Very, very funny. His essay about attending the Illinois State Fair, in particular, is spot on. Likewise the one about his vacation on a cruise ship iVery, very funny. His essay about attending the Illinois State Fair, in particular, is spot on. Likewise the one about his vacation on a cruise ship is perfectly conceived. ...more
This was an enjoyable and quick read. I like these social histories of a particular item, so this book really appealed to me.
I can't say it's a definiThis was an enjoyable and quick read. I like these social histories of a particular item, so this book really appealed to me.
I can't say it's a definitive history of any of these drinks (beer, wine, rum, tea, coffee, and cola), but it's an engaging little summary of how each of those drinks has been important to human history.
I think it's a successful strategy for organizing a book, and Standage's writing is engaging. It's a great introduction to the concept of the history of food, and an interested reader could read more in-depth studies of the history of any of these drinks.
Who would have thought that a book about a baseball corruption scandal published in 1963 would be such a page-turner? Certainly not me, but I was pleaWho would have thought that a book about a baseball corruption scandal published in 1963 would be such a page-turner? Certainly not me, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had such a hard time putting it down. Of course, I do like baseball.
I'm not sure why I decided to include this in my summer reading project. I like baseball, I like nonfiction, and I'd always heard about the World Series scandal of 1919. I guess that was enough to land it on my reading list. Anyway, I enjoyed this book tremendously. My only complaint was how the book ended, which I'd say was abruptly. I guess I expected some philosophical winding-up or some thoughts on the human desire for money at all costs, or something.
The book is divided into five parts, each of which deals with a different part of throwing the World Series: the setup, the Series, the trial, the aftermath. The thing that makes this book so easy to read is that the author does a fair amount of imagining conversations and fabricating encounters. That technique is probably frowned upon in nonfiction or history writing today, but perhaps in the 1960s, absolute accuracy took second place to readability. I actually appreciated this technique, as it made the sometimes dry retelling of baseball plays more palatable and easy to read.
I came away from this story feeling sorry for the eight baseball players who threw the World Series. Sure, they did commit a crime, but it seemed like they were punished disproportionately for their sins. The mishaps and misbehavior of the other characters in the story (the lawyers, the club owners, the gamblers, and the judges) seemed very suspicious and went relatively unpunished as far as I could tell.
Although I really enjoyed the readability of this book, I wonder what a more scholarly interpretation of the scandal would reveal, since Asinof didn't really go into details about his sources. I found myself wondering more than once about where the information about the actual plot came from, whether it was just from the testimonies of the players, or from corroborating sources.
I'd recommend this book to anybody who is vaguely interested in early twentieth-century American history, since the book really has strong descriptions of life in 1919, and the ways in which the World Series was so important to so much of the American population. It's so readable that I think people who aren't necessarily baseball fans would be able to enjoy it....more
Well, I love Anne Lamott's writing, so I might be biased, but I thought the essays in this book were lovely. I liked reading thoughts on faith from soWell, I love Anne Lamott's writing, so I might be biased, but I thought the essays in this book were lovely. I liked reading thoughts on faith from someone with a sense of humor, which Lamott definitely has. ...more
Wow, I had heard good things about this book, but I didn't expect to be so moved by this alternately fascinating and frustrating story. The author doeWow, I had heard good things about this book, but I didn't expect to be so moved by this alternately fascinating and frustrating story. The author does a fantastic job of telling the story from both points of view: the American doctors' and the Hmong family's. She manages to present both groups sympathetically, which must have been a huge challenge considering the story of Lia, the Hmong child at the center of it all.
I think this should be required reading of any anthropologist considering writing ethnography. The author is not an anthropologist, but she walks the line of ethnography with grace and kindness.
The final chapter is just stunning in its sadness and its descriptive narrative of a Hmong healing ceremony.
This is a good introduction to the concept of sustainable community design. It's not in-depth or detailed, so wouldn't be a good choice for trained deThis is a good introduction to the concept of sustainable community design. It's not in-depth or detailed, so wouldn't be a good choice for trained designers or architects who are already familiar with the community design literature.
My favorite parts of this book were the ones that explained how Americans stopped building towns and started building "developments" in the 1970s and 1980s. These authors demonstrate, with historical examples, that this method of growth and expansion wasn't inevitable, but rather the result of a constellation of events that all conspired to change the look and feel of towns.
It's a sort of depressing book, in a way. It contains example after example of towns that could have chosen to develop and grow in sustainable communities, but instead chose to contribute to the "pod" oriented suburban sprawl by building "McMansions" on tiny plots of land.
I learned a lot about why and how the standard new housing developments are designed and built (which is why I chose to read this in the first place), as well as something I'd never considered before: how road/traffic planning contributes to neighborhood design and vice versa. I also learned a lot about the kinds of people who live in different kinds of neighborhoods.
The photographic examples in the sidebar are nice, and help to illustrate the points in the text.
I found myself skimming parts of the book, since it does tend to repeat itself. I agree with one goodreads reviewer, who said that the book can be condensed into a few key points: learn from others' mistakes, think of the future, and work hard for change.
Note that this book was published ten years ago. I'll have to look into some of the more recent literature, possibly published by one of these authors, in the New Urbanism movement to see if their viewpoint has changed. The landscape where I live sure hasn't....more
A medium-informative book about the great Mrs. Christie. The author slightly over-does the constant links between Christie's body of work and her ownA medium-informative book about the great Mrs. Christie. The author slightly over-does the constant links between Christie's body of work and her own life. She (the author) constantly alludes to a house, a person, a scene from Christie's personal experience that makes an appearance in one of Christie's books. While this is informative in cases like Murder on the Orient Express and Christie's own experiences riding that train, it seems overdone in this biography.
Another mystifying feature of this biography is that it lacks even a rudimentary bibliography of Agatha Christie's works. I found myself wanting to know the dates of a couple of her novels, looked in the back for a bibliography, and was frustrated to discover that none was included.
I'm looking forward to reading the 2007 biography of Christie by Laura Thompson. Perhaps it will be both more complete and more scholarly....more
I enjoyed the main point of this book, which, as the title makes clear, is about the need for humans to slow down and enjoy life.
The problem I had witI enjoyed the main point of this book, which, as the title makes clear, is about the need for humans to slow down and enjoy life.
The problem I had with the book is that throughout, the whole thing feels dated. Not only in his specific examples of technology (this was published before the iphone, for example), but in his general conviction that this is a "worldwide movement," which it may be, but I've never seen it outside this particular book.
Each chapter is devoted to one facet of human existence that we could slow down: food, sex, child-raising, etc. And in each of these, I agree that there are probably some people out there who are interested in making these things slower. But the only part of the book that I think actually constitutes a "movement" is the Slow Food movement, which has managed to penetrate into general cultural consciousness.
Anyway, I found that dated nature of the book distracting, and it really felt as though I were reading something that was a product of its time, even though that time was less than 10 years ago (!). It really felt as though it was written in the 1990s....more
This book is about the astonishingly violent Japanese occupation of the Chinese city of Nanking during World War II. I have to say that I didn’t exactThis book is about the astonishingly violent Japanese occupation of the Chinese city of Nanking during World War II. I have to say that I didn’t exactly enjoy reading this book, though I do think that the topic is an important one. Chang’s book is divided into three sections: the first describes the violence of the Japanese occupation in bloody detail, the second discusses the heroics of the few foreigners who remained in the city, and the third section is a more broad discussion of what Chang calls “the second Rape of Nanking” (the world’s general ignorance of the event).
The first section of the book was hard to read, and I had to put the book down a few times. Chang is unflinching in her description of the almost unbelievable cruelty of the Japanese soldiers toward the Chinese citizens, soldiers and civilians alike. The fate of the Chinese women was particularly horrible, since the men were usually killed more or less quickly, but the women were kept more or less alive, as you can imagine.
Fortunately, the book isn’t just a gruesome voyeuristic look at the terrible things that humans can do to other humans. The second section of the book describes the heroic activity of several foreigners who, against the urging of some, remained in Nanking and set up an International Safety Zone for the protection of a small fraction of the Chinese population. One of the more interesting characters was a German man, a staunch member of the Nazi party, whose acts of bravery in his attempts to protect Chinese civilians make him comparable to the famous Schindler of Schindler’s List fame. He stood in front of guns, pulled Japanese soldiers away from women and girls, and generally used every bit of his power to save lives. There were Americans working in the Safety Zone as well: missionaries, teachers, and professors who did their best to save as many people as possible.
The third part of the book addresses the “second Rape of Nanking,” the attempt by the Japanese government to ignore, cover up, and lie about the events that took place in Nanking. Chang acknowledges that the world’s political stage after World War II created an atmosphere in which the Japanese were not placed in the same social position as the German people were, during the post-Holocaust years. While Nazi war criminals were tried and convicted of their crimes, only a few Japanese officials were tried. And of those who were convicted, several went on to full political careers in Japan. The reasons for the difference are complex, but had to do with the political situation in Asia after WWII, the outbreak of the Korean war, the rise of the Communist Party in China, and the need by the United States to make Japan an ally.
Of course, there is plenty of evidence to support the accounts of the eyewitnesses: diaries, photographs, newspaper articles (the Japanese press bragged about the taking of the city), and eyewitness accounts, both from survivors and, in very recent years, by the perpetrators themselves. This last group, now old men, are beginning to come forward, even though they face shame and ridicule in Japan.
One thing that struck me about Chang’s discussion about historical precedents for cruelty of this magnitude, as well as the ensuing coverup, was that she completely ignored the Armenian genocide of 1915. To me, the actions by the Turkish government, first to exterminate (by inhuman acts of violence) the Armenians and then to cover it up, is an obvious parallel. Perhaps it speaks to the thoroughness with which the Turkish government has waged its war of obliteration....more
Like most biography, I enjoyed this book more for its topic than for its writing and delivery. I really love the story of Julia Child's life, so I wadLike most biography, I enjoyed this book more for its topic than for its writing and delivery. I really love the story of Julia Child's life, so I waded the sometimes-plodding prose to get at the details of her life in France, her marriage, her relationship with her family, her rise to fame, and her passion for food.
Her life inspires mine in so many ways, and this book definitely let me in on details that contributed to my heroine-worship.
I previously read her autobiography (My Life in France), which, as the title suggests, only covers the years of her life spent in France. My Life in France sparkled with Julia's wit and funny turns of phrase, but Appetite for Life fell prey to the usual trouble with biography: too much recitation of facts. I'm not sure of the remedy, but for a person with as much pizazz and life as Julia had, it seems a shame that her biography isn't as sparkling as she was....more
I surprised myself by not enjoying this as much as I expected to. I'm not sure if I wanted to hear the author romanticize the Sahara or not, but evenI surprised myself by not enjoying this as much as I expected to. I'm not sure if I wanted to hear the author romanticize the Sahara or not, but even though he constantly reminded us NOT to romanticize the desert, I thought he did it all through the book.
The language of the book is very spare, perhaps an attempt to reflect the atmosphere of the desert itself. I found this distracting, and almost stopped reading, but luckily I found the chapter on the Tuaregs.
This chapter made the book worth reading, for me. It was a surprisingly nuanced discussion of how the Tuaregs (nomadic desert dwellers) were more or less brought into being by the French, then drew their identity from their opposition to the French, and are now left stranded in a country that is no longer run by the French.
It's a complex story, full of sad stories of inhumanity. This chapter's balanced and complex look at the Tuaregs did more to de-romanticize the Sahara than all the rest of the author's pseudo-anthropological musings.
In the end, it was a good book. Recommended if you like history, African history, anthropology, or nature writing....more