The many fantastic reviews of this book seem to be based more on the person (autistic woman overcoming her disability to achieve a successful career aThe many fantastic reviews of this book seem to be based more on the person (autistic woman overcoming her disability to achieve a successful career advising the livestock industry on how to treat animals on the way to be nicer to their animals) than the book itself, which is awkwardly written and not that great of a read, to be honest. In Britain it's called "Making Animals Happy," and that would be a more appropriate title than "Animals Make Us Human," which is an interesting thesis but one that Grandin sheds no light on throughout the course of her book. Grandin ends the book by talking about why she never became a vegetarian and instead advised the industry: she met some cattle farmers in the '70s who were very dedicated to their animals, and she thought that they could all be that way. She's since learned differently, especially in the case of chickens, but doesn't address why she didn't become a vegetarian later when she found this all out.... perhaps because she is only well-known because she works for the livestock companies? Anyway, Temple Grandin is like the Barack Obama of animal rights: she makes people feel like "change" is happening and like she really is on the animals' side, when she's clearly not (she designed a better fence to lead cattle to slaughter, which most slaughterhouses now use-- she cried when she first saw the cows going to their death in it but then was able to change her mind that this was a good thing). The same way that people feel good supporting Obama because of his background or characteristics, Grandin makes people feel good that anyone can overcome a disability and that McDonald's really, really cares about the animals....more
This book is one of the driest reads I've ever encountered. It may as well be a list of declarative sentences since it lacks any form of interesting pThis book is one of the driest reads I've ever encountered. It may as well be a list of declarative sentences since it lacks any form of interesting presentation, personality, or analysis whatsoever. It is strictly information, and if you are not already deeply interested in the subject, there's nothing here to intrigue you.
The book contains very interesting information, in great detail, on the development of Palestinian women's groups, student movements, labor unions, teacher's unions, and Red Crescent Societies in Egypt, Kuwait, and Jordan.
A major drawback is that Brand treats Syria and Lebanon as footnotes and only includes about two pages of information on each of these countries, which (besides Jordan) are some of the most consequential places of residence for Palestinians throughout the decades. I'm not sure why she chose to ignore the larger Palestinian populations within Syria and Lebanon in favor of documenting the smaller populations in Egypt and Kuwait.
The information on Kuwaiti Palestinians, in the 1988 edition I read, didn't seem to correlate with the fact that just three years later the Kuwaiti Palestinians (who are spoken of in this book as treated very well within Kuwait) were expelled by the hundreds of thousands, primarily into Jordan. I read the 1988 edition, but the 1991 edition is probably much more timely since it could include information on the mass expulsion of Palestinians from Kuwait (for their support of Saddam Hussein over Kuwait in that war). Laurie Brand has gone on to write other books, but this one sorely needs to be updated....more
Joseph O'Neill is going to single-handedly spawn a generation of English lit syllabi and essay subjects comparing this novel to "The Great Gatsby." SiJoseph O'Neill is going to single-handedly spawn a generation of English lit syllabi and essay subjects comparing this novel to "The Great Gatsby." Since I loved "Gatsby" when I was a kid, this was an aspect of the book I enjoyed, but I'm sure it's been covered to death in other reviews, so I'll focus elsewhere.
I didn't enjoy the actual reading of this book as much as I usually enjoy a book I like. I can't really explain why, but nevertheless until about three-fourths of the way through I didn't think I liked the book that much at all. I hadn't read any reviews or even the back cover, and at one point deep into the depths of the novel I realized that what I had thought was a side story was actually the book's centerpiece.
Hans van den Broek, a Dutchman living in New York post-9/11 by way of London, is alone after his wife takes their son and moves back to Europe, and he occupies himself by becoming the only white man in the New York immigrant subculture of his childhood sport of cricket, traveling throughout the boroughs for games on weekends. Through this venture, he meets Chuck Ramkissoon, bigger than life, an immigrant enterpreneur from Trinidad who thinks cricket is the manifest destiny of the American Dream and helps Hans with one manifestation of that for a European, driving lessons. And oh yes, Chuck is prone to soliloquies. Chuck, we find out at the beginning of the novel, was found murdered in a Brooklyn canal, and the novel subsequently shows his story in flashback.
Below the surface is what I connected to most: Hans' ongoing introspection, in which everyone can find at least something to relate to. I found his ruminations on childhood and relationships were particularly affecting, how we are always so particularly attached to memories and moments from childhood and why exactly this might be, how we are all living a separate life inside our mind, and how we can't really ever even know ourselves, let alone the people close to us. Are we really the same person we were in the past, or is that just a story we tell ourselves?
I'm usually not one for the many overhyped descriptions of New York City that people in general are prone to, but O'Neill writes very movingly of the unique aspects of not just Manhattan but all the boroughs: this is where the world comes to find and live their dreams, still. It's where anything can happen, and yes, the rest of your life may just be an aftermath after you've lived there. It's where you can meet an over-the-top Trinidadian who gives you driving lessons and changes your life, where investment bankers and cab drivers play cricket side-by-side, and where life continues for people whose life would be over in another city.
Hans the character seriously dislikes London and sees none of these same qualities in it, although personally I think the two cities share many of these enchanting characteristics (in my personal opinion, London even more so). Maybe this is because Hans/O'Neill conflates New York City with America itself. An American can certainly find these innate eccentricities of America (like the freedom of driving) elsewhere, and while Hans travels extensively for business, he doesn't ruminate on other cities, their springs, rivers, or bridges, like he does on the slightest details of New York. ...more
I have a Kindle for a few weeks, and so I'm reading Outliers because it was recommended to me. Some of the case studies are really, really fascinatingI have a Kindle for a few weeks, and so I'm reading Outliers because it was recommended to me. Some of the case studies are really, really fascinating, although I don't know if they lead up to Gladwell's ultimate argument, which is that for the most part we're all a product of circumstances rather than individual initiative and Horatio Alger-type American dream stories. To cite one example, Gladwell says that the best year for a potential computer/software entrepreneur to be born is 1955-- and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Joy were all born in 1954-6. Obviously, Bill Joy couldn't have founded Sun Microsystems if he'd been born in 1893, and yes, it's true that he may not have done so if he'd been born in 1952. Yet, there were many other people who had the opportunities Bill Joy had -- the University of Michigan has tens of thousands of students-- and only one became Bill Joy the software entrepreneur. There were dozens of other people born the same year as Bill Gates who went to Bill Gates' private high school yet turned down the opportunity to join the computer club or do all the programming Gates did. There were probably dozens or hundreds of young programmers who spent just as much time on their craft on computers just as advanced as Gates and Joy had, but they didn't have the particular entrepreneurship to bring computers to the masses. Gladwell's citation of a study which implies that Southerners are more easily offended also has holes big enough to drive a truck through-- Southerners might be more easily offended not because they're all Hatfield-McCoy, homicidal crazies, but because people in the South are generally more polite and Southerners are therefore less likely to encounter random insults by strangers-- so when they do, they're really, really offended.
I'm not to the end yet, but it's not yet clear how everything ties in together....more