I've recommended this book to so many people, yet have a hard time convincing anyone to actually read it. It's a hard sell - how could a non-fiction bI've recommended this book to so many people, yet have a hard time convincing anyone to actually read it. It's a hard sell - how could a non-fiction book about the dustbowl be one of my all-time favorites? The research and storytelling are so compelling. I found my jaw dropping every other page and a constant compulsion to read sections of it aloud to people around me. It's a truly astonishing story, and I'm very happy this book exists to keep it from being forgotten. Just trust me and read it. You'll love it....more
I read this before going to Savannah. I think I might have appreciated it more had I done the reverse, however, in Savannah, everyone talks about "theI read this before going to Savannah. I think I might have appreciated it more had I done the reverse, however, in Savannah, everyone talks about "the book" and I was excited by certain places, having read about them before going there. So it's a vicious cycle. Savannah is so amazing and strange that I don't think you truly appreciate the book until you've gone there. It's a valiant effort to try and capture the city....more
Incredible collection of essays on art and life that will make you look at everything around you differently. Maybe it helped that Kimmelman wrote aboIncredible collection of essays on art and life that will make you look at everything around you differently. Maybe it helped that Kimmelman wrote about some of my favorite artists, but I completely adored this book....more
Properly, I'd really give this 3.5 stars. It's a compelling story, and Theodore Roosevelt and his family are very interesting characters (it made me wProperly, I'd really give this 3.5 stars. It's a compelling story, and Theodore Roosevelt and his family are very interesting characters (it made me want to get a good book on his presidency), but I always find David McCullough's writing so dry and unimaginative, so I found the book a little flat....more
Really 3.5 stars. Was on track to be 4 stars, but it became a bit too catty towards the end - felt like he was revenging his family for cutting his moReally 3.5 stars. Was on track to be 4 stars, but it became a bit too catty towards the end - felt like he was revenging his family for cutting his mother and himself out of the inheritance just by writing the book - which started to feel like he was takng low blows. Also, I felt like he was trying to be really profound with the ending, and I thought it was pretty flat. HOWEVER, up to that point, it was a great book. Really interesting story of a family's self-destruction, the power of money, the simplicity of invention, and so many more things - including the history of the Brooklyn waterfront, the history of Jews in Brooklyn, the history of sugar and artificial sweeteners, the history of the dietary craze in America, the FDA, animal testing, carcinogens, and much more. And really funny....more
This book was hard... It started out great. I was really into the story behind how certain basic ethnic foods came to America - it was fascinating, hoThis book was hard... It started out great. I was really into the story behind how certain basic ethnic foods came to America - it was fascinating, how they became part of American culture (i.e. Pizza). However, the book desolved basically into a biography of James Beard and Julia Child, which is fine, and I'm not debating their importance to American gastronomy, but it just became less interesting to me when it turned into a standard biography of the two of them, as opposed to a study of how individual ethnic palettes were introduced to America, which is what interested me in the first place....more
Between 3 and 4 stars - leaning towards 4. Mostly because I found the collection as a whole to be very random and inconsistent, and the last essay - "Between 3 and 4 stars - leaning towards 4. Mostly because I found the collection as a whole to be very random and inconsistent, and the last essay - "The Host," with it's footnotes in boxes with arrows all over the page - nearly impossibly to read. But I appreciate the obsessive detail and exhaustive coverage he put into a subject. And the article on John McCain's bid for presidency in 2000 was very prescient and scary as to how far McCain has fallen. David Foster Wallace was just so damn intelligent - I haven't read anything this cerebral, but also fun, in a while....more
Okay - I'm never again buying a book that has an endorsement quote on the cover from Parade magazine. PARADE magazine. I should have known. I was absoOkay - I'm never again buying a book that has an endorsement quote on the cover from Parade magazine. PARADE magazine. I should have known. I was absolutely uninterested in this book until I picked it up one day and read the first paragraph of chapter one (yes, the oft-quoted "I'm ninety, or ninety-three...") which I thought was amazing and an interesting observation on age and perception. But it was seriously all downhill from there. The story, set in such an amazing setting and time-period, is unfortunately banal and predictable. The characters are stock. The main character starts out interesting (both in present time and in the flashback) and becomes annoyingly drivel in both times by the end. And the writing quality becomes more and more laughable as the book progresses. Eh. At least it was a quick read....more
This was a fun mental return to Providence for me. I used to live on Federal Hill, one block off of Atwells Avenue - next to Mediterraneo and across fThis was a fun mental return to Providence for me. I used to live on Federal Hill, one block off of Atwells Avenue - next to Mediterraneo and across from Andino's - so I saw Buddy very often around the neighborhood, and have always been fascinated by him. And it was kind of disturbing and thrilling to read about all the dirty deals and other events that were going down in locations so close to me.
This is well-researched book and an almost unreal story. Buddy is a larger-than-life character, and it often felt like I was reading episodes of the Sopranos, rather than a real-life story. (Which is ironic because Buddy was one of the biggest detractors of the Sopranos when it came on air because he objected to that portrayal of Italian-Americans.) Seriously, there's characters in this tale with the names Sharky Almagno, Buckles Melise, Bobo Marrapese, and Blackjack DelSanto. Great Prosecutor and FBI tales. Undercover agents and wire-tapping. Parts of it read like a great suspense novel. And Buddy is such a great tragic figure - so capable of greatness, but so flawed in his corruption.
My one issue with the book is that the writing sometimes comes off as a little too reportorial at times (which is understandable, since the author is a reporter for The Providence Journal). I also think that the earlier years could have had better editing. The author kept trying to build suspense as to upcoming events, but then would jump around in time within the next few paragraphs, giving major things away. Also, there were way too many moments in the earlier years where the author tells these random anecdotes from people that go absolutely nowhere. I know that there are a lot of Buddy stories, but he didn't have to include absolutely every one.
That said, in the author's note at the end, he says "Everyone in Rhode Island, it seems, has a Buddy story." And yes, I just complained about too many anecdotes, but I, too, have some Buddy stories to share:
1 - It was rumored that he had 4 toupees - 1 that was a "just got a haircut" toupee, and then one for each successive week with a little more growth. Then he'd start all over again. (This was confirmed in the book - he also had a darker toupee, a "salt and pepper" toupee, and a "tousled" toupee that he wore to blizzards, fires, & crime scenes. He had to give up his toupees when he went to jail.)
2 - Buddy spoke at my college graduation about a month before he was indicted. He was enormously popular, and everyone cheered and chanted "Free Buddy," especially after he announced that all graduates' parking tickets would be forgiven. (According to the book - this is something he did every year. RISD students loved him - they made a huge Buddy blow-up sculpture on campus when I was there, and he was the honorary coach of the school's hockey team, the Nads.)
3 - About 4 years before, I was at the Providence Children's Museum. There was an interactive computer game that followed a rat through the sewer system to illustrate how it worked. At the end, the rat takes you to his "apartment" below Providence. On the wall of the apartment was a framed portrait of Buddy Cianci - and when you clicked on it, it came alive and said "Hey Kids, I'm Buddy Cianci, Mayor of Providence! Don't forget to tell your parents to buy my marinara sauce!" (The photo on the cover even shows him on a gondola, with a jar of his marinara sauce prominently displayed next to him.)
That's why I read this book. It was a very satisfying read....more
I am in love with this book. I think the world is a better place because Michael Pollan is in it.
I've always been a very self-aware eater, but this boI am in love with this book. I think the world is a better place because Michael Pollan is in it.
I've always been a very self-aware eater, but this book educated me even further. I found the industrial vs. organic farming chapters particularly interesting, as well as the differences between the types of organic farming. If they could only all be like Polyface farm.
Walking through Whole Foods yesterday was an entirely different experience because of this book. ...more
This is the book that I wish my grandmother would have written. I loved how much she seemed to truly enjoy and appreciate her childhood - even thoughThis is the book that I wish my grandmother would have written. I loved how much she seemed to truly enjoy and appreciate her childhood - even though times were hard and they had to work so much. I always used to beg my grandmother for these type of stories, but she had such a negative view of growing up during the depression. My grandmother once tried to make me feel bad by telling me stories about how she & her siblings couldn't afford straws, so they would pick scallions and use those. The romantic in me thought it was awesome, and she got mad at me. Those type of portraits of resourcefulness enrich this book.
I challenge anyone to read the chapter on Thanksgiving and not love this book. The description of the preparations for their dinner made me truly understand the meaning of the holiday. And it's complete with recipes!
The only thing that irked me about the book was her near constant need to make comments like "Can you believe anything like that happening today?" or "Need I add that I learned so much from this?", etc. It just was really obvious and unnecessary.
This is a 748 page history book to which the biggest criticism I can give is that it's not long enough.
I savored this book. I think I always knew theThis is a 748 page history book to which the biggest criticism I can give is that it's not long enough.
I savored this book. I think I always knew the overviews of the 1960s and 70s politics (and much more specific info about certain things, like Watergate), but never really got to truly know the key players and the day to day decisions that went into all the elements that changed the course of American politics over the period of 8 years - what truly happened, not just with Vietnam, Civil Rights, Youth Culture, 1968 Democratic Convention, etc, but with smaller decisions as well, that led to us from the era of the "Great American Consensus" in 1964 to the bitterly divided country just 8 years later, which it remains to this day. It was fascinating also following this time period not just from a political standpoint, but also from the minds of the American people and how the general public responded.
I've always been fascinated by Richard Nixon, but never really appreciated what a deliciously conniving person he was and how he changed American politics, until reading this book.
So as I said, the only thing I hated about this book is that it ended. I understand his point in ending with the 1972 election - that the 8 years before led to to full division of American political thought, culminating in the election. But I would have just loved to continue on and see how the country reacted over the next 3 years with the Watergate scandal emerging, Nixon's resignation, and Ford's pardon of Nixon. I would have loved to see the 1976 election covered, and Jimmy Carter's presidency though economic crisis culminating in the full emergence of Reagan, whose initial political rise is profiled in so much of this book. Basically, I just never wanted it to end, which should be a testament to Rick Perlstein's extensive research and writing style. I highly recommend this book. ...more
I really loved the first half of this book - It was well on its way to being a favorite. It was smart, witty, funny, and entirely enjoyable. But thenI really loved the first half of this book - It was well on its way to being a favorite. It was smart, witty, funny, and entirely enjoyable. But then Bryson & Katz decided (rather too easily and giddily) to not hike the whole trail. And I just thought...bullshit. It's a book about hiking the Appalachian Trail! I was really looking forward to seeing them persevere and reading about their continued experience, and the fact that they just gave up really annoyed me.
The rest of the book, while very interesting and informative, just wasn't as good. I learned a lot, definitely, but it became too formulaic as he started each chapter with an essay and then had a few anecdotes about his experience as he guiltily attempted to drive back and hike a few miles here and there throughout the rest of the trail. The book did really make me want to go hiking and to see the places he was talking about. But I felt cheated. And the ending was ridiculously anti-climactic. His last 2-page afterword made me feel like I was listening to a maudlin narrator sum up his life at the end of a movie.
Also - this paperback edition of the book was riddled with errors. I haven't seen a book with so many in a while. Wrong punctuation (or none at all), words left out, or wrong words entirely (a lot of "get" instead of "got" or "want" instead of "went" - even an "of" when it was supposed to be "off").
And I was *oh so proud* to see his experience in my family's hometown - Palmerton, PA - and the Zinc Company that many generations of my family worked for that did indeed dump their waste on the surrounding Appalachian mountains and destroy them. It really is a sight to see. You're driving up through these lush, green Pennsylvania Appalachian mountains, and then you come to Palmerton - surrounded by 1 mile of brown and utterly desolate hills. It's breathtaking in its own way. (Little known fact - the zinc in the water and ground of Palmerton actually has given the population of Palmerton a longer average life expectancy and they heal faster from surgeries. They just have to have rock gardens instead of lawns. Trade off?)...more