Insightful, funny, the world through Tina Fey glasses. We listened to the audio book version which was narrated by Mrs. Fey herself, which was half thInsightful, funny, the world through Tina Fey glasses. We listened to the audio book version which was narrated by Mrs. Fey herself, which was half the fun. She is brilliant at voices, especially imitating her father. ...more
I think the only reason I had not given up eating industrial meat (e.g. pretty much all meat) is that, up until now, I had not allowed anyone to argueI think the only reason I had not given up eating industrial meat (e.g. pretty much all meat) is that, up until now, I had not allowed anyone to argue on its behalf for long enough. JSF's book is an long argument that, for me, was enough.
This book is designed to make the reader care about the issue of meat production in the US. It does this quite effectively through a combination of dispassionate fact-conveying and appeals to our morality. Its aim was not to argue in favor of vegetarianism per se, but to condemn the horrific industrialized practices of raising meat, which account for nearly all of the meat available to buy today. After this has been described in all its bloody detail, the book confronts us with the question, "And now what will you so?" and does not let us go until we are forced to answer it.
For me, and many others, the answer was clear: stop being part of that system, as much as can be helped. Stop eating so much damn meat. And when you do, make sure you buy the expensive but good stuff.
You can't read this book if you want to continue eating meat the way you did before. Then again, you can't NOT read this book if you've ever eaten a drumstick or porkchop this century. That piece of flesh is the artifact of a story with more drama and conflict than the the most gripping prime-time television series. And it's a hell of a lot more real....more
This was one of those books where, as I read it, I kept agreeing with everything he says. Steven Johnson has a brilliant way of explaining his thoughtThis was one of those books where, as I read it, I kept agreeing with everything he says. Steven Johnson has a brilliant way of explaining his thoughts through anecdotes and metaphors, and he is great at finding and then elucidating patterns across different disciplines and contexts (perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the book is actually all about ideas as pattern recognition).
My only qualm is that he, in an attempt to be exhaustive in his explanations, gets a little repetitive at times. Other than that, it was a fun read. Not only do you learn about his theory of the origins of good ideas, you also get a "greatest hits" tour of historical breakthrough ideas and how they came about. Each of these innovation case studies is written with just the right dose of narrative drama to keep the book from becoming a tedious academic treatise. Also useful for keeping the arguments fresh in your mind—the image of a pensive young Darwin wading in the shallow waters of an atoll, musing about coral reefs, will stick with me for quite some time.
While far from preachy about what you should and should not do, this book can definitely be used as an advice book for organizations to individuals. While (barring the very last paragraph) it will not actually offer a checklist for instant innovation success, it suggests useful attitudes that can be applied to daily life and organizational structure. Liquid over solid states, patient gestation over frantic cogitation, conversation and debate instead of isolation, open rather than closed, etc....more
What a great book to finish on New Year's Eve. It's been on my to-read list for years now and came highly recommended by people I respect, but I had hWhat a great book to finish on New Year's Eve. It's been on my to-read list for years now and came highly recommended by people I respect, but I had held off because I'm not a writer. Turns out, you only have to be a human being to appreciate this book.
Anne's wisdom and advice applies to anyone who has ever felt fallible, underappreciated, abused by their careers (or the entire world), and creatively or otherwise frustrated. Far from merely being a feel-good commune on the pains of work and life, Anne gives very precise, constructive tips on how to pick yourself up out of a creative rut: make shitty first drafts, look through one-inch picture frames, give yourself drill-sargeant discipline... And stop worrying about getting published.
But it is not a 10-step program to success, as she cheekily and honestly tells you about all the suffering you have signed up to endure along the way. She constantly performs sanity checks to make sure you are doing what you do for the right reasons, and is merciless when tackling every myth bedazzling a young hopeful's vision. In the end, it's not so much a self help book as a hearty chat with a gay pastor, drunk girlfriend and worried grandmother all rolled into one.
This is a book I wish I had bought in paperback so I can mark it up and pass it around to friends. I will probably do that at some point. For now I am content to have my ebook highlights, which I will probably be rereading and quoting from copiously here on out....more
This book was a comprehensive and thoughtfully composed overview of recent Middle East events and history. I picked it up to help me gain a better undThis book was a comprehensive and thoughtfully composed overview of recent Middle East events and history. I picked it up to help me gain a better understanding of all that is happening in the Middle East, and as far as this goal is concerned, the book did a great job. From the budding efforts of a mother agitating for fair elections in Egypt to the blunders of American foreign policy in Iraq, this book touches upon the political theaters in several major Middle Eastern countries (Syria, Lebanon, Iran...) all in a way that is easy to follow yet not overly simplistic.
The complexity of the region's entrenched issues is still mind boggling but Wright manages to explain much of it with clarity and balance. She supports her observations and analyses with 30 years of interviewing people from all levels of involvement with Middle East politics: activists, thinkers, leaders in and out of power and both peaceful and violent, military personnel, American and UN officials, and everyday people. As a result, this book is hardly just a dispassionate description of current events and historical background (like the news sometimes); it becomes a compelling narrative that begs the reader to actually care about about what is happening there. I was continually drawn into the humanness of the struggles there, which helps form memorable impressions for me and bolster understanding from a micro and not just a macro point of view.
This book is ultimately as much about the struggles to solve the problems of despotic regimes, religious sectarian strife and power imbalance as it is about these problems themselves. Wright's descriptions of homegrown, grassroots efforts to cultivate democracy are inspiring and galvanizing, and her accounts of brave activists' struggles against violent intimidation tactics and government corruption heartbreaking. Ultimately (and in spite of the last chapter on the American occupancy of Iraq being depressing as heck), the book imparts a sense of hope and positivity: the Middle East may be beset by political challenges like never before, but the contrary to some strains of popular belief, the Middle East is not a region populated by willfully hostile ideological miscreants with no regard for human life; rather, it is full of people like us, trying to get by, and trying to influence it in what small ways they can. Even if that were the only message I took away from this entire book, I would call it a worthwhile read....more
This work is part personal journal, part manifesto, and part self-help book. Essentially, Gordon Bell tries to make a good case for the "inevitable reThis work is part personal journal, part manifesto, and part self-help book. Essentially, Gordon Bell tries to make a good case for the "inevitable revolution" towards "Total Recall" (caps, mind you) that will "force" us to "adapt" to it. His diction gives you a good sense of what's to come, sigh.
If you can stomach his single-mindedly evangelical agenda, you'll find that this book pursues some interesting ideas about the implications of recording as many details of one's life as possible. And not just in writing, but in photos, sound, video, drawings, scanned documents, GPS locations, chat logs, pedometer readings, etc. etc.
His primary argument is that we (as in the human race) are on an accelerating pathway towards this state of recording everything ever about our personal lives. He observes that we already have cultural/behavioral trends such as microblogging and increased "surveillance" of our offspring, and points out the sheer fact that we now have all the tools that enable logging, recording, and note-taking at our disposal.
He continues by saying we ought to embrace this trend because of a host of benefits in healthcare, education, national security, work, day-to-day life, and even post mortem. There are, undeniably, benefits that you can't argue with: detailed recordings of minute-to-minute physical status for health records can be invaluable in diagnosing a disease with vague symptoms. But there are thornier ideas too. For instance, Bell totally adores the idea of a "cyber-twin" that goes on "living" and pretending to be you after you die, so your grandkids can talk to "you." This simultaneously piques my curiosity and scares me silly, but the biggest part that bugs me is that he does not go on to explore it much beyond saying "Wouldn't that be SO COOL?" Clearly this is a book about breadth, not depth, and as such, it spends more time reveling in enthusiastic speculation rather than critique and inquiry. As usual, I kind of wish there were more of the latter.
Bell ends the book by providing general instructions on how you can begin recording every detail of your own life too (this is where the self-help comes in). Here's where his argument that "Total Recall" is upon us falls apart, I think. By detailing all the technological infrastructure required and all the ways we'd have to "adapt" to using it, he only highlights how tremendous a commitment it would be to "life-log." It would pretty much have to be a person's one and only hobby. Imagine scrapbooking, but times a million. And the money, wow, you would have to have a smartphone, a GPS device, a digital camera, a scanner, a PC, an e-reader, body-monitoring devices, backup solutions x3 both on- and off-site, shelves of DVDs... Life logging is clearly not for the busy or the poor.
Of course, I buy the idea that tools will get ever-cheaper and technological paradigms will rearrange themselves beyond recognition in 10 years, but this last part of the book, his clarion call to begin lifelogging here and now, still rings utterly hollow to me because we aren't 10 years in the future yet! It is, literally, the most useless chapter, because it isn't thorough enough to be actually instructive, nor does it introduce new ideas.
By this point, he has beaten us over the head with the idea that Total Recall is coming faster and surer than the Redcoats and it will make our lives absolutely wonderous. But he has also given the reader a lot to be skeptical about. Rather than spend an extra chapter tackling the skeptics head-on, he chooses to sidestep them by saying "well, there will always be skeptics, but let's ignore them, BECAUSE THE REVOLUTION IS UPON US. LET'S DO THIS THAAAANG."
My last point is more about a technical shortcoming on the book's part: Bell doesn't distinguish clearly enough between the problems of "recording" and "recall." There's a lot of time spent on the endless possibilities of recording, and hardly any on how to organize it effectively. He does recognize the issues of data longevity, the importance of metadata and the need to unify our data, but he doesn't address nearly enough how monumental the challenge of organizing a lifetime's data is. His only answer seems to be "keep at it, just do it." I wish he'd share more of what he learned in his personal experiences.
The final verdict: I think it is worth a read, if only for the impassioned arguments that will hopefully result from some of its claims. Insofar as a book of potentially controversial predictions about the future goes, this is pretty good....more
This book felt like a really long poem rather than a novel. I say this because the prose is so beautiful it really borders on poetry. The story, thougThis book felt like a really long poem rather than a novel. I say this because the prose is so beautiful it really borders on poetry. The story, though, is almost negligible. We're told what happens from the beginning: Chuck dies. The rest of it is a drawn-out exploration of Hans' psyche as he wanders, ghost-like, through his NY life, his semi-divorce, and his friendship with Chuck.
Hans is a weak character, even as he narrates with wisdom that seems naive and deep at the same time. He doesn't change, evolve, or confront conflicts head-on. He doesn't take charge (well he tries, but the results were awkward, to say the least.) Basically, he spends his time bouncing off of Chuck, and the insides of his skull.
I found myself getting impatient several times throughout this book with Hans' self-absorbed rambliness, even as I was completely mesmerized by how spot-on, for instance, his description of the feeling of being in Times Square was. I think this would be a fun book for New Yorkers to read, as it goes into detail about many of the sights, sounds, and places in and around the city. There are also little nuggets of philosophical circumspection sprinkled throughout, any one of which could ignite a great afternoon of pondering on the reader's behalf. My problem with this book, however, is that none were really explored in depth; they're fleeting brain snacks. Too bad, because some were tasty.
For what it's worth, this book represents the state of loneliness quite well. But I can only relate on a very general level, and somehow not completely. This is the kind of book that looks for a soul mate in its reader; I'm not the kind of soul mate for this book, so I only gave it three stars, but for the right kind of person, it could be life-changing.
Recommendation? If you are not in a position to empathize, just read it for the joyful experience for reveling in beautiful prose, not for the action-packed adventures throughout and soul-shattering revelation at the end.
Lastly, I don't seen the connection to 9/11. It seems circumstantial at best......more
**spoiler alert** After reading this book, I felt as if I'd aged 60 years. In a good way.
At first I didn't think I'd love this book. I tend to not lik**spoiler alert** After reading this book, I felt as if I'd aged 60 years. In a good way.
At first I didn't think I'd love this book. I tend to not like books that portray emotional suffering. Not because I think emotional suffering shouldn't be a subject of literature, but because suffering is so often written about in a heavy-handed, angst-ridden, or melodramatic way. Pain is very difficult to narrate, and it has to be done gently and subtly, with room for the reader to absorb and think and relate. That way, pain can be transfigured into something beautiful and unifying.
This book, in fact, does just this.
There is no happy ending to this tale. It's an intensely honest portrayal of life events with no hopeful frivolities tacked on to help the reader stomach it all. The main character of Olive Kitteridge is an unapologetic, at times harsh, realist — perfect for the quietly matter-of-fact feel of this novel. We follow the lives of Olive and her fellow inhabitants of Crosby, Maine, as they individually go through loss, suicides, depression, anorexia, social awkwardness, broken dreams, stale marriages, loneliness, regrets... basically anything tough that life can throw at a person in a small Northeastern town. At the end, we are left only with the thought that "people find ways to get by."
And yet, somehow this novel isn't at all depressing. It isn't exactly uplifting either, but... I'm left with a feeling of compassion and empathy and connection to hundreds of people I have never and will never meet. This feeling almost substitutes for the warm happiness you feel at the end of a sugarplum fairytale....more
This book was awesome. First and foremost, it is hilarious. It is the kind of hilarious that is enhanced with a pinch of abject horror, but it is notThis book was awesome. First and foremost, it is hilarious. It is the kind of hilarious that is enhanced with a pinch of abject horror, but it is not sad like the way watching The Office is sad and soul-crushing. No, there is something strangely... uplifting about Bourdains account of his drug-ridden, half-crazed, sleep-deprived, machismo-driven careen through cookdom.
I like its contrasts. Sometimes it is fast and noisy action, other times it's quiet introspection. Topics swing wildly between the gory and brutal realities of dinner rush in the kitchen, and sweetly touching descriptions of Bourdain's love for food and all those who share this love. In one chapter, Boudain will be reveling in the playful, hubristic terrors of his crazed, drug-induced reckless young life, the next, he'll be feeding himself platefuls of humble pie.
Though the writing style is extreme and pocked with exaggeration, he is great at maintaining perspective so I am content to romp along through his accounts of gasp-worthy excesses and crimes. Because I know by the end he will be able to wrap them up into some sort of personal critical response. Crazy as Bourdain's life was, he has clearly done some soul-searching and introspectating, and the results are written all over this book.
He's a great writer and has a surprisingly handy and beautiful way with words. It borders on the poetry of the insane. Because his background is what he says it is, I am never sure if the occasional gem of a turn-of-phrase is the effect of some lingering crack in his bloodstream or if he really is just that smart of a writer. Actually that is dumb; of course he is very smart. It comes through in the way he refers to important historical events like they were everyday household concepts. I kept having to look stuff up on Wikipedia, and not just the French words. And there's also that endearing self-deprecation he constantly foists upon himself. Nothing says "smart guy" like someone who knows the limit of their smartness.
Finally, he's made me want to learn French cooking. He's turned me off of silly platings with squeezie bottles and towering stacks of scallops for a bit, but I do want to know how to make a good demi-glace, ever so much. Now where can I get me some veal bones in the US?...more