Much of the commentary about this book has focused on the character of Amy. Less attention has been paid to Nick Dunne. After reading this book, I’m o...moreMuch of the commentary about this book has focused on the character of Amy. Less attention has been paid to Nick Dunne. After reading this book, I’m of the view that as much as Amy Dunne contrives the so-called “cool girl” fantasy, Nick is himself a fantastic “good-at-heart” bully. In the book, Nick is portrayed as an abuser, and alleged wife murderer. He IS a confirmed cheater. He’s also not in touch with his feelings, a terrible listener, and has many of the stereotypical traits that make man “a jerk.” This is completely independent, by the way, of psychopath Amy. Nick is who he is whether he had ever met Amy or not.
Here’s the thing: The book goes to great lengths to explain exactly WHY Nick is such a jerk. His dad was a jerk. His dad was distant. He really has a good heart but he has trouble expressing his feelings. He knows he can come off as douche-y so he overcompensates by smiling at inappropriate times. He’s really nice to his sister and his mom. And most important, Nick is the ultimate VICTIM. In short, Nick might come across as a jerk but really he’s a nice guy.
That is the fantasy element. Because in reality, men like Nick who are abusers, bullies, perpetuators of crime are not just misunderstood but at the end of the day kind-hearted souls that just need to reach their potential. To the contrary, very often these men are just jerks.
Finally, this is a random aside, but Amy Dunne’s character reminded me of the character Cathy Ames in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. (less)
The origin story for Ajax Penumbra and indirectly Covina. The plot felt extremely rushed, particularly the ending, and many of the details were not fl...moreThe origin story for Ajax Penumbra and indirectly Covina. The plot felt extremely rushed, particularly the ending, and many of the details were not fleshed out. At the same time, I can understand why Sloan made this a "Kindle Singles" length story as I'm not sure I would have been interested in a whole book-length prequel. I would probably give it three and a half stars.(less)
I LOVED this little story. Most bully stories (including Wonder itself) are told from the victim's POV, but I've always believed it's important to get...moreI LOVED this little story. Most bully stories (including Wonder itself) are told from the victim's POV, but I've always believed it's important to get an understanding of the bully's point of view. Not to sympathize with the bully but to understand the mind of the bully. Palacio does a great job getting into Julian's mind in this book, and understanding where his motives come from.(less)
It's not just that the real world of a Silicon Valley startup is unglamorous or penny-pinching. It's that for most of these entrepreneurs it's SCARY....moreIt's not just that the real world of a Silicon Valley startup is unglamorous or penny-pinching. It's that for most of these entrepreneurs it's SCARY. In a possibly facing a terminal illness kind of fear. Entrepreneurs have to live with the stress that they may effectively get FIRED from their jobs at any moment, and they have to live with that stress every moment of every day. The system is designed in such a way that almost everyone who gets initial funding will almost certainly fail to achieve their goals. In the meantime, the ever present stress weighs down the founders as well as their family members and loved ones. Vacations are perpetually cancelled. Payroll is always in question. And in the meantime, the founders constantly have to put on a brave face and sell the lie that the are ABSOLUTELY KILLING IT. This piece is a quick, fast, and insightful look at the depressing reality that faces Silicon Valley startups. (less)
Midway through his book Lewis writes, “The U.S. financial markets had ALWAYS been either corrupt or about to be corrupted … Whatever regulators did to...moreMidway through his book Lewis writes, “The U.S. financial markets had ALWAYS been either corrupt or about to be corrupted … Whatever regulators did to solve the problem would create yet another opportunity for financial intermediaries to make money at the expense of investors.” This is the dark shadow that follows this book like an undertow. In the mid-2000’s the game was subprime mortgages. Then in 2009 it was high frequency trading, the subject of this book. As of 2014, the HFT game appears to be winding down, and Wall Street types are probably concocting new forms of corruption that financial journalists have yet to uncover. Such is the nature of Wall Street and, according to Lewis himself, this is how it’s ALWAYS been.
Lewis is a gifted writer and like his prior books this one is very entertaining and a pleasure to read. As a reader, you root for the “good guys” like Brad and Ronan to prevail. Interestingly, the “villains”—in this case the high frequency trading millionaires and billionaires—are largely anonymous. And yet, the book is fundamentally a retrospective. Five years from now, Lewis will have published another book about the latest Wall Street schemes that may perhaps be only in embryonic form today.(less)
Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Taiwan are among the countries along the coast of southeast Asia’s South China Sea. Casting a long...moreVietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Taiwan are among the countries along the coast of southeast Asia’s South China Sea. Casting a long shadow among them all is the People’s Republic of China. Kaplan’s book discusses the recent escalation of China’s military presence in the South China Sea, its implications for border countries, and longer term consequences for the United States and the world. At just 200 pages, the book can only really cover a snowflake on the tip of a giant iceberg. Even then, at times, particularly in the middle chapters, Kaplan loses focus and meanders into long tangents on only loosely relevant topics, like ancient Roman history or the recent Arab Spring. Kaplan is best at the 30,000 feet level, where he attempts to tie in the many moving parts into a bigger picture forecast. His personal anecdotes regarding his travels to these different countries are also well written and interesting to read. More than anything else, the book gave me an introduction to a particular area of the world I knew too little about. If what Kaplan predicts regarding the rise of the South China Sea countries turns out to be true, it’s an area of the world that will be worth paying attention to.(less)
The “Pain of others” is a phrase that appears only once near the very end of this book, but I thought it was a fitting description for this story. Tha...moreThe “Pain of others” is a phrase that appears only once near the very end of this book, but I thought it was a fitting description for this story. That’s really what this book is about. This is a story of severely broken people whose lives are intertwined with each other’s in severely broken ways. All along the characters are all crying out – to each other, to themselves, to whatever gods they worship – see me, know me, don’t leave me alone! With so little else they have to offer, knowing someone is really one of the few and perhaps best gifts the characters can give each other. There are a number of characters in this tightly packed book and sometimes I lost track of who was speaking and whose past was being narrated. Also, it appears like this book is marketed in the “magical/fantasy” genre, but it really is nothing at all of the sort, so caveat emptor. This is not a fantasy novel. Quite the contrary, I actually appreciated how the book beautifully portrays the specific details, grim reality, and sometimes hopelessness of real life on death row. (less)
Make no mistake, this really is Eleanor’s story. As Sandra Bullock is to “Gravity,”—and George Clooney is just along for the ride—the voice and charac...moreMake no mistake, this really is Eleanor’s story. As Sandra Bullock is to “Gravity,”—and George Clooney is just along for the ride—the voice and character of Eleanor comes out much more powerfully and memorably Park’s. While the book ping pongs between Eleanor and Park as narrators, especially near the end of the book, Park's sections were used largely to push plot points while Eleanor's sections were really where the character’s voice was heard. This isn’t a surprise given the severity and intensity of Eleanor’s domestic abuse issues. Park and the Sheridan’s have their own dramas and conflicts but compared to Eleanor’s they are practically vanilla. (Pun intended.)(less)
Dr. Moalem has a deliberately folksy, daytime talk show writing style that’s, on the one hand, a little too Dr. Phil for my taste (“I’m going to do fo...moreDr. Moalem has a deliberately folksy, daytime talk show writing style that’s, on the one hand, a little too Dr. Phil for my taste (“I’m going to do for you what I did for Jeff. I’m going to give you an examination.”) but on the other hand makes difficult scientific concepts easy for a lay audience to understand. His basic thesis is this: Your genes are NOT your destiny. You have the ability to turn on and off certain genes through your own behavior, and this turning on and off (“genetic expression”) makes a big difference in who you are. The DNA of your genes themselves can also change overtime, in ways both good and bad. Think of exposure to the sun or secondhand tobacco smoke.
At the end of the day, despite all the cutting edge breakthroughs in genetic research, Dr. Moalem’s prescriptions are essentially common sensical: eat right and exercise. The big gaping difference is he also strongly recommends that readers get their genes sequenced. But do it anonymously! So that insurers and corporations can’t use your genetic information for malicious purposes. Evidently Congress passed an “anti-Gattaca” law but it has glaring loopholes. The point of the sequencing is to contemplate a diet and exercise regime that’s right for you. For instance, if you are one of the few who have fructose intolerance, then a diet of fruits and vegetables, far from being healthy, can actually kill you.
What I came away from, somewhat frustratingly, is that genetic sequencing still has a long way to go before it becomes a practical reality for most people. What Moalem also doesn’t mention is how difficult and often unreliable today’s commercially available gene sequencing can be. And fortunately most of us don’t suffer from genetic disorders. But it does seem clear we are headed in the direction of this brave new world. In the meantime, it might be useful to start contemplating the difficult moral and ethical questions that will inevitably come along the way. (less)
To me, the gold standard of famous people memoirs remains Tina Fey’s Bossypants (with Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat a close second). Greer’s book doesn’t...moreTo me, the gold standard of famous people memoirs remains Tina Fey’s Bossypants (with Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat a close second). Greer’s book doesn’t reach the same heights of wit and complexity as Fey’s—but that’s really an unfair comparison because Tina Fey is a genius. What Judy Greer’s book does have more of, in my opinion, is heart. Reading her book feels like having a conversation with a friend, and over time you get a strong sense of who she is like as a person. I thought the last third of the book (titled “Real Life”) was the most interesting and where her writing was the strongest. It really does seem like there was a dramatic change in her life after her marriage to “Dean Johnsen” and I wish she wrote a whole book just on that part of her life.
The first time I saw/heard of Judy Greer was in a very random “mockumentary” called Lollilove by Jenna Fischer and her then husband James Gunn. At the time I didn’t think much of her role and had no idea she would continue to be a staple in Hollywood roles. I’m glad it’s turned out well for her and hope to see more of her as her roles continue to evolve. (less)
This book first came to my attention through an episode of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross where Terry interviewed the author and cartoonist Bob Mank...moreThis book first came to my attention through an episode of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross where Terry interviewed the author and cartoonist Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor for The New Yorker. I’ve been a fan of The New Yorker for years but never really paid much attention to the cartoons. Reading this book made me appreciate the incredible amount of hard work, effort, and passion put in by professional cartoonists—evidently a shrinking world of art. Mankoff writes in a funny, light hearted, conversational style so it’s an easy and fast read, with about half the space dedicated to cartoons and the other half text. And as much as I now enjoy reading the New Yorker funnies, I’m very glad I have nothing to do with either its drawing or captioning, as both seem like Herculean tasks!(less)
It’s refreshing to read the Gospel narratives through a different perspective. It’s also highly encouraging to read a serious Bible scholar who does n...moreIt’s refreshing to read the Gospel narratives through a different perspective. It’s also highly encouraging to read a serious Bible scholar who does not believe in the literal inerrancy of the Bible and yet shares an authentic faith in Jesus Christ. Martin is the perfect guide to walk us through the life of Jesus. Quite literally he takes us to the places where Jesus walked and performed his miracles, in travel-memoir form. But he also provides exposition and sometimes alternative interpretations of passages throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as application for our lives.
It was difficult to read this book straight through. Each chapter is like its own sermon and it was hard for me to digest several chapters all at once. A better way to read this book, I think, is like a daily or weekly meditation. The extensive footnotes also provide a great guide to further reading for those of us who are interested in learning more about the life of Jesus.(less)