Finally at madamsabiblog.com

Finally, friends..we have moved. We tried to export all our luggage and furnitures ( laughing) but it was an herculean task .So we thought of providing a link from this wordpress account to our http://www.madamsabiblog.com. The decision, I love it because am about to still read all the lovely blog posts on wordpress as I will no longer be deleting this blog! The idea came over the night and I was excited.

Yes, to everyone am following, I will still be looking over your shoulders reading and mingling! ( really excited).

We have created a link here and also all around this blog so you can move around at will..

Plenty love. Thanks for being there.

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Og Mandino: From Alcoholic To Best Selling Author

Augustine “Og” Mandino II  was born in Natick, Massachusetts on December 12, 1923. Today, Og Mandino is the most widely read inspirational and self-help author in the world today.

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Og Mandino was an American author. He wrote the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World. Og Mandino’s sixteen books of inspiration, love, and wisdom have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide in twenty-five different languages, second only to the Bible.

Mandino was once the editor of his high school paper and planned to attend the University of Missouri ‘s journalism school. Unfortunately for him, in the summer of 1940, before he entered college, his mother died from a massive heart attack. He decided to work in a paper factory until 1942. Afterward, he joined the United States Army Air Corps where he became a military officer and a bombardier .

After his military duties, Mandino became an insurance salesman.

One wintry November morning in Cleveland at 35 years old, Og who was a wandering derelict–a hopeless alcoholic who had  just spent a long night of drinking took the gun he had bought recently from a pawnshop for $3.00. He thought this might be the way to end all of his problems but he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. He describes his early life as never being more than a few paces ahead of bill collectors.

He wandered aimlessly for awhile before he ended up in a library. But as he sorted through several books in a library, volumes of self-help, success and motivation books captured Mandino’s attention. He soon became an ardent reader. As he read, he became hooked to reading and that alleviated his love for the bottle.

There he decided to transform himself and managed to completely change his life. Og credits books, both modern and classic, with rescuing him.

Within 10 years using the principles he had learned from reading, Mandino  got motivated to be became a successful writer and speaker. His works were inspired by the Bible and influenced by Napoleon Hill , W. Clement Stone, and Emmet Fox.

Og then became the executive editor of Success Unlimited Magazine and the published author of his first best seller, The Greatest Salesman in the World.

As he learned more skills and attitudes that helped him succeed, Og was anxious to share them with the world. This led to more books, lectures, and speaking engagements. At his death at 72, he was among the most sought-after speakers in the world.

He was the first recipient of the Napoleon Hill Gold Medal for literary achievement and has been called “The Greatest Writer in the World.”

From being able to change his own life he has gone on to help many others. As thousands of people from all walks of life have openly credited Og Mandino for turning their lives around through his words.

He died on September 3, 1996.Even in death, he still lives on.

Book Review: The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die by cerebral Harvard Professor, Niall Ferguson.

I have just read The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die by cerebral Harvard Professor, Niall Ferguson.

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As in every book I read, there is always a message buried somewhere I find useful and worthy to share.

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Somewhere he talks about the decline of “Social Capital.” Here is the evidence he presented.

He bought a nice beautiful house by the beach in his native South Wales, to be beside the sea. Problem was the coastline was always filled with dirt as people dumped all kinds of rubbish there. Nobody was doing anything about it, not even the local authorities. The dream house project was fast turning into horror and regret.

Then he decided to do something about it. He tried to pick up some of the stuff himself. The task was too much for one person. Then he asked for volunteers throwing in free lunch. Progress was modest.

Then it got interesting. He was put in touch with the local Lions Club. He had never heard of the Lions Club. He says with their involvement and mobilisation, the shoreline was transformed. The number of locals and visitors who now enjoyed strolling along the coastal path surged. It became beautiful. Thanks to the Lions Club.

He says, this experience taught him the power of voluntary associations as an institution.

But that sadly, most of us have become lukewarm or even inactive towards them compared to the past. He cited the example of the 112 Protestant churches in Manhattan and the Bronx in New York which at the turn of the 20th century were responsible for:

48 industrial schools
45 libraries or reading rooms
44 sewing schools
40 kindergartens
29 savings banks
21 employment offices
20 gyms and swimming pools
8 medical dispensaries
4 lodging houses

He says above does not even include those set up by Roman Catholic, Jewish and other voluntary associations.

But these days, he says the indicators of “social capital” have declined:

– attendance at a public meeting on town or school: down 35%

– service as an officer of a club: down 42%

– membership of PTAs: down 61%

– etc.

He says that Facebook and its ilk create social networks that are huge but weak. And then he poses the question: Could I have cleared the beach by “poking” my Facebook friends or creating a new Facebook group?

Prof’s point is that government alone can’t solve all our problems. We have a part to play to compliment government. America with perhaps the most effective democracy also boasts the most vibrant voluntary service.

When was the last time you attended or did something at a voluntary organisation?

Join one today. If you cant give money, you can give time or other resources.

Martin Udogie
Author of How To READ MORE
No 1 on Channels TV Best Books of 2014.
On sale at Laterna Bookstore V.I. Lagos and on Amazon and Jumia.

A Summary Of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, a Sunni Muslim, who struggles to find his place in the world because of the aftereffects and fallout from a series of traumatic childhood events. An adult Amir opens the novel in the present-day United States with a vague reference to one of these events, and then the novel flashes back to Amir’s childhood in Afghanistan. In addition to typical childhood experiences, Amir struggles with forging a closer relationship with his father, Baba; with determining the exact nature of his relationship with Hassan, his Shi’a Muslim servant; and eventually with finding a way to atone for pre-adolescent decisions that have lasting repercussions. Along the way, readers are able to experience growing up in Afghanistan in a single-parent home, a situation that bears remarkable similarities to many contemporary households.

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One of the biggest struggles for Amir is learning to navigate the complex socioeconomic culture he faces, growing up in Afghanistan as a member of the privileged class yet not feeling like a privileged member of his own family. Hassan and his father, Ali, are servants, yet at times, Amir’s relationship with them is more like that of family members. And Amir’s father, Baba, who does not consistently adhere to the tenets of his culture, confuses rather than clarifies things for young Amir. Many of the ruling-class elite in Afghanistan view the world as black and white, yet Amir identifies many shades of gray.

In addition to the issues affecting his personal life, Amir must also contend with the instability of the Afghan political system in the 1970s. During a crucial episode, which takes place during an important kite flying tournament, Amir decides not to act — he decides not to confront bullies and aggressors when he has the chance — and this conscious choice of inaction sets off a chain reaction that leads to guilt, lies, and betrayals. Eventually, because of the changing political climate, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan. Amir views coming to America as an opportunity to leave his past behind.

Although Amir and Baba toil to create a new life for themselves in the United States, the past is unable to stay buried. When it rears its ugly head, Amir is forced to return to his homeland to face the demons and decisions of his youth, with only a slim hope to make amends.

Ultimately, The Kite Runner is a novel about relationships — specifically the relationships between Amir and Hassan, Baba, Rahim Khan, Soraya, and Sohrab — and how the complex relationships in our lives overlap and connect to make us the people we are.

The Kite Runner became a bestseller after being printed in paperback and was popularized in book clubs. It was a number one New York Times bestseller for over two years, with over seven million copies sold in the United States. Reviews were generally positive, though parts of the plot drew significant controversy in Afghanistan. A number of adaptations were created following publication, including a 2007 film of the same name, several stage performances, and a graphic novel.

Culled from Cliff notes

Book Review: Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses by Theodore Dalrymple

Lost virtue

Thirty years ago, Isaiah Berlin wrote a tribute to his Austrian friend Raimund von Hofmannsthal, who had settled in London after the war. “England seemed to him”, Berlin wrote, “the embodiment of a quiet, honourable, humane existence, above all of a civilisation singularly free from violence, hysteria, meanness and vulgarity.” Hofmannsthal’s sense of England was not over-idealized or inexperienced (he had lived in the United States too) but could not possibly be upheld today. The civic virtues, good manners, ingrained personal habits of self-control and moderation, and the national mistrust of excess have all been jettisoned or destroyed. Violence, hysteria, meanness and vulgarity are surely now among the leading traits of the prevailing English temper.

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Few people have been better placed to record the catastrophic effects of the collapse of English manners and habits than “Theodore Dalrymple”, the pseudonym of a physician who until recently worked in a decayed district of the Birmingham conurbation and as a prison doctor. His essays — written mainly for American magazines collected in Our Culture, What’s Left Of It set out to map “the moral swamp that is contemporary Britain” and to study the “low-level but endemic evil” that he says is an “unforced and spontaneous” effulgence in the British underclass. He admires that most aristocratic of virtues, fortitude; and he detests the way that “the hug-and-confess culture” is extirpating emotional hardiness and self-reliance from British national character “in favour of a banal, self-pitying, witless and shallow emotional incontinence”. Overall, he argues strenuously — irresistibly — for the reassertion of traditional English virtues: “prudence, thrift, industry, honesty, moderation, politeness, self-restraint”.

Dalrymple has, it must be stressed, written an urgent, important, almost an essential book. Our Culture, What’s Left of It needs to be read and acted on by policy-makers, by opinion-formers, and anyone who wants to grasp why Britain has become so much less pleasant a country in which to live. The book is elegantly written, conscientiously argued, provocative and fiercely committed: “one gets more real truth out of one avowed partisan than out of a dozen of your sham impartialists”, Robert Louis Stevenson said. Dalrymple’s information is often unpalatable, but always arresting. He reports, for example, that many young Muslim women come to his practice in suicidal despair at their enforced marriages to close relations, “usually first cousins”, and deplores how journalists, “for fear of giving offence”, seldom allude to “the extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the offspring of consanguineous marriages”. His measured polemics arouse disgust, shame and despair: they will shake many readers’ views of their physical surroundings and cultural assumptions, and have an enriching power to improve the way that people think and act.

He approaches his themes by four different routes. Many chapters describe with implacable force the brutal, sordid living conditions and the abysmal existence of the English poor. Others comprise a detailed indictment of the irresponsibility and fecklessness of the pundits from the educated classes whom he holds responsible for creating “a growing underclass devoid of moral bearings”. By contrast, in other chapters of delicate sensibility, Dalrymple extols and commemorates some great creative minds whose works exemplify the redemptive powers of art. “Human understanding, except in purely technical matters, reached its apogee with Shakespeare”, he declares. These essays comprise a collective plea for the restoration of cultural discrimination: for the recognition, which is crucial for human intelligence and for social well-being, that sharp distinctions are drawn between what is first-rate and what is third-rate. Dalrymple enforces this point by drawing on his extensive travels in the Third World to show what barbarism is, what barbarism means, and how closely barbarism is encroaching on contemporary England. Among many arresting images, one is unforgettable: his discovery, during the Liberian civil war, of the Centennial Hall in Monrovia, completely empty except for a Steinway grand piano, from which the legs had been sawn off and deposited on the floor nearby, together with little heaps of human shit. There are enemies nearer home, though, of intelligence, education and cultural discrimination.

” In no country has the process of vulgarization gone further than in Britain: in this, at least, we lead the world”, Dalrymple insists. “A nation famed not so long ago for the restraint of its manners is now notorious for the coarseness of its appetites and its unbridled and anti-social attempts to satisfy them.” The mass drunkenness every weekend which renders British town centres “unendurable to even minimally civilized people goes hand in hand with the appallingly crude, violent and shallow relations between the sexes”. In the course of a superb essay contrasting the dignity and humane pleasures of contemporary Italian life with the degradation and lack of self-respect of contemporary Britain, he recalls his experiences working in East Africa within a few miles of two construction projects, one Italian and the other British. “The British construction workers were drunken, violent, debauched, and dirty, without shame or dignity. Utterly egotistical, yet without much individuality, they wrecked hugely expensive machinery when drunk, without a moment’s regret, and responded with outrage if reprimanded.” Dalrymple reckoned them “truly representative of a population which has lost any pride in itself or in what it does, and that somehow contrives to be frivolous without gaiety”. The neighbouring Italians, by contrast, were “hardworking, disciplined and clean, and could enjoy themselves in a civilized way even in the African bush, drinking without drunkenness, or that complete lack of self-control characteristic of today’s British. Unlike the British, they never became a nuisance to the local population, and everyone saw them as people who had come to do a job of work”.

Part of the blame for this degeneration Dalrymple attaches to the Welfare State:

“Like French aristocrats under the ancient regime, are — thanks to Social Security — under no compulsion to earn a living; and with time hanging heavy on their hands, their personal relationships are their only diversion. These relationships are therefore both intense and shallow, for there is never any mutual interest in them other than the avoidance of the ever-encroaching ennui.”

Working in an English slum district, he sees what the sexual revolution has brought to the underclass: “No grace, no reticence, no measure, no dignity, no secrecy, no depth, no limitation of desire is accepted”. For Dalrymple, the proliferation of single-parenting among his patients has no benefits. “Britain’s mass bastardy is not a sign of an increase in the authenticity of our human relations but a natural consequence of the unbridled hedonism that leads in short order to chaos and misery, especially among the poor.” He is appalled by the social irresponsibility and self-destructiveness of his women patients, who produce a series of children by different fathers, who are almost invariably violent, criminal or abusive. “The result is a rising tide of neglect, cruelty, sadism and joyous malignity” that leaves him “more horrified after fourteen years than the day I started”.

Dalrymple does not seem to be a Christian, but he regrets British secularization and its attendant social evils: “The loss of the religious understanding of the human condition — that man is a fallen creature for whom virtue is necessary but never fully attainable — is a loss, not a gain, in true sophistication. The secular substitute — the belief in the perfection of life on earth by the endless extension of a choice of pleasures — is not merely callow by comparison but much less realistic in its understanding of human nature.”

He loathes the way that Christian ethics and community morality have been replaced by the puerile and fitfully livid morality of tabloid newspapers:

“To make up for its lack of a moral compass, the British public is prey to sudden gusts of kitschy sentimentality followed by vehement outrage, encouraged by the cheap and cynical sensationalism of its press. Spasms of self-righteousness are its substitute for the moral life.”

He suggests that the illimitable prurience of British newspapers, and their ruthless, sanctimonious targeting of public figures, “has an ideological aim: to subvert the very concept and deny the possibility of virtue, and therefore of the necessity for restraint”. Surely the collective intention of British smut-hounds is to deny or nullify any authority other than their own: to discredit specialized expertise, disinterested professionalism, educational superiority, technical precision, so that every over-emotional, stridently emphatic and ill-educated member of the public can believe that their opinions even on the most intricate subjects are as valuable as anyone else’s.

Intellectuals, writers and artists who frivolously or exploitatively play with images drawn from real-life cruelty, and who express mitigating admiration for violent ideas, self- immolation and sterile self-absorption draw Dalrymple’s sustained contempt. He cannot forgive “the unrealistic, self-indulgent, and often fatuous ideas of social critics” for ruining the British underclass with “disastrous notions about how to live”. He is an acute cultural commentator -as misanthropic at times as his fellow physician Celine -with a powerful ability to make uncomfortable connections. “A crude culture makes a coarse people”, he stresses. He approaches the sink of contemporary emotional squalor from many angles: his account of the trial of the Soham child- murderer Ian Huntley and his accomplice Maxine Carr, his retelling for American readers of the sadistic serial killings perpetrated by Fred and Rosemary West, and his scornful essay “Trash, Violence and Versace” about Sensation, the exhibition of Charles Saatchi’s collection at the Royal Academy in 1998, demonstrate how a millionaire’s art accessories are part of the same mental world as a mass murderer’s torture dungeon.

In a series of essays of fine sensibility, Dalrymple gives wonderfully sympathetic readings of Shakespeare, Turgenev and Zweig. He feels Zweig has indispensable messages for twenty-first-century Britain: “that only the reticent and self-controlled can feel genuine passion and emotion”; and that “the nearer emotional life approaches to hysteria, to continual outward show, the less genuine it becomes”. Another angry, funny chapter gives a devastating reading of Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, which he thinks would be better titled How To Be Privileged and Yet Feel Extremely Aggrieved.

But though Dalrymple has superb descriptive powers, and deploys his evidence irreproachably, his analysis is flawed and suffers from one huge, grievous omission. He has little chronological sense. It is not clear enough when he thinks the damage was inflicted on British self-control and self-respect: by Virginia Woolf and social theorists of the 1930s; by the Attlee Government’s institution of a Welfare State in the 1940s; by the calamitously misconceived urban rebuilding programmes that began in the 1950s; by fools like Kenneth Tynan saying “Fuck!” on television in the 1960s; or by the destruction of community spirit by a monetarist government in the 1980s. If Isaiah Berlin and Raimund von Hofmannsthal were right — and as emigres they had specially privileged vantage points — Britain was still reasonably honourable and humane in the early 1970s. Dalrymple’s failure to impose a clear chronological sequence on his narrative of British decline weakens the clarity of his case.

This makes his attack on cultural mandarindom seem far too oversimplified. Certainly, he quotes loathsome fatuities from the Observer, and is unsparing of the irresponsibility of columnists in the Guardian; but these essays (it needs always to be remembered that they were originally written for conservative or neocon American magazines) sometimes sound like Spiro Agnew’s rasping, spurious diatribes against liberal intellectuals, dressed up in urbane English accents. Can it really be right to attribute the sordidness of contemporary Britain to the fact that, as he claims, Virginia Woolf’s cast of mind in Three Guineas — “shallow, dishonest, resentful, envious, snobbish, self-absorbed, trivial, philistine, and ultimately brutal” — has triumphed among Western cultural elites?

Even the most grateful convert to Theodore Dalrymple’s beliefs cannot believe that this is so. He diminishes his case by relying so heavily on the Spiro Agnew school of causation and scapegoating; and as a result his compelling book is dangerously incomplete in its diagnosis. It seldom mentions the United States, scarcely acknowledges the impact of American popular culture on Europe, says nothing of the overwhelming impact on the television-dependent British underclass of the vulgarity, violence and emotional puerility of American programmes which have inundated this country since the 1970s. Indeed Our Culture, What’s Left of It is written at times (it is painful to say) in the ingratiating tones of a sidling courtier in the household of an opinionated neocon potentate. The gentle little jibes against France are not as crude as Richard Perle’s denunciations at the time of the Iraq invasion, but they reinforce the same triumphal message of American invincibility. Dalrymple’s essay “When Islam Breaks Down” — written explicitly for “American readers”, though it contains interesting descriptions of Muslim criminals in English prisons — promises and flatters Americans that “the fanatics and the bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle”. Similarly, his magnificently vivid essay on Castro’s Havana, which makes the poverty and despotism palpable on every page, comforts American readers with the assurance that official Cuban harping on the “horrible social breakdown . . . in the United States” bores even hardline Communists.

Nowhere does Dalrymple hint that the vices, the ugliness, the emotional infantilism of contemporary Europe might be inspired by American cultural infiltration. He complains — and it is a crucial insight into the unpleasantness of contemporary Britain — that “adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent”. Does he really think columnists on the Observer are more to blame for this than the incessant message of American prime-time serials so excessively broadcast in Britain for thirty years? The men of the British underclass whom he sees professionally, or scrutinizes on Black Country estates, have been “reduced” — he thinks by the Welfare State and Social Security handouts — “to the status of a child, though a spoiled child with the physical capabilities of a man: petulant, demanding, querulous, self- centred and violent if he doesn’t get his own way”. The escalating violence of these men becomes habitual: the “spoiled brat becomes an evil (domestic) tyrant”. How can Dalrymple possibly argue that the sometimes exiguous sums paid to shiftless members of the underclass have been more powerful in creating this underclass of spoilt, selfish, violent Englishmen than the example — dinned into them by constant exposure to American television — of the richest, most powerful republic in the world as the birthplace of the spoilt brat, and, indeed, now as the dominion of rich brats; for what is the Bush family if not the most powerful brat-pack in the world?

Describing the excesses of Dianamania in Britain in 1997, Dalrymple laments that “the British, under the influence of the media of mass communication, which demand that everyone wear his emotion or pseudo-emotion on his sleeve, have lost their only admirable qualities -stoicism, self-deprecation, and a sense of irony -and have gained those only worthy of contempt”. He is right; but where does he think the commercial exploitation of emotional extremism originated: in the novels of his bugbear Virginia Woolf, or in Oprah Winfrey’s broadcasts? If the British pride in understatement has been largely destroyed, if the public-school values of emotional reticence and self-mastery are widely regarded now as obsolete or as emotional disorders, surely the aggressive, degrading spectacle of shrieking pseudo-emotion of American television is most to blame.

Elsewhere, in a shrewd discussion of Aldous Huxley’s anxieties about the insidious Americanization of English culture and feelings, Dalrymple summarizes Huxley’s expectation that a society geared to instant gratification of desires would create a shallow, egotistical populace demanding “entertainment unto death”. Dr Dalrymple makes splendid objections to the way that human frustration and quotidian dissatisfaction are treated as medical conditions, and describes his patients’ demands for anti- depressants because of the creeping belief that “everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed)”. But these ideas of human fulfilment did not originate with effete, reckless English cultural mandarins but with the Founding Fathers of the Land of the Free. “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, runs the US Declaration of Independence, “that all men . . . are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The trouble started with the pursuit of happiness being enshrined as a political right.

One of the ways that the foolish English nowadays deliberately diminish their personal dignity and self-respect is by dressing down, Dalrymple asserts. He loathes the way that prosperous people ape the clothes of the ragged poor and dress in worn and torn threads fit only for tenement life: “it is spitting on the graves of our ancestors, who struggled so hard, so long and so bitterly that we might be warm, clean, well fed and leisured”. Yet liberal intellectuals, and columnists on the Guardian, certainly have the most limited influence on English clothes fashions. They cannot be blamed. Surely the fake shabbiness, inverted snobbery and romanticization of human failure that characterize contemporary dress styles are American in origin. It was millionaires’ wives in Manhattan, not Englishwomen in Holland Park, who first started to dress in expensive clothes that aped those of street criminals. It was middle-class adolescents in plush American suburbs, not in Milton Keynes, who first started wearing beltless jeans, hanging halfway down their backsides, in imitation of black prisoners, who are deprived of belts in the American penal system, lest they hang themselves.

Dalrymple recalls with pain the self- inflicted malnourishment that he has seen in so many English patients and prisoners. He describes so-called “food deserts”, poor urban areas containing few shops selling fresh food, badlands where the mass diet is fast-food, take-aways, or other unhealthy, expensive, microwaved pap. But he does not name which nation owns the most obnoxious, unhealthy and aggressively marketed fast-food outlets in Britain. In another section he complains, rightly enough, that Britain has become too mealy-mouthed and litigious; that ordinary discourse is held captive by silly but strident specialinterest groups. “In a society that forms sexual liaisons with scarcely a thought, a passing suggestive remark can result in a lawsuit; the use of explicit sexual language is de rigueur in literary circles, but medical journals fear to print the word ‘prostitute’ and use the delicate euphemism ‘sex worker’ instead.” True enough; but where did this begin?

Theodore Dalrymple does not tell his American readers what they do not want to hear. He confronts so many bullies and demolishes so much delusive thinking in this brave, emphatic and undeniably important book; but the greatest ogre of all he will not even name.

A review by Richard Davenport-Hines

Ever heard of the “Matthew Effects”? by Mr Martins Udogie

Taking from the Bible, Matthew 25:29, it  refers to the rich-getting-richer and poor-getting-poorer phenomenon that is becoming popular in sociology and  human relations to explain why some people just seem to keep having it all. Apparently, effortlessly.

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Matthew Effects applies to reading:

The more you read
The more you enjoy reading
The more you want to read
The easier and faster it becomes to read.

And the more the benefits of reading.

Avid readers acquire more vocabulary, becoming more verbally fluent and verbally intelligent, and therefore less “lexically impoverished”. [I acquired that by reading the academic article cited below].

In simple terms, avid readers generally write and speak better. Because their vocabulary is more robust.

An amazing academic research by Anne E. Cunningham and Elliot E. Stanovich demonstrate this.

A child who engages in out of school reading for 21 minutes a day acquires about 1.8m words per year. It is 282,000 words per year for the one that reads for just 4.6 minutes per day.

While it is just 8,000 words for the child that reads for 0.1 minute per day.

Infact, what the 0.1 minute per day child reads in a year is equivalent to two days reading for the 21 minutes per day child!

That is simply astonishing.

And as you might expect, this reflects in their verbal dexterity.

Because the researchers were also able to show that:

a) most vocabulary is acquired outside of formal teaching and

b) conversation (including watching television) is not a substitute for reading.

They proved above by looking at what they called word rarity. How rarely a word is used in both written texts and spoken language.

An analysis of tons of written and spoken English, they ranked the following in terms of frequency of use:

“the” – ranked No 1 (most frequent or most commonly used in English language)
“it”  – ranked 10
“know” – ranked 100
“pass” – ranked 1,000
“vibrate” – ranked 5,000
“shrimp” – ranked 9,000
“amplifier” – ranked 16,000

Rare words are those lower than 10,000 in ranking (“amplifier” is a rare word); and typically outside the vocabulary of 4th to 6th graders.

SHOCKING FINDINGS from above.

Children’s books have 50 percent more rare words in them than does adult prime-time adult television and the conversation of college graduates.

Meaning that even children’s books expand your vocabulary than the conversation of two university graduates or from TV.

 
Martin Udogie
Author of How To READ MORE
http://www.readmorehabit.com
CEO BrainPower Limited
Training. Consulting. Analyst. Media
No 1 on Channels TV Books of the Year 2014

Book Review: Desert Songs of the Night by Suheil Bushruiand James M Malarkey

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12TH-Century Scholars In The Library Of A Mosque Credit: Bridge man art.com

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Two years ago, al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrian rebels beheaded a statue of Abul Ala al-Maarri. Apparently they disliked the 10th-century blind poet’s sceptical attitude towards religion: he mocked people who believed in miracles and scorned resurrection after death. He was also a vegetarian who urged his audience “not to grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking their eggs”, and to “spare the honey which the bees get by their industry”. Al-Maarri’s posthumous decapitation provoked a backlash among Syrians on social media. Like many revered masters of Arabic literature, though, he is almost unknown in the West, where the region is better known for violent extremism and oppressive dictatorship than atheist vegetarian poets. This is something that Desert Songs of the Night, an admirable new anthology of Arabic literature over the past 1,500 years, tries to rectify.

In their introduction, the editors Suheil Bushrui and James M Malarkey stress that Arabic does not necessarily mean Islamic. As well as freethinkers such as al-Maarri, this anthology includes Jews, Christians and pre-Islamic poets. Of course, the Koran takes its place as the book that still today defines the vocabulary and grammar of literary Arabic. But the Koranic chapters that Bushrui and Malarkey select hark back to the scripture of the “People of the Book”. We read of Moses engaging in “mystic communion” with God on Mount Sinai. In the chapter entitled “Mary”, the mother of Jesus gives birth to him under a palm tree that miraculously drops ripe dates for her sustenance.

After the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632, the Arabs conquered large swathes of land, and the elites moved from small towns like Mecca and Medina to important cities like Damascus and Jerusalem. Nostalgia for the desert led to the valorisation of pre-Islamic poetry.

Just as Greek myths allowed medieval Christians to explore pagan ideals, so the Arabs could indulge in wine-quaffing and women-admiring when it was set safely before the Prophet’s time. In the “Ode of Imru Al-Qais”, a beloved’s bosom is – in a simile that I hope catches on – like “the pure egg of an ostrich”. In a lament for his absent lover, Kab Bin Zuhair comforts himself with a bracingly physical tribute to his camel: “Big in the neck, fleshy in the hock… thick-necked, full-cheeked, robust, masculine, her flanks wide, her front (tall) as a milestone…” And so it continues for many more lines.

A different kind of poetry emerged in the eighth century – and its foremost practitioner was a woman. Rabia al-Adawiya from Basra was one of the earliest Sufi mystics. She wrote verse that communed with God on a personal level: “On my joy and my desire and my refuge, / My friend and my sustainer and my goal, thou art my intimate, / and longing for thee sustains me.”

Shortly afterwards one of the most revered – and reviled – Sufi poets began addressing God with even greater intimacy. Mansur al-Hallaj tried to bridge the gap between the self and the divine: “You are the distance I must go / My spring of springs, / My reasoning, my words.” Al-Hallaj’s identification with God became so absolute that he infamously claimed: “I am the Truth.” This was too much for the caliph who imprisoned him for 11 years before having him executed.

His words remain controversial: puritan wahabis scorn his memory, but Sufis say that he was not blasphemously claiming to be God, but had attained a level of spiritual exaltation that the narrow-minded caliph could not understand.

The theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111) was a champion of religious orthodoxy who also had Sufi inclinations. Unfortunately, he is represented here by some dry devotional writings and not something from his fascinating memoir Deliverance from Error, one of the earliest pieces of autobiographical writing in Arabic.

Al-Ghazali was a leading professor in Baghdad when he had a spiritual crisis and abandoned worldly success for the life of a wanderer. He felt Islam had been infected by an overly rational Aristotelianism. He outlined his critique in The Incoherence of the Philosophers. His opponent, Ibn Rushd (also known as Averroes), wrote a response with the splendid title The Incoherence of the Incoherence. He defended philosophy, arguing that the Koran ordered men to “Reflect, since you have vision”. Their battle between revelation and reason continues to this day within Islam.

Aside from poetry and philosophy, there is also much down-to-earth prose. Abd al-Hamid al-Katib, secretary to Marwan II (744-750), wrote a letter of advice to civil servants that could be applied today. “Should some praise come in the course of his work, he should ascribe the merit to his colleague; any blame he should bear all by himself.” When promoted to a position of authority, you should be “kind in milking the land tax and calling in outstanding claims”. Wise advice, though perhaps it would have been better directed at his boss: the unpopular Marwan was overthrown, and was the last Umayyad caliph to rule from Damascus.

The Umayyad dynasty re-emerged in Spain where it presided over a cultural renaissance. Al-Andalus was a meeting point of East and West in which Jews and Christians could practise their religion with (relative) freedom. The universal ideal of Muslim Spain was embodied by the mystic poet Ibn Arabi, born in Murcia in 1165: “My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks, / And a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaaba and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Koran.”

His near-contemporary, Ibn Maimon, the Jewish sage better known as Maimonides, wrote his influential treatise A Guide for the Perplexed in Judeo-Arabic. Ibn Maimon had a complex relationship with his Muslim masters: he was persecuted by the extremist Almohads and forced to leave Spain, but also worked as the personal physician for Saladin.

Most of this collection covers the seventh to the 15th century. Under Ottoman rule the Arab tongue went into decline. When Arab nationalism returned in the early 20th century, the literary heritage revived. The Egyptian novelist Taha Hussein wrote a dissertation on the sceptical poet al-Maarri (like him, Hussein was blind) and a book on pre-Islamic poetry. Western influences began to affect Arabic prose. Hussein lived in Paris and the extract from his memoir An Egyptian Childhood (1932) reads like he knew his Proust. Similarly, his fellow Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab to have won the Nobel Prize, took Tolstoy as a model. Adonis, the Syrian poet often regarded as the greatest living Arab writer, has created a vivid mixture of Sufism and surrealism.

Dipping into this enchanting anthology one is struck by the sheer variety of voices that have emerged from the Arab world – and are still emerging. If I had one caveat, it is that the poetry translations can sound stilted to modern ears. Often they are tantalising shadows of the original Arabic. Hopefully, Desert Songs of the Night should inspire more English-speakers to study this wonderful language and render afresh its magnificent literary heritage.

Sameer Rahim