I loved the premise of this and I loveeee Bill Bryson when he talks about random stuff. That said, I felt like this book could have been better writteI loved the premise of this and I loveeee Bill Bryson when he talks about random stuff. That said, I felt like this book could have been better written and maybe better edited.
First, a lot of stuff he talks about isn't from the Summer of 1927. Some of it is relevant backstory, but a lot of it felt like tidbits Bryson found in his research and just couldn't resist putting it into the book. Also the number of times he made a reference to Charles Lindbergh becoming a Nazi got a bit redundant after a while.
The book was entertaining, but it dragged a bit in parts. Good summer/beach reading though (which is exactly where I read it!)....more
Lots of good and bad. Parts I liked, parts I didn't particularly care for. The truth is, most of Cleopatra's life is so clouded in mystery and legendLots of good and bad. Parts I liked, parts I didn't particularly care for. The truth is, most of Cleopatra's life is so clouded in mystery and legend that no one really knows most of what actually went on in her life.
Schiff put in a lot of conjecture as to how Cleopatra "might" have been feeling at any point in time and that fell flat with me. She does 'unveil' some of the sexist portrayals of Cleopatra and removes some of the myth. What remains is an intelligent, shrewd woman who was the last pharaoh of a great ancient civilization that was a pivotal player in a lot of palace intrigue and war....more
I don't often read about the civil rights movement, largely because I tend to get riled up by the horrible injustices the stories inevitably come withI don't often read about the civil rights movement, largely because I tend to get riled up by the horrible injustices the stories inevitably come with. However, when I came across this in the bookstore, I felt compelled to read this. Without much of a second thought, I promptly picked it up and bought it.
Well written - though it drags in some parts - King sets the scene well. I'm not remotely trained in the field of criminal law, but even I could see the gross malpractice exhibited by the prosecution and the obvious disregard for due process. Despite the defense's best efforts, the systemic prejudice found these four innocent men guilty time and time again.
A good book. And a good reminder of how far we come and how far we still have yet to go in the fight for equality for all....more
Hemmed and hawed a bit over what to rate this. Toobin is readable as ever here, but this wasn't nearly as good as The Nine which I thought was excelleHemmed and hawed a bit over what to rate this. Toobin is readable as ever here, but this wasn't nearly as good as The Nine which I thought was excellent. Still, this is good, albeit a bit more partisan than its predecessor.
Perhaps the partisanship in this book was a natural byproduct of the fact that the court itself has grown more partisan since Roberts took over as Chief in 2005. Or is that just this liberal talking? Toobin is (very) obviously a liberal and he doesn't bother to hide it. It is frustrating to read how things have changed since Roberts became chief.
Some of it still feels a bit soon. The Nine came out at least 7 years after the majority of the cases Toobin discusses. Enough time (barely!) for reflection and have a view on how it's impacted jurisprudence since. Not sure I can say the same for Citizens United which was handed down a scant two years before this was published. Without a doubt, this will have a massive impact on American political life going forward. The impact remains to be seen.
Also, if anything, this has just reminded me how stupid originalism is....more
I really enjoy Bill Bryson. In this book, he breezes through well... a short history of nearly everything, from the origins of the universe, speedingI really enjoy Bill Bryson. In this book, he breezes through well... a short history of nearly everything, from the origins of the universe, speeding along to how life evolved and is sustained.
Besides being a trip down memory lane for me (I took AP Chemistry and bio in high school, so every other name for me was like... I know that guy!), this book reminded me just how small I really am
Enjoyable, but a bit dense at times. I think the reason I love Bryson so much is because I relate to his apparent desire to learn juuust a little bit about everything. I think we share that curiosity and that's what makes his books such a joy for me. He does ramble a bit at times (because he just knows so much he wants to share), but you can easily skim those parts without losing much speed on this book....more
Full of interesting anecdotes and fascinating studies that make you think about thinking.
Thinking and decision making happen so... automatically, I dFull of interesting anecdotes and fascinating studies that make you think about thinking.
Thinking and decision making happen so... automatically, I don't think most of us ever stop to consider what's exactly going on. And as Lehrer repeats multiple times, people often assume more facts and more 'rational thinking' are the ways to making better decisions. Not always the case - it would seem some things are meant to be irrational....more
I read this relatively quickly. In a way, it reminded me of the papers I used to read when I was in college. Ellis lays out his arguments in a very scI read this relatively quickly. In a way, it reminded me of the papers I used to read when I was in college. Ellis lays out his arguments in a very scholarly manner, in my opinion.
Founding Brothers is a sampler of the history of early America. Ellis chooses to focus on a few key moments that, as we could tell with hindsight, were ultimately formative in the development of our young nation. The Hamilton-Burr duel, Washington's decision to step down after a second term and his Farewell Address, Adams failed presidency, the famous friendship between Adams and Jefferson.
With so much scope, it's impossible to provide much detail, so Ellis instead focuses on a few characters (predominantly George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, a bit of Alexander Hamilton) and illustrates them in essence, but not with detail. Ellis also does not spend much time explaining or providing much backstory, instead assuming his reader remembers enough from 11th grade history.
A good intro to the early years. Ellis includes great anecdotes, but at times it is a touch too dry and academic. I wish more detail could have been included. Luckily, I have 1776 and John Adams waiting for me on my bookshelf!...more
I have the stinking suspicion that this book was written largely because Bill Bryson knew a lot of random stuff about Victorian England/Early AmericaI have the stinking suspicion that this book was written largely because Bill Bryson knew a lot of random stuff about Victorian England/Early America and wanted to do something with all that random trivia. Luckily, Bryson writes very entertainingly, so this random jaunt through history is very enjoyable.
There were parts of the book that felt incredibly random though. At certain points, I wondered exactly how I got to be reading about the history of bricks and coal.
But as I'm a wanderer myself, I was happy to go where Bryson led. It's amazing to think how much things have changed in the last 150 years, and for me, enlightening to see how the most mundane things in my home have evolved. ...more
Provided a lot of insight on a case that seems, from the outset, a relatively straightforward case. Really takes a good look at all the different factProvided a lot of insight on a case that seems, from the outset, a relatively straightforward case. Really takes a good look at all the different factors that come into play - precedent, social influences, federalism, and of course the different personalities on the court. The book does a good job providing background for those not super familiar with the judicial process.
Good, solid book on a landmark case that had a huge impact on our society....more
I thought this would build up towards Roe v. Wade, but instead, the monumental case happens relatively early, both in the book and in Blackmun's careeI thought this would build up towards Roe v. Wade, but instead, the monumental case happens relatively early, both in the book and in Blackmun's career. Not only did this case have serious repercussions in the course of US history, it had a similarly huge impact on Blackmun. Forever tied to a decision that was just about randomly assigned to him, Blackmun's personal philosophy and stance on not only abortion, but also women's rights and equality evolve.
Wonderful insight on the life and mind of one of the more important figures in modern constitutional law....more
Absolutely excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed this. The narrative is compelling and expertly written. The stories about each of the justices is neatly woAbsolutely excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed this. The narrative is compelling and expertly written. The stories about each of the justices is neatly woven into the main timeline. Provides amazing insight to how the Supreme Court actually works de facto and de jure.
A look at the lives of all the Supreme Court justices on the Rehnquist court was really informative, at least for me. It is interesting to look at these justices as people, and to think of how their life experiences influence their decisions. As much as we'd like to think of justices as neutral deciders, the reality falls a bit short of that.
The narrative is a bit lopsided. There's a lot of Breyer, O'Connor, and Kennedy. It's relatively light on Ginsberg and Souter. I'm not sure if this matches their importance, but given that O'Connor and Kennedy were often swing votes, I wouldn't be surprised. Ginsberg and Souter are also two of the more reserved justices.
People complain about the liberal slant. I must confess that I am a liberal myself. However, even with that in mind, I don't think this is overly biased. Toobin is fair to the conservative justices even if he is not entirely neutral in his prose. Also, the fact that O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter have often been on the more "liberal" side of decisions seems to indicate that maybe something else, other than Toobin being overtly biased, is at play here.
The only caveat to this, I think, is that it requires some familiarity with recent Supreme Court cases, and not just the marquee ones like Bush v. Gore or Hamdi. Toobin references cases like Kelo and Casey without giving much background on the case. I was only familiar with them because of several politics classes I took in college. It's nothing a quick read on Wikipedia won't solve though....more
Wright calls on all his powers as a journalist to put this fascinating tome together. It's a long, winding story focusing on the personalities and lifWright calls on all his powers as a journalist to put this fascinating tome together. It's a long, winding story focusing on the personalities and life stories of the men (and they are almost all men) who paved the road to the formation of al-Qaeda and the attacks on 9/11.
Wright spends a lot of time explaining the relevant history and politics of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. I learned a lot about the history of the Middle East and the surrounding regions, and looking back, I'm a little ashamed at how ignorant I was before.
My only complaint (and the reason it falls short of five stars) is that, in my opinion, there are parts to the book that are interesting but distracting. Wright throws in a lot of extra names and scenes that are sensational (in the sense that they definitely get a rise out of you as a reader) but don't seem to really add anything to illustrate the main point of the book - the path to 9/11. I also felt like Wright hammered on the CIA's unwillingness to share information a little too much. I'd surmise that one of his main points was the lack of communication between bureaus allowed 9/11 to happen, which is partly why he focuses on times when the CIA did not cooperate a lot. However, it was done with an exceedingly heavy hand.
Still, an enlightening and slightly horrifying read. ...more
War is complex, and I never fully grasped how complex it was until I read this. Walzer's arguments have been critiqued, criticized, and torn apart sinWar is complex, and I never fully grasped how complex it was until I read this. Walzer's arguments have been critiqued, criticized, and torn apart since he wrote this, but regardless of whether or not you agree with him, this book will fundamentally shift how you view the justice in bello and ad bellum....more
I had long wanted to read this book, but its sheer size was daunting. Over 700 pages! When could I possibly find the time? Would the book hold my atteI had long wanted to read this book, but its sheer size was daunting. Over 700 pages! When could I possibly find the time? Would the book hold my attention for over 700 pages? etc, etc. But the moment I opened the book, I was hooked.
Goodwin starts at the earliest beginning possible (before Lincoln entered the realm of politics) and leaves little unturned. Her research is laudable both for its depth and breadth, and her dedication to her subject is obvious. She builds her narrative using all angles - letters, diary entries from all sorts of persons both close and distant from Lincoln. She also brings to life the supporting cast around Lincoln - his "team of rivals." While not all cabinet members are given equal "face" time, each is a wholly realized character and real.
It's easy to underestimate the difficulties of the Civil War, almost 150 years after the fact. I think reading this really made me appreciate how difficult Lincoln's job was. The Civil War was a true test of the strength of the Union, and Lincoln brilliantly navigated through it. And although I knew exactly how the book would end (with the Union's victory and Lincoln's assassination)I was still struck with the poignancy of the triumph and the sadness of the tragedy. ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I started reading the first page while at the bookstore, and I was hooked. I had to have it, so it was something of an impI really enjoyed this book. I started reading the first page while at the bookstore, and I was hooked. I had to have it, so it was something of an impulse buy.
The book can seem a bit scholarly (it almost reads like a research paper... which it kind of is) and dry at times. He goes into detail about the different sorts of wheat and why some were better than others, but the overarching thesis of the book is - at least, to me - a new perspective on the development of the world and societies that forces you to reconsider everything you learned in grade school. Why were the Europeans the one to conquer the New World, and not the other way around? In the end, a lot of it is due to chance. And I think that may be difficult for some people to swallow - that we are merely a result of a chain of events that we had absolutely no influence over.
I found this book extremely intriguing and would recommend it to anyone. It provides a quick, condensed history of the world and approaches history from a very scientific standpoint. Good read, and definitely worth the time....more
A solid, intriguing read. Gladwell is a very good writer, and he weaves a series of anecdotes together almost seamlessly to tell the story of how a soA solid, intriguing read. Gladwell is a very good writer, and he weaves a series of anecdotes together almost seamlessly to tell the story of how a solitary event, a thought, a moment in history explodes into an epidemic. It's a good look at what drives us and what leads us to act the way we do. Insightful at times, though I would have found this much more so if I had read it three years ago....more