Book Reviews

It’s always a good idea to grab a book when going on a trip. If you are thinking about reading a book but have no idea what to read, here are a few reviews of some books I have read. Not necessarily my favorite books, some of them are though. If you like reading books check out Goodreads (my nick there is maakopla, feel free to add me. I have more reviews there)



by George Orwell




This is a masterpiece and not only a must read but a must own book not only for politics/history students but every single person in the world. This is a dystopian novel about totalitarian tyrannic future world which spares no one, when people do not only follow the system but become slaves of the system. Protagonist of the story is a lower member of the party, Winston Smith, who still vaguely remembers the days before the party and tries to get a taste of the old times. He meets Julia and their relationship grows warmer until they both get caught by the party official and are tortured until they finally betray each other, accepts that 2+2=5 and other principles of doublethink (you know it’s not true but you make yourself think it is). Later they meet again but are not interested in each other anymore, they both love Big Brother instead.

Oppressed society with 24/7 surveillance, unlimited censorship, extreme nationalism, sexual repression and endless rules. After reading this book it actually becomes scary when you realize that some unbelievable crazy unfair elements described in the book actually apply to this day society. A book which will make you think, endlessly. Does the system control us or do we control the system. Perfect read on a trip, especially if you are on your way to North Korea.

3 Cups of Tea

One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One Tea cup at a Time 

by Greg MortensonDavid Oliver Relin 

This book in a  real life story about Greg Mortenson, how he failed to conquer the heights of K2, lost his way while going back to Islamabad, found a rural village and fell in love with it and its people.  After seeing in how poor circumstances the kid studied in what was supposed to be called a school he made a promise that changed his life. He promised to come back and build a school for those kids.

I must admit this book changed my views on Muslims quite a lot. I am very open minded when it comes to different religions but Islam has always been somehow hard to accept. I even read 100 pages of Qu’ran but it only made everything worse.  This book however, is very practical actually. It shows an everyday life of a Muslim country, a struggle of a western man to do good and to be accepted in a difficult society. I could not put this book down once I started reading.

The only thing which greatly annoys me is that Greg Mortenson is described as some kind of superhero in the book, how typical for Americans. I don’t see him as some hero, he is just a normal man and has million flaws, he often appears to be even annoying. But this is a captivating story of hope which shows that if you try enough everything is possible. What Mortenson does can not be dismissed as something insignificant. In the beginning he had nothing yet he managed to create so much from that nothing.  The best part of this book is that it is based on a true story.

12 Chairs

by Ilf and Petrov

The novel s iconic hero, Ostap Bender, an unemployed con artist living by his wits, joins forces with Ippolit Matveevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman who has returned to his hometown to look for a cache of jewels hidden in a set of chairs that were nationalized after the Bolshevik Revolution. The pair s search takes them from the provinces to Moscow to the peaks of the Caucasus Mountains. On their quest they encounter a variety of characters, from opportunistic Soviet bureaucrats to aging survivors of the old propertied classes, each one more selfish, venal, and bungling than the last. – summary from Amazon.

Darn, that summary was so well written I couldn’t but copy paste it here. Truthfully speaking it has been years since I read this book and have already forgotten some of the events. Overall the book is HI-LA-RI-OUS! You will find yourself constantly laughing. I don’t have much to say, it’ well written and entertaining, serious but at the same time extremely humorist. Clever parody of the soviet times, extremely clever.  However, if you are not Russian or don’t know much about Russian culture/history this book might be a bit hard for you to digest and maybe you won’t completely understand the beauty of it without checking a few good quality reviews. Recommended for a good laugh.


What’s the right thing to do?
by Michael J. Sandel

This book introduces you to some of the most significant political thinkers and theories. It challenges your way of thinking and definition of justice trough controversial examples.

Overall it was an interesting book as I am interested in political philosophy and enjoy  facing hard questions of the right and wrong. The topic sounds boring but the book is written in such a way it won’t make you doze off like most textbooks do. I think this general knowledge book is a good read to repeat what you might have learned in University. Or if you haven’t learned you will now. Anyway, for me this book was a bit too easy to handle, I have studied politics for one year. For me these moral questions weren’t mind blowing or anything, I was well aware that justice has never been a simple matter.

I wouldn’t say this book was mind blowing, that it opened my eyes or made me think differently. The examples were way too simple for my liking. But if you are a person who has not studied politics or philosophy and haven’t been interested in matters of justice before maybe this book could be an eye opener, a guide  into a more divine world of philosophy. Nevertheless, this was a good travel read though I think it was a bit lacking.  It could have been longer and could have introduced more controversial issues, more theories, more. What comes to controversy the text was way too tame and neutral.


Journeys Through the Arab Spring 
by Johnny West

A book written by a journalist who formerly worked for The Reuters. He traveled to Tunis, Egypt and Libya to the places where it all started and met average people, just like you and me, in cafes, on the street, in the trains and other every day locations. He talked with them to find out what do they think about the Arab Spring, what does it mean to them and what do they think will happen in the future.

A very actual read nowadays. The writing style is simple and easy to follow, I often felt like reading a very long National Geographic’s article. The book is not mind blowing but does give a good overview on what’s going on there, on the spot and how did the Arab Revolution change these countries. An enjoyable and interesting read, I liked it.

Myths, Illusions, and Peace

Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East
by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky 

A general overview of the situation in the Middle east and the development of the peace process, failures one after another. The book tells the history, how did it all start and develop, then analyzing the ongoing peace process since it’s early stages until recent times.

I really enjoyed this book because I am greatly interested in the topic, though sometimes the text was a bit boring to read, very school bookish (at times I felt like highlighting some parts as if I was getting ready for a test). But it was also very informative and educational, gave me a good and (the most importantly!) NEUTRAL overview of the problems, solutions and also explanations of failures. This book is an eye opener in an era when news are usually biased to one direction or another.

The Alexander Pushkin Collection

Six Works in One Volume 

The best way to start getting familiar with Russian classics is to read Pushkin. His text is a light but extremely rich read. It overflows with colorful Russian culture, you can almost feel it or see it front of your eyes. Pushkin’s style to describe is incredibly lively and it will make you feel as if you have been there and seen it all, no kidding. His stories are not too long either so it’s a relatively easy read. It’s not a coincidence he is one of the most famous and loved writer in Russia.

This collection has some of his most famous stories, usually very romantic so if you are someone who likes well written heart throb romance in idyllic settings, you will fall in love with this charming playboy’s writings. His works also usually include well hidden criticism about the time he lived in. Overall Pushkin’s texts will lift your mood for better and make you smile.

Includes following stories:
Boris Godunov
Eugene Onegin
Marie, A Story of Russian Love
The Daughter of the Commandant
The Queen of Spades
The Shot

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

This book tells a story of Amir, a boy who grew up in pre war Afghanistan. A story about betrayal, war torn family, escape, American dream.  A story about sins, traumas and getting over. A story about humanity. In a nutshell Amir is a son of rich official and his best friend, Hassan, is the son of a servant. They are inseparable until one day when Amir betrays their friendship (he never considered them friends in the first place, anyway), after that everything is a downhill. The war breaks out once Soviets attack Afghanistan then Amir and Hassan are separated when Amir and his father escape to Pakistan and then finally America. However Amir is haunted by his past and even though he managed to start his life anew in America, one day he is forced to go back to Afghanistan to face the sins and the enemy of his childhood. The main character is an annoying, whiny, selfish and pathetic asshole so in a sense, this book is truly about humanity.

This is the worst book I have ever read and I do NOT recommend for anyone to waste any time on this total shit. I read that the writer of the book, Khaled Hosseini, has actually been to Afghanistan and met refugees so I thought maybe this book would be good. But he is like the main character Amir who dreams of becoming a… fiction writer (who isn’t concerned what happens to the people of his country, at all)?! This story is a total fiction and does not tell anything about the current situation in Afghanistan except that… Taleban forces every man to grow beards, goes around killing people without reason day and night and they rape young boys all the time. They are all pedophiles with beards. This might be true but how it’s all described in the book lacks reality, style and is over exaggerated from all point of views. The writing style is decent but “this is a mere Internet novel” shines trough at all times.

I have no idea how this book has won so many awards. But then again, the popularity of shit such as Hunger Games and Twilight is ridiculous too. The Kite Runner is full of exaggerated, unbelievable scenes which are written solely to shock people out of their minds and ruin the whole pleasant reading experience. The book deals surprisingly little with the inner development of main character (even though he goes trough a lot of awful shit) and concentrates mainly on describing the events of his life.

The Idiot

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin comes back to St Petersburg from Swiss, where he had been receiving treatment for past 4 years for his epilepsy and supposed intellectual deficiencies. He is hopes for a fresh start and just wishes to live his life in peace. The book mostly introduces him meeting people and interacting with them in several different settings. The story revolves around these people and how in the end the circumstances drive  Myshkin mad for good and he has to go back to Swiss after getting a stroke. The plot of the book is not important, like in any book of Dostoyevsky. The more important is the psychology behind the people’s actions, how do they affect each other and what is hidden between the lines. What plays the great role are the feelings of the heroes and the results of their actions based on their own decisions born from their feelings.

In other words this book is about insanity of society, harsh critique of selfish, scheming and evil human nature, how there is no place for a pure, good willed, and simple person like Myshkin anywhere in this world, except hospital, and how others would always take advantages of naive soul or then suspect him to the max.  In the end the question is born: Who is the real idiot in the book?

If you found Crime and Punishment boring you will probably find this book even ore boring. Though, I feel like people who are bored with Dostoyevsky usually concentrate on the plot too much, in the end forgetting to think about the meanings behind his words.  People usually expect too much, forgetting that the beauty is in the simplicity when it comes to Dostoyevsky. He is Mr simple himself when it comes to the style of the text but when it comes to the plotline and the meaning behind the words he knows where to twist, Mr most complicated of them all. His books are all about psychology and depressing, usually the main heroes are good looking.

I enjoyed this book and so did my Italian friend. Every time I discuss with Russians about this book the discussion grows really deep, no one forgets to mention that Dostoyevsky’s texts are super hard and heavy even though the style of his text is so simple it’s very easy to understand.  There is nothing extra, bare bones. I don’t really recommend this book to people who are younger than 15, the topics he handles are way too complicated and you need to have certain life experience to fully understand the meaning behind his words. Recommended to all the human nature philosophers out there!

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

This book is not only about Napoleon and the French invasion of Russia, this story is not just a story of a few people, not just about love, betrayal and finding happiness,  it’s not just a story of Russian society back in the days. This is a story of a lifetime, about everything at the same time. Hands down this is one of my favorite books ever and worth the read. But as it often happens with Russian classics, while reading this heavy stuff you should find someone to talk with about the book. You should learn from what you read and concentrate on every hidden meaning, and trust me, this book has a lot. It will make you grow as a person, help you understand the depths of life itself and make you appreciate certain values. But only if you really concentrate. At times the story might get a bit boring when Tolsty goes in detail about some insignificant matters (for pages and pages) but if you are able to bear with it, you will get a priceless lesson of a lifetime.

While reading this book you will get a good picture of what kind of lives people lived in 19th century Russia, about their values, habits, spiritual lives, politics, the gap between the poor and rich, the effects of the war, food, clothes and all small possible details. Tolsty goes in detail about the ridiculousness of the war and the ridiculousness of buffed-up high society. He describes growth of several diffferent individuals on different levels of society. The book is truly about War and Peace, about life. The vivid descriptions of just everything will take you back in time and bring 19th century Russia to your living room. I do not recommend watching the American movie based on this book, it was horrible.


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