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)
An epic historical account of the building of the Panama Canal. One of man's largest turn-of-the-century engineering and medical feats. The story span...moreAn epic historical account of the building of the Panama Canal. One of man's largest turn-of-the-century engineering and medical feats. The story spans 30 years including both the French failure and Roosevelt’s victory. Critical to US Naval Superiority. Pivotal in the war on Yellow Fever and Miliaria. A great, great story told by a master. Anything and everything written by David McCullough is exceptional. There are few scenes within this multi-tiered masterpiece that are still haunting. For example, the head engineer looses his dear daughter and wife to Miliaria and in a moment of deep grief take his prize white stallions up into the hills and slaughters them. Spooky!
Side Note: I once bought a book online by mistake written by another "David McCullough." The topic was the Brooklyn Park System. The topic did not seem like such a stretch, the real David McCullough wrote the incredible, "The Great Bridge" about the infamous Brooklyn Bridge. Even his name sake can write. I took solace in thinking, hey I'd rather over-reach then miss one of his books... any of his books!(less)
The mysterious disappearance of world adventurer David Livingston captivated England and America in the late 1800’s. The old man’s new mission was to...moreThe mysterious disappearance of world adventurer David Livingston captivated England and America in the late 1800’s. The old man’s new mission was to find the source of the Nile. Stanley, New York Daily New’s Foreign Corespondent, was sent in to find him dead or alive. Both men braved the tribes of Africa and ruthless Arab slave traders. The brutal bush exposed them to sickness and threatened starvation. The story behind the meeting is epic — this book is not. Accurate and enlightening, but short of engaging.(less)
I've been mousing around for 5 years trying to open my mind to the full glory and immensity of evolution. Several books lead me along the path, but th...moreI've been mousing around for 5 years trying to open my mind to the full glory and immensity of evolution. Several books lead me along the path, but this might be the first to fully enlighten me. I find it funny to resort to language like "glory" and "enlighten" in order to defend an evolutionist's manifesto against christian creationism. I suppose knowledge can be just as spiritual and soulful a pursuit as religion. The Greatest Show on Earth is first-rate mind blowing stuff. Dawkins technically persuasive book on evolution is scaled back just enough so I can understand the multiple sciences supporting evolution. His clear and concise science writing and his sensational subject are both deserving of the title, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” An updated version of his book should be read every 10 years ... by everyone! Regarding the beauty and endurance of evolution, a favorite quote comes to mind, “Ever present never twice the same, ever changing never less then whole.”
An essential book for the basic visual understanding of Evolution, artfully disguised as a beautiful coffee table book. The intricate staging and star...moreAn essential book for the basic visual understanding of Evolution, artfully disguised as a beautiful coffee table book. The intricate staging and stark black and white skeleton photography in this over sized book is expansive, if not mind blowing. Jean Baptiste visually demonstrates the dotted line “AHA'S!” that must have thrilled the first scientists that made the connection. It sure made an impression on me. Five stars. PS A great visual follow-up to the more text dense, “Your Inner Fish.” So much so, I’d bundle and market them together. But please don't dismiss the writing in this book. Panafieu's summations are exceptional! This book is an uncommon find. (less)
An excellent contemporary biography smartly delivering a layman’s understanding of Darwin’s life long pursuit and struggle to fully commit to his thes...moreAn excellent contemporary biography smartly delivering a layman’s understanding of Darwin’s life long pursuit and struggle to fully commit to his thesis Natural Selection and The Origin of Man. He sat and stewed over the publishing of the papers for close to 20 years. He spent two decades intricately preparing a defense for his radical ideas against the expected backlash of the Victorian age of creationism. Quannen’s writing style features robust character development salted with a little modern sarcasm (what a surprising mix for a science book). Just when you think Quannen’s chapter on crustations was getting a little... well ... crusty, Quannen makes a lightly humorous side slight and wraps it up. I’ll keep reading this guy. 10/25/07(less)
The transcontinental railroad and Lincoln’s underwriting of a race between the two coasts during and after the Civil War. The link was a necessity to...moreThe transcontinental railroad and Lincoln’s underwriting of a race between the two coasts during and after the Civil War. The link was a necessity to survive and protect our borders as one country. Cover to cover is stuffed with stories from immigrant labors; Chinese from San Francisco and Irish from Boston New York. Crooked deals and boom towns!(less)
Another small world brought to us by a book. A hidden garden centuries old hanging in the sky. A precious micro environment of plant and fauna growing...moreAnother small world brought to us by a book. A hidden garden centuries old hanging in the sky. A precious micro environment of plant and fauna growing on the incredibly wide canopies of giant and ancient California red woods. Preston brings to bare a quirky little book highlighting a small click of West Coast nerd adventures. To be more precise, a group of obsessive tree climbers, thrill seekers and scientific botanists. The book clips along, but gets a bit redundant. And in case you forgot that they are truly nerds, you are never more than a page or two from a sci-fi, Token or Greek God reference as they name their many conquests. I loved climbing trees as a kid, so I liked this book, but it could have remained an Outside Magazine cover story (six bucks cheaper and four hours shorter).(less)
A penetrating story about a dead math genius that haunts his adult daughter, an unrealized genius in her own right, who is being ground-down by the we...moreA penetrating story about a dead math genius that haunts his adult daughter, an unrealized genius in her own right, who is being ground-down by the weight of a deep depression. A love interest brews between her and her Dad’s favorite understudy. A rare treat in a play, exhibiting excellent, believable and engrossing dialog. Like all dramas, maybe a bit too argumentative for my taste, but without tension their is no redemption. 2/8/07(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!
Bryson acts as a whirlwind tour guide on a wild ride through Australia. He manages to loosely connect an incredible series of juicy facts, social comm...moreBryson acts as a whirlwind tour guide on a wild ride through Australia. He manages to loosely connect an incredible series of juicy facts, social commentaries and folklore on several major topics and towns on the island— the ancient geology, unique zoology, man’s colinization, the outback, current echo system, the Great Barrier Reef, beer, tourism, sport, government structure, etc., etc. He makes no attempt at vertical depth and makes no apology for his scattered-shot approach.(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)