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The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux

Like the film of the same name.

p.8 "Faith is believing in something you know ain't true."
p.9 Russians "degassing water" which enables plants "to grow two or three times as fast." - this is a true story [link], and one which I read about in Blue Fires back in 2006.

This story reminded me of the real life events of Thor Heyerdahl in his book Green was the Earth on the Seventh Day which I read back in 2010. In fact Heyerdahl and his wife did spend time on the Mosquito Coast as this US Review mentions:

"Explorer Heyerdahl (Easter Island, 1989, etc.) offers an engaging memoir of the South Seas idyll that launched him on his controversial anthropological theories and lifelong commitment to conservation. Fresh out of Oslo University, the wayfaring Norwegian (who turned 81 this year) resolved to escape civilization and get back to nature. With a like-minded young bride named Liv, he headed for the Marquesas, an archipelago about 1,000 miles northeast of Tahiti. In 1937, the venturesome couple set up housekeeping in the heights of Fatu-Hiva, above a gorgeous interior river valley. While able to live off the land, the Heyerdahls eventually learned that life in paradise involves certain trade-offs. Forced to seek medical attention for their dangerously ulcerated legs, they braved the open ocean to reach Hivaoa (where painter Paul Gauguin is buried). Back on Fatu-Hiva, the author and his wife quit the mosquito coast for the island's windward side. In time, however, their new Eden became untenable, owing to the animosity of local inhabitants, the descendants of cannibals, and the couple set out for home in 1938." [link]

Theroux published his novel in 1981 so it does make me wonder if he was, or how aware he was of Heyerdahl. While Allie Fox, the father in The Mosquito Coast, is an American inventor by trade while Heyerdahl was a Norwegian who had his background in biology, Allie still had the same urge to escape to nature, or at least, escape from the US. However, as the novel progresses a common theme is that Allie is angry at the Church and the missionaries in the area he is trying to inhabit, for inflicting their beliefs in God on the natives. The irony is that wherever Allie went, he was always trying to inflict his beliefs on people too - his objections to the belief in a God as one, but primarily his methods and techniques for constructing camps, growing food, and living each day: always based on science and invention, methods which were always the right way in his mind and in stark contrast to the ways of the natives. He had ventured into the wilderness to change it and control it, to make it comfortable, just as had occurred during the colonisation of the Americas centuries before.

It was a shame when his children and their friends went off to play in their very own camp, because they were able to grasp the importance of nature and all that it provides in a way that Allie could never understand. They learned about the plants and creatures around them and how to work with them to survive. As things fall apart Allie becomes more and more what he himself despises of the US - such as wasteful mentalities. When the outboard motor he skilfully restored gave out in the end as he had battled for days up river, he casts it into the river, the trails of oil/fuel are seen emerging on the surface. This certainly wouldn't have happened with Heyerdahl!

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I think this Amazon review explains this book well:

"This is not your typical novel. It's difficult, confusing, strongly metaphorical, and far more concerned with history and message than any deep look at its characters. At the same time, it is sometimes lyrical, beautiful, inventive, and given to unexpected trips to the magical, just when it seems bogged down in a very harsh reality.

It's the story of the town of Macondo and the family that help found the town, stretched over the hundred years of the title. It's clear, when you step back from the details of this work, that the entire work is a metaphor for what happened to Columbia, from its early run-in with the Spanish invaders through the exploitive actions of companies out to rip the riches from the country with no regard for the human cost of their endeavours, and on into to the modern day world of political corruption backed by barely sheathed threats of force."

I enjoyed the injection of history throughout this book - the inclusion of such things as alchemy and the study of old parchments. I also enjoyed the magical and mystical aspects - the way they are explained as being real and as if there was almost nothing magical about them.

With these almost random magical elements and the bewildering concepts thrown in from the start the book read as if Marquez had mastered the art of transcribing an epic dream. Because that's how it felt as I began - that I was reading someone else's dream... yet "it couldn't be" I convinced myself, there was too much of it! For this book to have been a transcribed dream then Marquez must have gained control of his dreams in such a way that similar topics and characters were met night after night. It made me wish I had that kind of control over my dreams.

I did find this book to be bewildering and a challenge. Reviews are often either stating "genius" or "rubbish" - and I did question which this book really was. I'm not used to reading novels and I struggle to remember who is who from names, especially if I don't have the time to sit down and churn through from cover to cover with minimal interruptions and distractions. But something compelled me to keep reading, even though I found it hard-going.

Interestingly, Marquez mentions the Slough of Despond a few times, or variations of it at least, which were invented in The Pilgrim's Progress which I read a couple of books ago.

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A Diary of Revival by Kevin Adams
 - The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America


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The Pilgrim's Progress by
 - The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America

I was bought this book many years ago by my great aunt. Even though it was considered/portrayed as a children's book - complete with illustrations - I never read it. Even though it has been re-written in "today's English" (originally being written in 1677) the writing style was hard for me to follow and the concepts I'm sure I wouldn't have even fully grasped back then.

Now having read it I am thankful I can appreciate it more, and even question why it is considered so popular:

"It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print." - wikipedia

The book is written as an allegory with the whole journey and the challenges along the way being simplified into basic types: place names and people are chosen to describe that point in the lead character's life and the type of people he meets along the way. The lead character himself is called Christian and I'm sure this is chosen to describe him.

Of course you can read the book as Christian's journey and follow his adventures along the way, or you can look beyond that and see that the story is about a typical christian (or an ideal one) and his/her journey through life, the challenges we all face, and, providing we are noble in character and behave in a way that is dictated by the faith, we will arrive at heaven's gates and be welcomed in by God with open arms.

I suppose I didn't thoroughly appreciate having all this dictated to me - the lead character, or the type of people he was representing, seemed a lot of the time to be looking down their nose at others who's path wasn't considered to be quite right. Of course we might not agree with everyone's outlook on life or the path that they choose, but I personally would like to think a more positive way to behave is to respect them and love them as human beings, regardless of their faith (or lack of), or even help them to better themselves rather than claim the moral high ground.

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SQ - Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall

I read this book back in 2006, but recently I thought it was a good idea to revisit some of the books I own. I don't really remember what this particular was about, other than it being an interesting read - I had failed to make any notes to jog my memory.

Reading it again I can say that its idea is that intelligence can be categorised into three types: the obvious one being IQ based on the rational mind, EQ based on emotions, and the third, SQ, based on our spiritual 'intelligence'. The reason for the third one is that IQ and EQ fail to explain everything about how our intelligence works - SQ completes the picture.

Without SQ, the authors argue, we are left searching for meaning in the world, or perhaps more accurately, we are lost and fail to even realise there is such a search - having a healthy level of SQ means our minds are able to ask and seek answers to such questions, and thus lead more fulfilling lives.

Reading this book for the second time I noticed two distinct tones, writing styles and topics. The book's first two sections covered following things I found interesting:

- serial thinking, associative thinking, and unitive thinking
- the brain as a computer
- hyper thinking (see Hyperspace)
- 40 Hz
- consciousness
- the quantum brain
- God

Once section III begins after page 100, the style changes and it seemed to me that the authors swap seats at this stage - Ian Marshal having started the book, perhaps grinding to a halt, and then Danah Zohar taking over. To be blunt the book became somewhat airy-fairy as the author starts talking about lotus petals and basing the earlier concepts around that - not really my cup of tea, but I do appreciate that this is just one of many ways of perceiving the same content, which may suit some readers.

Zohar did talk about some topics I found interesting:

p.175, 1st paragraph: dreams
p.239-245: path of knowledge
p.262, 2nd paragraph: human shadows

On page 265 there is talk about the steps to take towards higher SQ, but step 6 "commit yourself to a path" seems to contradict step 7 "be open to changing paths"

Page.292 in the last paragraph is about the quantum vacuum which seems to relate well to the book I read earlier this year: Science and the Akashic Field by Ervin Laszlo.

Brian's Little Library


Einstein's Universe by Nigel Calder

My mum kindly bought this book for me. Coincidentally I have already read a book by Calder - The Key to the Universe back in 2007.

This is the 1979 edition and it has since been re-published - Amazon's 2004 edition has the following brief description which is still relevant and sums it up well:

"This brilliantly written book unlocks the astounding implications of Einstein's revolutionary theories on the nature of science, time and motion. It far surpasses any previous explanation of Relativity for laymen."

I reread this book in 2020.

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Cons, Fools and Friends by Peter Anderson
 - 25 Years of Travelling The World

Just like the book below, Cathedrals of the Flesh, I borrowed this book because I noticed it had a section about the author's travels to Russia, and I wanted to find out more.

The section on Russia was quite brief and didn't really provide much of an insight or provide much reason to read on, unlike Alexia Brue's visit. For this reason I was quite prepared to not read any further, but something lead me to read on - perhaps I the prospect of judging a whole book by one small section was unfair.

As the subtitle states, this book is about the author's travels over the course of twenty-five years, and he really did manage to travel the world in that time. Anderson writes of his encounters and the things he learned along the way, but because the book spans a vast time frame and vast distances (as far as travel writing goes) each region only really gets a brief write-up. In addition to this, where the history and background information is concerned, it reads like it was copied and pasted from Wikipedia - for these paragraphs I largely skimmed and skipped the text to get to the more interesting, personal tales - which enabled me to read from cover to cover pretty briskly.

Once you take out the dry history that fills out the pages you are left with a travel-writer's diary that to be blunt, the author probably enjoyed writing more than the typical reader will enjoy reading - there is lots of "today I went to such-and-such restaurant and ate such-and-such." To be fair I don't find reading about food that interesting - most of the plates I didn't know and therefore mentioning them meant nothing to me.

Ironically, Anderson states this on page 29:

I am an inquisitive traveller; if a side road looks interesting I will usually drive down for at least a few kilometres or if I notice an interesting spot on the map, more often than not, I will do my utmost to get there. Occasionally, I have have been disappointed but usually the detour has been worthwhile...

I have found that when travelling, being inquisitive and adventurous has led to additional benefits that turn out to be meaningful and any delay or minor disquiet will be significant.

While that may be true and good advice for any budding travel writer, this particular travel book required more of this - more engaging with locals, but also some kind of ultimate purpose, not just travelling from A to B and writing about what happens along the way.

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Cathedrals of the Flesh by Alexia Brue
 - My Search for the Perfect Bath

I borrowed this book initially to read about her trip to Russia, but I enjoyed that chapter so much that I ended up reading the whole book.

Alexia was supposed to be researching hamams with the view to opening one with her friend Marina, but I think her writings became so much more to the objection of her friend: " need to concentrate on living, breathing hamams, not people, excavating or writing about baths..." (p.26).

Here are some other extracts I found interesting:

p.80 "Travel writer Colin Thubron in Among the Russians explained how this concept of sobornost [roughly translated as 'togetherness'] goes back to the obschina, the old Slavic village assembly, in which decisions had to be unanimous. To dissent was to proclaim yourself a heretic. Collective unanimity prevailed over the individual."

p.136-7 "Real sauna aficionados repeat the hot-cold cycle as many as ten times, at which point their endorphins are ricocheting off the timbered walls. When endorphin levels increase - remember, endorphin literally means 'the morphine within' - we feel euphoric and carefree. Endorphins flood the brain after a jog, after sex, during daredevil stunts, and after an intense sauna cycle..."

p.138 "That evening, fresh from my excursion to Lauttasaari, I went out for a drink and dinner, on the prowl for intriguing people watching and feeling surprisingly nostalgic for St Petersburg. I truck up a conversation with the waitress about the few remaining public saunas in Helsinki - they are almost extinct - and a few minutes later a man approached my table and said, 'I couldn't help but overhear you asking about saunas. May I offer you some advice?'
'Yes, please,' I said. 'Have a seat/'
It was an odd encounter. After handing me the [business] card, Bjorn returned to his table and companion on the other side of the dining room. I pondered the Finnish efficiency of carrying other people's cards in your walled to hand out - this was the third time someone had, on the spur of the moment, pulled out a sauna-related card."

Alexia had other 'random meetings' throughout the book which made the whole thing an interesting read.

I blogged about it here:

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Understanding The Future by Lyn Birkbeck
 - A Survivor's Guide to Riding the Cosmic Wave

Whether you buy into astrology or not, this is another book that looks at where we as human beings have been and therefore where we're likely to be heading.

I compared this book to a few others in the following blog post:

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Bright Air, Brilliant Fire by Gerald M. Edelman
 - On the Matter of the Mind

I bought this book a while ago because it was referred to in a book I read (also a while ago). This one was quite a hard slog, I think partly because of the nature (or science) of the topic, but also because I think I struggled with the author's writing style and use of language.

Overall, the topics are generally of ones I find interesting, and for that reason I would have liked to have learned more from the hard slog I endured, and for that reason (and the fact I bought it rather than borrowed it) I will likely read it again some time. Perhaps I will find it easier to digest a second time around.

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Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim by Peter Owen Jones

By judging this book by its cover I was already criticising the author for simply throwing some letters together and selling the collection as a book, before I had even started to read it. By 'letters' I mean those that you write to other people, not 'letters' as in 'characters'.

You may have watched Jones be an 'extreme pilgrim' on TV when he took himself off to live in a cave in a desert for a while, it was from this solitary location that he wrote these letters.

Once I began reading (beyond the cover) however I began to connect with what the author was sharing - even if I wasn't the intended original recipient. Those original recipients include his (deceased) dad, some guy called David, Jesus, the prime minister, the devil, and "the girl in the field". The overall impression I got was that considering he is a man of the church, he is quite critical of the establishment - which is partly why I find him so agreeable I am sure. He also points out in the introduction that "you will never prove the existence of God." Often when scientists claim there is no God, or refuse to enter into such topics on the grounds of childishness, it makes me think they are missing the point. Often this is to my amusement. Indeed, to me, God isn't some almighty being tut-tutting at my wrong-doings, or patting me on my back when I do good (that would be my inner conscience), God is in the elegance and the beauty of what surrounds us.

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59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman
 - Think a little, change a lot

A self-help book with topic backed up by scientific research, plus, no pussy-footing around, and only a few forms to fill in... things which I was critical about recently on my blog about two other self-help books I have read this year: Mindfulness Made Easy and Living With Less (both my female authors). In fact, this book reveals in its Introduction that a lot of self-help ideas are based on myth.

The first topic is Happiness. The author reveals why 'thinking positively often fails' but yet thinking like a happy person would think, and forcing a smile by gripping a pencil between your teeth, will both make you happy. Wiseman also reveals that 'a problem shared...' isn't necessarily 'a problem halved' and I agree - burden someone else with your issues and you risk ending up with two people feeling less happy.

The second section is about Persuasion and I immediately appreciated Wiseman's tone compared to that of Rintu Basu's in the book below called Persuasion Skills.

The next section is a good one for anyone that wants to improve their self motivation. It lists techniques including: making a plan, telling other people about your goals, keep a record of your progress and reward yourself for making that progress. It turns out that role models or relying on will power alone aren't so helpful, neither is negative thinking, but that's kind of obvious. Procrastination is an issue for those of us that struggle with motivation, and here, breaking a plan down into bite-sized chunks helps - especially if those chunks are challenging ones: take a stab at one and then go and do something else and leave your subconscious to (subconsciously) work on the problem. Sheldon Cooper in an episode of The Big Bank Theory utilised this technique when he got stuck with his work... he opted to take on some "menial work" at the restaurant where Penny works!

There is more about the power of the subconscious mind in the section on Creativity. The author tells a story about how the surrealist Salvador Dali would wake himself up just as he was falling asleep by dropping a spoon onto a glass. He would then "immediately sketch the bizarre images that had just start to drift through his half-asleep semi-conscious mind." I like that idea. Quite time alone is also indicated as being important, along with access to nature and the countryside - being stuck in a concrete jungle is not good for our creative selves, and pictures of greenery are no substitute for the real thing.

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Science and the Akashic Field by Ervin Laszlo
 - An Integral Theory of Everything

This book was blatantly promoted in the pilot episode of A Town Called Eureka, seriously, they even pointed it out in the commentary in case viewers didn't notice it. It was mentioned in that commentary that some of what the book was about would be more prevalent in season two, and it was - they threw mention of the "Akashic field" right in there. But anyway, none of that was a bad thing, it's all good, it's why I bought the book - because I hadn't come across it before. What follows is what I learned from the book.

It is known that the universe contains more stuff than we can detect - this missing stuff is termed Dark Matter. While things (with mass) can't travel faster than the speed of light through regular matter, the theory put forward by Laszlo is that 'In-formation' can and does travel faster, by the means of the Akashic Field.

The Akashic Record (or A-Field) underlies the whole universe and in fact permeates from beyond our universe to the meta-universe beyond/before it. This is used to explain how such things as evolution came about so rapidly, when purely random mutations of the genome cannot be explained in regards to the relatively short time frames, and how processes happening all the time within our own bodies occur so rapidly when the biological system simply does not provide the necessary means.

The universe, as Laszlo explains, is geared to create and support life as we know it, from the forming of the planets, the development of plant life, to the animals and ourselves, our brains, minds and 'ultimately' our conscious (and subconscious) selves. Our universe alone has not existed for long enough for our current forms to be explained simply by random mutations.

The explanation is that previous universes have been and gone, along with other intelligent beings. As each universe comes to an end and collapses in on itself in a big crunch, and a new universe is then born, not out of nothing, but out of what came before, the In-formation living on in the background, 'subtly' influences development, progress and evolution, so that each universe isn't actually created from scratch. Instead the In-formation that exists in the A-Field encourages more and more rapid progress and allowing for all that evolves (matter and mind) to evolve more efficiently each time.

Perhaps the Akashic Record, whilst explaining the rapidity of evolution, can also explain our technological progress. As soon as humans (us) developed hand tools, perhaps that step forward echoed what had gone before, echoing what was recorded in the Akashic Field, and progress thus snowballed - such developments are hard to explain otherwise when they span the globe almost simultaneously. This progress is similar to the construction of the pyramids of the world which share design and likely purpose, along with magnitude of construction, which otherwise defy explanation.

From a personal perspective I often feel that when I'm on the right path (or rather, should I be on the right path) in life I (will) know this because things tend to fall into place and life plods on smoothly with new energy and vigour. Prior to reading this book I imagined this friction-less path existed because of parallel dimensions - if I veered off the path of least resistance I would sense this due to my alternative selves having a hard time (their experiences would influence mine) - my subconscious getting hints (largely through dreams) and thus guiding me back to my true path. I'm not sure if the Akashic Field directly replaces this idea for me, but I do see truth in it.

There are conspiracy theorists that believe there are 'powers that be' who are pulling our strings and guiding us through methods of blatant brain-washing, through design and architecture, secret knowledge laced through our religious writings and art, and particularly in the modern day through the media, films and large corporations. Perhaps there aren't such underhand people (or beings living among us) after all, perhaps we are just all influenced by the Akashic Field.

Perhaps science has actually found God.

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First Steps in Tarot by Kristyna Arcouti

I went through a phase where I was quite into Astrology (back in 2002) - during this time I was intrigued by the planets and constellations, symbols and meanings. I would read up on meanings and the temperaments of myself and different people around me. I would even draw up star/birth charts and glean some guidance from what I learned. Tarot cards on the other hand felt alien to me. In my childhood I think I had an inkling that a standard pack of playing cards could, when picking a few cards at random, provide a little insight. In hind sight (because I'm not sure I knew it at the time) that inkling was on the right track because, actually, standard playing cards form part of a Tarot Card pack. What I also failed to appreciate whilst I was dabbling in astrology and glancing at information about tarot cards was that Tarot cards weren't actually all that separate (and alien) as I felt.

This year I have read a few books about signs and symbols, in particular in Freemasonry, and here the topics of, and the symbols used for Tarot Cards have made an appearance. As I read more and looked closer I saw the resemblance with astrology and even read specifically about how all these things were linked in Tim Wallace-Murphy's book Cracking the Symbol Code (see below). I therefore borrowed this book to look a little closer still.

I have further learned that designs used on Tarot cards, like astrology/astronomy probably have their roots in ancient Egypt - another interest of mine. Plus, there are links with numerology, astrolgy, psychology (and Freud) and dreams. Everything is linked, and while I'm not drawn towards Tarot cards like I was with astrology, I can now appreciate them.

That link with Freemasonry is an interesting one. I recognised many pieces of masonic imagery, in particular hand gestures in the black and white example card designs Arcouti used. I tried to track these and similar images down on Google Images (since Arcouti failed to include source details) - I found a some identical designs (and in colour), but some were evasive and this revealed to me that card designs can vary, with card designs often reflecting the period in history when they were created, I suppose rather than being true to their roots. Tim Wallace-Murphy indicated that Tarot cards were (perhaps?) intended as 'flash cards' to teach students in masonic/esoteric subjects, but if this is the case it would seem that the 'hidden' messages in the designs have been quite muddled throughout the ages - it's as if authentic designs are now lost and thus the imagery has been almost thrown together and only the obvious layer of meaning remains.

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Living with Less by Mary Lambert
 - how to downsize to 100 personal possessions

Similar to the Mindfulness book I read earlier this year, I liked the idea of this book, but the author's process of outlining virtually every aspect of a typical reader's life and then dictating how to change it, got annoying. Really, once you understand the concept of something like minimalism, or mindfulness, and learn some basic techniques, you can apply those techniques to the various aspects of your own life, by yourself. Then again, I guess that wouldn't fill a book.

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
 - filmed as Blade Runner

I rarely read novels but after having watched Blade Runner, which I hadn't seen for a while, I was keen to read the book that started it all.

Of course, having seen the film first, it was hard to not imagine the characters as they were in the film. There were also a couple of aspects that I noticed were more prominent in the book than the film. One of these, which I still find amusing, is the concept of kipple which "refers to the sinister type of rubbish which simply builds up without any human intervention."

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The Cyprus Conspiracy by Brendan O'Malley and Ian Craig
 - America, Espionage and the Turkish Invasion

What countries say in public and what they do behind the scenes can be two different things and this book illustrates that well. The official story of what happened in Cyprus and why compared with what the evidence reveals goes some way to enlighten us all about more recent and current conflicts, namely those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Cracking the Symbol Code by Tim Wallace-Murphy
 - The hidden message within church and renaissance art

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Walking to America by Roger Hutchinson
 - A boyhood dream

The author traces his family's history and their steps as they travel to America in the nineteenth century from England, and back. An interesting talk with a pleasant helping of history relating to the birth of the New World.

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Christian Beginngs by Geza Vermes
 - From Nazareth to Nicaea

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The Interliniear Greek-English New Testament

Because the New Testament was originally written in Greek and later translated into English I wanted to gain an insight into that process - what better way to do that than to look at the original greek!?

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They Walk Among Us

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Lost and Found in Russia by Susan Richards
 - Encounters in a deep heartland

I enjoyed this book. While it did start to feel like a soap opera by the time I was half the way through it did give me an insight into the mindset of Russia, which was just what I wanted.

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The New Atheism by Victor J. Stenger
 - Taking a stand for science and reason

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Mindfulness Made Easy by Martha Langley

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The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson
 - The true story about what happened when a small group of men - highly placed within the United States military, the government, and the intelligence services - began believing in very strange things.

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Persuasion Skills Black Book by Rintu Basu
 - Practical NLP Language Patterns for Getting The Response You Want

One simple lesson in communicating with clients, such as when to promote a product or service is as simple as:
1) Inform - make your statement
2) Invite - Ask for a response
3) Acknowledge

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11:11 the Time Prompt Phenomenon by M. Jones and L. Flaxman
 - The Meaning Behind Mysterious Signs, Sequences, and Synchronicities

I wrote a blog article about the phenomenon of 11:11 here: [link]

The book also refers to a couple of books I have already read: The Dimensions of Paradise: Sacred Geometry by Mitchel, and The Bible Code.

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The Victorians by John Gardiner

After reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens, I went to my local library to hunt down a book that would tell me a little more about the Victorians. This was the book I found and it did the job well and it even had a whole chapter on Charles Dickens.

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Bleak House by Charles Dickens

I wrote about the novel here: [link]

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Because some of my reviews on books have increasingly included vast notes and quotations, I would like to point out that I do recognise that these books are protected by the Copyright act. I put my views online to share with other internet browsers in the hope that little snippets of information may be useful and my views interesting. I have always included links to the online retailer Amazon and encourage anyone that finds any title particularly interesting (thanks to what I have to say) to either buy a copy or borrow one from their local library.


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