"Every aspect of the terror wars flowed from judgements made in little more than 500 days after 9/11-- 554 to be exact. Everything-- the wars in Afgh...more
"Every aspect of the terror wars flowed from judgements made in little more than 500 days after 9/11-- 554 to be exact. Everything-- the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, detainee treatment, CIA tactics, and more-- could be traced to those eighteen months. What followed in the nearly six years afterward was little more than reactions to those early decisions." -xiii
What the hell happened after 9/11? How did we go from chasing terrorists to being bogged down in two countries that never had WMDs, never aided terrorists in the first place? Why didn't we pursue police action, extradition, any of the options other countries pursue after terrorist attacks? Why does everyone hate us?
Before reading this, I would've just answered "Bush." I mean, he was president at the time and now he's wanted as a war criminal, so must've been his fault, right? Eh. Somewhat his and somewhat his administration's-- one of the strengths of this book is that it doesn't play politics, it delivers straight facts. It has the pacing of a thriller and a hundred pages of footnotes.
The book does have a few drawbacks, and I admit that I don't know enough about the years immediately following 9/11 to know if it falls prey to framing bias (i.e. making things that look true by omitting half the story). Bush gets a fair shake here, coming off as an affable, smart guy who never reads his memos-- even if the memo is, say, on using military spying tactics against US civilians for the first time in our history. He had a plane to catch, yanno?
You can see the complexity of the issues by the book's portrayal of his administration, and how issues got muddled in the quest for immediate results... and the total incompetence of one CIA "psychologist." I know my stance on many of the issues, and I can't say the book changed my thinking-- just enraged me-- but I can see better how the US got into the mess it's in in, for example, Guantanamo. If the CIA says that torture is the only way to avoid another terrorist attack, another attack this week, and you have a couple high-ranking government officials with a hard-on for vengeance and conviction to spare, well... You get very different actions than if you heed the volumes of FBI literature that says gentle relationship-building techniques are the most effective means of interrogation.
As a perk, you also get impressive arm muscles from chucking this 650-page lump across the room so many times.
This book is very US- and UK-centric, since the Iraq War was in fact a US and UK initiative. It makes sense, although it means the international scope of the book is limited; first and foremost, it is a book US policy, foreign and domestic. I would also add that the pace of this book slows considerably in the second half, as it moves from chasing terrorists and "terrorists" across the globe and starts to focus more on the legal disputes brewing inside the US. And while it is fun to see the Department of Justice slap the Bush administration around for completely ignoring, I dunno, the entire legal history and structure of the US, it does get repetitive about 200-300 pages. So there's that.
This book also come with an epilogue, so that you too can see exactly how much we've screwed up. Yeah, I went right from this book to The Chocolate War, which is about a kid who doesn't want to fundraise and not quite as rage-inducing. As an alternative, you could try getting drunk. (less)
Have you seen a resume before? No? Then this book is perfect for you!
I dunno. It wasn't as terrible as all that. This book is divided into two halves,...moreHave you seen a resume before? No? Then this book is perfect for you!
I dunno. It wasn't as terrible as all that. This book is divided into two halves, one covering the theory of resumes, and the other giving practical examples.
No, it isn't ever exciting.
The first is pretty simplistic, teaching the basics of resume-building with long lists of words you too can use as a synonym for "helped!" It does have some good points, like using a job listing to create a tailored resume. However, it misses a lot of the finer points, like making your resume "pop" to automated resume scanners. There's no advice at all on CVs, although it devotes a single page to networking. It also suggests that you include an objective, and lots of other things (hobbies??) that I've never seen seriously suggested by career advisors. I assume they're to take up space.
The second half has a very limited selection of resumes for a handful of degrees, and I have so many gripes with this section. The first is with the majors presented. There's one resume listed for English (I think it's in HR) but three for Nursing (or something similar), and all three are for the same job in the same industry. Not every major was represented at all. My second gripe is the oh-so-perfect work experience provided for each candidate. For a preschool teacher's resume, for example, I believe the applicant majored in early childhood development, babysat for eight years, and spent four working at... a preschool. I don't have the book in front of me, but that's the kind of work experience shown, and it doesn't match up with the reality of anyone I know. Where are the examples of fast food being good preparation to work in a fast-paced environment? Or a former bank teller trying to get work in a lab? If my college jobs dovetailed so neatly with my post-college career interests, I wouldn't need this book in the first place .
Tl;dr: this book's pretty unhelpful, very basic, and somewhat preachy.(less)
Fair warning: This book has a lot of typos, and sometimes it seems like the author doesn't really care what he's doing (See: 1000 references to "newsl...moreFair warning: This book has a lot of typos, and sometimes it seems like the author doesn't really care what he's doing (See: 1000 references to "newsletters" as a way to promote your business and the line "Without fresh ideas and fresh talent, their [magazine] publications would wither and die like last year’s gourds on a vine.” Really? I didn't know glossies were such hothouse plants.)
But he really knows what he's doing, and he'll give you the practical, nuts-and-bolts advice to do it too.
This is the third or fourth freelancing book I've read. I did like one of the others (The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success), but all of them seemed very nebulous on the mechanics of starting a business. Sure they went over the office furniture you'd need, some ideas of magazines to submit to, and a sample query format or two. Sheldon does all this and includes advice on whether you'll need to register your business with your city council-- and where to go to find out. He doesn't just say "read magazines to see the types of pieces they publish," he includes a dozen examples. He gives approximate payment rates for services. Yes, this book is slightly outdated (published 2008), but it's recent enough that the book demonstrates a clear understanding of the internet and its impact on your business.
If I had to pick one book on freelance writing to recommend (or to own) this one would be it. It's fairly concise and it includes content that most other freelancing books do not. Yes, I'd also recommend Renegade Writer, but I think this would be my first choice. (less)
In less than a month, Didion's daughter was suddenly hospitalized and her husband died of a freak heart attack. Almost immediately after, she jotted d...moreIn less than a month, Didion's daughter was suddenly hospitalized and her husband died of a freak heart attack. Almost immediately after, she jotted down, "You sit down for dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity." These questions became the structure for her book, which attempts to both chronicle her grief and research the ways we all grieve, and how cultural norms surrounding grief have changed over time (perhaps doing for grief what Maggie Nelson's Bluets did for depression). This is really the strength of the book-- anyone can empathize with Didion's pain, and she eloquently questions our society's judgement on what's grieving "too long"-- that is, "the question of self-pity."
There's real grief here, but also real privilege, which is where the book tends to fall flat. Didion's strength is taking particular experiences and making them universal, and reading her Slouching Towards Bethlehem was a particular kind of magic. Here, though, I felt continually distanced by Didion's wealth and status. For example, Didion is requested to cover the presidential debates in Boston. At this point, she's spent six months and considerable resources avoiding every city she'd ever visited with her husband or daughter-- but they never really went to Boston, so it'll be ok, right? She also hasn't worked at all in six months. Or eight. But she has some memory, perhaps discussing Boston with her daughter, and so she drops everything and runs out, completely disregarding her promise to cover it. She misses her houses in California, Hawaii, New York, etc. and her jetsetting vacations-- she's glad she went to Paris one last time before her husband died. And on and on and on. Part of this, which isn't mentioned until fairly late in the book, is that Didion's about 70 and her adventures are spread out over 40+ years... which makes much more sense why she can take so much time off, etc. But the privilege is not only present, it's distracting; Didion doesn't even really nod at it or acknowledge that hey, her life might be different than someone grieving and trying to hold a 9-5 job. This is where I felt the book fell short-- not that Didion's richer than me (which, honestly, isn't hard) but that she didn't address it and the nuances it brought to her story.
Yes, I'm being too hard on her. *Goes to amend star rating.* It was a good book, close to being great-- but ultimately, it didn't make it.
Tl;dr: Didion writes well and explores profound aspects of grief, both personally and academically-- but her privilege is distracting and distancing, and perhaps this isn't her strongest book.(less)
Brianna Karp had a rough childhood. Abused by both her parents, she was also part of the restrictive Jehovah's Witnesses and had been forced to work s...moreBrianna Karp had a rough childhood. Abused by both her parents, she was also part of the restrictive Jehovah's Witnesses and had been forced to work since she was twelve. Through her own determination (and extensive work history), she managed to have it all in adulthood: the cute California cottage, a new car, the moody actor boyfriend, a $50k/year position as an Executive Assistant, a horse, and a Neapolitan Mastiff named Fezzik (after the character in Princess Bride).
Then the recession hit.
Brianna's position was downsized, and her unemployment wasn't enough to keep up with her rent. Her boyfriend dumped her; her parents kicked her out of the house. Soon, she had only her dog and a trailer left her by her recently-deceased father. While not exactly a guide, this book challenges traditional perceptions of the homeless as it chronicles Brianna's efforts to find work, find love, and find a home, even as she finds that nothing is every that simple. (less)
This book attempts to give a very glancing overview of many parts of a freelance writing career. Unfortunately, it falls into the trap of saying a lot...moreThis book attempts to give a very glancing overview of many parts of a freelance writing career. Unfortunately, it falls into the trap of saying a lot about very little: for all its weight, most of the book is consumed by large bolded subtitles (often 3-4 per page), white space, and paragraph-long tips by the author. Sure, they seem well-intended, and early on in the book the tips come from several professionals. However, as the book went on, these hints became increasingly focused on the author and increasingly unhelpful or outdated.
And that was my main problem with this book. I don't have much knowledge about submitting to non-fiction magazines, say, or co-authoring, to fact-check this author, but I do know about querying fiction, and Adamec gets that all wrong. Part of her problem is that this book is now quite dated; she makes several references to the "new technology" of America OnLine, and she says she doesn't think that having a website is very necessary for freelance professionals. She constantly talks about snail-mail queries, gives outdated advice on email etiquette... and then says some ridiculous things about querying uncompleted novel manuscripts by phone. In today's market, a first-time author must ALWAYS complete his/her novel before querying, and phone queries are generally considered inappropriate.
Ultimately, I put this book down as too dated, too general (How to write an essay for a magazine: start with an outline.) or too untrustworthy-- once I caught a few wrong-by-current standards pieces of advice, I found that I was unwilling to listen to any more. (less)
I was nervous when I started this book. The writing was a little choppy. The tone was a little stiff. I wasn't sure I quite cared to learn what Larson...moreI was nervous when I started this book. The writing was a little choppy. The tone was a little stiff. I wasn't sure I quite cared to learn what Larson was telling me. But somewhere along the way-- not the very beginning, but early on-- I started reading compulsively. I stayed up late, I trailed it around the house, I made excuses to get back to it. I have never, ever read non-fiction this way before-- even when I enjoyed it, I didn't have a problem leaving it to go do other things. But Larson has a gift for creating cliffhangers in the middle of history, and his narrative moves briskly along.
In the Garden of Beasts centers on Mr. Dodd, the American ambassador to Berlin in the early 1930s. Larson (seems to have) read the diaries of Dodd and his daughter Martha, but also of Diels, head of the Gestapo; Boris, associated with the Soviet embassy and the NKVD; various literary and embassy figures in Berlin; and even excerpts from private meetings with Hitler. One of Larson's skills is creating a sense of character, and he clearly conveys the frustrations of everyone involved. Dodd, for example, was not President Roosevelt's first pick as ambassador-- nor his second, fifth, or tenth. Dodd was a professor at the University of Chicago, living on a teacher's salary and working on a history of the US South before he was launched into the diplomatic world of finery and "social lions." Sometimes, one gets a sense that Larson veers too close to caricature; for example, we get a lot about Martha's love interests and a little about her life as a writer, but very little else about her. At the same time, however, I loved seeing the nuances of life in the USSR made explicit in Boris' behavior.
I admitted that when I started this book I was a little put off by the author's style, but it made more sense as I went along. Larson tries to mirror his authorial tone to the era he writes about. Initially, it sounded stilted; while the 1930s weren't that long ago, and while he doesn't match the tone exactly, he's close enough that it's noticeably different from modern usage. It made more sense as he went along, as Larson weaves quotes from many first-person accounts into his narrative, and shuffling between two entirely different voices would be jarring. By the time I finished the book, I still wished he'd used a little more variation starting clauses (they don't always have to be separated with "that!" Use "Which!" Use -ing verbs!) but felt that, overall, the book was very smoothly written.
So this book might have a bit of a rough start. Give it 30 pages-- the 300 after that will fly by.(less)
> Undergraduates everywhere drink beer all the t...moreHere, let me sum up this book:
> Undergraduate education is declining rapidly
> Logical error!
> Undergraduates everywhere drink beer all the time. Even the gluten intolerant ones, probably.
> Faculty are wonderful angels (Sperber is faculty) who sometimes can't be bothered to connect with their apathetic students.
> Students are either collegians (drink all the time, don't care), academic (future faculty) or vocational (have a job, don't care about grades). Sperber admits no overlap-- clearly, students cannot work, have above a C average, and drink! It's just not possible!
In general Sperber makes factually insupportable claims about undergraduate life. He ignores the nuances of collegiate life, change over time, different students, different schools, etc. He come off as extremely bitter and condescending to students almost across the board. He also fails to anticipate possible counterarguments, and does not cite sources well if at all.
If this were a college paper, I would give Sperber a D-.(less)
This book is, in general, a beginner's book. A more advanced writer can still get some use out of it, particularly the bits of writing advice lifted f...moreThis book is, in general, a beginner's book. A more advanced writer can still get some use out of it, particularly the bits of writing advice lifted from famous authors-- although worryingly, this book does nothing to distinguish writing advice from 1970 vs. 1990 vs. 1890, nor to clarify that the writing now might be different from either of those times. However, each chapter ends with an interview with a famous(ish) author, and reading their insights was (almost) always interesting.
The book does serve as a good guidebook to further reading: it may not be helpful in finding further guidebooks, but it does point out many good fantasy books. It also has a section at the back on publishing and publishing resources, which may be useful to a writer just beginning to consider publishing. (less)