Sunday, June 21, 2015

5 Types of Books to Include in Your Reading List

About Reading Lists

When skimming through various book recommendations, I wonder if they are not misused resources. As plenty others, though my reading time is limited, I usually choose books with a degree of randomness. And yet, how would our reading lists look, if our purpose was to be represented by the books read? How about pursuing a balance between achieving knowledge and dedicating time?

The mind is our utmost valuable instrument. Its evolution is our responsibility. Learn how to develop and expand it or draw away to comfort zones and be devoured by inutility.

For this purpose, the ultimate accessible method of expanding the mind beyond its limits is reading. Books immerse into unexplored, marvelous worlds and facilitate life changing encounters.

Of course, explorers are responsible. At the beginning, readers will penetrate only what subjectivity allows them. Books mirror minds, they offer, but it is up to the adventurers to be conscious of what they perceive.

To conclude, below are listed coordinates for choosing books, for picking the essential from an overwhelming diversity, a subjective recommendation of types of books to read.

1. Plays

Communion and connection are distinct characteristic for theater. That is to say, behind the stories presented in plays there are topics meant to be debated. The quest is one for the spiritual, philosophical and psychological meaning behind actions. In that regard, plays are unclogging mechanisms. Furthermore, they enlighten the reader on the importance of detail.

For those misjudging that reading theater is not worthwhile, on account that they were put off by poor mise-en-scenes, it can only be underlined that theater should not be tainted by offbeat visions. Without doubt, theater emits, presents and provokes.

Secondly, there are, of course, scores of novels made into films or series, but plays offer an enhanced perception of reading and being a spectator. In other words, they offer the opportunity of first hand experiencing a book, of observing people from our imagination take live in front of us.

Indeed, it is the opportunity to compare what our mind creates with others' creations. In fact, it is looking at fantasies come true. To conclude, it is the form of reading that involves directly and immerses completely.

2. Classics

The classic is a book that always had an audience. A majority agrees on the fact that it expands limits. It has, thus, a universal language and proved value.

What makes a book so engaging?

The classic can answer a variety of questions about life. Even more, it is rare for valuable ideas to be dressed in accessible, thrilling stories that urge readers to follow until the end, and yet, do not concede on intelligence, but leave the reader with the feeling that they have not grasped all there is to be fathomed.

Therefore, it is our privilege to have access to the complex labor of creative minds. There is no need to be intimidated by classic books, all there is demanded is to be thrilled by their presence and to relish the opportunity of figuring them out. In conclusion, classic books are rare, constructed from expensive materials, and remarkably wise.

It is amazing that they are so accessible. One might even ask - as a pun - why, with such available, free resources, is the human race not more evolved?

3. Poetry

Poetry is the form of literature likely to induce dream states, reading poetry is allowing the mind to play. Poetry is mysterious, it is something to decipher, it expands thought processes. To put it another way, when reading poetry language and grammar skills, along with logic skills, improve.

When people didn't have the words to express what they felt or what they needed to say, they found new ways to use available vocabulary. I delight in how "fathom" meant "to encircle with ones arms" and after that it went to describe "to understand after much thought" or how "to sulk" comes from the old English word "solcen" that means lazy. Poetry also expands words to suit expanding worlds. Maybe in our attempts to understand what the future will be, utopias and dystopias should be bypass and the best of poetry should be elucidated.

Undoubtedly poetry is affordable luxury, a higher standard of human language, it enriches and compensates. When life is not consistent, read nonsensical limericks. When life is too complicated read haiku. When life is banal read Shakespeare.

4. National Literature

Coming out of a familiar place, out of the womb, so to speak, is required in order to grow and develop, but the history and contemporaneity of those familiar places connect us with ourselves. National books are relevant for that slice of our lives.

They are means of keeping contact with our roots, of finding out what our peers think and of what they think about.

Without doubt, a true discoverer searches in universal and in particular. There is plenty to learn when the familiar is observed through new lenses. It makes us more conscious of our perceptions on life, if that is something that needs to be adjusted or changed. The stories told by us to ourselves should not satisfy. Reading national books sets out what familiar is and that familiar also needs explaining, that growing is not complete until it includes learning about home, that maps are needed in order to arrive there.

Indeed, our first experiences take place at home, they form us, build strength or mark weaknesses and shape points of view. National books enable the comparison of the points of view of others with our own. They reveal what is relevant to our individual structure and that cannot be obtained from other sources. Reading national books might expose amazing facts that were ignored, important ones, thrilling ones or briefly, that we ignored.

5. Books for Surviving and for Expanding Horizons

Our development might be blocked at certain moments, but out there exist books on how to overcome difficult situations. My own list includes anxiety, introversion, extroversion, self-concept, creativity, security, love. Survival is a skill and books are an appropriate instrument for sharpening it.

Books for expanding horizons are different from the ones needed for survival due to the fact that you could live without them, but they are worth the investment. Books about music, to better understand it, to read about your favorite bands, to explore genres you thought were inaccessible. Books about economy, to learn what goes on behind the scenes, how to invest, how others succeeded or failed. Photography books, art books, books about movies, books about perfume, cookbooks.

Certainly, in order to see beyond limits help is needed. Expanding the mind implies expanding our understanding, being better prepared to face problems. In physical training there is such a notion as "muscle memory". A muscle will get accustomed to certain exercises and as such the performance results will not be the same as in the beginning when the body was learning and getting accustomed. That is why performing diverse routines and switching between training formats is recommended for obtaining the best results.

In the same way, reading is training on different levels of existence. Reading is exercising the mind in new directions, in unfamiliar ones, growing, experiencing new ways to live, progressing in useful areas, discovering the utility of areas ignored before.

List Extensions

Firstly the genre book - this is something that appeals to each owns taste. To name a few - mystery, thriller, romance, detective, hard boiled. Secondly, books that can be read at every age. I am convinced that children books, fantasy books and graphic novels should always be on reading lists, for the sheer pleasure of going on adventures. Choose wisely, avoid the banal and the overexposed and have oodles of fun. Thirdly, the humorous book, as a source of relief, of power and a brighter view on life. Fourthly, for connecting with the world, the contemporary book.

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Two Old Women: A Book Review

Folktales provide great insight into specific cultures. We often find enjoyment reading our own folktales to our children but tales from different cultures provide us with a greater understanding of other kinds of lifestyles. "Two Old Women" is powerful story written by Velma Wallis about a Gwich'in band of Alaskan Athabaskans. It is a story about two aging women and traditional Athabaskan practices, but it incorporates universal themes of survival and motivation.

The story follows Ch'idzigyaak and Sa' as they face the cruel fate of being abandoned by their own people. The lack of food forces the chief to make the decision to abandon the two old women. Thus, Ch'idzigyaak and Sa' begin their journey of physical, emotional, and psychological endurance. They travel across the land fending for themselves finding they had more strength than they thought possible.

They started as a couple of old women who would complain a lot while doing little work, but they transform into two successful and strong survivors. At the end of the story, they reunite with their tribe. The meeting is shaky at the start, but the women eventually forgive their people for abandoning them and share their bounty with their less successful family and friends.

Throughout the story, we learn much about the Gwich'in culture. Ch'idzigyaak and Sa' recount their childhood and discuss roles within their families. We learn that the Gwich'in have distinct jobs designated to females and males, there are female and male gender roles and specified times when males and females should marry and have children, the Gwich'in view of aging is varied and changing, and there are distinct cultural values among the Gwich'in.

The distinct cultural values among the Gwich'in are shown in the themes of the story. These women toiled and survived through hardship and eventually found a happy ending. It shows how the Gwich'in value strength, both physical and mental. This story was likely created to inspire others to be strong and endure through hard times because it is possible even for a couple of old women. The Gwich'in also value their people. The women were abandoned by their band but forgave them since they have a deep connection with their people. They share certain understandings and a way of living.

Two Old Women is an amazing story full of the Gwich'in culture. It shows many examples of how they lived and what they believe. But the story is great because it not only provides us with cultural information. It is a story about people on an incredible journey who transform themselves. People of all cultures can learn a lesson from these two old women.

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Station Eleven, an Elegant Take on The Dystopian Theme

Emily St. John Mandel is a contemporary Canadian author living in the United States. In "Station Eleven", her fourth and latest novel (published in 2014), she starts, with calm and paced language, by describing an unusual night at the theater. The instant impression is that of watching a thrilling, fine-crafted TV series: how the author introduces the setting and the characters, the way the writing focuses on one character next another one in a large cast, induces a perception of movement, action and familiarity.

In this novel a woman in her 20s, an actress in the "Traveling Symphony", journeys from one settlement to the next in a post-pandemic America, 20 years after the world stopped functioning, after the Georgia flu killed 99,6% of the population. Therefore the remaining people survive without electricity, in new, adapted ways, in disparate settlements. They broke through lack of resources, lack of civilization and violence.

The young woman is Kirsten Raymonde, who in the dramatic scene opening the novel is a child actor playing one of King Lear's daughters. Somewhat neglected by her parents, that promote her as an actress, Kirsten spends much of her time at the theater. That night, when "King Lear" plays in Toronto, the actor in the main role, Arthur Leander, a superstar, but also her friend, dies onstage. Jeevan Chaudhary, former paparazzi, current paramedic trainee, tries in vain to save him, and the same night the flu strikes the world, starting its destruction.

There are threads connecting all the characters: Arthur Leander was the biggest influence in young Kirsten's life, Jeevan Chaudhary had an influence on his, they both changed Miranda Carroll's, author of the comic book "Dr. Eleven", book that Kirsten ends growing up with. The unwinding of this ball of threads is "Station Eleven"'s body. The narrative moves back and forth from Kirsten and her current extended family to familiar characters from the past, their lives and struggles.

If that is the body, "Station Eleven"s soul has to be the world seen through art and recuperated by art. The "Traveling Symphony" plays only Shakespearean theater, sings and tries to retrieve members it left and to gather pieces of a former world. Quotes from Sartre: "Hell is other people" and from "Star Trek": "Survival is insufficient" are their motto. Furthermore the two volumes of "Dr. Eleven" define Kirsten's life.

But "Station Eleven" is also a hip novel. In one of the settlements, the "Symphony" encounters a prophet, one of the multiple existing in that world. This meeting will be a violent one and his link with Kirsten's life randomly deep.

Members of the "Traveling Symphony" disappear, they passed through the prophet's settlement, a child he wants as wife ran away with them, yet the prophet's stealth mastery should confuse us: "Is it something supernatural?", who knows what happens in this new world...

In a nutshell the book offers also adventures, fights, love plots, but found somewhere in the background, somehow necessary in a world supposed to be violent, and the fact that they are serving a purpose, renders them not completely satisfactory.

These are young people's adventures combined with a lady's (Miranda's in "Dr. Eleven") view of the world and this mix just floats. At the heart of the novel there is a perceivable philosophy, but no major mysteries and behind a world - a breathing, pulsating world - there should be an ocean of connections and truths.The writing is memorable in its details - lost thoughts, lost remarks, haphazard inquiries in someones lost life and pain. I almost wish "Station Eleven" would be just that: random lost profound connections with no attempt of visibility. I read somewhere that this book would adapt successfully into a movie, perhaps it would generate a successful TV series, but I shouldn't have felt that this goal exists.

Science fiction and dystopia run together with the American metropolitan way of life, in a novel that is clean and enjoyable, easy to appreciate or admire, but difficult to believe and trust. The secrets it guards offer explanations, but are not world building and in a novel that treats the subject of world change, that is difficult to understand.

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Four Interpretations For The Flies Motif In Sartre's Play The Flies

In ancient Greece tragedy was a mean of presenting before the community social, moral and religious issues that inspired need of debate. The Greeks did not believe in holy commandments to live by, instead they used as guidelines heroes and their lives.

Therefore generation after generation myths took new meanings, each revision providing a new twist or emphasizing a different idea.

The Myth of Orestes

In "The flies" (1943) Jean-Paul Sartre (21 June 1905 - 15 April 1980) retells, in his turn, the story of Orestes.

These are the main facts from the original story:

In Argos, ancient Greek city, queen Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, murder king Agamemnon, her husband. By this crime she revenges his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia, meant to persuade the gods to help end, in his favor, the 10 year lasting Trojan war.

However when their son Orestes returns home years later, he reunites with Electra, his sister, and avenges Agamemnon. But that sets in motion the Furies or Erinyes, gods of vengeance, that hunt him down, until goddess Athena comes to his rescue.

What Are The Flies?

1. The flies shift the focus.

In Sartre's retelling of the myth, Orestes returns to Argos, meets his sister, they avenge their father, the Furies - giant pesky flies - hunt them both, but no gods come to their rescue. On the contrary Jupiter, described as god of flies and death - actually Zeus from Greek mythology, divides them until Electra abandons their cause and Orestes assumes his destiny of wanderer king of flies, without country or subjects.

It all goes metaphysical: we read this story, then analyze ourselves and wonder what is it all about. Sartrely done. But we wonder at our own risk, the results may be depressing.

There's No Way Out Of Here

2. The flies define Argos and its citizens.

In the beginning of the play Argos is a lazy town lingering under the sun. But as it withstood silent at its king's murder and accepted his killers as rulers, Argos had to be punished: the gods (that is Jupiter, no other god gets involved) sent in the flies. Now the town has a pestilence appearance and even its inhabitants resemble insects in the way they look and act - spineless, bendable, fearful creatures.

As Jupiter predetermines that argosians are weak and easily corrupted, we wonder if this town actually had any choice? Even Orestes's actions are not destined to save anybody, maybe not even to avenge his father. Initially he would have gladly given up, but Electra is his catalyst: he needs her to be his family, he needs to be worthy of her so he acts violently.

When You Come In You're In For Good

3. Everyone is a fly actually.

In this morbid, awful town Electra is the only one that comes across as beautiful and alive. But only as long as she stands against Aegisthus and her mother she appears grand and courageous. When she herself takes the road of murder the beauty dissipates, fear and confusion lurk in, in the end she is just a beautiful fly.

Aegisthus is also an interesting figure, he has under control this strange town, using their superstition, inventing macabre holidays. A character that is sad in his knowledge of human nature and welcomes death.

Before killing Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, Orestes ponders and concludes that accepting and moving on is being week. In consequence he chooses a descending way into the town and towards his sister. He is one that can define what is wrong but wants acceptance into a family.

There Was No Promise Made

4. This is about a king of the flies.

Orestes choices should bring him and Electra and the town closer, but as the furies hunt them and Jupiter judges them, he faces the reality that his fall was greater than he anticipated: Electra shows him no love and the argosians try to kill him.

In the end Orestes refuses Jupiter as god, assumes the killings and exits the town as king of the flies.

A literary parallel makes itself available: In William Golding's book "Lord of the flies", written in 1954, the lord of the flies was the head of a pig stalled on a stick as an offering to "the beast". But the beast was actually the violence rising up in children stranded on an island. Golding took the image of flies and used it to illustrate the superficiality of human institutional systems. Humans have a violent nature and there is no escape from that. It might be also of importance that lord of the flies is another name for the devil.

Both books were written in times when the world reminded itself what war and its consequences were, but as Golding's novel is about a world that fell from reason and lost its ways, Sartre's play is about a world that never acquired reason to begin with.

*3 subtitles used were inspired by "There's no way out of here", song by David Gilmour

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Four Life Lessons From Aeschylus's Oresteia

Revenge! Faster, Kill, Kill!

Aeschylus (525-455 BC) retells a story first made popular by Homer. What develops in "Oresteia"'s three tragedies - "Agamemnon", "The Libation Bearers" and "The Eumenides" could be the plot of "Revenge! Faster, kill, kill!", but behind all this, philosophical questions peek out.

Beyond stories told in ancient tragedies there are topics that were of interest and dispute in community. The Greeks did not believe in holy commandments to live by, they used the lives of their heroes as guidelines. Therefore myths were just stories that, depending on the storyteller, could have a different emphasis.

Aeschylus had the genius of serving philosophy and psychology in a thrilling way. At the core, these three plays dwell on the problems of the cycle of violence and conflict resolution.

1. Conflict Equals Pain, But Knowledge Alone Is Not Enough To Stop It.

It begins with "Agamemnon".

In the first play - "Agamemnon" - the focus is on the sad state of Argos - powerful Greek city - and its citizens. People are miserable, they believe that the sources of their misery is the Trojan war that began 10 years before, when war terminates and king Agamemnon returns, order will prevail.

But Queen Clytemnestra has superior knowledge: that the real source of pain is Agamemnon and his damned family. She wants to punish the death of their daughter Iphigenia (sacrificed by Agamemnon to gods in order to win the war). Agamemnon, and his war slave Cassandra, must die and then she will rule over a world of order and love, as in the course of these 10 years she took Aegisthus - cousin and enemy of Agamemnon - as lover.

She commits the murders and Argos can only lament powerless.

2. People Can Search For Salvation Outside Themselves, But By Perpetuating Sin, Redemption Remains Undisclosed.

Here comes the sun?

The second play "The Libation Bearers" takes us into a city where suffering increased: unpunished murders and unlawful ruling brought on somber times. There is no salvation in this corrupted place, hope lies in the return of Orestes, the heir, he must avenge his father's death.

Orestes belongs to the city but was an outsider to the crimes committed, he spent his childhood away from home, in consequence he should be the sane, clean bringer of order. The reality though, reveals a confused hero. Apollo, his sister Electra, his friend Pylade and citizens, bury his first reaction of hesitation: they assure him that killing his mother will restore the order and Orestes trusts them.

Though Electra appears shortly, she plays a special role, she is the important libation bearer, secretly bringing offerings to the memory of her father and in honor of gods. Caught between duty towards father and the weakness of her position - being tolerated in her own home - she pleads for justice.

Orestes avenges his father, but as the city rejoices, Furies, gods of vengeance and vendetta, hunt him.

3. People Can Not Survive Alone.

Finding Redemption.

In the last play - "The Eumenides" - Argos is at last a free city, but standing alone, awaiting for its ruler.

Orestes left home in search of salvation: Apollo protects him, but he still pays for the murder he committed as the Furies keep him in a continuous hustle. Contact with humans decreases his pain but cannot redeem him. Only the intervention of another higher authority - goddess Athena, will finish this conflict.

There are two sides and Athena could take the side of either one: fight off the vengeance gods or rally with them. Instead of this traditional resolution of conflict, Athena calls on the Athenians to judge Orestes. They cannot decide if he was wrong or right and free him. Athena also convinces the Furies to change their ways and protect humans, they change into The Eumenides, spirits of reason and democracy.

4. The suggestion for Greek citizens was that they shouldn't be Orestes, Clytemnestra or Electra, they should not take justice into their own hands, but instead they should solve conflicts through law and justice.

Aeschylus lived in violent times, he thought in battles against the Persians, his work, of remarkable poetic intensity, is thus a search for meaning and the right ways to resolve conflicts.

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The Importance of Courage - Incentives From the Russian Novel Oblomov

Ivan Goncharov was not a citizen of the 20th or 21st century, in which the importance of ambition and willpower was, and is, a quotidian idea, he lived in 19th century Russia, known for its particular, non-western way of life. Starting from this data, how accidental it appears - to a naive reader as myself - that Oblomov, his fourth novel and one of his greater ones, is contemporaneous in its psychology.

Oblomov is the story of the eponymous character, a life's tableau resembling a neglected garden, one in desolation. The novel depicts how and perhaps why, a life can bear little fruit. It is not an appealing sight, still it is an invitation to the reader to brace him/herself, illuminate a story and pay attention to his/her own ways.

As a reading experience, Oblomov is a pleasure: clear style, easily perceivable actions and emotions, the author writes as if to determine that ideas break through; only as an emotional experience Oblomov might not be pleasant.

This is a four-part novel: in the first one Goncharov describes how the sheltered noble of 31 years, spends a normal day at his house in St. Petersburg - a nightmarish slumber ensues.

How can a perfectly peaceful day develop comparable to an awful dream? In a foggy perception of time, Oblomov wakes up and falls back asleep, plans than looses train of thought, wants, however accomplishes not, is affected yet senseless. And through all this his mind judges, he is a judging and fantasizing machine.

His entourage is one of either blase or ferocious characters and his solace is in the remembrance of an idyllic childhood that formed him. Oblomovka, his home and estate, is a character in its own right, there, when Oblomov was a child, people lived the same day in a loop, without terrible effort or investment. It was a sort of heaven on earth. Yet Oblomov shies from living there, Oblomovka remains a far away destination.

True defeat is giving up on dreams. For Oblomov the road to that denouement passes through keeping dreams remote and perfect. This man never summons the courage to attain them, he chooses to keep the fantasy of a blessed life as married man, living on his estate, just that - a perfect fantasy. By not acting and pursuing this ideal, Oblomv in reality gives up.

To this hopeless man fate provided as friend his perfect antonym, Stolz. The rich, industrious friend drags him back into society, applying stimulating and energizing actions. Goncharov presents the differences in upbringing that shaped Stolz: independence and early risk taking. To all Stolzs efforts, Oblomov opposes the voice of his inner critic: there is no utility in acting, other people live meaningless lives that he has no taste for. Also on the opposite pole, when comparing himself to Stolz, he obviously finds himself lacking.

Is this inner critic truthful? Yes, of course, Oblomov is lucid, never lies to himself, the danger of listening to his own reasoning though, is that it keeps him in a state of inaction, paralyzed. Oblomov is not willing to fail, so he never acts.

What else could wake this man up? Perhaps love? Love arrives in Oblomovs life as a blossom that has no lasting power, due, again, to his own perception. Feelings flower and he right away feels they wither, of course he trusts his perception and pays it forward to his love interest, the inexperienced Olga. He would rather give up than live through a deception.

Love is a summer of blessings and intense, at times troublesome emotions. After that, in the third part of the novel, the practicalities of life find Oblomov not measuring up, he can not put into practice plans, even rumors of marriage scare him, he postpones and postpones until Olga gives up on him.

Goncharov gives in the fourth part of the novel the reply to Oblomovs model of thinking and acting: years later, we find Olga and Stolz married, she is approaching Oblomovs age when the novel started and a state of nervousness, something resembling fear overcomes her. To this, Stolz has the perfect answer: one must respect and endure doubts and sorrow, they are friends come to alert us to pay attention to our lives.

Oblomov suffers after losing Olga, nevertheless has his ways of comfort and his pleasures, lives through trails and tribulations sustained by Stolz and leaves in the world a child; his life was brief and had its moments of sweetness, however, by not taking action, it withered away.

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The Narrator's Point of View

The best mystery novels, whether told by a first person or a third person, can read and feel very different from one another indeed. It all depends on the perspective of the narrator... his or her point of view.

Many authors have wrestled with how to convey their books, and whom they should incorporate to relate their story. Although there are other choices, it often comes down to using first or third person narrators' points of view. Choosing between the two makes for a weighty decision for the author.

In this brief article the perspective of the first and third narrator will be discussed.

If the narrator is one of the main characters, first person, the author is challenged by the fact that this character must be present in all scenes, have plausible access and knowledge to the information and descriptions that he or she imparts, and must often relate what others have told him/her, not what he/ she experienced themselves.The first person narrator in the best crime novels that I've read is always in the present, even when relating something that happened long ago.

There is also the element that the first person narrator doesn't know what another character's motivations are unless that person tells them. The narrator works more from his / her own perceptions, misperceptions, and hearsay when it comes to knowing and understanding others' actions. Therefore,( and it is the fascinating aspect of first person narration in a top mystery book that I like most), we the reader are brought inside the narrator's head and are made to guess, judge, and discern right along with him/her why other characters do what they do, and what their actions may lead them to do.. Readers can become very engaged in knowing intimately what the narrator is going through... I find my perspective of choice is that of the first person when it comes to reading the short story genre.

On the other hand, the third person perspective is by far the method most often used to convey good mystery books. The narrator writes of others lives, not of his/her self,( they, them, she, him etc..) and is able to present a perfect perspective in every scene in the book, because the perspective is that of the proverbial fly on the wall. The best seat in the house.

The writers are free to allow their narrator to relate, comment and experience what all the other characters' motivations are. They are all knowing.. Whether the narrator is sharing the protagonist's complicated, dark past, or relating what thoughts and feelings drive each and every character in the novel, the third person narrator has unlimited access, full knowledge and a bit of righteousness perhaps. This makes it much easier for the writer to set up scenes and have characters interact with one another.

The added bonus to the third person point of view is that, if written well, the narrator's expertise and mastery as to what all the characters know and what motivates them to do the things they do, is seldom questioned by the reader. It's a given in the best crime fiction, or in any other form of fiction for that matter, that the narrator knows what he/she is talking about... even though the third person narrator is an observer, never in the action him/herself.

There have been great mystery books written that have incorporated both points of narrative view, but the writer must be very careful in utilizing this change in perspective not to lose continuity, plausibility, and the reader as well.

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