Reading: Study or Passion? Bloggers’ Book Suggestions

Books_from_18th_century1I am a big reader. In fact, I love reading so much that I make it my profession. I get to read, translate, summarize and write about texts from different languages and different eras in history.  However, I realize that not everyone is this lucky and I imagine some people would read that last sentence, roll their eyes and mutter “geek”.

I will spare you the usual spiel of “reading is fun” and “everyone needs to read” and give you a real-life example. When I was dating, nothing was a bigger deal-breaker for me than my date’s shrug and admission that “I don’t read”, because for me it’s more than running your eyes through some words in a book – it’s about imagination and finding information. “I don’t read” often translates to “I don’t imagine” which leads to “I don’t care”. ” I don’t read” also translates to “I don’t find out” and always leads to “I don’t care”. The books you read reflect your passion and passion makes you attractive. Passion makes you a leader and, if you want to be, passion makes you an expert.

booksTherefore, I want to change this conversation of “I don’t read” and “we’ve had enough of experts” and try to find practical ways to reintroduce the joy of reading. I am taking a break from my research on goddesses to have a little chat with a few bloggers about reading. Thank you Minuca Elena, Natacho Venegas and KatQ for their time and contribution to this project.

Q. What is your favorite genre of books and why?

A. Minuca Elena (Minuca creates awesome influencer roundups that provide quality content, brings huge traffic, and helps bloggers connect with influencers.)

I love reading a lot. My favorite types of books are:

– detective books (start with Sherlock Holmes and Arsène Lupin series written by Maurice Leblanc)

– science-fiction books (Ender’s Game and all prequels and sequels are amazing. Orson Scott Card did an amazing job with this series)

– self-development books (read anything written by Brian Tracy). I also like reading about how to read body language.

A. Natacho Venegas (Beginner in blogging)

Personally I prefer fantasy books. They make you forget about the routine world around you and bring you to another world, where everything can be possible. Magical worlds, magic around and in you, different creatures and miracles… What can be more appealing for modern “technologized” people? It also expands your imagination and makes you feel a little less bored of the pragmatism in nowadays’ life.

A. KatQ

I love crime novels. I find them really immersive. I actually don’t like watching crime related TV shows. My memory is shocking so I always get confused when watching it on the TV. In a book though I can flick through and remind myself where I am in the story before I keep reading. I also love reading when I’m travelling. It’s a great way to get a bit of escapism on a long journey.

Q. Why do you like to read – specifically, how does reading help you personally?

A. Minuca Elena (Minuca creates awesome influencer roundups that provide quality content, brings huge traffic, and helps bloggers connect with influencers.)

I started reading a lot since I was a kid. You can learn a lot of things from books. You can learn about different cultures (the habits and beliefs from other countries in different historical periods), develop your imagination and improve your vocabulary. If you like reading self-development books, you will feel motivated and inspired to set new goals and fight to achieve them.

A. Natacho Venegas (Beginner in blogging)

I believe that reading makes you more intelligent. Smarter, or more clever,  I believe. Even if you read not scientific books, but some fiction – you still get your vocabulary expanded, as well as some understanding of how the language works. how sentences are built and yes, some new facts. I’m not reading very “smart” books, but still I’m growing personally. Can’t imagine my life without books. And wish for everybody to discover the world of literature.

A. KatQ

My favorite crime author is Karin Slaughter, she’s great at writing really tense stuff. I also love Kathy Reichs. She wrote the book series that inspired ‘Bones’. Kathy Reichs is also a forensic psychiatrist, so her books tend to be really accurate. I find forensics fascinating so I get a good dose of it in her books.

As a writer reading helps me in many ways. It helps improve my grammar and my vocabulary. It gives me ideas about unusual sentence structures. I can see how the authors build suspense in their books and can then replicate that in my own writing. I find there’s nothing like a good book for helping me improve my writing.

Q. If you can recommend a book right now for a person who says “I’m not a big reader” what would it be?

A. Minuca Elena (Minuca creates awesome influencer roundups that provide quality content, brings huge traffic, and helps bloggers connect with influencers.)

It depends very much on the type of person you are. I think that “Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life: How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement” by Brian Tracy is a great book that most people will find helpful no matter their social status or age.

A. Natacho Venegas (Beginner in blogging)

For the beginners it should be some easy-reading, though interesting, book. I’d say – not too big, with loads of dialogues and action. There is an awesome collection of short stories written by Ted Chiang, named Stories of Your Life and Others. It will make you think of things you couldn’t even imagine.

A. KatQ

I would recommend a short book!

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. It’s a story every single person in the world should read. It’s a short book, I read it in one sitting on a trip to Africa a few years ago. The book is life changing. So if someone told me they weren’t a big reader and I had one shot to get them reading this would be the book.

Me and History (Part 2) – Phil Turner: History is All Around Me

I am very happy to be able to get writers and bloggers, David Leonhardt and Phil Turner‘s, contribution for “Me and History” – They both talk about the light and dark sides of history, both of  referencing things that we see and experience every day which I have never fully appreciated before.

After last week’s discussion on how even weather has its own history, Phil Turner tells me about his own experience with history as a Briton living in Ireland, as well as the historical figures he admires.

Q. If I say the word “History”, what would come immediately to your mind?

A. Phil Turner (The 5 Currencies Guy)

I live in Ireland, where History is all around me in the form of broken down cottages whose owners were forced to emigrate and leave their homes behind. These cottages are now owner-less; nobody can improve them or knock them down.

It is the 100th anniversary of the failed 1916 Easter Rising this year, and you would think it had succeeded with all the hullabaloo about it.

The Irish tricolour brings back the history of the foundation of the Irish Republic – No blue or red of the British flag, orange and green to represent Protestants and Catholics united under one flag.

The political parties here in Ireland date back to the civil war of the 1920s when one party wanted to compromise with the British and the other wanted to hold out for a total victory. Sinn Fein is a recent addition to the political scene and has its power roots in Northern Ireland. The political agenda in Ireland has changed in the last 20 years and few people now want unification with Northern Ireland.

The drive for unification comes from some of the Northern Ireland political parties, but I suspect they are out of touch with their voters because I doubt if any sane voter in Northern Ireland would give up free health care and education for the mess that the Republic’s health and education systems are today.

Q. What is your favorite era to learn/read/find out more about in history? Can you tell my why that is?

A. Phil Turner (The 5 Currencies Guy)

My favourite era of history is the early 20th Century. There was a lot happening worldwide and in Britain and Ireland at that time.

As a Briton living in England, I was not taught anything of the British atrocities in Ireland. This part of history has been removed from the school curriculum until students specialise after age 16. Perhaps it is guilt that has made politicians of all parties adopt this policy of maintaining ignorance in the British population of the monstrosities that were carried out on their behalf. The ignorance even extends to the name of the Irish Republic, with many Britons calling it Southern Ireland, which existed in the late 1920s, but not since.

This period also includes the horrors of World War 1, where entire generations of men and boys from various towns were wiped out by the stupidity and bloody-mindedness of generals and politicians.  Thankfully even Hollywood has been unable to glorify the slaughter of 1914- 1918.

Irish men were encouraged to sign up for the British army and most never returned. A cynic would say they were encouraged in order to remove men of fighting-age from the Irish population, so the rest of the people would be more easily kept under the British thumb.

Q. Who is your favorite person from history? Can you tell me why?

A. Phil Turner (The 5 Currencies Guy)

Martin Luther King Junior is my favourite person from history.

He was one of the bravest people who ever lived and he began the changes in inter-racial attitudes that are still so poor in America.

I find his speeches to be some of the most powerful in terms of the message he was putting across as well as the motions he stirred. His body language while speaking is still a marvelous example of how one man can get his message across to a crowd of thousands. Check out his hand gestures and the crowd-dominating thumbs up gesture is there and plain to see.

It is amazing that his speeches are still quoted today, so many years later and that even foreigners like myself would recognise him in the street.

MLK ranks with Gandhi in my mind as someone who preached peaceful resistance to unreasonable laws. I have little respect for most politicians and leaders, but Martin Luther King Junior was an amazing man, a man out of his time and one whose message has outlived him.

That Martin Luthor King Junior was assassinated by a white man with a rifle reminds us that America’s gun laws have always been crazy.

Martini

 

 

 

 

 

Me and History (Part 1) – David Leonhardt: Only Storytellers Should Teach History

Some time ago,  I conducted a group interview on how to make history interesting to learn . The interview was  very well received, and I personally learned a great deal. I therefore decided to expand my questions and give these creative, thoughtful experts a room to do what they do best: think, consider and write.

The first expert is David Leonhardt, an author and blogger, sharing with me his thoughts of history, especially how it impacts his work.

Q. If I say the word “history”, what would come immediately to your mind?

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

When I hear the word “history” I think of storytelling.  In fact, that’s what the word means.  Go back a couple centuries, and nobody was using the modern truncated “story” form of the word.

I am a storyteller.  When I blog, I am almost always recounting some story, rather than just listing the steps to follow to get some task done.  So I am a big fan of history.

I recently ghostwrote a non-fiction novel.  It’s not history in the sense that most people would think of it, but it was a series of events that happened, and that is history.  I blogged about the research tools I used to bring the story to life. One of those tools is Weather Underground’s weather hindcast tool. It is aptly named “Historical Weather”.

Weather has its own history, and it has played an immensely powerful role in human history.  It has been the decisive factor in many battles.  It has been the cause of the rise and fall of agriculture-based empires.  It has served as a portent to many decision-makers.

In the book I wrote, I used weather history to set the mood.

When the weather was dim and overcast, it set a sombre tone to the story.

When clouds kept the stars out of site, it helped confirm the hopelessness the protagonist felt.

When things were looking bleak, the sunny day was…not mentioned.  No, a good storyteller doesn’t tell the whole story.  I used historical weather only when it confirmed the emotions and the mood of the human history.  I left it out when it would have spoiled the mood. Weather as a metaphor for mood.

In that same novel, I included well-known historical events as points of reference for the readers. For example, including Hurricane Katrina and the attack on the Twin Towers gave readers a sense that this story is real, that it fits into history as they know it.  There are plenty of dates in the novel, but people remember the stories better than the dates.

What people seem to dislike most about history is remembering dates. Dates are only numerical markers of a timeline of events.  They are important for comparing multiple events, what happened first, what happened last.  But all those numbers spoil a good story.

Imagine Lord of the Rings full of dates.

Imagine The Firm full of dates.

Imagine 1984 full of dates.  OK, bad example.

History teachers are too often guilty of bogging down the story with dates.  Only storytellers should teach history.  The dates should be used only as a teaching aid, not as something to memorize.

NEXT WEEK: Me and History (Part 2) – Phil Turner: I Live in Ireland, where History is All Around Me

Martini

 

How to Make History Interesting to Learn

“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do learn from history are tearing their hair out in frustration because if anyone’s bothered looking it up, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

I’ve always found that to be true. We’ve seen time and time again the benefit of learning it whether it is individually or globally. However, it is common to hear kids, even adults, say “history is boring!” which makes it a nuisance to learn for a lot of people. It’s like eating your vegetables when you were five: you’ll eat it if you must, but only because your mum tells you that unless you finish your vegetables you can’t have cake.

I wondered about that, and raised these three questions to a few experts who have also spent some time thinking about this in relations to their own lives and works.

Q. What makes you interested in reading historical works (fiction/nonfiction)?

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

History is inherently fascinating.  It is a series of stories of great events and epic battles and accidental discoveries and surviving (or not) great calamities.  Tell the stories.  Show them in film.  I am right now writing a non-fiction novel for a client about a case of corporate espionage and racial profiling.  If I just write a chronology, it would be boring.  But I am writing it like fiction – as a storyteller would – and it will be a fascinating read.  And that is just one of several million stories that are part of history.

A. Ann Smarty (Founder of MyBlogU)

Traveling…. I want to know about the places I visit. Legends. Love stories… The more I travel, the more fascinating it gets. Once I visit a place, I read about it and I want to go back to reinforce my first impression now that I know the beautiful history behind it.

A. amhpodcast (Host – American Military History Podcast)

Ultimately what makes me interested in history is understanding that there’s a personal connection. In the US, everyone remembers what they were doing on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked. That same group story echoes throughout history. For example, if we lived in 1940s America, everyone would remember what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

When you start diving into history, you realize that it’s ultimately a story of people, and how they lived and reacted to all the situations around them. That connection is what interests me.

A. Julie Syl Kalungi (Mrs)

I like reading non fiction historical works because I get insights on what brings greatness to the world and esp. my world. If the historical works are still impacting the lives of many and going strong.

Its almost impossible to read a real work of historical non fiction that doesn’t talk about humanity and its evolution to where we are today whether in a good or not so god way. Now Historical non-fiction doesn’t really pull on my heartstrings. I like to see lives impacted…and the lessons or successes they expose. And that’s my wee contribution to this discussion!

A. socialwebcafe (Doctoral Candidate, Psychology)

Granted, my background (at least one of them!) is psychology, but I really think that the interest in history has to do with the person.  The other aspect is the environment (i.e. during the “growing up” years).  Ok, don’t get me going or I could get into a “nature versus nurture” discussion.

That said, if someone is not born with a natural curiosity about history, there may be ways to help them to become interested.  For example, through story-telling.

But, keep in mind, we are all different!  I have a history book on the history of psychology.  At first, I rented it from amazon, as a part of the required curriculum for my degree.  I loved it so much that I purchased it.  However, when I suggested it to my daughter, to read, she had little interest.  My daughter does love history, but not psychology history.  So, you see, history has several categories and maybe part of the solution is finding the find sector of history that interests the individual.  Then, there may be a possibility to add other sectors, like pieces of the pie.

A. ElleAgnes

The writing obviously has to be good–that is, it has to be readable. The characters also have to be interesting. You’re not likely to read about Mary Stuart, for example, unless the writing is compelling and if you can’t find something to like or dislike about her (in my case, dislike). Drama is also important. To take the Mary example and run with it–the drama of being kidnapped and forced into marriage makes for a good story, and I think it’s something you can give anyone and they’ll want to learn more.

A. DustanWhitcomb (History Is Coming)

Coming from a film background, it’s important for me that I stay and become literate in historical works to expand my imagination. The best part about reading fictional and nonfictional works of the past is that it’s a full immersion into a world other than the one around us. It’s an exploration of thought, character, time, and conflict, all things that we encounter every day.

Q. What do you think makes the subject of history boring/unrelatable to a lot of people?

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

Timelines.  And countries.  If you don’t know your geography, and especially your historical geography, who cares what Sibervonia did to retaliate against the Bergonista Dynasty.  The story has to be about people and what actually happened to them.  Forget the timelines and the political affiliations; tell the stories and make the students feel like they are there in the stories.

A. Ann Smarty (Founder of MyBlogU)

No connection to the present times. People don’t realize how the past has influenced the present (and hence how today’s action may be impact the future). The history should be learned in connection to present. That’s why I’ve found projects like these really useful and valuable: They help make that connection to get people interested in the history of places they live in or visit.

HistoryPin

A. amhpodcast (Host – American Military History Podcast)

When you grow up in a public school system you aren’t taught “history” your taught, “this is what you need to know for a history test”. Granted, there are teachers out there that take it further and make it engaging, but mostly it’s just “learn these facts and regurgitate them”

People also don’t understand that the people that they are reading about in their history books are just like them, they had hopes, dreams, fears, plans for their life, etc… It’s just they were in the right place at the right time and did things that made them worthy of being recorded in history books.

Also, history isn’t just stories from dusty tomes on a shelf, history is a living, breathing story of how we got where we are today.

A. Julie Syl Kalungi (Mrs)

Most people like to live in the now and think about tomorrow. The subject of history is also filled with gory wars, murders, killing, pain and failures. That’s whats predominantly promoted. The good, the day to day successes are not so much shared because they aren’t newsworthy maybe. Gory, death, pain sells and Who wants to be focusing on that if its been and gone?

So in my view bring on the Successes.  That’s what I seek out in my historical subjects, now that I have a choice. The successes I like to focus on are also tainted with of course bloodshed, but they are truly mind blowing and that’s what I like to focus my attention on because Positivity is my life focus.

A. socialwebcafe (Doctoral Candidate, Psychology)

The word “unrelatable” is a good word to use in this question.  I think that is key!  Just like I just relayed, the history of psychology and the origins of the schools of thought in psychology is very interesting to me.  However, I am a doctoral student in… yes… psychology.  My daughter, who is exceptional in the cosmetology world, would be more interested in history related to cosmetology.

I think we need to think less about history as one-word, as one general concept, and more so as pieces in a pie, especially if we are trying to gain interest in history and sectors of history.  That is where we may be able to find success in the word, “relatable.”

A. ElleAgnes

Lack of relevance. The history of baseball bores me, because I just don’t care that much about baseball or sports history too much. But I’ve been known to watch a movie or read a book on a topic that bores me because something about the story was personal enough to pique my interest. “The Blind Side” is interesting to large swathes of people because there’s cultural contexts–poverty, literacy, racial politics–that apply to a good amount of the population.

A. DustanWhitcomb (History Is Coming)

I think that people look at history as boring or obsolete because the future is so exciting – and it is! It may not live up to The Jetsons, but the future is entrancing because we never know what could happen as technology evolves. But I would counter with this: The future absolutely has parallels to the past and that is of concern because the most important events of our past are also the biggest problems that we’ve ever faced. In order to prevent those things from happening again, we need to further our knowledge about what led to those events while proactively do something about the problems of today and tomorrow.

Q. If you’re given full reign (financial support, good resources etc) what would you do to “sell” the subject of history to the public?

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM Writers)

I would hire the world’s best fiction writers to relate the stories most important for people to learn.  I would capture those stories in film shorts.  Then, most importantly, every student would put on a short play based on a historical story, one per week.  Between the plays they put on and those of their classmates that they watch, one year of history would be worth their entire school career as it is taught today.

A. Ann Smarty (Founder of MyBlogU)

I’d enroll schools into building a resource like Historypin. Think how much opportunity there is:

  • Kids can help by contributing family photo archives
  • You can set up a contest to select the best photo of a month / year and then set up a school / class tour to the winning place where students can compare what it looked like with what it is now, tasked to write essays to tell more about the history of the place, etc etc

I think projects like that coupled with the enthusiasm of students would benefit everyone: Kids would share their excitement at home and with friends spreading the knowledge and awareness!

A. amhpodcast (Host – American Military History Podcast)

I suppose in a way with my podcast, I’m already doing this, although I don’t have full financial support. If finances weren’t an option, I’d start up several podcasts, maybe some video series as well, and just get people engaged in learning about the past.

A. socialwebcafe (Doctoral Candidate, Psychology)

Again, my answer is going to be influenced by where I am at in life.  Where I am at is that of a researcher, in finishing my doctorate in psychology.  Therefore, unlimited resources, finances, access to people, etc. would mean that I would design a research project.  In essence, I would take what you have done here (good job!) in the research area, and expand it.  I would do what is called a “qualitative” interview (what we think of as a normal one-on-one interview) to identify ideas to help people to fall in love with history, or I would use what is called a “quantitative” research approach which is like a survey, helping to identify what it is that helps people to fall in love with the study of history.

And, that said, those steps are available to use as “common people” in the use of tools like MyBlogU.com (thanks, Ann!) and surveymonkey.com.  Hmmm… There might even be a case study or infographic in the works…

A. ElleAgnes

Movies, television, and art are incredibly effective in interesting people in topics of history. Consumers buy movies and TV shows today without any knowledge of the history behind–see the success of ‘The Tudors” or “Boardwalk Empire”–because they’re well marketed. The use of beautiful art–whether modern or contemporary to the topic–is also helpful, because it gives a face to the name. When students see the famous portrait mural of Henry VIII, they want to know about this man, because the face is interesting and memorable. Portraits of Mary Stuart make her appear beautiful, and frankly, the imagination is captivated by beauty. If you can use visual or dramatic aid in any way, you’ll pull people in.

Martini

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