I would probably give this one 3.5 stars. I quite enjoyed it. I thought it was funny, and well written, and I really like the author's pointAudiobook.
I would probably give this one 3.5 stars. I quite enjoyed it. I thought it was funny, and well written, and I really like the author's point of view and personality.
I found almost all of the essays fun, thought provoking, at times insightful, and always entertaining. I found myself laughing out loud often.
I liked all the political essays, though I found the author's obsession with Bill Clinton and the 2000 election to be a little... much, though I suppose it was heavy on her mind while writing this book since it came out in 2002.
My favorite essay was the one glorifying Al Gore's nerd-dom, and the advice on how he could have won the 2000 election if he would have been a little less of an obvious nerd, and the American glorification of not showing yourself to be smart in any obvious way. I loved the essay (well, except for the excessive references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I have never seen) and the author's unabashed love of Al Gore.
In fact, I loved all the essays that were blatantly about nerd-dom. I guess because I have a soft spot for nerds, and consider myself one in many ways.
My only complaint had to do with the audiobook and the fact that the author herself read it. Normally I cheer when an author reads his or her own book, even if they don't have a "book reading" voice. But this one just wasn't so good. Her voice is strange and monotone, and she didn't really put any pauses or inflection in what seemed the proper parts of the sentences. Not sure why. But, I did find the music interludes, songs, and celebrity cameo appearances as various characters to be interesting and fun.
Anyway, I definitely recommend it for a humorous series of essays written by a history nut, liberal political geek, and general funny lady....more
I saw this on the new release shelf in the library, and since I'm interested in racial disparities I figured I would pick it up.
I liked the premise -I saw this on the new release shelf in the library, and since I'm interested in racial disparities I figured I would pick it up.
I liked the premise - a family decides to buy only from black-owned shops and use black services for a year, to demonstrate the shortcomings of black-owned business in America. The author and her family wanted to encourage others to support local black businesses, so the failure rate of those businesses and the poverty of the typically black neighborhoods of Chicago could turn around. Anyway, it was interesting, and a good idea for a study.
What I particularly liked was the focus on nutrition. We hear about "food deserts" in urban areas, where there are few to no grocery stores and the ones that do exist stock little beyond soda and junk food, and amost never any amount of produce. The authors found it particularly hard, almost impossible at times, to find any quality groceries at black-owned grocery stores. In fact, the one they did find closed half way through the year because no one was willing to shop there. It was an interesting look at the economic side of how the poor often suffer ill health and have poor nutrition.
What I found a little strange was the focus on immigrant groups becoming very successful in business, but little success in the African American community (which is true) but zero discussion of Caribbean and African immigrant populations starting businesses and becoming quite successful. At first, I thought maybe she was specifically exclusing those groups from her study and only including African Americans as a group, which often has the most economic disadvantage. But while reading, from things the author said, it was clear that she included businesses of people of African descent, no matter what their country of origin. So, either she decided against talking about African and Caribbean immigrant groups and their success (so as not to muddy the waters?) or she believes that they are also not successful because they fall under her giant umbrella of "black, or African American". So, I had a little trouble with her definitions and zero coverage of other groups. Although, I am not overly familiar with the African/Caribbean demographics of Chicago, so maybe there are many fewer there than here on the east coast.
Overall I liked it, and found the discourse interesting, and the experience in general was interesting to read about. I could have done without a lot of her self promoting talk, but even that wasn't too bad until the end - and besides, she is trying to sell her organization through the book as well.
I recommend it for an interesting look at the economic hardships of the black community as a whole. ...more
Ninth book I read in Kenya. Well, while I started it in Kenya, I finished it in the Brussels airport.
I was a bit disappointed with this book, only becNinth book I read in Kenya. Well, while I started it in Kenya, I finished it in the Brussels airport.
I was a bit disappointed with this book, only because it wasn't what I expected. I thought it was going to be a story of the author and his role in the ANC and the fight for freedom in South Africa. But, it was just a journal of his recovery after surviving a car bomb. While many of his insights were very interesting, and I really appreciated his honesty in introspection, I wished there was less talk about his recovery and more on the politics of South Africa and the struggle. Though, I realise now that that wasn't the point of the book.
I admire his optimism shown throughout the ordeal, and found myself wondering how I would feel in his situation - probably I wouldn't handle it quite so well. Though, I guess like him, you never know how you will handle something until you have to.
I recommend this book, especially for people recovering from trauma or amputation, or anyone who is interested in a personal account of a white freedom fighter at the end of apartheid. The new epilogue from 1998 is especially interesting, and I enjoyed it immensely. ...more
I both liked and disliked this book. I liked the subject matter, and I thought the author discussed it in an easy to digest and appropriately disgruntI both liked and disliked this book. I liked the subject matter, and I thought the author discussed it in an easy to digest and appropriately disgruntled way. The footnotes and evaluation chapter were interesting and informative.
On the other hand, I did not really like the author. Her experiment was a good idea, but poorly executed. Of course, she did admit to poor execution. She complained and could not let go of her privilege, she stood above and away fro her fellow workers at times, and seemed to look down on them, or at least felt superior. She quit every job she started after only a couple of weeks because she just couldn't take it anymore. It didn't feel like a genuine experiment, but did show her that she could not get along in a real atmosphere of poverty and deprivation.
However, the subject matter she covered is real and important. She had trouble finding places to live that were not outside of the small budget she would have at minimum wage jobs. She was looked down upon by employers and viewed as a liar, cheat, or theif right off the bat - something not unusual for the poor. In some ways, she was probably a good person to describe what life is like for a poor person, because it was so hard for her to endure, she was able to portray the lifestyle as something not to be aspired to, and to motivate for change.
I particularly liked the footnotes for their information, and the evaluation chapter (after she did her own self critique) was well done, in my opinion.
Overall, I recommend it for the subject matter, but be prepared to grow weary of the whining....more
This is an excellent overview of the conflict in eastern DRC in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. It’s very readable and outlines some of the major combatants,This is an excellent overview of the conflict in eastern DRC in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. It’s very readable and outlines some of the major combatants, drivers, and underlying reasons for the ongoing conflict. This book, as the author admits, does not focus on the loss of life or other humanitarian aspects of the war (there is a ton of writing that can bring you down that depressing trail to be sure) but rather on the combatants and what they were going for with the unending cycle of conflict, including the militias, the DRC government, and the proxy fighters.
The DRC war is incredibly complex, and Stearns definitely knows how to write a readable text on the subject that helps you understand (or at least begin to understand) the conflict, and some of the background to why things are still a mess there today. As an aside, he also writes a great blog on the DRC congosiasa. ...more
I love reading all of Peter Godwin's books and this one was no different. However, I will say that I really would like to read some good books about ZI love reading all of Peter Godwin's books and this one was no different. However, I will say that I really would like to read some good books about Zimbabwe by writers who are not white. I feel like the narrative of Zimbabwe, while interesting from a white perspective, would be very different from a black perspective - particularly since 2000 and the decline of Mugabe's regime. It seems like most of the readily available biographical books about Zimbabwe are written by whites.
Anyway, this book is different from his other books because while it is still a bit biographical, it's more about other people and politics. You can tell the author supports MDC and not ZANU-PF as it is very obvious, particularly in the way he chooses to only tell the one side of things. However, I think that is warranted in this case. I think some of the nitty gritty of the MDC/ZANU-PF clash needs to be told to a Western audience that likely knows little about it. Of course, I always like a balanced book that tells both sides. But, telling both sides here might take away from a story that relies largely on interviews and first hand accounts of the terrible aftermath of the 2008 elections.
This one was good. It took me a while to get through, even though it isn't particularly long. I recommend it for a good look at the horror of the post election violence in Zimbabwe. (and some history to boot!)...more
I decided to write a paper on social and political dysfunction before, during, and after natural disasters. This was a perfect book to help me in my rI decided to write a paper on social and political dysfunction before, during, and after natural disasters. This was a perfect book to help me in my research, so I used the 1995 heat wave as my case study for my paper.
This book was very interesting, and it shed light on the dysfunction that is rampant in urban America that leads to tragedies like the Chicago heat wave, or Katrina. The poor, the elderly, and the isolated are forgotten about in society which directly contributes to their demise during a disaster. Plus, the modern forms of governance are not built in a way that can support those who do not actively seek services - which the most vulnerable people often do not.
It's a heavy read, but not too dense. I really recommend it if you want to look at urban dysfunction in the face of a tragedy because this book lays it all on the line. You can see where certain aspects are found in cities across America, and not just specific to Chicago. Definitely a must read for anyone who is in to social justice, governance, or disaster planning....more
I read this one aloud to Jun, so it took a very long time to get through. We read off and on for about 8 months. So, the review may be changed by theI read this one aloud to Jun, so it took a very long time to get through. We read off and on for about 8 months. So, the review may be changed by the long gaps we took in between chapters. Perhaps the overall impact of the book is greater if you read it all the way through in a shorter period of time.
This was quite a good book, and of course very shocking. Some of the corruption and nastiness in the food industry (especially fast food and meat, as covered in-depth in the book) is amazing. We like to think that the U.S. doesn't have the corruption that exists in other nations, but we do - it just tends to be hidden from the public better.
Very eye opening, and thoroughly enjoyable. It covers a lot of the same ground as many other food books in the past decade, but since it was written 12 years ago it's got to be one of the first to make the intricacies of fast food accessible to the public. This version also had the updated afterword written recently, which was very interesting to read.
I definitely recommend this one. It's still hard to say no to fast food sometimes, though, even though a lot of the stuff in this book will make you want to never step foot in a fast food restaurant - or sometimes any restaurant - ever again....more
This book gives a more optimistic view of Chinese involvement in Africa than is typically found in the West. Brautigam thinks that, for the many faultThis book gives a more optimistic view of Chinese involvement in Africa than is typically found in the West. Brautigam thinks that, for the many faults, the Chinese progam of economic investment in Africa is good - and likely even better than what the West is doing there.
I used this book for my capstone paper at school and found it very helpful.
I recommend it for a different view of China and Africa!...more
This book was really great. I loved all of the detail the author went into regarding what happened in Rwanda, and he didn't stop there. He covered theThis book was really great. I loved all of the detail the author went into regarding what happened in Rwanda, and he didn't stop there. He covered the fall out from the genocide and what happened in the DRC (then Zaire) as a result and implications for the entire region.
I absolutely loved the interviews he did with Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni - in fact those were some of the most fascinating sections. Hearing about African politics from actual African politicians was interesting, eepecially since Kagame was not yet President.
Since the book was written by a journalist it's written in an engaging fashion and keeps moving forward through historical and technical items that could turn academic.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read more about the genocide in Rwanda. Is it the most authoritative book? No. But it brings the average reader into the crisis in a way that an academic book likely would not. Read it!...more
This one brought back a lot of memories for me of the summers I spent in Chicago working in the housing projects on different development projects. IThis one brought back a lot of memories for me of the summers I spent in Chicago working in the housing projects on different development projects. I worked in Cabrini-Green, not Henry Horner, but I was familiar enough with the geography of Horner to appreciate the descriptions in the book. Many of the events and feelings described were familiar to what I experienced in Cabrini too.
This book was written over 20 years ago, before the Chicago Housing Authority made the decision to tear down all of the housing projects. I would even dare to say that it took place at the height of the violence and other terrible conditions of the housing projects in Chicago. It's a depressing, but realistic, look at what life is like in extreme poverty and violence. It's a foreign world to many.It is hard to really understand what it must be like for the people depicted in the book, but the author does a very good job at writing so that you really can understand what their lives are like.
It's a depressing book, and for good reason. The cycle of poverty and violence is so hard to escape. You want to cheer for the kids and other people in the book, but it seems that good intentions always seem to fail. I read an update on the family written in 2011, and I had hoped so hard the the kids found their way out of poverty and out of the life of violence and drugs. They didn't. They both went to prison, and got involved in the lifestyle they vowed as children to avoid. I was sad to hear that, and, cynically, not surprised. Though I wish it could have been different.
The historical aspects of the book, along with the statistics and other factual information was my favorite aspect - as it usually is in books like this. I am fascinated by the rise and fall of urban housing developments, especially in Chicago.
I highly recommend this one. It's really great....more
I really enjoyed this book. It was well organized, well thought out, and very interesting.
I'm not sure it's really about a "post AmerAudio book again.
I really enjoyed this book. It was well organized, well thought out, and very interesting.
I'm not sure it's really about a "post American world" though, and more about how a post American world could happen, but much more about why it's not happening so quickly, and how it could be avoided. The author spends exhaustive amounts of time talking about the rise of China, which I found interesting, and the rise of India, which I didn't find quite so interesting. He also spent a lot of time comparing the American empire with that of Britain, and the demise of Britain in the early part of last century. It was a nice contrast to the ever present comparisons to Rome, which nary a mention comes up in this book.
I found the book quite optimistic (perhaps unrealistically so at times), but seems a good salve to the American fear of falling behind in the world, with the constant reassurances that it's not happening that quickly and it won't be so bad when it does. The author obviously loves America, but in a realistic way.
It reminded me a lot of why I really like international relations, and reminded me of a lot of the things I studied in my undergrad, which was a good reminder.
The book was published in 2008, and a lot has changed since then, so I wonder how different the opinions and thoughts of the author would be now, 4 years down the road, when some things he talked about have changed drastically.
But, I still really really enjoyed it, and recommend it for a very interesting point of view on American foreign relations, economics, politics, and the rise of the rest of the world....more
Great essay. I think it's a little alarmist, but I'm not well read enough on the issues to know for sure. It's very thought provoking and will definitGreat essay. I think it's a little alarmist, but I'm not well read enough on the issues to know for sure. It's very thought provoking and will definitely spur some research into the issues on my part, which is always a good sign for an essay in my book....more
I read this for school. I really enjoyed Samuel Huntington's entire essay. It brought up some really good points, although I don't ultimately agree wiI read this for school. I really enjoyed Samuel Huntington's entire essay. It brought up some really good points, although I don't ultimately agree with his thesis. Very good essay though. The debate essays brought up some very good points, and it was nice to see the other side of the issues from other scholars, though I wish they were a bit longer....more