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Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to Jules Verne, and, shamefully, it only occurred to me a few months ago that I must get on and read Around the World in Eighty Days (Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours; 1873), which I've owned for decades and always meant to read but never felt the urgency despite Verne being such a much-loved author. But finally I have read it and I really did enjoy it.
Verne writes about Phileas Fogg, a Londoner; the best word to describe him is exact. One day an article in The Daily Telegraph appears that states that it is theoretically possible to travel around the world in eighty days. A debate in his gentlemen's club arises as to whether it is practically possible and, the upshot is Fogg decides that it is and sets out to prove it, making a £20,000 bet that he'll return to his London club on 21st December at 8.45 P.M. having gone from London through Suez, India, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, and then back to London.

Agamemnon by Seneca the Younger.

I started reading Seneca the Younger last year and I thoroughly enjoy his works: such is my devotion in fact I decided to read the works I didn't own online and I hate reading long pieces online. Hate it. But I can't resist, I'm just too curious, so this year I have two plays of his to be read online: The Phoenician Women and Agamemnon. And, because I hate doing it so much I can't say that reading Agamemnonwas a wholly fun experience yet I plodded through and I did get some enjoyment out of it (and I was grateful for the opportunity to do so).
Agamemnon was written around 55 A.D. and it's a story I know very well from Aeschylus. The story goes that Agamemnon, the king of Argos, returns home after ten years fighting in the Trojan war, and during those ten years he sacrificed his own daughter Iphigenia to appease the gods. Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra is, understandably, furious; she's also not been faithful - she and her lover  Aegisthus (Agamemnon's co…

Wordless Wednesday: The Amber Warning Edition.


Coming Up for Air by George Orwell.

George Orwell's Coming Up for Air (1939) made the past three days for me bearable: I've had a rotten cold, the type that makes you wonder if this is the end: I've been that poorly and I'm still suffering. As you might expect I've read a fair amount these past two days whilst being stuck in bed and too ill to sleep: On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne as well, and Coming Up for Air was the absolute best and I am eternally grateful to Mr. Orwell for making this gruesome cold not quite as bad as it would have been without it.

It's a simple plot: Orwell tells the story of George Bowling. He's 45 years old and by his own account not much a looker (fat and red faced). He's an insurance salesman and is unhappily married to Hilda who married down somewhat when she married him. George finds himself hardly living, merely existing in suburbia, and when he wins a small sum of money on a horse race he decides to retu…

Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) is a philosophical work written by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and published in four parts between 1883 - 1891. I think it's safe to say I've missed the boat with Nietzsche. I know people who have read it as teenagers or in their early twenties and adored this and other works by Nietzsche, but here I am in my mid-thirties and I was wondering why. It's not that I don't think Thus Spake Zarathustra is good; it is good and an impressive achievement, but it left me completely hollow and, dare I say, a little bored.

As in Russia during this period, Germany was concerned with the rise of nihilism and, as with all of Europe, Christianity appeared to be in decline as the influences of science and rational thought became ever more powerful. This influenced his philosophy and, in this case, Thus Spake Zarathustra greatly. In it, Nietzsche proclaims that religion…

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Meditations (Ta eis heauton) is a collection of thoughts and observations on ideas concerning Stoic philosophy written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius who ruled from from 161 to 180. It was written for his own benefit somewhere around 170 - 180 A.D. and it's thought these meditations weren't intended to be shared, and so the first time it was published was 1559 in its original Greek and not until 1634 in English. These writings have been divided into twelve books. Here's some of my notes on each book:
Book I
In this section Aurelius writes on things he has learned from people close to him, such as the importance of diplomacy over rhetoric, avoiding superstition, tradition, the avoidance of tyranny, and the importance of self-control. Here's two of my favourite quotes: 12. Alexander the Platonist cautioned me against frequent use of the words "I am too busy" in speech or correspondence, except in cases of real necessity; saying that no one ought to shirk t…

Wordless Wednesday: the houseplant edition.