Book Review – Klara and the Sun

I had never read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro before this, probably because his books seem to be regarded more as literary fiction than science fiction. However, I thought I’d try this one since I’d heard a lot about it recently. I listened to Klara and the Sun as an audiobook, narrated by Sura Siu.

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Here is the blurb:

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: What does it mean to love?

I found myself more entranced by Klara and her world in the first half of the book than I did in the later parts. Klara is a type of android who is supposed to be incredibly smart, but seems to lack understanding of much of the world. However, her curiosity and her desire to fulfill her job as an Artificial Friend, easily endear her to the reader.

Her teenage companion is Josie, a girl with some sort of sickness that killed her older sister. The details of this are gradually revealed through the book as Klara tries to find a way to heal Josie. The narrator in the audiobook was wonderful and easy to listen to.

I started to find Josie irritating as the book went on and Klara’s misguided attempts to help her were mystifying for an AI creation that’s supposed to be so intelligent. When things work out later on, it didn’t make sense to me. I also felt let down by the ending and Klara’s ultimate outcome. I guess this is why I usually stay away from literary fiction.

Have you read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro? Is there a different book you’d recommend by the author? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but I picked this up as part of my attempt to read non-fiction from time to time. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is a fascinating look at how people learn and apply skills in fields stretching from chess to music to science. I listened to this as an audiobook, which seems to be my preference for non-fiction in particular.

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Here is the blurb:

What’s the most effective path to success in any domain? It’s not what you think.
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.

David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields–especially those that are complex and unpredictable–generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

I enjoyed this book for both the concepts and the stories. The author has clearly done his research and I learned some fascinating history in this book, particularly in the section on music.

The variety of fields that the author explores is another reason why I enjoyed reading this book. He brings in examples from sports, music, chess, science, art, writing, medicine, and engineering, showing how people with a wider range of experiences can sometimes make the discoveries that a more narrowly-focused expert cannot see.

The audiobook was easy to listen to and nothing in this book is too dense for the audio format. This was an easy non-fiction book to follow and one of my favorite books so far this year.

Have you read anything by David Epstein? Please let me know in the comments.

Find more of my reviews here.

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