Reading challenges I am following in 2019

Oh I have not written anything about books for several months now. But it is the beginning of the year and let’s do a new start! In the first book-related post of 2019, I would like to discuss reading challenges.

Do you set any reading challenge? Well for me, reading is my first and always loved hobby! I read several books each year, although maybe not as many as I would like. The past few years I have started joining reading challenges, so as to make my whole reading experience a bit more fun.

I start the year with a lot of enthousiasm and motivation to complete reading challenges or readathons! By the middle of the year, though, the enthousiasm goes down, I emerge myself in the routine of my life, which includes reading books, and I forget to check the challenges. In addition, in the beginning it is easy to fit books in different given categories that the readathons include. But towards the end of the year, I do not want to leave some books that I find interesting aside, so as to read others that would fit in the remaining categories. That is usually how it ends…

But we are still in the beginning of the year and the enthousiasm is still here! This year I will try to complete four reading challenges or games:

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

The most basic of my reading challenges is the one organised in Goodreads every year. I love it because you just have to set a numerical target for the year! I first started in 2014 with this challenge and I have been doing it ever since. It is just an indication of how many books I think and I hope I will read during the year, depending on my plans for that year. It serves as some kind of motivation and I have managed to complete my goals all years! Well, in some cases I was mistaken by underestimating my reading capabilities, as for 2017…

My goodreads reading challenges 2014 – 2018

2019 Book Read Athon Ception

Since 2017, I am also joining the Book Read Athon Ception or B.R.A.CE. It is the reading athon of a Greek community that started as a Facebook group about finding books that were featured in movies or tv series.

The B.R.A.CE is more a kind of bingo game! Each year we have a kind of board we should complete with the books we read. Once we complete it we make a Bingo! What is interesting about this game, is that every year it is different! In 2017 we were given a 11×11 table with different categories and we had to complete a line or a column so as to make a Bingo. I am afraid I did not have the patience to complete the challenge that year…

BRACE 2017: The 11×11 table

In 2018 we were given a 5×5 table and we had to complete the whole table to make a Bingo. For 20 of the cells we were free to choose from 120 different categories. From the remaining cells 4 had some special condition, such as 4 books from the same writer or 4 books from female writers etc., and the central cell had to be a book we saw in a the Bookception facebook page. After a bit of an effort in December, in 2018 I achieved the Bingo!

Brace 2018: The 5×5 table

This year we are given a triangle! We again have to complete all of the cells so as to achieve a Bingo. In most cases we can choose books from the 120 categories that accompany the triangle, but in some cases we have to read 4 books that share a characteristic. The top cell is not covered by one book, but by as many books as we need so as to complete at least 2019 pages! Let’s see how this year goes!

Brace 2019: The triangle for this year’s bingo game

Travel with books – Writers

This is a reading challenge that was organised by a friend of mine. She suggested that we check the origin or the place of birth of the writers we read. The goal is to read 12 male and 12 female writers from different countries. I found it a nice challenge, so as to monitor from where the writers of my books are! I have never checked it. I expect this challenge should produce a nice map in the end of the year!

Travel with books – Countries

This is a kind of game I created myself. As a continuation of the previously mentioned challenge, I am going to note down the countries (or planets/worlds) that the books I read take me and make another kind of map with them in the end. I do not set a goal for it, I just want to see where my books take me!

Do you set goals or participate in reading challenges? Do you stick with them during the year or do you tend to quit them half way? Which is the most interesting reading challenge you have done? I would love to hear about your ideas, thoughts and suggestions!

And by the way, you will notice that I keep track of the progress I do in my reading challenges in my bullet journal 🙂


Chronicles of Brother Cadfael

It has been a while I haven’t written anything about books, but this doesn’t mean that I have not been reading. On the contrary, I have emerged myself in the 12th century England. In the past months I read a number of books from the Cadfael Chronicles I hadn’t read before.

The Cadfael Chronicles is a series of historical murder mysteries. It consists of twenty books written by Ellis Peters, which is the a pseudonym of Edith Pargeter (1913 – 1995).

The main character is Cadfael, a Welsh in origin middle-aged Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Saints Peter and Paul in Shrewsbury, England, in the first half of the 12th century. Before becoming a monk he was a Crusader in the Middle East and there he learnt a lot of things about the healing abilities of plants and herbs and the modern therapeutic knowledge of the Arabs, so once he became a monk, he was able to put his knowledge in practice and he served as the herbalist of the Abbey. In addition, he was a skilled observer and had a really strong own sense of justice. As a result, he served as a detective of his time and a medical examiner, as well!

Shrewsburry abbey
The map of the Abbey (Credit: Cadfael wiki)

Each book includes a self-sustained mystery. Brother Cadfael is involved in all of them, some times because the crime took place in the Abbey, some times because the local sheriff Hugh Beringar had learnt to trust Cadfael’s observations and abilities and some times just because Cadfael was present in the discovery of a crime and he was by nature too curious and inquisitive.

Besides the crime, in each book there is also a small side-story of a couple in love. Brother Cadfael always supported these lovers-to-be, thus provoking the sympathy of the reader! This side-story binds harmonically into the main story-line and it doesn’t attract the attention away from the mystery.

Ellis Peters’ mysteries are brilliant! The stories are so accurately adjusted to the era they refer, when there was anarchy in England and a civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud. They include historical elements and several of the characters that appear in the books really lived at that time, but the books are totally fictional. The murders are not pompous, but more what it would fit in the 12th century. It is clear from them that Ellis Peters had done a profound search and knew well the period she decided that Cadfael lived.

It is advisable to read the books in the correct order. As I mentioned earlier the mysteries are self-standing in each book, but it is better to follow the order of the books for the surrounding details: the life of brother Cadfael and Hugh Berignar or the rest of the monks, the historical background and the characters that recur in later books.

I started the first book in 2014 and slowly slowly read half of the series until earlier this year.  I did not try to read all of the series in one go. I was really enjoying the short books of Ellis Peters and, for me, Brother Cadfael was a refuge whenever I was bored of other books. Of course in a series of twenty books not all of them are equally interesting. Some are more and some are less. In April this year I felt tired of reading disappointing books, so I decided that I have waited enough with finishing the series and it is time to continue with the rest of the Cadfael books.

I would totally recommend this series to anybody who enjoys historical mysteries. As I mentioned earlier, there are no pompous murders or huge conspiracies in them. There are problems that would occur in medieval England and around an Abbey. I enjoyed the English language in the books too. I read a couple of books translated in Greek, my own mother tongue, but I did not enjoy them. The translation had resulted in losing a bit of the medieval atmosphere the story had in the original language.

This year I read the following books of the Cadfael Chronicles:

  1. The Pilgrim Of Hate, nr. 10 of the series
    I  have already commented this book in my previous post of The books I read in May.
  2. An Excellent Mystery, nr. 11 of the series
    Also included in The books I read in May.
  3. The Raven In The Foregate, nr. 12 of the series
    In this book Brother Cadfael and Hugh Beringar solve the mysterious death of the pastor of the local church, who didn’t last but a few weeks in this position. This book has all the whit and the mystery that I like about Brother Cadfael, contrary to the previous book where the solution was obvious. So many suspects, but none clearly guilty. I couldn’t figure out the solution till the last pages! And of course, the solution is such, so that it doesn’t insult or create problems for anybody that doesn’t deserve it.
  4. The Rose Rent, nr. 13 of the series
    Another book, where I did not manage to figure out the culprit but a few pages before the end! Besides Brother Cadfael, the main heroine of this book is the young widow Perle. She has donated her house to the abbey with the only condition to be provided of a rose from the bush in front of it on the day of the celebration of Saint Winifred. But she is still young and rich and strange things start happening in her life. Suitors, people interested in money and in the middle of this a young woman who doesn’t want to get married and a rose bush.
  5. The Hermit Of Eyton Forest, nr. 14 of the series
    The main theme of this one is the effort of a powerful dame to manipulate her grandson so as to gain more lands and influence. But life is not simple, so two side stories are getting mixed up in the whole scene: a fugitive worker from a lord and a lost treasure from Empress Maud.
  6. The Confession Of Brother Haluin, nr. 15 of the series
    Another strong dame in this book, as in the previous of the series. In this one a sad love story led a young and promising man to the cloister. Eighteen years later and after a close-to-death experience, brother Haluin decides he needs to face his old demons and find the grave of his old love. He goes on this quest escorted by brother Cadfael, as he is a cripple now. But destiny brings it that he discovers that his love story ended differently than he was told. The girl’s mother has manipulated the lives of several people but the truth comes out before the story is repeated in the next generation. Not my personal favourite of the Cadfael series…
  7. The Heretic’s Apprentice, nr. 16 of the series
    One of the best books of the series for me! Usually Peters avoids direct conflicts with the church, although brother Cadfael has more open views on his practice of the Benedictine order he belongs to. After all he comes in trouble with Prior Robert and brother Jerome quite often. But this book is different: it deals with the compulsory orthodoxy and what is heresy.
    A young guy has been travelling to the rest of Europe and to Jerusalem with his master and returns to England to deliver his master’s body for burial to the Abbey and a present for the adopted girl of the family as her dowry. As with everybody that lives for a while abroad, he finds the family he used to work for changed with the years. The two nephews of his master have taken over three business and run it smoothly, the adopted girl has grown to a beautiful young woman and the rest of the staff have grown used to his absence. He himself is also mature and his horizons have opened with all the new things he learnt in the journey. As a result he uses his mind to understand life and the religion, something that is considered a sin to the closed-minded old clerk and shepherd of the family. As the latter two feel menaced by the young man’s presence, the first one for his position and the second one for the girl, they use what he told them in a moment of loose tongues about the way he understands religion, to accuse him for heresy. By chance there is a higher cleric present in the Abbey, who follows strict orthodoxy and the case escalates tremendously. Especially when the old clerk is found stabbed in the back!
  8. The Potter’s Field, nr. 17 of the series
    This mystery I found a bit tricky! The abbey gets to exchange a field with another monastery and while they start ploughing it, they discover the skeleton of a female. To whom does it belong? The family, which donated the field to begin with, gets involved and especially the younger son, who had become a Benedictine novice but changed his mind towards the end of his trial period. I really enjoyed it!
  9. The Summer Of The Danes, nr. 18 of the series
    This was one of the longest books of the series. It takes place in Wales and not in the Abbey and brother Cadfael finds himself travelling in his homeland and talking his mother tongue, as a translator for Deacon Mark, the ambassador of the Catholic Church of England to Wales. There they are involved in the internal troubles of the prince of Wales, Owain Gwynedd. Cadwaladr, Owain’s brother, plans to regain his lands by inviting Danes from Dublin to threaten Gwynedd. In this book Cadfael becomes a hostage by the Danes!
    I found this book a bit tiring with all the different things that are happening at the same time.
  10. The Holy Thief, nr. 19 of the series
    The holy relics of Saint Winifred disappear in the fuss of a possible flood and a young guy, who knew who had taken her, is found dead. The most interesting part was when the fortune of Saint Winifred is decided, using the sortes Biblicae, placing the book of gospels on Saint Winifred’s reliquary and opening the book randomly, thus choosing a verse. Another book where Cadfael does not agree with the strict practices of other members of the Benedictine order.
  11. Brother Cadfael’s Penance, nr. 20 of the series
    In the last book, Brother Cadfael reveals one of the biggest secrets of his life: that a character that we met in an older book, Olivier de Bretagne, is really his son. He comes in direct conflict with his vows as a monk and he leaves the Abbey on a quest to find his son, who was captured in a battle and he is missing. The story takes place mostly in Greenhamsted, England. Cadfael following his internal sense of justice and fair-play, manages to influence the whole history of England, by avoiding a conflict between Empress Maud and Robert of Gloucester, her half brother and most loyal and useful supporter. A really nice way to finish the series!

In parallel with the books I started watching the series based on this series. I should note that they are only based on the books of Ellis Peters, as a result there are a lot of deviations from them. I did not enjoy the series so much. They did not manage to transfer the atmosphere of 12th century England to me, the way the books did. And having read the books, I found disturbing the changes of characters to their more evil version.

Have you read this series? Have you watched the tv-series? I would love to hear your comments on any of them!


The books I read in May

I got disappointed from the books I was reading during the last two months. I was following an urge to reduce my list of books-to-read, which consists of several random books. I am an active bookcrosser (if you don’t know what this is, check my post about Bookcrossing), so I have accumulated several random books that I got as exchanges or in games over the past years.


In May I followed this urge, so I read Mortal Remains by Gregory Hall, but I am afraid I can’t recommend it to anybody. According to the presentation of the book, it is a brilliantly plotted story of crime and passion. According to me it is a book that originally looks promising, but then these hopes die. Well, the story is about two siblings, a woman and a man, who came from an important family of the town of Oxfordshire, but with a strange past. Their father disappeared many years ago and they had no clue about him, but he was stained as a spy and a traitor. A body is discovered more than 20 years later and the whole story comes up again with an “exciting” solution.

I really tried to follow the escalation of the story, although it was taking far too long. And in the end the solution was far too complicated. Several crimes combined in order to influence the life of the two main characters. Did the mother plan to kill the father, or was it his lover? And what about her affair too? Was the father’s lover Polish, French or what? Wait, there is also a twin added in the pot, eh sorry story. And drugs and art fraud as well! And more corpses are coming up!

After this book, I lost my patience of reading random books. So I went back to an old classic series I had left behind: Brother Cadfael of Ellis Peters! In May I read two books, of this series:

  1. The Pilgrim Of Hate, nr. 10 of the series
    In general I like Brother Cadfael, but this was not one of the best. Admittedly not all books of a 20-book-series can be really good. This book left me the impression that it was a wrap-up of the story. Cadfael is getting older and so he felt the urge to confine to a friend. Hugh Beringar (the local sheriff, a good friend and the father of Cadfael’s godchild) is the lucky one to learns two of the main secrets of Cadfael. On parallel, there is the story of two pilgrims that arrive in the abbey for the feast of Saint Winifred, but that one is a bit too strange.
  2. An Excellent Mystery, nr. 11 of the series
    This was a story of love, in contrast to the previous one that was a story of hate. And it was a bit of a special book! The mystery itself is not so difficult (I figured out the solution by page 80), but nevertheless the book doesn’t become boring. It is still interesting to see how the secret will be revealed in the best interest of the people involved. This means that even if I knew what they will find out, I was still following the story, so as to see how the young hero discovered the truth and how Ellis Peters brought the revelation, in the best interest of all the people involved.

Admittedly, none of the books I read in May will be remembered for long, but Brother Cadfael is a nice series of books in total!


My introduction to Bookcrossing

I am proud to say that I am a Bookcrosser! And a lot of my friends are too, but you may not have heard about it. This is ok; I am going to explain it shortly.


This is how it all started for me: As I explained in my post Books: The Beginning I have been reading a lot since I was a child. By the time I was finishing university I had accumulated several books that belonged to me and I did not want to keep all of them in my possession. So I started exploring the different options I had of finding a new life for them. Throwing them away was out of the question! And in this search Bookcrossing came up!

Bookcrossing release
A book I have left in Haarlem, The Netherlands

Bookcrossing means giving a book a unique identity (the Bookcrossing id or BCID) and then letting it travel to find new readers.

Thanks to its BCID, it can always be tracked down and its journey can be registered. You can let it travel by several ways. You can leave it on your favourite bench. You can leave it anywhere you want and hope that it will make somebody happy. Or you can give it to somebody that you know wants to read it or would enjoy it.

The Bookcrossing community is international. It started in 2001 in the USA, but ever since it has expanded to 132 countries. There are currently 1,901,290 Bookcrossers and 12,477,228 books travelling. I have met several nice people through bookcrossing! Bookcrossing is for free to join (there are no fees to be a member) and free to play (we share the books for free).

To more practical matters, if you have a book and want to bookcross it, the steps are easy.

Step 1: You go to to register your book. You insert the necessary information and the system returns you a number with 11 digits in the following form 123-12345678. This is the BCID for this book. You have to write this number, as well as some basic information about the whole bookcrossing idea, inside the book, so that the finder can understand what it is about. This can be done either by ready labels or just write it down yourself if there is space. The Athens bookcrossers tend to put the labels inside the first cover, because we have noticed that people tear up the page with the label and then sell it as used book 😦

The book I reading this week was also a bookcrossing book

Step 2: You share the book, or in bookcrossing jargon release it! As I said before you can give it to somebody. If you know the person, this is called “controlled release“, as there is no surprise in its destination. Another option is the “wild release“. This way hides a surprise: the book is left to find its reader itself. In the park,  in the train station or the airport,  in a random free library, anywhere it is possible to be seen. In the photo above I have left a book inside the old stone at the mill De Adriaan, in Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Bookcrossing page
This is what you will see if you go to the website

Step 3: When the new reader finds the book, he can go to and insert the BCID, which will lead him to the diary of this book. There he can write his impression or anything he wants, even if he is not already a member of the community. The only advantage of being a member is that you can trace back the Bookcrossing books that have passed through your hands.

Example book_01
Example of the page of a real book I have registered

And since I have explained the basics of Bookcrossing, let me tell you the big and sad truth: Unfortunately not a lot of people find the books and go into the trouble of registering them. Nevertheless, once you do get the message that one of your books is caught and registered, it gives you such an amazing feeling! And some books are having such an amazing trip themselves! I still remember a book I took with me from the Netherlands and released it in Copenhagen, Denmark and it was caught by somebody that took it to Finland!

Well, I have said enough! Have you heard of bookcrossing before? Are you already a Bookcrosser? Or maybe you have found a free book somewhere and you took it but never went to the page?



Books I read in March

Continuing the posts I create as a mashup of the books I read per month, it is time to write about March. I started really well in 2018, reading at least 5 books a month for January and February. Well in March I slowed down and I finished only two:


It is the first book of the “John Dee Papers” series. As far as I could find there are only two books in this series and they were published in 2010 and 2012 respectively, so I expect that there won’t be a third one coming.

The story takes place in 1560 in England, when young Elizabeth Tudor has been queen for only a year. She would reign for another 43 years (until 1603), but Elizabeth was not a strong monarch either and the experiences gained during the reign of Mary I, who was Catholic and prosecuted Protestants, were awful. This is the atmosphere built in the beginning of the book. John Dee was at the time of the story 32 years old and already a renowned scientists (mathematician, alchemist, astronomer and astrologer). Elizabeth used him as an adviser, but his studies were seen with suspicion from catholic neighbours and in general his fame was better outside England than inside his home country. Elizabeth engaged him in a quest to recover the bones of Arthur of Avalon from the famous mystical town of Glastonbury. The legacy of Arthur was important to Elizabeth, so as to reinforce her claim of the throne. In this quest, John Dee was accompanied by Robert Dudley, the queen’s childhood friend, one of the most powerful men in the country and the most important of Elizabeth’s suitors.

The book adapts to the way of life and talk of the period, with John Dee being the narrator of the story, and it succeeds in building nicely a dark atmosphere for the period. But this is done in a very slow pace. This is exactly one of the reasons that made me read the book slowly, too. It took me quite some time to read the first 100 pages and even more to emerge in the story and start living it, the element that makes me want to read further. I found the narration a bit confusing and, although it might be true, John Dee was a hero living a bit in the clouds, a fact that was adding in the confusion. After the point that the group reaches Glastonbury, the story becomes much more interesting. It evolves in a historic mystery and our John Dee is the hero of the day, saving his beloved queen and the first love of his life!

I feel that I have to mention separately a character of the book: Eleonora. She is the local doctor of Glastonbury, the daughter of a doctor and a lady that understood herbs and their value, and who ends burnt as a witch. Eleonora seems to be a strong woman, who likes studying and goes against the rules of the period for women. She is such a nicer character and so much more amiable than any of the other characters in this book!

Earlier this year I read the first book of the No1 Ladies’ Detective Series and I loved it! So I continued with the second book of this series I had in my library already, although it is the fourth book of the series. In this one Mma Ramotswe has moved her agency behind the garage of Rra Matekoni, as a result of their engagement.

In the beginning, the book summarises things that have happened in the previous books, but are important so as to understand the background: who is Mma Ramotswe and what has happened to her and the main characters of the series from the time the detective agency opened and the time when this book is taking place. As a result, it is not difficult to follow the story, even if this is the first book of the series you get in your hands.

I found this book less funny than the first one, but still with a wit and an intelligence that makes me want to read more! Mma Ramotswe goes through problems with motherhood and has to handle a delicate case with her friend and colleague Mma Makutsi.

I enjoyed these books so much, because they are down-to-earth. They don’t try to impress with conspiracy theories or terror, but the cases are simple, every day matters. I like the feeling they give me of living in a village with dirt streets and open and kind people. It reminds me a bit of the small village my mom was from on the Peloponnese, and where I spent my first summers (although the streets are not from dirt there).

After reading these two books, I decided to buy some more of the No1 Ladies’ Detective Series books, but not to look for the second of the John Dee Papers!

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International children’s book day

Today is the International Children’s book day. It is celebrated on the 2nd April, on (or around) Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. The idea of the day is to inspire the love of reading and to call attention to children’s books. What a nice idea!

I think everybody has held at least one book in his hands. I can’t be sure at what age I touched my first book. Probably far too young and I am not sure those books had a good life. Several years ago I found in my parents’ house a travelling guide of Chios, the island we come from, that was full of irregular lines with pen and I asked my dad about it. He answered that it is a book I had put my hands on when I was young…

Trying to think of books that I read as a child, there are a few that I can mention. Naturally I grew up with Aesop’s Fables. My parents have recorded my trials to start talking and in one of these recordings I am trying to narrate the story of the fox and the crow: the crow has found a nice piece of cheese and the fox that is hungry tries to get it from him. The fox manages by flattering the crow about his nice voice and as he tries to sing, he drops the cheese.

Another book I am sure I read early enough was Τα ψηλά βουνά by Zacharias Papandoniou. The title means “The high mountains” and it is a classic greek children’s book. I am not sure it is translated in English.

I started learning and talking English really early in my life. I am not sure anymore which was the first English book I read but I remember one vividly: Now You Can Read About Things That Go. It was presenting all means of transportation, from bikes to spaceships, by starting from their early editions and finishing by what the authors considered as future editions. It is there I first read about Laika, the dog that flew to space, and then the humans that followed. I still remember how impressed I was when I read about Valentina Tereshkova, the first female to go to space in 1963. Yes girls can do it too!

2018-04-02 13.01.20 666-IMAG3140.jpg

I still enjoy reading children’s books. In 2016 I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll in the Penguin Classics edition (I do like Penguin Classics!). An amazing book, which probably I should have read quite much younger, but maybe now I could appreciate the writing of Lewis Carroll more profoundly. It made me feel like a child again and to try to think out of the box. We all know the Alice in Wonderland part, but I enjoyed the part of Through the looking-glass much more. It is definitely based on no-sense elements, but not at all stupid. Alice is challenged with things she doesn’t understand but that may make some sense if you follow a more unconventional way of thinking. I loved the example of the flowers talking: “Are these the only ones? No. Why the rest do not talk? Because they are on soft soil, so they are asleep, while these ones are on hard ground, so awake”.

Which children’s book has made a deep impression on you? I would love to hear your answers.

Ποιο παιδικό βιβλίο σας έχει εντυπωσιάσει ή σημαδέψει; Ποιο θα προτείνατε;

Welches Kinderbuch hat euch am besten gefallen? Ich würde mich über eure Antwort freuen.

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The Demon-haunted World by Carl Sagan and where are we since he wrote it?

Besides the books I wrote about in the post of February, I also read The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.

As an teenager I think I was in love with Carl Sagan. I was watching his Cosmos series in the TV and I was imagining myself studying astrophysics. When it was time to decide what to study I was satisfied with something less impressive but probably easier for the market: Chemical engineering.

It is a stirring, brilliantly argued book, that becomes too difficult in some parts, but in the end is absolutely rewarding.

I think the book can be split in three parts:

  1. Sagan begins with describing the basic elements of science in total: experimentation, proof and skepticism that leads to reexamining and correcting errors. He also introduces the difference with pseudoscience. This first part serves as the introduction to the whole book.
  2. The second part is dedicated to pseudoscience. He assesses common misconceptions or believes that have no logical background, such as aliens, faces on the moon, crop circles, astrology, mediums, etc. It is a long part, where he states all data available, such as the top secret military balloons, the people that admitted making the crop circles, or performing tricks to convince other people that they communicate with ghosts and the geology and information we now know about the moon or Mars. He goes through the centuries, trying to explain why people are prone to believe in pseudoscience and he compares the visions of aliens to the visions of God and angels and saints or demons and Satan. In one word, they are all hallucinations. This part is really long and therefore can be tiring. Especially if the reader does believe in some of the ideas that are assessed, Sagan can seem like mocking or attacking. I personally disagree that he is making fun of people. He is a scientist and he is trying to prove his statements with logic. The only thing you can probably accuse him of is being an atheist.
  3. The third part focuses back on real science. There is no black and white: science has been used for both good and bad reasons. But it is the fault of people and not of science itself. There have been scientists who supported weapons like the hydrogen bomb, and scientists that opposed the use and foresaw the disastrous results they can cause. But science is based on skepticism and criticism, and that is the absolute key to freedom.

I enjoyed the third part the most. The most amazing chapter for me was the one entitled “No such thing as a dumb question”. Sagan highlights in this chapter what we do to children to make them uninterested to science and not willing to ask questions. How adults find questions of young children, such as “Why is the Moon round?” or “Why is the grass green?”, ridiculous and irritating or feel that it is not worthy even to answer them. On the contrary, they are neither ridiculous nor always so simple to answer! I quote the explanations he gives to the two questions posed before:

“Many of these questions go to deep issues in science, a few of which are not yet fully resolved. Why the Moon is round, has to do with the fact that gravity is a central force pulling towards the middle of any world, and with how strong rocks are. Grass is green because of the pigment of chlorophyll, by why do plants have chlorophyll? It seems foolish, since the Sun puts out its peak energy in the yellow and green part of the spectrum. There is something we still don’t understand about why grass is green.”

Having proved that even simple questions hide early scientific interest from the children’s side and how adults can kill this interest at such an early stage that it becomes so difficult to regain it later, the author suggests “correct” ways of answering:

“There are many better responses, than making the child feel that asking deep questions constitutes a social blunder. If we have an idea of the answer, we can try to explain. Even an incomplete attempt constitutes a reassurance and encouragement. If we have no idea of the answer, we can try to find it in encyclopedias or take the child to the library. Or we might answer: ‘I don’t know the answer. Maybe no one knows. Maybe when you grow up, you ‘ll be the first person to find out’.”

How many children born in the new millennium have even entered a library? Of course computers and internet are big help in finding information, but how much is skepticism and criticism cultivated in the young generation, so as to help them judge which information is real and which is not?

While reading this book, I kept thinking that I am glad Sagan is dead already. If he could see at what level logic and the support to science from the society is today, if he could hear the comments that come out of important political mouths (mainly in the USA), I think he would be totally disappointed. He would see that the main efforts of his whole life didn’t have any influence yet. I really hope they will at a point, but I don’t think we are on a good path…