I don't happen to have time for this right now and checked the book out by accident thinking it would be different from what it is. That said, the boo...moreI don't happen to have time for this right now and checked the book out by accident thinking it would be different from what it is. That said, the book looks like a very pleasant read, not because of any huge overarching points which it may or may not make, but just because page by page picking the most interesting things to discuss about various biographies and how they came to be is interesting. It is written in a very breezy and fun style. I almost said not academic, but since I read very academic books I should perhaps put that on a curve- fun, even if a bit academic.(less)
I think the author does a really great job of crafting the narrative of her experience with information about the topic until near the end. She seems...moreI think the author does a really great job of crafting the narrative of her experience with information about the topic until near the end. She seems to try three different "now for the hopeful if not happy ending" endings, none of which really work. I can see the difficulty in finding an end that suits, but still, that could have been done better. If I could have voted for one, I would have voted for putting all the eggs in basket #3.(less)
I had no idea this book was going to be so fantastic! I think it is a great book for adults and I would say even down to advanced middle school studen...moreI had no idea this book was going to be so fantastic! I think it is a great book for adults and I would say even down to advanced middle school students to discuss some important issues.
First, there is the practical astrophysics at a level that it would be reasonable for most people to know as part of a well-rounded education. There is even a brief slide into the philosophy of science (a specialty of mine, so I was excited to hear that).
Second, there are some really important points about issues of integrity and fair play both in general and in how they relate to science. Changes in the internet age come into play also both in how the freedom and availability of information is viewed (this is a bit glossed over, but as someone in science I can tell you these are major shifts that are very real) and how serious people should deal with the mob, another thing that has changed in the internet age.
Third, it is charming autobiography. It even made me a little teary at one point.(less)
A close look at genealogy always leaves one breathless and the speed of history- in this case three generations get from a concubine in old China to a...moreA close look at genealogy always leaves one breathless and the speed of history- in this case three generations get from a concubine in old China to a female university graduate writing a novel today.
Many reviewers see the book as depressing, however I think it is only depressing if you expect the average life to be easy. The average person has a life that is anywhere from difficult to very difficult, and so the particularity of these women's lives is not the difficulty but rather exactly what sort of difficulty and how they responded. In any case, I found the ground view of history more interesting than the particular family. The Tings, the arch-enemy of the book, could have written their story and if well written it would have been just as interesting.
And I do think this book is well written. The author is very loyal to her family and friends, which makes for good autobiography at least. The ending reveals some of the loyalty conflicts that make the author's book on Mao, on the other hand, so insufferable. (less)
It is very peculiar that a book could be written of such length and full of such needling and petty detail while touching its subject so shallowly. Th...moreIt is very peculiar that a book could be written of such length and full of such needling and petty detail while touching its subject so shallowly. The authors seem to view their job as to ascribe all evil to Mao, but it is not enough to say he was evil- what drove him?
The book reaches a hilarious level of propaganda language. No opportunity for universal hyperbole is missed; no closing statement of doom is left unsaid. Some of them made me laugh out loud, probably not the authors intention but the spitefulness is absurd when describing acts of evil that march into the "evil" category quite well on their own.
The authors claim in the book that they are correcting a history that glosses Mao too positively, and they demand Red China to shake its founding myth before it moves on. In 2006 when the book was published it is difficult to make an argument on the first point, and they do not provide a good argument for the second point. Should the people of China stand in corporate shame that their suffering stemmed from the meaningless rantings of a mad man, or should they move forward with pride building on what they themselves have suffered greatly to build themselves? The authors seem to think you can crush the memory of Mao without crushing the memory of the people; I doubt the two can be cleaved so easily.
As a final review of the book, it is a useful history, but it most certainly does not stand on its own and as I have explained does not meet or adequately argue for its stated aims.
There is a scene in The West Wing where fictional Pres. Bartlett dismisses modern American history as shallow. if Nixonland is to be believed, it is s...moreThere is a scene in The West Wing where fictional Pres. Bartlett dismisses modern American history as shallow. if Nixonland is to be believed, it is so much worse than that: sickening, gut-wrenching and depressing. The author draws in every ugly thing of the period (the book follows a person, but is meant to be an overview of the times), only mentioning positive things that can be easily dismissed or which pale starkly next to the evil presented. I read the book quickly, wanting this darkness in my life for as short of a time as possible.
The author claims to be showing how we got to the present day, but of course this horrific tale of a vile America getting the president it deserved is only part of the story and only one way of viewing the history. It wasn't that horrible then, and despite the darkness that hovers it isn't that horrible now. There are people of character and good will throughout the land, and sometimes even in power. Do we need to know how to be evil, or would it be useful to know how to be good? What about the people who undid Nixon because of the strength of their character? The book covers some important history and it is not wrong, yet in an important way it is wrong as history.
A footnote: This book covers a time period that ended shortly before I was born into Generation X. As I came across names I recognized from events during my lifetime I looked them up on Wikipedia to better understand the span of their lives, and found that more recent events consistently got more space on the pages. Whether this is from the age of the writers, or from amateur historians being easily distracted by the recent, it is an interesting weakness of crowd-sourced online history.
Footnote: I happened to read this book at the same time as Mao: The Unknown Story, leading to a couple of days of unremitting negativity. If you love to feel hopeless about history, these two books are for you!(less)
So. Much. Fun! I don't care about China and I don't care about music. I care about people having fantastic opportunities in life and making the most o...moreSo. Much. Fun! I don't care about China and I don't care about music. I care about people having fantastic opportunities in life and making the most of them. Most people are like: no, no, no not that either and complain that nothing interesting ever happens to them when really it is that they REFUSE to let anything interesting happen. This is about the opposite, and about that fear when life is fantastic that really it is just the circumstances of them moment and if anything changes you might never have another opportunity Like This. (But you always do, if you say yes.)(less)
It astonishes me that we have all heard of De Tocqueville, Alexis yet Lincoln Steffens remains in comparative obscurity. I would never have read this...moreIt astonishes me that we have all heard of De Tocqueville, Alexis yet Lincoln Steffens remains in comparative obscurity. I would never have read this book were it not some off hand recommendation I read somewhere that I don't even remember.
What you can say of both de Tocqueville and Steffens is this: there is nothing a person can say about American politics which each of them did not already say in his own way.
Steffens obscurity is probably related to the fact that his observations do not fit anyone's agenda. When it is time to blame the left Steffens finds a way to blame the right and vice versa. When it is time to blame big business Steffens notes that corruption requires the collusion of the voters, and when it is time to blame petty criminality Steffens notes the necessity of the collusion of big business.
The sweep of history is extraordinary. This is a man who knew Teddy Roosevelt and the industrialists, but also Trotsky and Lenin. To a lover of biography and California history the first 200 pages about a boy roaming early statehood Sacramento are not to be missed- it is worth getting into this book even if your intention is to set it aside when he leaves town for college.
The book is ginormous, but Steffens is a newspaper writer: each chapter forms a readable enclosed unit. Thought it is easy to read, it is difficult to determine what to do next. There is no agenda, there is no movement to join. There is just understanding the complexities of democracy.
I have added this book to my Essentials for Citizens Goodreads shelf. I can hardly think of a book more important to American citizens in the present day, and most people should find it readable (unlike de Tocqueville, no particular historical or political background is necessary- the information is provided in the chapters).(less)
I avoided reading this book because I somehow thought it would be lame, which it was not. It is so, so engaging as an audio book. I didn't know the st...moreI avoided reading this book because I somehow thought it would be lame, which it was not. It is so, so engaging as an audio book. I didn't know the story or many of the associated historical facts and so I avoided YouTube until I had gotten to the end of the book. There is a lot of great material about Zamperini there.
I think suspicion of religion makes some of the reviewers unduly suspicious of Zamperini's mental recovery. One tenant of psychotherapy is that the purpose isn't to replace the negative experience or negative worldview, but just to find a crack for one counter example to get in. If that can happen for someone, they can radically transform their lives. It's an everyday miracle (thank God).
Zamperini said that reading the book transported him back, and it puts the reader in a place in the past as well. There is at least some moral danger to that, some danger that it undoes the great lesson of Zamperini's personal life story.
The lesson from that book that applies to the present day, or at least to me, is the extent to which individual survival relies on the assistance of others. Our society is still in grave danger regarding vicious unforgivingness, true, but also regarding vicious disregard of how much we are reliant on others. The book provides the counter example demonstrating how far wrong that is.(less)
I doubt I'll ever read this cover to cover, but I wanted to bring this delightful book to the attention of my friends. The book follows the actual res...moreI doubt I'll ever read this cover to cover, but I wanted to bring this delightful book to the attention of my friends. The book follows the actual residents of one tenement building, discussing the different food vendors with whom they would have interacted, and how they would have prepared similar ingredients differently based on their cultural backgrounds.(less)
The author begins the book oddly, congratulating himself for knowing about a very famous person that supposedly none of his readers have heard of (so...moreThe author begins the book oddly, congratulating himself for knowing about a very famous person that supposedly none of his readers have heard of (so why did we pick up the book??). It is continuously self-pleased and congratulatory, which is fine as any sane person would be rooting for Wilberforce and glad of his successes... The congratulation does not diminish the pleasure of reading the book, but it does make me think there is probably far more to understand about the personalities of this period of history than is revealed in this book.(less)
Nazi history is generally taught from the side of the victors. It is always that "German" meant "Nazi" and there is no question that everyone knew of...moreNazi history is generally taught from the side of the victors. It is always that "German" meant "Nazi" and there is no question that everyone knew of Nazi atrocities. This book explains the nuance of who had access to what information, and who had what beliefs and why. The story is much more complex than the fairy tale that is so popular with jr high school boys.
After reading this book, I feel I have a more concrete and less theoretical understanding of apostasy. And I see how much the apostasies of both left and right relate to Nazi apostasy (the church made certain statements to better suit itself to the government... Statements which are strangely still present). Also, The separation of church and state is taught as a dogmatic statement, often as a dogma of church limitation, with little philosophy of what it actually means. Bonhoffer had to come up with an actual theology of the separation, and of the place of the church in calling the state to good governance.
But more than that, he had to come up with a way to live in terrible times. Current times are certainly no Nazi Germany, but they are terrible enough to need guidance and help. This book provides that as an example. I am told it goes too far in crafting that example into a modern American evangelical image, the author is a VegiTales writer after all, but it is an example that is needed.(less)
A woman with power has hard choices. Catherine came from lower than Elizabeth and was never meant to be an empress (after she birthed the heir she was...moreA woman with power has hard choices. Catherine came from lower than Elizabeth and was never meant to be an empress (after she birthed the heir she was more or less left for dead... she was important to no one). And yet she became more powerful and lived life her way in a way that Elizabeth was never able to. A much more hopeful model.(less)