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QBD Reviews: 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson

Clinical psychologist and academic, Doctor Jordan Peterson, has made a splash across bestseller lists with his book ’12 Rules for Life’. It has been called ‘Self-Help’, and it has been categorised in ‘Business’, but it leans much more toward a kind of personal-political manifesto; a response to a range of radical ideas that have been drifting into the mainstream over the last decade or so, much of it through the academy and publishing industry itself. He has upset people, chiefly, the pushers of these ideas. The ease and glibness with which Peterson is branded as a ‘right-winger’ or even a ‘nazi’ only goes further to prove his point of view regarding the ills he identifies, particularly in the fragmenting public sphere.

But aside from the politics, Peterson puts an importance on reading, and reading well - the kinds of books that have been foundational to how we have come about as a people and the underpinnings of us psychologically: a canon.

Naturally enough, these are books that have been around a while, what we would call ‘Classics’. His reading lists on the internet have been expanded several times, and have led to a distinct up-turn of interest in the Classics region of the bookshop. If Rowling has been thought of as being responsible for a renaissance in reading-for-children, is Peterson becoming responsible for a renaissance in reading for young-adults … and in classic indispensable canonic literature?

To go back is often a decent way to deal with discovering that you are going the wrong way, or that you are lost entirely. To be constantly progressive is only good if you have a decent idea of where you are progressing to ... and that you want to be there. These readers, many of whom have been abandoned by the contemporary publishing world, are finding that great books, unlike films or many other mediums of art, tend to become more relevant and more valuable the older they become. And they are very readily available.

Primary among these works for Peterson is Solzhenitsyn's ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, so much so that he will be contributing a new introduction to a fiftieth anniversary edition due out this November. It’s been out of print in most English-speaking countries for a number of years, so that fact that this great work is getting a fiftieth anniversary treatment at all could be down to him anyway.

Why is this book so important to Peterson? One reason he lists on his Patreon site:

It's necessary for all of us (the moderate left included) to determine exactly when and why the good intentions of the egalitarian-minded go so terribly wrong.

Solzhenitsyn's work focuses on the evils of the Soviet empire and its treatment of dissidents and criminals, political and otherwise. It is a profound, utterly gruelling and harrowing account based on the author’s own experience. It is plain and unadorned, letting the action speak for itself in all its bleak horror. By being concerned for ‘when’, Peterson hints that there might be a tipping point that serves us Stalinism, some kind of ongoing but, on the face of it, altruistic formula that at some point goes badly wrong when we fundamentally combine authoritarianism with collectivism. It is why he puts such an emphasis on personal responsibility in his own book. If you can’t change yourself for the better, just this one person, then what hope do you have in changing a society for the better? Is it any wonder the Gulags appear and get filled?

So it is certainly worth returning to a canon, and Peterson’s is a good one.

And while Peterson’s plain white book goes head to head with the bright orange-covered and playful ‘Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’, he has no easy answers, and these books in the canon don’t offer the reader any quick fix either. They offer you a further and deeper relationship with yourself, a forthright art of giving a f*ck about yourself and how you might become even more so ... yourself.

One To Keep You Up All Night

Kazuo Ishiguro shows off his amazing storytelling technique in this novel, following Kathy from her childhood at Hailsham Boarding School to her adult life beyond it. Throughout the novel, you are filled with this sense of looking back, on reflecting upon Kathy's childhood and how it has affected her relationships beyond Hailsham. Kathy spends the novel dissecting her childhood and trying to piece together the intricate puzzle which is her life and the meaning behind it.

This novel will keep you mesmerized from the first to last page. Moving, lovable and haunting throughout, Never Let Me Go is a novel for anyone who is looking for a book to literally reach out from the pages and touch them.

- Erin, Cairns QBD

The Sellout: Man Booker Prize Winner 2016!

U.S. novelist Paul Beatty has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel 'The Sellout'!

4zd3uwnze6ehezwwjwd82qczpvenpjo-largeThe first american to win the prize, Beatty's 4th novel is a biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.

Chair of the judges Amanda Foreman said the novel "plunges into the heart of contemporary American society, with an absolutely savage wit, of the kind I haven't seen since Swift or Twain; [it] both manages to slay every social taboo and politically correct nuance, every sacred cow; and while making us laugh also makes us wince, it is both funny and painful at the same time, and it is really a novel for our times." [source: The Bookseller]

downloadBorn in the 'agrarian ghetto' of Dickens - on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles - the narrator of The Sellout is raised by his single father, a controversial sociologist, and spends his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. Led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes, he is shocked to discover, after his father is killed in a police shoot-out, that there never was a memoir. In fact, all that's left is the bill for a drive-through funeral. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: his hometown Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident - Hominy Jenkins - he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school. What follows is a remarkable journey that challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement and the holy grail of racial equality - the black Chinese restaurant.

The Sellout is available to order in store and online. Most stores will have it in stock in November. 

Book of the Month: All The Light We Cannot See

y648Forget falling in love with a valentine this February! Fall in love with Anthony Doerr's award winning novel 'All the Light We Cannot See' instead!

Filled with love, betrayal, fear and an unmistakable determination to survive the war, Doerr's book is certain to become your new favourite story.

This book is told from two different perspectives – fifteen year old German orphan turned soldier , Werner, and a brave, yet blind, young Parisian, Marie Laure. At its simplest, this book is a story of two young, innocent souls trying to survive and fight in a war which is not theirs.

Doerr shows us scenes of unimaginable desperation and lost childhoods, as he reminds us of the importance of family, and how even the most evil of people fear death.

'All the Light We Cannot See' is a book that will remain with you long after you finish the last page. Doerr's work casts a long, dark shadow over 'The Book Thief'. I wish every book was as enjoyable and addictive as this one!

It will definitely make you fall in love with reading again!
- Jacqueline, QBD Epping

Rated:book-review-star-rating

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

9780099590378

After reading most all of Murakami's books, it has become apparent that he follows a formula that doesn't stray from the usual too often. He deals mostly with coming of age stories, the journey from adolescence to adulthood in all its awkwardness, from first loves and heartbreaks to trying to find your place in the world. But although it tends to be much more of the same you always find yourself cheering for the protagonist every step of the way. I find this tends to come from how relatable and normal his characters tend to be (even if most reading this review are not Japanese youth), You will always find yourself in the story feeling those same awkward emotions that to most people will be familiar.

In Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage , this formula is much the same but instead of the reader following the the protagonist on his journey through youth, we find ourselves in the shoes of 36 year old Tsukuru Tazaki, a train station engineer in Tokyo, who is still haunted by events of his former years. At age 20, Tsukuru was kicked out of a group, one that he had thought to be an unbreakable bond between five friends, 3 boys and 2 girls. Each member, bar himself, had colourful names: Red, Blue, White and black. This represents how he has always thought of himself, as someone with no special features, not ugly but not handsome, not dumb but in no means exceptionally smart and so on. As such he goes through the rest of his life believing that his mediocrity is the reason he was removed from the group.

His melancholic life set to the tune of ‘Le Mal Du Pays’ by Liszt (a classical song referenced multiple times throughout the book, and a tell tale sign you are reading a Murakami novel) changes when he meets a girl who encourages him to find closure and discover why he was removed from the group before she will continue to be intimate with him. As such for the first time since the events 16 years earlier, Tsukuru makes an effort to find out what happened, a journey that sends him back to his hometown and even across the world, where he finds all is not as it seemed, and that maybe there was more to his abandonment than previously assumed.

For first time Murakami readers you may find many loose ends that are not resolved, but that is much to the charm of his books, and if you decide to go back to other novels such as his classics IQ84 and Norwegian Wood this is something you will learn to appreciate in his writing. This is one of my favourite Murakami books to date, and shows that even at age 65, he can still take the mundane everyday life and make it seem magical.