Dennett gave me a lot to think about, from how Darwinian processes appear to behave "with intelligence", a close-up of various competing conceptions o Dennett gave me a lot to think about, from how Darwinian processes appear to behave "with intelligence", a close-up of various competing conceptions of evolutionary theory, and how evolution can help us understand how culture and morality evolve. It is a long and wordy book, and I think if he'd made it shorter it would have focused his ideas better -- the drawn-out arguments against Steven Jay Gould and Noam Chomsky were tedious -- but if you can handle it, it is still worth the read.
Dennett is a materialist and his reasoning leads him to argue against a conscious God, and that the soul arises merely out of the organization of the brain. I don't believe it's as simple as he makes out, but anybody who's thinking about evolution needs to understand these arguments....more
This book had a great plot and an engaging story. I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of California during the Gold Rush, and how it was a place thatThis book had a great plot and an engaging story. I particularly enjoyed her portrayal of California during the Gold Rush, and how it was a place that anyone could be anything, and where the main character, Eliza, learns to accept herself as an independent woman. She falls blindly and passionately in love, but ends up learning that it was not a true, deep love, and what she finds instead is something better.
A lot of the scenes do take place in brothels, or involve morally shady characters, but if you are a mature reader you will know to take the good and leave what bothers you. ...more
I loved this book for all the detailed examples it gives of past societies who collapsed because they destroyed their natural environment. Many of theI loved this book for all the detailed examples it gives of past societies who collapsed because they destroyed their natural environment. Many of the examples are of small, isolated societies, but I don't think that negates his point, as humans have never before been at a point where they've approached a global exhaustion of resources... He talks about larger, more integrated societies too, like rural Montana and China. It's amazing he continues to be an optimist that human beings might turn their behavior around (and he gives a few examples of societies who did just that.) It's a bit of a long read, but he presents his ideas in terms that any layperson can understand. It's still worth reading parts of this book even if you are unable to read all of it.
The biggest immediate impact this book had on me was on my continuing internal debate on whether to have a fourth child or be happy with the three that I have... I'd never taken overpopulation seriously, because I thought excessive consumption was really the main cause of global resource depletion. I still think it's the more important cause, but after reading Diamond's account of the Rwandan genocide, I've started to re-evaluate. He's also made me wonder about the Syrian landscape around me and how dry and treeless it is. Syrians are always talking about how "beautiful" America is and I always thought that was a case of "grass is greener" but after living here, I wonder if it's the mere fact that human impact has had thousands of years to accumulate in the Middle East, with the result that we have lost all our non-cultivated trees?...more
**spoiler alert** I think Hosseini is a great storyteller. I was hardly able to put this book down until I finished it. I liked the Kite Runner a litt**spoiler alert** I think Hosseini is a great storyteller. I was hardly able to put this book down until I finished it. I liked the Kite Runner a little bit better, I thought it was a more complex novel. This one isn't bad either but it does suffer from the same weaknesses that the Kite Runner did, mainly that the characters are portrayed as either all good or all evil. Rasheed is just your classic wife-beater, with just the death of his first son to mitigate his evil. In contrast, Tariq is just your classic Prince Charming. I did think his portrayal of the Taliban in this book was more balanced than in his first book. The judge at Mariam's trial particularly stands out in being an example of a mix of harshness and compassion. The only other weakness I can complain of is that Hosseini likes to tie his ends up a little too neatly, both in his first novel and in this one. In particular, I had trouble believing that Laila could leave ten years of an abusive marriage behind without suffering any psychological scars (her physical scars are well-described.) But overall, I think this is a book worth reading, for a wonderful story and for the glimpse it gives into Afghani life during the numerous battles of the past half-century....more
This book is the account of the life of Ghada Karmi, who was exiled at the age of 9 from her homeland, Palestine, after the creation of the state of I This book is the account of the life of Ghada Karmi, who was exiled at the age of 9 from her homeland, Palestine, after the creation of the state of Israel. It is told in a very simple, straightforward manner -- Karmi is no magician with words -- but I did find it interesting. As an Arab who is always wondering how we got ourselves in the mess that we are today, I found her descriptions of Palestinian society just before 1948 to be a real eye-opener ... they seemed to pretty passive in front of the increasingly daring Zionist attacks on their city, looking to the British occupiers to save the day. I'm not sure if she intended to paint such a picture, but it was clear lesson nonetheless that those who don't take hold of their own destinies can expect their destinies to be determined by others.
I enjoyed reading about Karmi's girlhood and young womanhood in part to compare it with my own growing up in the West. She moved to London at a time when few Arabs or Muslims lived there, and so had a greater struggle holding on to her identity. She also gave me a peek into how much of their heritage more secular Arabs hold on to when they adopt the West as their home. While there were a lot of differences between her experience and mine, I was surprised to see similarities as well. For example, she describes being angry at her father's attitude that she would be just another Arab girl by default, as if her childhood years in England were just a garment she could shrug off. Boy, did that remind me of my own frustrations as a young woman! Of course, there is one key difference, a very sad one, that I was able as an adult to go back and live in the land of my parents, whereas she was not and probably never will -- though perhaps there is hope for her young nieces and nephews.
I just finished reading this for the second time (the first time being about six years ago). I still think Atwood's prose is amazing. Sometimes poeticI just finished reading this for the second time (the first time being about six years ago). I still think Atwood's prose is amazing. Sometimes poetic, sometimes hilarious, at all the right moments. I don't want to give the plot away, but throughout the novel I was trying to make up my mind for how much blame Iris deserved for Laura's suicide. The times she lived in didn't grant her much freedom, but by the end of the book I found myself agreeing with Iris' verdict on herself, even as I sympathized that the better course of action was one few women would have been able to take. I had more sympathy for Iris on the first reading, probably because I was too busy fitting together what was going on (in particular the identity of the woman in the novel-within-the-novel.) The second time around, I was able to spend more brain cycles understanding Iris.
This book is more demanding than the average novel. For one it's long, for two you have to have to patience to put up with the mysteries until they slowly unfold. If you take the time to enjoy the read, this book is amazing....more