A fascinating read. Though I found this book poorly written and was irritated by the author's attempt to interpret his experiences eschatologically (aA fascinating read. Though I found this book poorly written and was irritated by the author's attempt to interpret his experiences eschatologically (applying Rev 13 to the Watchtower) and found some of his fears of JW world domination a bit outlandish, this stands as an early first-hand expose showing the depths of enslavement, cut-throat leadership, surveillance, and organizational treachery which occurs in the ranks of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It really gives a window into the inner conflict and cognitive dissonance which occurs....more
A surprisingly good read. It's well-written and compelling. I really enjoyed the parts about growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and also the parts abouA surprisingly good read. It's well-written and compelling. I really enjoyed the parts about growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and also the parts about the time in Palo Alto and Stanford. I would have never guessed she was a Led Zeppelin fan or the sort of person who likes sumo wrestling! Having read about the civil rights movement and racism in the south a fair amount lately, it was interesting to read about her and her parents perceptions of the situation in Birmingham. I'm not enamored with Condi's political career or her foreign policy views, but she's managed to draw me in. This is a fascinating and worthwhile read!...more
Anecdotes and stories about the author's upbringing in catholic schools in the Windsor and Bracebridge areas. There's a fair amount of interesting hisAnecdotes and stories about the author's upbringing in catholic schools in the Windsor and Bracebridge areas. There's a fair amount of interesting historical details about the Windsor area....more
This is a memoir of a the legendary hacker/phone phreaker Kevin Mitnick, the man who was investigating the FBI agents who were investigating him. At sThis is a memoir of a the legendary hacker/phone phreaker Kevin Mitnick, the man who was investigating the FBI agents who were investigating him. At some moments, it reads more like a thriller than a memoir. Some elements of the story reminded me of The Blue Nowhere by Jeffery Deaver.
If you've read some of the more sensationalistic accounts of Mitnick's story, this is probably a pretty good counterbalance. It's fascinating to read about Mitnick's hatred of snitching out his friends and his love of his mother and grandmother. Mitnick's exploits are downright amazing, but having it told from Mitnick's perspective certainly grounds it a bit more. He does a good job of, while admitting his wrongdoing, also demonstrating some of the ways he was constitutionally mistreated.
I'm just amazed at the depth of Mitnick's memory. He says he has an unusual memory for phone numbers, but he also seems to remember a lot of little details that make this book a delightful read for anyone who is interested in phone and compute systems.
The ending is also quite satisfying, with Mitnick turning to legal hacking--becoming a acclaimed speaker and security consultant....more
This anthology contains what very well might be the best post-WWI, pre-WWII travel writing extant. Waugh skilfully documents his travels through YemenThis anthology contains what very well might be the best post-WWI, pre-WWII travel writing extant. Waugh skilfully documents his travels through Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, Kenya, Congo, Guyana, and Brazil.
As I read this, I begin to feel a bit of nostalgia for the "good old days" of travel. That nostalgia was quickly extinguished, though, by Waugh's witty narrative, in which one clearly sees how miserable world travel was back then. As Paul Johnson once wrote in The American Spectator about this volume, we're so lucky we can see the world "so quickly and in comparative comfort".
Some of these experiences were quite formative for Waugh, and I can certainly see how some of these travels inspired his later novels.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading these accounts, though I must say it was tough sledding at times. It took me almost 3 months to finish this one. There are many delightful touches here and there, but you certainly need to have a bit of tenacity to stick with it right to the end. A person who doesn't have more than a passing interest in colonial Great Britain and Africa/South America may find themselves unable to slosh through some of this terrain.
As I close the covers of this book, I'm left marveling. At Waugh's genius as a travel writer. And at how the world has changed, especially the world of travel and journalism!...more
This is a frank and candid memoir by the film critic Roger Ebert, written well after cancer had ravaged his body. I came into this book knowing a bitThis is a frank and candid memoir by the film critic Roger Ebert, written well after cancer had ravaged his body. I came into this book knowing a bit about his career, but little about him as a person.
Ebert comes across as a quite ordinary man, someone who you'd love to sit down and chat with. Even though he and I have widely divergent views on God and the meaning of life, I've come to respect his simple and straightforward demeanor paired with a great deal of courage and determination.
My favourite quote from this book was: "The main thing wrong with a movie that is 10 years old is that it isn't 30 years old".
I very much enjoyed the parts about his medical condition, Gene Siskel, and Martin Scorsese.
That said, I found the quality of this memoir a bit uneven at times. The name dropping is reasonable, given this is a memoir about a film critic. However, some of the book has the feel of a patchwork of blog posts, assembled somewhat haphazardly. Perhaps that was the effect he was going for, it has the feel of a "volume of memoirs", rather than a single memoir. My theory is that he didn't get the same level of editing scrutiny that someone of lower stature would have received, and that may explain the disjointed nature of a few sections....more
What a fantastic book! This book is well written, drop-dead hilarious and had me glued to each page. Think A.J. Jacobs on a crazily ambitious gardeninWhat a fantastic book! This book is well written, drop-dead hilarious and had me glued to each page. Think A.J. Jacobs on a crazily ambitious gardening experiment.
William Alexander has a likeable persona, but his garden plans and activities make you wonder if he's just simply insane. It's particularly fantastic reading if you've done a little gardening themselves! I personally would have read several hundred more pages of this stuff. It's 270 pages, but I wish there were more!...more
I don't know how to review this book. I did enjoy many aspects of it and it's far better than the detractors say. And yet, there some clear downsidesI don't know how to review this book. I did enjoy many aspects of it and it's far better than the detractors say. And yet, there some clear downsides too, and I found my opinion changing back and forth throughout the book.
On the plus side, the book is really well written. And the subject is undeniably fascinating, portraying Rushdie's life under the fatwa instituted by Iran. "Joseph Anton" is Rushdie's alias when he goes into hiding. For that reason alone it's an important book in the history of free speech. And it is hard to image how one couldn't be at least mildly curious about what it would be like to be Salman Rushdie during the late 80's and early 90's.
On the other hand, there are some strongly annoying aspects. I have a great deal of respect for Rushdie's talents and agree what he says about freedom of expression. And yet, even though I enjoyed the book overall, I found myself having less and less sympathy for him as a person.
Rushdie often comes across as cranky, ungrateful at times, unfaithful, and engendering a strong sense of entitlement. Even though he is receiving constant protection, he seem ungrateful at times and cranky even about minor details.
The entire book is written in the third person, which aids the narrative early on. However, eventually, through a lot of repetition, it sound more like an affectation. I also found that, even though the book is well-written, at times Rushdie is a little too wordy about incidental details which don't really move the story forward, and that bogs it down.
Please, though, don't misunderstand this as being dismissive of the book or Rushdie's work in general. There is a fair amount of good in this book, but it deserves some measure of criticism. I hope my criticism doesn't eclipse the fact that, in some senses, this really was a fascinating read. To give an honest review, I must draw attention to some of the negatives. And so, while Rushdie is a monumental figure in the history of literary freedom, I'm not quite ready to call this a "great" memoir....more
An enjoyable memoir of a Windsor-area literary luminary. It's well written and actually quite funny at a few points. That said, you probably won't getAn enjoyable memoir of a Windsor-area literary luminary. It's well written and actually quite funny at a few points. That said, you probably won't get much out of this unless you have some connection or knowledge of Windsor and its main players....more
I enjoyed this portrayal of the struggles of an young Amish man as he repeatedly tries to leave the group he grew up in.
Ira does a fantastic job convI enjoyed this portrayal of the struggles of an young Amish man as he repeatedly tries to leave the group he grew up in.
Ira does a fantastic job conveying his complex personal history. He writes with remarkable passion and depth of emotion. His memoir is accessible to anyone who has a passing knowledge of the life of the Amish. He's a pretty good story teller--he tightly packs emotions into words that endear the reader. He's pretty good at picking out details, stories, characters, and anecdotes that help to illustrate and adorn what he is saying.
Though I've never been Mennonite or Amish, I did grow up and spend a portion of my Christian life within another less radical Anabaptist group. And while I would certainly not pretend to have had a similar experiences, I can relate to some aspects of this memoir.
Ira has long, strange tale to tell, one which will help those who are parsing similar experiences or just want to understand the Amish and their discontents. I will never again be able to see the buggies that traverse the dusty county roads of New York state in the same light. ...more
An interesting account of the Spanish civil war. The writers voice here makes Orwell's influence on Christopher Hitchens very obvious. Hitchens' commeAn interesting account of the Spanish civil war. The writers voice here makes Orwell's influence on Christopher Hitchens very obvious. Hitchens' commentary on various things sounds a lot less original after going through this book. Orwell is a great journalist, he really drew me into something I knew next to nothing about.
This book has it all: humor, detailed accounts, summaries, introspection, and practical application. Also remarkable is Orwell's ending where he humbly and wisely cautions the reader not to jump to conclusions too quickly based on what he said, encouraging them to consider the impact of his biases, oversights, and ignorance. Even though he was a socialist and I'm not, if I had to get a dead author to cover a major world event on the ground level, Orwell would be high on the list. ...more
It is a good gift of God that we, who for one reason or another are hearing what the new atheists are saying, are not subjected to a procession of humIt is a good gift of God that we, who for one reason or another are hearing what the new atheists are saying, are not subjected to a procession of humorless Richard Dawkins clones. Christopher is, most likely, the only new atheist whose memoirs wouldn't make a most suitable insomnia medicine. I've really come to enjoy Christopher's wit and incisive style of writing, and this book is no exception.
If you are interested in literature, socialism, communism, the new left, foreign policy, 60's counter culture, Cuba, etc., you will find a lot of really interesting things here. I certainly did! Literature is very prominent throughout, though political involvement probably has a more explicit role in the unfolding of this narrative. Though Hitchens has a long history with socialist activism and anti-war sentiment, it is clear that (even though he claims to be still following the same principles) he has changed a lot since then and now is a supporter of the Iraq war, for instance. I find the tension between his past and present positions, and the way he combines a fairly positive view of his past involvements and a negative view of people who are basically continuing the same principles he used to hold, to be fairly puzzling. I guess its part of his charm and he probably intends for some of this sort of irony.
I can't say I can agree or sympathize with him on certain things, but then again, he's a contrarian, everybody is going to find something to disagree with here. I must at this point also say that this book is not for everyone. There are a few quite crude parts and many of the references to events and people of the last 50 or 100 years would simply go over the head of most people. That said, for the right reader, this books has a great deal of appeal. Hitchens has produced a fascinating memoir, worth reading if you really want to know about him. I certainly enjoyed it!
One might expect me, one who worships the God that Hitchens derides, to dismiss or bash his memoirs. Far from it. This intriguing man, whether he confesses it or not, has proven he is living in God's world and his brilliance exudes something of a man who has been endowed with marvelous gifts. I'm thankful to God that Hitchens doesn't write as though he is a bag of bouncing atoms. And I'm also thankful that Hitchens, in his curious statements towards the end indicates he's in a battle with relativism (though I'm still waiting to see what absolutes he has to battle relativism with)....more