Pluses and minuses

I’ve written before about how I’ve become more choosy in my old age when it comes to writing. If something doesn’t grab my attention early, I will quit it. Books I have quit because they don’t grab me include:

  • Wait, that would be mean I need to list them.
  • Mid-post I’m rethinking that strategy.
  • I’d rather be a Positive Paul than a Negative Ned

So, instead of dwelling on the books where I said “I’ve got to quit you,” here are some books that kept my attention recently:

  • The Vorkosigan books by Lois Masters Bujold – I had never read a book by Bujold before, and I have been deeply impressed, five books in. The characters are complex, particularly Miles Vorkosigan, who is a handicapped son of some VIPs on a planet called Barrayar. The best of the series so far, to me, has been Warrior’s Apprentice. It’s an ironic title, because Miles is apprenticed to no one. He makes up being a “warrior” as he goes along. The entanglements he gets into and how he gets out of them are fascinating. He learns on the job, which relates to my books on learning I discuss below. Definitely recommended.
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty – You thought the movie was scary right? Well, try living inside the characters’ heads. Beautiful writing – and it’s more of a tragedy than a horror novel. Highly recommended.
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – This was recommended by a good friend. I think Sanderson’s writing sometimes comes across as juvenile, at times, with the characters behaving like petulant teenagers. Granted, one of the main characters is a petulant teenager, but even the older, “wiser” ones are stuck in this zone. But, darn, if Sanderson isn’t readable. Fifty pages can fly by and it never feels like work. He did jar me toward the close of the book; he spent most of the text using two narrators. Suddenly, in the last fourth, new POVs are sprouting up all over the place. I knew why he did it; I just didn’t like it. So, let me break this micro-review into pluses and minuses for you. The highlights of this book are – a unique system of magic, great fight scenes, and a scary villain you only get glimpses of, which is the best way to do it. The drawbacks are – the very lengthy dialogue scenes (sometimes, the book feels like a tract on how to work together as a healthy team. Honesty, respect, trust. It’s like Patrick Lencioni invaded a fantasy novel) and the juvenile characters. Moderate recommendation.
  • I highly recommend two books on learning – Make it Stick and The Talent Code. Both of these books will overhaul how you see education and self-learning. I wish more teachers would read these books. Some key takeaways – learning shouldn’t feel easy, the harder it feels the more likely it is to last; you have to trick your mind into thinking the learning is absolutely necessary, otherwise the brain will know that it doesn’t need to be kept; intermittent, low stakes quizzes are more effective than single high stakes tests to ensure learning. This last one is the one I wish more teachers knew. Teachers want efficient ways to deliver grades (Finals! Term Papers!). But if you want students to learn, low stakes quizzes are the way to go. I’ve tried to employ many of the strategies outlined in the book on myself and found they work extremely well.

There’s my Positive Paul post. Check back later. I may have some Negative Ned nuggets to share.


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