Category Archives: On Books

A Reader’s Incident


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I went out to see the dentist today (just a regular check up during which he told me that I took too much care of my teeth and people like me put him out of business). Prior to being admitted into the clinic, however, I had to wait. Since I haven’t waited for anyone, or anything, in such a long time, this particular wait proved to be one of the longest.

I arrived at 12:55 to my 1:00 p.m. appointment. There was a patient in there and an old man in the waiting room. At first, I thought he was the secretary, but then I thought against it. The room seemed tiny when I entered, but now that I recall the two large coaches and three other smaller ones I realize that the room’s size was bigger than what I had thought. I sat on a grey coach, embroidered by rectangular patterns on the sitting area. The plain remainders of the coach made me believe that the dentist was trying to salvage two different sofas and ended up with that mess.

“First time here?” the man asked, again making me think that he was the secretary.

“Yes,” I smiled politely eying the fashion magazine he clutched with his thick hands.

The muted music channel was showing a video of a five-year-old song, my phone had no internet connection, the dentist’s roaring tools indicated that I will be waiting a while, and I had no interest whatsoever in aimlessly turning the pages of a fashion magazine. All I wished in that moment was to have a book in my bag that I can read to pass the few, yet dull, moments.

Yesterday, I finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, an interesting classic of which I will later post a review. On my shelf, there are but two unread books: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (a little sciency), and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On my iPad, there are tens of unread classical and modern titles, and I still have several bought books which are stored but not yet shipped from Amazon. I hardly ever let my iPad out of the house. Leaving a few minutes prior to my appointment, I hadn’t thought that I would need any means of entertainment.

My mother told me that in Ukraine the majority of people carried books during their daily commutes. She told me that she carried a book at all times – just like we carry earphones nowadays. Not only do I envy the pre-internet culture, but I also envy the people who can read when riding a train or a bus. We don’t have trains in Lebanon; and with our bumpy roads and crazy drivers, I get motion sickness just by staring at my telephone’s screen. Mostly, however, I’m envious because I wasn’t brought up to carry a book with me at all times. In the stretched time during my wait for the dentist, I disdained my culture the most.

I grabbed my phone, and started writing. I wrote everything that came up to my mind, from a note to self to leave a 30 minute grace period between one patient and the other in case I was incarnated as a dentist, to the recapitulation of my to-do list. I wrote till the notepad told me to stop (apparently, I had reached some character limit). Then, I got my check up, went to have my nails done, waited another few minutes for the nail polish to dry (again without being entertained), and then stood across the street to wait for a cab. In that moment, I couldn’t help but head to the book store. I’m never leaving the house without a book again.

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Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown


ImageClassifying Dan Brown’s book as a thriller is an understatement. In a combination of lessons in art, history, philosophy, sociology, environment, and literature, Dan Brown delivers this magnificent piece of narrative.

If you haven’t read any books for Dan Brown before, I suggest you do that before you tackle Inferno, as they will ease you into understanding the mastery of Dan Brown’s writings.

When Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Rome, he has no recollection of how he got there and why there is a bullet in his head. The secrets of Robert’s journey begin to unravel as he begins to solve clues from a mysterious object he finds in his jacket. Page by page, Dan Brown takes us through the journey of Robert through the depths of Dante’s poem “Inferno”, which turns out to be the basis of a sinister plan by a maniac with radical views.

Not only is the story told in a compelling style, but it also delivers a message that our society is being blinded to — or refuses to see at all. I found myself, at more than one occasion, rooting for the antagonist.

The amount of research it took Dan Brown to write this book is enough on its own to give Inferno a five-star review. This book is a must read and I believe will leave its mark on the literary world for generations to come.

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


and-then-there-were-none4 Stars

Ten people trapped on an Indian island, each with a past darker than the other. One by one they start dying. They suspect each other – there’s no one else on the island but them. Facing their inner demons, they are murdered, one by one, till there are none.

The suspense in Agatha’s story is unbearable. I heard many say that this is one of her best books. I would have to read more of her work to make such a statement. This book, however, is a thrill. The anticipation of discovering whose death would be next, how the next victim would die, who will stay till the end, and, most importantly, who’s the killer, is nerve wrecking.

The revelation at the end is not something I expected – I can’t really say if that’s a good thing or not. All in all, however, And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians) is a very good book to pick up and read on a cold winter night.

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


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4.5 Stars

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is one of the groundbreaking books in terms of our understanding of the culture of the rich and successful. In his book, Gladwell analysis the cultural, economical, physical, and even astronomical implications of the success stories in today’s world.

With his intelligent, well researched, factual piece, Gladwell provides the reader with answers to why certain people make it in this world. By providing examples about the extremely successful and the not so much, he explains in thorough details the obvious, yet overlooked, aspects which contribute to the success or, otherwise, failure of certain individuals.

This book is not a pathway-to-success handbook, nor is it a motivational narrative of people who rose from nothing and amounted to something great. On the contrary, it feel pessimistic, at times – I had to put the book down for a few days, at a certain point, before I was able to resume reading. But I did resume reading, eventually, because no matter how tough the facts in the book were, I was nodding in agreement with every sentence.

Gladwell is unapologetic, he will tell the truth like it is. And the truth is that smart doesn’t equal successful and, most of the time, the poor will remain poor while the rich will continue to grow wealthier. Gladwell provides reasons for this, however; reasons which, when acknowledged, can be avoided.

If you can’t handle the truth, or don’t like to challenge the status quo, then this book is not for you. However, if you are one of those people who don’t mind taking a second opinion, you will find Outliers very entertaining. A documentary of success, this book is nothing short of a paradigm shifter accompanied with a wake up call.

Book Review — Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster (1905)


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E. M. Forster’s book is not recommended for those who are looking for suspense. In spite of the ominous title of the book, the plot actually isn’t as dark.

Where Angels Fear to Tread discusses social differences and their effect on people’s characters and relationships. It shows how people who are forced to behave in certain manners seldom do, and that leads to undesired consequences.

What I liked about the book: the weaved web of social and interpersonal events which gave the plot a certain amount of depth.

What I disliked about the book: the showing instead of telling; and the jumping from one era to another sometimes within the same line.

I just discovered that this book was made into a movie. Did anyone watch it? What do you think of the movie version of the book?

Book Review: Ellen Ullman’s By Blood


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5 Stars

One of the best-told and most exciting books I have ever read!

As I’m writing this, I’m still under the effect of the shocking, brutal, unapologetic, hooking… ending of this book.

By Blood is about a college professor who fleas from scandal, goes to San Fransisco, rents an office there, only to find out that he could clearly hear whatever is going on in the adjacent office of a shrink, Dr. Schussler. He is particularly interested in one of the doctor’s patients, whose name is never revealed. This patient is adopted, and is attempting to uncover her mystical European origins. Little does she know, that a perfect stranger, lurking behind the thin walls of her therapist’s clinic, is going to change her life.

The twists and turns of the plot, uncovering the patient’s journey of self-discovery, are thrilling enough. However, Ellen doesn’t stop there as she uncovers the true nature of her protagonist — the lurker, the stalker… In spite of his acrimonious nature, Ellen makes us root for her protagonist; we want this dweller behind the walls to keep on spying on this person’s therapeutic sessions, because it’s helping him, and helping us…

The book is a thriller, a journey, a history lesson, a free therapy session, all amalgamated into one. A true page turner!

Book Review – The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells (1911)


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For those of you who are new to my blog, this section is me sharing with you my journey through the modern and classic works of literature. Please, feel free to recommend any book.

The Door in the Wall – H. G. Wells: 3 stars.

H. G. Wells’ four-chapter story transports the reader into a mysterious world.

The title of the book describes the premise accurately – a door in a wall. What lies behind this door, however, and the existence of the door itself is something that we cannot be sure of.

The conclusion of the story is simple: whether the door existed of not, it was an escape; and that’s something we are all looking for.

H. G. Wells’ book gets 3 stars: One, for the creative plot that kept me hooked enough to read the whole book the first time I picked it up. Two, for being ahead of its time and narrating in the most modern way. And, three, for the conclusion of this fantastic read, which is every bit realistic.

Next review: By Blood – Ellen Ullman.

The Woman in Black by E. C. Bentley – Book Review


I simply love to read; although, reading classics was a dreadful task for me. I have decided, however, that to flourish as a writer, I needed to study the history of my craft just as well as its current achievements. And I’m taking you with me, by sharing with you reviews of the books I read – modern and classic. My first review will be of the 1913’s Woman in Black. Hope you enjoy this new section of my blog, as I will be positing review often 🙂

ImageE. C. Bentley’s The Woman in Black is a mystery novel about the sudden murder of Mr. Manderson – an extremely wealthy, yet detested, business man and the husband of Mabel Manderson (the woman in black).

The novel, set in London, kicked off by the process of the investigation, executed by Detective Trent. Even though the book is considerably short (157 pages long), the story seems staled, especially during the first few chapters. It does get compelling, however, when suspects emerge, then turn out to be innocent, then other suspects emerge, and so on… To me, the final three chapters were the most anticipatory. The story ends with a major twist, which is both unexpected and ironic.

Even though the story falls clearly into the category of a mystery novel, Bentley doesn’t shy away from employing his humorous side, at times. In the final chapter, as Trent was heading to a restaurant called Sheppard’s, he explains the reasons of choosing that particular place by saying: “All I know is that you can get a bit of saddle of mutton at Sheppard’s that has made many an American visitor curse the day Christopher Columbus was born…” Am I the only one who finds this funny?

The message at the end of the book is, clearly, about the odious effect of haste death sentences. During a time when science and technology weren’t so advanced, many innocent men were convicted of crimes they didn’t commit – due to misleading evidence. The story aims to denounce rash judicial verdicts.

I give The Woman in Black ** 2 Star.

* One, for its incorporation of humor as well as it’s noble message* And two, for its unpredictable twist at the end.

Next book review: H. G. Wells – The Door in the Wall.

Have a nice weekend and happy reading, everybody!