I consider myself moderately well-versed in the topics of food, nutrition, agribusiness, and the moral questions surrounding these topics, so I expect...moreI consider myself moderately well-versed in the topics of food, nutrition, agribusiness, and the moral questions surrounding these topics, so I expected to find this book interesting and useful but not very surprising or covering much new ground.
I was SO wrong. I was continually amazed by the things I learned throughout this book, found myself thinking about it all the time, reading passages aloud to the boyfriend, wondering what Michael Pollan would choose as I stood in the grocery aisles. I was familiar with a lot of what he covered, but he went more in depth than anything I've read up to this point, and as a result I'm thinking about food, farming, hunting, and the very act of eating in a different way. Highly, highly recommended.(less)
It's like this book was written just for me, to combine most of my favorite non-fiction topics -- science, history, political and social issues, true...moreIt's like this book was written just for me, to combine most of my favorite non-fiction topics -- science, history, political and social issues, true crime -- into one fascinating and entertaining read. The book is about the development of forensic medicine and science during the 1920s in New York City, but there are so many facets to the process: the chemistry behind newly-discovered elements and compounds, the science of how those chemicals act in the human body, the lack of government regulations on how those substances were produced or used, the backdrop of the Prohibition era which led to so much experimentation with various chemicals, the clever (or not-so-clever) murders committed with many of these new compounds, the hard-working men who pioneered the scientific techniques for identifying and working with new chemicals... I could go on. I have gone on about this book, at great length, to multiple people who were probably just politely humoring me. This book really brought out my inner science and history geek tendencies.
I found every page of this book just fascinating, and read much of the book aloud to my husband because I was so excited to share some cool new facts or stories I'd just learned, or express my dismay and amazement at what life could be like in such a young industrialized society. A note on the science: I had a hard time with chemistry in school, never found it very easy or interesting, and until reading this book would have called it my least favorite area of science. But the chemistry presented in this book is written in such an accessible way that I may be forced to change my opinion on the subject. Really excellent book.(less)
This is not an easy book to read. But Gourevitch takes a tragedy about which most of the world knows very little -- the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis in...moreThis is not an easy book to read. But Gourevitch takes a tragedy about which most of the world knows very little -- the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis in 1994 -- and he thoroughly explores it, and along the way he humanizes it. This is a story about genocide, about war and politics, yes, but moreover it's a story about the people who lived through the horror of genocide, and those who died. Gourevitch talks to anyone who will tell him their story, it seems: survivors of the genocide, military officials, humanitarian aid workers, politicians, and even accused and confessed murderers, and he tries to make sense of how such a large-scale monstrosity could occur, and how it could be so easily ignored by the rest of the world. He condemns the UN and Western nations rather harshly, but long before you reach the end of the book you are convinced that they deserve every ounce of condemnation he gives them, and more, for their failure to intercede in one of the most devastating human tragedies of the 20th century.
This is not a book that can (or should) be read quickly. It's frightening, and educational, and mind-boggling, and gripping, and infuriating, and most of all it's terribly sad. It's also a fascinating insight into a darker part of humanity -- not only those who committed the genocide, but those who, through inaction, allowed it to happen. It is important, it is well worth reading, and it is highly recommended.(less)
Pretty interesting read, although it dragged a bit at times. The story was much bigger than I was expecting: it encompassed much of McKinley's preside...morePretty interesting read, although it dragged a bit at times. The story was much bigger than I was expecting: it encompassed much of McKinley's presidency, including economic policies, the expansion of American influence around the globe, and American interventions in Cuba and the Philippines. The "assassin" parts of the book were a little thinner, focusing mostly on the anarchist movement in the US that partially inspired McKinley's assassin, and not as much as I was expecting about the assassin himself.
Most interesting to me were the connections I could make between the end of the 19th century and the present day. The late 19th century was a time of great economic prosperity -- for some. Industrialists and big corporations did very well, while the majority of their workers were struggling. Consequently it was a time of widespread protest, strikes, and unrest among laborers, providing a fertile breeding ground for anarchist thought to spread. There were also some interesting parallels to be made between the US's "liberation" of Cuba and the Philippines from Spain, and our more recent interventions in other countries under the pretenses of rescuing citizens from unjust rulers. And between anarchists on America's home turf and rebels fighting for control of their own countries, Americans were faced with some ethical questions about the balance between civil liberties and protection from enemies (although civil liberties seem to have lost that battle much more quickly then).
I learned quite a bit about the political landscape of a time period I wasn't very familiar with before. Even if it was slow going at times I'm glad I stuck with it.(less)
This book really had a lot of promise -- an intriguing mystery, a mix of historical and contemporary settings, interesting characters, action spanning...moreThis book really had a lot of promise -- an intriguing mystery, a mix of historical and contemporary settings, interesting characters, action spanning the globe... but ultimately these elements failed to come together in a really satisfying way. Interesting story, but not as well-crafted as Mankell's Wallander mysteries.(less)
Ellroy has a very unusual style. Every sentence is written in blunt, unadorned language. I saw another review that called it staccato, which I think i...moreEllroy has a very unusual style. Every sentence is written in blunt, unadorned language. I saw another review that called it staccato, which I think is apt. It's like reading a list of bald statements describing a series of events, rather than being an actual story that immerses you in its flow. There's very little character development, there's no clear protagonist, the POV changes every chapter, and the book is full of confusing '60s slang. It took at least a hundred pages for me to get used to these things and to feel as if I understood the structure of the book as well as the loose plot.
The plot was interesting, once it got going and once I figured out what it was supposed to be, but it was too meandering -- took too long to get there, went down too many side roads and took too long to wrap up. By the end I was more impatient to just finish already than to actually find out the resolution.
It was a disappointing read. Once I finished it I was able to see that there is a good story in this book, but it kind of gets lost in the vastness of the plot and the strange style. There was so much work in just following the action and deciphering the language that I ended up not really caring. It wasn't fun to read. I probably wouldn't have made it past the first few pages if I wasn't reading it for book club. Now that I'm finished I'm not convinced it was worth the time and effort it took to read.(less)