It's not often you find a book tailored to a fringe community that is so broadly applicable to every person on earth. This book is beautifully writtenIt's not often you find a book tailored to a fringe community that is so broadly applicable to every person on earth. This book is beautifully written, exceptionally well researched, and spoken from the mouth of a man who truly and wholly believes the message he eloquently conveys. Even if you've no interest in entertaining the practice of a vegan lifestyle, this book is an illuminating and exciting journey into a theory that digs so deeply to the core of pervasive aggression and exploitation in the world today. Merely from the standpoint of curiosity in unique ideas/theories, this book is worth the read ten times over....more
“Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became an almost Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an o“Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became an almost Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any mountain I'd been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking above all else, something like a state of grace.” This line, probably my favorite in the book, was read to me before I had even started reading Krakauer's account of the 1996 Everest disaster. I was curled up in my sleeping bag, laying on a firm little bed in an uninsulated 20ºF tea house in Nepal. My close friend and trekking partner was reading the book while we were trekking the Annapurna circuit. I was looking out the window as the enormous Himalayan peaks loomed above me. It was an utterly perfect setting to hear such an eloquent line.
It also got me to thinking. Trekking at 15000+ feet, as your lungs struggle to extract oxygen from the thin air, as your appetite wains, as your ability to sleep vanishes, one begins to seriously ponder why they decided to voluntarily endure unrelenting hardship. Krakauer is right: it's to, in some form, acquire a state of grace. Even for a short time, climbers can begin to understand the reality of losing things that one very easily takes for granted. Krakauer's book is written from a very interesting perspective in that there is a tone of apology and shame. While I won't go into the specifics of the outcome of the '96 disaster, it can be assumed that it was tragic and that many gifted mountaineers lost their lives. In an almost poetic fashion, Krakauer mellifluously retells of the struggles on Everest, describes the inhospitable beast that is the mountain itself, and the tremendous respect one must have in order to climb the world's tallest mountain.
While I intend to read Anatoli Boukreev's alternative telling of the '96 disaster, Krakauer's prose and pacing make this book an extraordinary read; not just for those with an interest in mountaineering/climbing, but also for those who enjoy reading about the incredible feats that humans can endure. Quite seriously, it's wonderful and very sad.
PS: for those who care to explore other Everest-related pursuits, I would suggest the occasionally hokey, Everest: Beyond the Limit television show from 2006-2008. The three season show follows Russell Brice as he leads three summiting expeditions. It's a more visual reminder of how treacherous that mountain can be--and just a total guilty pleasure show that makes you feel like you're tagging along on an Everest expedition from the comfort of your couch....more
I very nearly changed my career trajectory because of this book. I didn't decide against it because Ms Jacobs's book fell short, but because I wasn'tI very nearly changed my career trajectory because of this book. I didn't decide against it because Ms Jacobs's book fell short, but because I wasn't brave enough to sacrifice my preexisting future. I'm three years into medical school, and I still occasionally question if I made the right choice to abandon a career in urban design. Ms. Jacobs, if you're looking down, your book did soooo much more than advocate for the walkability of New York City; it changed the goals and directions of urban landscapes all over the globe.
This book is unequivocal, and utterly marvelous. Anyone interested in the urban organism will fall head over heels with this legendary monolith of a book. :)...more
Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a book about the Butterfly Effect. You'll never actually see those two words written, but that'sJunot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a book about the Butterfly Effect. You'll never actually see those two words written, but that's the point. Díaz makes it clear that the Fukú Americanus is a sly and elusive "curse" that has befallen not one, but countless many Dominican/Caribbean families. The "fukú" as it is called in the book, is the alleged cause for the gut-wrenching horrors that plague Oscar's family. But what's interesting is that it's through a subconsciously perpetuated string of bad luck that all of these horrendous things continue to happen to this "cursed" family. While reading I couldn't help but continue thinking to myself that people are a product of their environment.
This fascinating and at times very disturbing story is quite disjointed. This is the cause of much criticism from many readers. I was always told to never judge a book by its cover. Well, I'm glad I don't, as my lacking the expectation that this whole book would be about the misfortune of one socially awkward and enormously endearing ghetto nerd from Paterson, New Jersey, made the experience of reading this book that much more interesting. Each chapter shifts from one point of view to another, frequently changing the focus of the story and the protagonist of interest. Yes, the book begins and ends with it's focus on our dear Oscar, but there are many chapters in between that explore the true common thread throughout this entire story: the "fukú".
The overall picture that Díaz manages to paint is really one of troubling beauty. An incredible story of cultures (primarily Dominican with hints of Haitian) that have been ravaged and tortured through colonialism and dictator regimes. If anything, Díaz has composed a beautifully disconcerting story about a culture that is still trying to find its footing, in the midst of world where so many horrible things already happen. It's a saga of self-discovery, pride, self-loathing, arrogance, embarrassment, empowerment, and perseverance. I highly recommend this rich, intense, and ironically engaging book....more
My virgin foray with Ms. Agatha Christie. This book is fantastic. Given my academic science background, I have been strictly taught to analyze all eviMy virgin foray with Ms. Agatha Christie. This book is fantastic. Given my academic science background, I have been strictly taught to analyze all evidence presented before making conclusions. That said, the entire time I was reading this book, I was piecing together potential solutions to the crime(s). In an attempt to take all evidence into account, I thought I had it figured out (in fact, I was almost positive that I had cracked the case before the solution was presented at the end), but much to my surprise, I was completely wrong.
I love mystery novels. Especially those that are written in a quirky syntax that's delightfully ostentatious. This particular Christie novel is highly recommended....more
Susan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert and former corporate Wall Street lawyer, has compiled and reviewed a hefty amount of scientific research on thSusan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert and former corporate Wall Street lawyer, has compiled and reviewed a hefty amount of scientific research on the characteristics of introversion and extroversion, and placed them into the context of present-day western society. Additionally, she has done a considerable amount of investigation, by visiting preschool, elementary, and secondary schools around the country, participating in workshops, and meeting one-on-one with many psychologists, philosophers, and physicians that have attempted to ascertain the nuances of these distinct character types.
The book begins with a discussion of the "Extrovert Ideal", a theory that states that the extrovert personality has become the predominant character "type". Cain explains that school settings (from preschool all the way to business schools like HBS) have come to focus on collaborative exercises and propped up the concept of groupthink. Cain unearths fatal flaws to this approach, in that quiet, cerebral introverts are often neglected in settings like this, although they themselves may have the brightest and most ideal solution, they may not be successful in getting it through to the extroverted individual that is leading the group. Cain discusses some research that has effectively debunked the myth that groupthink is always successful, as research has shown that groupthink may reinforce peoples' incorrect conclusions, and that groupthink stifles creativity and decreases productivity. All in all, this was a very interesting exploration.
Cain then moves on to discuss the personality traits of introverted and extroverted individuals. At first, I had a difficult time with this part of the book. Everything was initially very black and white. As soon as I would read one thing that was compatible with my personality type, I would then read something that countered it. I was left confused. Am I, or am I not an introvert?
Well, Cain does a very good job of laying it out simply at first: introverts are mutually exclusive of extroverts. From there she works backward, inserting the exceptions to the rules, and the coping mechanisms that many introverts have developed to function well within our pro-extroverted social landscape. We learn that there are many introverts in disguise in our midsts. We also learn about aspects of our personality that are correlated with but not necessarily causal of extroversion or introversion. An example would be the character trait of "sensitivity". The majority of "highly sensitive" individuals are introverted (~70%), yet roughly 30% are extroverted (I, myself, am a sensitive extrovert). This approach, of painting first with a broad brush, and then adding in the details later was quite illuminating. Initially, it's easy to judge this book as overly simplified and juvenile, but as Cain delves into the details of what creates a given individual's character, it becomes increasingly clear that she did her research.
All that said, for people who love to read about personality and character types, this is a very fascinating read. This is a book not just for introverts, but also for extroverts who'd like to understand more about what makes the ever-elusive introvert tick the way they do....more
This was an insightfully composed manifesto for a society whose intentions to safeguard the environment are sincere. Unfortunately, we do not live inThis was an insightfully composed manifesto for a society whose intentions to safeguard the environment are sincere. Unfortunately, we do not live in that society. But for those of us who would like to encourage/foster/stimulate that transition, this book gives its reader a handy set of tools.
From the very beginning, McDonough and Braungart define their terms and provide context: as industry has evolved and technologies have modernized, we have done a very poor job of neutralizing environmental impact. As an architect and a chemical engineer, McDonough and Braungart give some fantastic scenarios where the improved/upgraded production of a good is recyclable indefinitely and the negative externalities of producing that good are essentially zero. They illuminate that this concept is completely different than the polluting and energy-costly downcycling operations like paper and plastic "recycling".
Given that Braungart is a chemical engineer, they also do a very good job of looking at the bigger, open-system picture. They lay down two important terms: biological metabolism and technological metabolism. They state that in an efficient system, these two metabolisms remain completely separate, lest one spoil the other. They describe several methods by which these ideas could be executed successfully.
All in all, it's a really good read. Despite the fact that the plastic polymer they use for the material is considerably heavier than a conventional book....more
Here’s the gist. In an increasingly complex world, brimming with an onslaught of new technologies, no single human can wield all the benefits that canHere’s the gist. In an increasingly complex world, brimming with an onslaught of new technologies, no single human can wield all the benefits that can be derived from a discipline’s emerging advancements. Gawande claims “man is fallible, but maybe men are less so.” He’s a proponent of teamwork and collaboration, stating that “one of the essential characteristics of modern life is that we all depend on systems—on assemblages of people or technologies or both—and among our most profound difficulties is making them work.”
Gawande, who was commissioned by the WHO to curtail the rates of surgical complications and deaths (7 million and 1 million worldwide, respectively), explored solutions. Time and again, he arrived at the simple solution of a properly tailored checklist. A proper checklist does not turn team members into automatons, but rather fosters/encourages healthy collaboration and teamwork; situations that encourage one to speak openly regarding concerns.
Now here’s the rub. At first, I was going to give this book a pretty low rating. I thought it was a longwinded 200-page concept that could have been adequately explained in 15 pages. Therein lies the problem. Medical school-bound, I appear to be at fault of exactly what Gawande is preaching against. I’m impatient, and was constantly thinking that this seemingly pleonastic book was keeping me from the long list of other books I want to read. Aha! Gawande mentions arrogant doctors lamenting the inconvenience of a checklist, most of whom irritated me while reading. Sadly, they are not so different from me—and my impatience. If anything, this book was a lesson that “…in medicine, we hold up ‘autonomy’ as a professional lodestar, a principle that stands in direct opposition to discipline.” But it is precisely discipline, however, that will provide us the ability to contend with the new and extraordinarily complex systems on which we have come to depend. ...more
Firstly, I’ll echo most every other review here: this book’s incredible. Heartfelt, sincere, thoroughly researched, articulate, and comprehensive, thiFirstly, I’ll echo most every other review here: this book’s incredible. Heartfelt, sincere, thoroughly researched, articulate, and comprehensive, this book does what it says on the cover: delivers a biography of the grandly pervasive entity that is cancer. As a med-school bound graduate student studying environmental exposures that alter/contribute to increased risk of cancer, this book was ideally suited to my interests. In the end, though, it wouldn’t have mattered; it’s an incredible read regardless of the reader’s interests.
Let’s dig in. So, the pinnacle of my rapture was when Mukherjee made the triple parallel between the tenacity of long distance running, the veracity of cancer, and the brilliance of human ingenuity. He writes, “…for generations, a four minute 1600-meter race was thought to represent an intrinsic physiological limit, as if muscles could inherently not be made to move faster or lungs breathe any deeper…when the record was broke, what was broke permanently was not a limit, but the idea of limits.” As one reads this book and travels alongside incredible people as they discovered nuances to this extraordinarily complex disease, one sees a morbid beauty to the disease and the respect that it demands if it is to be tempered and understood successfully.
This abstract understanding of cancer is compounded by Mukherjee’s unwavering dedication to and respect for his patients. He believes that the story of cancer is a story of a patient’s struggle to survive—that resilience, inventiveness, and survivorship (qualities oftentimes ascribed to great physicians) are reflected qualities, which emanate first from those who struggle with the disease and mirrored by those who treat them. The history of medicine is made possible not solely through a physician’s expertise, but through the substantive heroism of the patient.
From a pragmatic point of view, Mukherjee also labels medicine as a technological field. The dawn of oncology was a scary place, as cancer appeared to be a bewildering “hodgepodge” of chaos. Initially, the biological characteristics of tumors were described as so multifarious that it seemed to defy the possibility of any credible organization. This bewilderment was countered by a targeted refusal to accept this as the status quo. Laskerites (via the groundbreaking and revolutionary outspokenness of Mary and Albert Lasker and Sidney Farber) prompted an enormous groundswell in cancer research; the idea that “expediency must not merely inspire science; it must invade science” became an increasingly ubiquitous slogan. This tenacity exposed the core of medicine, which Mukherjee eloquently describes as a “technological art.” At its roots, science embodies the human desire to understand nature, while technology couples that desire with the ambition to control nature. These two are intertwined, in that humans want to understand nature in order to control it. Medicine is of the same vein, science helps us understand, while medical innovation helps us understand and subsequently control.
Such an exciting enterprise is predicated and fueled on the unknown. It is exactly what we don’t know that makes the future of oncology an inspiring frontier. As Mukherjee states, “Any extrapolation of history into the future presupposes an environment of static discovery—an oxymoron.” It’s exactly the fact that Atossa, a 3000-year-old Egyptian mummy discovered to have a tumor-like growth, would have been subjected to vastly differing prognoses on a decadal basis within the past 50 years. This exponential expansion in the underlying physiology of cancer is palpable through the pages of this book, as is Mukherjee’s deferential excitement.
It’s with this excitement that Mukherjee makes the most startling claim of all; we must come to accept cancer as the new “normal”. He says, “…quite possibly, we are inherently destined to slouch towards a malignant end.” This possible inevitability, however, paired with our continually expanding understanding of the disease, should not be fraught with a macabre resignation. Mukherjee’s statement, which initially punches you in the stomach, should be understood the way that Dr. Mukherjee sees it, “an attempt to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, to demystify its behavior.” In many ways, cancer, essentially a disease that stems from cells that have acquired immortality, has found the Fountain of Youth before we have. Cancer inherently carries what we as humans hold most dear: a consuming desire to outwit, outlive, and survive. ...more
You win some. You lose some. I admit defeat, this play was almost completely lost on me.
Sure sure, I can understand why some people may find the inaneYou win some. You lose some. I admit defeat, this play was almost completely lost on me.
Sure sure, I can understand why some people may find the inane and highly irritating nonsensical dialogue "profound" or "existential", but I guess I just don't care that much.
I could try to read into every bizarre response, but I'd rather not. If this was a lesson in futility, it worked.
So, my verdict: this play could mean something, but I'd rather not attempt to get past the gloriously maddening discourse of Gogo and Didi, let alone begin to even TRY understanding Lucky's stream of consciousness BS. Thank god there are thousands of other literary works pining for my attention. WfG, go away....more
Sorkin did an incredible job with Too Big to Fail! As a reader that has always been interested in the complexity and grandiosity of the financial sectSorkin did an incredible job with Too Big to Fail! As a reader that has always been interested in the complexity and grandiosity of the financial sector, but unabashedly claims complete ignorance on the subject, found Sorkin's monolith of a book astoundingly fascinating and well written. In ~500 pages, Sorkin takes some of the most complicated facets of the '08 financial crisis and lays it out in magnetic narrative form. Essentially every sentence in the book is a researched observation, but instead of being choppy and difficult to digest, it's composed in mellifluous and engaging syntax. Bravo!
As for the details. Sorkin begins with a brief discussion of Jamie Dimon (CEO of JP Morgan), and quickly moves on to the bulk of the first half of the book: Lehman Brothers. Through an incredible amount of detail, Sorkin highlights the ever growing toxicity of Lehman's mortgage-backed securities, the chronic underwriting of their assets on their balance sheets, the systemic stubbornness of Dick Fuld (CEO of Lehman) et al in recognizing the seriousness of the situation, and the unrelenting battery of short selling that basically drove Lehman to bankruptcy. The outright dishonesty and shoddy accounting, mixed with the unwillingness of the government to provide a Bear Stearns-esque bailout and the monumental rumormongering, forced Lehman to file.
The latter half of the book elaborates upon the aftermath of Lehman's collapse. Needless to say, "snowball effect" has never been more apt. Ultimately, the collapse of Lehman initiated a domino effect in which investors began to lose trust in the liquidity of the country's largest financial firms. Because of this, banks began approaching the precipice one by one. After Lehman's collapse, Merrill Lynch was next (which was bought by Bank of America just in the nick of time), then Morgan Stanley (bailed out with LITERALLY a $9000000000 check from Mitsubishi Tokyo), then Goldman Sachs. As the big investment banks were all looking into the abyss, the government finally decided to step in. At first, the government tried to work out a private sector deal, where banks would merge/acquire and/or financially support one another to minimize the damage of their ever growing toxic assets. Unfortunately, it became quite clear to the government that the intricate interwoven nature of the financial sector made it essentially impossible for them to bail each other out. There was one option, they either all tumble together, taking the bulk of the world's wealth with it, or the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, and the FDIC step in to prop up these firms.
Well, we all know what happens. Paulson, Geithner, Bair, and Bernanke decide to unroll the Troubled Asset Relief Program (notoriously known as "TARP") to save the financial sector. But, as a reader who feels simultaneously distal and proximal to the actions of those on Wall Street, found it astounding that such little regulation exists in the handling of TRILLIONS of US dollars. I find it disgusting that one firm will serve as a counterparty to indemnify loans and securities, but AT THE SAME TIME take out credit default swaps against other loans that the same bank has made. Such a conflict of interest makes absolutely no [ethical/moral] sense! In the end, this book will show you that the rigor of the financial sector is driven by one thing: profit maximization. Their job is to make money on money. Because of this fact, and the fierce competition that exists between these firms, enormously arrogant bankers play with ever larger amounts of money and take increasingly dangerous risks in hopes of garnering greater returns than their competitor. Prepare to be simultaneously disgusted and amazed. A definite 'must read' to understand our financial landscape....more
Sharot's interesting attempt to break down the naturally-selected tendency of mentally projecting an overly optimistic future falls short. While thereSharot's interesting attempt to break down the naturally-selected tendency of mentally projecting an overly optimistic future falls short. While there are definitely some insightful theories, the "science" she believes she has explored is nothing more than a few shoddy observational experiments.
It's not all that bad, though. I think every human can agree that when we project the future, we prefer optimism to pessimism for the sole reason that it makes us eager to achieve the best possible outcome. The book was trying to address a simple question: why do we do that; given that empirical data has established we systematically predict a better future than what typically unfolds? It didn't answer this question though. There were some painfully general and nonspecific ideas...but that's about it. I would have been much happier if there was some discussion about the proposed sequence of evolved traits. Did irrational optimism precede the human desire for fulfillment and a hope for a better tomorrow, or vice-versa? What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Luckily, the book's short, and easy to get through. If you've bought it, read it. If you haven't...eh, there are better books out there....more