A nerdy, long winded memoir that stands in its own class -- still, unlike most bad books that are quickly forgotten, I’ll likely remember this quirky...moreA nerdy, long winded memoir that stands in its own class -- still, unlike most bad books that are quickly forgotten, I’ll likely remember this quirky run-on. Sapolsky is overtly passionate about his subject and unapologetic about his intellect. He has basically spent his life (post Brooklyn) running around the back bush of South Africa darting baboons in the name of science. Yup "darting"… as in a “blow gun.” He would then carry the chimps back to his camp, measure their stress level (presumably peaking), take bio samples, write copious notes and release them back into the wild. He goes into detail about the art of blow guns and the inherent danger of anesthetizing a wild animal among a vicious pack of primates. Most of his book is well composed, but his descriptions are over worked and a little stiff. A couple of times he breaks format completely and attempts to write in full impassioned poetic prose (i.e. O’Brien style). His soap boxing is intended to display his most passionate and soulful self. In truth the display feels like a failed ballad from American Idol. OK, now that I have splayed this guy wide open, let me tell you why I kept reading his memoir. First, in between detailed stories of his beloved baboons, he writes about his travel adventures. To my chagrin, he is a decent travel writer! Secondly, as a result of his first person account I learned several significant things about primates. For example, their social order is life long and every time there is a regime change (which is frequently) there is a critical re-pegging all the way down the line. If a baboon leaves and comes back to the pack 15 years later, they slot him right back in to his tier. OK, one last dig, and then I’ll let Senior Sap go. In his travel writing he recalls a gang of thugs he encountered in a small city (all wearing matching platform shoes (weird... but maybe a telling detail). They basically kidnap him as their muse and force him to drink cola while they proceed to get butt wasted on banana beer. He is twice caught attempting to flee the many bars that they drag him in-and-out-of. He ends up in a deep caffeinated haze. It is a very strange 3 day ordeal (and not entirely believable) …”Please no more Pepsi!.. I want my monkeys!”(less)
Grandin tells an incredibly well researched, comprehensive and at times fascinating story that encircles the entire history of Fordlandia. He also div...moreGrandin tells an incredibly well researched, comprehensive and at times fascinating story that encircles the entire history of Fordlandia. He also dives deep into the corporate culture of Ford that first hatched, then mismanaged and ultimately abandoned Ford’s Utopia. The size and scope of Ford’s vision was staggering; a 2.5 million acre parcel of deep Brazilian jungle, envisioned by the 60 year old to become his rubber dynasty. Hints of a real life “Atlas Shrugged” come to mind. The root of the monstrous failure was Ford’s own hubris. His corporate dictate stubbornly enforced compliance to his christian, Midwestern values and his own universal assembly-line model of industry. Ford’s company town was a surreal and rigid import; an ultra-clean main street complete with white picket fences, a swimming pool, a square-dance hall and a 18-hole golf course. Soy milk (another Ford obsession) replaced most milk products and alcohol was strictly prohibited on the plantation. At the end of both his life and his legacy, Ford was knowingly investing millions into a colossal corporate cluster-fock. On the surface, Grandin’s book is concerned with the logistics of building a town and cultivating a huge foreign plantation. However, below the surface, we are rewarded with an excellent, classic, modern-day tragedy. A character study of Henry Ford’s life and philosophies held in stark contrast to his flagrant flaws. Ford’s founding principals all fail in the Amazon and his naivete is both personally polarizing and suicidal for his pet project. Adopt or die Henry! Grandin also weaves into this epic three excellent side-car stories; Diego Rivera’s Detroit Murals, Ford’s Greenfield Village and the founding of the UAW. Folks, this classic “Machine vs. Jungle” book has it all!; swarms of spiders, evil chemists, seed smugglers, river boat prostitutes, a brow-beaten son, tribal uprisings, vampire bats, massive crop infestations and grafted rubber trees...lots and lots of rubber trees!!!(less)
Warning: this review is going to take an initial side step, as I first post a quick confession. I attempted to read this book in 2008 and somewhere wi...moreWarning: this review is going to take an initial side step, as I first post a quick confession. I attempted to read this book in 2008 and somewhere within the first two or three chapters I just gave up on it. More recently, I have read several positive reviews and I have decided that my first, flinched reaction might have been caused by the old “kick-the-dog” effect. Out of displaced anger, I often vicariously kick the ass of an unfortunate book. I’ll wrongly declare and pathetically whine, “...this book was just too hard for me” or simply, “...this book sucks!” Did it really suck? I don’t know, I jumped too early! Once I banish a book in a fit or in a funk, I rarely take it back. Einstien is an exception. This time around, I chose to listen to the unabridged audiobook and I’m sure glad I did. I doubt very much that I would have had the tenacity to physically skim through the cornerstones of quantum mechanics and general relativity that Einstien (and Isaacson) so clearly laid before us. As an audio book, Edward Herman (an exceptional orator) diligently marches on allowing the listener to painlessly phase out and phase back in to catch up with Einstein’s next big life event. Issaacson’s biography presents a colorful personal portrait of a true genius that changed mankind’s understanding of the universe. Outside of Einstein brilliant mind and early accomplishment, he was just like the best and the worst of us. This was a fine book, but I must confess, if I physically read it, I would have whined about it. Whiny readers be warned!(less)
Once every two years (if I’m lucky) I have the rare privilege of reading a true five star epic. Nelson’s detailed account of America’s amazing space r...moreOnce every two years (if I’m lucky) I have the rare privilege of reading a true five star epic. Nelson’s detailed account of America’s amazing space race captures an essential historical decade. Several times I was shocked by the clarity of his story telling at both the macro and micro levels. Nelson achieves this effect by layering together a sweeping series of well edited personal cameos, each on to itself a fascinating victory or tragedy. I’m 46 and this is one of those invaluable books that helps fill the void in my early childhood memories. It also historically connects my father’s lifetime to my own. The space race captured the imagination of the world and sparked a national and international media frenzied. Nelson tells the inside story at Nassau, the Pentagon, MIT and the Kremlin. He also made the book deeply emotional and accessible by revealing the personal lives of each Apollo astronaut and their families. Finally, not to put too big a bow on it, this is also a very macho story stuffed with genius level intellect, national pride, determination, risk and bravado. The science alone is staggering. I kept thinking how did they do all this without an I-Mac? For God’s sake this was the 1960’s, we had yet to invent the 8-track tape player! One of the more interesting aspects of Rocket Men is the direct parallel and interrelationship between the space program and the international arms race. It seems obvious now that I step away from it, but prior to reading this fine book it never dawned on me that the two programs were in fact one and the same. What worked for space rockets worked for war rockets. Rather clever how it was spun and sold to America!(less)
I love this guy. Kurlonsky first falls head over heals in love with his subject, in this case the lowly and loved crustacean, the oyster. Then he fall...moreI love this guy. Kurlonsky first falls head over heals in love with his subject, in this case the lowly and loved crustacean, the oyster. Then he falls in love with the natural science behind it. After that obsession he loves the town and the town culture and finally he falls in love with the characters and packs his books with an array of odd ball stories. He serves it all up light, tight and hot. You could classify his book as New York History, but you’d miss his point. It is much to fun to be a history book. And he loves nature and science as much as he loves culture and people. As soon as I finished this book, I looked up his old titles and found another one that I had not read. I bought it immediately. 10-15-07(less)
Morbid curiosity and spirited sarcasm rule the day. Roach is that weird funny friend that whisper inappropriate, outlandish and baiting questions to y...moreMorbid curiosity and spirited sarcasm rule the day. Roach is that weird funny friend that whisper inappropriate, outlandish and baiting questions to you during your coworker’s funeral. Questions that shock, arouse and force a wide eyed ga-fah. She is a gifted investigative journalist who pulls off the impossible; regardless of her deep dive into the truly morbid, she does not come off weird or obsessed. My impression of her was in fact the direct opposite... she seemed kind of cool. It would be tough to drop this book. She pulls back the black tabu curtain on death and answers all those nagging, nasty questions. A wide array that you would have never thought to ask ... at least I didn’t. By the way, NOT a lunch book. 2/27/07(less)
First off, this is a huge departure from Bryson's breezy, excellent travel logs. Secondly, this book should be read with some frequency. It is so dens...moreFirst off, this is a huge departure from Bryson's breezy, excellent travel logs. Secondly, this book should be read with some frequency. It is so densely packed with valuable insight, and sound bites of discovery that you could not possibly absorb it all with one pass. This is my second time reading it and I plan on doing it again next year. The organizational structure is a wonderful series of loosely connected cameos covering several essential and enlightened discoveries of man. As an added bonus, the book actually attempts to pay off on the cheeky title. Bryson's light, common man’s writing style “scats” from universal, to global, to biological with a loosely constructed cause and effect outline. His books (thankfully, including this one) are all peppered with wit and charm and a heavy snatch of sarcasm. Further and maybe more importantly, he has the good sense to skip over heavy deep dives into mathematics, theories or anything at an ivy graduate level. I love this guy. I feel like he wrote this book for me and I hope he writes 10 more just like this. 10/4/07
I abhor cliches, but in honor of Bryson's incredible achievement I'll indulge in one. I might very well choose "A Short History" as the ONE book I'd choose over all others ...if ...I was stranded on the proverbial desert island. Bryson has created a true encyclopedic kaleidoscope. Imagine the fun he had writing this book as he allowed his mind to logically wormhole through and across time!(less)
Not quite the uplifting and sweeping global epic tackled in his previous effort, "Guns Germs and Steel." After Diamond's first triumph (describing the...moreNot quite the uplifting and sweeping global epic tackled in his previous effort, "Guns Germs and Steel." After Diamond's first triumph (describing the remarkable rise of mankind) his next ying/yang choice had to focus on the dark side — the collapse of mankind! As warned in the title, his conclusions are blackish. Throughout history, man has multiplied at the expense of everything around us. Collectively as a race, we have poisoned the land, water and air and selfishly destroyed or endangered most other living species. By the end of the book, the reader is struck numb and more than a little overwhelmed. What to do? So many red flags! This is a mandatory and sober read. We all need to be reminded of man’s many modern (and historical) environmental mistakes. We must attempt to envision the cause-and-effect relationship surrounding the delicate balance of our ecosystem. We need to make better informed decisions affecting our survival and our codependency with everything around us... or our society will soon collapse as it has over and over for 1,000's of years. 3/15/05(less)
A dry, but detailed account of the building of the largest architectural dome in the world. In the process Brunelleschie patented one amazing engineer...moreA dry, but detailed account of the building of the largest architectural dome in the world. In the process Brunelleschie patented one amazing engineering invention after another. King’s in-depth story is an amazing compilation of surviving documents. The book was interesting but not compelling. At times, due to the technical nature of architecture, it was tough to visualize the descriptive process. (04/04). (less)
A historical telling of the incredible 15 year undertaking of the Oxford Dictionary and how it absorbed and fused the lives of two scholars - an Oxfor...moreA historical telling of the incredible 15 year undertaking of the Oxford Dictionary and how it absorbed and fused the lives of two scholars - an Oxford President and his greatest volunteer and prolific pen pal, an American Dr. who was criminally insane, but linguistically unrivaled. In retrospect, not Winchester's best. As he continued to write and publish his work has become shorter (edited and less obsessed). As a result, his more current work is much more approachable.(01)(less)
I loved it. A straight forward, brief and insightful history of time. A refreshing view — to look at a measure that man invented and then obsessed upo...moreI loved it. A straight forward, brief and insightful history of time. A refreshing view — to look at a measure that man invented and then obsessed upon. Prior to this read, it was too easy to think of time as a thing of nature. Gleick’s topic, is really his canvas. On it, he paints the history of progress aided by man’s inventions. For example, time from town to town was never in sync down to the minute until railroad schedules and the telegraph made it an obvious necessity. One of the optimistic theory’s of the book is, man’s obsessive desire to improve efficiency, will as a bi-product, make us a true global village.
I read and wrote the above review in 2000. To Gleick's credit, 10 years later I can still recall some of his unique case studies.(less)
An epic tale during the grand age of discovery. A practical and financial obsession of the time focused on sea exploration; discovering, claiming and...moreAn epic tale during the grand age of discovery. A practical and financial obsession of the time focused on sea exploration; discovering, claiming and mapping new lands (and sea routes) all in the name of one's king or pope. However, there was a catch, there was no reliable measurement for sea travel. Latitude proved easy, longitude as it turned out was a real bitch. An international, fervent gauntlet captivated the European super powers of the day. A worldwide search by kings and kingdoms finally recognized a simple clock maker that had the genius, the acumen and the fortitude to spend his entire adult life in pursuit of perfection! The complex clock accurately measured longitude and saved countless misguided voyages from near tragedy. Prior to this marvelous invention, ships would commonly blow right past their continental landfalls sailing on into the deep abyss of the next ocean!