What is there to be said about Saunders that has not been already said? He is one of those (living!) authors who churn out phrase after phrase, page aWhat is there to be said about Saunders that has not been already said? He is one of those (living!) authors who churn out phrase after phrase, page after page, of sentences that result in something shimmering. One can't help but envy his work ethic, wit, and brain power while also reading about pieces of the lives of his often downtrodden (through no fault of their own) characters. Couple this with what strikes the reader as a profound humility and dogged enthusiasm, even optimism, in the face of otherworldly obstacles and odds? Sign me up for the Saunders bandwagon, please, and I'll ride it for as long as I can while shamefully wishing I could write like this guy.
What other collection leads off with something as brilliant, acerbic, and frankly, laugh out loud funny as the title story, only to end with "Bounty", a simultaneously heart-wrenching but hopeful glimpse into the future/past/current day? The truly frightening aspect of Saunders's writing, however, is how quickly you find yourself being disarmed by the stories. They have the veneer of absurdity, as evidenced by lines such as "I lie all night in the back of the van with three weeping rescued whores in nun costumes", coupled with dark undertones - a segregated society, hegemonic power structures, racism, loss of opportunity, freedom fighting, hopefulness, commentary on the family unit (and that's only in "Bounty"?!) - that will catch you off guard before you even realize what's occurring. Truly incredible. A keeper through and through.
If you're on the fence about reading all 179-something of these pages, just start with "Civilwarland in Bad Decline" and "Isabelle". They're the first two pieces and total 33 pages. If you're not moved by one or don't laugh during the other, put the book down. But I think (and hope) the stories will have some type of profound effect on you (they did on me). ...more
This book is one of the reasons that I hear John C. Bogle's voice in my head every time someone offers me a "great stock tip". Written by one of the fThis book is one of the reasons that I hear John C. Bogle's voice in my head every time someone offers me a "great stock tip". Written by one of the few individuals who understands the inner workings and culture of the financial world and its interaction with the U.S. political infrastructure, this book clearly details the essential elements of investing as opposed to engaging in the rampant speculation that is often encouraged by individuals with varying motivations. There's also a lot of historical detail about the development of index funds, the Wellington group, Vanguard, etc., which many readers will likely find tedious if not for the role these various entities play in demonstrating the difference between investing and speculation. ...more
Pros: extensively researched, with a nice section of notes at the end of the text so if there's a specific fact you're questioning (for me, it was SklPros: extensively researched, with a nice section of notes at the end of the text so if there's a specific fact you're questioning (for me, it was Skloot's description of the controversy regarding Wash U's tissue samples - she glossed over a lot of details in that case [putting it mildly]), the interjections where Skloot interacted with the Lacks family, the entire scene with Christoph Lengauer was incredible
Cons: Skloot's discussion of the ethics of tissue sampling at the end of the text is disjointed
Interesting to see what Oprah, Inc.'s depiction of this as a movie will look like. ...more
Fun short story/prequel describing a formative moment from Reacher's childhood. My introduction to the series but definitely one that caught my intereFun short story/prequel describing a formative moment from Reacher's childhood. My introduction to the series but definitely one that caught my interest in the larger series. Will be reading more. ...more
An incredible book. Murakami's mixture of self-deprecating humor, self-awareness, humility, and knowledge are second to none. I was frequently highligAn incredible book. Murakami's mixture of self-deprecating humor, self-awareness, humility, and knowledge are second to none. I was frequently highlighting entire pages of musings at a time.
This is going to be a physical part of my bookshelf shortly (as opposed to a loaned Kindle book from the Chicago Public Library). ...more
A book that started well but I found myself reading it "just to finish it" by the end. A stunning example of the terrible Italian beauracracy. A goodA book that started well but I found myself reading it "just to finish it" by the end. A stunning example of the terrible Italian beauracracy. A good primer on the Amanda Knox controversy, as well. ...more
I don't know...just don't understand the hype around this book.
It reads like a novella more than a novel, painting in broad strokes. Like a sketch orI don't know...just don't understand the hype around this book.
It reads like a novella more than a novel, painting in broad strokes. Like a sketch or rough outline of a novel that expanded to fill a couple hundred pages but never filled in the details. Predictable plot. The language never shimmered.
A little background: I've done a number of 5ks and half marathons over the course of the past few years, and I've been kicking around the idea of runnA little background: I've done a number of 5ks and half marathons over the course of the past few years, and I've been kicking around the idea of running a marathon for the past year or so. The problem is that I've noticed a number of things I don't really appreciate with the training plans I've used for my half marathons - a lot of the marathon training plans that are available, however, are essentially scaled-up versions of the plans I've already utilized (with a grade of "B+" in terms of my satisfaction with them).
Enter the Hansons - any runner in the U.S. who pays attention to the national running scene is well aware of the Hansons-Brooks training program and the success it has enjoyed with making international-level running stars out of above-average post-collegiate runners. Based out of Michigan, the program has been around since the late 90s and has developed a cult following (myself include). When I saw this book on the market I figured "hey, let's give it a shot - you're kicking around the idea of running a marathon (this books addresses that, clearly), and maybe you'll be exposed to a training regimen that is more appealing than the methods you've used for your distance races".
Mission accomplished. This book provided me with a new approach to distance running, piqued my interest in picking a target marathon (probably in 2014), and even gave me some ideas of training perspectives that apply to shorter distances (half-marathons and shorter). So bravo - a really excellent, clearly written book that I think runners of all levels can appreciate. ...more
First, for the good: Mukherjee does a great job of approaching a difficult topic - the trajectory of what we understand about cancers and how that infFirst, for the good: Mukherjee does a great job of approaching a difficult topic - the trajectory of what we understand about cancers and how that influences our approaches to treating and approaching these diseases as a medical community and a larger society. He ultimately constructs a cohesive narrative that is approachable for both the general public and those more well versed in science and medicine. Secondly, from a purely literary standpoint, he also makes good use of personal anecdotes, historical references, interviews, etc, to which the book's extensive bibliography attests. By the end of the book I found myself rapidly flipping from page to page, eagerly expecting what perspective Mukherjee offered in regards to novel therapies, the experience of a patient, or a political battle within the scientific community.
But for the bad: as a writer, Mukherjee has a number of literary tics that were incredibly frustrating. First, we all have our personal and professional allegiances, and Mukherjee - a product of Boston and New York institutions - makes his own alliances very well known. Whenever possible, he locates a relationship, at times tortured - between an alma mater and an advance being described in the book, and we are always made well aware of the city, institution, and hospital that a figure may share with the author. I would challenge readers of the book to locate a character from NYC or Boston who is not shortly identified with his or her academic affiliation - they either work for Memorial Sloan Kettering, or Columbia, or Dana-Farber, or Massachusetts General. They are never "the cytologist in Boston", or "the hematologist from New York". Rather, they are "John Doe, a Columbia-trained hematologist now working at Memorial-Sloan Kettering".
But academic allegiances become much more sporadic as we move westward. Admittedly, the majority of the time affiliations are made clear - someone did a portion of their training at Midwestern College X, moved to Hospital Y, did seminal work at Z. But at other times academic affiliations are awkwardly omitted, almost as if the author intentionally avoided giving credit to the institutions supporting the protagonists. For example, we learn that Huggins "attended Harvard Medical School in the early 1920s (where he intersected briefly with Farber) and trained as a general surgeon in Michigan" (where? Kalamazoo? Michigan State? The University of Michigan (which he did)?), and that Donald Berry is "a statistician in Houston, Texas" (A basement? The University of Houston? Surely not the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center?), and that Moshe Talpaz is "a hematologist from Houston" (once again, where?), or that Emil Grubbe was "a twenty-one-year-old Chicago medical student" (Northwestern? Loyola? University of Chicago? No, he went to the Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago), and that Janet Rowley, is at best "a hematologist in Chicago" or, in a particularly odd description, "the Chicago cytologist" (apparently cytologists now represent entire cities, instead of being a fixture at the University of Chicago Medical Center for decades). In each of these cases, I told myself - if this character had trained in the East Coast megalopolis, they would be referred to "the University of Michigan-trained Charles Huggins", or "a hematologist at M.D. Anderson, Moshe Talpaz", or "Janet Rowley, a fixture of the University of Chicago Medical Center".
Also, Mukherjee's own personal biases often creep into his descriptions of historical movements - we can hear the sarcasm in his literary voice as he dismisses the tremendous efforts of "the Laskerites" and ACT UP, or when he paints Larry Kramer as a "hyperarticulate" character who showers blame for the AIDS epidemic in articles disseminated throughout the American press. These biases don't really fit well within the text, largely because they are rarely even backed up with evidence - we get the sense that the author has read Kramer's writings and found them wanting, but instead of explaining this we see a two sentence description of the man's historic efforts. And while he largely performs well when weaving his own personal anecdotes into the story, as he does when recalling his patients, his recollections fail him awkwardly at other points in the book. For example, one of the last accounts in the text, that of Germaine Berne, largely depicts the struggles of a tortured woman, but at other moments Mukherjee chooses to include unflattering descriptions of his patient offering him a trip to Europe in return for his curing her disease. The tension is effective on a literary level, but at the same time one feels like this woman has been exploited, in the moment of her greatest struggle, in order to complete a literary turn.
Finally, the book was written in linear fashion, with Chapter 1 being completed first and the ending being handed in last, as Mukherjee has noted in interviews. But as you read it you'll probably find the chronology of the accounts - where the author sometimes jumps around years or even decades, then back again, all during the course of the same page, somewhat jarring.
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because the guy went into oncology and I may have to interview with him for a job at some point and because he beat all of the rest of us to writing this book. ...more
I. love. this. book. Presentations are becoming an increasingly important part of what I do, and I figured it was time to formally read something thatI. love. this. book. Presentations are becoming an increasingly important part of what I do, and I figured it was time to formally read something that offered helpful tips on how to improve one's presentations and presentation style. This book is definitely targeted toward the business community, but I was able to find enough helpful nuggets in it that could be applied to scientific presentations that warranted a five star review. Plus, there's a lot of cool Jobs info in there, which was an added bonus....more