A literary and scientific history of time travel (a.k.a., my favorite trope of all...well, time). I loved the early chapters in which Gleick discussesA literary and scientific history of time travel (a.k.a., my favorite trope of all...well, time). I loved the early chapters in which Gleick discusses how humanity came to view time differently in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, running sort of in tandem with and inspired by the Industrial Revolution. The array of proto-time travel tales also fascinated me, and the peek at the pulps likewise amused. Unfortunately, the more modern chapters, focusing on the intersection of time travel and (internet) technology and what time travel means to us today were less successful for me, possibly because I simply don't agree: Gleick fails to capture whatever it is about the concept that continues to beguile me. (Why can't he read my damn mind?! Find out in Telepathy: A History.) Nevertheless, this is a really enjoyable and thought-provoking book about one of my favorite subjects....more
I wanted to end 2016 on a positive note, and few people have given me more pleasure this year than Lin-Manuel Miranda.
However, the end of this musicaI wanted to end 2016 on a positive note, and few people have given me more pleasure this year than Lin-Manuel Miranda.
However, the end of this musical always makes me cry, and I sobbed even harder when I saw that the end of this book is a chapter about President Obama fundraising at a special Hamilton performance to raise money for the 2016 election and what he hoped would be the continuation of his legacy.
That this country has seemingly rejected everything Obama -- and symbolically, Hamilton -- has fought for is devastating to me.
Beautiful, eerie photographs complemented by fascinating stories -- this is one of the rare photography books where I feel like the text actually addsBeautiful, eerie photographs complemented by fascinating stories -- this is one of the rare photography books where I feel like the text actually adds something to the images. So it's extra unfortunate that this book is so badly copy edited. It's not just that there are mistakes: there are mistakes to the level of the proofreader's notes being left in the final printing -- stuff like "I think you're missing a word here." Some sentences trail off into nothing. Stuff like this happens multiple times.
The raw material here is gorgeous and compelling; it deserves to have these distracting mistakes corrected before the next printing. ...more
Not much I didn't already know (sniffs the adult reading a book intended for 8-to-12-year-olds), but clearly and charmingly presented. I was amused thNot much I didn't already know (sniffs the adult reading a book intended for 8-to-12-year-olds), but clearly and charmingly presented. I was amused that the Alexander Hamilton chapter was "Alexander Hamilton vs. History." (Our boy Alex has definitely won a recent battle there.) I was also interested to see John Adams' dying words, "Thomas Jefferson still lives," presented with a meaning 180 degrees away from what I was taught, but Quirk appears to have the evidence to back it up. Her version is cuter, too, so I choose to believe it....more
I always thought I would hate Florida until I went there. To my shock, I loved it. It's a place steeped in contradictions and weirdness -- so, exactlyI always thought I would hate Florida until I went there. To my shock, I loved it. It's a place steeped in contradictions and weirdness -- so, exactly my kind of place. I don't know that I could live there, but it sure is fun to visit.
Craig Pittman is an excellent armchair tour guide in Oh, Florida!, which covers how the state's oddities have influenced the rest of the nation and offers up loads of fun stories. Pittman, a newspaper reporter, has never met a pun he didn't like, which gives this book a sort of old-school humor that I really enjoyed. He doesn't shy away from pointing out his home state's major faults -- seriously, could there be a collection of worse politicians? -- but the book still made me long to go back.
This covers a lot of the same ground as Spinster, but I didn't enjoy it as much. Spinster is more personal and more literary; this book relies much moThis covers a lot of the same ground as Spinster, but I didn't enjoy it as much. Spinster is more personal and more literary; this book relies much more on statistics and studies, and I found it, in comparison, more dry and repetitive. I recognize this is largely a matter of personal taste. Both books are interesting extensions of A Room of One's Own-style thought, and it's affirming to recognize the multitude of options that exist, and are continuing to increase, for women....more
The crimes depicted in this book -- the widescale murder of Osage Indians for their oil fortunes -- are not particularly interesting; they probably could have been solved in two seconds were it not for the sweeping corruption throughout the white-controlled local government, which was of course aided and abetted by national policy. It's more terrifying than your typical true crime story could ever be....more
Eminently readable history of the English obsession with murder from the early 19th century to the mid-20th; I gobbled it up in nearly one sitting. WoEminently readable history of the English obsession with murder from the early 19th century to the mid-20th; I gobbled it up in nearly one sitting. Worsley makes connections between real-life cases and the fictional depictions of crime from the same era that I found fascinating. She's occasionally sidetracked by biographical detail (we delve, for example, into the personal lives of Thomas de Quincey, Wilkie Collins, and Dorothy L. Sayers) but all of that is interesting, too, with Worsley's voice lively throughout. As is often the case with popular nonfiction, I was left wanting more -- more analysis, some grander statement -- but it's possible that I am just yearning for life (and death) to make more sense in general. ...more
A book-long pointless intellectual exercise, but a really fun and interesting one. This is my favorite Klosterman in a while: it's both more serious aA book-long pointless intellectual exercise, but a really fun and interesting one. This is my favorite Klosterman in a while: it's both more serious and thoughtful, and funnier, than his last few efforts. If you'd like the experience of a truly excellent semi-sober dinner conversation with a smart, surprising companion but in book form, well -- here it is!...more
Harper Lee has just died; fifty-six years ago she published To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of heroic lawyer Atticus Finch and his attempt to defendHarper Lee has just died; fifty-six years ago she published To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of heroic lawyer Atticus Finch and his attempt to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, from a false charge of rape made by a white woman. What a lot of people neglect to focus on, as Bryan Stevenson points out in this painful, moving, necessary memoir, is that Atticus' defense fails. Tom Robinson is convicted, then killed. The irony is not lost on Stevenson as he goes to Monroe County, Alabama, the setting of Lee's novel and a community that has made an industry out of celebrating her work, to defend another falsely convicted black man -- the conviction the result of an obvious set-up by local law enforcement that has nevertheless landed his innocent client on death row. This case serves as the centerpiece of Just Mercy, but Stevenson details many more from his thirty-year career, all of them heartbreaking and infuriating in different ways. The book is a compelling page-turner, not in spite of but because of the outrageous civil rights abuses Stevenson exposes: racism, jury tampering, cruel and unusual treatment of the mentally ill, children, the poor. You keep reading hoping for a happy ending, the miraculous appearance of justice, but Lee couldn't conceive of a happy ending to her novel fifty-six years ago, and unfortunately, in Stevenson's depiction of reality more than half a century later, not much -- and certainly nowhere near enough -- has changed.
Just Mercy is an essential book, because it's a reminder that this type of injustice is not a thing of the past, a problem we've "solved." It's current, it's ongoing, and people like Stevenson are still actively fighting it every day. Toward the end of the book, Stevenson describes a meeting with legends of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr. "Ooooh, honey," said Parks, after hearing about his work, "that's going to make you tired, tired, tired." Then Carr leaned forward and said, "That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave."
If only we could all be even a fraction as courageous. Let's start by not forgetting. Read this book and stay aware, stay aware, stay aware....more
A cultural history of Paris from 1925-1939 by someone who apparently feels nothing but spite and scorn for almost every topic she chooses to write aboA cultural history of Paris from 1925-1939 by someone who apparently feels nothing but spite and scorn for almost every topic she chooses to write about. Well, it's finally happened: we've found writing too cynical even for me. I enjoy a good snark, but reading this book was frankly exhausting. (Flanner, I think, even eventually became exhausted: the collection does mellow a bit as it goes along.)
Then there's this description of Josephine Baker:
"She has, alas, almost become a little lady. Her caramel-colored body, which overnight became a legend in Europe, is still magnificent, but it has become thinned, trained, almost civilized. Her voice, especially in the vo-deo-do's, is still a magic flute that hasn't yet heard of Mozart -- though even that, one fears, will come with time. There is a rumor that she wants to sing refined ballads; one is surprised that she doesn't want to play Othello. On that lovely animal visage lies now a sad look, not of captivity, but of dawning intelligence."