This book took me a long time to read. It wasn't precisely that it was dry - Kurlansky's books have been consistently engaging and accessible history...moreThis book took me a long time to read. It wasn't precisely that it was dry - Kurlansky's books have been consistently engaging and accessible history for me, and this was no exception. Somehow I kept thinking it was going to be dry and avoiding picking it back up. It wasn't gripping, and reading the whole thing felt like a bit of a slog.
Nevertheless, the information within is really fascinating. It's almost hard to believe that salt was an integral part of every blessed historical event that ever happened in every culture. I'd come across the next factoid in the next chapter, and would want to say, "Really? The Civil War turned on salt too? And the French Revolution? Seriously?" But, when you think about it, of course they did. And Kurlansky throws in some great tidbits, including the Lithuanian guardian spirit of pickling, the Wieliczka Salt Mine Band, that performs only down in the salt mine because of the great acoustics, and the story of Otto Esche and the first camels to come to Nevada.
Kurlansky details how salt has been woven into political and military machinations from the very beginning, and how, due to the necessity of having salt, taxes, controls, and/or shortages of salt have led to numerous peasant rebellions. There are also some fun phrase explanations, like the origin of "worth his salt" and "red herring", and some fascinating etymological finds, like the connections between salt and "soldier", "salary", and "salad".
All in all totally worth the read, even though it took a good long while.(less)
I read this book while volunteering in Burundi, a country that has experienced a parallel civil conflict to that of Rwanda, but with much less interna...moreI read this book while volunteering in Burundi, a country that has experienced a parallel civil conflict to that of Rwanda, but with much less international attention.
The book is full of chilling stories, exposing both the horror of the actions of the Rwanda orchestrators of the genocide, the willing and complicit participants in carrying out the genocide, and the willful inaction and facilitation of the conflict by international actors, including the U.S. government.
Most striking to me was the sheer volume of stories in which important local religious leaders figured. Many trusted pastors purposefully gathered their parishioners together so that the Interahamwe militias would be able to slaughter them more efficiently. The title of the book comes from one of these stories, in which the parishioners write to their pastor and to local officials asking for their intervention only to be told that it is God's will that their kind be eradicated.
This is a very difficult book to finish, but it's well worth it. Lots of food for thought on the current inaction regarding events in Darfur, Sudan. The international community always seems to be able to proclaim "never again" in the wake of instances of ethnic cleansing, but actually acting on that promise seems distressingly a rare occurrence.(less)
This was one hell of a book to read. It is so well written - seamless transitions between discussion of the progress of the legal cases and the storie...moreThis was one hell of a book to read. It is so well written - seamless transitions between discussion of the progress of the legal cases and the stories of the foster children's daily experience as the cases dragged on. The way the important dates in the case line up with critical changes in the lives of Shirley Wilder, and then Lamont Wilder, is an amazing illustration of how these abstract laws are affecting real humans throughout the long drawn-out court battles over them. At times it was physically painful to read, and I had to put it down for a little while or risk getting lost in it.
Shirley Wilder (the lead plaintiff) is 13 and two years into being bounced around the hell of New York City foster care when the "Wilder" case begins in 1973. She has a child at 14, Lamont, who also enters the foster care system and goes through multiple 'disrupted' placements and group homes before aging out of the system. He fathers a child at age 20, and a few years after that, his now crack-addicted mother dies of AIDS in a hospice shelter. The court case finishes four days after her death, after 26 years of litigation.
This is not a good read for anyone with a weak tolerance for hearing about the horrors our society perpetrates on the poor and defenseless: it carves them out in stark relief. It also serves as a great example of just how long it can take and how difficult it can be to really remedy injustice through the American court system. There are bits of hopefulness, in particular all the people who worked tirelessly on this case and variations of it, the "good guys" at the children's shelters and family court and all those who tried to make the system work for these children.
It will take some time for me to recover from reading this book, but it has inspired me to do further research and reading on this topic and despite it all, I feel better for knowing what this book taught me. (less)
This is a great collection of the untold stories of American history, and those that are usually told from the perspective of the powerful/the winners...moreThis is a great collection of the untold stories of American history, and those that are usually told from the perspective of the powerful/the winners. It's a great springboard to finding interesting little-known bits and little-known characters in American history to follow-up and read more about. It's like a collection of teasers for the underdogs of American history.
Unlike Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and other textbook-format history books, it's mostly just sections of primary sources recounting the selected events, instead of a historian's interpretation of those events. Not bias-free, but maybe closer than you'll get with a re-told history.
I read this for the first time back in college sometime, I'm not sure when. I didn't read it straight through but skipped through it, reading the sections that appealed at the time, so now I'm going back and skipping through other parts of it. Hopefully I'll get it all read eventually. (less)
This book was unexpectedly cool. I know people who've read it expecting interesting soccer-related stuff and been disappointed, but I picked it up wit...moreThis book was unexpectedly cool. I know people who've read it expecting interesting soccer-related stuff and been disappointed, but I picked it up with absolutely no preconceived notions of what it would be about, and no expectations, and I was really pleasantly surprised.
It's not really a theory of globalization at all, but a series of case studies in which the author illustrates how soccer plays into ethnic and class rivalries, the emancipation of women, political dynasties and other corners of societies you might not expect to find a direct connections to sports.
I found it really accessible, and full of a lot of really surprising information that was quite fascinating.(less)
I got this from one of my fellow travelers to Burundi, a sociology professor. I had never heard of the no-nonsense guides, but I really liked this one...moreI got this from one of my fellow travelers to Burundi, a sociology professor. I had never heard of the no-nonsense guides, but I really liked this one and I think I'll hunt down some of the others.
The text is concise without leaving out salient details, the info is well-cited, and there are interesting and easily-decipherable visuals, which is a must for a book like this. It's a slim volume, but manages to cover a good number of conflict examples, and I didn't get bored reading it.
There were a couple of details cited that I would question, but they seemed easily attributable to rapidly changing information, which is understandable when you're discussing unfinished conflicts.