The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, is a delightful “High Fantasy” read. It’s a book I might be tempted, if I had the opportunity, to press on my 15-year-old self, because it showcases many of the kinds of serious mistakes earnest, good-hearted young men are prone to making, such as not asking for help or advice, or neglecting to notice how valuable it is to form an explicit long-term plan, and get input on it from others. Or to think everything a gal you’re dating is doing is about you. And, it warns against the kind of quiet despondency that old men can sink into, after they’ve made mistakes that–like everything in the past–can’t be unmade. While there is life, there is work to do. Stay active; keep humming the tune to your life under your breath, even after you make your latest great mistake.

Maybe the best thing about The Name of the Wind is the way it engages with what it means to be a mind that has a life. One example that will stick with me is the way a mentor taught him about how to think effectively, particularly for difficult decisions, which was to cordon off corners of mind for a cast of characters, and have them argue with each other. As a young man, the main character Kvothe is a quick study, who can learn a new language in a day or two. The best appeal of the book is going on adventures with him, as his talents, curiosity, and ambition carry him forward. He’s interested in music, math, art, magic (hey, it’s a high-fantasy book), women, philosophy, truth… and his projects include protecting the innocent and avenging wrongful death. At the same time, he’s still a young man–it’s kind of hard to express how stupid he is about very obvious things, in a way most people who have been a young man, or known some, may find quite entertaining. A great read. Hopefully I will find the next two books in the series are as good… the third isn’t even out yet, so it may be a wait.

Edit 24 Jan 2017: I am going to re-read this book (the whole series, actually) and post on it more. Reading this post now, it seems plain that I am under-specifying how well made this book is, and will probably only be able to succeed if I focus on capturing what is high-quality about a very small part of the book, and let the quality of that part speak for the whole.

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