Category Archives: Book Review

Review of Mental Efficiency and Other Hints to Men and Women by Arnold Bennett

“Mental Calisthenics” was an intriguing new term proposed by English journalist, writer and philosopher Arnold Bennett in this early example of a self-help book, Mental Efficiency and Other Hints to Men and Women.

Bennett bemoans the fact that most of us are focused on keeping ourselves physically healthy and we spend a lot of time, effort and thought into keeping the body in fine trim. However, in the race to become thinner, more muscular, youthful-looking, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we often neglect our mental health. Concentrating on one part of ourselves and ignoring another can have disastrous effects.

In this book, published in 1911, Bennett uses a witty and conversational style to share his thoughts about keeping the mind as fresh as the body. Just as one does regular physical exercises, both men and women should ensure that they follow a strict daily regimen of mental exercises as well. Some of the aspects of mental health are keeping one’s individuality in the midst of pressures from family, society and loved ones, keeping a journal or performing some kind of writing task daily, regular introspection and meditation. He also urges us to avoid looking back too much at our past lives and wallow in grief and worry. This can help people to overcome depression and sorrow.

Managing life events like marriage, family-life and maintenance of relationships, buying books and devoting enough time to self-enrichment through reading, making a success of life, recognizing the artificiality of many of our social behaviors and finally finding contentment and happiness in our lives are some of the ideas discussed here.

Arnold Bennett was an extremely prolific writer. His output was enormous, consisting of more than 30 novels, innumerable essays, many works of non-fiction.



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Review of Don Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Cervantes’ major piece of work, Don Quixote is regarded as the first modern novel and has since been an influence to all Western literature and inspired many literary movements. Written in two installments between 1605 and 1615, the novel focuses on the menacing consequences of idealism, the complex revival of chivalry, virtuous love, the disparity between harsh reality and idyllic imagination all fused together in one timeless classic.

Don Quixote

Don-Quixote By: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)

The novel begins with the introduction of the protagonist Alonso Quijano, a seemingly rational middle-aged gentleman whose obsessive passion for chivalric books instigates his decision to become a knight-errant. He gathers the necessary knight equipment including a primitive sword, an old suit of armor and a horse well past its prime. To make matters official, he changes his name to “Don Quixote”, and designates a neighboring peasant girl, whom he refers to as “Dulcinea del Toboso”, as his love and revered princess. However, his role as a knight would be incomplete without a squire to accompany and tend to his needs, therefore he appoints his neighbor Sancho Panza to fulfill this position promising him governorship of an island. The pair set out through numerous bold escapades in order to restore the chivalric values Quixote so desperately yearns for. Throughout their adventures the hero and his trusted sidekick meet people of all sorts, including aristocrats, petty thieves, priests, tradesmen, duchesses and many other individuals who Cervantes effectively uses to portray and mock society. In spite of his good intentions, Quixote brings a tornado of destruction wherever he goes, and his quests seem to have the opposite effect.

Despite being written well over four hundred years ago, Don Quixote continues to incite curiosity and remains an enduring piece of literature. Most memorable for Quixote’s conflict between his sanity and his delusional picturesque view of reality, the novel captivates its audience with its moral implications. Cervantes’ focal point in his novel is ordinary human life which has a generous supply of accidents, failures and downright madness. Although Don Quixote may be regarded as a mock-epic, it does not fail to address troubling issues still relevant today. Celebrated as the world’s best work of fiction, Don Quixote is an essential element to everyone’s literary collection.

Sci-Fi Classics

Calling all Sci-Fi Junkies! The last few decades have witnessed a meteoric rise in the prevalence of sci-fi literature and entertainment such as t.v. shows and movies (the myriad permutations of the Star Wars series come readily to mind). People often get caught up with all the new releases in the sci-fi genre (as enormous and inclusive as it is!) and neglect to go back to the roots of the genre. Any true sci-fi fan should be aware of the early works that sparked such a fascinating and ever-expanding genre, and to do this, you will need to get acquainted with the Granddaddy of the sci-fi genre: H.G. Wells.

His short story, The Time Machine, was one of the most popular early science fiction stories that helped to launch the genre and created many of the tropes that run rampant in science fiction today. For example, time travel and its terrifying or hilarious effects on our lives in works like Back to the Future and many others are first explored in Wells’ 1895 story. It was a radically fascinating progressive idea of the late 19th century to move through what Wells calls the fourth dimension: Time, and we can feel the reverberations of this unconditional idea today as we remain captivated with imagining time travel. Wells used time travel not only to entertain readers with a wild concept, but also to address important social issues of his time.

Wells’ Marxist critique of class inequality and its consequences are glaringly obvious when he travels to the distant future time of the Eloi and Morlocks and experiences firsthand what he believes to be the horrible ramifications his time had on the future. This short story is packed with excitement, action, intriguing scientific theories, and harsh social critiques that will keep any discerning reader or listener enthralled from start to finish. It is a short story, so it is definitely well worth your time to check it out and learn more about the early days of the sci-fi genre!

Other famous H.G. Wells sci-fi stories that you can find here include:

As well as many others. Happy listening!

 

Overlooked Classics: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick DouglassMany of the books that now fall under public domain have appeared on the myriad versions of canonical lists of what people consider to be the classic novels of the English language. Authors whose works appear on this site and often are considered part of these canons include Homer, Shakespeare, and Dickens to name just a few. However, there are many novels that tend to fall through the cracks when people, whether they are reading for scholastic purposes or for entertainment, are asked to list works that they believe to be some of the most important literary moments in the history of the English language. One such work is the autobiographical work of Frederick Douglass entitled, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass was a slave in antebellum Maryland who eventually escaped from slavery, authored this work, and subsequently became the face of the abolitionist movement both in America and abroad. The influence of Douglass’s Narrative in undoing the evils of slavery cannot be overstated. If you wish to experience one of the most poignant and moving works produced in America’s early history, you cannot miss Douglass’s Narrative. Within the Narrative, Douglass lays bare his life as he struggles to unshackle his mind and body from the seemingly overwhelming power of slavery. With gripping accounts of daring, sickening atrocities against human beings, and personal mental struggles all set forth in Douglass’s eloquently sparse style, you will be transported to the 1840’s and experience the firsthand accounts that played a major role in persuading people around the world to put an end to the reign of slavery. At barely over 100 pages long, Douglass’s Narrative will be a quick and powerful listen/read if you are picking it up as an audiobook or ebook. Either way, it is well worth your time to witness one of the most influential literary works in American history.

Hidden Gem: The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is often known as the American master of the macabre, and yet, it is lesser known that he is also credited with introducing readers on both sides of the Atlantic to a new style of literature that came to be known as Detective Fiction with his 1841 short story: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” This story invites readers to partake in a gruesome murder mystery while witnessing the brilliance of the French detective, C. Auguste Dupin as he works to unravel a seemingly unsolvable case. This story is arguably the origination of the locked room mystery, and keeps readers ever on their toes as they strive to deduce the truth in this hairy case alongside the famous C. Auguste Dupin. As the precursor to the widely popular Sherlock Holmes works written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle later in the 19th century, this gem of a story often gets overlooked by contemporary readers. However, any fan of detective fiction, suspense, or thrillers will be captivated by this blood-soaked, mind-bending mystery!