Best Books I Read in 2017

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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.

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Last Word on “Net Neutrality”

This was heard on the Internet on a Facebook comment – author unknown:

“Net Neutrality was essentially a Trojan horse for greater government control and regulation of the core traffic of the internet. It is a solution in search of a problem. Remember, Net Neutrality was only implemented in 2015, so it’s only been around for two years. But, they sold it to us to solve the “problem” of ISPs selling access to different services for different prices.

Now, I want you to tell me when your ISP charged you a different price for access to email, or social networking, or streaming video prior to 2015?

The answer is…they didn’t. It never happened.

The government essentially created a problem so that they could be the solution. This allowed the FCC to begin regulating the Internet as a semi-public utility, and allow five people to decide who will be allowed access to what on the internet. It was their foot in the door.

Remember, the Internet was the answer to the censorship that FCC regulations created in the first place. The Internet was the answer to having only four TV networks, and only a handful of radio stations. The Internet was the answer to not being able to say “shit” on the radio. The Internet was the answer to not being able to see boobies on TV. The Internet was the answer to the FCC limiting your freedom of speech, and your access to unconventional ideas.

All of a sudden, the FCC is there to insure that we have freedom of choice?

Also, you should consider who supports Net Neutrality. It is the companies that have the largest share of internet traffic, among them Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are the same companies who have collected more personal data on you than anyone else.

So, let’s do a thought experiment. What if your ISP told you that you had to pay extra to use Google…or Facebook…or Amazon? You’d probably find another ISP, right? It would make absolutely zero business sense for an ISP to do that.

And, why would the largest content providers support it, knowing full well that no ISP would ever try to charge more for their content? I mean, would you want an ISP that told you you had to pay extra for Facebook?

Here’s why they support it. Google, Facebook and Amazon (GFA) would be one step closer to monopoly status. They want to blur and merge the line between content providers (them) and content delivery (ISPs). Once the Pandora’s Box that is FCC regulation is in place, GFA would have the regulatory body necessary to ensure startup competitors could not comply with the regulations. Currently, GFA simply purchases companies which have the potential to compete with their core products. However, that cost them billions to do so. In many cases, once they purchase the small competitors, they shelve them, and redirect their traffic to their core products.

However, if GFA were to have a regulatory body, such as the FCC, regulating ISPs and ultimately content providers, they would have a much cheaper way to prevent start-up competitors from gaining a foothold in the market. And, lobbying government to implement regulation favorable to them costs exponentially less than buying competitive companies.

So, net neutrality is a long play for them. It doesn’t matter WHAT the FCC is talking about regulating on the Internet. To them, it’s about ensuring the FCC is simply regulating. It’s about getting that government foot in the door to protect their content monopolies. But that’s not even their longest play. Their ultimate goal is data collection and behavior control.

Because that’s really the business that GFA is in. If they can limit your choices for content, they can ensure they have access to the most data about you, and control your purchasing behavior…at minimum.”

  • Unknown author

R.I.P. Robert Miles, Dance Music Pioneer

DJ Robert Miles has died after a brief illness. If you listened to music in the 90s, you can’t have missed the genius of Italian born DJ/music producer Robert Miles, even today DJ’s sample his music worldwide.

“Children” is the most iconic of hits in the history of dance music and really defined his career and revolutionized dance music, creating an entire genre “Dream House” which brought trance music to the mainstream. In clubs they used to have this as the last track of the night.

It is a track that is very moving and brings strong emotions.

After Miles performed this music in a club, a girl approached him in tears. “What music is this?” she asked him. It was a moment he will never forget that moment, realizing that his feelings had been conveyed through his music. His dream turned into reality.

Children:

Fable was another one of his fantastic tracks…featured in the movie “Ever After” (with Drew Barrymore).

Fable:

 

 

 

Iran’s Nuclear Escapade

Why would they possibly want a nuclear weapon?

This map will help demystify Iran’s motives. (Each star represents a U.S. military base.) If Iran had military bases in Canada, Mexico, battleships in the Pacific, Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico – How would the US react? Roll over and play dead?

The 1,000 US military bases in about 130 countries is bankrupting this nation, not protecting “American interests” – they are not my interests yet my taxes continue pay for them. They are threatening global security not enhancing it. Free and peaceful trade with countries as Ron Paul proposes is a much better way to prosperity and peace….not “liberation” with carpet bombs and then shoving “democracy” down their throats.

124 Tomahawk Missiles dropped on Libya = $186 Million

124 Tomahawk Missiles dropped on Libya at $1.5 million each = $186 million. The US Congress voted to cut funding for NPR which would save about $10 million a year but they are fine with Barack O-bomber dropping $186 million worth of Tomahawk missiles on brown skinned people in North Africa in a single day.


NATO Tomahawk missiles dropped on Libya total up to $186 million

The “Liberation” of Libyan Oil

Barack O-bomber, our beloved Nobel “War is Peace” Prize winning leader, has given up US sovereignty to the UN and started bombing the people of Libya. Is it me or does he love war more than Bush?

The thing is – even “smart bombs” can’t tell the difference between a Gaddafi mercenary or a rebel, a woman or even a child – bombs just kill and civilians will die. That’s a sure thing.

Who really believes that the “No Fly zone” was intended to “protect” civilians? Shame on them – wake up! Saudi Arabian troops shot protesters, then drove over to neighboring Bahrain and killed protesters there as well. The US/UK governments or the UN did not utter a word of protest – why? Because the Saudi and Bahrain tyrants are OUR tyrants.

Well, not even 24 hours after the bombing which killed civilians, Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League (who is planning to run for President of post-Mubarak Egypt) complained to reporters:

“What happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives. What we want is civilians’ protection not shelling more civilians.”

Here’s the story and excerpts:

Arab League Slams Libya Attacks Amid Reports of Growing Civilian Toll

Having been instrumental in pushing the UN to approve the resolution authorizing the no-fly zone over Libya, the Arab League has found itself quickly regretting its Faustian bargain. Now, with reports of civilian casualties on the rise, they are condemning the massive air strikes by the US, France and Britain.

In addition to the Arab League, the African Union has also called for an immediate attack on all the strikes against Libya, saying it feared “serious humanitarian consequences.” Though the figures cannot be confirmed on the ground (particularly with the US warning journalists away from Libya), the reports as of late Sunday morning are that as many as 64 people have been killed in the air strikes and hundreds wounded. US commander Admiral Michael Mullen insists he has seen no reports of any civilian casualties at all.

Here’s Proof: Keynesian Economics Fail Miserably

Here you have the proof – The U.K. has been following the Keynesian economic prescription to the fullest; it cut interest rates, greatly drove up government spending (what our government calls “stimulus” – I call it a waste of taxpayers’ money), printed money like crazy, and nationalized half of the banking industry – Now you have the results: A stagnant economy, crippling budget deficit, rising prices, rising unemployment. As I said before – you cannot put out a fire by spraying it with gasoline.

This is pretty much what is going to happen in the US as well – until we allow the banks to fail and go bankrupt instead of bailing them out for their incompetence, stop spending trillions on foreign wars against nations that pose no threat to us, stop bailing out GM, etc – there is not going to be a recovery. It’s the nature of the beast (business cycle).

Read the article here:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a5t.xQdllnbo