This is the story of Islam, much as the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope of Avignon are chapters in the story of Christendom. The focus is on dynasty anThis is the story of Islam, much as the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope of Avignon are chapters in the story of Christendom. The focus is on dynasty and empire/nation building, rather than the religion itself. Which is potentially interesting! Except I already know most of it from other sources, so I really was looking for more information on the religion and cultures than the names and dates of rulers. ...more
I liked this book, but I have one thing to say first: Three Hundred Dollar Haircut. What. The. Hell.
Ok, now that we have established that the heroine/I liked this book, but I have one thing to say first: Three Hundred Dollar Haircut. What. The. Hell.
Ok, now that we have established that the heroine/author of the work and I lead very different lives, I want to revisit liking the book. Data, A Love Story has its moments of almost rom-com ridiculousness and cringe-inducing social awkwardness. But it's ultimately hopeful and - ridiculously expensive makeover aside - it provides some solid advice on how to use a dating site effectively. Actually, the basic advice is pretty solid for ANY sort of dating. Step one, the dater needs to figure out who she/he is really looking for, because it's hard to find something undefined.
Recommended for anyone venturing into online dating....more
Not nearly as entertaining as the author's 'Live Alone and Like It.' This particular self improvement piece is much more tied not just to a particularNot nearly as entertaining as the author's 'Live Alone and Like It.' This particular self improvement piece is much more tied not just to a particular time, but to a particular class and culture. Also, the tone of this book is much more chiding women's magazine than clever and put-together friend. My budget certainly never stretched to the minimum standards set in the book, and there's really only so many times one can be told that one is impoverished and therefore beyond the scope of the budgeting book before it wears thin....more
So far, not so great. The degree of anthropomorphizing of atoms in the introductory chapters has left me completely puzzled about the actual science iSo far, not so great. The degree of anthropomorphizing of atoms in the introductory chapters has left me completely puzzled about the actual science involved. I have no idea what it means that oxygen is "a bully." Does oxygen shake down other atoms for electrons? How does that even work?
However, the chapter on chemical warfare has been (disturbing but) interesting. If the rest of the book is historical-figures character-driven, rather than atomic character-driven, then my overall opinion of the book should improve. Ugh, spoke too soon. Most of the chapter discusses chemical warfare in Europe around the World Wars. Therefore, most of the chapter is about named individuals -- chemists and soldiers and heads of state. And then one gets to the last four pages which are about how the cell phone industry's demand for niobium and tantalum fed the war in the Congo... a war which is all tribalism and ancient grudges (unlike Europe's wars?). "Gruesome stories have circulated about proud victors humiliating their victims' bodies by draping themselves with entrails and dancing in celebration." Lurid detail, but with no names, no location, no citations. I wish I were kidding. Gruesome stories circulated about 'the Hun' during the war, too, but I didn't see those stories getting a whole lot of coverage in this science book and for good reason -- so why are the stories about Congolese atrocities getting uncritically repeated here? And then to just win at post-colonialism, he unironically quotes Joseph Conrad, who "once called Congo, 'the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human consceince,' and there's little reason to revise that notion today." Thank you ever so much for perpetuating the stereotypical images of the Dark Continent, images which don't need revising despite being a hundred years out of date....more
ARC review. I found the historic details of this book very interesting. I don't know much about Peking/Beijing in any period - honestly, I still don'tARC review. I found the historic details of this book very interesting. I don't know much about Peking/Beijing in any period - honestly, I still don't feel I know much, since so much of the story is based on English records of the murder at the center of the story. (French does a good job of acknowledging, even pointing up the colonial bias, but that doesn't eliminate it. Worse, the main Chinese character proves duplicitous/unknowable towards the end of the book - reinforcing the image of the impenetrable East.) But I was hooked regardless, sucked into the world of the book for a full day, and I came out wanting to learn more about the place and period. ...more
I didn't expect to find pilgrims so interesting! I listened to this book while trying to stave off absolute boredom at a mind-numbing job -- I've beenI didn't expect to find pilgrims so interesting! I listened to this book while trying to stave off absolute boredom at a mind-numbing job -- I've been reading it (re-reading it?) off and on in the month since, because I remember things that I've read better than things I've only heard (especially if I'm listening while doing other things). The author makes interesting connections between the Puritans and modern America, and illuminates a number of misconceptions about what the Puritans actually believed and wrote about themselves. Sometimes, they were better than the vague ideas I'd picked up from school and wider culture; sometimes, they were worse. But they were always more nuanced and interesting.
The audio version is fantastic - the various excerpts by historical characters were all voiced by different actors, while Vowell herself provides the main narration. (While author-readers are not always a great idea, this one has a background in radio.)...more
Normally, I end up rounding up on bookclub books because of the interesting conversations I associate with them. This time, I am standing firm at "okaNormally, I end up rounding up on bookclub books because of the interesting conversations I associate with them. This time, I am standing firm at "okay."
I did not read all the Little House books. I think I read three before I hit Farmer Boy, couldn't get through it, and refused to skip ahead in my box set (which was weird, because wee! me used to read series out of order all the time). So I was coming to this book as a non-Wilder fan, but I was more than half-expecting to be won over and convinced that I needed to go read them immediately, because I find enthusiasm contagious.
Instead I hit this line on page 28, "And I was still afraid to ask: what kind of person would I become if I just went with this, let my calico-sunbonnet freak flag fly?"
I would say a happier one.
If I could say one thing to the author, it would be this: Wendy McClure, embrace your geekiness. Seriously, I am more likely to judge you for admitting in print to not knowing what "ague" means than for being enthusiastic about something you think other people left behind in childhood. Other people don't care half as much as you think -- and anyway, why would you care about the opinions of the joyless people judging you?
I wish I could say she does come to embrace it -- after all, she goes on to write an entire book about "Laura World," pursuing that elusive place-slash-state-of-mind through research into the historical and biographical basis for the books, experiments in turn of the century homesteading and cross-Plains road trips. But right up to the final chapter, it feels like she's always holding back, always just a little embarrassed. And that's a shame.
However, I do have to thank her for introducing me to Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, who sounds absolutely fascinating....more
After years of running across references to How to Suppress Women's Writing, I have finally read it. (The timing on my acquiring and reading the bookAfter years of running across references to How to Suppress Women's Writing, I have finally read it. (The timing on my acquiring and reading the book and my involvement in certain online arguments that I've stumbled upon lately about how sexism really still exists, no, really is probably not coincidental.)
ANYWAY. About the book. First off, it's a lit crit book with everything that that implies. For those of us without the heavy-duty lit background, this means the reading will be slow. Interesting, yes. Easy, no. The references/allusions/name-checks come fast and furious, but if, like me, you've never read, say Margaret Cavendish? The frequent citations of her work that assume a certain level of familiarity will be frustrating.
Keep going. It's worth it.
It's worth figuring out what gets left out or deemed unworthy and how -- and asking why. Because
A mode of understanding life which willfully ignores so much can do so only at the peril of thoroughly distorting the rest. A mode of understanding literature which can ignore the private lives of half the human race is not "incomplete"; it is distorted through and through. Feminist criticism of the early 1970s began by pointing out the simplist of these distortions, that is, that the female characters of even our greatest realistic "classics" by male writers are often not individualized portraits of possible women, but creations of fear and desire.
Each chapter picks apart a tool/belief that keeps women's writing invisible and excluded from the Canon. Misattribution. Impropriety of subject matter. Unimportance of subject matter. False categorization (or judging pieces against the standards of a genre they don't belong to). Exceptionalism. Isolation from (feminine) influences. Denial of agency. And while the title clearly sets these obstacles up as something deliberate... the text itself does a fantastic job of showing how these beliefs permeate culture, how the ideas embed themselves in the minds of essentially well-intentioned critics/authors/readers, men and women alike.
She periodically points out how these same tools of suppression are used to deny a literary history to other marginalized groups -- she may have set out to expose the tools of sexism, but they are also the tools of racism and colonialism and heterosexism and classism and...
In fact, in the afterward of my edition, Russ acknowledged that she'd fallen into the same traps set along racial lines and added an "idiosyncratic" collection of quotes from literary works by members of minority groups that had been similarly ignored and excluded by the gatekeepers of Literature, including herself-as-critic....more
Part One - Why Games Make Us Happy is awesome. The book's true strength lies in describing games that already exist and examining their appeal. Why doPart One - Why Games Make Us Happy is awesome. The book's true strength lies in describing games that already exist and examining their appeal. Why do we play games? What makes games better (more appealing) than everyday life? I am not a gamer, but as I read each chapter, I wanted to run out and try the games described. (This time electronic gaming will take -- hope springs eternal, despite my history of frustration and abandoned gaming platforms.) I loved the definition for games used throughout the book, and I liked the idea of applying a gaming mindset to everyday challenges.
Part Two - Reinventing Reality and Part Three - How Very Big Games Can Change the World, however, made me feel less optimistic about the possibility of changing the world with games. Mostly because the games described in those chapters, the games overtly trying to Do Something, sounded... well, lame. For the most part, they read like Very Special Episodes of the gaming world, with the fun lost beneath the message.
But, hey, practice may make perfect. If the ideas in Reality is Broken are already circulating in the game design world, perhaps games are evolving that meet real world needs - without feeling a bit too serious....more
What this book is not: 1) A diary of the author's attempt to overcome her fear and loathing of calculus (save for the introduction and the epilogue). 2)What this book is not: 1) A diary of the author's attempt to overcome her fear and loathing of calculus (save for the introduction and the epilogue). 2) An introduction to calculus.
What this book is: 1) A list of applications for calculus not unlike Week One of a calculus syllabus or the introduction to a calculus textbook. 2) A collection of anecdotes and facts about major figures (and some often overlooked figures and a couple of contemporary interviewees) throughout the history of calculus and physics, plus illustrative events to which calculus could have/should have/had been applied (like the tulip bubble market).
I think I was not the audience for the book, despite the catchy title, the charm of the author's writing style and our shared love of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (I do think I'd like Ouellette's science articles and may end up checking out her other books.) I've already taken calculus and am aware of the variety of practical applications; I just really, really didn't grasp the concepts. So a book that gives only a quick and basic explanation of what a derivative is and then spends nearly 300 pages showing all the things a derivative could be used to find... was more frustrating than illuminating. Especially when the author in the introduction admits that The Complete Idiot's Guide to Calculus was too difficult for her initially and then unironically recommends it in the Appendix for anyone who wants to actually learn any math. This discovery resulted in some flailing around on my part, which led to putting down the book for a couple months before I decided to just power through it anyway, even if I didn't really get the calculus itself.
Also, the sine and cosine illustrations? Don't match up correctly. Not helpful, no matter how cute the little sine surfer dude is! (I mainly noticed because waves are the part of physics I'm most comfortable with -- I spent a whole semester on The Physics of Sound in college.) Bad illustrator, no biscuit....more
A love letter to books, reading, words and readers. This is a dangerous book to leave lying around, because if I stumble across my copy while cleaningA love letter to books, reading, words and readers. This is a dangerous book to leave lying around, because if I stumble across my copy while cleaning my bedroom or re-sorting my book shelves, I have a terrible habit of flipping it open to re-read 'just one' essay.
And then I realize night has fallen, because it's gotten too dark to read and my to-do list has yet to get done....more
I was frankly amazed at the preconceptions and misinformation that the co-authors had about one another's religions at the start of the book. The deptI was frankly amazed at the preconceptions and misinformation that the co-authors had about one another's religions at the start of the book. The depth of ignorance -- and the accidental insults caused by that ignorance -- took me aback. But the decision they made to overcome that ignorance and to communicate openly with one another plus their willingness to give each other (repeated) lessons in Respecting Others' Religions 101 were what makes the book worth reading.
If you are already fairly knowledgeable about religions-not-your-own and aware of the way (Protestant) Christianity permeates/dominates culture in the US, you may find this book a bit remedial, like I did. But for those who haven't been exposed to multiple religious points of view or who have never been in a position to comfortably and non-intrusively ask questions of practitioners of other faiths, I think this book may provide a decent starting point....more