This is the first book I read for college, as it was the required reading for a book discussion as part of the program I'm in, and it was very interes...moreThis is the first book I read for college, as it was the required reading for a book discussion as part of the program I'm in, and it was very interesting to look back at the way I viewed it then and how I look at it now as a senior with three years of journalism education and experience. In part, it's somewhat depressing how jaded and cynical journalism has made me—there's so much in this book that absolutely shocked me when I was an incoming freshman that now seems to me just another sadly commonplace occurrence—but at the same time the knowledge and experience I've gained over the past few years have made me feel empowered to work to change things, or to expose the issues with neo-conservatism and disaster capitalism. As a book, The Shock Doctrine is not for the faint of heart, and it is so dense with facts and figures as well as anecdotes and analogies and historical context that it is a much more informative and compelling read to those with some modicum of experience with international affairs and particularly international media reporting, but it is an important and interesting work that I can appreciate even more now than I could when I first read it. (less)
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a departure from the author’s other well known work. Unlike Everything is Illuminated, Foer’s acclaimed fi...moreEating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, is a departure from the author’s other well known work. Unlike Everything is Illuminated, Foer’s acclaimed first novel about a boy traveling to the Ukraine in search of a woman who saved his grandfather’s life during World War II, or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, about a boy dealing with his father’s death in the aftermath of 9/11, Eating Animals is a work of non-fiction.
After the birth of his first child, Foer decides to reevaluate various aspects of his life, including his eating habits. He begins to explore the industry built around animals as food, an industry that is one of the largest parts of both the American and the global economy.
However, despite this main difference, Eating Animals is not as different from Foer’s novels as it may sound. As in his fiction, Foer explores his own life and personal philosophy, particularly his Jewish faith.
As in his fiction, the author includes snippets of his own childhood, in this case, book ending his research with anecdotes about his grandmother’s cooking. Foer continues to use expressive prose, offering pithy truths such as his grandmother’s words of wisdom that “if nothing matters, there’s nothing to save.”
In his book, Foer considers the views of everyone from slaughterhouse owners to PETA activists, trying to come to a conclusion regarding the ethics of eating animals. Eating Animals also gives frequent reference, sometimes in agreement and sometimes in rebuttal, to one of the most well known books on the subject of animal agriculture, Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma.
These sources do well to establish Foer’s credibility on the subject. Where he falters, however, are in his other sources. Foer begins his argument by discussing Franz Kafka’s decision to become a vegetarian, a story he brings up repeatedly throughout the book. While Foer’s own anecdotes are relevant and interesting, his retelling of Kafka’s is not. It also gives the book a somewhat pompous and self-righteous tone.
This is one of the major failings of the book, and is further added to by Foer’s conclusion that not eating animals cannot be a halfway effort. While it is true that eating the occasional vegetarian meal will not be enough to shut down the meat processing industry, Foer admits early in the book that, for a long time, he was very lax in his vegetarianism. This makes it seem somewhat hypocritical for him to say that people should become strict vegetarians in order to make an impact on the industry of animal agriculture.
Luckily, Foer’s self-important manner is not present in the majority of the book, only in certain instances. On the other hand, Eating Animals’s biggest asset is Foer’s use of imagery, present throughout the book. While his descriptions of what happens to poultry, cows, and pigs in factory farms and slaughterhouses may turn readers’ stomachs with their graphicness, they provide an honest look into the gritty, repulsive reality of how a living animal becomes lunchmeat.
In his research, Foer discovers that animals, especially those in factory farms, suffer countless injustices and sickening, inhumane treatments. From chickens with their beaks ripped off to pigs beaten with crowbars, readers will be hard-pressed to remove these images of animal suffering from their minds and will undoubtedly think twice about the meat in their diets.
While not the definitive book on the subject (that title most likely goes to the aforementioned Omnivore’s Dilemma), Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals still presents a compelling argument about the ethics of slaughterhouses themselves, and about the personal choices people make when it comes to eating animals.
This review first appeared in Buzzsaw Magazine. (less)
I've read a lot of sort of abstract analysis of how social media is impacting revolution or protest in various countries including Egypt, Libya, and t...moreI've read a lot of sort of abstract analysis of how social media is impacting revolution or protest in various countries including Egypt, Libya, and the United States, and had a lot of discussion both socially and academically about the effect is can have and is having on such demonstrations, but for the most part it is in a general sense. I've certainly seen specific examples of social media causing change, but mostly it is as a result of things happening after the fact—a story or video of protest or violence going viral and reaching people through the use of social media. This book is interesting because it details the "before": how Ghonim and his fellow protestors were inspired by an "after" (the death of Kahled Said, whose story went viral) and used social media, mainly facebook to organize protest throughout Egypt. The book is definitely a memoir rather than a historical account—some of the personal details Ghonim includes have little connection to the events he is documenting, at least to this reader—but this helps to capture the thoughts and emotions he was feeling at the time as both a key figure in the protests but also as a husband and father who feared for his own safety and that of his family. Having followed the Egyptian revolution in the news when it occurred, I feel I know many of the basic facts of it so anything lacking on this front didn't much matter to me, and the insider's view was invaluable in providing an account of the protesters' perspectives, although I also liked that Ghonim tried to be largely unbiased in his reporting, not demonising even those in power but just promoting the message of peace and change. It is an inspiring story, and an important one in an age when digital communication is becoming more and more prevalent and powerful. (less)
This book really interests me in terms of morality, just the fact that Venkatesh, as a researcher, has knowledge of all these criminal activities, som...moreThis book really interests me in terms of morality, just the fact that Venkatesh, as a researcher, has knowledge of all these criminal activities, some very violent, and only acts in the role he has taken as an observer. I'm not sure what exactly he could do if he chose to, beyond alerting authorities who likely already are aware of the issues in the community, but it does provide an interesting look at the relationship between a sociologist and his subject. Being that I'm reading this for a class studying The Wire, one part that struck me was that Venkatesh several times uses the same analogy of the gang playing "a game" that The Wire does, it seems that this is universal within gang dynamics. Overall, the book was a good supplement to more academic/statistical analyses of crime and criminals in urban environments. (less)