Friday, October 24, 2014

C.S. Lewis on Books and Tea

C.S. Lewis is a man after my own heart. I loved the quote below that I recently came across:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
― C.S. Lewis

I fully agree with his sentiments. It is lovely to sit back with a large cup of tea and a lengthy book and just lose yourself in your reading. Currently I am reading The Forest by Ernest Rutherfurd which surely meets the requirement. A great book and it has lasted me through many cuppas so far.

Fond Regards to the memory of C.S. Lewis.


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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Glimpsing into the innermost thoughts of Writers

The letters from writers are especially interesting, as they give us a glimpse into their innermost thoughts and feelings in a way their professional work might not. - Jason Diamond

Diamond brings up an important point here. As readers of this blog know I am a great fan of the writings of Virginia Woolf. Her writings, were for the time new, exciting and wide reaching in their subject matter. Her letters shed light on why she wrote as she did and exposes how she was feeling, and what was happening in her life, while the book in question was being written. This insight, which we don't normally see for most books we read, gives us more than a glimpse into the way that Virginia Woolf's mind worked.

For this reason I love to read collections of literary letters. I am currently plowing my way through Volume 1 of the Letters of Robert Frost.

Happy Reading


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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Academic Novels

Seeing it is the academic break in the US, I bought a number of academic novels to read and the first two were fantastic. One was through the eyes of a first year student in the UK and the other is about a professor with Aspergers syndrome in Australia.

The titles are as follows:

Starter for 10 by David Nicholls and

The Rosie Effect by Graham Simsion.

Both books are available from Amazon in hard copy and Kindle formats. Just search from the box below:


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Buzbee on Book LUST

For the last several days I've had the sudden and general urge to buy a new book. I've stopped off at a few bookstores around the city, and while I've looked at hundreds and hundreds of books in that time, I have not found the one book that will satisfy my urge. It's not as if I don't have anything to read; there's a tower of perfectly good unread books next to my bed, not to mention the shelves of books in the living room I've been meaning to reread. I find myself, maddeningly, hungry for the next one, as yet unknown. I no longer try to analyze this hunger; I capitulated long ago to the book lust that's afflicted me most of my life. I know enough about the course of the disease to know I'll discover something soon.”
― Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

I have to say that I have suffered from book lust from the time I first discovered libraries at the age of seven, and second hand bookshops when I was eleven. Over time I have added book sales, garage sales, charity book fairs, digital archives and of course Amazon for my Kindle requirements.

While it is a lust, I believe it is a harmless and very enjoyable one. And of course it is not all about lust, love comes into the equation as well.

Many of my happiest times have been with a book in my hand. I clearly remember going into a bookshop in Alnwick on a snowy winters day and drinking coffee and reading my purchases in front of a blazing open fire - Bliss.

Book Lust


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Independent Book Stores - Be Proactive or die

“And so many of the indies have partnered with Google to sell ebooks right from their own websites. These stores are embracing the “new technology” instead of hiding from it, because they realize it’s about the story, not the ink on paper. If you want ebooks, your local indie can sell you ebooks. If your local independent is hanging up posters saying that ebooks will kill everything, you should tag that bookstore as a favorite in your GPS doohickey. You’ll get great deals, because that store will have a going-out-of-business sale soon. Yes, even though you try to save it with a letter-writing campaign.”
― Steve Weddle

I love independent book stores but I fear for their survival if they don't embrace the tsunami like move to eBooks.

The independents got hit by the big chains and now we are seeing the chains going under (anyone remember Borders?).

The future lies in the independents becoming the coffee houses where readers of all ilks gather to discuss what they have read. Content is king, the medium matters less. Readers like to discuss what they have read. If you doubt it, just look at the number of book groups that abound.

So get proactive readers and help keep the indies alive but not by fighting the demise of the physical book.


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Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Sobering but Fascinating Thought for Readers

“If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.”
― Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

The only thing worth remembering is that not all books are worth reading or in areas of interest for you so you may get to about 0.9%.

While I will never read every book of interest I will have no shortage of candidates for my shortlist.

Keep well


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Saturday, March 29, 2014

No need to Choose Between eBooks and Your Book Shelf

“I don't choose between my house phone and my mobile. I don't choose between my laptop and my notebook. And I don't intend to choose between my e-reader and my bookshelf.”
― Sara Sheridan

While I am now only buying eBooks, I have no intention of getting rid of my lovely physical library. Sheridan makes a great point that one size doesn't fit all and that the use of eBooks doesn't preclude us from enjoying the paper versions as well.


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Aladdin's eReader

Consider the millions who are buying those modern Aladdin’s lamps called e-readers. These magical devices, ever more beautiful and nimble in design, have only to be lightly rubbed for the genie of literature to be summoned.”
― Steve Wasserman

What a great idea and so true. I love eBooks, I love eReaders!!

The genie of literature - that is magic. Transformation of experience by some spinning electrons and eInk.

Happy Reading


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Saturday, March 22, 2014

An Authors View on eBooks

“I am completely unflustered by whichever medium people choose to read my words. I'm just delighted they're reading them at all!”
― Sara Sheridan

Basically books are written in words and whether we read them on paper or electronically doesn't change the meaning that the author is trying to convey.

Most reading activity happens betwixt the book and the brain and depends on how we filter the words.

I am agnostic as to the media as I am to how my food is dished up - I don't eat the plate but the food.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Childhood Reading - a View

“The books of our childhood offer a vivid door to our own pasts, and not necessarily for the stories we read there, but for the memories of where we were and who we were when we were reading them; to remember a book is to remember the child who read that book.”

― Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

I can still remember the excitement of reading Coral Island when I was a young boy (48 years ago). The book, while having gory parts related to cannibalism, was a very gripping read. Thinking back I can remember the boy I was and my passion for reading. I always loved to go to bed early so that I could read. When I was a teenager, while my friends were out about town, I was in bed with a cake of chocolate, a bag of peppermints, my books and my imagination. I dropped the chocolate and peppermints decades ago but it is still a pleasure to read in bed, bliss!



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Life without a Kindle...

“Life without a Kindle is like life without a library nearby.”

― Franz S. McLaren, Home Lost

I love the Kindle software on my iPad and the fact that my library is always with me. As a book lover - both physical and eBooks it is great to have both kinds of libraries.

Reading is my top pleasure in life and the comfort of having an extensive digital library at my fingertips is reassuring.

My dear wife now knows that if she wants me to come shopping (to carry the bags at the end) she only has to offer to sit me in a coffee shop with my iPad and I will happily spend hours reading.

Books + Coffee = Peace of MInd.



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Friday, March 7, 2014

Deschooling Society - Education for Social Control

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.”
– Ivan Illich, “Deschooling Society”

Illich raises a germane point in his quote above. School maintains the social status quo so that people do not question why society is as it is, and who controls it. This is at odds with the concept and meaning of education.

Why is it that regimes burn books? It is because reading sets people free and exposes them to new ideas. We drug our children's minds at school so that they conform and learn not to question. This is why schools are so important to those who control society (the military-industrial-political complex). Schools are needed, not to educate but to control.

This also explains the flak that comes from the establishment when home-schooling is discussed. Home-schooling, deschooling and unschooling all pose a serious threat to the status quo because they turn out engaged and questioning, self motivated learners. I would suggest that any critics reading this post should get out and meet some of these kids. Be prepared to be very scared. These kids are not afraid of adults, do not accept things at face value and are usually not impressed by what conventional society has on offer.

Imagine a generation of children who are not interested in spending hours in front of the TV or playing video games. Who are not exposed to all of the advertising that brainwashes people and contribute to their feelings of inadequacy. How refreshing to talk to young people who are interested and engaged within their communities and families.

They may turn the age...


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Charlie Brooker on eBooks

“Until recently, I was an ebook sceptic, see; one of those people who harrumphs about the “physical pleasure of turning actual pages” and how ebook will “never replace the real thing”. Then I was given a Kindle as a present. That shut me up. Stock complaints about the inherent pleasure of ye olde format are bandied about whenever some new upstart invention comes along. Each moan is nothing more than a little foetus of nostalgia jerking in your gut. First they said CDs were no match for vinyl. Then they said MP3s were no match for CDs. Now they say streaming music services are no match for MP3s. They’re only happy looking in the rear-view mirror.”

― Charlie Brooker

What are the pleasures of the eBook that will replace the nostalgia for the written and printed book? Some of my eBook pleasures are as follows:

Longer Reading Times - I can read in bed when my wife has put the lights out.

Portability - my eBooks are with me all the time. I would need a 10 ton truck to carry my physical library around with me.

Quick delivery - eBooks ordered from Amazon arrive almost instantaneously.

You don't lose your bookmarks.

You can change the font size and style - very important as you approach your silver tsunami years.

Feel free to add more in the comments section.

Have a great day.


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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Virginia Woolf - an Orginal Product of Home Schooling

Born of free thinking parents, Virginia Woolf had an unconventional education mostly provided by her father, an ex Cambridge don. She was given the freedom of his library and as can be seen from her early journals she made good use of this access. Her reading was eclectic and prolific, a habit she kept up for her whole life. Her creativity and breakthroughs in stream of consciousness development were no doubt nurtured by her home schooling, which gave her great freedom.

I wonder how many potential great writers like Virginia Woolf have had their creative flame crushed and extinguished by our school system that caters to conformance and one size fits all?

I am thankful that her parents had the foresight to home school her and let her creativity blossom.


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fuelling my eBook Obsession

I have finally turned the corner and have become an eBook fanatic. I only have one book that I am reading in paper form. This transition has taken many years but I have now stopped buying physical books. Sure I miss having additions for my physical library but I now have a portable library on my iPad that is where I am at anytime. The Kindle App on the iPad is excellent and I just love having instant delivery from Amazon though I do miss the Smiley boxes from Amazon.

I have just pre-purchased the first volume of Robert Frost's Letters as an eBook, delivery due tomorrow.

Long Live the eBook!


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Taking Children Seriously as People

"We don't yet know, above all, what the world might be like if children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, if parents would respect them and take them seriously as people."
~ Alice Miller

Children are a unique gift to society due to their spontaneity, enthusiasm and curiosity. Parents and grandparents would agree that having children around adds a joyful presence to life. Seeing things through the eyes of a child is like being a child again.

Do we cherish this child's view of the world? For a while we do, but when our children reach a predetermined age we march them off to school where their view is unimportant and the rule, little children should be seen and not heard prevails. School is a humiliating experience for many children - the slow, the divergent thinkers, the gifted, the disabled to name but a few groups of disenfranchised groups within our schooling system. Not all children are ready for formal schooling at the age of 5 or 6. We know that boys mature later and probably don't "fit" into a school environment until the age of 7 or 8. In fact I would argue that none of our children are ever ready for school as it is institutionalized now. Schools are about social control, not education.

What do you think?


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Friday, February 21, 2014

The Buddha on Teaching

Believe nothing merely because you have been told it . . . or because it is tradition, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conductive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings – that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.
- Gautama Buddha

This advice coming across the centuries is as important as the day it was spoken. The Buddha was a great teacher but he encouraged his followers and students to examine and analyse the teachings they received. His view that we should seek the good of all beings is at odds with today's schooling factories that turn out many blind learners without the skills to examine the world around them objectively. To use Gatto's term it is all about the interests of "the Combine" - big business, the military, transnational conglomerates and those who pursue wealth at all costs. For their interests to be served they need an army of unthinking people who are "educated" to obey without question, to endure boredom and have arid inner lives.

There are now millions of our young people who have been home schooled, deschooled or unschooled and who will not obey but rather challenge the mindless burearcracy that keeps the products of formal schooling in thrall to their masters.

May they turn the age...


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Leonardo de Vinci on Learning

“Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.”
– Leonardo da Vinci

Today's education system is very efficient in turning out uninterested students who are turned off learning. The desire to learn has been strangled by the educational strictures we put upon them. Schooling works to conform children into a mold that makes them into pliable, unthinking "educated" automatons.

Why do we allow this to happen? Surely we need learners who desire to learn and are self motivated. One size doesn't fit all in education or any other human endeavor.

It is time to release education from the teachers and give it back to the learners. Let children develop the keen curiosity they demonstrate before entering the formal schooling system.

It is our only hope for an increasingly complex future...


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Einstein on Education

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. ”
– Albert Einstein

It is a sad indictment on our schooling system that it dampens and even kills curiosity. Our gradated system from kindergarten to a PhD is tightly controlled with many gateways to weed people out. The problem with this approach is that the A students tend to regurgitate what their teachers want. This is a trick learned early on, well before we hit college. The top students make the least mistakes when experience in the real world is built on learning from mistakes. The education system doesn't reward divergent thinkers and non conformists.

Young children are very happy to make mistakes, it doesn't worry them until they hit formal schooling. They will sing, dance, share their thoughts with abandon. By contrast try getting a group of adults to sing or put themselves into a situation where they might make a mistake in front of others. They tend to freeze or withdraw. Karaoke may be the exception, but most people won't try Karaoke until lubricated with alcoholic beverages. What would learning look like if we had not contacted the formal schooling system?

With the creativity of children and thirst for knowledge encouraged we would have a nation of learners: self-motivated, creative and curious, sharing a passion for life. Instead we have many children sidelined, left behind and ignored. So much for "No child left Behind"

The good thing is that some people survive schooling with their curiosity intact and go on to do great things. Conversely many home schooled or unschooled children get a great education and then excel at university.

Long live Curiosity.


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The Key is Fact Finding not Fact Memorization

“Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school.”
– Wendy Priesnitz

Our educational systems are still fixated on teaching facts even those these facts are often out of date due to the explosion of knowledge. Today's facts are often tomorrows fiction. Technology and science are making very fast progress so memorization is inefficient.

I worked at a computer start-up company in the early 2000's and one of our engineers was a brilliant young man. I wondered why he didn't have any post graduate degrees. When I asked him why he replied, "I did a BSc in Mathematics and at the end of that time I had learned how to learn myself". He could speed read through technical manuals and remember all of the pertinent points. This man has had a very successful career to date because he is self motivated to learn and expand his knowledge base. He also applies his learning straight away.

Given the fast turnover in knowledge we all need to be self motivated learners. By the time someone has got to PhD level in the sciences the information gleaned as an undergraduate is often irrelevant. What is needed are not more PhD programs that take years to complete but more courses that are short, focused and applicable. Such short courses would allow one to keep up. This is where MOOCs are a breakthrough. Of course many of us just make our own courses based on our current interests and curiosity.


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Illich on Schools

“Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends upon knowing that secret; that secrets can only be known in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags.”
– Ivan Illich

Those of us who are readers know that knowledge acquisition is often serendipitous. We read many books, make connections and learn along the way. In fact we mimic the hyperlink system on the world wide web (www), or maybe the www mimics our reading!

Illich argues that society has made schooling into a system owned and controlled by an elite, who know the secrets. It is an educational coterie of druidic mystics. We are told that education is the key to success, that only teachers can teach and that we need the proper authorisations, grades and certifications to get to the next level. This approach constrains real learning and in fact makes the erroneous assumption that all people learn at the same rate, at the same age and that they all need the same content. Educating in this way extinguishes the flames of true learning and curiosity and then teachers complain how hard it is to teach kids who they themselves have constrained.

I celebrate the opportunities that the Internet brings to us all to liberate true learners from the shackles of the educational institutions and let them follow their own needs, interests and curiosity.


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Friday, February 7, 2014

What Exactly do we Learn at School

“There were no sex classes. No friendship classes. No classes on how to navigate a bureaucracy, build an organization, raise money, create a database, buy a house, love a child, spot a scam, talk someone out of suicide, or figure out what was important to me. Not knowing how to do these things is what messes people up in life, not whether they know algebra or can analyze literature.”

– William Upski Wimsatt

This quote by Wimsatt highlights a problem with today's schooling system - a lack of relevancy to life and living. People can do 12 years of education and still be unequipped to cope with independent living. Why is this? It appears to be caused by the professionals slicing out something for themselves from every day life while making children and young adults dependent on them and their tests, grading and diplomas.

Education should be about learning, not teaching. How is it that our children can learn their first language without any formal teaching? Children experiment, interact with others and learn naturally and spontaneously. Compare this with the foreign language instruction within our schools and universities. Some people come out of college with a degree in a foreign language and still can't speak the new language fluently and idiomatically. The academic approach is not the best fit to learn a new language. Compare this with young children who move to a new country with their parents. They pick up the new language by interacting with their peers. Children below the age of five who have not been stifled by traditional schooling are not afraid of making mistakes. FACT - you can not become fluent in another language without making many mistakes. Yet schools reward those who make the least mistakes with the best grades.

It has taken me a lifetime of formal education to realise how I have been cheated and robbed of real learning. I am rectifying this now at the advanced age of 58.


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The New Illiteracy

Today's quote is from a prescient thinker of the last century, Alvin Toffler. Alvin Toffler is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communication revolution and technological singularity. Toffler is a former associate editor of Fortune magazine. - sourced from Wikipedia

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

– Alvin Toffler

At the time this was written in the 1970's the pace of change was much slower than it is today. Toffler, as a futurist, was able to forsee that as change increased so would the pace of learning. But the interesting point is not about learning, but rather the unlearning and relearning required to keep pace with technological change. Formal education is not well positioned to react to the disruptive change that is increasingly appearing. In fact the university system as we know it may well disappear in the next 50 years as it loses relevancy to self directed learners, unlearners and relearners. Another influential thinker, also writing in the 1970's, Ivan Illich, visited this theme in his book, Deschooling Society.

Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.”
― Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Learning, unlearning and relearning are all best done outside of the constraints of the formal education system.

Your literacy in this age depends on your own self-directed learning.


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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where Cultures Collide

The literature that arises from the collision of cultures is often referred to as being post colonial. The black longing versus the white longing, the cultural matrix of the old world challenged by that of the new. In this social critique, the western tradition is rightly being diluted, mixed and challenged by the other.

While respecting the canon of the western tradition, I find the new literatures have an energy and newness that excite and challenge my old world view. These writers help us to see european ethnocentricity, cultural hegemony and attitudes through a different set of cultural eyes. This can be a discomforting experience as it brings a personal challenge to take off your ethnocentric blinkers and see the world as it is, rather than through the inculcated lenses of ones cultural upbringing.

Reading writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Jorge Luis Borges opened a window to the Latin American worldview for me. The vitality, warmth and otherness of the writings positively challenged me as I struggled to find pegs for my experience. The cultural dislocation I felt initially was overcome as I read more.

Students today get the opportunity to study beyond the Western canon and also can freely explore the other within their own cultural milieu (gay literature for example). Such exposure helps to give them a global, rather than a constrained view of the human experience.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Joy of Journaling

I have just finished reading a short book by Beth Jones. The Book is called Writing to Glad - How Journaling can Bring you Joy.

It inspired me to start journaling. I have downloaded an App called Journalize on my iPad and started tonight.

Jones shows how Journaling can allow you to write for yourself on any subject you like without constraint. Such a journal is anonymous and is useful for reflection and introspection.

I will see where this experimental writing leads me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Death of the Book, Long Live the eBook

Well it had to happen. In the last year the tipping point has been reached and now more eBooks are published than physical books. Ten years ago people said that this would never happen, but they were wrong.

The introduction of the Kindle has done much to hasten the decline of the physical book. It is such a convenient device with a long battery life of weeks if not months.

I shed a tear for the death of the book but progress will always win out. Those of you who have been following this blog over the years will remember the various dramas related to my shift to the UK and back from New Zealand related to physical books.

I am now living in Qatar and all my books are on my iPad using the Kindle or iBook readers. Convenient, bulkless and very easy to get new books loaded 24/7.

A great example of a disruptive technology.

Long Live the eBook!

My prediction is that the next casualty will be the higher education sector where so many are blind to the democratization of learning that technology is introducing... A subject for another blog post.


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