting extinct. So far I had heard about most of this before, but the really chilling part of the book shows that we not only conquers nature, but we also conquer each other. Through the spreading of disease, interbreeding, and even genocide. I remember from biology class in high school that most animals have the hardest competition with members of their own species. Because they fit the exact same niche they compete for the same partners and resources. Other species also fight each other and you could even say that some species have conflicts with neighbor groups. Lions, hyenas, and chimpanzees are among the species where small scale warfare has been observed.  We humans are no exception.

Xenophobia is a natural instinct and it is made much worse by our capacity for mass murder and genocide. This chapter lists all kinds of genocide through out history, from ancient times up until the 20th century. Jared Diamond discusses at length how seemingly normal people can take part in genocide. They are not necessarily crazy or different from any one of us. We all have the potential for violence. According to Diamond there are three major principles to how normal people justifies in taking part in genocide. A usefully elastic definition of "self defense", possessing the "right" religion, race or political belief and finally a different ethical code for animals. And by reducing other people to the same level as animal permits you to treat them much worse. All three rationalizations were used both in the USA and in Australia in reducing the number of natives. Not only by civilians but also by military and the government. This is also completely common to see in wartime propaganda. This part of the book is coldly rational and it all makes sense. Even if it is completely terrifying. I chill went through my spine when he discussed what the world looked like in the early 1990s. And what areas we should watch out for when it comes to genocide. He lists areas like Northern Ireland, New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, the middle east and last but not least Yugoslavia. Several of these places have experienced if not an all out genocide, definetly mass murder. Just the other day Radovan Karadzic was sentenced in Haag for his actions during the genocide in Screbenica. In trying to understand how genocide is possible we are able to minimize the chances of it happening. Globalisation of media and the understanding that we are all the same species are among the factors that will hopefully reduce violence. And according to Steven Pinker and his book The Better Angels of our Nature, this is exactly what has happened. I will have to read that book some other time. 

Reversing our progress overnight is the title for the fifth and last part of the book and it deals with the myth that species live in constant balance with each other and the environment. This is normally not true, maybe only true for short periods of time. Species migrate and whenever a predator expands into an area where the prey is not able to defend themselves disaster is usually spelled for the unlucky ones. This should be no secret as we know of many examples when rats, goats, snakes, cats etc have wiped out some indigenous species. This is especially true when predators are generalists and not dependent on any one single type of prey. The same principle applies to humans, and have done so numerous times in the past. There are countless examples after the (re)discovery of the american continent, but there are also several earlier ones. such as the extinction of the Moas from New Zealand. There are also strong indications that humans eradicated a lot of large mammals like mammoths, horses and other large herbivores from the american continent. It is obviously much harder to prove since it happened more than 10 000 years ago, but the author makes a very convincing case nonetheless.

Jared Diamond is a very interesting author, lecturer and science educator. He started out his career by studying the physiology of the gallbladder. He studied at both Harvard and Cambridge and in 1968 he became a professor in physiology at UCLA medical school.  
Ever since his childhood he had very diverse interests. Everything from learning languages, to geography, to birds and astronomy. He started writing articles for a magazine in the late 1970s, and he could finally explore his other interests. By chance he won a scholarship from the MacArthur Foundation in 1985 and this encouraged him to focus his writing for the public. He started writing The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, in 1985 and finished it in 1990. The book was published in 1992 and it turned out to be a great success. He has later expanded on the topics and published them in other books such as Why is Sex fun (1997), Guns, Germs and Steel (1997), Collapse; How societies choose to fail or succeed (2005). 
It is seems quite obvious that his later books are expansions of chapters and topics found in this book. I´ve previously read Guns, Germs and Steel, and Why Sex is Fun, whereas the book Collapse is still sitting at the book shelf. I can definitively recommend the first two books. Especially Guns Germs and Steel. It is a great read. I might write a review of that later some time. 

I really like Jared Diamonds work. He connects ancient evolutionary history with modern world events, and by doing that he demonstrates that knowledge of the natural world is crucial. If we do not understand where we are coming from how will we be able to make the best decisions? He is a great science educator and a skilled storyteller, both in writing and in the documentaries he has made. Several of his lectures, documentaries, TED Talks can be found on Youtube. I suggest you check them out. You can also buy The Third Chimpanzee at Amazon, or any other book store, or why not stop by your local library and borrow it there?

Memorable Quote:
"Along with drinking a strychnine cocktail, poking an adult rhinoceros or Cape buffalo with a spear ranks as one of the most effective means of suicide that I know." 

Have you read any of his books? What do you think? What books do you read? 

I´ve already started my next book. It´s a short story written by no other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So far an english army doctor from the war in Afhanistan has decided to move in with a man with remarkable observation skills. A Study in Scarlet is the first of many stories of Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes.... ;-) 

#JaredDiamond #TheThirdChimpanzee #Evolution #Humanorigin #Science

515 Books left!

516 books left!

Some time ago I was reading a book in the sauna at the gym I train at. I believe the author was Bertrand Russel, but it doesn´t really matter. An old man walked in and sat down next to me. We started talking and the conversation quickly started to revolve around reading. We take reading for granted in our society today and I think we forget what an amazing invention writing really is. By reading the works of Bertrand Russel, Shakespear, Julius Cesar or any other writer,  I am suddenly in the writers head hearing the thoughts about a particular subject.

Whether the writer is still alive or has been dead for a millenium is irrelevant. 
The written word is potentially immortal. We humans are definitely not immortal. 

I asked the old man what he liked to read, and I don´t really remember the subjects he talked about. But I do remember that he told me that he had to be very selective in his reading. He was in his early 60s and based on his family history he had about 10-15 years left. He normally read quite alot and probably averaged 20 books a year. Which adds up to something between 200 and 300 books left before he dies. He was very aware of his own mortality. And my own suddenly became much more real. 

I am now 37 years old, and I guess I read an average of 10-12 books every year. Based on my family history I should have about 43 years left.
If I´m able to read 12 books a year it will be a total of 516 books. Which is not that many. I will also have to be quite selective about the books I read. 

516 books left! Let´s get cracking!

#MementoMori #reading #books 

, Notodden

I´m interested in the natural world and normally read books about science such as biology, our evolutionary history, astronomy, and general popscience. I occasionally dabble in archeology, philosophy, ancient history, and world religions too. To mention a few interests. I´ve also been interested in Diving, Kayaking, and Triathlon for years. Have also done all kinds of martial arts for more than 10 years. I´ve now been working for the Norwegian Humanist Association (Human-Etisk Forbund) since 2012.