Best Books I Read in 2017

largebookstore

The Last Bookstore – Los Angeles, CA

My favorite genres in non-fiction are mostly science and history, and in fiction – Science Fiction, Scandinavian Noir, Japanese Thrillers to mention a few – but I read whatever I can get my hands on and books that someone recommends to me.


In 2017, I read about 50 books (down from 62 books in 2015), here are some of my favorites of the year.

1.  Homo  Deus – Yuval Noah Hariri

His first book Sapiens was very enlightening, this is just as great. A stimulating read and also provocative! This isn’t about predicting the future, but a broad and intelligent look at the past of humanity and the abundance of possibilities for the future – discussing areas such as such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, algorithms, etc..and how they may affect our future. Nothing is guaranteed, but many of the ideas discussed in this book are certainly possible. This should be a must read for anyone pondering the future of humanity.

2. Artemis – Andy Weir

If you loved The Martian – you will absolutely love “Artemis”. It’s not a sequel, but still a really great, different and well written science fiction thriller.

Mankind has a colony, Artemis, on the moon in the distant future. Our heroine is Jazz (Jasmine) Bashara, a Saudi woman, extremely courageous, fierce, intelligent but sometimes makes poor choices, somewhat of a female Han Solo, a smuggler. She gets caught up in a dangerous situation and has to use her wits, talent and fitness to deal with corruption, murder, crime syndicates and more. A complex but truly satisfying story. It moves very fast and is addictive, you won’t be able to put the book down. Sure to become a movie but I don’t always trust Hollywood to do justice to the book.

3. The Wandering Falcon – Jamil Ahmad

This is a beautiful book, in the future it will be regarded as a classic and one that I recommend everyone should read. It’s a story set in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas about a boy who later gets named Toz Baz (Black Falcon). He loses his parents and goes wondering from place to place, and each place has a story to it. Sometimes the story is very raw, sad, brutal and sometimes humanizing. The stories are moving and reveal the tribal culture of a remote region that most of the world still know nothing about.

4. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Best book of 2017, it was the winner of the LA Times Fiction Book of 2018 and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. An amazing story of two young people living in an unnamed land, fall in love in the midst of a war and decide to migrate to flee the violence, first to a Greek island, then to the UK, and then America. Each place they go to, they face challenges, backlash and the violence they were fleeing from is following them everywhere. A fascinating book and  extremely relevant in today’s world of wars, violence, refugee crises, etc. Mohsin Hamid writes very beautifully, takes you on a moving and emotional journey with his words. He’ll sure to be considered one of the greatest writers of the 21st century.

5. The Course of Love – Alain de Botton

In today’s day and age, too many people believe that love should be like a fairy tale, that everything should be how they envision it, like and want it to be. This book is a tale of Rabih and Kirsten, a story of a marriage and the everyday joys, pains, duty, betrayal and sacrifice. However, the story happens in a mundane sort of way that is more like reality. This book is really a teaching tool. The story reflects the life, turmoil and love that is part of every marriage. For those that believe there may be a perfect person for you or some sort of fairy tale partnership; this author opens your eyes to the reality that this does not happen, but that one can have hope and be content in what is.

6. Snowblind – Ragnar Jonasson

This is the first book of a brilliant new Scandinavian thriller crime series – The Dark Iceland series. The setting is an old fishing village  of Siglufjördur in Northern Iceland, it has only one mountain pass to get into, during the winter avalanches occur and no one can get in or out of the town. Also, in this part of Iceland, they live in 24 hours of darkness due to the mountains hiding the sun until summer approaches. The protagonist is Ari Thor who has just graduated from police academy and takes a job in the isolated village after the retirement of one of their officers. His first adventure is a murder mystery in the town where nothing ever happens. The story is full of twists, suspense and mystery with interesting characters. The rights for a TV series have already been acquired by a British company.

7. 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

This is the first book I read by Haruki Murakami. It was long but fantastic. He’s indeed a brilliant writer and tells very unique stories. This novel is very well crafted, the story flows incredibly well taking the reader into a mildly dystopic alternative world, an endlessly engaging one, giving the reader in turn an alternate view of his or her own world. It will keep you thinking about it long after you have put it down. I will definitely be reading more books by him.

8. Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi – Elif Shafak

This came highly recommended by my friend Umi, an avid reader, and indeed became the best book I read that year and one of my all-time favorites, one you want to read again. When I finished reading it, I wanted everyone to read it too. There are two parallel stories weaving in and out. One is set today about a middle aged American woman and Aziz, the author of the book she is reading to write a review on. The other story is of the great 13th century scholar Rumi and his relationship to Shams, the Sufi mystic that inspired Rumi to become one of the greatest poets, scholars and Sufi figures of the world today. Although it is a novel,  it is rich in history and philosophy as well as literature. It will have a deeply profound effect on you as it did to me. The “Forty Rules” provide reflections that offer insight into the foundations of Sufi philosophy.

9. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – Vaseem Khan

Another Umi recommendation that was delightful. Set in Mumbai, Inspector Ashwin Chopra is a police officer with strong morals, principles and values. Due to a heart attack, he is forced into early retirement. On his last day, a boy is found dead, his superior decides to call it a drowning/suicide and closes the investigation. However, even though Inspector Chopra is retired he follows up secretly on the investigation on his own while in retirement. At the same time, he is gifted a baby elephant by an uncle that becomes his sidekick. The story is full of humor as well as suspense, thrills and adventure. The first in the series but definitely worth the read – light, simple writing and an uncomplicated story that goes down very well.

10. Whispering Shadows: A Novel – Jan-Philipp Sendker

An Umi recommendation that introduced me to a fantastic new author. This story takes place in Hong Kong and mainland China. Paul is a retired expat journalist in contemporary China who tries to crack a murder case as he battles his own personal demons. Both a murder mystery and an account of a father’s attempt to come to terms with his young son’s death. There are some observations about contemporary China that are deftly woven into the story…politics, corruption, history, and culture that make it interesting as well.

 

Other highly notable ones I recommend:

The Book of Yunus Emre – Paul Smith

The life and poetry of one of the most important Turkish poets has had a tremendous influence on Turkish literature. He was a Sufi mystic and a contemporary of Rumi but wrote in Turkish instead of Persian, which was the dominant language of the time and region. His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism, humanism and his love of God.

In the Bazaar of Love – Paul E. Losensky/Sunil Sharma

This is the translated poetry of the immortal legend…Amir Khusrau. He was one of the greatest poets of the India, his poetry, songs and verses are found everywhere today…from people singing his songs in villages in India, to Qawwals like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to present day Bollywood and Pakistani films featuring his songs. His contribution to Northern Indian Classical music is seen everywhere also…he is the inventor of Qawwali, the Sitar and the Tabla as well.

A Couplet of Khusrau: 

oh Khusrau, the river of love runs in strange directions.
the one who jumps into it drowns, and one who drowns is the one who gets across…

 

And another one: 

I have become you, and you have become me

I am the body, you the soul

so that no one can say, hereafter,

that you are someone else and I am someone else…

 

The Silent Dead – Tetsuya Honda

The first in a new Japanese thriller series, this one features a female detective.

Police – Jo Nesbo

10th book in the “Harry Hole” series and doesn’t disappoint. A densely plotted thriller with twists, turns, thrills, tense moments with some new characters and some of the old memorable ones. The way the characters have changed throughout the series is brilliant and entertaining. If you like Scandinavian thrillers, this is a must read best to start from the first Harry Hole book in the series.

The Stranger – Camilla Lackberg

The 4th book in the series, the vivid narration is really great and will take to Fjallabacka, where you become familiar with all the characters, the drama and feel like you are living in that town. I heard there is a TV series made as well.

The Ice Beneath Her – Camilla Grebe

For fans of Scandinavian thrillers, a dynamic thriller.

The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

A masterpiece of graphic novels. An exceptionally charming, funny and real account of the Iranian revolution and its aftermath, through the eyes of a young woman who lived through much of it.

Advertisements

The Obama Legacy – the Audacity of Dope

The real Obama legacy is nothing but broken promises, war crimes, illegally spying on citizens, assasinations of US citizens, the word’s most expensive “free healthcare” that stuck the bill to working class people in increased taxes, the world’s greatest ever deficit ($19 trillion?!@#&*!) looting the most productive members of society to pay for politicians to get rich including Obama. If you seek enlightenment, research what his net work was before he became president, and then what it is now.

By the way, MOST of the following articles below are commentaries by LEFT-wing, progressives. I guess there are a few principled left-wingers in the country who hold a Democrat President to the same moral standards that they hold a Republican President to.

http://www.nytimes.com/…/questions-on-drones-unanswered-sti…

“The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain has estimated that, in the first three years after President Obama took office, between 282 and 535 civilians were credibly reported killed by drone strikes — including more than 60 children.”

http://www.democracynow.org/…/dirty_wars_jeremy_scahill_and…

“We’re looking right now at a reality that President Obama has essentially extended the very [drone war] policies that many of his supporters once opposed under President Bush,” says Scahill.”

Obama to boost US military in Iraq
http://www.stripes.com/…/in-reversal-obama-says-he-will-boo…

Obama Has Bombed Twice as Many Countries as Bush
http://alibertarianfuture.com/…/obama-bombed-twice-many-c…/…

To Defend Iran Deal, Obama Boasts that He’s Bombed Seven Countries
https://firstlook.org/theinterce…/…/obama-summarizes-record/

U.S. Dropped 23,144 Bombs on Muslim-Majority Countries in 2015
http://www.alternet.org/…/us-dropped-23144-bombs-muslim-maj…

Nearly 90 Percent Of People Killed In Recent Drone Strikes Were Not The Target
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/civilian-deaths-drone-strik…

Are Obama’s Record Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq Fueling Unrest in Middle East?
http://www.democracynow.org/…/are_obamas_record_arms_sales_…

“We are joined by William Hartung, who says that even after adjusting for inflation, “the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.”

Former Drone Operators Say They Were “Horrified” By Cruelty of Assassination Program
https://theintercept.com/…/former-drone-operators-say-they…/

Obama Backs Biggest Nuclear Arms Buildup Since Cold War
http://www.forbes.com/…/obama-backs-biggest-nuclear-arms-…/…

Donald Trump and other conservatives’ deportation fantasies are awful. President Obama’s actual record is even worse.
http://reason.com/…/always-worse-than-trump-on-immigration-o

“Obama’s government has deported more than 2.5 million people—up 23% from the George W. Bush years. More shockingly, Obama is now on pace to deport more people than the sum of all 19 presidents who governed the United States from 1892-2000, according to government data.”

Obama’s War on medical marijuana
http://www.rollingstone.com/…/ne…/obamas-war-on-pot-20120216

“But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi-agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush.”

New Report Finds Obama Spends $180K Per Day Undermining State Medical Marijuana Laws
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/obama-medical-marijuana-cos…

“”What’s the Cost?” confirms how much the U.S. Justice Department has spent over three presidential administrations to investigate, raid, arrest, prosecute, and imprison hundreds of medical cannabis patients and their providers — nearly half a billion dollars. Far outspending all of his predecessors, the report reveals that President Obama has dedicated nearly $300 million to such enforcement efforts, despite his repeated pledges to not use Justice Department funds in this way.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/bill-clinton-marijuana_n_43…
“Clinton’s successor, President Barack Obama, has spent more taxpayer money fighting medical marijuana than former President George W. Bush did during his two terms, according to a June 2013 report released by the pro-medical marijuana group Americans For Safe Access. In August, the White House announced Obama does not support changes to the legal classification of marijuana, despite growing evidence of its medical benefits.”

Obama Administration suing to keep Black people in prison
http://www.guardian.co.uk/…/us-v-blewett-obama-justice-depa…

“Last month, President Obama quietly did something that should shake every American to the core. Seeking to enforce federal crack cocaine laws that have since been repealed, the Obama administration asked a federal appeals court to ensure that thousands of human beings, mostly poor and mostly black, remain locked in prison — even though everyone agrees that there is no justification for them to be there.”

Obama’s War on whistleblowers
http://www.motherjones.com/…/obamas-whistleblowers-stuxnet-…

Obama Administration Fights To Withhold Over 2,000 Photos Of Alleged U.S. Torture and Abuse
http://jonathanturley.org/…/obama-administration-fights-to…/

Obama Wants to Spend a Trillion Dollars on New Nuclear Weapons
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/on-the-a-bombs-70th-anniv_b…

The White House Has Been Covering Up the Presidency’s Role in Torture for Years
https://firstlook.org/…/president-obama-covering-presidenc…/

Obama’s War on civil liberties
http://m.guardian.co.uk/…/26/drones-yemen-fbi-occupy-terror…

http://www.salon.com/2010/05/13/citizens_2/

Noam Chomsky: Obama’s Attack on Civil Liberties Has Gone Way Beyond Imagination
http://www.alternet.org/…/noam-chomsky-obamas-attack-civil-…

Obama is Bad on Civil Liberties, But That Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone
http://www.motherjones.com/…/obama-bad-civil-liberties-shou…

“Obama voted for the 2008 FISA amendments, a position that outraged liberals at the time. He continued the Bush-era surveillance of communications networks. He ramped up the war in Afghanistan. He vastly increased drone use overseas. He’s declared a war on leakers. He participated in the assault on Libya. He’s approved the assassination of American citizens abroad. His DOJ has aggressively made use of the state secrets privilege. He’s fought relentlessly to block lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.”

Obama administration asks Supreme Court to allow warrantless cellphone searches
http://www.washingtonpost.com/…/obama-administration-asks-…/

Obama Has Already Broken His Pledge on Surveillance Reform
http://www.theatlantic.com/…/obama-has-already-brok…/278613/

Obama protects Wall Street bankers from going to jail
http://www.guardian.co.uk/…/untouchables-wall-street-prosec…

Obama still hasn’t closed Gitmo
http://www.washingtonpost.com/…/…/05/21/AR2009052104045.html

Obama promised to close Guantánamo. Instead, he’s made it worse
http://www.guardian.co.uk/…/obama-promise-close-guantanamo-…

(Thanks to David Kramer for compiling these).

Floods and Drones: Natural and Man-Made Disasters in Pakistan

“Wars based on principle are far more destructive…the attacker will not destroy that which he is after.”
~ Alan Watts, “The Way of Zen”

Yesterday, a US drone strike in Pakistan destroyed a home of “suspected militants” killing 20 people among them at least four women and three children.

Instead of humanitarian aid, the US government is bombing the country. Why isn’t this on the mainstream media? Is Tiger Woods’ divorce is more important to Americans than the lives of millions of Pakistanis facing the worst natural disaster in recent history?

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is worse than anything he had ever seen:

“Thousands of towns and villages have simply been washed away. Roads, buildings, bridges, crops – millions of livelihoods have been lost. People are marooned on tiny islands with the floodwaters all around them (without food, sanitation, medical help, or shelter). They are drinking dirty water. They are living in the mud and ruins of their lives. Many have lost family and friends. Many more are afraid their children and loved ones will not survive in these condition.”

20 million Pakistanis are affected as one fifth of their nation is under water and spreading. This is the US equivalent of the entire states of Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, and Oregon combined. Americans cannot even imagine anything like ever that happening. Katrina was nothing compared to this tragedy.

But how sad and pathetic is it that our government is ordering bombing of Pakistan using drones while the country is drowning, homeless, starving and suffering? These are war crimes being committed.

There are people in America who still worship our Nobel “Peace” Prize winning leader and blindly support his policies of bombing innocent people in places most Americans cannot even point to on the map. War as it is does not bring peace, only misery and these wars against nations that pose no threat to us will only create more angry terrorists bent on killing us (for more on this read Robert Pape’s book “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism”.


www.bendib.com – America’s Most Wanted Cartoonist.
The pen is funnier than the sword. Cartoons that speak truth to power.

Film Review: Green Zone

“Green zone” is an intelligent and gripping thriller. It is loosely based on Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s non-fiction book “Imperial Life In The Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone”.

The film stars Matt Damon and is directed by British director Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum). Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller whose job is to find the WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq after the invasion. That was the whole reason the US went to war with Iraq in the first place. Going from site to site and finding them empty, he can’t help asking why? Where is the intelligence coming from? Who is telling them that the WMDs are hidden in an abandoned toilet factory? He wants to do the right thing and so searches for the truth.

The film has so many true-to-life in Iraq moments – An Iraqi man approaches the US soldiers to tell them something and gets slammed to the dirt, Iraqis without water and electricity (even today electricity and water is not restored completely – our bombs destroyed the plants), the Bush speech “Mission Accomplished” (after that is really when the war began – over four thousand US soldiers have died since that speech). In the film, the US officials are seen lazing around the pool in Saddam’s palace after the invasion.

Miller finally discovers the truth about the WMDs -they are really lies which isn’t what anyone — the military, the administration, even the public — want to hear.

“Green Zone” is a brilliant film and much better than the “The Hurt Locker” (winner of 6 Oscars).“The Hurt Locker” is really a war propaganda film that does not examine the reasons for the war, or even the fact that the war was based on lies and therefore the soldiers are not fighting for the truth – they are only puppets of the military industrial complex.

“The Hurt Locker” shows how “brave” the US soldiers are (yup – very brave ….they have committed many war crimes – tortured people, raped 14 year old girls, shot innocent families in minivans, and incinerated women and children with white phosphorus violating the Geneva Conventions) and how difficult and valuable their lives are while completely dismissing the lives of the Iraqis whose land they invaded and occupy (British Journal “The Lancet” and America’s top research center John Hopkins estimate that 1.3 million Iraqi lives have been lost due to the US invasion of Iraq. – Source: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq).

Green Zone is more realistic, more hard-hitting, than the typical war movie and is both a slam-bang thriller and a remarkable assessment of the American government’s failures in Iraq, and I completely recommend it.

Watch the Trailer below:


www.bendib.com – America’s Most Wanted Cartoonist.
The pen is funnier than the sword. Cartoons that speak truth to power.

Clip from “American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein”

Dr. Norman Finkelstein is one of my favorite heros. He’s one of the most bravest people living in America today. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to speak the truth when everyone is against you and not listening. He has not let anything discourage him from speaking the truth.

Here’s a clip from a new film “American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein”

Dr. Finkelstein was invited to give a speech at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, is posed a question from a Zionist. Unfortunately for her, she attempts to invoke the Holocaust to criticize Dr, Finkelstein, completely oblivious to Dr. Finkelstein’s own family history – both his mother and father were survivors of Nazi concentration camps and he lost more family members in the Holocaust than those shedding crocodile tears. In this clip, he first gets ambushed by her fellow Zionist supporters shouting Dr, Finkelstein down, but he quickly takes control of the situation and leaves her with no comeback.

Dr. Finkelstein is a Jewish American political scientist and author, whose primary fields of research are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust. A graduate of Binghamton University, he received his Ph.D in Political Science from Princeton University. He has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and, most recently, DePaul University, where he was an assistant professor from 2001 to 2007.

Support HR 1207 S 604 – Audit the Federal Reserve

Dear friends, Americans and countrymen,

Lend me your ears….your support is needed to save this country from economic collapse.

Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill to audit the Federal Reserve. A Rasmussen survey finds that 75 percent of Americans are in favor of auditing the Federal Reserve.

Established in 1913, the Federal Reserve is a private banking cartel (just like Federal Express, they only use the word Federal and that is misleading) to that creates the nation’s money. Instead of creating our own money, the United States of America borrows from this private banking system.

This makes the banks incredibly wealthy, as well as the corrupt politicians that are bought out by these bankers – and puts us, the people perpetually in debt. This is why the US government is spending trillions of dollars and sticking us taxpayers and future taxpayers with the bill. This means higher taxes for us, our children and grandchildren. Bailouts for Maserati driving bankers while many in the country are becoming homeless would not be possible if the Federal Reserve was being audited. They are to blame for the economic crisis we are in.

The Federal Reserve has never been audited. Please show your support for this monumental bill currently before Congress. This is a giant first step toward ending the bankers’ reign of terror.

With this link you can send an email to your representatives in a couple of minutes asking them to support the bill in Congress and the Senate.

http://www.votervoice.net/Core.aspx?AID=972&Screen=alert&IssueId=16611

Paul Craig Roberts: Who Rules America?

Paul Craig Roberts is an economist and journalist. He was Assistant Secretary of Treasury during the Reagan Administration. Forbes has ranked him as one of the top 7 journalists in the US.

He is one of the most outspoken people in America today and he has been a critic of both Republicans and Democrats for their abuse of power.

You will find his articles very enlightening. Here’s his latest:

http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22611.htm

Here he writes about how the the Senate bill to allow homeowners to renegotiate mortgages with the banks was defeated by the banksters who pay the politicians millions and help them get elected. What a scam!

What a shame this is for our nation. Trillions of our taxes went to bailout the banks for their mistakes, then trillions more for war against nations that pose no threat to us – but when some politicians tried to help homeowners stay in their homes – not one penny will be spent to help them. Let them lose their homes. This should really outrage every “Patriotic American”. If it doesn’t shame on you.

Excerpt:

How is it possible that “the world’s only superpower” is threatened by the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan? How can the US be a superpower if it is threatened by countries that have no military capability other than a guerilla capability to resist invaders?

These “wars” are a hoax designed to enrich the US armaments industry and to infuse the “security forces” with police powers over American citizenry.

Not a dime to prevent millions of Americans from losing their homes, but hundreds of billions of dollars to murder Muslim women and children and to create millions of refugees, many of whom will either sign up with insurgents or end up as the next wave of immigrants into America.

This is the way the American government works. And it thinks it is a “city on the hill, a light unto the world.”

Americans elected Obama because he said he would end the gratuitous criminal wars of the Bush brownshirts, wars that have destroyed America’s reputation and financial solvency and serve no public interest. But once in office Obama found that he was ruled by the military/security complex.

Read the full article here:

http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22611.htm