I hate to harsh on Gandhi, but this is just interminable. 200 pages in, and most of it has been details of his dietary regimen. I guess this was all i...moreI hate to harsh on Gandhi, but this is just interminable. 200 pages in, and most of it has been details of his dietary regimen. I guess this was all integral to the way he lived and how he managed to have the discipline and strength to do what he did, but it’s not very widely applicable or interesting to read. And he skips right over the very stuff I most wanted to learn about, like the story of the Satyagraha movement in South Africa.
There is good and wise and interesting stuff interspersed, but I’m having a hard time slogging through the minutia to get to it. Of course, he would probably say the minutia is the point and that concentrating on it is the way to live well, but that doesn’t make reading the endless details of his particular case any less mind-numbing. I’ll probably keep going because it’s freaking Gandhi, but I think I would have been better off reading a biography of him by someone else.(less)
A critical and contextual look at the Populist and Progressive movements in American politics; where they succeeded and failed, what forces shaped the...moreA critical and contextual look at the Populist and Progressive movements in American politics; where they succeeded and failed, what forces shaped them and what their legacy was. Good background into a movement that I view as a big part of my political legacy. It has definitely removed any rose-colored view of them I might have had, but I’m still left with the lasting and important message that they accomplished a lot of worthwhile social and political change with minimal chaos and violence, whatever their faults may have been. This basically re-affirms why I identify as a Progressive to begin with.(less)
This guy was just nuts, in an amazing way. I read his obit in the Guardian awhile back, and had to check out one of his books. He grew up as a foreign...moreThis guy was just nuts, in an amazing way. I read his obit in the Guardian awhile back, and had to check out one of his books. He grew up as a foreign service brat in what is now Ethiopia, and then went to school at Eton. Upon graduating at like 22, he promptly decided to go explore a corner of Ethiopia that had never been mapped, because it was populated by cannibalistic tribes. And pulled it off. Then he traveled all over the Sudan and the Sahara, and throughout the Middle East during WWII in the British foreign service and military.
After all of that, he decided to take on a real challenge(ha!) and explore the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, an almost waterless sand desert where only two Westerners had travelled before in modern memory. Upon arriving at the more hospitable and populous southern coast of Arabia, he immediately sought out the Bedu tribes who were the only ones who could brave the desert interior, and adapted to their almost inhuman ways remarkably quickly and ably. The book tells the story of his adventures among them, and it’s a tale evocatively, humanely, and at times poignantly told. It’s a classic adventure/exploration tale, but it’s also very aware that it’s one of the last such tales, and that the door is closing on a world in which such places and cultures exist untouched by the modern world.(less)
I couldn't finish this the first time I tried. Just wasn’t in the mood at the time. I thought it would be kind of interesting reading on whacked out s...moreI couldn't finish this the first time I tried. Just wasn’t in the mood at the time. I thought it would be kind of interesting reading on whacked out stuff like the Know-Nothings, the KKK, nativism, the Birchers, and so on, but it turns out it’s mostly about the influence of Evangelicals on our politics and culture throughout American history. And I thought I wanted to know more about that too, but it turned out to be pretty boring in practice, so I dropped it, for now. I’ll finish eventually, because it feels like stuff I ought to know, in the light of current events.
I ended up finishing this up a couple of years later. It was mostly good, but what he groups under anti-intellectualism gets a little too broad for my liking. I mean, that's the thesis and what the book is setting out to do, and most of it probably does count as anti-intellectual under a strict definition of the term, but it sort of rankled to see any form of populism or attempts at democratic participation in institutions getting lumped in with Bircher loons. I'm pretty sure he doesn't mean to make those equivalencies, but it's sort of a problem with the project. When you start to make progressive and non-canon education look like it's somewhere on a continuum with Bircher wingnuttiness, something has gone wrong, category-wise. All that might fall under the rubrik of "anti-intellectual," but that's putting forward an awfully narrow and conservative idea of what "intellectual" is. Plenty of credible intellectuals were for the educational ideas and some of the other demo-populist social trends he covers, whereas you can't find many if any who were for the loonier stuff.
I dunno, maybe I just had the wrong idea about what this book was setting out to do to begin with, as, like I said above, I thought it was going to focus much more on the really nasty nativist, racist, patriarchal, etc strands of American anti-intellectualism than it did.(less)
I’ve read the rest of the books in the Time series several times, but since I lost my copy somewhere, I hadn’t read this one since I was a kid, when i...moreI’ve read the rest of the books in the Time series several times, but since I lost my copy somewhere, I hadn’t read this one since I was a kid, when it was one of my favorite books. It doesn’t seem to really stand up as well as the others to an adult reading, maybe because it’s the first in the series and the protagonists are younger. Still has its moving and amusing moments, but it feels like it’s pandering to kids and laying on the Message a bit thick at times. Still better than 99% of kidlit, but my childhood expectations were a bit disappointed, is all.(less)
This was really good. History told as an adventure story, and broken down episodically in a way that flows well as narrative. Good use of historical f...moreThis was really good. History told as an adventure story, and broken down episodically in a way that flows well as narrative. Good use of historical figures as protagonists without straying too far over the line of objectivity. Still manages to step back and give a good view of the overall picture at appropriate intervals as well. All in all, a good way to learn a lot of history about a region and an era I knew little about before.(less)