I read this with my 7 year old son. Here's his review:
"I liked it because it was funny and it had Jedis in it. "
As a parent, Star Wars fan and JeffreyI read this with my 7 year old son. Here's his review:
"I liked it because it was funny and it had Jedis in it. "
As a parent, Star Wars fan and Jeffrey Brown fan, I also loved this book. My son is right, it is often funny and it has Jedis in it. There is one knowing Star Wars reference after another, and it's great to share those with my son.
But what is truly fantastic about this book is Jeffrey Brown's honest eye for the the difficulties and beauty of human relationships. He brilliantly covers the confusion of being young, trying to find your place in the world (well, galaxy), navigating the difficulties and excitement of friendships and love.
Reading the book together offered plenty of opportunities to talk about what it means to be honest, to stand up for what is right and how to admit when you're wrong. Surprisingly, the young Padawan's holobook (a sort of Jedi Facebook) posts even provided an opportunity to talk about American politics.
If you have a young Star Wars fan, I can't recommend this book enough....more
This book surprised me in two ways. The first was the subject: a single mixed martial arts match. It's not the kind of thing I've come to expect fromThis book surprised me in two ways. The first was the subject: a single mixed martial arts match. It's not the kind of thing I've come to expect from Jeffrey Brown. The second was that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
I've never been a huge fan of wrestling, boxing or any similar sports, but Jeffrey Brown managed to draw me in. Brown's narrative and character building skills are on display here. He sets the scene expertly. For most of the action, we're in the heads of the two opponents. And although it's pretty clear who will win all along (something Brown cheekily acknowledges), I wanted to read on to find out how it happens and how the characters react.
There are a few times when the internal monologue of the two characters starts to get repetitive. This may be deliberate, though. When assessing an opponent, you start with the basics then build up a picture of the current moment in time. Still, I felt like it interrupted the flow of an otherwise excellent narrative. Only one the two opponents is developed fully, we get a few peak into his past that explain how he came mixed martial arts. The other opponent isn't treated as sympathetically. His motivations are far less nuanced.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book. It's an entertaining character study in a setting that provides a compelling narrative....more
I'm frankly surprised that I finished this book. I never finished Moby Dick because of one passage that described the floating carcasses of whales. ThI'm frankly surprised that I finished this book. I never finished Moby Dick because of one passage that described the floating carcasses of whales. The North Water is, in parts, far more gruesome. And yet, I couldn't stop reading.
The deaths of seals, whales, sharks, polar bears and human being are described in graphic detail. But these various and clearly described deaths never overwhelmed me. What was overwhelming were the reactions—both animal and human—to those deaths.
This is how the book drew me in. Human beings in the most adverse conditions imaginable, surrounded by death, dealing out death. Somehow, in the middle of the carnage, the characters retain their humanity. And some of them don't.
I realized that these exquisite descriptions of horrific deaths are essential. Without them, there would be no central mystery to this novel. There would be no way to explore the line between retaining your humanity and losing it.
Going back and rereading Utopia after all these years was interesting. Possibly because the book is written as a conversation, I initially felt that IGoing back and rereading Utopia after all these years was interesting. Possibly because the book is written as a conversation, I initially felt that I was getting a piece of a conversation. When I read the book in high school, I probably had a better idea of the context in which that conversation took place. But as I read on, I felt less of a need to have a thorough understanding of the historical context.
As I got into the meat of the book, the actual description of Utopia, I could see why I was so taken with this book in high school. By proposing a society in which there is no property it seems to neatly deal with many of the issues that plague our own society, not least of which is glaring inequality. I could see my high school self revelling in the description of how the Utopians look down upon other cultures which put a premium on how they dress as childish.
As I read on, I realized that Utopia is not a country in which I would want to live. Despite the leaders being elected, the society felt rigid, almost totalitarian. I felt that in such a culture I would almost certainly find a reason to rebel. In other words, in More's Utopia, I would almost certainly wind up a slave.
On competing More's Utopia I realized that it was probably written to be a conversation, but not in the way I first thought. If More had intended it to be a though experiment about and critique of his own time, he could have done this without putting pen to paper. But by writing this down, and be explicitly saying that there is much that he doesn't agree with, he's inviting us to look critically at our own society through the lens of Utopia. And in doing that, Utopia is still a resounding success.
Of course, the attraction of this edition is the Introduction by China Miéville and the Essays by Ursula Le Guin. I have mixed feelings about these.
Miéville's introduction was hard-going. It is written in what seems to be a deliberately obscure and nearly impenetrable style. While he raises interesting points, the verbiage that I had to wade through to get to them hardly seemed worth it. As I said, perhaps this was a deliberate attempt to slow the reader down, to get us to take time and care not only with his introduction, but with Utopia itself and with Le Guin's essays. It may have been successful in this, but I found the way it was written so alienating that I very nearly didn't continue.
Le Guin's essays, on the other hand, were a delight. Like Miéville she addressed many of the concerns I had with Utopia and utopias in general. Specifically, she addressed the seed of totalitarianism that seems to exist in all utopias, many political systems and the politics of most people: we have found a way that everyone can be happy and you will accept this whether you like it or not.
Le Guin covers these difficult topics with such a deft hand and conversational style that one feels that despite the central paradox of utopias and dystopias, that they are nevertheless worth thinking about, worth creating and worth criticizing.
I must admit a bias here. Le Guin's first essays was one of those rare pieces of writing that you feel is written just for you. She moved from one topic to another—cultural anthropology, prehistoric America, William Blake, The Brothers Karamazov, tricksters—all of which are topics that are dear to my heart. Le Guin moves from one topic to another with such obvious fascination and childlike excitement that it feels impossible not to be carried along with here.
All in all, I'd like to return to More's Utopia again in ten year's time. I suspect I'll be returning to LeGuin's essays much sooner. ...more
I read this with my son while we were camping. He has read the first two Fizzlebert Stump books, and he adores them. I was only able to read a chapterI read this with my son while we were camping. He has read the first two Fizzlebert Stump books, and he adores them. I was only able to read a chapter or two of those books (I only get to read bedtime stories on the weekend).
Having read an entire Fizzlebert Stump book, I can see why he loves them. Fizzlebert is a great character: lovable, but imperfect; brave, but sometimes scared; smart, but makes the occasional mistake. And the books are funny on several levels. My son laughed throughout the book, and I found myself snickering at passages that were aimed at adults reading along. But what really shines here is the story-telling. A.F. Harold draws you in by making friends with you, by talking directly to you as if you're having a conversation with a friend. It doesn't hurt that he's mastered the art of the cliffhanger: at the end of each chapter, my son was asking "The next one, please. Pleeeeease!"...more
Murakami is playing with many of the same themes that have made me love his work: the pervasive feel of unreality, the vague but persistent sense of alienation, the movement between two worlds. This is Murakami with an emotional depth that I don't I've seen before, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is a more profound and (ahem) colorful book because of it....more
When I studied field biology in Texas, our first assignment was to trace the borders the biotic regions of Texas on a large road map of the state. WeWhen I studied field biology in Texas, our first assignment was to trace the borders the biotic regions of Texas on a large road map of the state. We then studied the characteristics of each region. Throughout the class, everything we learned about various plant and animal species was grounded in the knowledge of the habitats in which they were found.
Since moving to the UK, I have spent a lot of my time outdoors identifying plants and animals (often to the annoyance of my walking companions). Some of the keys and field guides I've used have been excellent. Nevertheless, I've often felt a bit at sea without having some sort of guide to the habitats in which I found those species.
Ben Avaris' Plants and Habitats turns out to be the book I've been looking for. It is a remarkably concise introduction to the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) plant communities. It is also an incredibly easy-to-use field guide to 700 of the most common plant species in the UK. After a couple of outings, I feel I can safely say that this is the most straightforward field guide I have ever used. Not only are the plants described in terms of the habitats in which you're likely to find them, but they are grouped with plants of similar appearance, rather than phylogenetically.
I highly recommend this book for any budding plant or field biology geek. ...more
This is book is a redesign change from much of the nonsense that gets written about health and fitness. It is one of the best fitness books I've everThis is book is a redesign change from much of the nonsense that gets written about health and fitness. It is one of the best fitness books I've ever read. So many books on health and fitness fall into the category of what I call “one true way” books, which espouse a single way to be healthy. Usually these books are trying to sell you something beyond the book.
Cardio or Weights is different. It is organised as a series of questions about health and fitness. Each question is answered based on recent research. In some cases, there is a clear answer. In many cases, though, there isn't. When the research isn't clear, Hutchinson says so. When different people with different fitness goals should do different things, Hutchinson says so.
If you know what your fitness goals are, and want to determine how best to reach those goals, this is the book for you. If you want someone else to decide what your goals should be and how you should reach them, this is probably not the book for you. ...more
I originally purchased The Wild Places a year and a half ago as a Kindle Daily Deal. I started reading it during my commute on a whim after I'd finishI originally purchased The Wild Places a year and a half ago as a Kindle Daily Deal. I started reading it during my commute on a whim after I'd finished another book and was looking for something else to read. It quickly became clear that this was a book I'd need to read as a physical book.
Robert Macfarlane is an extraordinary writer. He manages to write very lyrical prose without going over the top. He writes take-your-breath-away sentences that enhance, rather than detract from, his more straightforward prose.
The Wild Places chronicles his search for wild places in the British Isles, where some believe there are no wild places left. As Macfarlane seeks out and visits these wild places, he examines our relationship with the places. Almost everywhere he goes, there is evidence or stores of the people who have been there before him. At the same time, he starts to see the wild in the most unlikely of places, appearing in the cracks, crevices and forgotten spaces of our built environment.
In the end, his journey fundamentally changes his idea of what a "wild place" is.
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I'll certainly be reading Macfarlane's other books....more
I really enjoyed this book. While this book is essentially several extended blog posts strung together, Frauenfelder is a capable writer. He knows howI really enjoyed this book. While this book is essentially several extended blog posts strung together, Frauenfelder is a capable writer. He knows how to take his various DIY projects and spin them into an entertaining story.
He's also remarkably humble and honest. One of the central themes of the book is that the best way to learn is to make mistakes. And Frauenfelder has made some doozies, from moving his entire family a tropical island to inadvertently killing his much-beloved chickens.
I suspect if you've spent any amount of time working with your hands, Frauenfelder will come off as what he is and admits to being: a bumbling amateur. This book probably isn't for you.
But if you—like me—have spent much of your adult life working at a computer and would like to try a few things you don't have the first clue how to do, this book is fantastic. It will inspire you to try something new get it terribly wrong and learn from your mistakes....more