Spending time with family, relaxing by the pool, wandering the streets of a new city and seeing the sights. There’s also the overindulgence on food, some embarrassing half dive / half bellyflop entrances into the aforementioned pool and getting a bit too much sun (but we’ll try not to mention those bits)
However for me a break away also means one other thing…
The perfect chance to catch up on some reading.
I read a couple of books whilst I was away. One book which whilst coming with massive plaudits completely failed to impress me and another which was brilliantly funny but also unexpectedly insightful.
So without further ado let me tell you about…
The Alchemist (34)
by Paulo Coelho
This book obviously has it’s fans. It’s sold millions and has received plaudits from a bunch of different people.
However as much as I tried to enjoy this book or find meaning or insight from it…it felt that at it’s core the message was too airy fairy to be particularly meaningful.
You see the message of the book is simple:-
“When you want something the ‘universe’ conspires in helping you to achieve it”
Really? Not hard work? Not Action? Not learning and developing? Just ‘wanting’ it is the priority? Come on!
Actually as a work of fiction it’s not the worst book in the world. The story is simple, it’s well written in parts and evokes a sense of mystery.
However as a ‘fable for following your dream’ (the blurb used to promote the book) it fails.
You see to me ‘the alchemist’ felt like the book version of a cold reading psychic. Intentionally vague, supposedly insightful and wise sounding but ultimately full of hot air.
Thankfully the book I read after “The Alchemist” I enjoyed a lot more…
The girl who saved the king of Sweden (35)
by Jonas Jonasson
This authors first book (The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared) was one of my favourite books of the past couple of years and I wasn’t disappointed by Jonas Jonasson’s 2nd novel.
It had all the traits of ‘the 100 year old man’…it was darkly funny, fantastically ridiculous, ambitious in scale and scope but also has a laser sharp wit highlighting how bizarre human behavior often is.
The story starts with a young girl in a township in Soweto and ends in a Swedish farm but not without comically exploring a bunch of stuff including global politics, An ex royalist who ended up hating the king, stupid twins, a ‘spare’ nuclear bomb and much much more.
I always find myself judging how funny a book is by the number of ‘laugh out loud’ moments (you know those laughs you can’t stifle even if you’re on the tube…or like me when I read this particular book by the pool) and this book passed the test with a couple of proper LOL moments in every chapter.
Whilst Jonasson’s writing style is relatively unique I found myself thinking about both Douglas Adams (Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy) and the writing of Terry Pratchett who had the ability to take both the mundane and the extraordinary and combine them for comedic effect.
If you haven’t read any of Jonasson’s books before I’d start at the start with ‘100 year old man’ however if you like a fantastically amusing book full of laugh out loud moments ‘The girl who saved the king of Sweden’ is well worth reading..