Michael Pollan is one of those food types who has spent a lot of time pushing a lot of anti-scientific ri...moreCloser to a 3.5, I'm as surprised as you are.
Michael Pollan is one of those food types who has spent a lot of time pushing a lot of anti-scientific ridiculouslessness, especially about genetic modifications of food. It makes it difficult to take a lot of what he has to say at face value, as well as his approaches on issues of food and the "right" way to do agriculture and food gathering.
On the other hand, there's nothing inherently wrong with his point of view regarding the moral, ethical, or even preferential issues with food collection and production. You don't need to be a slave to science while still being uncomfortable with some of the practices in agriculture and meat production. Pollan truly spends more of his time in this book on those issues than real science.
So The Omnivore's Dilemma, in a sense, is a great book when you look at it through the lens of someone who is interested in understanding their food. The production aspects (good, bad, or indifferent), the historical contexts of agriculture, and so on, they're all really interesting reads.
Where Pollan falls flat, beyond his lack of credibility on the scientific aspects, is his connections. He spends a significant amount of time with Joel Salatan of the Polyface Farm, someone who is one of those crunchy libertarian types, but you'd never really understand that most of his problem is regulatory rather than about the actual food supply. He spends some time with ethicist Peter Singer, who is extremely controversial with some questionable points of view on everything, although you'd never know it reading the text. Even nods to PETA and such along the way certainly pulled me out of the text a bit - you can have a serious nonfiction read about food, or you can go along with unserious sources and points of reference. You can't have both.
Overall, I'm surprised to say that this is worth reading. Whichever direction you fall in the basic debates, you'll probably find something of value. There is a "reader beware" concept to go along with it, but it's not enough to toss this into a pile, never to be seen again.(less)
The Prisoner of Azkaban was typically one of my favorite Potter books. In terms of writing in the series, I feel like it's the most perfectly written...moreThe Prisoner of Azkaban was typically one of my favorite Potter books. In terms of writing in the series, I feel like it's the most perfectly written - it gets to the point, it has a little bit of everything. Two Quidditch matches, the introduction of a new important character , and, perhaps most importantly, it's the first time we really truly get to see Harry and the gang progress as characters.
I love reading fantasy series, and one problem that plagues even the best of them is that things get stale. I never finished Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, I got tired of Terry Brooks, and even Terry Goodkind, prior to the last few books, fell into the same rut. Azkaban, to me, feels like the first book that Rowling wrote with the guarantee that she'd be able to finish the series, and I feel like she took that and ran with it in a way others don't.
I mean, really, for such a short book in comparison to the tomes after it, a lot happens. We meet Sirius Black, we learn about dementors and the prison, some of the back stories regarding Voldemort pre-Potter get fleshed out - the table is clearly being set. But really, more importantly for me, Harry finally gets some confidence. It takes a (for most of the book) shady character in Lupin to do it, but Harry finally starts to show some sort of realization of his ability and destiny. Ron stops looking completely worthless. Hermione finally moves along a bit and shows why she's so indispensable, and I really hope she plays a big role in the final book.
It's really well crafted, and it's somewhat unfortunate that, writing-wise, the series may have peaked here. This was the last book that Rowling appeared to not have editorial control over, and the fact that the next few titles top out at over 600 pages a pop means something in terms of quality. This doesn't take away from Azkaban, though.(less)
I know that I've already stated that Azkaban is my favorite of the Potter books, but Goblet of Fire really takes a close second. I really think this c...moreI know that I've already stated that Azkaban is my favorite of the Potter books, but Goblet of Fire really takes a close second. I really think this concludes the best of Rowling's writing in the series, as the book, while long, doesn't seem to lack much in the way of punch, and continues down a path she started with Chamber of Secrets, introducing a lot of stuff that doesn't really seem to matter until you've gotten either toward the end or read past the book.
I really love it for four reasons, though:
1) Voldemort is actually scary for the first time. It's not to say that a guy who can kill your parents and command an army of black wizards isn't scary, but the story really brings it home when Voldemort takes out an innocent, gets Harry captured, and brings Harry to the brink of destruction. Voldemort becomes a Big Deal for us, which is different than Voldemort kinda sorta being a big deal, but other things going on that are somewhat more important.
2) Harry finally gets to be the hero. What's disappointing is that he dissolves into sad sack in book five, but we'll get to that later.
3) Finally, Hermoine and Ron feel like real characters as opposed to a supporting cast.
4) Sweet, sweet corruption. Or the beginnings of it, that is.
I recall seriously disliking book five when I read it originally, so it should get interesting, especially following the high of this one.(less)
1) The section that somewhat plods along for a while, setting up...things that might not be evident, but...moreThis book has two sides. Two sections, really.
1) The section that somewhat plods along for a while, setting up...things that might not be evident, but really just kind of dragging its feet.
2) The last half of the book, where everything comes to fruition in a glorious mess for everyone involved.
A chief complaint I've heard from many regarding this (and maybe going forward) is the attention to less-favorite characters. My problem was not so much the attention to new characters as much as the common problem I have with so many large fantasy books - I get invested in one specific storyline and then have to wait hundreds of pages to get any advancement, never mind a resolution. And within those hundreds of pages are storylines I care little about, except that with Martin, all of them are important.
Still, this was really a wonderful read for me, and I hate that I need to take a little break before heading into Crows. This was one was a roller coaster ride that had me yelling a number of times throughout, which I never do. So, so good.(less)
Why did I only read six books in September? You can blame this epic. I can’t really begin to describe how awesome this b...more(First read in September 2008)
Why did I only read six books in September? You can blame this epic. I can’t really begin to describe how awesome this book is, and how I’m afraid to keep going because the next book is over 1000 hardcover pages and because I know he’s still got 3 more left to publish. Needless to say, the fact that I’ve waited this long to dive into this fantasy series is borderline criminal. And if you like fantasy books and haven’t read this yet, well, change that. Plain and simple.
(Second read: May 2011)
So with the Game of Thrones TV series partway through, and with the fifth book in this series coming out in about 6 weeks, I decided to reread the first book. A few idle thoughts, since it's pretty much universal that this book is awesome beyond awesome.
1) It's stunning - completely stunning - how much I failed to retain from my first reading of this. The ending in particular is a much bigger deal than I recalled, and the part that I thought was the end was far from it.
2) In all honesty, if you've been waiting on reading these but have been watching the series, just watch the first 6 or 7 episodes to start. That way, at least the names will get sorted out quicker. There are a lot of characters to keep up with.
3) The storytelling is great, the characters (especially Tyrion) are great, but the writing itself? Serviceable, but not great. This surprised me, as I found myself very much enjoying the characters and story even though I knew much of what was happening, but found the writing somewhat lacking. Perhaps it was because it was a reread, or because the television series runs so close to the book? I don't know, but even with this minor flaw, this is still one of the best things out there.
I can't rush to read the next one just yet, but I do intend on getting on it as soon as possible. If you've been waiting on it...well, stop.(less)
Well, I can absolutely see why people are torn about this installment in the series.
It's not bad. Not by a longshot - and there's a significant amount...moreWell, I can absolutely see why people are torn about this installment in the series.
It's not bad. Not by a longshot - and there's a significant amount of focus on characters and situations that are not immediately relevant, and, frankly, not a ton happens. It's a lot like A Clash of Kings in a lot of ways, where it feels like a lot of setup for whatever's coming next.
With that said, it's still really riveting and well-written, and we're right in the meat of the series at this point, so things still chug along and I'm looking forward to starting the latest book in the next week or so.(less)
I first became aware of Harry Potter during my senior year of high school, when I was working at the Millbury Library. The children's librarian at the...moreI first became aware of Harry Potter during my senior year of high school, when I was working at the Millbury Library. The children's librarian at the time was raving about them, and considering importing the third book from England, as I think the book releases may have still been staggered at that point. I didn't actually read them then, however, I didn't actually get around to reading the books until the summer of 2001. And I liked them! They were fun, interesting enough, and I think I tore through the first four when we went to Washington, DC.
Since then, I've been keeping up. I worked the midnight opening on the fifth book at Tatnuck, and I bought the sixth one the morning it came out, and I'll be going for the seventh the same way.
So my Potter approach has been different, I suppose. Revisiting The Sorcerer's Stone six-plus years later was a weird experience, given a lot of the circumstances in my life and in the Potter series.
Essentially, it's interesting to see the evolution of the writing in this one, knowing where Rowling went with it. The first book actually has a fairly decent freewheeling attitude about it - it moves relatively quickly, it gets to its point, and it's really genuinely fun. On one hand, you can see why this caught on the way it did.
On the other hand, the book really shows some odd stuff that one probably wouldn't notice if they didn't go back. For one, Dumbledore's role is almost completely nonexistant, and the way that Hermoine finally becomes friendly with Ron and Harry is really matter-of-fact, which jarred me a bit. An amusing aside to that is the question as to how much editing Rowling had to put up with on those points - considering how monstrous the fourth, fifth, and sixth books are, and the relative importance of characters like Dumbledore, I'm forced to wonder how much more we'd know about some of these characters if Rowling had the same type of control it appears she's been given recently.
The books are really successful, though, in the way that they really should be read more than once as the loose ends get tied up. Knowing what we suspect regarding folks like Snape and Draco and McGonagall, scenes with them develop into entirely different things -what was once a weird situation with Snape now becomes incredibly relevant knowing what happens later. And even odder is the idea that the hero, Potter, really isn't that much of a hero early on - his big heroic act at the end of book one is delaying his inevitable ass kicking long enough for the others to get there, and, even then, he had to put his two friends in danger to accomplish it.
I'm interested in reading the second book now, even moreso, so I suppose the eventual point is made - I'm hooked back in again. I'll have more to say once I finish that one.(less)