Book Reviews for January 2017


This month’s book include a fantasy book about an irrelevant civic group, a book about applied stoicism, a comic strip compilation and a book about negotation.

Guards, Guards! - Terry Pratchett

This is the second book that I have read from Terry Pratchett, after Wyrd Sisters.

This book introduced me to the Watch group, a group of guards whose job is to patrol the night for delinquency. They are composed of the an alcoholic captain, a human raised by dwarves, an overweight sergeant, and an untidy corporal. Together, their increasingly irrelevent job is to patrol the night for delinquency.

People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, “Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else.

I like that there are lots of quotable lines from the book that could also be interpreted as a biting commentary on our reality.

Down there - he said - are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any inequity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don’t say no.

The ubiquitious british humor is here. For some it will be a treat. For others who are not used to or does not like that kind of humor, it will be a slog. There are also some parts where I find myself hastily reading through some parts just to pass over some dry patches of text.

I find the world building in this book less than what I expected but it made up for it in its well-developed characters.

Books bend space and time. One reason the owners of those aforesaid little rambling, poky secondhand bookshops always seem slightly unearthly is that many of them really are, having strayed into this world after taking a wrong turning in their own bookshops in worlds where it is considered commendable business practice to wear carpet slippers all the time and open your shop only when you feel like it.

Overall, it was a fun tromp but I find myself rereading some parts to understand. The members piqued my interest and I would like to explore their lives and the city of Ankh-Morpork more in future books.

✭ ✭ ✭

The Obstacle is the Way - Ryan Holiday

This book is divided into three sections, Perception, Action and Will.

I found the advice in the first part of the book to be pragmatic. Advice like Steady your Nerves or Finding the Opportunity rarely invite controversy. If it wasn’t for the historical examples here, I would have found it less interesting. Fortunately, the author manages to blend an interesting story with practical advice.

The second part of the book is where I have disagreements with the author. While I believe that we should Practice Persistence in general, there are times when it is better to quit and move on. The What’s Right is What Works section promotes pragmatism but can be used as an excuse to take shortcuts.

The third part of the book has the least practical but more thought provoking advice. This section talks more about your inner world such as the Build your inner Citadel and The Art of Acquiescence.

This is the kind of book that you can easily read. Each chapter can stand on its own and makes it easy to reference later.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Adulthood is a Myth - Sarah Andersen

The content of this collection came from the webcomic named Sarah’s Scribbles. It was initially published at Tumblr in 2011. It became popular when it was shared in forums, blogs and social media sites. At that time, I didn’t bother to check the source.

I wasn’t aware of this collection until it appeared in the best graphic novels and comics section of Goodreads in 2016. It was how I discovered her actual webcomic page.

The book is light hearted fun. Laziness, introversion, self-esteem issues are just some of the subjects that are explored in a comical way. It is more likely that you will find pages where you can relate than not.

The author is female. As such, there are certain strips that deal with problems that only a female reader would truly appreciate. The compilation is also too short. Perhaps the author could have waited to add more strips before collecting them into a book.

Even so, I did enjoy reading this book between breaks. The title of the book wouldn’t lend itself

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Never Split the Difference - Chris Voss

Negotating is one of the soft skills that I haven’t developed. I am an introvert. Haggling does not come natural to me. It makes me uncomfortable. I would rather concede a deal where I have a minor disadvantage rather than fight for it.

While I do recognize the utility of this skill, opportunities to be able to improve are hard to come by. Worst, I don’t know anyone who can teach me how to do it.

That’s why this book is so great. Each advice is accompanied by a compelling real life story to keep you engaged. It is then followed by a post-mortem about story and clear cut explanations on how the advice applies to it. At the end of each chapter, key points are summarized. This makes it easy to review later when rereading the book.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭