Overall, a fun book. The section on Apples in America was particularly good. Who knew that Johnny Appleseed brought the gift of cider? The sections on...moreOverall, a fun book. The section on Apples in America was particularly good. Who knew that Johnny Appleseed brought the gift of cider? The sections on cannabis and the potato were quite fascinating too. The only thing keeping this from a 5 star review was the extremely boring tulip section. (less)
A fun romp though history with enough tid bits and side comments to keep you entertained. Standage's style is personable and more academic chat at Buk...moreA fun romp though history with enough tid bits and side comments to keep you entertained. Standage's style is personable and more academic chat at Bukowski's (A bar in Cambridge/Boston) - which is the perfect tone for a book that discusses beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and coca cola.
Fascinating look at how energy, specifically cheap energy, may have been one of the main drivers of our economic progress over the past 150ish years....moreFascinating look at how energy, specifically cheap energy, may have been one of the main drivers of our economic progress over the past 150ish years. The authors then go on to point out that we are in peak oil and our economic toolbox will need to change in order to thrive in the post peak world.
Overall, the authors present a compelling case and do manage to tie together the social and the science a la E. O. Wilson. Sadly, Hall's writing tends to repeat and there are many tangents that while interesting, do not add to the central argument.
High level coverage of the careers of Paul Nitze and George Kennan. While this is a decent coverage, it's not very deep: while it does talk about the...moreHigh level coverage of the careers of Paul Nitze and George Kennan. While this is a decent coverage, it's not very deep: while it does talk about the men it really doesn't dive deep into their personas or motivations. Indeed the impact Paul Nitze had on neocon thought was almost not even mentioned.
Was there anything truly new in this book? no. Was it a decent overview of two of big cold war players? Yes. (less)
Mr Rosenberg has done it again with "Say Everything". The last book, "[[ASIN:1400082471 Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bu...moreMr Rosenberg has done it again with "Say Everything". The last book, "[[ASIN:1400082471 Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software]]" was one of my favorite books about being in the software trenches. in "Say Everything", Mr Rosenberg takes on a much bigger task - giving us the story of the internet via the very abridged history of blogging according to him.
First the negatives, the book is very much centered on the "according to Mr. Rosenberg" bloggers. So the proto social blogging site Livejournal gets barely 2 pages (when it fact it formed the basis for community/friend blogging - at least in my myopic worldview). There is also some repetition and the first chapter doesn't read anywhere near as well as the rest of the book. It could be that I really didn't care about Justin Hall, but even after the chapter I failed to see why I should care about him.
However right after that it takes of with the story of David Winer. Now we had a real personality and possibly the start of "blogging" via email lists. Things would heat up from there as we are told (or retold) the story of Blogger. The story of Heather Armstrong was quite well done and it made for a compelling chapter on one of the pitfalls of laying all your cards on the table. Heck, one of my favorite bloggers/media personalities out there, Anna Marie Cox, even got a few shout outs (though maybe not in the most flattering light)
However the best part comes a little past midway. It's here that Mr Rosenberg talks about blogging and journalism. This is quite fascinating stuff; the pains, the blinders, the confusion and the denial are all quite palpable. It's clean that there isn't a lot of love from Mr Rosenberg for the old media and I'm sure the feelings are mutual. This chapter, more than any other, was worth the price of admission.
If you are looking for a fun, occasionally inspiring book to read then "Say Everything" could be for you. Just remember that you are only seeing a pinpoint on the tip of the iceberg when you read it. (less)
"Caught in the Middle" by Richard Longworth is a trenchant analysis of the Midwest in the age of globalisation. Throughout the book, Mr Longworth take...more"Caught in the Middle" by Richard Longworth is a trenchant analysis of the Midwest in the age of globalisation. Throughout the book, Mr Longworth takes great pains to show how most of the midwest has not thrived and how the policies of the past are not the policies of the 21st century.
The line walked is very fine, and every corner, every sacred cow, gets its good and bad points exposed. From unions that brought us weekends and living wages to unions that resisted change and eventually cost jobs; to global commerce that builds up Chicago and Madison but crushes Detroit and Cleveland; to immigration saving towns that embrace it and killing towns that do not. Nothing escapes scrutiny.
At the end of the day, Mr Longworth keeps coming back to a similar theme; the boot strap, by yourself, anti education, anti immigration, it worked in the past it will work in the future attitude is killing large portions of the midwest. Again and again he shows how the policies of the past; depending on companies supporting towns, tax breaks for manufacturing, anti education and anti immigration and an inability to work together; are not the policies that will lead this region to the promised land.
He does offer a few ideas that could help the region. The biggest is simply getting the region to work as one area. This will not be easy, but if they can stop competing with each other and instead compete with the world, they would all benefit. Additionally he shows how immigration; both white collar and blue collar, does save the region. Finally he talks about how the region is wasting its huge university system and how the anti education/anti science policies are driving their best and brightest to the coasts. Addressing these problems may not completely turn the region around, but they would be a huge step in the right direction.
There is a lot of pride in the midwest present throughout this book. Mr Longworth is from there and he loves his home. This is his wakeup call; there is nothing new is this book however its one of the first times it has been presented so completely and so well. A highly enjoyable read.(less)
Mr Zakaria has written a book that attempts to hold up a mirror to the US and its place in the world. He mostly succeeds. Being a short 259 page book,...moreMr Zakaria has written a book that attempts to hold up a mirror to the US and its place in the world. He mostly succeeds. Being a short 259 page book, all one can do is provide broad brush strokes and that's what makes this book work and, at times, not work.
Even with the broad brush strokes he manages to make some very pertinent points. One chapter shows how the demise of the US is greatly exaggerated. For example he dissects the number of engineers and scientists really graduated by schools and finds the US system is still among the best. He also does some debunking on the state of US schools. For the curious, the better US school systems are as good as they get but we have a good number of schools that are truly horrid. And he shows its not so much the US is slipping as the rest of the world is rising. And that really is a great thing.
From there he launches into the benefits and issues facing the next two great world powers: India and China. I was very glad to see his fairly well balanced views of each nation; he is neither too gung ho nor too doom and gloom. This is a nice change from the traditional books on these two nations.
Finally he does talk about the US vis a vis the British Empire. The compare and contrast does point out the weaknesses that the US currently has and, for the most part, I think his analysis is quite trenchant. Quite possibly the most controversial point he makes is for the US to re-embrace immigration as this is one of the core strengths of the US. I tend to agree with him. Immigration is what has led to the US becoming what it is today and its my hope for the future of the US.
There are weaknesses though. The brush strokes can be so broad as to detract from his statements. I find these most true when it comes to India, China and the British Empire. Additionally, he's very pro India and while I personally have no issue with this, in fact I also agree with him here, his discussion does have a slight feel of nationalism. Again, this is perfectly understandable but in this case I do feel that Mr Zakaria isn't as detached as he is in the other sections. Finally he does make some excuses for China's human rights policy. I'm not sure I agree with him here but his point is that the US trying to make a huge point of this is not only a case of pot calling the kettle black, but the way its done is potentially destructive is valid and should be listened too. Still, excuses for the Chinese regimes' actions against non Han citizens isn't something that is easy to overlook. Still this is nit picking.
This is a very well done overview that truly tries to give an honest overview of the world today and speculate on where it will go in the near term. I applaud Mr. Zakaria for walking that line and walking it well.(less)
"Fortune Cookie" really is several books in one, with the idea of fortune cookies coming back to somewhat tie the stories of the book together. howeve...more"Fortune Cookie" really is several books in one, with the idea of fortune cookies coming back to somewhat tie the stories of the book together. however, the stories, while related, do not feel connected leaving me with the feeling that the parts are greater than the whole.
I can tell from reading this book that Ms Lee will eventually become a writer I will love to read however she isn't quite there yet. In fortune cookie she was able to write an emotional, heart wrenching chapter on Chinese human smuggling and the price of life in America. Her chapter on going to Japan in search of the fortune cookie was also fun and whimsical. The story of the family who bought a Chinese restaurant will break your heart. But then you'd have to wade through her chapter on Jews and Chinese food which felt forced and clichéd. Or her search for the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world which truly was not enjoyable to read due to it being cliché in every single sense of the word.
And then you have the fortune cookie which supposedly ties the book together. Again, this felt a little forced, especially when she was writing about the lucky numbers and the lottery. However at other times you could begin to see how this little cookie related to Chinese in America. This was particularly true when she found out that the fortune cookie originated in Japan, was brought to the US by Japanese and then, during the Japanese interment it was the Chinese who gave it popularity.
Its that last theme that Ms Lee comes back to, several times. She never overplays it; she let's her statements remain subtle, unspoken really. To me, this worked, it helped bring home what happened without hitting the reader over the head.
The book is a quick, fun light read that is worthy of a beach or plane flight or just a distraction from the everyday. I know I learned some interesting trivia on American Chinese food, the Chinese diaspora, and a little about myself as well. If I could give this 3.5 stars, I would.(less)
This book starts off so well - weaving Mexican history from Olmec to modern day. The story of the people really came alive and made connections that,...moreThis book starts off so well - weaving Mexican history from Olmec to modern day. The story of the people really came alive and made connections that, while some are a stretch, helped create a sense of continuum.
Sadly the second and third sections didn't quite follow up the first. In the short second section Mr Shorris moves towards art in Mexico and its here where he begins to falter. To me, there were too many critiques and not enough tying back to the country.
The last section was better than the middle and yet it was still too political - and modern day political at that. In other words it was unexpected and very dry.
This is a good overview of Mexico - especially the first section. (less)
This review really should be a 3.5 star as the book is, in general, quite good but I felt that the writing didn't grab me as much as his books on the...moreThis review really should be a 3.5 star as the book is, in general, quite good but I felt that the writing didn't grab me as much as his books on the Maya.
As a primer to the various civilizations in Mexico with a view towards their architecture and art, this book is perfect. It could use a few more images, and maybe a little less focus on pottery. (less)
a wonderfully written book that helps understand Iran in the tumultuous later years of the 70s. Amazingly well written and still very much relevant to...morea wonderfully written book that helps understand Iran in the tumultuous later years of the 70s. Amazingly well written and still very much relevant to understanding Iran today.
easily one of my favorite travel writers - here he talks more about being a traveler, how one gets bitten and what it can be like to be thrown into co...moreeasily one of my favorite travel writers - here he talks more about being a traveler, how one gets bitten and what it can be like to be thrown into completely different and unexpected situations. Highly enjoyable(less)
I haven't fully decided if all the points that Professor Krugman makes are all valid - but his case is compelling.
His historical take on the past 80...moreI haven't fully decided if all the points that Professor Krugman makes are all valid - but his case is compelling.
His historical take on the past 80 years is outstanding - and his discussion on how the GOP got to where they are is, most likely, very much on point (and I hear that "Nixonland" is really going to expand on the issues just touched upon in this book.
Finally the rationale for universal health, a return to some of the policies of the great contraction (which was also the period of greatest US economic growth), and generally supporting progressive principles (safety nets, progressive taxing, better social services etc) all make sense morally and economically.
Ideally anyone who wants to get an overview of economic policy in the 70s, 80s and early 90s should read this book. Krugman does an amazing job of des...moreIdeally anyone who wants to get an overview of economic policy in the 70s, 80s and early 90s should read this book. Krugman does an amazing job of describing supply side, strategic trading and general trends over that 30 year period - and he does it in a very fair, readable and humorous way.