Bookshelf

ROALD DAHL, Over to You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying

 

Over to You is an unusual collection of Roald Dahl’s short stories, telling tales of RAF fighters during the Second World War. It takes you to unknown corners and cultures of the world, through battles of the sky (and of the psyche), as lived by soldiers starkly aware of their fragile proximity to death. The book reads with the characteristic dark quirkiness of one of the world’s greatest storytellers. Roald Dahl’s charm lies in his ability to surprise you: one second you’ll bark with laughter, the next you’ll feel tears pricking at your eyes. Eye-opening, disturbing and at moments heart-warming, this is a little book with a big impact.

 

MILAN KUNDERA, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

 

“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”

 

ROALD DAHL, MATILDA

 

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable…”

 

YUVAL NOAH HARARI, SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND

 

“Think for a moment about the Agricultural Revolution from the viewpoint of wheat. Ten thousand years ago wheat was just a wild grass, one of many, confined to a small range in the Middle East. Suddenly, within just a few short millennia, it was growing all over the world. According to the basic evolutionary criteria of survival and reproduction, wheat has become one of the most successful plants in the history of the earth. In areas such as the Great Plains of North America, where not a single wheat stalk grew 10,000 years ago, you can today walk for hundreds upon hundreds of miles without encountering any other plant. Worldwide, wheat covers about 870,000 square miles of the globe’s surface, almost ten times the size of Britain. How did this grass turn from insignificant to ubiquitous? Wheat did it by manipulating Homo sapiens to its advantage. This ape had been living a fairly comfortable life hunting and gathering until about 10,000 years ago, but then began to invest more and more effort in cultivating wheat. Within a couple of millennia, humans in many parts of the world were doing little from dawn to dusk other than taking care of wheat plants. It wasn’t easy. Wheat demanded a lot of them. Wheat didn’t like rocks and pebbles, so Sapiens broke their backs clearing fields. Wheat didn’t like sharing its space, water and nutrients with other plants, so men and women laboured long days weeding under the scorching sun. Wheat got sick, so Sapiens had to keep a watch out for worms and blight. Wheat was attacked by rabbits and locust swarms, so the farmers built fences and stood guard over the fields. Wheat was thirsty, so humans dug irrigation canals or lugged heavy buckets from the well to water it. Sapiens even collected animal faeces to nourish the ground in which wheat grew… We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us.”

 

“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.”

 

HANYA YANAGIHARA, A LITTLE LIFE

 

“You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.”

 

“Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”

 

TERRY HAYES, I AM PILGRIM

 

“The problem with war is that it usually consumes the very things that you’re fighting for – justice, decency, humanity.”

 

“The point is—if you want to be free, all you have to do is let go.”

 

LEO TOLSTOY, HADJI MURAT

 

“He had great faith in his own fortune. When planning anything he always felt in advance firmly convinced of success and fate smiled to him.”

 

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, CONSIDER THE LOBSTER AND OTHER ESSAYS

 

“Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?”

 

ANGELA CARTER, THE BLOODY CHAMBER AND OTHER STORIES

 

“He strips me to my last nakedness, that underskin of mauve, pearlized satin, like a skinned rabbit; then dresses me again in an embrace so lucid and encompassing it might be made of water. And shakes over me dead leaves as if into the stream I have become.

Sometimes the birds, at random, all singing, strike a chord.

His skin covers me entirely; we are like two halves of a seed, enclosed in the same integument. I should like to grow enormously small, so that you could swallow me, like those queens in fairy tales who conceive when they swallow a grain of corn or a sesame seed. Then I could lodge inside your body and you would bear me.”

 

KENNETH GRAHAME, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

 

“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”

 

JEANETTE WINTERSON, ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT

 

“In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn’t change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.”

 

CHARLOTTE BRONTË, JANE EYRE

 

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”

 

EMILY BRONTË, WUTHERING HEIGHTS

 

“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”

 

JACQUES DERRIDA, OF GRAMMATOLOGY

 

“There is no outside-text”

 

THE WORKS OF LORD BYRON

 

“What’s drinking? A mere pause from thinking!”

 

Lord Byron has always been quite special to me (Tia); from studying him at school to reading for comfort at University.

 

“But words are things, and a small drop of ink,      

Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;      

’T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses

Instead of speech, may form a lasting link      

Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces

Frail man, when paper — even a rag like this,

Survives himself, his tomb, and all that’s his.”

 

His words have the flamboyant nature of the Romantics but with satire, wit and unending melancholy.

 

“When we two parted

In silence and tears,

Half broken-hearted

To sever for years,

Pale grew thy cheek and cold,

Colder thy kiss;

Truly that hour foretold

Sorrow to this.”

“Our life is twofold; sleep hath its own world,

A boundary between the things misnamed

Death and existence: sleep hath its own world,

And a wide realm of wild reality,

And dreams in their development have breath,

And tears, and tortured, and the touch of joy;”

 

When cleaning out my grandmother’s house after her death, I found an old, well-used copy of Lord Byron’s collected works. In the foreword, “to my dear Katie, love Henry”, an early sign of my grandparents’ enduring love.

 

“Be hypocritical, be cautious, be

Not what you seem, but always what you see.”

 

So, to celebrate World Poetry Day, browse through some Byron for wisdoms thats our ancestors found so touching.

 

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”

 

RACHEL BOTSMAN & ROO ROGERS, WHAT’S MINE IS YOUR: HOW COLLABORATIVE CONSUMPTION IS CHANGING THE WAY WE LIVE

 

What’s Mine is Yours is a testament to the global initiatives reimagining economics around a culture of ‘what’s mine is yours’.

 

When the average lawn mower gets only 4 hours usage per year, and the average power drill only 20 minutes in its entire lifetime, it’s reasonable to ask if we can use materials better. Enter collaborative consumption, which, according to authors Botsman and Rogers, is changing the way we live.

With the help of technological platforms, peer to peer networks are exploding in all markets, allowing everything to be shared, from goods and services to knowledge and experiences.

 

Rather than rifting us from the past, modern technologies are here being used to preserve ancient community values, returning us to simpler times of relying on neighbours and of trusting strangers. They are reinventing those old ‘Cs’ that have been so stigmatised in modern imagination — communes, cooperatives and collectives.

They also call on us to reverse past crimes committed against the environment. To close the lid on consumer denial and own our responsibility to future generations.

 

THREE CUPS OF TEA: ONE MAN’S MISSION TO PROMOTE PEACE… ONE SCHOOL AT A TIME 

GREG MORTENSON & DAVID OLIVER RELIN

 

This is one of those books that might change your life, or at least your perspective. It is the true and powerful story of Greg Mortenson, a lost explorer who fell upon a Balti community that nursed him back to health, and to whom he pledged in return to build a school for. Thereafter he committed his life to creating education for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, under the rise of the Taliban. It is a remarkable indication of just how much one person can do.

 

“I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.”

 

There has been controversy surrounding the veracity of the story, and slander is believed to have played it’s part in author Relin’s suicide in 2012. Conflicting narratives mean these cups of tea may have to be taken with a pinch of salt, however suspicion also surrounds the nature of the discrediting, given the novel’s critical stance towards the USA administration at the time. Whatever the verdict, this book is a beautiful insight into Baltistan’s ancient culture of hospitality, an inspiring tale of the power of the individual, and a scathing commentary on aggressive Western foreign policy – there are three compelling reasons to read Three Cups of Tea.

 

“The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family…”

 

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