The 4-Hour Work Week

By pure chance I picked up this book when I was in Waterstones a month ago and decided to buy it as the title intrigued me.  I subsequently read a couple of weeks ago when I was in Italy.  For anyone looking to change the direction of their life and to figure out a way to live your life, embracing the things that you love to do, then this book by Timothy Ferriss is the one you need to read.

The fundamental principles of the book are;

  • You don’t need to be a millionaire to stop work and pursue your dreams.
  • If you lost your job tomorrow, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen.  If you really look at this seriously you will understand that it is never usually as bad as you imagine.
  • Focus on your strengths and experience.  If you focus to improve your weaknesses, they will be improved but they will still be weaknesses.
  • Focus on the key things that make a difference, outsource everything else.  You will be surprised how easy and cost-effective that can be.
  • Get over your fear.
  • Live more, work less.

The book is full of practical advice, reference material, url’s and examples of people who have done exactly this.  Possibly the easiest way to get insight into the topic is to visit the website and then go to Tim’s blog.  There is a huge amount of information as well as video clips of a number of people who are now pursuing their dreams.



Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover Ups

I am just over half way through this astonishing 688 page book by Chapman Pincher that summarises in excruciating depth the breadth and depth of the Soviet penetration of the British Intelligence Services for over 30 years and the impact on so many lives.  The book covers the Cambridge 6 as well as Philby in MI6 and builds an unassailable case against Hollis who rose to the very top of MI5.  The most striking thing for me has been how English cultural attitudes of old boy networks, a chap having the right background, allowed for such mind-boggling ‘incompetence’ to largely go unchallenged by the UK authorities that people are taught to trust with the protection of their society.  Add to that the systematic, deliberate lying that then took place across a wide section of the civil service and politicians to protect “reputations”.  It says so much that Americans had to exert huge pressure to get even the slightest public acknowledgement that there was a problem and usually that occurred only when the traitors had fled to Russia and were unavailable for interviewing by either the authorities or the press.

When you read this you understand why there is such widespread disillusionment with political, military, civil service echelons in the UK.  So many people criticise the Americans and American culture but there is a much more effective set of checks and balances in the US than in the UK.  I think there will be many people in the UK who lost relatives in WW2 and the Cold War who might question the sacrifices made by so many to defend such a morally corrupt outcome.

I Love My Kindle

A couple of weeks ago I purchased a new wireless Kindle from Amazon.  All my adult life I have a steady, not prolific reader.  With all of my favourite authors like Neal Asher and Iain M Banks, I have usually ordered the latest hardback editions.  On my last trip to India where I carried with me 3 novels plus 2 travel guides, I suddenly had 6 kilos of books with me.  I also have to admit that up until that point I could never see the point in an e-reader, but on that holiday, I understood.  I did consider for approx 2.5 secs an iPad but then realised I wasn’t that desperate to be cool and frankly I am too tight to spend that much money on a large i-nophone.

So I researched the Kindle and bought one.  Fantastic, it is great.  The the sharpness and definition with the electronic ink pages is much much better than I expected.  It is as easy to read as a book.  Font size, line spacing and page orientation is completely adjustable.  You can browse the library of 400,000 titles, most of the classics are free.  Newspapers, magazines and blogs as well.  Instant delivery, no postage costs.  Light weight and very easy to hold.  Can hold up to 3,500 books (more than enough for a 3 week holiday with the family) and in your books you can bookmark a page, highlight text and save as well as annotate something that you want to reference in the future.  If you install the Kindle application on your iPhone, you can also read you book(s) on your iPhone and the Kindle knows the last page you completed on the iPhone, so you don’t have to search to catch up.

If you enjoy reading, I really recommend the investment.

Cows and Tigers – two excellent books related to India

Since the trip to India last month, aspects of India now keep appearing in my life.  This post is about two really excellent books, each very different.

The first is titled ‘Holy Cow’ by Sarah MacDonald.  Sarah used to work for the radio station Triple J in Australia (the only station worth listening to in the country by the way) and she followed her boyfriend to India after he was posted as the ABC correspondent.  Sarah couldn’t work so she travelled India looking for her own personal enlightenment via yoga or religion.  Her experiences are wonderful and told with such a great sense of humour.  She had previously backpacked around India and decided that she hated the country with a passion.  As she was leaving, a beggar read her palm and told her she would return one day for love.  Eleven years later she does.

The book that I am currently reading is one that I stumbled upon at the airport this week – ‘White Tiger’ by Aravind Adiga.  This is his first novel and with it he won the Man Booker prize in 2008.  It is funny, sarcastic, witty and the pages just keep on flying past.  A book that wont let you stop until you finish it.

If you have been to India already, both these books will pull memories flooding back in and if you haven’t yet been, you will still have a big smile.

Spencer Chapman

Picked up a book at the airport the other day titled  ‘Jungle Soldier’ and it is the true story of Freddy Spencer Chapman.  An amazing man.  He was born in 1907 and at an early age he and his brother were given into the care of a vicar and his wife.  He essentially grew up as an orphan, but his character was such that he was always determined to do things his way, which in Victorian England mean’t you had a fairly tough life.  When the Japanese overran Malaya in 1942, he was trapped behind enemy lines.  His response was to begin a commando campaign of such lethal effectiveness that the Japanese deployed an entire regiment against him, hunting him as no other.  He was wounded and racked by tropical diseases.  His companions were either killed or captured.  He remained in deep jungle for three years and five months to survive WW2.

When I read about his early formative years I wondered what would have happened if he had been born now.  He would have been diagnosed ADHD, drugged and everyone would have focused on ‘protecting’ him from experiences which actually formed him into an amazing person.  There seems to be so few children these days that are allowed to be themselves and develop in their own way particularly if schools, parents and society label them as ‘difficult’.

His guiding principle for so many things was “Everything is neutral, it is only thinking that makes them good or bad”.