I had a bit of a tough time finally wrapping this book up. It may have been that the middle section got a bit dry. But it's at least equally likely th...moreI had a bit of a tough time finally wrapping this book up. It may have been that the middle section got a bit dry. But it's at least equally likely that it was my fault for not being able to adequately get my head around some of the more advanced material. That isn't to say that you need a doctorate in astrophysics to read this book. And, really, it's only part of the book that deals in the heavy-hitting, tough to grasp stuff. Still, it was kind of a slog for part of it. Whether it was my own fault or the subject matter may not ultimately matter.
That being said, this book was fascinating. There were some real "wow" moments in it. It's not just the discoveries themselves that are amazing, it's also how they were discovered. In many cases, the "hows" were actually much more interesting the actual findings. Things like redshift, background microwave radiation, multiverses, and much much more were great fun to read about. In some ways, I'm almost glad that I have a scratching-the-surface understanding of most of this though, because each of the topics discussed has a depth that could drive someone of my limited intelligence mad trying to understand much deeper.
A lot will be made of the atheism aspect of this book. But it really wasn't as prominent as I thought it would be. To paraphrase a quote mentioned in the book, science does not make it impossible to believe in god, but rather makes it possible to not believe in god. I think that just about sums this book's theological stance.
Overall, very glad to have read it. But I'd definitely only recommend it to people who want a deeper look into the larger questions of the universe's origin. In other words, not a light read. (less)
Full disclosure: I only read the introduction and the chapter about dogs. I'm sure the sections on cats, pigs, horses, etc. were interesting, but they...moreFull disclosure: I only read the introduction and the chapter about dogs. I'm sure the sections on cats, pigs, horses, etc. were interesting, but they were probably not as practical. The intro was a bit of a bummer. I almost stopped reading it. There were many examples of how poor conditions make animals uncomfortable. It was like the written version of the Sarah McGlachlan commercials.
Once on to the dog section, though, things picked up quite a bit. There were some great tips about how to keep your dog entertained and some useful warnings about what might not work for them. Pretty safe to say that this book most recommended to dog/cat owners, or people with a pretty strong interest in animal behavior. (less)
This is a great thinking-about-thinking book. It doesn't read like someone trying to tell you how dumb you are (despite how the title makes it sound)....moreThis is a great thinking-about-thinking book. It doesn't read like someone trying to tell you how dumb you are (despite how the title makes it sound). It's a glimpse into the complicated mental gymnastics your brain performs constantly to keep you from seeing yourself as a hypocrite or protecting you from social paralysis or getting distracted by shiny objects.
The chapter are all relatively short, which is good and bad. There is so much information in here that it's tough to retain it all. For the life of me, I can't remember off the top of my head what apophenia is (chapter 12). But they are digestable and written in a very conversational way. Tons of studies are referenced, but they don't read like they are coming from a textbook.
If you have any interest in pop psychology, rhetorical theory, politics, social media, or marketing, or are just curious about how your brain tricks you on a daily basis, I highly recommend this book.(less)
Pretty good. No really big surprises. I was thinking that this would strike a chord with me after having worked so many of my younger years in kitchen...morePretty good. No really big surprises. I was thinking that this would strike a chord with me after having worked so many of my younger years in kitchens. But it actually kind of worked against me. The shocking revelations weren't really that shocking after having worked in some similar conditions. I actually recommend this more if you haven't worked in a restaurant before.
I did appreciate the overall tone of this book. It could have easily turned into an ego trip for yet another celebrity chef. But it read as a honest account of a cook's cook who is more interested in producing good food than getting a Food Network show, whicht was pretty refreshing.(less)
So many pages, so few plot developments. With this book I'm current with the series, and for good and bad it's more of the same. I have just about giv...moreSo many pages, so few plot developments. With this book I'm current with the series, and for good and bad it's more of the same. I have just about given up on trying to graph the story arc. Maybe it's wrapping up. Maybe it's square in the middle. Who knows?
To be clear, I really do like these books. They are well written and the characters are very well developed. But to say that there is a fair amount of padding would be a massive understatement. Some storylines are almost completely ignored and some drag on way too long. But, hey, I guess I can't complain too much. I did read all five books in the span of a few months. So they must have something pretty good going for them.(less)
This book came very close to putting me off the series, but it ended up settling out by the end. Some of the things I like about these books is that n...moreThis book came very close to putting me off the series, but it ended up settling out by the end. Some of the things I like about these books is that no one is safe and that the "good guys" don't always come out on top. But it's starting to become one of the problems. At first, it kept things very tense because you never knew what was going to happen. By now though, I do know what's going happen. Once you understand how the story goes, it can be just as predictable as the typical "good guys win" stories. The only difference is that instead of being able to assume that the noble characters will prevail, it's safe to guess that the less-than-noble characters will come out on top. But, then again, I could just be upset that characters I like keep dying.
That being said, the surprise at the end was very impressive. It took a little of the sting out of the major events of this book. The story is still very solid, but it feels like it's being spread a little thin between all the different locations. I'm hoping that the next books picks up where this one left off.(less)
This is my second attempt at a Carl Hiaasen book. The first one barely counts as an attempt though. Someone loaned me one of his books, and I never op...moreThis is my second attempt at a Carl Hiaasen book. The first one barely counts as an attempt though. Someone loaned me one of his books, and I never opened it.
This one is probably not going to appeal to a wide audience. It is about his return to golf after a long absence. As a poor to occasionally average golfer, though, this was pretty relatable. It's nice to read something from the perspective of someone who isn't exactly a phenom. Part of golf is admiring those who shoot like the clubs are extensions of their arms. But another more common occurrence is commiserating with other struggling strikers. This book falls firmly in the latter category.
Well worth the read if you have ever considered walking away from the game. It may be just what you need to talk you off the ledge.(less)
I read this book after watching the first season of the HBO series. For the most part, I really liked the HBO series, even if some of the acting did t...moreI read this book after watching the first season of the HBO series. For the most part, I really liked the HBO series, even if some of the acting did tread into corny territory once in a while [mostly the Dothraki stuff]. And just for the record, I grew up reading Lord of the Rings, Forgotten Realms and DragonLance type books. So, I'm both old-school and a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to Game of Thrones.
For those of you who cringe at the idea of a fantasy novel, this is much less Middle Earth and much more War of the Roses. Definitely more warring states and political manipulation than wizards and monsters. That's not to say that Game of Thrones reads like historical fiction. It doesn't. There are plenty of classic epic fantasy elements, including ancient gods, named weapons, and a spattering of those aforementioned mythical beasts. But one of the things that impressed me the most was how real the world felt. It didn't feel as foreign as some fantasy books. I especially liked the dwarf character, who, unlike those in basically all other books in the fantasy genre, isn't a bearded, gruff, four-foot strongman. He is a man with dwarfism, and he's one of the most interesting and complicated of the characters.
There are multiple storylines unfolding as the book progresses and the author is constantly bouncing between them. Each chapter is named for its central character, so the perspective on the events both local and distant is constantly changing depending on who's the focus. I thought it kept things very interesting.
Game of Thrones isn't as lofty as Lord of the Rings, and it's not as warm as Harry Potter, but that's not a bad thing. Just like those other series, it's something all it's own. And in the fantasy genre, that's no small feat.
It took a while for me to get into this book, but once I did I liked it a lot. I've heard complaints that the characters are too unlikable to be sympa...moreIt took a while for me to get into this book, but once I did I liked it a lot. I've heard complaints that the characters are too unlikable to be sympathetic. I can see that. Although I don't think it's that big of a problem. In these less-than-admirable characters, it's not hard to see bad decisions and poor social interactions I've been at the center of. While I wouldn't say I relate to any of the characters, they definitely make me think about relationships and motivations I've had that maybe weren't the most healthy.
On an entertainment level, it was fun just to see where the story was going to go. It had some absurd situations but never seemed absurd. It also felt like there would be a real benefit to rereading this somewhere down the line. There were a lot of allusions and callbacks and references that were interesting when you spotted them, and they gave the themes a much broader scope because they applied to so many situations. The obvious example is the corrections themselves. They are everywhere. Chip's constant rewrites, the pharmaceutical personality "corrections." Gary modifying his behavior for a quiet home life. Alfred's career correcting train lines. It's really full of that kind of stuff. And it's interesting to connect all those dots.
If you have any interest in genetics or the story of life on Earth in general, I highly recommend this book. It isn't too heavy. It throws in a lot of...moreIf you have any interest in genetics or the story of life on Earth in general, I highly recommend this book. It isn't too heavy. It throws in a lot of analogies, but not so many that it seems dumbed down. And when the analogies don't work, Dawkins is quick to point out their limitations.
The endnotes added a lot of great updates in information, but I've grown accustomed to the David Foster Wallace-stye footnotes, so going back and forth from the front of the book to the back got a little annoying.
I hope people don't get scared off by the controversial image that has been thrown on Dawkins in the last few years. This book was certainly controversial to some, but it mostly avoids the religious issue that so many people seem so offended by. If you are curious about how you got here, this is a wonderful read.(less)
As with any anthology, this had its hits and misses. But overall I liked it a lot. Be prepared to tackle a theme, though. There are a lot of essays and...moreAs with any anthology, this had its hits and misses. But overall I liked it a lot. Be prepared to tackle a theme, though. There are a lot of essays and stories about the Middle East in here.
I had originally picked this up because I've been circling the same few authors lately and wanted to branch out. Sounds great, except I picked a collection with at least three pieces I've already read. The Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace and George Saunders essays in this collection have appeared in other collections of those writers' works. They were very, very good and I highly recommend them in this collection or in their own. But it was interesting to read them again as isolated essays. When I read a collection of one author, the stories tend to blend together. And with someone like DFW, it's easy to fall into a fugue and lose track of the individual sentiments.
Anyway, here are some of the standouts.
The surprise hit for me was Sam Shaw's short story "Peg." There was a clear "What?!" moment where things took a turn for the surreal. I thought it was very funny and bizarre, and the underlying relationship story had a neat way of coming back at the end. This is exactly the type of find I was hoping to stumble upon reading a collection like this.
I also like the Julia Sweeney piece "Letting Go of God?" It was a thoughtful look at her crisis of faith and eventual separation from Catholicism. It didn't have the I'm-right-you're-wrong feeling that turns up in a lot of religious themed writing. (less)
I really wanted to give this book a higher score, but it was just too inconsistent. The more personal stuff was definitely the high point of the colle...moreI really wanted to give this book a higher score, but it was just too inconsistent. The more personal stuff was definitely the high point of the collection, especially the breakup essay. Also, even though it was available before, the open letter to Larry the Cable Guy is a great read. It's too bad there were so many random lists with really no reason for them. (less)
The things I liked about this book, I really liked. It was written by someone who clearly has a deep affection for dogs and a real appreciation for ho...moreThe things I liked about this book, I really liked. It was written by someone who clearly has a deep affection for dogs and a real appreciation for how they are integrated into our lives. There is also some great research involved.
For whatever reason, though, it took my much longer to get through this book than it should have. Maybe it had repetitive elements. Maybe some of it was too dry. I'm not sure. But I was kind of rushing through it at the end.
Despite the seemingly lukewarm review, it was worth reading. Again, the parts of it that I liked will stick with me for a while. If you're curious about how dogs see us and the world around them, you might want to give it a read.(less)