I can't write a review of this book yet. This is unlike me. I'm opinionated and quick to judge. But this book is just enough on the margins of oddness...moreI can't write a review of this book yet. This is unlike me. I'm opinionated and quick to judge. But this book is just enough on the margins of oddness, progresses so differently than expected, that I need a few months to sleep on it. Or maybe a few years.(less)
First off, I am biased. I love Tom Wolfe, in large part because he never bought into the "I'm too cool and sophisticated to put plot in my writings" b...moreFirst off, I am biased. I love Tom Wolfe, in large part because he never bought into the "I'm too cool and sophisticated to put plot in my writings" b.s. that so many current authors do. He has characters, they are consistent and believable, and... stuff happens. There is a plot. So, yay Wolfe.
If you've liked other Wolfe novels, you'll like this one. Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and I Am Charlotte Simmons were under my belt previously. As always with Tom Wolfe, there's a focus for the book, and he will teach you things about that topic that you never would have imagined previously.
This book's focus is immigration and the mix of people deriving from it, as seen through the setting of Miami. Enjoyable read.(less)
A "less is more" approach to education. The focus of the book (ha) is to remind the educator that what we really want to teach our students is how: ho...moreA "less is more" approach to education. The focus of the book (ha) is to remind the educator that what we really want to teach our students is how: how to read, how to learn, how to think critically and logically.
The "more is more" approach focuses on teaching what: what happened when in history, what happened in a book, etc. The more we focus on "whats," the more and more demands we place on students.
When you focus on the "hows," you realize that you can drastically narrow your curricula --focus them-- to reach your end goal of educating the student.
This book would appeal to anyone who thinks that students should know how to analyze history instead of memorize dates; to read a book or newspaper critically instead of describing a plot or character; to analyze research results or a stock market graph instead of mixing 3 chemicals in a petri dish.
Intriguing book. Having moved around a bit, I definitely agree with a loy of Woodard's thoughts. Starbucks and the Gap may be ubiquitous, but regional...moreIntriguing book. Having moved around a bit, I definitely agree with a loy of Woodard's thoughts. Starbucks and the Gap may be ubiquitous, but regional differences in culture are quite strong.
In fact, it's a bit eerie to read about some of the cultures of your family and see them so clearly reflected in your memory of events.(less)
I really liked this book. The non-linear nature -- the author refers to it as "Russian doll" -- made me want to rate it higher, while simultaneously h...moreI really liked this book. The non-linear nature -- the author refers to it as "Russian doll" -- made me want to rate it higher, while simultaneously holding me back from a 5-star on the fear that it was maybe gimmicky.
Really, I don't think it was a gimmick. I'll probably come back in 6 months, after I've digested the book a bit, a re-rate / re-review it. It's too complex a read to be immediately reflected upon.(less)
Great book. Some themes similar to Foucault's Pendulum, which I probably consider to be Eco's best work. It was a bit weird to see him return to earli...moreGreat book. Some themes similar to Foucault's Pendulum, which I probably consider to be Eco's best work. It was a bit weird to see him return to earlier thoughts in a second book.
DO NOT READ the main Amazon.com review, which has a book-ruining spoiler. Criminals.(less)
This is one of the best works of non-fiction I've read. I'm not sure if I can speak highly enough of this. Allow me to lay out, briefly, what FF is at...moreThis is one of the best works of non-fiction I've read. I'm not sure if I can speak highly enough of this. Allow me to lay out, briefly, what FF is attempting with this work and its sequel; the best way to understand it, however, is to read his preface. I'm borrowing many of my words from that preface (as I remember it) for my review.
Fukuyama is attempting the sort of ambitious, systematizing work that hasn't really been done since the 1800s, when men like Karl Marx tried their hand at it. Works like these died off as men who did so were attacked, as historians learned enough about history to realize how much they didn't know, and as ambitions in general became much more humble. Historians, anthropologists and others gave up trying to understand history and pretty much became scribes. Fukuyama is nothing if not ambitious in this attempt, pulling together philosophy, history, anthropology, neurobiology and the anthropology of chimps, among other bodies of knowledge.
There have also been few works or authors who have written about the non-Western world without either romanticizing it or resorting to a hand-wringing description of the ways in which it has been victimized by the West. FF takes a relatively clear-eyed look at political order as it arose in China and India, as well as the eastern parts of Europe typically ignored in the "Greece-Rome-England-USA" narrative of civilization.
Fukuyama first dismantles a lot of early thoughts and philosophy regarding political order, ideas long since disputed by modern knowledge. An example is a take-down of Hobbes' "state of nature." FF then goes on to focus on 4 large areas of political development: eastern Europe, western Europe, China and India; he also fleshes out significant differences within these regions, differences typically glossed over by traditional narratives. For example, he contrasts England and France as medieval forms of order developed into more modern forms. This is interesting stuff, and we watch the different approaches taken by the French and British aristocracy pay off when revolution comes to each system.
This book is the first of two, and covers pre-history through to the French Revolution. The follow-up will pick up there and move through to the modern day. Fukuyama attempts to handle a few issues delicately in this first piece, as they may be controversial even today; I can't wait to see how he approaches a number of subjects in the second book. (less)
Colleen McCullough writes some of the best historical fiction I've read. She's highly educated, although her degree in Letters was awarded mostly as a...moreColleen McCullough writes some of the best historical fiction I've read. She's highly educated, although her degree in Letters was awarded mostly as an honorarium for her Masters of Rome series. However, each work is highly researched, and has many pages of endnotes. There have been numerous incidents wherein I've thought she added in a situation merely to raise the level of drama, or took artistic license, and I've gone on to discover that she was quoting directly from the historical record.
So, in summation: If you want to learn about the last days of Rome really well, from Gaius Marius to Sulla to Caesar and Antony, and to learn it in a gripping narrative format, I suggest you read her books. Or vice versa: If you want a fantastic read, and don't mind learning awesome history in the process, turn to McCollough. I pick up her books and typically finish them within days, in spite of their size. I just can't put them down. (less)
I'm not sure that I feel qualified to give a proper review of Freedom yet. I'll say this, though: Anyone not reading Freedom, or Franzen, out of some...moreI'm not sure that I feel qualified to give a proper review of Freedom yet. I'll say this, though: Anyone not reading Freedom, or Franzen, out of some misguided notion of rebelliousness ("Everyone thinks he's such a big deal, I don't think I'm going to read him") is an idiot.
Freedom also shows that Franzen continues to improve on the aspects that make him such an amazing writer: family drama, the ability of each character to have a valid point of view that makes them the hero against some of the other narrating characters who oppress them. You can see a straight line from Strong Motion to The Corrections to Freedom, all enjoyable but each better than the last. Maybe skip Strong Motion, although it's not bad, but then def. read The Corrections before Freedom; because he keeps improving, it's difficult to read his works in reverse order and enjoy them fully. I wouldn't miss out on The Corrections, however -- a great work, and I feel kinda bad, knowing that Freedom is so good that TC will be overshadowed by it.
Franzen also has a great ability that makes him stand out from other authors who are currently well-received critically, which is to remember that in a story, things happen. He never gets so sucked in to Character that he forgets about Plot. The notion currently in vogue, that plot is for novels written 100 years ago or for cheap mass-sellers and not for the literati, is a pet peeve of mine. It's a cop-out, of lazy or timid writing, and I'll have none of it. Franzen is neither lazy nor timid, but brilliant, and this is his best so far.(less)