the walking writer

Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered AmericaSuper Mario: How Mario Conquered America
Author: Jeff Ryan

One of my earliest memories from childhood is of my dad bringing home the original Nintendo console with a shiny gold cartridge entitled “The Legend of Zelda.” Although I didn’t get to play it often (my siblings hogged the system, so I ended up just watching a lot), it started a lifelong love of Nintendo games. Beyond knowing about Nintendo’s got its start producing and selling Hanafuda cards, I didn’t know much about the company’s early history. So I was excited to pick up this book and learn some more about a game company that has survived the odds through the decades and continues to thrive.

I enjoyed the majority of the book, but it started to get a little repetitive and a little too philosophical on the role of Mario in the world. Sometimes, it felt like the author forgot people play video games to have fun above all else. After about two-thirds of the book, I was starting to skim as I didn’t really want to read more about the hardware specifications of Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s PlayStation. The book is also a couple of years out of date, so it doesn’t cover any recent developments. There were also some bad jokes sprinkled throughout, and the Kindle edition featured some truly impressive spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, including words repeated several times in a sentence.

Overall, if you’re a Nintendo fan and you’re interested in learning more about the company’s history, this book is a decent place to start. Although this book focuses on Nintendo’s efforts to establish themselves in the United States, you’ll also learn plenty about the company’s history in Japan and some interesting tidbits. For example, did you know that the word Nintendo roughly translates into English to mean “leave luck to heaven?” If you want something more in-depth, however, I think there are better books out there.

“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”
Author: Jon Ronson

"So You've Been Publicly Shamed" CoverPeople say stupid things; it’s just a fact of life. Before the Internet however, people said stupid things to their friends and family and were unlikely to lose their jobs over it. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” covers a few choice stories of recent public shaming that occurred on social media. They are all stories you’ll probably recognize if you’re on social media or go to Google News occasionally. Through the book, the author explains each story and interviews the individuals involved, giving them a chance to give their side of the story. After reading the book, I came to the following conclusions:

  • People don’t deserve to lose their jobs over a stupid picture, joke, Tweet, etc.
  • People also don’t deserve the malice and attacks they get from anonymous Internet users when the person in question does something stupid.
  • If you want to avoid losing your job and getting attacked, you need to learn to be smart about what you share. Predicting what will go viral is impossible; all it takes is someone with more followers than you to make something of yours go big.

If you are really into social media, either as a user or observer, I highly recommend this book. I hope this book might help some individuals remember to think before they get angry at a silly tweet a random stranger made. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the online fervor when someone says something stupid. But, should you really feel good yourself about causing someone to lose their job just because they made a stupid joke?

After I finished this book, I admit there was a small part of me that wanted nothing to do with the Internet ever again. I’ve seen way too many examples of people treated horribly online for no good reason; sometimes it doesn’t even take a bad joke to rile up some corners of the Internet. There is lots of good to be found on the Internet, but sadly there is plenty of bad too. However, I hope that this book will start an important conversation and maybe change a few minds.

Title: “Everything I Never Told You”
Author: Celeste Ng

"Everything I Never Told You" Book Cover

By the time my hold at the library for this book was up, I had completely forgotten what it was about or why I wanted to read it. Instead of reading a summary to remind myself, I delved in and found myself sufficiently interested after just a few pages. “Everything I Never Told You” quickly grabs your attention by stating in the first line that one of the book’s character is already dead, unbeknownst to her family.

Due to the novel’s beginning, I was expecting a bit of a mystery, but much like another novel I recently read (“He’s Gone”), this book is really more about relationships between the characters. Throughout the book, we go into the past and back to the present as we learn more about the history, motivations and thoughts of the members of the Lee family. The writing flows relatively well, though the jumping back and forth between time periods does feel disjointed at times.

The story is very tragic in many regards, from the neglectful actions of the parents to the untimely death of Lydia. Although the book ends on a tentatively positive note, I was left feeling saddened and wondering if any of the characters really did learn anything; I could easily see a sequel about their bleak future. True change is difficult to come by, especially when the family was so entrenched in their attitudes towards each other and life.

Overall, the novel kept me interested until the very end, but I don’t really feel that the tragic beauty of this book will linger with me for long. If the parent’s actions had been more subtle and not unbelievably awful, I think there would have been lessons to be learned from this book as the characters would have been more relatable. As it was, I just found them too terrible to want to learn anything from. However, I will say that I would be interested in reading future books from the author. I think this is a strong debut novel from a new author, just not a favorite book of mine.

Recently, I attempted to read “The Paying Guests,” a long novel that comes highly recommended from many reviewers. Although I struggled early on to slog through the long descriptions of house cleaning and pages upon pages spent on the protagonist’s inner musings, I kept on reading. Towards about the 30% mark, I started to falter, so I looked up some more non-spoiler reviews for encouragement to keep going. I continued reading until about halfway when I finally decided I couldn’t go on any further. The characters were uninteresting, the author insisted on using 30 words when 5 would do, and the plot was moving at a glacial pace.

I don’t really like to give up on books, especially once I’ve already spent a few hours on them. However, I find that forcing myself to read something I don’t like invokes a few familiar emotions I haven’t felt since high school and college. Everyone remembers having to read classic literature in school. Classics certainly have their place and their value, but not everyone enjoys each and every book that is considered a “classic”. But when you have a grade on the line, you slog through the books anyway, trying desperately to absorb as much of the book as possible while reading it quickly so you can do something more enjoyable. In high school, for example, I remember having to read “Wuthering Heights,” and I strongly disliked it, especially the awful characters. In college, out of boredom, I decided to reread it to see if I still didn’t like it. My second reading did not improve my opinion of the book. However, I decided to read another classic written by another Bronte: “Jane Eyre.” I enjoyed that book immensely and wished it had been assigned in high school instead of “Wuthering Heights.”

Some readers have a policy of finishing a book, no matter how painful it becomes. Others have a set rule to quit after a certain point (such as the 100 page mark) if the book isn’t pulling them in. I don’t really have a firm policy, but as I learned in high school and college, reading a book that you can’t stand isn’t any fun. My attempt at “The Paying Guests” reminded me of that. Although it’s hard to quit a book after you’ve already read a significant portion of it, why suffer through it? Put it down and pick up something else. There are so many amazing books to read instead.

Everyone has heard of writer’s block, but what about reader’s block? Have you ever wandered through a bookstore, completely lost and unsure of which book to pick up? Or maybe you’ve spent hours browsing through the list of ebooks at your library, unable to find anything remotely appealing. For me, reader’s block tends to arrive after a string of books that I didn’t like. I think I develop a fear of reading yet another stinker. So, what can you do to break through reader’s block?

1. Read an Old Favorite

Reading a favorite book is like chatting with an old friend. Your favorite books can help you remember why you love reading in the first place. I pick up one of the Harry Potter books when I want to reconnect with an old favorite and get back into a reading mood.

2. Look for Books by Authors You Love

Think of the books that you’ve enjoyed in the past and look for other books by your favorite authors. Not all authors are capable of producing an entire library of quality books, but you may find some favorites. In my case, I often will read an Agatha Christie book when I’m feeling uninspired to read anything new. Although I’ve read many of her mysteries, I still have many more left to read.

3. Go Wild and Grab Anything

We live in a culture of endless research. Think about the last time you made a major purchase; did you spend hours reading the ins and outs of the oven that you were thinking of buying? Some book readers are the same way, spending lots of time reading reviews and trying to decide if it’s worth it to pick a particular book. If reviews are getting in the way of your reading habits, just pick any book that sounds good to you, completely ignoring how many stars it gets on GoodReads.

4. Pick up A Lighthearted Book

I find this option necessary if I’ve been reading a number of heavy non-fiction books in a row. My favorite version of a lighthearted book is usually a cozy mystery from an author I’ve read before. Try this list on GoodReads for more ideas.

5. Take a Break

If you’ve tried and tried to read a book and it’s just not working, take a break. There’s no reason to force yourself to read if you’re not enjoying it, unless you’re trying to read a required book for a class. Spend some time working on some of your favorite hobbies; your books will wait for you.

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