Notes from the Underground (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1864) "The best definition of man is: a being that goes on two legs and is ungrateful"
I named my first blog after this book. So, maybe teenage me was affected by the book. But I don't know, maybe I was just impressed by myself reading a book like this and the name sounded cool enough for an online diary. Specifically given that the book itself is some sort of (fictional) diary, written by a man who describes himself as "I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased"
and "It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything; neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything."
You can see how a angsty teenager like myself would like that and moronically see some resemblance to himself.
A decade later, I'm rereading the book with a new perspective. More matured and less impressed by myself, I figured it was time to have a revisit to the Underground Man.
The book has two major sections. The first half is the ramblings of the narrator, cynical, nihilist, and dark, it's more a raving of an angry man that is inclined to contradicting himself and offering paradoxes throughout his philosophical barrages. It is interesting with some gems, nuggets to make you go "hmm", but it is not an easy read, because IT…IS…RAMBLINGS. "The formula 'two plus two equals five' is not without its attractions."
The second section moves away from this and offers an actual narrative of events. It has three anecdotes and that second half is a much better read. His ramblings take a backseat to telling a story and his musings give a background to the actions he takes in his anecdotes. The second half is a much better read. If the book's sections were reversed, I would have had difficulties finishing it. But once the stories started, it didn't take long for me to reach the end and wishing the narrator had told more stories from his life and ranted less in the beginning. "Yes — you, you alone must pay for everything because you turned up like this, because I'm a scoundrel, because I'm the nastiest, most ridiculous, pettiest, stupidest, and most envious worm of all those living on earth who're no better than me in any way, but who, the devil knows why, never get embarrassed, while all my life I have to endure insults from every louse — that's my fate. What do I care that you do not understand any of this?" 4/5
50 Things You're Not Supposed To Know (Russ Kick, 2003)
Useless book. I really should stop reading things with a good title. “50 Things You're Not Supposed To Know” sounds good. What am I NOT supposed to KNOW? Tell me random book!
Well, Adolph Hitler’s blood relatives are still alive? I didn’t think that Hitler was a mysterious alien life-form. The Auschwitz was originally an IBM code? So? The Korean War never ended? I knew that. And so on. Most of them are related to USA and are simple trivia such as the age of consent is not 18 in all US states (I knew that too). Others are based on things that nearly happened but didn’t, such as two nuclear bombs fell on North Carolina by accident but did not explode.
The book made it sound like secret information that we were not supposed to know, but when one of the 50 things is that smoking is bad for you, you have to feel a bit let down.