Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Omgiven av idioter: Hur man förstår dem som inte går att förstå by Thomas Erikson

Have you wondered why you sometimes need to be alone for a while with your thoughts? Or why you always have to be the center of attention? Why certain people are so careless and sloppy? Or why you are surrounded by idiots? Thomas Erikson is explaining all this. He uses a known method to sort differences in communication and categorize people into four different groups, or personality types. Red people are impatient and focused on results, yellow people are positive and need to be the center of attention, green people, which are the most common, are calm and good listeners, and blue people are well organized and pay attention to detail. Everyone is needed and the best group is consisting of all colors. 

People critical to this would certainly claim that it’s difficult to categorize people, but, of course, this method includes numerous variations, and most people have more than one color. Another critical comment might be that dividing people into groups is something that should be prevented, but Thomas Erikson doesn't value one quality more than another, he just states that we are all different. This is just a way to understand each other. We get to know the cause of conflicts and how best to treat them. Of course, this is not a totally waterproof method. People are unpredictable and complicated. The reality is always more complex.

The book, a new edition, is entertaining and useful, both at work and in private life. Everyone benefits from this because everyone we all use communication.


The Doomsday Conspiracy by Sidney Sheldon

Commander Robert Bellamy is hired by the NSA to locate people that have witnessed a weather balloon, with some secret equipment, crash in the Swiss alps. They don't tell him why, and he soon realizes there is something big going on. It’s an interesting story and has much potential. Unfortunately, the big mystery culminates in a chase. Bellamy’s mission is to find the witnesses, but I would be more interested in the big discovery in the mountains if I were him. Bellamy’s search for the witnesses feels repetitive. They all resemble each other. Not one of them seem to care very much about the big discovery. Why have they not already contacted the newspapers? 

The book resembles the structure of a movie script, with not much inner dialogue, and it seems that Sheldon has not given a thought about how best to reveal the big mystery. Events are often presented like scenes in a movie, and it works for most of the time, but it would have been much more interesting if Sheldon valued the emotional aspect more. This is common in the genre, but I still miss the psychology, why people do as they do, and why Bellamy doesn’t question certain events. As a movie, it would have been approximately 90 minutes long, and Bellamy wouldn’t have seem that ignorant. In a book, you wonder when he will discover the truth. Bellamy is supposed to be one of the most successful naval officers. Yet, he rarely think about the cause of his mission and the whole picture.

The part where Bellamy becomes the target is interesting. He is extremely professional, and that is why he sometimes becomes disappointing. When creating falce traces, why rent a hotel room in your real name? A good agent wouldn’t do that. When trying to find a way out, why tell people where you are going? Sometimes, he is very intelligent, and sometimes not. Of course, showing the reader all perspectives right away might diminish my patience. If Sheldon had left me in the dark for a while longer, Bellamy would have seem more intelligent. Furthermore, it would have been interesting to discover everything at the same time as him.

Never the less, government cover-ups and conspiracies are always interesting, and the message of the book is very relevant and a topic of current interest. Even though the book has flaws, it's entertaining.


1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell’s prophecy concerning the development of society is both frightening and thought provoking. In his dystopian novel, Orwell, or Eric Arthur Blair as his real name was, predicted how the world in 1984 would be like. The book was published in 1949, in the aftermath of world war two, and has a lot of influence from the communists and nazi rule at the time.

There are themes like big brother, relativism, surveillance, collectivism, freedom, reality, manipulation, indoctrination and the biggest threat of all, love. The communist idea that the individual is replaceable, a casualty, while the system is important, is a big theme. At the same time, the system rests on the people, and therefor it is important to control them. There is no freedom of speech or even thought. The thought police arrests everyone that protest against the truth. The massive surveillance controls the people. Even though Orwell doesn’t take it as far as Karin Boye’s Kallocain, with the truth serum with the same name, he lets the thought police be able to read face expressions and tones of voice. The least deviant gets arrested and probably killed.

According to Orwell, there are four ways to bring down a totalitarian state, and in most cases it is a flaw in the system itself, or the powerful people behind it, to make it possible to overthrow. This is where this book becomes not only frightening, but disturbing. Orwell shows us that it is possible to control an entire population, and diminish the risk of being destroyed. He has thought of everything, using the mistakes of earlier dictatorships, forming a flawless oligarchy. The main character, Winston Smith, a member of the Outer party, works for the Ministry of Truth, where history is rewritten all the time, which causes a great confusion and loss of orientation, preventing people from learning, getting inspired of other people, and making comparison with other believes impossible. If all information is constantly changed, and there is no way of confirming one's memory, what is the truth, then? If you are the only source, can you be sure the information is correct? Can you trust your own mind, your memory?

Another factor for a strong oligarchy is the power of language. How words make thoughts possible. In Oceania, the political party is restricting the language through a new way of speech, without words like freedom and democracy. A restricted language means unthinking, unintelligent individuals.

The scariest part of the book is the control from within. There can be no love besides the love for Big Brother, hence the sexualpuritarism. The system is above the individual, and relationships between people are unnecessary, even a liability. The children being the worst spies reminds me of the witch hunt in the 18th century. Children don't understand the seriousness of their deeds. For them, it's just a game, and they are rewarded for it. They never learn to love their parents as their parents love them. Therefor, they don’t mind reporting them to the authorities. This totalitarian ideology depends on children scaring people and helping the system, never trusting the population. The children are brought up to be hooligans, and are justified by the ideology. The part of justifying a certain behaviour that is not humane is not totally uncommon today, when governments justify wars. The simple idea that there are two sides and the other one is always wrong is a way of uniting people. When returning from a war, soldiers are treated like heroes, despite the damage they have caused. 
Oceania constantly changes enemy. Just as in the fictional world, the winner writes history, which is a kind of censure function, and yesterday's hero might end up tomorrow's enemy. In that way, it is relevant today. It emphasizes general structures and values to an extent where they become visible and easy to question.

The proles, the ordinary, poor people that don’t belong to the political party, are not so different from us. They are easy to manipulate and not in need of indoctrination. They live simple lives with hard work, family life, sports, beer, gambling and fighting with neighbours. In what way do they differ from us? Are we not easy to control because we are busy working and consuming products that are advertised, seldom evolving into more spiritual, philosophical individuals that might discover and question flaws in the society? According to Orwell, the people that knows what really happens are the ones who are least able to see the world as it really is. The people who have information are unable to face it. The more insight, the more delusion. The powerful people in the book that know the situation, and that Oceania will never win or loose the war, are the ones who believe it the most. I wonder whether that is true for the real world, as well.

The totalitarian machine does not just oppress people. It makes them oppress themselves. Through the terms dubblethink and thoughtcrime, people repress their memories and force certain opinions.

Orwell wasn't right in his prediction about a totalitarian society taking place in 1984, not in the western world, but he was right in some cases. The dystopian novel is very disturbing to read, because in a way, the book is more relevant today than ever. We are being watched, our telephone calls are being monitored, and we leave fingerprints everywhere on the internet. Is it possible to be free? What is freedom?


Night by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was fifteen years old when he and his family, living in Romania, were placed in a ghetto and then deported to Auschwitz, and later Buchenwald. He lost his entire family in the concentration camp and it's painful to read, knowing that would happen. He became A-7713, and eventually he did loose his identity. 

He portrays the dehumanization process very well. How the SS officers treated the people, reduced them and made them forget their value. When confronted by the evil of men, the prisoners loosed their identity. Wiesel watched people stop caring about their families, leaving them. He thought it horrible. It seems that many people went through a major transformation, not only physically, but psychiologically, as well. They handled such strong feelings, and eventually, they run out of them, or they become immune. Perhaps it was a defence mechanism. Wiesel describes a situation where everyone was struggling to survive, every man for himself. No one could afford to care much about anyone else. It takes you one step closer to get a glimpse of how life was during that time. Sons stopped caring about their fathers. People fighting, even killing, for a piece of bread. Eventually, when Wiesel's father was getting weaker, he realized that he had become one of them, an unbearable thought. It's terrible to read about. I understand his thoughts, but I think he really tried. He managed to not be separated from his father, but remained with him for eight months. They worked under unbearable, excruciating circumstances, and he tried to help and support his father, but admits he failed. It is one of the most heart-breaking parts of the book. After seeing his father changing, starving and suffering from dysentery, he realized that he couldn't help him, and even if he could, he didn't have the energy to do it, which made him ashamed. Wiesel is very honest to admit this about himself.

The prisoners weren't treated as human beings. They had no dignity, nothing left. It's very well portrayed how exhaustion and hunger might change a person, take away his will to help people and even his will to live. Living in such a world, Wiesel lost his will to survive, his faith and his innocence. Even on liberation day, people didn't think about revenge. They just wanted bread.

After the war, Elie Wiesel has worked as a professional journalist and international correspondent, devoted himself to political activism, tried to join underground movements, and started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. For ten years after the war, he refused to talk about his time in the concentration camps. After a conversation with an author, he changed his mind, and wrote the 900-pages memoir And the world remained silent, which was later shortened and named Night. A film director approached Wiesel and suggested to make a movie based on the book, but he refused, claiming that a movie would destroy his story, which needed the silence between the words. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Price, and his acceptance speech is in this book. Despite all his achievements, Wiesel has asked himself if he has done enough. That makes me sad and ashamed. The least I can do is to read this book, trying to understand people's experiences during the holocaust, and promise to never forget.

Before being taken to Auschwitz, many people weren't able to believe in the final solution. There were some rumors, but they didn't think that such a thing could happen in modern time. The idea of an entire people, wiped out, was absurd and impossible to understand. Wiesel faced the truth when coming to Auschwitz and seeing the crematorium. It's still very difficult to comprehend that millions of people were wiped out. This book is so important, not only because it's about the holocaust, but also because of the humble, personal way it is written that somehows emphasizing the horror and the structures of evil.


Göran Kropp 8000+ by David Lagercrantz

In this book, Göran Kropp tells the story of his climbing carrier and his crazy adventure in 1996. He decided to climb Mount Everest, and to do everything by himself. He rode a bike from Sweden to Nepal, and climbed Mount Everest alone, without a guide, without any use of sherpas, people carrying the climbers' baggage, without oxygen and he mostly ate his own food that he had brought with him. The photographer that was supposed to catch Kropp's achievement on camera was flown in secret with a small plane, a Pilatus Porter, at a height of 9000 meters – which is forbidden. Furthermore, it had to be a big secret because they had to restrict the airspace. Too bad, a storm was coming in and they had to fly earlier than planned, and the photographer didn't get Kropp at the top. Kropp was there during the dragic season of 1996. On may 10th, many people died. Kropp knew these people, and met them at base camp, but he wasn't part of their expeditions. 

David Lagercrantz, who has written about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alan Turing, and is the author of the latest Stieg Larsson Millennium-book, knows how to write. It really feels like you are there, in the snow and in the darkness, with Göran Kropp. You are really cold. What is surprising is the interesting relationships forming at base camp, and the necessity to trust and depend on each other. The people coming there to climb are so unlike each other, but become the same, with the same thoughts and the same needs and struggle to survive. There are so many destinies intertwining, which makes the book rich in a fascinating way. It is really beautiful that people meet and have this bond. Kropp tells us about wonderful meetings with wonderful people, but and also people that are arrogant and selfish. Up there, people are really put to the test. They seem to be reduced to the basic foundation of themselves, in a way. The true personality is revealed.

Some facts about Mount Everest

* In 1924, George Mallory was the first westerner that climbed Mount Everest. No one knows what happened, and whether Mallory and his collegue Andrew Irwine reached the top. They disappeared and were find 1999. They were the first to die there.

* In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers known to have succesfully reached the top. Three days later, the same day that Elisabeth II was crowned Queen, their achievement reached the news and they became heroes. Kropp claims that the news were comparable with Neil Armstrong later walking on the moon.

* Reinhold Messner reached the top 1980, alone and without oxygen tubes.

* Water boils beneath 100 degrees celcius, around 60.

* A person looses 8 liters of water a day.

* Above 8000 meter, the ground is called the "death zone". Already at base camp, near the height of 6000 meters, the body stop producing muscle cells. Exercise is not only burning fat, but also muscles are affected.

* It is said that the mind of a person with great physique is slowing down up there and the ability of understanding is half of a six year old, due to exhaustion and the low levels of oxygen.

* The mountain can only be climbed a short time, between the jetstreams and the monsoon season.

* Around 155 people have died climbing Mount Everest.

This is a story about the love of climbing, but it is also a report about the climbing industry. Göran Kropp critiqizes the rich people that pay huge amounts to be a part of a team, but lack knowledge, respect and experience, only surviving because they depend totally on their guides, jeopardising the entire expedition, because of their inability. Kropp doesn't like the fact that mountains have become like trophies for the rich. According to him, it contaminates the air. A climber should first and foremost care about the climbing, the love for the mountain. But the commercial aspect is growing. Now, the mountain is like a high way, trafficked by unexperienced people, which might have stopped the flow of climbers, may 10th, 1996, and caused the delay - one of the reasons that led to the major tragedy.

Climbing is expensive and has become an adventure for the rich people. The more comfortable adventure, the more expensive adventure, sadly. Money should not be the ruling aspect, deciding who will be a part of a team. Kropp discusses the rich and famous people using oxygen tubes at all times and paying many sherpas to carry their baggage. Of course, it's not possible to demand that people should carry heavy packing and drop the oxygen tubes, and still be able to carry out the deed. Then, not many people would be able to have the experience of reaching the top. There should be no prestige. However, it's obvious that it is the sherpas that are the real heroes. But many people that pay their way up to the top and don't need to prepare themselves that much or plan anything, seem to lack the careful, responsible, humble and respectful approach that characterizes the guides. Many of them give the impression of not being that interested in climbing, which makes you wonder what their climbing is all about. Perhaps some of them are genuinly trying to learn, while others just want a trophy. Kropp is critical of people like the arrogant and disrespectful journalist Sandy Pittman, who, according to him, seem to have had a big part in the tragedy of the expedition she belonged to, in 1996. An assistent to the guide had to drag her up and down – she didn't even climb by herself, just because she was famous and great advertising - and therefor didn't have the strengh later to save people's lives. Pittman survived because she was rescued, but her comment later to the tragedy that occured was that it was indeed horrible, but at least her book would sell well. After getting back to base camp, she hired a helicopter and asked only two people to ride with her, when she could have hired another one for the same amount of money, and helped those that had saved her life. Perhaps Scott Fischer's death might have been avoided if he hadn't burned himself out, trying to help such clients, and she didn't mention and never thanked the people that saved her life, when later talking to the press.

The guides shouldn't take totally unexperienced people on. Obviously, everyone has the right to climb, but it would be safer if the clients had some practice before deciding to climb Mount Everest. It is dangerous even for the most experienced guide. No one can buy a life garanty, and unexperienced people increases the risk. But the climbing industry is growing, and money is power. May 10th, 1996, the guides Scott Fischer and Rob Hall decided to ignore the rule to not climb the mountain after 02.00 pm - Hall waited there until 04.00 pm, because he didn't want to let his client, Doug Hansen, down. Kropp remembers the famous call between Rob Hall and his wife, Jan Arnold. Hall was alone, somewhere in the cold, exhausted and almost didn't have the energy to talk to her. The last time they spoke to each other they talked about what they would name their baby.

Despite the growing commerse, there are still people that want the whole challenge, and do everything themselves. They are often the most experienced, and most likely to survive. It's something beautiful and magnificent about challenging oneself to that extent. It's almost as if a person's mind is reduced to only the strongest feelings - happiness, hope, disappointment, fear, determination and grief. It's easy to understand the climbers' view of what it really is to live. Perhaps some people live their lives to the fullest when they are close to death. Göran Kropp died in 2002, climbing in the area of Frenchmans Coulee, close to Washington. He was and still is a great inspiration, while reminding us of the danger of climbing. With this book, he is able to tell his story.


The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco

The play, written by Eugène Ionesco, consists of an Old Man and an Old Woman, moving around many chairs. It's one of the plays that became the foundation for a theatrical movement called Théâtre de l'Absurde.

There are only two people in the play, except the orator that make an entrance later. The other characters are invisible. Perhaps the Old Man och Old Women are the only ones left in the world. Perhaps an apocalypse has destroyed the earth, leaving nothing behind. They say that there is no Paris anymore, and talk about an old memory repeatedly. The chairs might symbolise their long lost friends. Another explanation is that the imaginary guests are real people, but with an absent mind. They are there, but at the same time not. However, despite being invisible, they seem more alive than the strange orator, who seems more like a robot than a human being. Are they in the future?

There are many themes in the play. The need to be remembered is easy to identify with. No one wants to be forgotten forever. When finding the meaning of life, or whatever discovery the Old Man has made, will garantee it. Perhaps the chairs symbolise the importance to not forget people. Or perhaps the couple might have dementia? Or being prisoners, bored and wanting to entertain themselves? It doesn't really matter. The play is about memories, and the ability to remember a past that was better than the present. It is about regret. The Old Woman often tells her husband what he could have become if he only were more ambitious. Now, when he has the answer to everything, and will reveal the secret to the world, he will finally be someone. He will be remembered.

The reason that the orator doesn't succeed to reveal the Old Man's discovery is perhaps because of the Old Man. He doesn't dare to reveal his discovery himself. Instead he escapes. If not believing in oneself, no one else does. He seems to have escaped many things in his life. He denies having a son and he admits having abandoned his dying mother. Is the empty room a form of escapism? The lack of responsibility is a great theme. By the way, perhaps the orator really tells the audience the meaning of life. They are just unable to understand it, because it's impossible to understand.

What's good about this play is that it makes you think. There are many interpretations possible, and the story surely means different things to different people.


Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Being one of the most famous plays through all time, Romeo and Juliet still captivates readers and audiences around the world. This is a fine example of the fact that time doesn't really have to change us. We can still understand and identify with great stories from a long time ago. Romeo and Juliet is a play that centers around forbiddem love between two young, rebellious people. But the play is much more than that.

There are some parts that would need some explaining. The reason for the long lasting war between the families is never explained. Perhaps it's not important, but it would be interesting to know what caused this hate. Another detail is the age of the star-crossed lovers. They are so young. Is it possible to know and understand love at that age? Especially when just having met the person? Romeo seems to have been as romantically absorbed just some days earlier, and he got over Rosaline fast. Could it, in fact, be more about sexual attraction than real love? Or is that to destroy on of the most romantuc plays of all time? Just some thoughts.

Never the less, it is a strong play with so much emotion and a wonderfully written. It alternates between different forms, some of it rhyme. Those parts are really beautiful. Although, I think some of the beauty gets lost in the translation of such a work. This is a new Swedish translation, and some words just seem misplaced. Even though the prose evolves and changes through time, it still has to fit into a 16th century enivronment.

Everything happens so fast, which is rather common for plays. Deciding to kill, die or love takes a fraction of a second. Why not think everything through for a while? It would have been nice with more of the inner dialogues to follow the characters thoughts leading to their decision. I have not seen the play on stage, perhaps it's different.

This play is about so much more than unconditional love. It is about a difficult world with tough love. It is about parents that choose their daughter's future, and it is about refusing to live one's life on others' terms. Most of all, it is, although tragically and at a very high price, about choosing independence. This play comes alive and really moves and affecte its readers. Perhaps because it is easy to understand the young couple's difficulty that drives them out of this world. It tells us much about women as properties and merchandise, and the consequences when ignoring their opinions and needs. In one way, it is still relevant. Many parents still have their children's future decided even before they really know them. Perhaps it is to take over the family business, going to college or marry someone from the same country or religion. Romeo and Juliet defy their destinies, and take power over them.

A commentary chapter contains a discussion by the translator about underlying themes and structures of the book, including the balance between the families, this rivalty about power. The peace of Verona rests upon this symmetry - almost like a stalement - where none of the families can win. A marriage between Juliet, a Capulet, and Paris, a relative of the emperor, would brake the power balance between the Capulets and the Montagues. Romeo's and Juliet's love, born from hate between their families, is what finally restore peace in Verona. That is what is tragic and beautiful. Two young people are sacrificed on the altar of peace.


Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This is Gillian Flynn's second novel. Just as Gone Girl, this contains everything that a thriller should have. Libby Day's family was murdered twenty-five years ago. Her whole life changed over a night, and she was the only one that survived her brother's massaker. Ben is still in prison, but a mysterious union turns up and makes her question his guilt.

The union, with the not so imaginative name the Kill Club, contacts her and it couldn't have been at a better moment. The members are totally obsessed with the murder case and Libby needs money. She is not having a envious life. She is constantly poor, angry, alone and she is even a cleptomaniac, something that she has developed because of her poor childhood. She is living on a fund from the time after the murders occurred. She decides to sell some of her family's belongings and letters to the Kill Club, to be able to pay rent, and she also begins to dig into the murder mystery and very dark places in her mind.

Gillian Flynn has a fantastic ability to reach the core of people, through their thoughts and behavior, associated with class. It could be small details such as Libby's observations that rich ladies always correct you when you get their name wrong, or don't even look at the one serving them coffee. Gillian Flynn's greatest achievement is the ability to portray nuanced characters, which makes them so alive. She portrays their layers extremely well. She digs into the mechanisms of psychology. The book contains many unlikable and manipulative people that are both fascinating and repellent.

The book illuminates flaws in the society. One theme is the peak of moral preach about satanic hard rock music, and the prejudices that followed. Another is the legal system. Flynn have the police officers and psychologists make Libby point out her brother as a murderer, not accepting any other answer, even though Libby didn't se anything, just to proove their theory. That is not a completely unrealistic event, just look at the scandal where Thomas Quick, in Sweden, was treated by such people and confessed thirty-nine murders and was sentenced for eight murders, despite later being proved innocent.

What diminishes some of the big picture is the ending. It's not a total surprise, even though Gillian Flynn has several traces confusing us. She twists the plot once more, but somehow it doesn't feel totally succesful. There are too many forced coincidences. Except that, this is an excellent, well-written book that really takes you to dark, twisted places.


My brief history by Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking, one of the most famous physicists and researchers in cosmology in the world, tells the story of his life in this book. Did you know that he is self learned when it comes to maths? Or that he wasn't happy when his little sister was born? This book includes information that shows the man behind the success.

What made him interested in science and so successful? As a young boy, he was fascinated by systems and wanted to control them. He used to take apart items to see how they worked, but couldn't set them back. Theory has always been his field, not the practical part. But solving the greatest mystery of all, the system of the universe, was a way of controlling it, he thought. That became his subject.

His family was not rich with a lot of possibilities. They had to think about money. He spended several summer holidays in a wagon previously owned by roamers. His father built bunks with stretchers from the second world war. His father came from a poor family and was very economical, refusing to turn on the central heat, and instead putting on several layers of clothes. He also seems to have been a very determined person. He was a doctor and his research was focused on tropical illness and meant a lot of traveling. During his time in India he refused to eat Indian food and hired a former chef in the brittich army that cooked english food.

Stephen Hawking is a fascinating person. He is self learned when it comes to mathematics. He is a math professor, but has no formal education in mathematics after his time at St. Albans where he read some maths as a seventeen year old. How could anyone be able to learn such complicated math by himself? He later tutored students at Cambridge and made sure to be one week ahead of the syllabus. 

He got scholarship and began at Oxford after St. Albans, as a seventeen year old, and the others in his class had done military service and was much older. The mentality at Oxford is interesting - either you were so talented and intelligent that you didn't have to study, or you should accept your incompetence and get bad grades. If you worked hard to achieve good grades, you were a so called grey man. During his three years at Oxford, Stephen Hawking took a test before staring there, and the final exams before getting his degree. He started as a research student at Cambridge 1962.

When 21 years old, he got the diagnosis ALS and learned that he had two year left to live. Having met Jane Wilde around the same time, he started to work hard for the first time in his life, to get a job and be able to marry her.

The first half of the book is very interesting. Then, something happens in the book. Stephen Hawking leaves the story of his life and delve into the world of time like curves, singularities and black holes, which doesn't fit in a biography, but perhaps another book. Then he wrote A briefer history of time, and at first, the publisher made him simplify some of the content so a regular reader would understand it, before it was published. That book is understandable and interesting. What's not understandable is this book, this transition from biography to facts about time travel. But probably, physics is a part of him and he is a part of physics.

Except that, the book is written straight forward, without much digressions. Stephen Hawking uses a matter of fact-tone. He is not much for shape and dramaturgy, but tells the story straight out, and that makes the book somewhat uneven. It contains much about his achievements and conferences around the world, which is fine, but it would have been interesting to learn more about him, his family and his struggle with life. He got two more years, but is still alive today, and continues to captivate a whole world.


Oscar Levertins vänner by Martina Montelius

Boel Märgåker has founded the Oscar Levertins friends association, where said author is discussed. The members are going on a literature cruise and Boel decides to loosen up. She is tired of controlling her emotions, comfort other people, and her husband Greger. The cruise becomes a surrealistic adventure. But an older woman interested in culture, who is expected to smile and be nice all the time, can't have intimate encounters and take drogs, can she?

Marina Montelius, dramatist and director, made her novel debut 2013 with Främlingsleguanen. This book is also short, but dense, written in a way that characterizes the author. The tone is comical and entertaining, but shifts abruptly to a deep darkness with secrets such as sexual assault and violence. The blackness is even more emphasized as the novel alters between light and dark.

Boel needs literature to live, or perhaps to survive. She finds comfort in it. The novel portrays people struggling with themselves, and how literature helps them with that. But, first and foremost, Martina Montelius honor the mature woman. People has constantly commented on Boel's body and person, as recent as this cruise, when a man being intimate with her stated that she can't be pregnant. Boel is tired of being treated badly and being betrayed, something she has experienced since she was a child, and she decides that she has had enough. The novel is plunging into the depths of the mechanisms of psychology. A mature woman that refuses to accept the expectations of society is relieving. The mature woman is seldom portrayed in neither fiction or reality. How often do we wonder about what they feel? This book makes you wonder about that.


Upplysning i det 21:a århundradet by Christer Sturmark

Christer Sturmark's book about enlightenment comes in a time when many people leave their faith, at the same time as religious forces are getting stronger. Other attitudes to life also seem to grow. The book includes everything from religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, to supernatural elements. Sturmark's main message is the importance of reflection and reason. While science is able to explain more and more phenomenon, people yet seem unable to reflect and think logical. Instead, they believe in stuff that are unexplained and lack scientific support, such as ghosts and telepathy. 

Sturmark is a missionary for enlightenment. Science and culture have been considered important until the world was thrown into barbary, before, as he puts it when discussing his book on television. Now, the irrational thinking seems to spread again, perhaps because of the possibilities online to discuss opinions with equals, and not having to challenge one's believes.

Philosophy is the foundation of this book. Much of it is a lesson in philosophy of religion, and Sturmark discusses the concept of God, why morality doesn't have religious foundation, and whether God hates women. One of the most interesting parts of the book is those that discusses the birth of religion and it's development (it's interesting that the US was more secular during Benjamin Franklin's time, than today). The history of ideas is a big part of the book and necessary to understand today's attitude to religion. Epistemology is another important part of the book. The main pillars of science research is explained, and why science is more reliable than superstition and belief in religion and the supernatural. According to Sturmark, one should have a good reason to believe in something, whatever it might be. Preferably evidence. This is an argument that somehow collide with religion. Doesn't a big part of being religious mean to not demand evidence? To just believe? - this is a smart way of not having to explain so much. Of course, whether people choose to believe in religion, the supernatural or pseudoscience, it's important to reflect before reaching conclusions. However, it's also important to be humble. Science is a relative term and changing. There are a lot we don't know, and a lot we know but can't explain entirely, just think about quantum physics. Today's science fiction is tomorrow's science. Scientists try their hypothesis after having had an opinion about a matter. If not being open-minded, we will never come up with new theories and expand our understanding of science. If we can't believe in something without evidence, that same evidence is difficult to find to justify our believes.

Sweden is a secular country. The Swedish church is tolerant, accepting marriage between people with the same gender, and having female priests. But it hasn't always been like that, and there are still some flaws, which, according to Sturmark, can be explained by underlying religious believes, such as rules concerning organ donation and euthanasia. Sturmark also discusses the debate about religion in Sweden. Agnosticism is common. Sturmark - who is comparing religions with ghosts, trolls and astrology, which might be considered disrespectful - wonders why many people that not believe in supernatural phenomenon prefer to call themselves agnostic, instead of atheists. Perhaps it's complicated. It is a comfort zone where you don't have to have an opinion. Because it's impossible to prove that God exists and it's as impossible to prove that he, or she, doesn't exist. Perhaps it's also a way to get along with everyone and to respect their believes. Another explanation might be that baptism and weddings are about tradition, and something beautiful worth saving because they make us feel amazed that there is something bigger out there. We celebrate midsummer, despite not having a pagan faith or thinking about the summer solstice. Furthermore, there are surely many people that aren't religious but have a great respect for religion. 

When reading such a book, with critical and matter-of-fact arguments - with statistics and sources that back up the reasoning - it's important to remember that religion has nothing to do with those practising it. Under no circumstances should religious people be mistaken for their religion, no matter if we think religion good or bad. Religion is a conviction, an attitude to life, that does not define an individual person. People's gender, ethnicity and sexuality are not to be questioned, of course, but religion is a standpoint that is changeable, and therefor, it should be allowed to question it, according to the author. Another reason for questioning it is Sturmark's statement that religious groups are funded by the government, while organisations with a secular approach are ignored.

Sturmark is tired of peudoscience that came with postmodernism and truth relativism. There is only one truth, he claims. Religion is only compatible with science if God lit the spark for the universe, and then abandoned it. The constant interference by God into our daily lives is difficult to incorporate with scientific reasoning, according to him. But is it impossible? There is a tone of criticism throughout the book, while at the same time, Christer Sturmark is preaching freedom of faith. Everyone has the right to practise her belief, as long as it doesn't mean breaking the law, or restricting human rights or freedom of speech. However, it's easier with a secular approach, Sturmark argues, since it's difficult to fight oppression of women and other victimization when such ideas are given a religious motivation, sanctioned by God - it's not possible to meet such attitudes with rational arguments. That is the author's opinion. Claiming that God works in mysterious ways is a rather convenient argument. The secular ethic puts human beings in the center. Secular humanism means that religious dogms should never be superior to human rights. Sturmark claims that secular humanism is the only way to a democratic society that protect the human rights. Religion puts God in the center, while secular humanism puts the human being in the center. Sturmark uses statistics to dismiss certain claims about the necessity of religion as a moral guide, and show us that it is rather the opposite.

Not all of the aspects of the discussion are new, but Sturmark delve into some of them and argues in a way that makes you think. Religion is a big mystery. It's fascinating. It is good if it comforts and fills one's life with happiness or endurance, but it is not needed to explain the world and it shouldn't overshadow human rights. It's when a person is put in the center that she becomes a self-thinking individual.


The Hit by David Baldacci

Having read The whole truth and Deliver us from evil, I'm familiar with David Baldacci's work and style, and knows that I won't be disappointed in the plot. Will Robie, an assassin that never fails, gets a new mission from the organisation he's working for. To kill one of their own, Jessica Reel, an agent gone rouge, that has killed several people. Finding and killing Reel, as deadly as himself, will be his most difficult task, yet. But, eventually, he begins to suspect there are something bigger going on.

There's much that is entertaining. Conspiracies are always carefully created by Baldacci, and always interesting. Robie is not a hero, he kills people for a living, which is a complicated life and sometimes makes him question himself. He is a fascinating character, but it's difficult to get to know him. There are too many descriptions of exterior elements, and it would have been great to get some more of the inner struggle, to be able to really feel his thoughts and feelings instead of them being explained.

It is interesting to read a book like this with both a man and a woman main character. Jessica Reel is as strong and fierce a person as any man. That is positive. But, at the same time, when it comes to personality, Reel might be a reflection of the typhical male character. She has the same characteristics, and of course, she has problems with intimacy and trust. For many authors, the only way to create a strong female character seems to be to make her like the stereotype man. But, at the same time, neither Robie nor Reel are typhical main characters, at all. Who knows how to deal with being a killer. A distanced approach to other people and to one self is probably the right way to go.

What's bothersome about this kind of books is the lack of gender equlity. Often the man has the powerful role, and the woman is only a trophy. This book is different. Reel is no one's woman. She is a dangerous person, driven by her own motives. So far so good, but then, something strange happens. Even though Jessica Reel is a professional killer, extremely skilled, never hesitating and feared by the rest of the organisation, she ends up as the plus one. Even though she acts on her own terms, and is driven by revenge and risks her life for it, Will Robie enters and becomes the natural leader. Why? He even admits she might be a better assassin than him. Why does he take control? Reel has been succesfully keeping to her plan, managing to eliminate her high targets on her own, and as soon as Robie turns up, she begins to ask permission and leaves the responsibility to him. It would have been great if she would have continued as before, letting him tagging along. These books, crime novels and thrillers, written by a male author, homehow often end up with the man taking the lead.


The girl on the train by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins debut thriller is centered around Rachel, a flawed woman that drinks too much. Every time she looses control, gets a blackout or contacts her ex husband, despite him having a new family. She has neither self confidence or pride. Paula Hawkins cleverly portrays a woman that does everything in her power to not have to face reality. She hides alcohol and takes the train every morning, despite not having a job to go to. Every day, the train passes by a house where a young couple lives, and she fantasizes about their perfect life together, and names them Jess and Jason. When the woman she calls Jess disappears, Rachel feels that she, herself, has seen something, but she had a blackout that night. She so wants to be needed and a part of something, so she decides to try to find out the truth. 

Paula Hawkins uses an easily accessible prose and the happenings in the high-paced book is interesting. As a reader, you easily forget where you are and loose yourself in Rachel's clouded world. Is she to be trusted? A big theme is credability. Is Rachel, an alcoholoc, depressed woman, credible? Who is? The recurring train can be seen as a symbolic world from which we look at, and distort, the reality, especially when it comes to diminishing ourselves and highten others.

The book resembles Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. They both contains less sympathetic characters and the same type of psychological suspense that makes you read just one more page. Paula Hawkins knows how to create a real page-turner that simoltaneously illuminates something more. She writes about a role that is the opposite of the ideal woman and how excluding that role might be. She not only portray a female alcoholic but also the the society's view of a woman that isn't os use to anyone, at least not in the beginning, and not taking care of herself. Rachel is sometimes difficult to symphatize with, but the contempt and disbelief she meets is described with a sharpness that you can feel it. It's an impressive debut thriller.


Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck

Imagine living in the darkest of places. Imagine that the only people for miles are people you don't know, yet. The character Maija moves to a small settlement in Lappland, Sweden, with her family and they are just beginning to get to know the people in the area when a murder is commited. Then, Maija's husband has to leave for the coust to find work, leaving her and their two children alone.

Sweden is a spectacular, mesmerizing country. In the summer, the midnight sun lights both day and night, painting the beautiful nature in more vivid colours than the brightest fairytale. The grass and wild forests are intensely green, the sea is dark blue and the air is crisp and the sun warms it all. In the winter, the sun hardly reaches above the horizon. There is constant darkness, apart from a short while at noon. The snow falls heavy and everything is white, a contrast to the black sky and the colorful, dansing northen light.

Ekbäck's descriptions of the landscape and forces of nature are very colourful. It's not a traditional fast-paced crime novel, at all. The book is slow at times but is necessary to deal with tensions and feelings as well as an atmosphere of superstition and the supernatural, and for them to give an impression. The exterior reflects the characters' isolation and inner struggle. The book gets more and more interesting because of the portrayal of 18th century Sweden. How difficult it must have been for a lonely woman to fight for her family's survival. 

Ekbäck wanted to write about an interesting time period. Superstition and the belief in the supernatural remained to some extent from an early period. The people living around Svartåsen fear the powers of the mountain, thinking it can breath and make horrible things happen. What's more, in the year of 1717, the wound was still fresh from the witch hunts, and people's fear still remained, it seems - a faith that wasn't as strong as the church, but still a belief. The author uses this theme. Was it some kind of comfort believing in these things, when the situation was so bad? The early 18th century changed the very foundation of life for the people. Sweden was at war and men were forced to leave their families to fight for their country. According to the author, around a third of the population – 1,5 million people – were killed. The king raised the taxes to be able to finance the war, the plague hunted people, and as if that wasn't enough, some years of bad harvest made the people starve. In this situation, Maija is left alone with her children in the middle of nowhere, in the darkness, near a few farms and a secret. She begins to investigate the murder and soon realizes that it's not the only strange thing. The secret might be covering more than the murder mystery.


Den självläkande människan by Sanna Ehdin

Sanna Ehdin discusses health and food, drug-, alcohol- and sugar addiction, motion, stress, correct breathing and mindfulness. And how they interfere. Today, the focus is more often than not on sickness instead of health, and she claims that there are companies that benefit from it. According to her, medications, in the right doses, is the third biggest cause of death in the west. This is a book about those who want to read about something else than the traditional health care. Epigenetics means to affect one's own body with healthy food and the right environment for self healing. Did you know that b-vitamines deficiency can lead to depression? Or that persons with anorexia often has zinc deficiency? Many conditions are consequences of similar deficiencies and can be fixed without medications and antibiotics and prevented with the right food. Vitamines and minerals can cure and prevent many diseases. Stress affect the body more than you might think, and real breathing and mindfulness are important to keep the body in balance. 

Ehdin means that many deficiencies depend on the diminishing nourishment in the earth. Humic acid, that blocks viruses and prevents it form binding to the cells, is found in the top strata of the earth, in peat and lignin, but have decreased due to synthetic fertilizers and toxic discharge. You can actually eat humid acid as a natural medication. I wonder what the traditional doctors that advocates conventional medicine would say about that.

Sweden, after Finland, has the world's highest frequenxy of child diabetes. Sugar and gluten is the worst substances, both when it comes to diseases, alcoholism and other addictions, and changes the hormon balance.

It has been known for more than a hundred years that hormons affetc the immune system, but it is unexplored because women's health has been a low priority in the 20th century, something that is very interesting because I would have thought that we had come further than that. Still, the Socialstyrelse, The National Board of Health and Welfare, Sveriges kommuner och landsting, SKL, Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, and Folkhälsoinstitutet, Swedish National Institutet of Public Health claim that patients are not met and treated on the same terms. Men get more expensive medications, and women's symptoms have not been taken seriously. The research has often focused on men's immune system and animal experiments have been made on male animals. But men's and women's immune system are different. Women's is stronger, because they are responsible for the continuation of the family. That means that women have three times bigger chances to utveckla autoimmune diseases than men, something that should be taken into consideration when doing research and developing medicine.

The book contains much information and advice that might come in handy for many people. Women in menopause should take bioidentical hormones instead of synthetic ones. They are from the vegetable kingdom and are similar to our own hormones. Progesterone is important to take. Bioidentic hormons is increasing the risk for age related diseases, the cholesterol levels improve, and decreases the risk for heart diseases. Unfortunately, birth control pills often contains synthetic hormons. Why are we not informed about this? Ehdin goes so far as to claim that menopause might be something that could be postponed. She went through a detox in her fifties and got her period back. Adults uses 80 % of their energy to detox. This is very interesting.

She recommend meta medication, an overall perspective that integrates traditional, complementary, and alternative medicine. It gives a whole picture and helps the body to self cure. Energy medicin is a treatment that proceeded from the foundation of quantum physics, and states that everything exists both like particles and waves, at the same time. The waves makes a certain frequence. Different materials have different frequences. A healthy cell has another frequence than a sick one. The treatment consists of subtle energies and electromagnetic energy like sound waves and light waves. Frequency medication works on different frequences. Bioresonance is a quantum medical analysis- and treatment tecnique that has been developed in space medicine. During the analyze the system is sending information about energy waves and is looking for the body's resonans. If there is an inbalance, there are different frequences in organs and emotionally. The system is repairing them with stämma the body's energy fields.

Overall, the book is very fascinating. Even though Ehdin sometimes feel a little too convinced about some things and portrays the lack of knowledge and health treatment like a big conspiracy, it gives you much to think about. New thinking people are often met with criticism because they are controversial, but this book no doubt contains many things that people would benefit from knowing about.


How to be a heroine by Samantha Ellis

Samantha Ellis has chosen a magnificent concept for her new book. Literature has had a great impact on her and she has used characters to understand her own life and find solutions. The book mixes characters from different books and time periods, and Ellis herself is one of them. Her own life is woven into the fabric. The reader gets to know how her parents wanted her to marry a Iraqi-Jewish man. How she struggled to be able to leave her home and go to Cambridge – where Sylvia Plath once studied.

Ellis prefers different heroines in different periods in life. In The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood made her believe that suffering has a value. Her biggest heroine is her mother that left her home in Iraq and moved to a new world. But, eventually, when she herself was struck by a disease, she realized that suffering has no value. She was neither stronger nor more humble. It's interesting to follow Ellis personal development and how it changes her view of the characters.

Occasionally, she returns to the sisters Brontë's characters. It seems that Cathy and Jane are competitors and she has to choose one of them. Why can't both be heroines? Why can't she understand right away that she needed one in her early life and now identify with the other?

It's a book from a feminist perspective. Samanatha Ellis prefers heroines, not passive girls. She likes characters on adventure, that challenge themselves and overcome their fear. That becomes independent individuals and refuse to be governed. She question why Ariel sacrificed her voice to meet a man, or why Anne Shirley stopped writing when she married.

The book is well-written. Books about literature tend to have a hypnotic effect on those interested in literature, especially if it's well written. You learn much about books and how to use them for your own good. You get tempted to read many new ones and form your own opinions. You run the risk of becoming even more interested in literature.

Samantha Ellis take the heroines from the books and make them her friends, in a fascinating way. At one time, in the bad tube, she gathers all the characters to a reunion. Only the imagination is the limit.


Mysteries of the World: Unexplained Wonders and Mysterious Phenomena by Herbert Genzmer and Ulrich Hellenbrand

The book, with a somewhat reverse translation, "Mysterier: oförklarliga under och sällsamma händelser", brings up a lot of strange and unexplained phenomenon. Genzmer mentions very interesting mysteries that have been capturing people's minds for several millenia, as well as phenomenon from the last century. The author presents theories and explanations, suggested by researchers and scientists, that are possible and extraordinary.

Have you ever had the feeling that you have experienced something before? Have you wondered about ancient cities and their knowledge of astronomy and technology that made them build something resembling batteries? Have you wondered about events in the Bible? Are you fascinated by the holy grail? This book is about most of the mysteries there has ever been, and the reader is on a constant adventure. Every page offers incredible information and interesting explanations.

Genzmer discusses Atlantis, the pyramids, Stonehenge, ancient technology, nano-spirals, the Piri Reis map, the holy grail, Bible stories, the Bermuda triangle, the Nazca lines, the Loch Ness-monster, Tunguska, déjà vu, ghosts, ufo:s, crop circles, healers, clairvoyance, telepathy and time travel.

The reader gets much information about different areas and gets the opportunity to cultivate an interest. Even though it's not so much about each one of the phenomenon, it's a great reading experience and it serves as a gateway, an inspiration to further reading.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The novel was published 1873-1877 in The Russian Messenger. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Nabokov and William Faulkner were all very impressed by it. Faulkner even claimed it to be the best work ever written.

The meeting of two women will irrevocably change their lives forever. When Anna Karenina gets to know Kitty Shcherbatskaya, she also gets the chance to know her acquaintance Vronsky. Kitty, on the other hand, has to get to know herself before knowing who she should get to know. The two women are the very opposites of each other but after this day they both begin to transform. The graceful Anna is destined to condemnation and the childish Kitty is destined to insightfulness - give or take a few years. It’s not until then that their true destiny can be revealed.

To follow the conventions of the time was essential, and much of the unhappiness in the book is due to the common view. In this way, the characters are trapped in the conventions of society and people's expectations, not free to make their own choices. Not until they decide to stop caring. Perhaps Karenin isn’t more unhappy than the society forces him to be. Perhaps Kitty’s feelings for a man that suites the aristocracy are not her own feelings. How do one know what’s true and what’s not when constantly affected by one’s environment? To what extent do people’s expectations around us influence us? This shows Tolstoy’s opinion of the higher social levels of society. He was himself apart of it, and didn’t like it. The character Anna, on the other hand, sacrifices not only being part of society but other things as well for the life she wants to live. It seems women often had to make these decisions. In a world of hypocrisy, Anna's brother, Oblonsky, is constantly unfaithful to his wife, while Anna’s situation makes her fall from grace. She is banned from the very same circles that receive both her brother and lover. 

Anna, a kind of feminist of her time, builds up a facade of indifference and seductive charm. Holding her head high, refusing to accept herself as a condemnd, fallen, disgraced woman, she is fighting with all the means accessible to her. Being dependent of a man outside marriage is slowly poisoning her. Behind the facade, her world is beginning to fall apart. Is it really possible for love to rise above social conditions?

Tolstoy writes in a magnificent way. Many themes are masterfully spreading a light over the Russian society in a very interesting time. Discussions about industrialization, agriculture, politics, education and religion reveal a country on the verge of turmoil. Parts of Russia wanted the country to Europeanize, while others wanted it to maintain its traditional values. There was an identity crisis, where the population spoke French while at the same time discussed what it meant to be russian. Russia was torn between people wanting to overthrow the tsar, while others wanted to industrialize agriculture for the country to become as modern as the west. All this is explained through the eyes of the characters. It’s fascinating to feel the dissatisfaction boiling beneath the surface, thriving and growing, the beginning of which would finally escalate into the Russian revolution.

Every chapter feels necessary to get to know and understand the characters. The only flaw is the sometimes long, tedious parts. Even though Levin with his existential philosophic pondering - not unlike Tolstoy himself - is a favorable character, the mowing was really tiresome. It can't be necessary to know so much about mowing. It isn’t even interesting in the first place. But Levin comes alive and shines in the presence of hard work with his peasents. In line with his own book where he describes that a man is influenced by his surroundings, he is himself influenced. When in town, he becomes a different person, but in the country he is always Levin.

What makes Tolstoy’s characters so convincing? Perhaps their tendency to be totally convinced at one time, and doubting the next. To be totally in love with someone, and the next moment not really sure. To be cynical, and from a sudden inspiration see people’s goodness. Their personalities are floating like waves in the sea, indefinite forms, evolving, changing, but never altering shapes. Tolstoy was a master when it came to character development. All these vivid contradictory characteristics make them human. They come alive before the reader's eyes. Anna with her perseverance and fear of abandonment, Karenin with his emotional torments and vengeful manner, Vronsky with his struggle of feelings and lack of understanding family bonds, Kitty with her naivety and attentiveness, Levin with his humanity and fits of jeolusy and despair, Varenka with her goodness and inspirational manner, Dolly with her endurance and indulgence, and Oblonsky with his love of women and way of giving advice.

In the center of it all stands Anna and Vronsky. We get to see a relationship from the first innocent glance, to a flourishing relationship, and to the final destruction. Anna and Vronky tear their relationship apart by circumstances caused by conventions. The contrast between the two main couples is strong. While one is evolving and prospering, the other is falling apart.

Time Magazine’s J. Peder Zane, along with William Faulkner, considers it to be the best book ever written. I think it’s definitely a must read for everyone that is in the least interested in a time of change, character development caused by internal but also external factors, and how it intertwine with human destiny. Not only does the book paint a picture of the former Russian society like a theater, where people have different roles to play on stage, judged by their appearance rather than their personal, authentic goodheartedness, and how this leads to one of the world's greatest love tragedies. It can also, with a little imagination, with a little imagination, be applied to the society of today.