Book Review: Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower by Ed Latimore

Ed Latimore is one of my favorite people on the Internet, and one of the best reasons to even get a Twitter account in the first place.

Ed is a professional heavyweight boxer, a physicist, a chess player, and a writer. And he just drops bomb after bomb of wisdom, delivered with humor and flair.

The funny thing about Ed–and this is absolutely intended as a compliment–is that much of his advice sounds exactly like the advice that my father gave me growing up, and that my grandfather gave my dad.

You see, wisdom doesn’t changeSociety might look different as the decades go by, but eternal truths remain.

Ed also helped boost this humble blog: Once he started following me on Twitter, tweeting out links to my posts, and even linking to my site from his, I noticed my traffic increase exponentially. The point of this isn’t to humblebrag, but to explain that Ed is the kind of guy that likes to help others out. He shows gratitude and inspires others to show gratitude in return.

It’s been cool to see Ed’s rise. For example, when I joined Twitter and started following him, he had something like 2,000 followers. Two years later, he’s up to 25,600. The message is getting out. Quality attractsOr to put it in terms Ed might employ, provide value, and people will flock to you.

Given that I am a fan of Ed the thinker and Ed the man, when I heard he was writing a book, I was very, very excited. Published in February of 2017, Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower: Insights from a Heavyweight Boxer is not Ed’s first book, but I do think its his most substantive. And now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to read it, I can tell you that it is a worthy addition in the realm of “self-improvement” literature.

There are themes that run through the book: Self-discipline and delayed gratification, focus, and surrounding oneself with quality people recur, and much of Ed’s insights touch on or stem from these key points.

Ed doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He doesn’t talk down to readers. And what Ed preaches is not controversial or weird or overly esoteric. His gift is reframing universal truths in memorable ways. Continue reading “Book Review: Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower by Ed Latimore”

Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

The great Jane Austin read-through continues with her final published work, Persuasion, which hit the public in 1817 some six months after Austen’s death.

Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, the middle daughter of a minor baronet Sir Walter. Sir Walter is a widower who doesn’t care much for Anne at all, devoting most of his time and attention to his eldest daughter Elizabeth. But the handsome and vain Sir Walter, more concerned with appearances and being thought of as a member of high society, is also a bit of a spendthrift. In addition to shunting off his parenting duties to Lady Russell, his late wife’s friend and Anne’s godmother, he’s burned through the family fortune.

But Lady Russell has a solution: The Elliots should rent out their estate, Kellynch Hall and retire to more modest lodgings in Bath until their debt is paid off. Like Northanger Abbey, the city of Bath is one of Persuasion‘s main settings–in fact, the two books were originally published together. And like Northanger Abbey, and pretty much every single Jane Austen book, marriage is a central theme.

I understand it: in early 19th century England marriage was one of the few ways in which a young woman could improve her lot in life. Every single work of Austen’s is a variation on this theme. That said, she does such a good job with the characterizations and in setting up her problems and resolutions that these stories never get stale. Continue reading “Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen”

Book Review: War Demons by Russell Newquist

War Demons by Russell Newquist

If you like action, well then, have I got a novel for you.

War Demons is the debut full-length offering from Russell Newquist, book one in his Prodigal Son series. Russell is a writer, a blogger, the owner of Silver Empire publishing, the mastermind of the electronic short-fiction anthology Lyonesse, a podcaster, husband to the writer Morgon Newquist, owner of a martial arts dojo, father of four . . . oh, and he has a day job. I think he sleeps sometimes too.

To say that Russell is an impressive guy is an understatement.

Russell Nequist doing a karate form.
Russell Newquist

I’ve written about Russell before on the topic of nihilism. Not that Russell is a nihilist–far from it! Russell, in fact, is a huge proponent of what is called superversive fiction. Think of superversive as being the opposite of subversive: instead of seeking to tear cherished traditions, ideals, and institutions down and piss all over them, being superversive is to strive to hold up these traditions, ideals, and institutions as worthy of preservation, and indeed the keys to virtue and fulfillment.

Whew.

Russell is also a devout Catholic, which must have something to do with his general attitude, right?

Keep all of this in mind as you read his work. War Demons is what happens when you mix martial arts, Christian tradition, magic, demons, the military, and terrorism. You end up with lots of fights, lots of explosions, and lots of crazy mystical stuff happening in the present day (present being 2006).

Seriously, War Demons has a bit of everything. As someone fortunate enough to be given an advance copy, I tore through it in a matter of days.

There are dragons fighting helicopters, for crying out loud. Continue reading “Book Review: War Demons by Russell Newquist”

Eight Insights About God, Man, and Creation from Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed

Moses Maimonides - The Guide for the Perplexed cover

How does one “review” a dense, millennia-old treatise on Jewish philosophy and religion?

One doesn’t. But what one can do is share insights and particularly powerful ideas and concepts with another.

In The Guide for the Perplexed, written around 1190 in Moor-occupied Spain, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (aka Maimonides aka Rambam) writes to his student Rabbi Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta, to remove some of his confusions regarding certain aspects of faith and philosophy.

The Guide touches on many, many topics including:

  • The multiple meanings of Hebrew words and how to properly interpret the Torah (aka the first five books of the Old Testament)
  • Aristotelian philosophy: what Aristotle got right and wrong
  • Problems Maimonides sees with certain aspects of Islamic theology
  • The nature of God and proof of His existence
  • The nature of evil, and why it exists
  • Divine Providence
  • The nature of angels, prophecy (with a detailed discussion of Ezekiel) and dreams
  • Astronomy (as understood at the time) and the “spheres”
  • The purpose of God’s commandments

And yet instead of seeming disjointed, the Guide has as a constant thread two main themes:

  1. Discerning who God is and what He wants
  2. Achieving perfection, as much as possible, by coming to true knowledge of God

It’s heavy stuff, but it makes you appreciate the magic of the written word, and how one man’s letters nearly one thousand years ago still speak to us today, explaining mysteries and, as the title says, removing perplexities . . . or at least easing them and providing a way forward for further studies and thought.

Moses Maimonides statue Cordoba, Spain

Regular readers of Amatopia know that I am a Christian and don’t shy about writing on religious topics, so if that isn’t your bag, you have been warned. But even though Maimonides was Jewish, there is much overlap between Judaism and Christianity–same God, same creation stories, same traditions, similar rites (or at least the meaning behind them) and much of the same general theology and philosophy about God and man.

Obviously, Christians accept Christ as the promised Messiah and Son of God described in Jewish prophecy and Jews regard Him as a prophet and religious leader, but not Divine.

But the point remains: Christians can get a lot out of The Guide for the Perplexed. And even if you are not Christian, Jewish, or religious at all, Maimonides is a powerful thinker you will get a lot out of reading. Here are eight of my favorite takeaways from The Guide for the Perplexed:

Continue reading “Eight Insights About God, Man, and Creation from Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed

Book Review: I, The One by Dominika Lein

A “universe of souls where manifestation is a literal thought away and the Strong-Willed harshly rule”. . .

An etheric plane between dimensions with no rules save that the weak will be consumed . . .

Such is the setting of I, the One, the debut work from author Dominika Lein.

Lein posits a world some souls do not move on to paradise or ultimate rest upon death, instead ending up in The Other Side, a Wild West free-for-all where the strong rule. Niman finds himself in the thrall of the spider-like Hanhoka, his Guide, who teaches him and the mysterious Katilo how to find and consume souls from multiple dimensions . . . though Niman himself has no interest in doing so.

Still, he is tasked with training Meelik, a lizard-like lik, how to survive in The Other Side, in the hopes of revealing Meelik’s guide, who has something that Hanhoka desparately wants.

It’s an interesting set up that becomes all the more poignant when Niman realizes that he’s not ready to meekly submit to the will of those stronger than him.

All told, I enjoyed I, the One. I had to read it twice, though–and at 48 pages, it’s quick enough to do just that in one sitting.

My first time through, I felt bewildered and cheated, as if I struggled through pages of difficult description and confusing action just to arrive at an inconclusive, ambiguous ending. “What the hell was this?” I thought to myself, frustrated at both Lein for creating something that should be in my wheelhouse but wasn’t, and at myself for not fully grasping such a short, albeit dense, story.

Then I read it again after several weeks and wow, I have reversed my previous opinion. Lein does an excellent job creating her strange setting and the lost souls–some pure, some malevolent–who inhabit it. Continue reading “Book Review: I, The One by Dominika Lein”

Book Review: Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos

Book cover of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos

Oh boy. I’m going to get into trouble with this one.

A third of the people reading this probably think Milo Yiannopoulos is the scum of the Earth, a third might be huge fans, and the other third either finds him mildly annoying or doesn’t know who the hell he is at all.

Me? I’m a fan. I can’t deny it–the guy cracks me up.

Is Milo (I refuse to type it as MILO the way he insists; I know what he’s trying to do, but it’s just dumb) a perfect human being, or even a good one? Arguably no. But I like that he sticks it to the people who need sticking to, and he pisses them off so much.

I’ve only written about Milo once before, back in the summer of 2016 when he got banned from Twitter for life. I’m not going to rehash this here, since this is a review of Milo’s debut book, Dangerous. But I do think a quick primer on the man is in order.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a gay, British-born half-Greek, half-Jew, Catholic who considers himself a conservative, but is really only conservative in that he believes in a hands-off approach to government and is an absolute free-speech fundamentalist. He used to write for Brietbart, and was the editor-in-chief of the site’s tech vertical, until some of his words got him into trouble (more on this below).

He brutally mocks lots of the politically correct crowd’s favorite sacred cows, including Islam, feminism, the university system, other gay people, Democrats, Republicans, celebrities, identitarians, Ben Shapiro . . . basically anybody he can get a rise out of.

He is vulgar, he makes a lot of dick jokes, and isn’t shy about the fact that he has done (and still does?) copious amounts of drugs and has a fetish for black men. In his personal life, he’s about as conservative as a 1970s rock star, but politically I guess he’s more on the libertarian/populist side. Oh, and he’s a huge fan of Donald Trump. Like, gigantic.

He has been accused of being an anti-Semite, a homophobe, an Islamophobe, a misogynist, a racist, a Nazi, a shameless self-promoter, a narcissist, and a jerk. It’s funny because both the far-left and actual neo-Nazis hate him and wish he’d die and burn in hell. This might mean he’s doing something right, right?

Milo Yiannopoulos in a fur coat Well, there was that whole accusation about being pedophilia apologist.

See, Milo was all set to have Simon & Schuster release this book–they had paid him an obscene advance and everything–but then some comments he made on a YouTube interview some months ago resurfaced where he talked about his gay sex experiences as a thirteen-year-old boy with an adult–this is actually called hebephilia, sexual attraction to persons aged around 14-16–suggesting that such things are natural in the gay community, and should in fact be encouraged. It was enough for Simon & Schuster to drop Milo and for him to resign from Breitbart . . . even though George Takei said a similar thing once and faced no repercussions.

(A note: I don’t know much about gay culture and so on, but apparently young gay men having sexual experiences with older gay men is not an uncommon thing, or necessarily frowned upon. I’m not defending or condemning anyone, I’m just stating facts.)

Despite the fallout Milo’s college speaking tour rolled on, gaining even more steam with each controversy. He decided to self-publish his book, which by all accounts has been a success. The title, Dangerous, comes form the name of his speaking tour, which is also a nickname for himself: “The Dangerous Faggot.”

So how dangerous is Dangerous? Continue reading “Book Review: Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos”

Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

donald-trump-president-person-of-year-time-magazine-2-facebook

You can't get away from Donald Trump. He's the President. As with Barack Obama, Trump has those who worship his every move and those who hate his stinking guts.

But I am not here to praise him nor to bury him. No, I'm not even here to talk politics.

I'm here to talk books.

Regardless of your personal feelings, Trump is President. And it's always interesting, at least to me, to learn about our elected officials and see what makes them tick. Because, to be honest, one has to be a little touched in the head to want to go into politics. And so, I read (actually, listened) to two books about the man, one that painted him in a distinctly negative light, and another that was far more flattering.

Let's face it: Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is an interesting cat. And he did beat both a veritable army of GOP insiders and the most favored candidate in American history, to win the election.

[Full disclosure: I voted for the guy. Mainly because, as a reluctant Republican, I have grown so disgusted with the party as I have with the Democrats, and Washington in general, that I relished the idea of sending a giant, human middle finger to the entire establishment. Regardless, one does have to admire his ability to accomplish what he sets out to do, even if you dislike him politically or personally. I felt much the same about Barack Obama (whom I did not vote for, twice–but still, the man knows how to accomplish what he wants and is also an interesting guy. There's a lesson there for all of us.)]

First up, the more "negative" book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by author and journalist Michael D'Antonio, published in 2015. I know that in 2016 D'Antonio updated the book and re-christened it The Truth About Trump, but I listened to the audio version, borrowed by my wife from our local library for me to listen to during my many long car trips between the D.C. Metro area and New England I had to make in the recent past.

Reviews of this book call it “A carefully reported and fair-minded account" (USA Today), “A brisk and entertaining read, drawing on interviews and documents and distilling decades' worth of news coverage to tell the story of Trump's childhood, family, business deals, and political forays” (The Washington Post), and "Balanced, well sourced, and perfectly timed" (Financial Times (UK)). Me, I find these claims of balance and a lack of bias laughable.

Let's get it out of the way: D'Antonio clearly does not like Trump. That said, the book is meticulously researched, well-written and constructed, and sheds a lot of light on Trump and what makes him tick.

Trump's family history is pretty fascinating, with his hellraising and, quite frankly, dishonest and kind of sleazy grandfather (who first built, and then lost, the family fortune), to his father Fred who, through hard work and good timing, nearly single-handedly rebuild the family fortune, to Donald himself, the story of the Trumps is one of sheer determination and will. No one will tell ANY of these men that they cannot do something, and they all have a knack for sniffing out an opportunity and exploiting it . . . even if that involves some unsavory steps along the way.

Michaelauthorphoto

What D'Antonio discusses definitely raises some red flags (and sensationally hints at far more sinister doings without much in the way of evidence, but I digress) about Trump's temperament and proclivities–his penchant for stretching the truth, if not outright lying; his habit of bending the rules to benefit himself and his family, if not outright breaking them; insinuating that he is a virulent racist and anti-Semite with no real proof; his cozy relationship with corrupt attorney Roy Cohn . . . but was it enough to make me pull the lever for his opponent? Absolutely not. For all of his vices–greed, arrogance, women, and a pathological inability to not fight back seem to be Donald's vices–to me at least, Hillary Clinton was far worse.

And yet, through it all, Trump comes across as an enthusiastic builder with an almost childlike sense of wonder about everything. One can imagine him looking at a building he fought tooth-and-nail to get built and being like, "Holy cow, can you believe it?" He clearly also believed in his designers and architects, going to the mat for many of them. And he, obviously, believes in himself.

He also tends to, let's say, exaggerate his accomplishments and disparage those of his opponents with stereotypical New York bravado. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich”