Do not read these famous books

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I know this is going to open a can of worms, or perhaps a barrel of rattle-snakes, but it needs to be said: do not read these famous books. One thing all these books have in common is that they are too long. If they were excellent, fascinating, educational, absorbing on every page they would not have a problem. But most readers find they are not any of those things. I have read all but one of these books, and while they are talked about in literary circles, and are on lists of Must Read Books, few people ever finish reading them. Some people would hint that you are “artistically impoverished” if you have not read these books. Do not believe them. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy This is one of the longest novels ever written. The version I read contained 1500 pages of tiny print. The story: Napoleon Invades Russia, Napoleon retreats in disarray. It is not a difficult book to read, and it is mildly interesting. But it is going to take months of reading, and probably you will feel it was not worth the journey. If it was a shorter book, it might be worth the time… Continue reading

Best Australian books

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 A FORTUNATE LIFE,  A.B. Facey A Fortunate Life is an autobiography by Albert Facey, published in 1981, nine months before his death. It chronicles his early life in Western Australia, his experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I, and his return to civilian life after the war. It also documents his extraordinary life of hardship, loss, friendship and love. During the initial days of its publication, Albert Facey became a nationwide celebrity. Despite his renowned life, Facey considered his life to be simple and “had no idea what all the fuss was about”. When asked on an interview, where the name of the book originated. He replied, “I called it ‘A Fortunate Life’ because I truly believe that is what I had”. After its great reception it has become a classic piece of Australian literature and is one of Australia’s most beloved books. Since its publication in 1981 it has become a primary account of the Australian experience during World War I. Buy paperback from Penguin books ISBN-13: 978-0140081671   GALLIPOLI,  Alan Moorehead When Turkey unexpectedly sided with Germany in World War I, Winston Churchill, as Sea Lord for the British, conceived a plan: smash… Continue reading

Where is our Alternative Donald Trump?

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Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell Many readers consider this to be one of the most important novels of the 20th century. It sold more than thirty million copies since publication in 1949. Look on GoodReads and you will see it has been given 1,972,594 ratings and 43,570 reviews by readers who rated it 4.13 out of 5. When Donald Trump started talking about “alternative facts” alarm bells began ringing for all those people who had read Nineteen eighty-four. Sales pushed it to the number one spot on Amazon. The novel is fairly simple in plot. It focuses on Winston Smith, in the year 1984 (which was in the future at the time the novel was written.) The world was divided into three super-nations that were continually at war with each other — at least in theory. The story suggests that sometimes, countries bombed their own population while pretending the bombs were coming from an enemy. Thus they could control their population’s emotions; creating a furious hatred of the enemy, loving their own Party who protected them from invasion and death. The Party ruled Great Britain (Airstrip One) by four government ministries. The Ministry of Peace, which dealt with war. The… Continue reading

Women who fly, men who anchor

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Watching the women athletes at Sochi, I was amazed at the physical and mental courage of the competitors, male and female. And then it occurred to me: what must the Taliban be thinking in Afghanistan, what must they think in Saudi Arabia, seeing women do death defying ski jumps? When I see the aerial skiing jumps, the bobsleigh rides, the ice hockey, the figure skating, I understand women can do almost anything physically that a man can do, and sometimes better. The thought that women should be locked away because of some ancient tribal law, or interpretation of a religious edict, is offensive. And yet, in Saudi women are not allowed to drive cars — for their own protection, of course! They are faced with all kinds of restrictions, such as not being allowed out of the house without a male relative to supervise them. Traveling on public transport is banned, but not enforced. In Afghanistan, the Taliban say girls must not go to school. Reading is okay for boys, but evil for girls. I don’t understand where these beliefs came from, but they sound suspiciously familiar: the same laws that were applied to slaves in America, Jews under the… Continue reading