Monday, August 07, 2017

Think Like Einstein by Peter Hollins - a Book Review

When 2017 began, I made a resolution that I would read more books this year than the previous year. So much distraction these days! Endless applications, Facebook, Instagram, news from every corner of the globe, forums of any kind -- where is the time to read good quality books? From my childhood I have always liked reading but noticed that I have been reading less and less in recent years. So that was the reason I made the resolution to give an honest effort to read more.

As part of this effort, the latest book I have completed reading earlier this morning is Peter Hollins' non fiction book, title: Think Like Einstein. I am writing this review as detail as I can, hoping that someone will get some benefits reading this review and hopefully will be inspired to read this particular book and overall to read more good quality books for rewarding feat.

Einstein's intellect is legendary. His contributions to the realm of science is widely known, even when I was growing up I heard his name uttered in reverence from my paternal grandfather who was an avid reader. 

It took me some time to get into the rhythm of the book though it started with two good riddles. The writer then unfolds various techniques that if used well can help thinking better. Almost like Einstein! I wish it were true. In my humble opinion, the intellect like Einstein is a rarity, though I agree with the premise of Peter Hollins that with dedicated efforts one can enhance one's intellect many folds. 

Chapter 1 talks about "Obstacles to Clarity of Thought". The writer gives 4 main reasons for why thinking clearly is not as easy as it should be for many. These are: 

1. Inertia and Sloth
2. Incorrect Logic
3. Incorrect Perception
4. Rigid Thinking

Inertia and Sloth - means we humans (most of us) by design are very lazy. We don't want to work more than what is needed to achieve our goals and after achieving the goals we abandon the efforts altogether. The writer gives an analogy here. It is like two scenarios: a ten minute car trip and a ten hour car trip. For a ten minute ride, the planning can be non existent, in most cases, but for a ten hour trip one must plan well. The problem is that most of us use the same strategy of 10 minute car trip into 10 hour car trip, so obviously causing problem. Peter Hollins writes: "we are taking the path of least resistance and only picking the lowest hanging fruit in the hopes it will get us where we need to be. We might solve the immediate problem we are facing, or get through to the next moment, but it definitely isn't the way of clearest or optimal thinking". Here is one more good quote on Inertia and Sloth: "Just because you were able to make an immediate problem go away doesn't mean you actually know how to solve it." This type of thinking lead to "close-mindedness" and stubbornness. 

The second obstacle to clear thinking is "Incorrect Logic". Here Peter Hollins gives examples of Logical fallacies as the prime reason of Incorrect Logic. What are logical fallacies? These "are errors in thinking that occur because we see an argument and don't necessarily examine it deeply enough to see that the argument isn't actually very convincing". 

The third obstacle to clear thinking is "Incorrect Perception". "Incorrect perception, typically known as cognitive bias, makes people think 1 + 1 = 3 and believe it to be true. Incorrect logic lies in the end result, where incorrect perception lies in the thought process." 

The fourth obstacle to clear thinking is "Rigid Thinking": it is also known as being "close minded" that leads to the unwillingness to consider different points of view. Looking at the polarized world of ours, where many of us abhors the thought of being disputed of our firm belief on any particular subject, may that be philosophical, political, social or economical outlook, Peter Hollins does good job driving this basic point well: "these harm your clear thinking because people tend to create a subjective worldview out of wholly objective events. Events themselves are neutral, and are only positive or negative based on the worldview one holds towards them. It's imperative to be able to see both sides and step outside the box of your rigid thinking.

In the second chapter of the book, Peter Hollins presents three frameworks of thinking: The Facione Six Part Model of Critical Thinking, The RED Model of Thinking and the Paul-Elder Model of Critical Thinking. I found this chapter has good information but mostly a dry chapter comparing to the other ones in the book. Don't get me wrong though. I have highlighted some important terminologies and their meaning as a kind of refresher, though basic concepts, but still good to re-read. 

Some of these quotations I've saved from this chapter are: 

Interpretation asks, "What am I seeing exactly, and am I missing anything?"

Analysis asks, "\What does this mean to me and why?"

"Inference is the ability to read between the lines and understand that information is missing, and make an educated guess about what it might be." 

"Evaluation asks, "Is this information good, valid, and reliable, or do I not trust it?""

"Explanation is the ability to present and break down information in a simple way such that almost anyone can understand it." 

"Self-regulation is the ability to think about your own thinking. It's to take a step outside your own head and determine if you are comprehending, or thinking about something, effectively." 

In third chapter of the book, Peter Hollins writes about "Creative Problem Solving". I like the definition he presents: "It's typically about making a connection between unrelated concepts, or suddenly understanding the underlying concepts that make a problem solvable". He also contrasts between problem solving and creative problem solving with good examples. 

He also has good advice about committing and producing as "committing is one of the options that are milling around your head will inevitably get you closer to a solution than thinking about your options, even if you end up being wrong. When you walk down a path, you will gain tools, knowledge, and experience to help you understand the problem as a whole and what might be missing from your solution." - good observation. If I'm remembering it correctly I had read similar observations from two other books in the past, first one was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and the second one is "Wait...What? And Life's Other Essential Questions" by James E. Ryan. 

In Chapter 4, the writer describes The Socratic Method - it is basically following ancient Greek method named after the famous philosopher Socratis - where one asks many questions to understand the true meaning of an assertions and while doing that finding any weakness and gap in the assertion. Here is a good quote: "if you are mercilessly questioned and picked apart with Socratic questioning, what remains afterwards will be heavily tested, validated and rock solid". 

In Chapter 5, Peter Hollins gives pointers on how make smarter decisions in life. Many of us feel indecision when facing crossroads in life, "We're indecisive because we don't want to be judged negatively. It's often a confidence issue as opposed to a pickiness issue." The techniques to be decisive and making good decisions are: 

1. Know that almost every decision is reversible
2. Apply good filters and boundaries to help making the decision

In Chapter 6 the writer describes the way to find one's intelligence type. One good point that he observes that I also had read in other articles is that a high IQ score might be correlated with traditional type of success and higher education, but it certainly doesn't cause success in itself. 

8 intelligence types that are provided in this chapter are: 

1. Linguistic and verbal 
2. Logical - mathematical 
3. Visual - spatial 
4. Body - movement 
5. Musical 
6. Interpersonal
7. Intrapersonal
8. Naturalist

In Chapter 7 the writer gives some pointers on how to make our brain run in optimal levels

The techniques described are: 

1. Prevent burning out by doing nothing - like sleeping good number of hours everyday, for example eight hours a night. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can also bring tremendous benefit in this regard. 

2. Do the toughest work/thinking at the right time of a day or night when the brain is naturally at its best. 

3. Eat good food and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid food like sugar, dairy and gluten (though I think meat and fish should have been included in this list by the writer) and good food list includes vegetables, ginger, green veggies and turmeric that fights inflammation in brain cells called miroglia. 

4. De-stress. "Manage your stress; manage your brainpower. Diet, exercise, adequate sleep, hydration and meditation have all been tied to lower stress."

Chapter 8 gives good explanation on different types memories, like sensory, short term and long term and how we can retain more information in our memories for longer. Some of the techniques mentioned are spaced repetition, usage of flashcards, mnemonics, stories and using of senses, especially using smell to trigger memories. 

In Chapter 9 the writer debunks some of the widely held notion (to him these are all lies). Here are the list: 

1. The Mozart Effect: classical music like Mozart, Beethoven do not help think better
2. Chess can be helpful improving certain individual skills but it does not makes one smarter. 
3. Brain training games like Neurotracer, Cogmed, Lumosity are useless. However, there is scientific evidence that aerobic exercise causes biochemical and hormone-related changes that literally increase the size of your brain. So there is some hope.

Chapter 10 gives some good primer on how humanity gets fooled by myriads of data centric opinion and news feed that bombards us everyday from zillion sources. Interpreting the world around us is increasingly dependant on how to evaluate data thrown at us. Most of us take data presented at a face value without asking the critical questions to check its validity or truthfulness. We get fooled by clever filters put by others to sway an opinion. Here are some of the pointers Peter Hollins makes: 

"Correlation is not causation" - "Just because two things occur at the same time means absolutely nothing -- it's as good as a coincidence without actual evidence to say otherwise."

"The Gambler's Fallacy" - it's the feeling that there are predictable patterns in what are actually random and independent events. 

"Selection Bias" - it happens when data presented is highly skewed and inaccurate because the data points involved aren't actually random. 

"Margin of Error" - measures the accuracy of the sample data.

In Chapter 11 the writer describes how to generate good creative ideas. Here are the techniques: 

1. Brainstorm ideas as prolifically as possible
2. Embrace outlandish ideas during ideation as it will open up new possibilities 
3. Setting a deadline on generating ideas can be beneficial as it can be motivating
4. Use each letter of alphabet and come up with new idea that starts with a specific letter, it will give 26 ideas at the least. 

In Chapter 12 the writer gives pointers on how to develop good judgement. Here is the list he covered: 

1. Balanced Viewing: It's like seeing the forest and the trees with equal importance by not diminishing the significance of either.
2. Understand Deductive Reasoning - "operate on hypotheses to make sense of data".
3. Skepticism - never believe everything you hear - see evidence before forming a solid opinion on anything. 
4. Recognizing our own bias:  by recognizing our own bias we will be self aware more that will help making good judgement. 

In Chapter 13, Peter Hollins describes, though briefly, how Einstein's thought process was. Einstein used thought experiment like "What If" scenario to its end to determine if a theory or hypothesis was true. 

In the very last chapter, Conclusion, the writer provides the answer to the riddle that he presented in the first chapter and ends the book with a positive note to readers: "Sharpening your insight isn't just about being more observant or solving logic riddles. That might be where it starts, but it can have a very real positive effect on your life." 

Peter Hollins' Think Like Einstein is a book full of good wisdom. Some of these may feel very basic to many, but even then refreshing these "basics" can bring benefits in one's life. 

I heartily recommend this book.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Caine Mutiny - a short review

A great entertaining novel by a powerful writer. Character building and the story plot were nicely executed. Sometimes it felt a bit too long but in the end I have enjoyed reading this book. Through vivid detail of tumultuous ocean, typhoon, the writer provided a sense of how insignificant humanity and civilization are in the face of a infinitesimal nature. Here is a memorable quote:

"what was Ulithi, after all? A tiny enclosure of coral in the empty, empty ocean. A ship sailing within ten miles of it wouldn’t even have seen it; and all the great Third Fleet, sinking at once, would not have raised the level of the sea by a thousandth of the breadth of a hair. The world’s arena remains, to this hour, somewhat too big for the most ambitious human contrivances."

I recommend this book.

We are the Borg - a Poem

We are the Borg
Resistance is futile
You will be assimilated, defeated
Your uniqueness, distinctiveness
and your pursuit of happiness,
life, liberty and dreams
will be shredded into clean pieces
and will be recycled into our mould

Resistance is futile
We are the Borg
We have come in style
To bring you freedom
and wealth, abundance
We will flourish together
Discarding the undesirables
Only the best of the best
Strongest of the strongest
Will triumph over the weak
We will swipe away
the compassionate freak

We are the Borg, the mighty, the beautiful
Give us your smart, vigorous pomp
We will stifle the wretched, the tired,
the poor and the huddled masses
into happiest quack, playful romp
And send us the homeless
We will transform them into statues
of liberties, of beautiful homes
for all to see and applause
in glorious days and victorious nights
Beside the neatly trimmed garden.
the golden door and a doused torch

----Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
August 2, 2017
Note: Some of the words are taken from Statue of Liberty Poem: New Colossus and a fictional alien character "The Borg" from Star Trek series.

Here is the original one:

The New Colossus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Here is the excerpt from Star Trek series where the Borg speaks: ""We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.""

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Two Books - Fiction and Non Fiction - Wait...What?

Two books I have read recently. One is Graeme Macrae Burnet's novel "His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to Roderick Macrae" and the second one is a non fiction written by James E. Ryan, title: "Wait...What? And Life's Other Essential Questions".

I have enjoyed reading both of these well written books.

Graeme Macrae Burnet's novel has good character development, and written such a way as if one is reading a non fiction account of an actual event. I am familiar with Scottish and Irish history, not a whole lot, but some through my other readings in the past. However, this particular novel describes the tragic life of a boy who was brought up in poverty in a remote Scottish village. What surprised me is so much similarities I have found between the central antagonist, the village constable who bullies a poor family and takes advantage of their plight and the rural villages in Bangladesh, where I was familiar with similar characters that used to be known as "Morol", or village leader, and some of them were as horrendous and brutes as the horrific character that Graeme Macrae Burnet written in his novel.

The main character, Roderick, had a tough life, lost his mother during child birth, had a rigid father who didn't know how to show love toward his children. Roderick was a gifted boy, so much so that his school teacher had urged him to pursue higher studies, but Roderick was loyal to his family so he stayed by them. Roderick's observations of injustice that the village constable was causing to his family and others in the village was heart breaking. In the end, the story turns to violence and innocent lives were lost for which Roderick had to pay ultimate price though most possibly, according to her lawyer, Roderick was mentally ill, however, in that time of nineteenth century, it was not easy to prove his case.

James E. Ryan's non fiction book "Wait...What? And Life's Other Essential Questions" is based on the writer's commencement speech at Harvard University where he is the Dean of Graduate School of Education.

The writing is effective as the writer points out several fundamental aspects of life that can help one get most out of his or her life. The very first pointer is to ask good questions without hesitation. It is by asking questions we can understand a true nature of a problem before jumping to a premature conclusion.

The second point that the writer point is to be curious at heart by asking "I Wonder..."? Being curious helps a person learn more about the world, our very existence, the universe and any other similarly perplexing questions. Curiosity is one of the biggest reasons that propelled humanity to its progress at this level I believe. The writer also correctly points out that curiosity leads to empathy. He writes, "Curious people are likely to be healthier, and to experience less anxiety in particular, because they see new situations as an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to realise that they don't know enough." The reason I find the writer's point is described well is because he had cited some of his own personal experiences including his search for his biological mother that is heart touching.

The third question that the write points out is "Couldn't we at least...?" - can really be effective as I can attest to this after using it to make my 3 year old son brush his teeth before going to bed. In a situation when things may seem difficult to solve, taking small steps perhaps can be helpful in many settings. Here is a quotation from the book, ""Couldn't we at least....?" is a good way to get unstuck. It is a way to get past disagreement to form some consensus...It's also a way to get started even when you're not entirely sure where you will finish, as in: "Couldn't we at least begin?.....The key to maintaining healthy and productive relationships is consensus...whether in politics, business, marriage, or friendship. Asking "Couldn't we at least agree?" especially in the midst of an argument, is a good way to pause, step back, and look for some areas of agreement."

Coming to negotiation, a middle ground, is difficult these days, as the writer refers to "group polarization" - "When like-minded individuals get together, online or in real life, they tend to reinforce each other's views. They not only increase the strength of each other's convictions, but they often lead each other, intentionally or not, to take even more extreme positions.....Asking "Couldn't we at least agree?" is a way to push back against polarization and extremism, because it is an invitation to find some areas of consensus. If you can find some common ground with others, especially those with different views, you are likely to see the world as a more nuanced place. At the very least, you are less likely to demonize those with whom you disagree."

The fourth question that the writer talks about is "How Can I Help?" - trying to help others is humane. Every human being is going through his or her journey of life, his or her stress from work, family, career, money issues, health, fear, anxiety, etc. Sometime we prejudge a person without knowing the full story. Being proactive and asking the question "How Can I Help?" "You will come to appreciate that.....It is the question that forms the base of all good relationships. It is a question that signals that you care. It signals a willingness to help. But it also signals respect, humility, and likelihood that, in the end, it is you who will be helped just as much." Good point.

The fifth question is "What Truly Matters?" that helps to differentiate between the really important and trivial. Here is a quote: "My only suggestion is that you regularly ask this question - of others, for sure. But more importantly, you should ask this question of yourself, and you should answer it honestly and fearlessly. If you do, this question won't just help you get to the bottom of an issue or a problem. It will also help you get to the heart of your life."

The writer has a last question as a bonus: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?" - human life is full of pain but also of sheer joy and happiness. By being bold, lending helping hands to others, not prejudging anyone, trying to getting into consensus, having empathy and sympathy for others, staying curious at heart forever, knowing the difference between the most important and the trivial matters and being humble can quite possibly lead one to say a resounding yes to the question: "And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?"

The following sentence by the writer sums it up well: "A sure way to feel beloved yourself is to help others feel the same."

Saturday, January 28, 2017

First They Came For ...

The problem is not only the disgraceful Muslim ban, the shameful wall, the taking away of privacy protection from many immigrants and non immigrants. It is also the ingrained belief in many that this banning decree only applies to those people from hand picked nations. History has the abundance of similar scenarios when the most vulnerable segments of the world were barred from leaving the persecutions of despot rulers. Many of them perished, children, women, men, emaciated, degraded to the utmost bottom level of a concerted dehumanization process. Yesterday's Remembrance Day for the Holocaust victims is one of the painful reminders of our world's blunder of the past.

My heart goes out to the countless millions in America, Europe and many other places, where the unmistakable xenophobia is rising in alarming speed. The ironic part is that the most victims of the violence, wars and senseless terrorism are the Muslims. They are the ones along with the other minorities trying desperately leaving the war and violence ravaged lands, mama and papa clinging to their toddler son and daughter, while grandma and grandpa hobbling along the ruinous roads and crumbled buildings.

Staying silent in the face of flagrant oppression is not an option as it tantamount to be complicit with the narcissistic oppressors. Being fearful to utter protestation is not fruitful either, and changing colour like a chameleon is ridiculously ineffective in the end, as Pastor Niemoller had captured it so eloquently many years ago during Hitler's time of inglorious prowess:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This can be rephrased in contemporary terms:

First they came for the natives, and I did not speak out --Because I was not native 
Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Black 
Then they came for the Mexicans, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Mexican 
Then they came for the disabled, and I did not speak out --Because I was not disabled 
Then they came for the gay, lesbian and transgender, and I did not speak out --Because I was not gay, lesbian or transgender 
Then they came for the protesting women, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not woman
Then they came for the poor white, and I did not speak out --Because I was not poor white
Then they came for the Muslim, and I did not speak out --Because I was not Muslim 
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Also, the Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl's immortal words from Man's Search for Meaning should be a constant reminder for our easily distracted and subdued souls:

"Danger only threatens when a political system sends those not-decent people, i.e., the negative element of a nation, to the top. And no nation is immune from doing this, and in this respect every nation is in principle capable of a Holocaust!"

"only two types of politicians: the first are those who believe that the end justifies the means, and that could be any means . . . While the other type of politician knows very well that there are means that could desecrate the holiest end. And it is this type of politician whom I trust"

"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers".

May the world and its trusted leaders and citizenry see the light of compassion before another terrible blunder is made.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I'd published the following review in Goodreads on January 4, 2017: 

Some in this world are indeed brave and full of compassion. The author of this remarkable non fiction book, Bryan Stevenson, is surely one of them.

This is an impactful book that gives detail on the sordid state of criminal justice system in the US, world's one of the most advanced nations in terms of economy and societal progress. If US is in such a painful state where equal justice and protection for all citizens needs an urgent transformative overhaul, then what can be said about other nations where democracy and human rights are in unstable ground?

In my humble opinion, this should be a must read book as I believe the real life pain and anguish of the innocent people who are denied the fair justice for so many years can help people who are unaware of this miserable justice system can help raise the awareness for the necessary correction in the system.

Some of the invaluable lessons I have learned are:

"mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion."

"The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned."

"An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others."

"people struggling for independence wanted money and recognition from other countries; they wanted more criticism of the Soviet empire from the West and more diplomatic pressure. But Havel had said that these were things they wanted; the only thing they needed was hope. Not that pie in the sky stuff, not a preference for optimism over pessimism, but rather “an orientation of the spirit.” The kind of hope that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future, even in the face of abusive power. That kind of hope makes one strong."

"being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity."

"we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent. A system that denies the poor the legal help they need, that makes wealth and status more important than culpability, must be changed. Walter’s case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous."

Thank you Bryan Stevenson for your honest and steadfast work.

This magnificent book reminded me another great book I was fortunate to read last year. It is Victor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. There are remarkable similarities in the noble concept of just mercy that Bryan Stevenson elaborated through various heartbreaking case studies with Victor E. Frankl's painstaking reminder what goodness of humanity can achieve. Here are a few excerpts from that book that I find go hands in hands with Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy:

"What then is man? Thus we ask the question again. He is a being that always decides what it is. A being that has within it at one and the same time the possibility of sinking to the level of an animal or of soaring to a life of near-holiness. Man is that being which invented the gas chambers; but he is at the same time that being which walked with head held high into these very same gas chambers, the Lord’s Prayer or the Jewish prayer for the dead on his lips."

Another excerpt: 

"And in their last words there was not a single word of hatred—only words of longing came from their lips—and words of forgiveness; for what they hated, and what we hate, is never people. One must be able to forgive people. What they hated was simply the system—the system that made some guilty and drove others to their death."

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

This year I will give my best to read as many good books as I can. The year started well. Yesterday I finished reading an excellent novel written by Eowyn Ivey. Here is the short review I've written in goodreads: 

An excellent read. So vivid and lively with wild Alaska imageries! For a few days while reading this poetically written novel I felt like transported to 1885, seeing the breathtaking journeys of Allen Forrester, Tillman, Pruit, Samuelson, Boyd and unforgettable Nataaggi along with Boyo through the harsh wintry Alaskan landscape, Indian villages and spirit full mountain pass leaping out from masterfully constructed words and scenes. Sophie's passion of photography, her patience and determination capturing the "light" around birds are uplifting.

Throughout the adventure of the main story the core human condition, the existential vulnerabilities, the strong's severe abuse of the weak, and the yearning for redemption in guilt conscious mind are depicted well. 

This is also a love story as the separation between Allen and Sophie during the long expedition and Tillman's longing for Nataaggi are written with melancholic sorrow. 

I have also enjoyed Walt and Josh's letter exchanges, clarifying the main story in historical context. I am looking forward to read this outstanding writer's many more books in future.

The following are two memorable excerpts from this book I's noted in my kindle, there are many like poetic observations throughout the book: 
"There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel."
"The forest has always had such an effect on my spirits, the moment slows until I can see the intricacies, bright and pure, like removing the back of a pocket watch to see the shining metal gears turning, turning."