I listened to this book on audio, which was the wrong way to approach it. It's too slow-moving for audio, and the narrator did not do a good job withI listened to this book on audio, which was the wrong way to approach it. It's too slow-moving for audio, and the narrator did not do a good job with the voices. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd read it.
One thing that bothered me is that the bad guys (Kaufman and the Singer salesman) were all Jews....more
As others have said, this is a collection of previously published essays, mainly retooled book reviews. As such, the subtitle bears no relation to theAs others have said, this is a collection of previously published essays, mainly retooled book reviews. As such, the subtitle bears no relation to the content. The topics are random and some of McPherson's comments appear more than once. If you're looking for a top-flight collection of McPherson essays, I recommend Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, a work of brilliance. ...more
This is very low-key Hiaasen. Never having read one of his other young adult novels, I can't say whether this is due to its being written for youngerThis is very low-key Hiaasen. Never having read one of his other young adult novels, I can't say whether this is due to its being written for younger readers, but it's short on the author's usual anarchic imagination. It does seem rather preachy on the subject of trusting people you meet online. ...more
This is a fascinating and important book, and I gave it five stars even though I don't agree with everything Ghaemi says. It should definitely be readThis is a fascinating and important book, and I gave it five stars even though I don't agree with everything Ghaemi says. It should definitely be read, however, to stimulate discussion in this area.
Ghaemi's argument, in a nutshell, is that some forms of mental illness can help make a politician become a better leader in times of crisis. (He does not say, as someone claims in another review here, that mental illness itself makes someone a good leader. The author is assuming that the baseline is politicians with good leadership skills.) By the same token, he argues that "homoclytes" (a term he prefers to "mentally normal") do not make good leaders in times of crisis, although they make the best leaders in non-crisis times.
He is unclear about what types of mental illness fall within his parameters. Instead, he looks at the history of certain outstanding leaders (Lincoln, Churchill, FDR, JFK, Grant, Sherman, ML King, Ghandi, and, for some odd reason, Ted Turner) and analyzes how their mental illness helped them cope sensitively and imaginatively at moments of crisis. Many of them suffered from depression; a few were bipolar; a couple were hyperthymic (having a personality that tends toward the energetic, effusive, happy). In JFK's case, he also looks at the psychotropic effects of drugs used to treat a non-mental condition (Parkinson's Disease). Less persuasively, he critiques the performance of homoclyte leaders who were unable to cope with crisis situations (Nixon, George W. Bush, Tony Blair).
His argument isn't too far removed from the commonly held notion that mental illness endows artists with special insight, although he doesn't expand his discussion to include this.
He gives only one example of a case in which mental illness affected a leader's ability negatively: Hitler. According to him, Hitler was an effective (if not morally good) leader until he began to abuse amphetamines--a shaky argument at best. This just begs the question of Donald Trump (this book was written before he became a serious presidential candidate). Troublingly, Ghaemi rejects the inclusion of narcissistic personality disorder as a viable psychiatric diagnosis, despite the fact that many other therapists recognize it. How, then, would he diagnose Trump? I'd love to hear what he has to say on that score!
He also weakens his argument by citing Truman, Carter, and Mandela as examples of homoclytes who were good leaders in non-crisis times. I don't know many people who regard Carter as an effective leader, and to say that Truman and Mandela ruled in non-crisis times is highly debatable.
I also wish that he'd had his manuscript reviewed by experts in the historical periods he deals with. This would have prevented some gaffes, the biggest of which is his statement that FDR never tried to hide his disability. In fact, he went to extreme lengths to hide it, and was aided and abetted by the press, who never photographed him in a wheelchair.
Despite my reservations, this is a fascinating and highly readable book on an important subject....more
This sounded like an enjoyable listen: cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s, which I'd heard was a glamorous and exciting place. But Taras Grescoe's booThis sounded like an enjoyable listen: cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s, which I'd heard was a glamorous and exciting place. But Taras Grescoe's book lacks focus. The title led me to expect a tale of the foreign colony in Shanghai. It's partly that, but it's also a great deal about the American writer Emily (Mickey) Hahn, whose columns for The New Yorker and the books that came out of them were very popular, and Victor Sassoon, a British businessman who owned, among other properties, the Cathay Hotel (the "Shanghai Grand" of the title).
If the book has a focus, it's on Hahn, but she doesn't even appear until Part Two, and Grescoe often drops her to write about other people and events. At least her backstory is presented coherently; Sassoon's is confusingly fragmented and events are repeated several times. Most critically, though, is that none of these colorful characters ever come to life, because Grescoe seldom quotes them. In the case of someone like Sassoon, whose literary output was limited to telegraphic entries in a diary, that is no loss, but Hahn was a prolific and lively writer. We get excerpts of her letters to family, but none of what made her a famous and popular writer. Her lover, Zhau Sinmay (the so-called "forbidden love" of the subtitle) was a poet, but we never hear him in his own voice. Nor do we hear from the novelists, playwrights, and many journalists who formed a large part of Shanghai's foreign colony.
Christine Marshall's reading suggests that she is an inexperienced narrator: she is over-expressive, as though she felt that she ought to be "contributing" something to the auditory experience, and she sometimes gives the impression that she didn't read the book before recording it. (For instance, when Grescoe writes that someone walking down a street in Shanghai "would have seen" something, she stresses "would" as though it meant "might.")...more
I've read many of Georgette Heyer's historicals set in Regency times, but never, until now, one set in another era. I don't know why I should have thoI've read many of Georgette Heyer's historicals set in Regency times, but never, until now, one set in another era. I don't know why I should have thought it would be any different.
The Masqueraders has all the hallmarks of Heyer's Regencies: historical accuracy so uncanny you can hardly believe it wasn't written in the mid-18th century (except that the language is more modern), exuberant imagination, sly humor, and a generous spirit.
I'd also never read one of her books in which a girl dresses up as a boy, and was a bit apprehensive: it's a difficult thing to pull off. But Heyer makes it all completely convincing. The only character who isn't fooled is the hero, Sir Antony--but of course he wouldn't be so gullible! The heroine striding around London in britches is very modern and feminist, and we love Tony for loving his bold, independent Prudence.
The surest sign of my loving a book is wishing that it had sequels. Imagine a series of adventures with Lady Fanshawe transforming herself into a young buck when the situation required! Alas, Heyer didn't write any. But we can savor this book.
Ruth Sillers does an excellent job of narration, giving each character a unique voice. This is five stars all the way!...more
Roxane Gay is a bisexual black woman who writes mostly about popular culture. Her perspectives are heavily political, but she is no demagogue, as theRoxane Gay is a bisexual black woman who writes mostly about popular culture. Her perspectives are heavily political, but she is no demagogue, as the title of this collection indicates. Her thoughts on books, movies, TV series, and current events are a constant dialog between her gut responses as a human being and her analytical intelligence. She writes with gusto, for instance, about her teenage passion for the Sweet Valley High series, all the while acknowledging how badly they were written and their lamentable lack of diversity.
It's this grounding in real life that sets her apart from other writers who tackle similar subjects, as well as her remarkable even-handedness. She never gets too angry to see other sides to an argument. In these rhetorically polarized times, this alone is enough to make her an important voice.
However, her writing is not careful enough for my liking. There are too many trite remarks ("The older I get, the better I understand things." "I am a mass of contradictions." "Two wrongs rarely make a right.") and while her essays are never less than thoughtful, they are never brilliant or incisive.
Bahni Turpin's reading is always clear and easy to follow. She mispronounces some words ("contiguous" does not rhyme with "contagious"), but overall she does a good job....more
My first Chandler, but definitely not my last! I'm only sorry I didn't discover him sooner. I may have been put off by his reputation as hard-boiled,My first Chandler, but definitely not my last! I'm only sorry I didn't discover him sooner. I may have been put off by his reputation as hard-boiled, but the hard-boiled of Chandler's time is conventional by today's standards. There's not much violence, and what there is is not very graphic. The only thing I didn't like was his portrayal of women, all of them objectified as creatures who exist solely for men's pleasure.
This is a great story, and the fact that it unfolds in a leisurely manner didn't keep me from hanging on every word. Chandler was such a good writer that everything he writes, even seemingly irrelevant passages, is full of interest.
I had some problems with Ray Porter's narration, however. He doesn't get Chandler's dry style--at the beginning he was too expressive and he eventually slipped into non-stop sarcasm. Irony is not sarcasm! He can do voices well, but I didn't like his choice of voices for many of the characters. A lot of them sounded alike. All of the women sounded alike, but that may be Chandler's fault.
If you've never read Chandler before, I highly recommend this, one of his later novels....more