"To End All Wars" is a compelling narrative of the political climate in Great Britain before and during the First World War. Profiling key figures on"To End All Wars" is a compelling narrative of the political climate in Great Britain before and during the First World War. Profiling key figures on the right and left, Adam Hochschild created a sense of urgency and desperation that allowed me as a reader to be completely swept up in the emotions of the time.
I brought this book with me on a bicycle trip through Flanders. Though "To End All Wars" primary concerns the British involvement, Hochschild's showed tremendous skill in portraying figures from the period and the impact they had on the larger picture. From the combined reading of this book along with Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" and Pat Barker's "Regeneration" trilogy, I felt like I had a well-rounded picture of the war. Touring the area around Ypres, and into the Somme, the sights of graveyards and monuments to the war took on a new poignancy. When we stumbled onto our first WWI graveyard outside of Ypres, I burst out crying as it brought what I had read into reality. The Canadian Memorial at Vimy also shook me, and I took many deep breaths to keep myself from bursting into tears.
Hochschild's writing was as good as any novelist. Outside of the easy mysteries I tore through at the beginning of the trip to get me through the plane ride, "To End All Wars" both kept me entertained and engaged for the duration of our vacation. Finishing it on the plane ride home, Hochschild's questions about the legacy of the war pierced my heart with their devastating speculations. I would highly recommend this book to both history buffs and to those who appreciate contemplating humanity at large. ...more
The longer I sit after reading this book, the more inclined I am to give it five stars. "Farewell, Fred Voodoo" is not perfectly written, organized, oThe longer I sit after reading this book, the more inclined I am to give it five stars. "Farewell, Fred Voodoo" is not perfectly written, organized, or executed, and the author Amy Wilentz is inclined to be harsh and judgmental towards those she disapproves of. Still, it resonated with me, and since this is a subjective rating system, I'll do just that. Interpreted as fictional literature might be, "Farewell, Fred Voodoo" is a book about human imperfection on a global scale, so it fits that it's not a perfect work itself. Caustic, opinionated, romantic (in a Rimbaud-ian sort of way) , and sparing no one, including herself, Amy Wilentz' portrait of post-earthquake Haiti is a call for self-examination from all those who would give foreign aid in any capacity and romanticize the developing world.
Why are we well-heeled "first world" white people drawn to developing countries? Me ten years ago, as I prepared to fly off to Kyrgyzstan as part of the Peace Corps, would have told you that I felt like I had something to give back to the world from having been so lucky to have so much. In reality, it was probably a hazy mixture of first world guilt, a sense of adventure, and a want to escape my problems. Neither is "giving back" or "helping" a developing country as simple as a 21 year old college graduate might see it.
As Amy Wilentz points out, in a post-colonial world, the very concept of foreign aid and how a person from a developed country relates to those from developing ones is charged. Coming from the "first world", it's hard to get out of the paradigm of paternalism and romanticism that surrounds any concept of "helping a developing country". While there are a few who can do it well, immersing themselves in their adopted community, learning the language, loving the culture, and teaching or contributing viable skills that will help the community long after they're gone, most of us are clueless and out of touch with the places we go to serve. As my K-12 host country national Peace Corps trainer Akylbek taught me in a very vivid and memorable way using the emerald colored glasses of the Emerald City of Oz as an example, your culture serves as the green colored glasses that you never take off. When you go to a different country, you might put on a different colored pair of glasses, but you will still have the green ones on underneath.
Amy Wilentz thoroughly explores this paradox, especially applies to herself. Her view of Haiti, a country she professes to love, is simultaneously romantic and cynical. She realizes that there are some boundaries that she as a white person from the USA will never escape in the eyes of Haitians. After visiting and living in Haiti off and on for over a decade, she is not quite an outsider, but definitely not an insider either. Hanging out with some Haitians one night early in her career, she gets dewey-eyed and says to them "I love Haiti!". "Then why don't you give me your passport and keys to your house" one of the Haitians quips. Wilentz wants to be the exception, but knows better. She has no qualms about ripping herself and her relationship to the country apart, and she applies this same standard of examination to everyone from Haitian government officials to foreigners who came to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. As well she should, as the aid that was given has done very little to actually help the Haitian people.
Is all foreign aid misguided? Is there actually anything we can do to help rebuild a country? No doubt good medical help and assistance in removing debris after such a disaster is needed, but when you move on from there and try to rebuild the infrastructure of a community that's not your own, is that going to far? Does it remove the much needed sense of autonomy that a country needs if it is going to pick itself up by its bootstraps and shape its own vision of the future? Yes and yes. What should one do, then, if a country can't get its shit together? In the end, it seem to me like watching a good friend of yours who is a wreck. Sure, you can see all too clearly the things that they could do to help themselves, but you can't do it for them, and you have to be ok if they don't take your advice. You can be there to support them when it looks like they're taking some steps in the right direction, but otherwise they are probably served best by figuring it out themselves. But then, what do I know? ...more
I have anger issues. I borrowed this book from a friend because I was at the end of my rope in how to deal with my dog when she poops all over the floI have anger issues. I borrowed this book from a friend because I was at the end of my rope in how to deal with my dog when she poops all over the floor. I just loose it, and I know that she doesn't deserve to be yelled at and shamed because of it. I can meditate on compassion, love her up, realize that she can't control her gut, but to no avail--I get raging when I come home/awaken/walk into the room where she's made large, wet, stinky puddles of nastiness. My husband and I are reasonably good at dealing when conflict when it arises between us, and there is little hesitation to discuss family-of-origin baggage when necessary. I have had issues with friends and colleagues in the past, and like most people, I struggle with them when they happen, and hopefully have grown as a person as they are worked out. This book absolutely gave me insight into those types of problems. How to deal with my anger when my dog diarrheas in the living room, not so much.
She's an absolutely beautiful dog. People driving by have stopped as we're walking her to ask what kind of dog she is:
She came to us because she was a puppyhood friend of our healthy mutt, and her previous owners couldn't deal with her any longer. She's sweet-tempered and mellow, and we've lost at least three rugs due to her gastrointestinal inability to process food. We've spent hundreds of dollars on probiotics and fancy foods, and nothing does the trick long term. She can't help it--it's the purebred Bernese Mountain Dog DNA. A tendency to eat unsavory things doesn't help, and that makes me all the angrier when the result makes our house a toxic waste dump. Harriet Lerner did not help me process this kind of anger--there will be no conversations where I say: "Morgan, I know you can't help it, but when you diarrhea all over the floor, it makes me feel frustrated and helpless. It's about me, not you, and my inability to cope with these emotions and the mess, that causes me to react how I do. I love you regardless." But it does give me insight into human behavior, as well as tools to take up when I find myself in conflict with a person. I appreciate that, even though the issue that drove me to read it hasn't been resolved. I also appreciate her acknowledgments of the downside of the self-help genre as a whole: "...self-help advice always runs the risk of fostering a narrow focus on our personal problems to the exclusion of the social conditions that create and perpetuate them." Right on. I would recommend this book without hesitation to any woman who wishes to learn how to process her anger better when it comes to other humans. When it comes to dealing with doggy diarrhea, look elsewhere. ...more
I don't know why, but this book took me about two months to listen to. It wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, or the plot compelling, but it wasI don't know why, but this book took me about two months to listen to. It wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, or the plot compelling, but it was easy for me not to make the time to listen to it. For this reason alone, I'm going to bump the rating down to 4 stars. Perhaps it was the amount of technical detail that Larson gives to the invention of wireless telegraphy, which, though interesting in its own right, detracted from the drama of the story a bit. In the end, what I enjoyed most about "Thunderstruck" was Larson's characterizations of Marconi, Beatrice, Dr. Lodge, Dr. Crippin, Ethel and Belle, all of whom he manages to make sympathetic without sugarcoating their flaws. ...more
No doubt Ed Viesturs is good at what he does. He thinks so too, but is relatively modest about saying so. Modestly immodest is how I came to think ofNo doubt Ed Viesturs is good at what he does. He thinks so too, but is relatively modest about saying so. Modestly immodest is how I came to think of it over the course of reading this book. The third person historical sections of this book are relatively straightforward and well-written, written as they are most likely by David Roberts. Then Ed chimes in with some commentary or analogy to his own experience: "I was very gratified, then, when Pemba Gyalje was hailed by National Geographic Adventure in December 2008 as its Adventurer of the Year, and award I had won in 2005." Maybe he's just citing a fact, but it seemed in poor taste to remind the reader of this when pondering Mr. Gyalje's bravery during the 2008 K2 disaster.
It's not that Ed seems like a blow-hard. In a sport that attracts competitive egoists, he's probably a really friendly, down-to-earth guy. He lives on the same island as my mother, which isn't necessarily a vote for his down-to-earthiness, but he's a vet too! He likes to talk about how safe and cautious he is when climbing and all the mistakes he's never made compared to the mistakes that others have made, and he also likes to say that he never talks trash even while he's kinda talking some trash. However, I believe him about all of these things. From what I understand about serious mountaineers, he's probably one of the nicest, willing to help other mountaineers in trouble in a field where it's par-for-course to leave others for dead to preserve your own hide. And he is actually probably one of the safest, which is why he's summited all 14 8000 meter peaks and isn't dead, and why no other American has duplicated this feat, despite Ed having completed it back in 2005. I have a lot of respect for Ed. I just don't think he's a very good writer, but that's not what he is. He's a mountaineer and a vet, which is why David Roberts' name is on the cover too. All in all, I guess I didn't read this book for its literary merit, but for the adventure and to learn more about Himalayan mountaineering. And I would recommend other do the same. ...more
I wanted to like this book. The cast of characters was diverse and interesting, I'm a sucker for World War II stories, and the angle in which the authI wanted to like this book. The cast of characters was diverse and interesting, I'm a sucker for World War II stories, and the angle in which the author was looking at the war from had a lot of potential.
The way that Macintyre presented this material was soooo scattered. Listening while driving, I lasted longer than I would have otherwise. An author with more skill would have been able to find some theme to tie all these different threads together with. Instead, despite being willing plow through, I completely lost interest. Macintyre's flamboyant prose echoed the descriptions of some of his more verbose characters' style of correspondence. This had the effect of making the story less and less substantial as everything was surrounded by melodramatic fluff. After the third or forth fifteen-minute segue about pigeons, I let disc 7 finish and called it quits before the Allies even landed in Normandy. Think I'll look for my D-Day stories elsewhere. ...more
Some readers found this book to be righteous and off-putting when compared with Kingsolver's fiction. I can see how people might think that, but I fouSome readers found this book to be righteous and off-putting when compared with Kingsolver's fiction. I can see how people might think that, but I found "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" completely inspirational. As someone who is aspiring to grow some of their own food, the Kingsolvers' family journey gave me hope, and something to work towards. I don't always buy local, or organic, or shop primarily at farmers' markets, but I do have an ethical crisis almost every time I go to the grocery store that is sometimes paralyzing. I have spent ten minutes deciding what type of oil to get--should I buy the certainly GM/Monsanto sponsored generic brand of vegetable or canola oil for three dollars, or spend eight on a non-GMO organic product? Does it really matter if I buy conventional over organic cauliflower when the pesticides found in it are minimal? Can I stomach buying non-fair trade sugar, chocolate, bananas, and coffee to save a couple dollars that were made from poorly treating the workers? Should I buy this bacon made from ill-abused pigs just because it's half the price of local, pampered pork? For some, this may be a no-brainer, but it wreaks havoc on my conscious every time I put one of these items in my shopping cart. As Kingsolver and her family detail to us so eloquently, these choices have a much larger effect than we can even begin to see while standing in a supermarket. I'm thankful that they gave such a wry and sympathetic voice to those of us who find ourselves neck-deep in a quandary over the modern state of food. I am doubly grateful that they gave us a variety of ways to work with it--from going all out locavore and farming, to simply making an effort to make one local meal a week. Food choices matter, and "cheap" doesn't translate to the effect that industrial farming practices are having on the environment. If your pocket-book can bear it, why not make sure that ethical and/or local farmers are earning a living wage by paying a little more for your food?...more
I had the distinct luck of being in McLeod Ganj, India, when the Dalai Lama gave a teaching and reading of "The Way Of the Bodhisattva", which I happeI had the distinct luck of being in McLeod Ganj, India, when the Dalai Lama gave a teaching and reading of "The Way Of the Bodhisattva", which I happened to bring my own copy all the way from the US via Kyrgyzstan. It was crowded but free, and I sat on a pillow and listened to the translation through headphones. The sad thing is that one of the things I remember most is my legs falling asleep a whole bunch. Still, a classic work that I hope to revisit one day. ...more
I wish I could send this book back in time to myself, to my parents, and to all adult introverts who felt like there was something wrong with them groI wish I could send this book back in time to myself, to my parents, and to all adult introverts who felt like there was something wrong with them growing up because they would often rather be reading than go to a party. I used to think I could change, become gregarious, less sensitive, less intense, more extroverted. Given that I was in daycare since I was three months old, it made no sense to me that I was still so shy. One former classmate of mine--in graduate school no less--remarked when I mentioned being an introvert: "My sister's an introvert. She doesn't like people either". I wish I had been armed with Cain's book then, at which point I could counter that no, that's not it at all. It's not that I don't like people. I just find them overwhelming sometimes, and at these times I prefer to be on my own.
Cain's book has so many strengths that listing them seems daunting. Rather, I felt that the only thing that she didn't address to my satisfaction was that there are indeed some times when introversion can be coupled with a pathological psychology, in which case the pathology can be so furthered by introversion that becomes isolation. However, that wasn't her mission. Instead, she wrote a brilliantly readable manifesto in praise of the introvert. It makes sense that even though up to half of the American population are included in this personality trait, it would take us a while to get around to speaking up for ourselves in such an extrovert-dominant country. In one example, Cain cites an introverted nine-year-old who got beat up by his four-year-old brother. I could empathize, given that something similar happened to me in daycare. If only it could be more widely understood that this passivity is often coupled with sensitivity, and that it is not necessarily the flaw that my incredulous daycare provider thought as my four-year-old self got bullied by a toddler. Cain profiles Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and others who lead despite their shyness, with their passivity giving strength to their cause, and their sensitivity fueling their inner sense of justice.
For anyone who has had to come to terms with their own love of solitude, one-on-one interactions, and the inner life of the mind, I highly recommend this book. I would even recommend it to extroverts who want to understand their introverted spouses, friends, or family members, or who simply want to get more in touch with their creative or scholarly side. Five stars, no question. ...more
Tuchman is a firehose of information about the lead up to and first month of World War 1. She is a terrific writer and a keen observer of humanity. HoTuchman is a firehose of information about the lead up to and first month of World War 1. She is a terrific writer and a keen observer of humanity. However, I listened to it on audio CD, and found that in order to really grasp what was going on, I had to listen to a CD twice. I only did that with a couple of the 15 CDs, but it made me want to buy the book so I could revisit and fully understand what was happening at certain key junctures. ...more
Mircea Eliade’s “the Myth of the Eternal Return” is, on one level, an exposition of myths that explore and illustrate the concept of cyclical time. ElMircea Eliade’s “the Myth of the Eternal Return” is, on one level, an exposition of myths that explore and illustrate the concept of cyclical time. Eliade spans the globe recounting stories that outline his thesis, which is that man who lived in “traditional”, “archaic” societies lived in a world without history/non-linear time. Instead, he posits, they lived in a world that was created anew through ritual and the absorption of profane time into the sacred through the repetition of primordial gestures. “...[A]ll the important acts of life were revealed ab origine by gods or heroes. Men only repeat these exemplary and paradigmatic gestures ad infinitum.” (32). This in turn allowed “archaic” man live in a cyclic, instead of linear timeline, where purification of evils was possible through religious cleansing: “...[T]he man of the archaic civilizations can be proud of his mode of existence, which allows him to be free and to create. He is free to be no longer what he was, free to annul his own history though periodic abolition of time and collective regeneration. This freedom in respect to his own history--which, for the modern [man], is not only irreversible but constitutes human existence--cannot be claimed by the man who wills to be historical. We know that the archaic and traditional societies granted freedom each year to begin a new, “pure” existence, with virgin possibilities.” (57) On another level, beyond the academics, is the personal. I found it impossible to read “The Myth of Eternal Return” without reflecting on when it was written. Originally published in France in 1949, it was presumably written in the years directly following the end of World War II. Though the majority of the book is given over to the illustration of non-linear time, the ending is dedicated to the present. In the final chapter, entitled “The Terror of History”, Eliade explores what is left for humankind, spiritually, when we are confronted with an extraordinarily awful event, like, for example, World War II, without a mythology that would enable us to purify the world: “What consolation should we find in knowing that the suffering of millions of men have made possible the revelation of a limitary situations of the human condition of, beyond that limitary situation, there should be only nothingness?...If, for historical tragedies to be excused, it suffices that they should be regarded as the means by which man has been enabled to know the limit of human resistance, such an excuse can in no way make man less haunted by the terror of history.” (160). So much of “Myth...” is given over to recounting various rituals and stories of “archaic” society, that at times I became bogged down by the scholastic. As a non-academic reader, I felt that there was a deficit of philosophizing in favor of illustration of the same point from a wide variety of angles. This is an oxymoron on my part given that Eliade was a distinguished professor of religion, not a philosopher. Yet what good is the academic if it fails to propel forth new ideas and works? Eliade doesn’t necessarily fail in either of these, but they feel paltry compared with how much he mulches through in order to say what feels like the same thing repeatedly. Only in the last chapter does he cut loose of example giving and venture forth onto his own ideas. In the end, what I felt like I got most out of “Myth...” was how much we are all a prisoner of the time in which we live. For all that Elide writes of far flung cultures and times, ghosts of his time follow him throughout this particular work. I’m not sure if this is as present in Eliade’s other books, but in this case, academia feels akin to escapism at times, and rationalization of the horror of World War II at others. His conclusion: “...[T]he man who has left the horizon of archetypes and repetition can no longer defend himself against [the] terror [of history] except through the idea of God. In fact, it is only by presupposing the existence of God that he conquers, on the one hand, freedom, and, on the other hand, the certainty that historical tragedies have a transhistorical meaning, even if that meaning is not always visible for humanity in its present condition. Any other situation of modern man leads, in the end, to despair. It is a despair provoked not by his own human existentiality, but by his presence in a historical universe in which almost the whole of mankind lives prey to a continual terror (Even if not always conscious of it). In this respects, Christianity incontestably proves to be the religion of “fallen man”: and this to the extent to which modern man is irremediably identified with history and progress, and to which history and progress are a fall, both implying the final abandonment of the paradise of archetypes and repetition.” (162)...more
Holy moly. I listened to this book on tape each day while I walked my dogs--I laughed, I teared up, I recoiled in horror--I wonder what people passingHoly moly. I listened to this book on tape each day while I walked my dogs--I laughed, I teared up, I recoiled in horror--I wonder what people passing by made of my expressions? The three miles went by quickly, one disc per walk. At first, I couldn't wait to take the walk and hear what happened next. As the story went on, I began to almost dread what the upcoming miles had in store for me, I mean, Louis Zamporini. I listened cringing inside but enthralled as Louis lived through ordeals that tested the limits of human endurance. Lauren Hillenbrand's precise and detailed descriptions were heartbreaking in their compassionate detachment from what was one man's horrific reality. Some question the accuracy of the recall of events that happened more than sixty years ago. I have no opinion about that whatsoever, but both the storytellers and the author did an amazing job making the war come alive. With minimal sentimentality, Hillenbrand showed temperance in telling a story that contains every emotion on the spectrum of feelings, allowing her description of the action to dictate how the reader feels rather than trying to wring it out of them. The themes involved are deep, too deep for a goodreads review. This is not a perfect book, but it is a worthwhile one, and I recommend it highly on that basis. You cannot read without pondering the deeper nature of humanity, and knowing that it is a true story makes it even more powerful. As the last of the World War 2 veterans pass on, books like these become even more important so that we remember not to forget what happens when we enter into war. ...more