A well-researched, accurate, thoughtful book on the issues facing the nation's political system and creative responses to address it, that will never...moreA well-researched, accurate, thoughtful book on the issues facing the nation's political system and creative responses to address it, that will never reach the audience who need it most.
Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein carefully lay out their case for what they define as a dysfunction seizing up the works in the United States' federal government and then are even more careful deliberating their identified cause, namely assymetrical polarization. In other words, both parties have become more partisan and less diverse, but one of the two parties (spoilers, it's the GOP) has become so ideologically polarized and beyond the pale that the federal government cannot actually govern. Their case is substantial, cogent, and convincing.
Afterwards, they address a number of popular pablums and alleged remedies that might fix things but dismiss each in turn with convincing arguments. They then attempt to provide meaningful changes that might actually shift the balance back towards a functional government. I don't agree with all their assessments, but it's a positive contribution for the most part.
The biggest problem with the book is that the audience who is both willing to the argument and could have a meaningful impact, is the narrow group of mostly disaffected moderate voters who aren't already cognizant of the polarization they address. I doubt those people are going to be interested in reading the book in the first place.
So, solidly if eruditely written, but probably not a book that's going to reach an audience needing to listen.(less)
Rebecca Chalker's establishes an avowedly feminist viewpoint in her manifesto on women's sexuality, a combination of history, anatomy, and self-help,...moreRebecca Chalker's establishes an avowedly feminist viewpoint in her manifesto on women's sexuality, a combination of history, anatomy, and self-help, intended to empower women to realize their own sexual potential.
Had I read it when it was published in the summer of 2000, I would have thought her militant anti-patriarchal viewpoint quaint. I would have thought it a product of my mother's generation (which she is) and having just been through eight years of a Democratic presidency and increasing acceptance of LGBT culture, I would have thought this book too old-fashioned, too hostile to modern society which had evolved since Chalker's period of strident activism.
Of course, I read this in 2012. Now the importance of women's reproductive health is apparently up for debate again. While LGBT culture has arguably continued to advance positively, it appears women in particular are being sent backwards. I'm not sure we're back at the point yet where this book will be handed back and forth with hushed tones among confidants, but it's a reminder of the path we appear to be headed down, and that it needs to be resisted.
I won't recommend this book for everyone (shock!). The attempted terminology change, Chalker seeks to expand the term "clitoris" to apply to much of the female sexual anatomy, feels propagandic and offputting. The medical history, while informative, fails to follow-up on the causes of the limitation of information concerning female anatomy, attributing it to sinister forces, and focuses more on the information's rediscovery. The final portion, in which Chalker discusses various sexual health seminars people, primarily women, can attend, gets new-agey beyond the point of reasoned exploration.
That said, for women curious about their own sexuality, this is probably a good place to start. It's not going to tell a reader how to do things, but it does encourage them to start exploring.(less)
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Taras Grescoe is a lifelong urbanist and views transportation as fundamental to the...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
Taras Grescoe is a lifelong urbanist and views transportation as fundamental to the formation of the modern city. Visiting locations both in North America and abroad, Grescoe advocates strong public transportation infrastructure as the key element to long term health and growth.
While cars dominate major American metropoli like Phoenix, European and Asian cities have developed significant rail infrastructure that obviates the need to own an individual car. This, in turn, allows for increased density, which enables populations large enough to sustain local businesses. Increased economic opportunity increases the attractiveness of the area to outsiders and further encourages similar development and so on.
Grescoe does not advocate that everyone should live this way, rather he advocates that if cities wish to survive, they need to adopt this structure. Furthermore, expanding this structure to enable non-car commuting from the suburbs will, in the long run, further encourage the kind of community that is more dense, less car based, and more sustainable in the long run. He makes a convincing argument.
But I will note, and at this point I should disclose I'm a suburban commuter who rides light rail transit each weekday, that despite the opportunities presented in here. Despite the amount to which I agree with him, I couldn't get excited about reading this book. While I enjoyed the passages I read, the history of Japan's rail lines, the development of the bus system in Bogota, the economic desolation that is Phoenix, I was never eager to turn back to this book after I set it aside because, for example, I got off the light rail to finish my transit home. I'm not sure why the book didn't enthuse me more, this should be right up my alley, but it never really gripped my attention.
There are some positive notes to take away from this, and I suspect readers who are mildly interested but unexposed to the field will find this an excellent primer. But I don't think I can sit here and say "Here read this if you want to know why I think there needs to be more public transit". I don't think it'll sell anyone on the idea.
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
Doug Bremner worked as an expert witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against pharmaceu...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
Doug Bremner worked as an expert witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against pharmaceutical-giant Roche over the anti-acne medication Accutane. During that time, Roche and its attorneys went to great length to try and sway or discredit him, not only with legitimate criticisms, but with spurious accusations. Meanwhile, Bremner was also coming to terms with his mother's death. She had died while he was very young and Bremner had not addressed the circumstances or emotions related to it. This memoir, though described on the back cover as being the story of that first portion, focuses more heavily on the latter. Consequently, it feels like the reader has been misled.
Furthermore, and admittedly this is the fault of the reader, an expert witness, even one who clinically proves the drug's negative side effects, plays only a small part in the story of said drug's impact. Thus, this memoir leaves much of the story out. It would be better to know the victims beyond a couple of statements, or how the trials proceeded, or what else Roche was doing in response to the threat to their prized goose. Sadly, you don't find that information here.
This book could be useful as a resource for someone wanting to write complete story of Accutane, though Bremner neglects to go into details of the methodology and assessment that led to his conclusions, but, were I a book editor (though I'm absolutely unqualified), I would ask the following question during the writing process.
What book do you want to write? If this is a memoir, then it should be written with that focus, but it means selling the book about you, and just you and what lessons you can impart through your experiences. Memoirs are not only about recounting but, more-importantly, assessing one's life. Yes, you can include Accutane because it's part of your story, but Accutane is clearly not the focus of the story here. If it is about Accutane, then make sure to write about the full story, not just your role. Your participation in events, though significant, is limited.
Ultimately, I cannot recommend this volume. Though it reminds us of the perils of libertarianism and the folly of thinking that bad actors can be corrected through lawsuits, it gets lost in the story of a man who lost his mother and took a long time to come to terms with it.(less)
A well written book that effectively explains differences between dinosaur classifications with, as much as is possible, accurate depictions. The book...moreA well written book that effectively explains differences between dinosaur classifications with, as much as is possible, accurate depictions. The book provides a simple rhyming narrative for kids who just want to do surface reading, but if something strikes their fancy, annotated information about each dinosaur can be found at the bottom of the page. Well thought out and executed.(less)
I recieved this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Chris Matthews' admiration for JFK shines through every word of his latest book. This...moreI recieved this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway
Chris Matthews' admiration for JFK shines through every word of his latest book. This untempered adoration keeps Matthews' exploration shallow and sympathetic, though he never descends into sychophantism.
Running the full gamut of Kennedy's life in a mere 400 pages, Matthews' hews to overarching themes and applies them to JFK's role in significant events of his lifetime. As such, it avoids some of JFK's less savory traits when they cannot be applied in a positive light. While Kennedy's hard-nosed poltical manipulations can be found, you won't see much time spent on his infidelity.
That's to the book's benefit though, as, despite its origins in Kennedy's youth, this book aspires to study Kennedy's political career more than his life. What you learn from this, more than anything else arguably, is the perfect combination of preparation, instinct, and luck that Kennedy possessed which helped him overcome significant physical and prejudicial odds to become and succeed as the President.
It's a nice biography light tome. It won't be the one for the in depth history fanatic, but it provides insight for the less exposed.(less)
I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability...moreI received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." If that is the case, then James Rickards certainly has that intelligence, because his book is constantly at war with itself to the point that this reviewer cannot recommend it.
When Rickards is addresses the specific issues of monetary policy, both in terms of its use in domestic and international matters, he is insightful and direct. He presents a coherent and unsettling picture of the current predicament the U.S. and world are in with an overleveraged system that is not suffering from a lack of liquidity, but a lack of solvency. The threat presented by a collapse of the dollar is both clear and present and the potential outcomes are disturbing. These portions are valuable and educational.
However, when Rickards broadens his scope to other policy issues, things fall apart. Rickards' hard right libertarian worldview interferes with his reasoning, providing nonsensical talking points unsupported by the examples provided. For example, Richards correctly cites the lack of regulation as being a key component to the banking crisis of 2008. Yet he also repeatedly states, without any supporting evidence, that government regulation is a bad thing and harmful to the economy. Towards the end, he even advocates specific banking regulation to avoid a repeat of the crisis of 2008 while simultaneously advocating for smaller government. The cognitive dissonance is astounding.
In another case, Richards notes that the highly inflationary policies of the Fed are destroying the value of the dollar while advocating significantly reduced tax rates. However, taxation without spending is a powerful tool the government can use to reduce the overall money supply, providing a deflationary pressure to offset the inflation.
As a third example, Rickards attempts to refute Keynesian economics by borrowing from Taylor and Cogan's study of the Obama Administration's Stimulus Package having a net negative modifier effect. In essence, Keynes argues that a dollar spent by the government can have a multiplicative effect by that dollar being pushed into the economy and being used again by the original recipient while Taylor & Cogan's study said that the actual benefit was less than the original dollar spent. But, when Taylor & Cogan looked at individual portions of the package, there was a much clearer effect. Direct support programs like food stamps provided a significant positive multiplier benefit to the economy while the significantly negative effects were caused by the tax cuts in the package. Thus the truth of Taylor & Cogan's study is that the package cut taxes too much and directly spent too little.
And that's pretty much enough to say about it. There's valuable information for those who can read critically and see just how absurd some of Rickard's conclusions are, but I wouldn't encourage reading this in hope of finding a better book without the counterproductive ideology.
Disclosure: I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Further Disclosure: I'm employed at the same NGO as the author (though I...moreDisclosure: I received this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Further Disclosure: I'm employed at the same NGO as the author (though I didn't realize it until after I had finished)
Ruth D. Stark set out with the intent to help prepare her daughter for international work but has written a book that is useful for anyone in a temporary assignment. While there is specific information and advice concerning working internationally, when it comes to working in an unfamiliar and temporary setting, Stark's reminders to listen, understand the environment, and involve the regular stakeholders are just as applicable in a domestic locale.
As to the international advice, Stark writes from the perspective of an American travelling abroad, primarily to second and third world assignments, but the major points are still applicable for any traveler as long as one does not get bogged down in the details. Research, preparation, and flexibility are key to a successful assignment regardless of the point of origin or destination.
Stark does reiterate a few points from chapter to chapter. In straight reading of the complete work, it does annoy. But I suspect the intent is for this book to be a handy reference where you refresh your memory by examining a single chapter in preparation for a particular event. In that case, then I think the repetition serves the reader well.
I'm not sure Stark ever got the book done in time for her daughter. If I'm correct, her daughter provides a number of anecdotes for this first edition. But it should certainly provide helpful advice for people new to both international work and any other kind of temporary assignment.(less)
I received an uncorrected proof for free in a Goodreads giveaway
Lawrence Scott Shields spent the last twenty years watching the Soviet Union disintegr...moreI received an uncorrected proof for free in a Goodreads giveaway
Lawrence Scott Shields spent the last twenty years watching the Soviet Union disintegrate into a disparate array of states, many in disarray. This memoir collects some of his experiences as a reporter for Reuters and NPR. Mostly set in the failing southern, largely muslim states, Shields brings a refreshingly contextual view to a number of events that were poorly covered by the American media when they occurred.
As a memoir, it's neither a complete narrative of the post-Soviet era to date, nor does it have a coherent message to convey. Indeed, if one could find a singular message, it's that the Soviet Union was never the monolith America thought it was and those differences are only widened by the Union's collapse. For most, things have changed quickly and people's fates have turned on the smallest of whims, including the author's.
This book will not be as rewarding for those unfamiliar with Russian history. Sheets makes cultural references, like Potemkin Villages, which are going to be unfamiliar to a complete neophytes. But there are enough moments, particularly around the U.S. Afghan invasion and the South Ossetia war that will be enhanced for those who only followed American press reports.
As noted, I received an uncorrected proof. While I'm not going to gripe about typos, though Marist-Leninist just makes me laugh, or small word errors, there Sheets' inexperience as a writer shows up in a couple spots. For a particular resort, the windows were "shattered" no less than three times over ten pages. While it may even be true, the repetitive illustration of conflict's proximity to the author tires quickly.
Regardless, I still think this book is worth reading, even if it expects a lot of its audience.