"People can go on telling themselves things like 'Think before you speak!' or 'You don’t believe that yourself' or 'Forget it!' But they can also say,...more"People can go on telling themselves things like 'Think before you speak!' or 'You don’t believe that yourself' or 'Forget it!' But they can also say, 'Oh, what lovely flowers!' or 'Are you a phone freak or something?' or 'Suit yourself,' or 'This record makes me feel so happy!’ Wonderful! Words are delightful little gifts we exchange like the Easter eggs we paint and hide for others to find and enjoy. I’d forgotten that, but you reminded me of it."
Clever and witty, Heroes Like Us is a simply hilarious story. A narrator claiming to have brought down the Berlin Wall with his penis? How could that not pique your interest?
I chose the beginning quote of this review because it very much reminds me of how I felt reading the book. Finding Brussig's eggs of satirical humor of the events surrounding November 9th, 1989, especially the more subtle jabs, reminded me of how refreshing excellent writing can be. Klaus Uhltzscht, our shameless and hypersexual main character, over-analyzes everything, a trait which lands him in a multitude of hilariously awkward social situations. He narrates the events as any revered (perhaps a bit egomaniacal) historical figure would, from his gifted childhood which led to his "joining" of the Stasi, the secret police organization of East Germany. Klaus is truly one of the most memorable characters I have ever encountered in fiction.
Klaus's narration weaves satire with serious social commentary on the state of Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was a fantastic summer read to be enjoyed by all who have a liking for satire or quirky humor in general.(less)
Nick Harkaway has delivered a story that reads like the inner workings of a extraordinary steampunk pocket watch; cogs and wheels fit brilliantly to s...moreNick Harkaway has delivered a story that reads like the inner workings of a extraordinary steampunk pocket watch; cogs and wheels fit brilliantly to spin a story of lovers and gangsters, villains and heroes. It is part mystery, part thriller, with each page leading you further into the rabbit hole.
Joe Spork was determined to spend his life as a wallflower. The fast lane of crime and its extravagant trimmings was his father's choosing, and although that sparked his imagination as a naive child, he would have no part in it now. Joe would be content to spend the rest of his days fixing up antique clocks in the family shop. A mysterious task from Billy Friend will unknowingly thrust Joe out of the comfort bubble of the shop. He becomes part of something bigger than himself, bigger than any of us, set in motion decades before. He needs to save the world.
Harkaway is mind-blowingly clever with how the characters of this story mix and come together, even across generations, in order to assist a totally unique plot. Beyond this, his obvious talent has you feeling everything each character feels. Every yearning, every heartache, every fear. Angelmaker is woven gold, a novel one could get lost in for days and one of the best of 2012.(less)
“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.”
T...more“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.”
To start, it should be clear that Freakonomics is a pop science book. While the extensive research supporting the connections and conclusions offered by the authors exists, you won't find it within this book's pages. What is offered are quirky and attention-grabbing questions, followed by a proposed answer and the soft boiled explanation for why. To see the actual language of economics, you need to explore outside of Freakonomics and into scholarly articles. In this way, many have criticized that it's not "scientific" enough, or even at all.
I don't agree with that criticism; it's asking too much of what this book really was. Freakonomics offers a great introduction to the kind of thinking that not only economists, but also many other social scientists, use daily within their work. Emphasis: introduction. It is not meant to be a definitive guide to economics, it is meant for average people to be able to pick it up and read some interesting connections found by research while skimming the surface of what social science can give us. It showcases well how researchers can, and indeed in some cases need to think out of the box in terms of their explanations for any given phenomenon. Showcasing that method of thought is more valuable than the anecdotes given within the chapters of this book.
Emphasizing the methods here, which are fundamentally applied critical thinking, can extend to all people, not just social scientists. We are all actors in the social world, who all too often jump to conclusions about the meaning and potential impact of political, social, and economic decisions on our lives. Such conclusions can lead to unnecessary division and a lack of compromise, especially when morality plays into the mix. What Freakonomics can teach readers is to set aside certain knee-jerk feelings for a given issue, to slow down and explore critically the phenomenon at hand.
Take Freakonomics: for what it is, a funny, intriguing introduction to critical thinking within economics. Perhaps it may entice you to research the anecdotes offered more or others more thoroughly, or perhaps you'll store it away as brain food for discussion with friends. Either way, I feel it is an important contribution as an introduction to the work of social science and critical thinking in general.(less)