Shelf Life Expiration Review: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Slowly but surely, I’m flipping through the pages of the books I’ve hoarded and neglected and will be giving mini-reviews on what I think of them in the new segment Shelf Life Expiration Reviews.  Last month, I took to task reading the philosophical narrative Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. What a powerful read.

Sophie's World | Shelf Life Expiration | Stressing Out College | stressingoutstudent

I’ve had a mild fascination with the history of major philosophies for quite some time, having read a little here and there throughout my hefty academic career. However, I had been having a hard time figuring out where to properly begin my sojourn into the world of philosophy – something more put together than a series of Wikipedia articles, but that would take less effort than reading translations of interpretations of translations of old texts?

Sophie’s World was my answer.

Gaardner opens us into the cradle of western thought in Greece and guides us through the cliched whirlwind tour of the history of western philosophy. At first, the metanarrative seemed like a cheap, lazy veil of a story to carry the history lesson through. But it ended up taking a brain-picking turn for the unexpected. Socrates, the Renaissance, Hume, Hegel, Darwin. It’s by no means an exhaustive look at the history of western philosophy – he gives Nietzche a mere sentence of a mention – but it’s great for newbies like me. And the index at the back makes for easy referencing.

I still don’t understand all of what happens narratively in the novel with Gaarder toying with questions of perspective and reality, so I suppose I’ll just have to read it again sometime. Not complaining here. Sophie’s World gets the Shelf Life Seal of Approval from me.

This is the first Shelf Life Expiration Review of hopefully many more to come. I’ll try my best to read a non-school-related book each month from my Shelf Life Expiration List and tell you how great, mediocre, or terrible I think it is. Have you read Sophie’s World? Or any book like it? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.

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101 Damnations: 101 Stressed Out Ramblings

Because I, like every neurotic narcissistic individual on the Internet, enjoy celebrating mundane trivialities.

Here on Stressing Out College, we kicked off the new year a week late with post No. 100, appropriately about my love of new years resolutions. 100, a round number, aesthetically pleasing, easy to work with in math. Who cares- I’m just making up a reason to post and liven up this place a little bit.

A lot of my previous ideas on this blog lost steam with me and I’ve been having issues rediscovering my inspiration. There’s only so many ways I can say that college and life stresses me out and that some people or institutions are stupid. The only recurring segment that I’ve been keeping up with is the Scrap Paper Poetry, which I’ve actually been rather happy about. A series that I did way back in the third age of this blog was Transportation Tuesday, which I’ll be bringing back. Don’t know why I ever stopped it. Public transportation is loaded with comedic material. And I’ll be starting a monthly series in February reading and reviewing a book from my neglected book shelf, so… we’ll see how that pans out.

But to cut to the real meat of these cojones, what I really wanted to do was plug my other blog: The Big Blog of All the S#!t I KnowWhy everyone should be following me around and listening to what I have to say.

Big Blog of All the Shit I Know Logo

Shameless self-promotion time: While I rant on Stressing Out College about random topics loosely related to school or Monty Python or whatever it is that I tend to write about on here, The Big Blog of All the S#!t I Know is where I share my thoughts on society, civilization, organic relationships, and universal ecology. A bit heavier topics, but not without the sarcastic lightness you’ve come to know and love from me. ((Insert cheesy smile here)) Plus, I tend to swear more there. And they have cookies*. So please go check it out!

And finally, I would just like to say thank you to all my readers (yes, all five of you). Without you folks, I’d just be that crazy-haired chick at your local street corner constantly muttering to herself about how awesome Oscar Wilde and Monty Python are and wouldn’t it be great if education wasn’t so frustrating…

So thank you and let’s make this year even more stressful than the last.

Cheers,

SOS

*Just Internet cookies. Sorry, not sorry.

Writing ’13 Instead of ’14 on My Papers ‘Cause I’m A Rebel… or Forgetful

Congratulations, fellow Stressors. You’ve made it to another calendar year. (So what if I’m a week late. 2014’s not going anywhere anytime soon – unless you’re not reading this in 2014…)

As you can see, I’m back from winter break. I went to Hawaii, spent time with family, and did a bunch of cool stuff that I’m totally not going to talk about here. Instead, what I’m going to bore you with is a rant on… something?

Eyes Close Up - Stressing Out College

Or we could just have a staring contest.

Some of you, like me, have just started back up on your classes for your winter quarter or semester or whatever system you’re on. If you’re not yet back in classes, cherish your moments of non-academic vacationhood or else I’m going to reach through this screen and bitchslap some sense into you.

Bear with me as I get back into the swing of… actually doing stuff.

2014. Is it going to be a big year? A small year? A Napoleonic year? Hell if I know. I do know that I’ll be turning 21 this year and that’s pretty much about it.

As you may remember, I have no interest in resolutions. They’re silly. End of story. I make gentle suggestions to myself that I end up ignoring 97% of. [Gasp, a preposition at the end of a sentence.] So here are my gentle suggestions of 2014:

  • Read at least one unassigned book per month. When classes start, life stops. Leisure time gets replaced by lesion time as I drag my discipline and motivation to study through the dirt behind me. My list of books that I own, but have yet to read keeps growing.
  • Learn a non-Monty Python song on the ukulele. The uke is something I got on a planned whim a couple months ago. It’s very travel-friendly and it has a lovely timbre, but I tend to plateau quickly when learning something like this without an instructor holding me accountable. Damn my laziness. My YouTube muses are not soaring.
  • Take a stroll through the gym. No, no, Subconscious, I know what you’re thinking (paradoxically). It’s not like I’m going to be getting on the elliptical or picking up any weights or breaking a sweat. No, no, no, silly. Just a stroll. I am after all paying some hundred dollars in my student fees for the recreation center. Why not take an innocent, sweatless stroll…
  • Scribble more. This blog has been a good semi-creative outlet. And I’ve found that with activities like NaNoWriMo, I actually do like writing. So maybe I’ll put pen to paper or finger to key more. Maybe.
  • Figure out what the heck I want to do with my life. Ha. Still kidding.

That wasn’t a rant. But it’s good to be back.

Edit: And oh my goodness, Sherlock is back! (If you haven’t watched it because it’s not available in your area yet, e-mail me and I’ll let you know how to watch it on the BBC website now: stressingoutcollege@gmail.com. Shhhh, you didn’t hear anything from me…)

How were your holidays? Got any new year resolutions or suggestions you know you’re not going to keep? 

The Obligatory NaNoWriMo Announcement Blog Post Thingy

If you’ve been even remotely near any writerly circles on the Interwebs (which you likely have since you’re on a WordPress site), you know what this post is going to be about. No M. Night Shyamalan twist. No revolutionary authorial innovation. As of the publishing of this article, it is October 31st, what most consider to be date of All Hallow’s Eve, but what amateur writers know to be as…

THE DAY BEFORE NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH.

(Also known as “The Last Day of Restful Sleep,” “The Beginning of the Great Annual November Coffee Flood,” “Descent into Insanity,” and “The Day of Slamming Doors into Trick-or-Treaters’ Faces in Favor of Last Minute Plotstorming” – among others.)

If you are indeed reading this on Halloween Day, this means there is less than 24 hours before the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for those in the kNoW (See what I did there?… Oh God, the descent has already started.)

For those of you not cool enough to have known about this, here is a rundown of what exactly NaNo is:

  • Goal: Write a story at least 50,000 words long by the end of November – this amounts to at least 1,667 words a day on average
  • No starting before November and you lose if you don’t finish by November 30, 11:59:59 pm
  • Just kidding, this isn’t the writers’ Hunger Games
  • Kiss your bed goodbye for the next month
  • Stock up on coffee and trail mix
  • If you’re a student (like me), your grades will suffer
  • The point is to leave your perfectionism at the door and simply writeyou can edit it it all in December when you’re done
  • Sign up on the official website to meet fellow NaNo-ers, read and contribute great advice, and just have a ton of fun. Writing nerds unite!
  • Also, it’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) – self-explanatory. Those attempting to do both NaNo and NaBlo at the same time should be committed to a mental asylum.

I’ve attempted the NaNo shenanigans a couple of times – did not meet the goal either times. What I found was my greatest problem was a lack of purpose or end goal. I recently spoke to a friend of mine and he gave me the most mindblowingly simple, yet extraordinary advice I had ever heard pertaining to writing: start with your ending.

*head explodes*

Perhaps you’ve thought of this before and you systematically do this when writing long stories, but I had never thought to do this before. This was perfect! Create your ending, so that you have a target to aim at whilst furiously scribbling/typing away. It doesn’t matter where your tangentify your story off to, you can always bring it back around to where you wanted it to end. And of course, the end can evolve as you delve further into your story, and the evolution is made that much easier because you had a place to start. While you are the author, you’re still not some god – you cannot make something come from absolutely nothing.

With this advice in mind… I still have no idea what the hell I have to write about. Oh well, I still have *glances at clock*…

Sonofabitch.

NaNoWriMo Participant Cover

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? How did it go? Will you be participating this year? If you’re a fellow student, how are you going to balance school work, NaNo and procrasterbation time? How many gallons of caffeination will you drink this month? Good luck!

I’ve registered on the site as stressingoutstudent, so feel free to add me as a writing buddy!

Pep talks, funnies, and more NaNo info:

Hi, I’m Stressed Out Student, and I’m a Bibliomaniac

This kind of post isn’t new. I ain’t special. The interwebs is brimming with people who love to – le gasp read. However, a sizable chunk of those people simply like books. “Why, whatever is the difference?” You ask me from across the table, pinching the handle of a tea cup between your index and thumb – pinky erect. “Well, good chap, in honor of Banned Books Week, let me enlighten you…”

(Why the hell this just turned into a Downton Abbey outtake, I have no clue).

Those who love reading may be categorized under the general term of “bibliophile.” According to Merriam-Webster Online, a bibliophile is “a lover of books, especially for qualities of format.” It doesn’t get much simpler than “book lover” in the etymological breakdown. Bibliophiles are people who love to read, collect, admire books, etc.

And then there is the “bibliomaniac“: someone with “an exaggerated preoccupation with the acquisition and ownership of books” (Free Online Dictionary). This is someone who love books not so much for their content, but for the value of the physical books themselves. If you’re familiar with a certain page on my site, you may have already realized that I have slight bibliomaniacal tendencies. Basically, a bibliomaniac is a book hoarder. How glamorous.

Exhibit A) I brought four books with me on my travels this summer:

Bibliomania Exhibit A

And I came back with nine. No joke.

There’s even a book that isn’t pictured here: I had left the book on a table in a hotel for someone else to take, since I was finished with it and knew I would never read it again. (It was Deception Point by Dan Brown. Entertaining for a mass market paperback, but not worth keeping – and coming from a hoarder, that’s saying something.)

So there’s the thing, I have a tendency to collect books that I think I’m going to read (and by golly, I will!) and books that I think are impressive (I mean, Classics of Moral and Political Theory? Really?) – but I do really like to read as well. I’m not voracious or all that ambitious of a reader. I just like having a book now and then. Sometimes, I don’t quite feel entitled to say that I love to read. True bibliophiles seem to have a new book brushing their noses every week, while I go through periods where I don’t read anything substantial from a book for weeks (not including textbooks and required reading).

Therefore am I a noble bibliophile or a poser, a materialistic bibliomaniac?

Well, neither, obviously. To even have this discussion- sure, books and reading are great, but they don’t need their own pedestal. Yes, encourage literacy among our children, but there’s no need to ram it down their throats and make them feel bad if they don’t like sitting around reading books day and night. It takes all kinds. And is there a need to shame bibliomaniacs for liking books just because they look nice or have some value not related to their content? Of course not. Obsessing over a first printing of a Dostoevsky novel is definitely not the worst form of materialism.

What does bibliophilia/mania mean to you? Where do you fall in the spectrum? And what have you read recently? Share some recommendations in the comments! (As if us maniacs needed more books).

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