Profound ontological case studies. Confluences of applied brain research and philosophical theories of mind/brain. The chapters on autism and out-of-bProfound ontological case studies. Confluences of applied brain research and philosophical theories of mind/brain. The chapters on autism and out-of-body experiences were particularly interesting. This provided my second literary encounter this month with BIID (body identity integrity disorder) - something I previously knew nothing about (and don't wish to hear about again for a long time) - but Ananthawamy's explanation helped me understand the neurological causes for wishing to have a limb amputated, so I wish I'd read this before Rowling/Galbraith's mystery. The audiobook was very good....more
Familiar with and generally admiring of David Leavitt's fiction I was impressed by his attempt to tell this story. Lest I sound equivocal [pun?], I'llFamiliar with and generally admiring of David Leavitt's fiction I was impressed by his attempt to tell this story. Lest I sound equivocal [pun?], I'll say I would have enjoyed this book more by reading it on the page/e-ink screen than by listening to the audiobook as I did - though that's no fault of the reader, Paul Michael Garcia. But every number of every binary string was read: one one one one one one one one zero ellipses (yes, even the word "ellipses" was voiced) and I repeatedly "zoned" out and lost the context. I'm not innumerate, but I was busy this week, and I am a visual thinker, and that was too much to absorb. I loved George Dyson's Turing's Cathedral and listened to the audiobook in unceasing fascination; I took a lot of enjoyment from Brian Christian's The Most Human Human; say the words "Bletchley Park" or "Enigma" and you have my immediate attention. So perhaps it was the equations and also something restrained in Leavitt's handling of the material that kept causing me to lose the thread. I do think this was fine examination of Turing's life, mathematics, milieu, and tragic death (it might have been accidental suicide? Apple denies that their logo is inspired by Turing?). Note: need to read Andrew Hodges on Turing....more
This is Brownstein's memoir of her early life and years as rock star, not Brownstein the quirky Portlandia skit-writer and actress. It's a music memoiThis is Brownstein's memoir of her early life and years as rock star, not Brownstein the quirky Portlandia skit-writer and actress. It's a music memoir and, for readers of Sara Marcus's Girls to the Front sort of an interesting extension of the Riot Grrls legacy into the early 2000s. I have never knowingly heard a Sleater-Kinney song, so the ideal reader would have gotten a lot more out of this than I did. But the glimpses of Olympia were fun to read - she lived here for years and it is even possible we lived in the same apartment on Capitol Way, ten years separated. She grew tired of Olympia's scene and expresses her reasons well (too small and insular, the scene was incestuous yada yada) though while I was listening to the book I thought she over-exaggerated the rain and dark and grimy quality (but we've had inches of rain today and I'd be disinclined to argue her point). Brownstein is extremely intelligent and this book is sad and thoughtful. Audio book read by the author was excellent....more
If Jenny Lawson's style and some of her subject matter were described to me (taxidermied pets, what?) I expect I would not be eager to read her. I tenIf Jenny Lawson's style and some of her subject matter were described to me (taxidermied pets, what?) I expect I would not be eager to read her. I tend to hold writers to high standards for logic and rigor, and I lean toward informative nonfiction, nuanced memoirs, and novels with beautiful sentences ... .But when it comes to Jenny Lawson, none of that matters.Which is not to say she doesn't write well, because she does. But she's also funny, irreverent, and completely goofy. Her sensibility and voice are so winning, so weird, so self-deprecating, and unique. She's unabashedly illogical half the time, but when she stops making sense I just shake my head and smile.
This second book is much like Let's Pretend It Never Happened in its short essays and pieces featuring her husband, Victor, as the straight man, and her cats, Hunter S. Tomcat and Ferris Mewler. But here she addresses mental illness directly and is candid about her depressive episodes, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, history of self-harming, anti-psychotic drugs .... She re-claims the term "crazy" and explores all that means for her. I love that people who need to hear her life-affirming wackiness are finding her (her "tribe", she calls them). I'm fortunate not to suffer from such severe adversities, but I've had friends suffering from mental illness. And who among us hasn't lived through our own personal crises or experienced those shaky moments when the borderline feels thin?
Audiobook listeners get a bonus chapter! And watch the powerful book trailer of Lawson's readers holding placards reading: "I'm broken because ...." - and just try not to cry. ...more
I was under no delusion that the Nordic countries were utopias. There's some endemic racism, for example. But it surely can't hurt for us (Americans)I was under no delusion that the Nordic countries were utopias. There's some endemic racism, for example. But it surely can't hurt for us (Americans) to strive to be more like Norway or Finland! The author of this book, a Brit living in Denmark, sets out to dispel those impressions of Scandinavian utopias, but Booth happens to truly and unabashedly love these countries too. So he mixes the myth-busting with fascinatingly detailed discussions of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden - and how the countries differ from one another in ways I never realized. It's also quite funny and works as an amusing travel narrative. And speaking personally, Booth confirmed my suspicion that I was meant to be born Scandinavian: land of loners who read a lot, like to drink, refuse to smile on cue, are mostly socialist democrats who support universal health care and gender equity and long vacations, and profess atheism but believe in invisible elves and 'little folk'!...more
I thought this was very, very good and the audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson gave me many hours of pleasure. And if this were a novel by a relativelyI thought this was very, very good and the audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson gave me many hours of pleasure. And if this were a novel by a relatively unknown writer I would be telling anyone who would listen how wonderful it is! There are lots of trenchant reviews by Goodreads reviewers already, so I will just post a few thoughts:
~ This is recognizable to me as a Gilbert book because after reading her recent nonfiction (Eat Pray Love and Committed, her book on marriage) I detect an underlying cross-genre interest in how humans face adversity, grief, depression (wallowing, drowning, or just traversing a dark night of the soul), followed by eventual moral and personal uplift or transcendence, (and sometimes returning to the state of confusion to begin the cycle again).
~ Which touches on one reason I couldn't give the book that 5th star: For me Alma had too many moments of deepest despair and anguish followed by epiphanic enlightenment. I would think: oh here she goes again! And within the nadir of those cycles Alma seemed too consumed by her own personal concerns. (Gilbert realized this or was crafting Alma's cycle intentionally - hence Alma's epiphany about her selfishness, ignoring Prudence's devotion to abolition movement, and eventually giving most of her fortune to Prudence. Only to then make similar mistakes of myopic self-interest. And of course Gilbert expertly linked this vice to Alma's inability to explain altruism .... No doubt this is good for making a reader follow your fictional protagonist, but I thought Alma went through a few too many such cycles.)
~I have one other minor quibble: The process by which Alma came to her theory of adaptation and selection was not explained sufficiently and I wish Gilbert had developed its genesis better. I guess I am to believe that Alma arrived at this theory after years of meditation on the subject of mosses and the natural world, then triggered by her time in Tahiti (akin to Wallace in the Malay Archipelago and Darwin in the Galapagos). Then she wrote her treatise while traveling on ship, where she had access to none of her papers, books, research, nor was she in communication with other natural philosophers - her mind was her "repository." Please! We are told that Alma was an expert on mosses but I didn't see her movement toward her grand theory of evolution - it just seemed to appear to her. Alma did not seem to have been studying mosses the way Darwin studied his barnacles or his finches. She didn't go to Tahiti to look for mosses at all. She was consumed with thoughts of Ambrose and finding the boy ("Tomorrow Morning"). I didn't see her doing deep thinking on biology, speciation, adaptation, while she was in Tahiti at all. So it made a fine culmination of Alma's life, and I enjoyed her conversations with Alfred Russel Wallace, but I didn't buy it.
In the end, as I said, I thought the novel was actually wonderful. In the future if/when I am about to criticize Elizabeth Gilbert, I will think of this book and of Gilbert's undeniable talent and honest exuberance. ...more
Well I didn't know there was a soon-to-be released feature film of this until just having been bombarded with the ads right here on this GR page. I'dWell I didn't know there was a soon-to-be released feature film of this until just having been bombarded with the ads right here on this GR page. I'd actually been intending to re-read Bryson's account this summer anyway, since listening to Grandma Gatewood's Walk, abandoning Jennifer Pharr Davis's terribly-written memoir, and following the record-setting treks of Scott Jurek and Heather "Anish" Anderson. ---- Upon finishing: A validating re-read. I had forgotten how wonderful this book is! ...more
I'm just starting the audiobook but already not sure about this reader who, by his tones and diction and pacing, simply sounds too organized and 'togeI'm just starting the audiobook but already not sure about this reader who, by his tones and diction and pacing, simply sounds too organized and 'together'....
----- I'm going to stop listening at 25%. I retract my accusation that the audiobook reader sounded too disciplined - I guess I thought the book was about a "messy" guy and so I expected more rough edges in voice and approach. But the book is actually about OCD and one man's psychological reasons for clutter, so a crisp, clipped diction is not inappropriate. I just didn't become terribly interested in his particular life-story and was looking for excuses to do something other than listen to him when I went for my run and dog-walks. It was time to move on....more
Jenny Lawson won me over completely (hook, line, and sinker). At first I was dubious, reluctant - thought she might have been exaggerating a quirky chJenny Lawson won me over completely (hook, line, and sinker). At first I was dubious, reluctant - thought she might have been exaggerating a quirky childhood in an effort to sound like Haven Kimmel. But as Lawson's uniqueness and true eccentricity became apparent I began seeking out moments to listen to the book - and to laugh while I was taking the dog on extra walks. Apparently the print book has pictures - which I'm sure are hilarious - but I feel like I really need to listen to someone like her - she sings her chapter titles for one thing, and the audiobook includes an extra section with what I think must be "outtakes" of her rambling on in the sound studio while trying to record the book. Funny funny.
Very interesting. Warner approaches her discussion of processed food from the "food science" angle, so I didn't find this to be a repeat of Salt, SugaVery interesting. Warner approaches her discussion of processed food from the "food science" angle, so I didn't find this to be a repeat of Salt, Sugar, Fat (which gave a lot of attention to marketing as well as the food science). ...more
Schaeffer's storytelling is delightful: colorful, funny, ribald, honest, irreverent. His childhood and adolescence in the L'Abri community is the bestSchaeffer's storytelling is delightful: colorful, funny, ribald, honest, irreverent. His childhood and adolescence in the L'Abri community is the best part of this book. Read it for the wonderful first half and to learn of the fascinating differences between European Evangelicals and the American movement. My enthusiasm waned when Schaeffer began describing the anti-abortion/"pro-life" cause and the odious politics of the American evangelical movement - depictions of its moronic politics and despicable consumerism just put one is a bad mood (and the author, too - he read this audiobook and his own seething anger is almost palpable). In the end Schaeffer pulls back from his extreme stance on abortion, but not far enough for me to fully recommend this book. ...more
This is early Bryson - horny, hungry, and iconoclastic. It's the story of a 1990 trip to Europe (and reminiscences of an earlier visit in 1973 with hiThis is early Bryson - horny, hungry, and iconoclastic. It's the story of a 1990 trip to Europe (and reminiscences of an earlier visit in 1973 with his friend "Katz"). There are no euros, and no cellphones, and Communism was crumbling, and Yugoslavia was a country. There is something bittersweet and eerie in the book's closing with a trip to Sarajevo, where only two years later snipers would be perched in the very hillside buildings Bryson described....more
The mysteries that get full-color advertising spreads in the New Yorker. I'm not really a series-mystery reader, but am making exceptions for these LoThe mysteries that get full-color advertising spreads in the New Yorker. I'm not really a series-mystery reader, but am making exceptions for these Louise Penny novels narrated by Ralph Cosham. I liked the atmospherics, literally and figuratively: the Quebec weather and the God-haunted characters. Yes, it was overwrought and I knew the killer(s) aeons before Inspector Gamache did. And the names with all the letters - duh! But this is book two and perhaps Penny was still perfecting her craft. (I've only listened to Still Life #1 (snore) and The Beautiful Mystery thus far.)...more
The American South and its culture of wealth and manners, high society debutantes and cotillions, the Confederate heritage, racism and bigotry, UNC ChThe American South and its culture of wealth and manners, high society debutantes and cotillions, the Confederate heritage, racism and bigotry, UNC Chapel Hill Greek life, the legacy of the Civil War, slavery, and Jim Crow. Barnhardt skewers this culture and the hypocrisies of these characters, most of whom are loathsome people, yet he does it with a generous humor and appreciation. It's perfect satire without mockery, and by the end I didn't want to leave them.
Each of Barnhardt's novels has been so different: the urban bildungsroman of Emma Who Saved My Life, the sprawling, ambitious failure of a theological romp, Gospel. Where has WB been? (Answer: teaching)
A word about the audiobook: Brilliant. I'd been extremely hesitant to take on a 16-hour novel - something I've all but sworn off. I won't know what it would have been like to only read the page, but Scott Shepherd's narration seemed to add so much to this story that I was thrilled with it and would recommend it without hesitation. It is one of those magical combinations of a great reader and the right novel....more