Oh my goodness, this was one of my favorite reading experiences ever. I'm not sure I can objectively explain it, but...more(5.0) I want you to read this book
Oh my goodness, this was one of my favorite reading experiences ever. I'm not sure I can objectively explain it, but I laughed, I nearly cried, my palms sweated, I was just riveted (ask my wife). This memoir is so well written (Agassi gave effusive praise to J.R. Moehringer, who helped him record his history and transform it into this masterpiece, and I'm sure much of the credit must go to him) that I just couldn't handle it. It is such an emotional ride--perhaps only 0.01% of what it's like to actually be a professional athlete--that every free moment I had I wanted to return to Andre-world.
I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud while reading this. The coincidences, the juxtapositions, the ironies, the cute courtships....There was humor in so many forms. It was all so sincere though. I guess that's what struck me the most. How open, honest and sincere the book feels. And given what he reveals in it, I have little reason to believe that anything is exaggerated, stretched or glossed over.
But it's just so well written. I never had to guess who he was referring to at any point. He made so many connections between points in his life, but they were effortless to recall and connect. I've just never been able to follow a narrative so effortlessly, feeling I was completely on top of everything going on, past and present. It was just such a pleasure to read, even aside from the actual events taking place.
One interesting typographical note: (at least in the ePUB version I read) There was no use of quotation marks to set off dialog. Without having read the book, I would've thought this was insanity and ridiculed anyone playing any sort of editorial role in the production...but it totally works. I can't explain it, but it probably comes back to how perfectly written the book is.(less)
I'd heard Maziar on Fresh Air and wanted to hear more of the story of his imprisonment in an Iranian political prison. I...more(5.0) Powerful story well told
I'd heard Maziar on Fresh Air and wanted to hear more of the story of his imprisonment in an Iranian political prison. I was pleasantly rewarded. I'm not sure how much of the quality is due to his co-author, Aimee Molloy, but I'm curious about other books she's worked on (though none actually sound that interesting to me now).
Maziar comes from a politically outspoken family so it was not so much an accident or misfortune that he was imprisoned, more his birth right. Thanks to lots of pressure from many directions, the government let him go after just short of four months, but he tells of his experiences very well. I felt as I was in his mind (fortunately not his body) while these events were taking place. Insightful, scary, frustrating, inspiring at once.
I was interested to read that his way of coping with solitary confinement was to exercise his mind and body: he'd do pushups, situps, raise his feet in the air and run or bicycle (and imagine his routes through the streets of London where he lived). He also created crossword puzzles in Persian and English, repeated the names of his loved ones and was visited by the voices of his father and sister (both of whom had both been imprisoned and later passed away). He certainly has the mind and will to survive such an awful experience, and the memory to be able to share it with the world afterwards.
I enjoyed reading this well-researched treatment of Prohibition (before, during and a little after). I can't te...more(4.0) Prohibition and all its hypocrisy
I enjoyed reading this well-researched treatment of Prohibition (before, during and a little after). I can't tell if it's encouraging that big business, big crime and big government worked hand-in-hand just as well in the early 20th century as they do now. On the one hand, it hasn't gotten much worse; on the other, there's little hope of reform. I was surprised to hear about the extent of the legal loopholes and corrupt 'enforcement' that existed. It was certainly an interesting read.
I did know that efforts toward women's suffrage and prohibition were somewhat allied, but I didn't realize the full extent, nor did I realize the other celestial alignment required for prohibition to pass after decades of trying: * fighting for enfrachisement for women (to add voters likely to elect to stop their husbands' drinking) * passing the income tax amendment (to replace the lost revenue that the alcohol excise tax generated) * stirring up anti-German (helped by recent WWI, the beer brewers were largely German) and anti-semitic (distillers were often Jewish) sentiments * stirring up Southern anti-black sentiments, convincing whites that their communities would be safer if blacks couldn't get ahold of liquor * reapportionment tricks and foot-dragging to keep legislative representation heavily rural even as Americans flocked to the cities * strong leadership and plenty of funding
The last point was critical to the reversal, as without continuing to fight and fund maintenance of prohibition, repeal would likely have happened on its own. It's difficult if your single issue even once it's achieved requires active work to maintain the new status quo.
I found it interesting that industrialists like du Pont were disappointed that their roundabout approach to lowering the income tax by repealing prohibition didn't work out as they planned. The return of the excise tax was just used to fund more of Roosevelt's spending programs, unsurprisingly.
It was also just shocking how quickly the nation adjusted to the many ways to subvert prohibition laws. Yes, it appears that Americans drank far less right after prohibition passed (down 70%), and still drank less after repeal, it was quite easy to access alcohol during prohibition. My favorite sections were about the bootlegging (and the legal loopholes that amounted to little more than bootlegging) schemes that took hold soon after prohibition.
The political wranglings were far less interesting to me, but seemed to be Okrent's focus. If he trimmed those sections a bit, I might've rated it higher. Definitely an interesting read...far better than any history books I read in school! ;)(less)
(3.0) Mixture of personal exploits within (and after) the CIA, and lots of info on relationships between US government and Saudi Royal Family...but mo...more(3.0) Mixture of personal exploits within (and after) the CIA, and lots of info on relationships between US government and Saudi Royal Family...but mostly a rant.
That aside, the bits revealing ties between US industry and government to Saudis; how the Saudi royal family (mis-)runs the state, leading to the Western world indirectly funding terrorism against themselves are all enlightening (disturbing, frightening, though altogether not that surprising).
He likes to interweave his own spy exploits, some of which were on a freelancing basis after leaving the CIA (get the feeling he was 'asked' to leave? was it over September 11th?). It felt like two books crammed together a bit.
Overall good, but could be far better organized and the tone could be fixed.(less)
Tina's funny. And this is funnier for her having read it for audiobook. I like the times she mutters under her brea...more(4.0) Funny, glad I audiobooked it.
Tina's funny. And this is funnier for her having read it for audiobook. I like the times she mutters under her breath, it adds to the humor. There are also slight tweaks for audiobook version that are funny. I'll probably listen to this again sometime (e.g. long drive).(less)
(4.5) Impressively informative history of cancer, with a few teeny faults
I was so impressed to see all of cancer's history (and essentially all of the...more(4.5) Impressively informative history of cancer, with a few teeny faults
I was so impressed to see all of cancer's history (and essentially all of the questions I could possibly come up with answered) all in one engaging book. A very thorough and impressive work that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. We go down many of the dead end approaches to diagnosing, treating and curing cancers, as well as see the main thrusts of research that have led to great breakthroughs in oncology (not to mention epidemiology, evidence-based medicine in general). Most readers can come away with a ton of awareness of the many diseases that are cancer. And best of all, we're actually left with a sense of optimism: there is hope (even history demonstrating) that we can and will continue to make headway in understanding the complex interaction of Genes Gone Wild! that is malignancy.
There a few minor faults that were enough to bump this from a 5.0 to 4.5: * I felt he wasn't consistent in his assumptions about his audience. At times, he assumes no scientific or medical knowledge at all (going into great detail about cell biology and explaining what fellowship is in medical training, for example), but at others he assumes a familiarity with medicine, the medicine hierarchy and science that is inconsistent with the former examples. * On two occasions he makes oblique references to the use of HeLa cells in his lab, but fails to acknowledge the source. Not sure why. * He alternately referred to the AIDS ward at SF General in the 80s as Ward 5A and 5B. I believe the famous ward is just one of the two. ;) * One typo in my hardcover edition: 'criteria' where 'criterion' was appropriate. * UPDATE: NIck Black reminded me of a few instances of repeated passages and re-explanations (I agree; why is this so common in pop science?), which I noticed but forgot while writing the review....
And not really a fault, but he makes endless references to Susan Sontag and her comments on illenss, and seemed a bit out of place. Almost all other frequently quoted authors are actual researchers or physicians.
But the fact that these minor faults are the only criticism I have (and that I was paying THAT close attention because the read was so riveting) is a testament to how good this book is. It goes on my recommended non-fiction shelf for sure!(less)
Though they admit up front that they essentially change every fact in the narratives, to the point of unrecognizabi...more(3.5) Cool reading about real spies
Though they admit up front that they essentially change every fact in the narratives, to the point of unrecognizability, still cool to read what it's like to be a 'real' spy in the CIA. (view spoiler)[Didn't realize at first that it was going to morph into a love story, but I did know the authors were married (just thought they started out that way ;) ). (hide spoiler)]
Would've given higher rating if things were a little better organized. I enjoyed reading from both of their perspectives, but they jumped around in space and time a little too much for me to keep it straight. Couldn't really detect any logic to the order they told them in (perhaps they were truly chronological but had to change names, faces and wars to satisfy the CIA?). I guess it was roughly chronological, but sticking to that would've been a lot better.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
(4.0) Refreshing perspective, but not sure he offers enough direction/hope for change
As I mentioned in progress update, I don't see why he dismisses i...more(4.0) Refreshing perspective, but not sure he offers enough direction/hope for change
As I mentioned in progress update, I don't see why he dismisses instant run-offs out of hand. His argument (not justified) seemed to be that the second candidate can sometimes win in a staged run-off....Well, that can definitely happen in instant run-off as well. And I'm not so sure that it's a good thing that candidates can change their stances between votes. This is what primaries get us right now....
But that aside, it's interesting to see a former member of Congress be so open about what's wrong. It's kind of refreshing. Trick is that when we get to "how do we fix it", he relies on all of us getting all grassroots and calling our congresspeople and demand that they improve. Sorry to be so cynical, but that's going to be a difficult sell. Apathy and (guilty here) cynicism seem like they'll really get in the way.
Would love to hear more thoughts about this one. Perhaps book club of some kind?(less)