The Art of War by Sun Tzu: #bookreview #DBowieBooks

war

Goodreads Synopsis

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict.

(Original publication date was circa 500 BCE.)

Details

Title: The Art of War

Author: Sun Tzu

ISBN: 1590302257 (ISBN13: 9781590302255)

Published: Originally published circa 500 BCE

Genre: Classics, Eastern Philosophy, Non-Fiction

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 StarsThis book is part of the

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

1. 1984

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The Gnostic Gospels

4. A Clockwork Orange

5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover

6. The Art of War

My Thoughts

Although The Art of War was written over 2000 years as a war manual for Chinese soldiers, many of the lessons can be applied to almost any situation where there is conflict, particularly the business world. The 13 topics in each chapter include: laying plans, attack by strangers. tactical dispositions, energy, weak points and strong, maneuvering, variation in tactics, the army on the march, terrain, the nine situations, the attack by fire, and, the use of spies.

While it is relatively safe to skip some of the more detailed descriptions of Chinese terrain, there are some valuable and universal lessons to be learned. The biggest take aways for me is that to effectively ‘win’ when conflict arises it is important to learn as much about the situation as possible and deploy the right tactic for each situation. Only sometimes is an all-out attack is the best option:

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.

The Art of War is the 6th book I read since undertaking the David Bowie Reading Challenge approximately one year ago and today is the anniversary of the day Ziggy Stardust went back home. I still wish he was here but the past 12 months have brought my own little Ziggy Stardust into my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated every single book that I’ve read from David Bowie’s top 100 books of all time.

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My own Ziggy Stardust

 

I’m going to pair this novel with David Bowie’s recently released posthumously track, No Plan. After being ripped off in his early years Bowie strategically built his empire to be so strong that he is still in control of when and how his music is released!

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The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Fascinating insight into early Christianity gnostic

In 1945 fifty-two papyrus texts were found in an earthenware jar buried in the desert in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These texts are Coptic translations from Greek texts that were written by gnostic Christians around the same time as the New Testament. They are very different from the Christianity we know, though.

Gnostic Christians had many ideas and beliefs in common with Catholic Christians, but they differed on some key ideas. So much so that they eventually were branded as heretics and shunned from Christianity altogether, which is most likely why these texts were buried around the same time the New Testament was being compiled.

I believe that the key difference can be found in the names of the two groups. The Greek meaning for gnosis translates to ‘knowledge’ while Catholic translates to ‘universal’. So the Catholics cater for the masses while the Gnostics focus on the self.

World renowned religious scholar, Elaine Pagels, examines several of the key differences between the Gnostic and Catholic Christians. These differences include beliefs about Christ’s resurrection, structure/authority in church, the gender of God, the Passion of Christ, and martyrdom. She sees these differences as instrumental in the downfall of the Gnostics and the rise of the Catholics, particularly the structure of the church.

I found the Gnostic Gospels absolutely fascinating. It was easy to read and Pagels did a brilliant job bringing these ancient texts to life. I think it says a lot about human nature that the Catholic version of Christianity won out over the much more solipsistic and antiauthoritarian Gnostics were proclaimed heretics!

There are a plethora of David Bowie songs that could fit with this book, but I’m going to go with his last one, Lazarus. Like the Gnostics, Bowie spent a lot of time researching religion, so his last words on the matter are the most appropriate.

Description

The Gnostic Gospels is a landmark study of the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal. First published in 1979 to critical acclaim, winning the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Gnostic Gospels has continued to grow in reputation and influence over the past two decades. It is now widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and accessible histories of early Christian spirituality published in our time.

In 1945 an Egyptian peasant unearthed what proved to be the Gnostic Gospels, thirteen papyrus volumes that expounded a radically different view of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ from that of the New Testament. In this spellbinding book, renowned religious scholar Elaine Pagels elucidates the mysteries and meanings of these sacred texts both in the world of the first Christians and in the context of Christianity today.

With insight and passion, Pagels explores a remarkable range of recently discovered gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, to show how a variety of “Christianities” emerged at a time of extraordinary spiritual upheaval. Some Christians questioned the need for clergy and church doctrine, and taught that the divine could be discovered through spiritual search. Many others, like Buddhists and Hindus, sought enlightenment — and access to God — within. Such explorations raised questions: Was the resurrection to be understood symbolically and not literally? Was God to be envisioned only in masculine form, or feminine as well? Was martyrdom a necessary — or worthy — expression of faith? These early Christians dared to ask questions that orthodox Christians later suppressed — and their explorations led to profoundly different visions of Jesus and his message.

Brilliant, provocative, and stunning in its implications, The Gnostic Gospels is a radical, eloquent reconsideration of the origins of the Christian faith.

Details

Title: The Gnostic Gospels

Author: Elaine Pagels

Published: 1979

ISBN: 0679724532 (ISBN13: 9780679724537)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Religion, Christianity

Pages: 182

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

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This book is part of the David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks

Books Read: 3/100

1984

The Great Gatsby

The Gnostic Gospels

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s taken me ages to be able to sit down and write a review for this book. I just couldn’t eatpraylovedecide whether I loved it or hated it! I’ve decided to meet myself halfway and am rating Eat Pray Love 3 stars, because there were parts I enjoyed and parts that I really hated.

Elizabeth Gilbert is in her 30s and having a bit of a breakdown. She appears to be living the dream New York lifestyle with a successful career, nice house and marriage, but she finds herself depressed and searching for God on the bathroom floor. This seems to be the catalysis for her quest, but it’s difficult to relate to her here, because she refuses to discuss the issues with her marriage at all.

So, she decides to take off for 12 months to find either God or herself. I’m still not really sure which one! Her itinerary includes Italy (to eat), India (to pray), and Indonesia (to love).

In Italy she learns Italian and eats a lot. This was my favourite section!

In India she prays at her guru’s ashram. This was the most boring section for me. The concept of a ‘guru’ who she never even meets is a bit far-fetched! Plus there was far too much navel-gazing and discussion of all the totally crazy thoughts that went through her mind here. I’ve got too much going on in my own mind to worry about anybody else’s! Although I did practice a little bit more yoga and meditation while I was reading this section, so that’s a bonus.

In Indonesia she apparently learns about love from a medicine man, raises money for an Indonesian woman to buy a house, and falls in love. I enjoyed Indonesia until Gilbert met her now husband. I feel like it took away from the empowering message the novel was attempting to convey by ending it with the author seemingly happy now because she’s found a man.

What I enjoyed most about Eat Pray Love was the writing style. Gilbert is a good writer and quite funny and endearing in parts. Although some parts really did tend towards narcissism, I don’t think that was the intent. I felt as though the novel was written with good intentions.

The biggest issue for me is that Gilbert’s lifestyle is so unattainable for the majority of the millions of people who have read Eat Pray Love. I’m sure everybody suffering from depression would love to take a 12 month paid vacation to travel around the world and then make millions of dollars by writing about their trip, but that’s just not going to happen for everyone. I would also like to point out that you really don’t need to go to so much effort to do similar things for yourself. You can treat yourself right where you are. Take a class at your local community centre, read a good book, listen to your favourite music, eat good food etc. You learn more about religion, yoga, meditation etc in your own city. And love the people you’re with right now. You also do not need a partner to be able to love yourself!!

Description

In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career–but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

Details

Title: Eat Pray Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Published: Riverhead Books, 2006

ISBN: 0143038419 (ISBN13: 9780143038412)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel, Spirituality

Pages: 334

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Book Review: Artificial Culture: Identity, Technology, and Bodies by Tama Leaver

Title:  Artificial Culture:  Identity, Technology, and Bodies                      artificial culture

Author: Tama Leaver

ISBN: 1283458829

Published: Published May 10th 2014 by Routledge (first published January 1st 2011)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Academic

Pages: 221

Source: I received a paperback copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Description:

Artificial Culture is an examination of the articulation, construction, and representation of the artificial in contemporary popular cultural texts, especially science fiction films and novels. The book argues that today we live in an artificial culture due to the deep and inextricable relationship between people, our bodies, and technology at large. While the artificial is often imagined as outside of the natural order and thus also beyond the realm of humanity, paradoxically, artificial concepts are simultaneously produced and constructed by human ideas and labor. The artificial can thus act as a boundary point against which we as a culture can measure what it means to be human. Science fiction feature films and novels, and other related media, frequently and provocatively deploy ideas of the artificial in ways which the lines between people, our bodies, spaces and culture more broadly blur and, at times, dissolve. Building on the rich foundational work on the figures of the cyborg and posthuman, this book situates the artificial in similar terms, but from a nevertheless distinctly different viewpoint. After examining ideas of the artificial as deployed in film, novels and other digital contexts, this study concludes that we are now part of an artificial culture entailing a matrix which, rather than separating minds and bodies, or humanity and the digital, reinforces the symbiotic connection between identities, bodies, and technologies.

My Thoughts:

Although Artificial Culture:Identity, Technology, and Bodies explores some rather heavy and complex concepts but it was written very well and raised some really interesting concepts so it didn’t feel like I was reading a dry old textbook at all. Tama Leaver examined several popular science fiction texts such as Avatar, 2001:A Space Odyssey, Terminator, Neuromancer, Marvel’s Spiderman and The Matrix to illustrate the ways in which science fiction popular culture frequently and provocatively deploys ideas of the artificial in ways which the lines between people, our bodies, spaces and culture more broadly blur and, at times, dissolve.

The author argues that technology has become so entrenched in our everyday lives that today we live in an artificial culture due to the deep and inextricable relationship between people, our bodies, and technology at large. It’s an interesting idea to ponder and something I’d like to hear your thoughts on.

I highly recommend Artificial Culture:Identity, Technology, and Bodies to anybody who is interested in digital and contemporary culture. Tama Leaver is a senior lecturer in the department of Internet Studies at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He researches digital identity, social media, and the changing landscapes of media distribution. You can check out Tama’s recent work on his blog at http://www.tamaleaver.net/

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Not That Kind of Girl: Lena Dunham

Title: Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” 7117777143_750e89853d_z

Author: Lena Dunham

Illustrator: Joana Avillez

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9499-5

E-Book ISBN: 978-0-8129-9500-8

Published: September 2014, Random House New York

My Rating: 4/5

My Thoughts:

Lena Dunham, star of HBO’s Girls first solo novel, Not That Kind of Girl, will be instantly recognizable to fans of the show as Hannah Hogarth’s book of essays.  The book almost reads like a really long series of unrelated Tweets and I can appreciate that this is something that readers in their 20’s are likely to feel more comfortable with than I was. I really did feel that I could have done without the chapter that solely consisted of Lena’s food diaries. Maybe I’m just old and don’t really get that part! What I did understand and emphasize with is the awkwardness of growing up and going through your 20’s, with all of the self doubt and hangups that go along with all of that. Lena has a knack for writing about  the gross and messy parts of life in such a self deprecating and matter of fact way that she manages me to feel positively normal. Not That Kind of Girl is incredibly self indulgent at times, but you’re meant to be self indulgent in your 20’s so that’s ok.

Lena Dunham has been dubbed ‘The Voice of her Generation’ but can an entire generation really have just one voice? I don’t think so, but I know that she is a voice, and a strong one at that. In between her sometimes inane musings she does make some pretty solid points that I wish I’d been told by someone clever and cool in my 20’s.

On love and relationships:

“When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said to you gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple. But I tried so hard to make it complicated.”

“You will find,” she says, “that there’s a certain grace to having your heart broken.”

“You’ve learned a new rule and it’s simple: don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.”

On anxiety:

“I didn’t know why this was happening. The cruel reality of anxiety is that you never quite do. At the moments it should logically strike, I am fit as a fiddle. On a lazy afternoon, I am seized by a cold dread.”

On getting naked on TV:

“It’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you.”

On High School:

“that’s also how I felt in high school, sure that my people were from elsewhere and going elsewhere and that they would recognize me when they saw me.”

On Barbie:

“Barbie’s disfigured. It’s fine to play with her just as long as you keep that in mind.”

On female writers: 

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up.”

And this stinging insult:

“D. J. Tanner called and she wants her wardrobe back so it can be included in a museum retrospective about the prime years of Full House.”

I particularly related to the chapter titled Girl Crush where Lena writes about her dislike for the term but admits to having girl crushes before. I have to admit that I have used the term girl crush to speak about women that I admire, but I have to agree that it really isn’t an appropriate term. Like Lena, I don’t have romantic feelings for these people and a lot them them aren’t necessarily women. But I also don’t want to be them the way that Lena describes. I think it would be more appropriate to say that they are people who I admire. Some of the people I admire are wildly rich and successful, but not all of them are. People I admire usually have a career that they enjoy doing and always know where they are heading and what they need to do to get there. When things go wrong they take it in their stride and do what they need to do to get themselves back on track. They always seem happy in their own skin and are comfortable with who they are and what they are doing. I definitely admire how brave Lena Dunham is for baring her soul (and her boobs) over and over again for the world to see and the way that she has turned her passion for writing into an extremely successful career. She obviously loves what she does and I will look forward to hearing more from her in the future. The memoir that she promised to write in her 80’s sounds like it will be hilarious.

Lena Dunham is someone that should consider following on Twitter

Visit here to purchase yourself a copy of Not That Kind of Girl. Let me know what you thought if you have a chance to read it and I’d also love to hear about what qualities you find yourself admiring in people?

Image uploaded to Flickr by Shankbone (2012) and shared under Creative Commons License. Visit here to view to original image.