If you want to gain understanding of how culture can be affected by literature, read this book. If you want to be dazzled by one of the most prescient writings of our times, read this book. If you just like sci-fi, AI, space ships and artificial gravity, read this book. Even if you're a 'none of the above', you should probably read this book.
It is a joy to read a sample of the type of thinking that built America.
The Fountainhead tells the tale of two architects, one who goes with the flow, plays the political games, designs what 'society wants' and another, Howard Roark, who designs buildings for the simple reason that it gives him pleasure. We learn from this tale how aspects of our society will act to punish those that would try to outdo what has gone before, and reward those who sell their soul to the will of others.
The pace is brisk, yet a slower tale unfolds between the lines, the tale of the hollowness of of the easy victory and the true virtue of original thought; this sense of foreboding grows and turns the tale into a classic of modern literature.
The reader is left with a curious self-confidence and bizarrely, the message taken away is very similar to that left by Steve Jobs who stuck up for the misfits who wanted to create things people didn't even know they wanted yet (many others have noticed the parallel's between Jobs and Roark).
Of course, reading this book after so many years, and after so many more lessons in the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism, we see that some of the ideas proposed have failed the test of time - for example, we have seen how the problems of pure selfishness are probably worse than those from pure selflessness (Rand created a false dilemma).
The strengths of the book allow me to forgive that weakness. Firstly, it reminds us there is virtue in our so-called 'selfish' ambitions - secondly, it gives confidence to people to break from tradition, to question dogma and to develop their own personal set of principles. Last but not least it creates hope - hope that a society of individuals can be coherent and not hostile.
To conclude, this book remains a fabulous tool to teach us to question why we do what we do, and to ask ourselves who exactly we are trying to please. It is worth 5 stars for that alone.
There is a gap between what those who study the details know, and what the public know. Although this book will not reach many of the latter, it will reach many on the fringe - it is therefore up to us to carry the banner and alert the sleeping masses to the facts: when we burn carbon we are playing with fire.
James Hansen carries the best credentials you could ask for: who else can say they predicted global warming in 1980? Of course this blessing is also a curse; critics can argue he is biased, and of course he is, but he is not delusional: he admits openly that models are far from good enough for us to rely on, but argues rather that the evidence of the past (paleoclimatology) gives a pretty good cause for concern. The risks are simply too great for "business as usual". Read this book and make up your own mind - afterwards, not before.
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