I really enjoyed this book - it's an intriguing line of reasoning that old-style mixed-used cities with dense populations are actually inherently easiI really enjoyed this book - it's an intriguing line of reasoning that old-style mixed-used cities with dense populations are actually inherently easier on the environment (per capita) than sprawling suburban/rural development.
The author also explains some basic energy issues (where does gas come from? What do we make out of oil? How much oil is there?) and makes some interesting points about people's environmental assumptions - for example, about the locavore food movement (local food isn't always necessarily easier on the environment) and LEED building awards (LEED points and environmentally responsible building are two separate things).
I found it a bit unnerving, though, that the author himself, after seven years in Manhattan, moved to a rural area when it was time to raise kids, and is still there. He brushed this away halfheartedly, saying something along the lines of "well, even if we move back to the city, somebody else will move into our house here, so there will be no net gain for the environment." I'm not buying it.
I also wish he had offered more concrete solutions - obviously there's the implied "get more pople living in cities and driving less" solution, but there were no clear steps outlined other than hints about making gas, cars, etc more expensive and cities more appealing.
Despite these issues, I'm seriously considering buying a copy of this book so I can re-read....more
“Most people are constantly perpetrating little acts of violence on others, even when they don’t mean to. You almost never do that, Chihiro.”
What a be“Most people are constantly perpetrating little acts of violence on others, even when they don’t mean to. You almost never do that, Chihiro.”
What a beautiful book! This was one of my train reads last weekend and it touched me on a really personal level. It’s a love story, but it’s not the kind of love story that makes me squirm uncomfortably. It’s about two broken people – one more broken, one less – accepting their love for each other, and learning to trust that love. Which is maybe one of the most profound things ever. It’s a simply told story, in an honest tone. There’s a spooky house by the lake and a dark past and an awkward family history, but above all there’s a love that manages to avoid emotional violence, as hinted at in the quote above.
I think I can see (I just skimmed through some Goodreads reviews) how this book has the potential to come across as insipid or annoying, especially in terms of dialogue – but for me, it worked just right. Maybe it was my mood, maybe the train, but it was good....more
A book about a guy who walks around New York City. A lot. It’s not the type of plot summary that would usually convince me to pick up a book (or, in tA book about a guy who walks around New York City. A lot. It’s not the type of plot summary that would usually convince me to pick up a book (or, in this case, check out the ebook from the library’s website and download it to my reader), but I did just move to New York, and the author is from Nigeria (and takes great photographs and has an awesome Twitter feed), so in the end I picked it up. Ahem. Downloaded it.
And I’m glad I did – it’s a beautifully written novel, and while the plot seems simple at first glance – a Nigerian/German psychiatrist in his last year of residency, pacing the city for hours, a quick trip to Brussels, some time with friends – it explores the many, many layers that make up every place and every person. Julius, the narrator, is dealing with his own layers, including his childhood and issues with his family. He is also uncovering the layers that make up New York City – from the early atrocities against the Native Americans of Manhattan and Long Island to current race and immigration issues and the implications of 9/11 (the novel takes place five years later). Most of what is revealed in the book is the result of Julian’s chance encounters with other residents of New York (or Brussels), but there is also an ongoing friendship with his old English professor, Dr. Saito, who reflects on his own complicated history as a Japanese-American sent to an internment camp during World War II. All these human interactions take place against a background rich with classical music, migrating birds, art history, and of course the changing season and moods of New York.
Melancholy and meditative, Open City was a pleasure to read but also provided an opportunity to reflect on both personal and public histories....more
Excellent summary (with some original documents, including full text of Charter 08) of the time from the public release of Charter 08, a call for refoExcellent summary (with some original documents, including full text of Charter 08) of the time from the public release of Charter 08, a call for reform in China, through Liu Xiaobo's winning of the Nobel Prize. Good background information and analysis....more
Someone told me this was the saddest book ever, and that's pretty close to true. It's also an excellent story, though, about a guard dog with no moreSomeone told me this was the saddest book ever, and that's pretty close to true. It's also an excellent story, though, about a guard dog with no more mission once his Soviet work camp is shut down. It's an interesting story about a dog but also a very powerful story about the effects of the Gulag camps.
"For every beast knows how great man is, knows, too, that his greatness extends equally far in the direction of both Good and Evil; but that an animal, though prepared to die for a man, cannot follow him all the way to the highest peak of Good nor beyond a certain threshold on the path to Evil -- and that on that threshold the animal will stop and rebel."...more
I wasn't sure if I was enjoying the story at first, but eventually I was drawn in. Framed by a preface and epilogue from the mother's point of view, tI wasn't sure if I was enjoying the story at first, but eventually I was drawn in. Framed by a preface and epilogue from the mother's point of view, the bulk of the book is told by Kingsley, the oldest son in a Nigerian family. With his family facing financial hardship due to the state of the economy and his father's illness and death, Kingsley is taken under the wing of his uncle "Cash Daddy" to learn the business of internet scamming. He becomes a successful "419" man (named for the criminal code the scammers can be prosecuted under) and is finally able to by his mother a car, pay for his younger sister's education, wear awesome watches . . . but at what price? Really, it's not quite as trite as I just made it sound. I enjoyed the matter-of-fact first-person narration style of the body of the book. There were some fantastic turns of phrase and plays on words -- I don't know if they're a Nigerian English thing, or if it was Nwaubani getting crazy with the language, but they were great -- things like:
"I [ . .. ] rummaged through my shirts. Most of them were dead, had been for a very long time."
"Thankfully, there were the few who made all the efforts worth it, the true believers who swallowed hook, line, and swindler."
And, on the question of editing the scam emails: "Apparently, the mugus [swindled foreigners] were never really surprised to see an African emitting dented English."
Speaking of mugus, the glimpse into the world of the 419 scammers was fascinating. Between this, the friendly prose, and the combination of humor with the harsh side of life in Nigeria, I Do Not Come to You by Chance was a pleasure to read....more