I have yet to read a Larson book I didn't enjoy. By focusing on one event (the sinking of the Lusitania, in this case) he manages both to tell a self-I have yet to read a Larson book I didn't enjoy. By focusing on one event (the sinking of the Lusitania, in this case) he manages both to tell a self-contained story in a few hundred pages and to give us a window into the broader history of the era. He does a great job of setting the scene, taking us back to the 1910s and the age of transatlantic ocean travel and the start of the Great War and early submarine warfare.
His books remain my favorite way to consume history, and I continue to recommend them heartily.
...also, (rather improbably, perhaps), reading this damn book has made me want to take another transatlantic cruise! "My voyage on the Queen Mary 2—a beautiful and gracious ship, by the way—brought me invaluable insights into the nature of transoceanic travel. Even today, when you are in the middle of the Atlantic you are very much alone, and far from rescue if something cataclysmic were to occur. Unlike the passengers of the Lusitania, before we left New York we all were required to try on our life jackets. No one was exempted, regardless of how many voyages he or she had already made. This was serious business and, frankly, a bit scary, for putting on a life jacket forces you to imagine the unimaginable."...more
Not as good as I expected, given the buzz. Too bad, because there is a need for an accessible review of North American history from a Native perspectiNot as good as I expected, given the buzz. Too bad, because there is a need for an accessible review of North American history from a Native perspective. Such a book could do much to engage Canadians and Americans with Native issues.
Unfortunately, this book isn't that, and it can't seem to decide what it is. At times it reads like a light and sarcastic opinion piece, other times we get lists of names and historical places with too little context. The net result is a book too hollow to satisfy a reader who wants to dive into First Nations history, and yet too dry to be a lightweight and quick read. ...more
If a single cause were identified, a remedy might be readily designed. It would fit neatly into a liberal or conservative prescription. If either the
If a single cause were identified, a remedy might be readily designed. It would fit neatly into a liberal or conservative prescription. If either the system's exploitation or the victims' irresponsibility were to blame, one or the other side of the debate would be satisfied. If the reasons were merely corporate greed or government indifference or impoverished schools, then liberal solutions would suffice. If the causes were only the personal failures of parents and children, then conservative views would hold. But "repression is a seamless garment," as Salman Rushdie wrote. This is repression of a kind, and it lacks clear boundaries that would define the beginning and end of accountability.
This book reinforces what, I hope, is already known by the educated audience reading this review: "working harder" is seldom the solution to poverty, and those of us who are succeeding in middle or upper class lives have reached this point not just because of our own gumption but also because of some fortuitous combination of birth, wealth, positive role models, education, stable upbringing, and good luck.
Do the poor sometimes make bad choices? Of course, and we're introduced to many throughout the book. We also see how many of those cases are simply people who've never been taught any better, who've never had the education or good role models to learn parenting skills or workplace etiquette from, who lack the services accessible to those with even a little extra money (therapy, tutoring, babysitting, etc.). Yet others are doing everything right, but due to bad fortune - car problems, a sudden illness, etc. - find themselves struggling to make any progress.
Overall, an eye-opening read, even if you already acknowledge that the solutions to poverty are more complex than political talking points boil them down to. One single, easily-applied solution will never untangle the complex web of problems and disadvantages faced by people trying to pull themselves up into prosperity. Let's acknowledge that and hold our leaders to it next budget or election. ...more
Highly recommended reading to anyone who has ever harboured fears (however minor or tempered by liberalism they may be) about immigration, or who reguHighly recommended reading to anyone who has ever harboured fears (however minor or tempered by liberalism they may be) about immigration, or who regularly deals with people who do (especially Europeans, who seem the most fearful about the "Muslim tide"). With statistics and history, Saunders shows how all this has happened before and will happen again, and how we need not fear immigration if we handle it properly. ...more
If your man or woman is a scrub, just own it so you and your friends can talk about more interesting things. My go-to explanation is "I am dating an
If your man or woman is a scrub, just own it so you and your friends can talk about more interesting things. My go-to explanation is "I am dating an asshole because I'm lazy". You are welcome to borrow it.
I love this woman's writing.
This book being a compilation of essays, articles, etc., I found only half really interesting - several pieces were analyses of TV shows I hadn't watched or books I hadn't read, and many topics were rehashed across several chapters. The essays I enjoyed were great, though - unpretentious and honest, filled with wisdom and observations about love...
I love being with someone who is endlessly interesting because we are so different. Wanting to belong to people or a person is not about finding a mirror image of myself.
Certainly we can find kinship in in fiction, but literary merit shouldn't be dictated by whether we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.
and life in general.
One of my biggest weaknesses, one that has always shamed me, is that I have always been lonely. I've struggled to make friends because I can be socially awkward, because I'm weird, because I live in my head. When I was young, we moved around a lot, so there was rarely any time to get to know a new place, let alone new people. Loneliness was the one familiar thing, making me this bottomless pit of need, open and gaping and desperate for anything to fill me up.
Interesting and relatively concise read on the latest science of grief and bereavement. I had read summaries of this book long before finally borrowinInteresting and relatively concise read on the latest science of grief and bereavement. I had read summaries of this book long before finally borrowing it from the library, and honestly I don't think I gained much from actually reading it, other than seeing a few graphs and getting a more thorough overview of past, incorrect models of grief. If you haven't done much or any reading about grief, I highly recommend reading the first few chapters of this book (they go by pretty quick).
I could have done without the last few chapters, which examined people's thoughts about life after death and near-death experiences. In my opinion, the author was far too lenient with these ideas, perhaps out of a desire to remain respectful to those he was interviewing - nevertheless, I didn't need to read an entire chapter of stories about how some grieving people "feel the presence of" their loved one. Ugh. ...more
"You can’t go backward. You’re never going to have what you had."
Interesting how your circumstances open your eyes to all sorts of things. There's a w"You can’t go backward. You’re never going to have what you had."
Interesting how your circumstances open your eyes to all sorts of things. There's a whole crop of songs in my iTunes collection that suddenly jumped up 2 star ratings in the past few weeks. And there are books like this, which I spotted while scanning the "new and popular" table at Chapters.
A month earlier and I would have looked right past, writing it off as sappy, inspirational Oprah's book club material. But that was before April 15, 2014, and now it was after, and so I gingerly flipped through it, wondering whether this was the sort of thing I should be buying myself from now on.
It may be a bit soon for me to fully appreciate everything in this book. The 'Saturday night widows' are 5 months to several years out from their partners' deaths at the start of the book. I'm barely past the one month mark, and far from worrying about dating and boyfriends just yet. But at the same time, there's some comfort in knowing that at the other end of this shitty widow thing, there is hope.
Aikman recalls a conversation with a psychiatrist, in which he tells her, “You are not depressed... You don’t have it in you.” And I guess that must be me, too, because I find myself unable to wallow. How can I, now that I've been reminded of how short and precious life is? Instead, I find myself sticking on thoughts like this:
“My husband was the best thing I ever had. When I lost him, my life changed in an instant. But this has made me totally fearless. Because the worst thing that could happen has already happened.”
I hadn't looked at it that way, but it's true. I'm hard pressed to imagine something more horrifying than what happened to me. Though I was already pretty fearless when it came to trying new things, I can feel myself changing still, calling a version of this thought to mind with every decision I make these days. What's the worst that could happen? Oh, wait...
It's very liberating, to dig deep for a silver lining.
So, should you read this book? I have no idea. If your husband/partner/boyfriend died recently, sure. (And you can flip the genders there if needed, because I imagine this would be an interesting read for widowers, too). I also appreciated that this book avoided spirituality, included several widows without children, and frankly discussed topics like casual sex. As an atheistic, childless, modern woman, it was a useful perspective for me. (I swear, between the "help, my partner died and left me with x young children!" and the "he's in a better place/he's with God now", there isn't much left in the way of support for young widows on the Internet)
If you haven't lost a partner yet, first go give him or her a hug, and then, go read some other reviews because I'm not the one to tell you whether you'd like this book or not. It'd be like me and my engineering degree trying to write a layperson's review of a calculus textbook. I have no idea what you'd get out of it - might be good, might be bad, I just don't know. You might come away with new insights on the shittiness of losing someone you love much too soon...
“This task of grieving was so much more than missing. It was more like homesickness for a home that was no longer there.”
...or you might just think it's boring feel-good chick lit crap.
So I admit that this is a useless review on my part. It serves to commit the book to my memory more than anything. Sorry Goodreads.
If anyone knows of a group of hip young widows doing this sort of thing in the Montreal area though, I'm in. ...more
This book will make you rethink your views on immigration. It looks at a broad range of migrant experiences across both the developing and developed wThis book will make you rethink your views on immigration. It looks at a broad range of migrant experiences across both the developing and developed world, examines what makes certain neighbourhoods good or bad for new immigrants, explores the real flaws with those insular ethnic ghettoes in Europe that we keep hearing about, and provides a compelling indictment of temporary foreign worker programs. Oh, and it's an easy read, well-written and well-paced. Worthwhile reading for anyone interested in urban planning or immigration issues....more
Interesting and readable look at the past decade of Toronto politics. Especially recommended if you've been watching the Rob Ford saga unfold and wondInteresting and readable look at the past decade of Toronto politics. Especially recommended if you've been watching the Rob Ford saga unfold and wondered how things got that way.
At the core of Toronto's problems is a divide between suburbs and city which no other Canadian city faces on the same scale - Vancouver is unaffordable everywhere, while Montreal struggles to prosper at all, and Calgary and Edmonton are nothing but suburbs. Only Toronto has such a marked contrast between idealized urban living (lattes, streetcars, condos, density) and stereotypical suburban living (middle-class, car-centric, spread out), all within city limits.
Though the author (like myself) is clearly an urban left wing pinko who probably rides a bike and takes transit and visits farmer's markets on weekends, he acknowledges the demographically-changing middle-class population that fill Toronto's suburbs, and questions how to bring them into the fold of a growing and prospering Toronto.
It's a problem I care about, too, even if I never end up living in Toronto again. I love my mixed-use, mixed-wealth neighbourhood in Montreal - how do we make sure these places live on, and prosper, without become exclusive enclaves for wealthy yuppies?
(P.S. If you're one of those people who can't understand why anyone likes Toronto, this book may also shed some light)...more
Read the first few chapters... then skipped to the last few chapters. It started out really interesting but the middle section is plodding. Lots of cuRead the first few chapters... then skipped to the last few chapters. It started out really interesting but the middle section is plodding. Lots of cutesy stories about the author's dog, lots of long-winded descriptions about what it might be like to smell everything in the park if you were a dog, but little of the actual substance I want from a non-fiction book. Probably won't go back and read those 3-4 skipped chapters, but maybe if I actually get a dog someday....more
An easy-to-read collection of snippets about life in Provence. It made me want to go to the south of France and eat a lot of 6-course meals. (Luckily,An easy-to-read collection of snippets about life in Provence. It made me want to go to the south of France and eat a lot of 6-course meals. (Luckily, I have an opportunity to do exactly that, so off I go at the end of October!) Mayle is a good writer, though, and I look forward to reading A Year in Provence next....more