Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Variety is the Spice of Life

I have confessed before to being a greedy bookaholic.  In the last few weeks through recalcitrant tradespeople, medical mayhem, worry and fatigue I have continued to read.

I read on the buses to and from hospital, in hospital waiting rooms, on the ward waiting for the skinny one to wake.  I read early, I read late.  I neglect chores and read some more.

And have found some gems. 


Confessions of a Sociopath was one of the books I picked up at a recent book fair.  A memoir of a self-confessed sociopath who was curious enough to have herself medically tested to see whether she is a sociopath.  The answer was emphatically in the affirmative.

It is a fascinating book. albeit one which made me more than a tad uncomfortable.   She enjoys being a sociopath and, as a practising lawyer and law professor is, more than likely among friends - or at least others of her own ilk. 

She describes herself as charismatic, ambitious and successful.  And ruthlessly manipulative.  She claims to be a non-criminal sociopath, and devoutly religious.  No doubt both suit her - but she also admits to being a skilled and successful liar.

The book examines her life from childhood to the present - and draws on research to explain that sociopaths have a lot to offer.  Perhaps true.  I have long suspected that many successful CEOs, among other professionals, have sociopathic tendencies.  Just the same, I don't think any of them act for altruistic reasons.

As I said - fascinating, but discomforting too.  She is also a blogger - and I have not investigated her blog which seems to be a self help forum for other sociopaths and those who wonder whether the label fits.

And then for something completely different.

In his Best Reads of 2013 meme John Wiswell listed the next book as one of his best reads for the year.  And several other people who joined in also added their vote.

So I had to read it.


And how right he (and others) were.  I am very, very glad I read this book.

It is Helene Wecker's first novel - and I will be watching and waiting for more from her.  With luck a sequel to this one, but I would take a chance on any novel she writes.

We follow a newly created and currently masterless golem and an ancient jinni who has been captured and had his powers severely limited.  Both are stranded in New York City (circa 1899).  Stranded, and plunged into ethnic ghettos.  Stranded in a mass of humanity - whose concerns are alien to them.

Wecker doesn't take the easy way out.  The golem and the jinni recognise and reach out to each others differences.  Just the same, it isn't a simple love story - though there is certainly love.  And it isn't a simply a fight against evil - though that is there too.  The development of both the golem and the jinni is enthralling - but there are other winning character studies too.  Definitely a six out of five star debut.

Just two more books (in this post).

The next was a discovery that I snatched up to take my mind of the imminence of the skinny one's return home.





Allan Karlsson absconds out of his bedroom window (still wearing his slippers) rather than attend a birthday party to be held in the old people's home in which he lives.  His birthday party.  His 100th birthday party.

And the romp begins.  Think an unlikely journey involving a suitcase full of cash (not his), a few thugs, a few deaths, an elephant and incompetent police.  Add rather a lot of vodka, explosives and the slow reveal that Allan has played an important part (very much behind the scenes) in some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century.

It is a delightful find - funny, warm with some history and politics thrown into the picaresque mixture.  I note that Jonas Jonasson has another book out already and I will assuredly snaffle it at some stage.

The final book for this post was written by River Fairchild - a blogging friend.



This slim collection of stories was drawn from flash fiction River featured on her previous blog - which I looked forward to each week and devoured.  When it was honed, polished and given a more permanent life (afterlife) I had to have it.  It is available on kindle - and in paperback for dinosaurs like me.

Did you know that Death rode a Harley, and is addicted to peanuts?  Or that Chronos has a gold shag pile carpet (in which Death's peanuts are frequently lost)?

You didn't?  You need to read this gem.  Death and his best friend Chronos interact with other immortals in Purgatory and on Earth.  They are both very, very busy with responsible and demanding jobs - but make time (or one of them does) for fun.  And poker.  And parties.  And occasional altruism.  And some necessary repair work.  In the lead up to Christmas I have often longed for death - but my deficient imagination would never have gone to the places River's delightfully warped mind took her - and where I was very, very happy to follow.


Four very different books, but in their very different ways I received an education, distraction, amusement and/or comfort from them.  And it would be greedy to ask for more.

112 comments:

  1. Great reviews, I managed to get partially into both The Gollem and the jinni and The 100 year old Man...etc, but had to abandon them due to brain drain. I'll go back again soon and try again. The one about the sociopath irritates me and I haven't even read it *laughs. I have peeked at the blog and shall leave it there. River's Afterlife sound different, which is good, I'll have a peek there too. Thank you for the time taken, I'm glad you're managing to disappear into your books occasionally *smiles.

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    1. All Consuming: I hope that your brain fog is continuing to blow away with every breeze. And River's take on Death reminds me of Terry Pratchett's. A LOT of charm.

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  2. Greedy reading, I like that turn of phrase rather quite a lot. I'm always on the lookout for new books, original authors, interesting ideas; with lots of time on my hands I prefer to fill my mind with 'chewy' ideas and words, rather than the repetitive pablum which too often passes for writing... I'll be looking these out with interest, thanks for the recommendations!

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    1. Jaquelineand...: If I am feeling posh I say I am an eclectic reader. Greedy is probably a more accurate description.
      I will be interested to hear what you think of these books when/if you test drive them.

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  3. What an interesting assortment! The sociopath would make me pretty uncomfortable too… hmm… sounds like the stuff of many a lawyer joke! Oh dear. As for CEOs and politicians--absolutely! They are the ones who rise to the top, like scum. I once had a boyfriend who'd been officially diagnosed as a sociopath while still a boy. He was actually rather proud of the fact that his official diagnostic report had said he was successful at manipulating people to get what he wanted. He viewed it as praise. Something he was good at. He was good at making people do what he wanted.

    I used to be a voracious reader, but my marbles are getting a bit too loose for prolonged reading, although I do enjoy looking at art, craft and bookbinding books with lots of pictures. I've sort of been reduced back to childhood…. picture books…

    I am very, very glad you have your literary escapes now and then. Very glad! The more escape-friendly, the better!

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    1. Paper Chipmunk (aka Ellen): Your ex boyfriend would have got on well with the author of that memoir. She too is proud of who she is.
      I hear you on the loose marbles front. Things take me longer, and I don't retain them nearly as well. Still trying though. Often.

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  4. It is wonderful to know about new things!

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    1. Weekend-Windup: And even more wonderful to know that new books are coming out every day.

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  5. These all sound really interesting. I have the Golem and the Jinni on my reading list too, and will read it sometime soon. I flicked on to the sociopath's blog, read about 3 lines, and left again - but I'm glad you enjoyed the book. How could we cope with the world without books? I know I couldn't.
    Hope each day is a little better for the SP, and therefore for you.

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    1. Alexia: I refuse to even try and cope without books. Sanctuary, escape, education, comfort.
      We are still not moving (fast) along the recovery route. Slow steps in the right direction though (mostly).

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  6. I'm glad you have this escape - greedy reading. I logged in much time reading during my parents' long hospital stays, so I can relate. And I love that you have your reading list posted on your blog - I always like to see what you are reading. :)

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    1. Lynn: A love of reading is something I was given by my family. Early. And I am very, very grateful for it.

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  7. You give great reviews of these books you have read. great way of learning new things.

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    1. Margaret Adamson: Thank you. Only some of the books I have read though.

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  8. Excellent reviews and each sounds interesting to me. I served on the board of directors of a retirement/nursing home and we had an elderly gentlemen from the Alzheimer unit actually escape out his window. He managed to allude authorities for a few hours was all.

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    1. Grannie Annie: This gentleman escaped for a lot longer than a few hours - and certainly didn't have Alzheimer disease.

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  9. Love your book reviews EC ~ always something to pique my interest.

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    1. Carol in Cairns: Which one(s) have piqued your interest this time?

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  10. That is quite the variety! I really enjoyed River's accounts of Chronos and Death on her blog.

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    1. Alex J Cavanaugh: I loved River's Death and Chronos stories. And still do.

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  11. Very interesting books, indeed! Your book reviews are always great and I'm envious of your "greedy reading," because you enjoy such a variety of genres. I'm not very adventurous when reading....It boils down to I know what I like and I stick to it! :)
    I've been wondering about the "skinny one," and so sorry to hear of more doctors and hospital stays. Reading is great therapy, though, and I'm happy you have that to enjoy.

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    1. BECKY: Greedy reading is accurate. There are genres I prefer, but there are not many on the never list. Which enriches my world.

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  12. Your type of read is so different to my own and yet a couple of these books sound quite fascinating. I only read for about 30 minutes when in bed but i will have to check to see if our library has at least one or perhaps more of them. Phil is more likely to enjoy them but will make a note of the authors and titles. Thank you for the reviews.

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    1. Mimsie: Which ones do you want to explore? And it is a real joy of reading that there is something for everyone. Even greedy people like myself.

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  13. What an awesome surprise! Thanks for featuring my guys. :) Death and Chronos are dear to my heart.
    I've read psychology books geared for writers on sociopaths. The pride their "talents" and absence of remorse are mind-boggling.
    Golems, Jinni, and a 100 year old man - oh my! Thanks for showcasing them. I'll be checking them out.

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    1. River Fairchild: It was my pleasure to feature Death and Chronos - who have given me a lot of pleasure. And I am sniggering at the thought of putting booky temptation in your way.

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  14. I read the 100 Year Old Man and enjoyed it immensely. I'll check out the Golem and the Jinni next! Thanks for the great reviews. :-)

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    1. DJan: The 100 Year Old Man was great wasn't it? A very different take... And I hope you enjoy The Golem and the Jinni as much as I did.

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  15. Do you read on a device or just paper? I would love to send you SEEker. If I can find an email for you...the mobi is on the way :)

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    1. Author R. Mac Wheeler: Thank you so much. I prefer hard copies, but have a kindle reader on the PC. I am really looking forward to delving into SEEker. Thank you again.

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  16. You did a wonderful job reviewing these books and wetting my appetite to read a couple of them.

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    1. Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe: Which ones tempt you?

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  17. Awesome that you shared this list. It's so much easier to invest time in a book when you've got a positive endorsement from someone who read it.

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    1. mail4rosey: I have no difficulties in investing time in a book - except for lack of time. I hope others enjoy some of these gems too.

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  18. Nothing was appealing to me until (you guessed it) I made it to the 100 year old man. More power to him, and if my hospital window hadn't been boarded up (due to broken glass) I would have gladly jumped out. Off to Amazon to get that book.

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    1. lotta joy: He has a lot of charm. And who wouldn't want to escape from an old person's home - or a hospital.

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  19. Kindle version at Amazon is $9.99 and I got it anyway. I ONLY read free kindle books, and I'm sick of zombies. I just know it's going to help me in my mental escape from life.

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    1. lotta joy: I hope that you like it. I really hope you like it.

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  20. Sitting here in my hotel room on wifi reading your latest post! see how important you are to me! ha ha ha ha be back soon!

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    1. mohave rat: I hope your medical tests go ok - and that you have some pleasure while you are away too.

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  21. I, too, spend a lot of time in waiting rooms and I treasure it as, probably, my only available reading time. My life at home seems so hectic that the idea of sitting down to read a book rarely has a chance to pass through my cluttered mind. But, now you have tweaked my interest and I will have to add more books to my very tall pile of "books to read".

    My experience with sociopaths has not been something I wouldn't want to write about ... I think she left out the malicious and greedy part. As a nurse I understand that this could be called a medical (mental health) issue ... but the truth is, if a sociopath tells you he/she is being altruistic ... don't believe it. Whatever they are doing, the benefit will be theirs, not yours, in the end.

    A Golem and a Jinni ... this one I can't wait to read. There is so much possibility here and if you liked it, I know I will. This one will go on the pile :)

    The Jonas Johasson book sounds very much like a book I just read and the movie that was made from it ... The name fails me at the moment, but it was about an old man and an old abused elephant in a circus. Ring a bell? I may pass on this one because I plan to write my own 100 year old story, Ha!

    And of course we all know River and we all (especially at my age) think about death. I will get this one for sure because I think I would like an old soul that rides a Harley and eats peanuts. Thank you again EC for perking up my day. I don't know how you find the energy to take care of your own life and then take care of the hundreds of bloggers that love you so much. Be well and my best wishes to SP.

    Andrea @ From The Sol

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    1. Andrea Priebe: The malicious, greedy part was there. But not stressed. It is after all written from her perspective.
      The Golem and the Jinni was a delight.
      I think we are thinking of different books, on the old man, elephant in a circus front.
      Did you know that there are two blogging Rivers. One of them (River Fairchild) has multiple books to her credit (and credit it is) and the other is slowly and steadily working her way there. And I will read her books too.

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    2. I didn't realize there were two blogging Rivers ... now I am going to have to pay better attention. I will get the River Fairchild book and then I trust you will let us know when the other River book comes out. Thank you EC ... Be Well ...

      Andrea

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    3. Andrea Priebe: So much talent here in the blogosphere. And I will shout it to the rooftops when the other River gets some of her work published.

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  22. A great variety there EC. My first husband was a sociopath, so I sure don't need to read about one.

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    1. Karen: Too many of us have known sociopaths. Not a breed I welcome into my life.

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  23. Going out of my comfort/genre zone is hard for me, but I do love that Death rides a Harley, eats peanuts, while Chronos has a shag carpet. That might be enough to turn those pages.

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    1. Susan Kane: I hope you do investigate Death and Chronos. A lot of fun. And mythology. And wisdom. And fun.

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  24. Thank you for these book reviews, EC. A variety, indeed! The book about being a sociopath sends shivers down my spine. I'm not sure I could read it. Did you find it gave you insights that you are thankful to have, despite the discomfort of reading it? I have a hard time forgetting some things I read (that I should forget) but if it's a worthwhile learning experience, sometimes I can justify the discomfort.

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    1. jenny_o: I didn't get a lot that was new from the sociopath's memoir, but it confirmed and reinforced some of my prejudices. And it is always interesting to get another perspective. Mind you, there are things in my head which I would rather forget too.

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  25. I have read the Golem and the Jinni and I LOVED IT too! I am intigued by the sociopath book. A sociopath is formed by society... not born that way. So it is a very curious phenomenon, one I might check out after all. Since you loved Golem and the Jinni, I find it quite possible your other picks were good too. So I will add them to my lists to check out as well! I liked the variety you offered.

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    1. Furry Bottoms: I think the jury is still out on the nature/nurture basis for sociopaths. I suspect it is, like many things, a combination.
      I haven't (yet) come across anyone who has read The Golem and the Jinni and not loved it. I am so grateful that John nudged my weak-willed self towards it.

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  26. You've read some wonderful and interesting books. I agree with you that many leaders are probably sociopaths or have such tendencies.

    I love Death and Chronos. I'm so glad River published it so I can read it all the time.

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    1. M Pax: It would be hard not to love Death and Chronos. And I am not going to try. Like you, I am glad to have a copy I can dip into at whim.

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  27. I hope your reading as brought you some comfort at this time. Sorry things are so rough. I read about one book a year. :D

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    1. LL Cool Joe: Oh yes, books are always a comfort to me. A big comfort. I hope your mayhem settles soon. With or without reading.

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  28. How strange, so many books that you read, it is brilliant. Thanks EC.

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    1. Bob Bushell: Just greedy. Very greedy.

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  29. I think I've said this before. We have much the same taste.

    Thanks, EC. I shall put these on my TBRL.

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  30. I love a good story but when one contains humour and a different plot with a few surprises thats perfect.
    Merle.............

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    1. Merlesworld: There is almost nothing in this world (or out of it) that I won't laugh at.

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  31. I shall look out for the Golem and Jinni book.Sociopaths? Not so much. I've had dealings with more than one.Too exhausting.

    Did someone here recommend The Elegance of the Hedgehog to me? If so, I have to say it drove me nuts.In fact, I didn't read all of it.

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    1. dinahmow: I liked The Elegance of the Hedgehog - but didn't love it. And thought it needed some tighter editing. So no, you wouldn't have got a recommendation from me - or at best a guarded one. The Golem and the Jinni on the other hand...

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  32. Oh! Dear! That first book about being a sociopath is a bit disconcerting! I might by-pass that one.

    I do enjoy your book reviews, EC. So thank you.

    I hope all is going along well in your household. Best wishes to The Skinny One. :)

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    1. Lee: The sociopath was disconcerting - but I would rather read about her than interact in a more personal way.
      We are making slow steps forward - except that the skinny one dropped a bombshell on me this morning. He has a growth in his jaw!!! Which is growing. And he hadn't mentioned it before. Off for an ultrasound tomorrow. Hiss and spit.

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  33. I didn't think it was possible to be a "noncriminal sociopath." Doesn't sociopath involve illegal conduct? I'm with you on that book, EC. There's no justification or greater merit to society angle to play with that one. That author has an ego to go with her criminal tendencies.

    I'm glad you found other books more to your liking. I love River Fairchild, and I have yet to read your adventures. I'm sure they are good. She's a sharp wit.

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    1. Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com: I accept that it is possible (particularly for a lawyer) to be a sociopath and not a criminal. However, a lot of their behaviour is distinctly unethical. And yes, her ego is thriving.
      River Fairchild's work always entertains. She is a joy.

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  34. PS oops, I meant that I have yet to read HER adventures. =)

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    1. Rawknrobyn: I knew what you meant - and her wit and her humour are very present in these stories.

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  35. I have Living the Afterlife waiting for me on my kindle and yes, I did know that Death rides a Harley. He always has and a Harley is the king of bikes.
    Thanks for reminding me about The 100 Year Old Man who climbed out the window. I've been meaning to get hold of that, is it on kindle? I'll check at Amazon.

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    1. River: It is available on kindle - though it isn't cheap. Lotta joy investigated, and bought it and tells me it is $9.99. An excellent read though.

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  36. I heard the sociopath interviewed on ABC radio a while ago, I'll take a look at that book one day, thanks for the review. Having had the misfortune to work for a sociopath/psychopath I became very interested in how they tick and found 'Without Conscience' by Robert Hare a fascinating read.

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    1. Kim: Thank you - another book to track down. Probably when my mind is feeling a little stronger.

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  37. I'm amazed at the diversity of your reading, the first one has me curious as I didn't realize there was such a thing as a sociopath that wasn't criminal, then again I should have realized it having met a few, it puts a new spin on my thoughts about those folks.










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    1. Linda Starr: I am quite convinced that there are sociopaths everywhere - and that all of us have known a few.

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  38. I love a good book review and you have chosen some very interesting ones here. Enjoyed reading them all, thank you. Now I need to find a good book to read. It has been a while.

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    1. DeniseinVA: What genre do you think you will start to reclaim your reading mojo in?

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  39. Out of all the books you listed, the one that strikes me the most is the sociopath. I love getting into the minds of those who are criminally insane, mentally insane or just beyond our understanding of our 'everyday' anxiety woes. And it's in no way a "wow my life seems much better after reading this" type of thing --- it's just amazing what the mind can do to people who would normally be 'okay'.

    Great book review!

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    1. Deb: I am endlessly fascinated by people. I don't always like them (I often don't like them) but I am fascinated just the same. And I am not always 'sane' myself. So far not criminally insane, but ...

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  40. I haven't read any of these but they all sound fantastic!

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    1. Riot Kitty: They are. Very different - but an education and delight in all of them.

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  41. I don't think blogger is taking any of my comments today. I will try again with saying good for your reading list...the sociopath one interests me the most.

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    1. Bookie: I am certain I don't want her in my circle of friends - but I was intrigued by her story.

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  42. There are quite a few gems on your list. I remember an article a couple of years ago on sociopaths and how it was possible that at any given time we could be surrounded by people who could belong to this group and yet they acted just like normal people. That included us. Scary, uh? :-)

    Greetings from London.

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    1. A Cuban in London: Our culture rewards them richly too, when their behaviour suits us. Which says something in itself.

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  43. Thank you very much; at least three of them have gone on my to be checked out pile.

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  44. Re your first book: I sommetimes worked with a man many years ago who told me he was a sociopath - a term I had not really thought of at the time. He was very successful, the head of a major governmental agency whose name many in my land would recognise if I said it, and he told me he had never cried. Not as a child, not as an adult, not at his mother's funeral. Never. He did not understand why people cried. It did seem to trouble him. He saw me crying softly once, on a ferry trip round Helsinki bay as I began thinking of some family issues and he asked me how I did it. And later on during that same assignment we discussed the various affairs he conducted with women and I asked if his wife knew of them. "Probably," he said, dispassionately. "Why do you stay with her if you claim to have no feelings?" I asked. His answer was, "Because she makes nice soup." I just felt like relating that having read your comments on the book. I've played golf with him. He cares about winning.

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    1. Andrew MacLaren-Scott: He does indeed sound as if he is a very snug fit with the breed. Sucessful? Probably. Happy? Probably that too. Just the same it is not a way I want to live (which is just as well because I doubt I could). My suspicious mind wonders what use he would put crying to if he developed the ability. Almost certainly manipulation.

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  45. Wish I loved to read like you do but I just can't get that love. So glad you can

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    1. Kim @ Stuff could...: My world would be seriously diminished without books. My security blanket.

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  46. What great tips. The Hundred Year Old Man one has been turned into a film already here in Sweden as the author is Swedish. He's since followed up this book with a new one - so keep your eye out. I downloaded The Golem and the Jinni after hearing so many good things about it. Will now have to get around to reading it too!

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    1. ladyfi: I saw that he had another one - and will get it at some stage. Let me know what you think of The Golem and the Jinni.

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  47. I rarely read these days, much of my time is given to Rosemary my beloved who unfortunately is losing it , but slowly.
    But Rosemary is still able to master domestic jobs which keeps her mind active.
    I noticed you used the word recalcitrant. I first remember that word being used to describe the Indonesian Prime Minister by the Lizard of Oz .back a bit.
    Thanks for calling on my blog ..





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    1. Vest: My heart goes out to you and Rosemary. Look after yourselves.

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  48. That certainly is an eclectic sample!
    All of them sound like books I'd happily read. I've read an excerpt of the sociopath one before and it did make me uncomfortable, but it was interesting. She makes a good point that we wrongly tend to conflate sociopathy with automatic criminality. But still, I kept thinking her very book is quite manipulative!

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    1. Jackie K: I found her book extremely manipulative too - but she does tell us that it is one of the defining characteristics of sociopaths.

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  49. You should write book reviews for a magazine. How wonderful that reading is your companion as you go through these difficult times. Hope the skinny one is getting better, and that you're taking care of yourself.

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    1. Myrna R.: Thank you - on both counts. There are some signs that he is starting to improve which is wonderful. Despite some at least of those signs being him trying to do things he shouldn't.

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  50. I think I read about that sociopath book. I think people were shocked by it.

    And somewhere else, I read that lawyers, CEOs and journalists can be sociopaths. Hmmm.

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    1. Guyana-Gyal: I am quite sure that a number of 'high flyers' have, at the very least, sociopathic tendencies. And that there are a lot more of them than we realise. I didn't find the book shocking - but parts of it I did find distasteful.

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  51. I've never heard of those books and sure wish I had more free time to read. They all sound very interesting. Enjoy your weekend!

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    1. Cascia Talbert: Welcome and thank you. I make time to read by neglecting other things. And don't feel (very) guilty about it either.

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  52. G'day Sue,

    For heaven's sake, Gary, try and keep up. Good grief, finally, I get here. I know that your love of books was also a distraction during those times waiting. And those moments of frustration a bit more in the background during your reading.

    Very good of you to bring such awareness, Sue. Kudos for mentioning my adoring fan, River Fairchild.

    Have a peaceful, hopeful rest of your weekend.

    Gary

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    1. klahanie: All of us are your adoring fans. Your fans and Penny's fans. And welcome you whenever you arrive to add that certain something to our posts.
      A great weekend to you too.

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  53. All four books pulled me in, which is rare. My bookcase is burgeoning, I dare not look or buy.

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    1. Susan Kane: I hear you. My bookcases are stacked two and three deep and there are also books which simply do not fit. Greed.

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  54. Great reviews, EC, thank you. I find myself very drawn to the second and the last books, and will have to check them out.
    Even though I don't get much time to read nowadays, I think books like these are great to have on the bookshelf - for those rainy days or confined to bed, flu times.

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    1. Vicki: I don't have nearly as much time as I give to reading. It takes precedence over rather a lot of other things. Some of them of the 'should be done' or 'must be done' lists.

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  55. Wow... that is some eclectic reading there, which made me smile because I will read anything (back of a toothpaste tube, anyone?) if it's interesting.

    PS...I had to check out the blog of the first author and within five mins I had to close my jaw as I read a random post, read some comments and then clicked on *those* links... I live a sheltered life :)

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    1. Mark Koopmans: How nice to hear of another 'greedy reader'. And yes, the toothpaste tube, cereal packets and the like are certainly read here.
      The sociopath is fascinating isn't she? How the other half lives...

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