After reading and rating this book, I looked at reviews before mine and was shocked to see so many 1 and 2 star ratings. The lower ratings seemed to c...moreAfter reading and rating this book, I looked at reviews before mine and was shocked to see so many 1 and 2 star ratings. The lower ratings seemed to come from people who are avid hikers (or avid outdoorsy people) whose qualm is that the actual hiking is more of a backdrop for the story being told, and that what Cheryl did was dangerous in its stupidity.
Those are totally accurate. This is not a book about hiking. This is a book about a woman who had some serious psychological issues and was trying to find a way out of the mire. Hiking the PCT happened to be that way for her. I am not an outdoorsy person (sure I like being outside and I enjoy nature very much and it is very important to me, but I've never camped or dug a hole and pooped in it, which to me, qualifies as outdoorsy), but I understand that what Cheryl undertook was very dangerous and she was blessed to have guardian angels along her hike, and like other reviewers I hope readers are not stupid enough to think if they have a backpack and a tent they can hike 1100 miles.
However, unlike some of the other reviewers, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I liked the tales from the trail interspersed with stories from her life before hiking that put her journey into perspective. Some reviews have criticized her poor choices before the trail, and that must be nice being perfect. But I thought it was brave for Cheryl to admit some of the uglier choices she made, and own them, which is a struggle she overcomes in the book.
While Cheryl's problems were mostly different from mine, I felt akin to a lot of them, and was really rooting for her throughout the book which also felt like I was rooting for myself (am rooting for myself). If you want to read a book about how cool hiking is, look elsewhere. If you want to read a book about a woman confronting her grief, the mess she made of her life, searching for a way to hold on to something real and realizing its not about holding on but letting go, then effing read this book.(less)
The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber seems so fantastical that I almost didn't believe it was true, but for the section in the middle of the book filled w...moreThe Ballad of the Whiskey Robber seems so fantastical that I almost didn't believe it was true, but for the section in the middle of the book filled with photos of Attila Ambrus and others connected to him while on his crime spree.
This book wasn't just a story of Ambrus's unlawful career. It also told the story of the Eastern Bloc in the 80's and it's journey toward democracy in the 90's and early 2000's. Most of what I know of communism was gleaned from American high school history classes, so (like most other historical subjects taught in American high schools) it was biased and reductionist at best. This book demonstrates the socio and political climate that led to the possibility of 28 bank robberies taking place before the culprit was caught. And I think the author did a fine job of telling Ambrus's story without being biased on either end of the spectrum - claiming Attila had no control because of society, or claiming Attila's choices weren't fueled from necessity. As with most things, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The one criticism I had with the book was it's tone. There's an author interview in the back of the book and one question deals with the tone the author wrote in which I felt explained a lot. He said he was influenced by (this isn't anywhere near a direct quote...I would quote it but I already lent the book to a friend) Russian literature that found humor in morbidity. I think the author's humorous tone was a good choice considering the tragic details of much of Attila's life, I also think sometimes he went out of his way to try to make a joke and the writing felt circuitous to me. I would have to go back and re-read a few sentences or a paragraph before I was able to understand the information, and after understanding was able to laugh at the joke. Some things are so tragic they become funny, that's just a peculiar circumstance of the human condition, but I think the author tried to hard with his writing. Like he was saying, "See? This is funny!" Instead of letting the reader decide on their own what they wanted to laugh at.
Tone aside, I gave this book 4 stars because I think Rubenstein did an excellent job not just in telling the story of one man, but of a nation that made his exploits possible and even sometimes laudable.(less)
I have been interested in fitness and health for about 2 years now. I started out mainly focusing on fitness, working out a lot and trying new and var...moreI have been interested in fitness and health for about 2 years now. I started out mainly focusing on fitness, working out a lot and trying new and varied routines. About a year ago I became more aware of my health and how it was affecting my overall well-being. That was when I took the leap into vegetarianism. I'm very happy now as a vegetarian, but I'm not writing this to advocate any particular lifestyle. A friend of mine who I consider a fitness guru suggested this book to me, because he knew I was already becoming aware of what foods I put in my body, and he knew I wanted to learn more.
This book has been an invaluable tool for me. When I got fit, I would walk into grocery stores and read signs and labels and ingredients, and I'd leave more confused than when I came in. Half the time I only hoped I made the healthiest choice from all my options because it seemed to me, making the most informed choice would require so much research my head would explode. Enter Marion Nestle, my supermarket savior.
The intro explains her approach to the book, all the research she did, and lays out a ground plan for the whole thing. Each section focuses on a particular part of the grocery store -- and she writes it the way I walk around the store (produce, meats, dairy, center aisles). The chapters are broken down into smaller, concise parts. She uses simple language, explains the science in basic ways (even a left brain challenged person like me got it), and she summarizes all the parts at the end of the chapter to help you see their relationships to each other.
The other huge reason I loved this book was her all-inclusive philosophy, and her objectivity. Never in the book did she tell you to "eat this, not that." In fact, she advocated against it, which I agree with. Also, at the end of chapters, when she drew her conclusions, they always stayed objective. She never wrote that any food should be avoided or any food was always safe or good. She included information for vegetarians, but she never gave her personal opinion whether she agreed with that lifestyle or not. I loved that.
The point is, if you're interested in what's happening at the grocery store, if you're interested in knowing more about the food you eat (and I think everyone should be...guess I'm not as objective as Ms. Nestle...oh well), if you're interested in knowing strategies the food companies and grocery stores use to get you to buy things you might not otherwise purchase, then this book is for you. This book is especially for you if you do not want to be preached at, you just want the facts.(less)
I read Bryson's other study on the English language, The Mother Tongue, previously and absolutely loved it. But, I am a huge grammar and language nerd...moreI read Bryson's other study on the English language, The Mother Tongue, previously and absolutely loved it. But, I am a huge grammar and language nerd, so loving that book isn't much of a stretch. In the Introduction of Made in America Bryson expressly tells the reader he's going to write most things through anecdotes because he found that was the best way of explaining American vocabulary. In terms of reaching the widest audience, I agree completely. The anecdotes made it easy to read so if someone is curious about American English, but is afraid of being bored or technically-termed-out, then this is the book for you. But I found towards the end of the book it was less about the language and more stories from American history that didn't bring much new knowledge of the language, but he did have some interesting stories about American figures. His first book, The Mother Tongue, was 5 out of 5 for me, but Made in America was 4 out of 5.(less)
The only other Thompson book I have read is "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," but I am fairly familiar with 'gonzo journalism.' I wanted to read this...moreThe only other Thompson book I have read is "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," but I am fairly familiar with 'gonzo journalism.' I wanted to read this book because I'm a big fan of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and the Angels are mentioned quite a bit at La Honda. I also have a ridiculous fascination with the West Coast during the 1960's, and am completely positive I was born at the wrong place and definitely the wrong time. That said, I really liked the book. If you like Thompson's style, you won't be disappointed. The first two parts are mostly accounts of who the Angels really are, as opposed to the image created by the press. I did have some problems with, what I felt, were Thompson's overly sympathetic depictions of the Angels' racism and misogyny; particularly the belief that some women were 'asking for it' when they had sex with 15 Angels at a time, and that if the first act was consentual, the subsequent 4-14 acts must also be consentual. What I did really like was the third part entitled, 'The Dope Cabala and a Wall of Fire." Thompson's summation of the Angels movement is insightful and incredibly well-contructed. While I didn't like everything that was being said, I enjoyed the style. I guess Thompson got closer to the Angels than he thought he did...(less)
This is the third Chuck Klosterman book I have read, and I would say it's my favorite. Now, I'm glad I didn't read it first, I think Sex, Drugs, and C...moreThis is the third Chuck Klosterman book I have read, and I would say it's my favorite. Now, I'm glad I didn't read it first, I think Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (SDCP) is a good introduction to his style so I wasn't just jumping in blind.
But Killing Yourself to Live is actually relevant. I think Klosterman is obsessed with things and people being either 'ironic,' or 'unironic' in various forms. And while someone being 'unironic' isn't high on my compliment list, someone being authentic is. I think Klosterman is relevant because he's searching for authenticity. I think most great literary movements are based on authors searching - for life, meaning, love. And I think the MTV generation's search is for authenticity. His search is one I can identify with.
I liked the themes in SDCP are also compelling, but because it's in essay form there isn't much time for Klosterman to develop certain themes that I really liked. But in Killing Yourself to Live, I think he built the theme up well and paced it well so I didn't even realize he was expounding on a theme until halfway through the book. But from what I've read, I think this is Klosterman's best work.(less)
I really like Chuck Klosterman. I don't always like what he has to say, but I love the way he says it. He's one of the only authors I can say that abo...moreI really like Chuck Klosterman. I don't always like what he has to say, but I love the way he says it. He's one of the only authors I can say that about.
I recommend this book, but not as anyone's first Klosterman experience. Try reading something with a more cohesive thread, because this is just a collection of interviews, essays, and some short fiction. Whereas his other books are essays but with a common theme. But I do recommend this book for anyone who already like Chuck Klosterman.(less)
I'm usually not a big non-fiction reader, but this book just grabbed me. I like Klosterman's style of writing; you kind of have to unfold it as you go...moreI'm usually not a big non-fiction reader, but this book just grabbed me. I like Klosterman's style of writing; you kind of have to unfold it as you go along, but it was easy to read. Granted some of the essays are now out of date, but any book exploring the deeper meaning in pop culture will be so because that's the nature of pop culture, and that realization comes across in the text so by knowinlgly dating itself, it's not really dated. Though I felt he put his best work at the beginning and end of the book, and the middle got a little ramble-y, overall it was incredibly insightful. And I've sort of started to dig deeper in pop culture since reading the book, which is either really stupid, or really meaningful.(less)