I had to read this for work. It’s hard not to be cynical and say this is basically a Ra-Ra book to encourage opti...moreGenre: Self-Help/Business Motivation
I had to read this for work. It’s hard not to be cynical and say this is basically a Ra-Ra book to encourage optimistic thinking, and therefore optimistic results and it has no substance. Well… if the substance is supposed to be optimism = optimistic results then that’s all the substance there needs to be, right? I even agree with that premise, but it’s still very hard not to be cynical about the book. It is written in a story form so it’s quick and easy to read… it’s just the story is at a second-grade level… (less)
This mostly read like a basic economics book. It was written in an approachable way, but I did feel that it argued beyond the data it...moreGenre: Nonfiction
This mostly read like a basic economics book. It was written in an approachable way, but I did feel that it argued beyond the data it presented. The basics of economics covered I was already familiar with, but I learned quite a bit from the examples and applications from the real world. The audio version was an approachable way of reading this book; although I think I may need to listen to it again to absorb everything I would’ve gotten if I’d read a print version instead.(less)
This book was a great deal of fun to listen too! It’s a really interesting companion to The Omnivore’s Dilemma in that both books are looking at where...moreThis book was a great deal of fun to listen too! It’s a really interesting companion to The Omnivore’s Dilemma in that both books are looking at where our food comes from. However, is a personal story of how one family responds to the issues brought up in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle starts with a personal discussion of the moral aspect of where our food comes from. The entire book is a personal narrative, describing how the authors’ family attempts to live a year on only locally produced food (with a heavy emphasis on their own garden). If you’re looking for a dramatic tale of deprivation, this isn’t it. I don’t think any of the three authors ever really complains about the project.
I am unabashedly a city-girl who has no clue what produce belongs in which season; however, I found it quite inspiring – they evoke a pastoral ideal with their bountiful garden and the tales of chickens and turkeys – but also quite intimidating. I am not a gardener, it’s not something I like doing, nor is the idea of being tied to a work-schedule immovably dictated by plants an appealing prospect. However, I can’t imagine attempting to eat entirely locally without having the kind of abundance their psudo-farm provides. (Nor can I imagine devoting the sheer amount of time their farm takes! I have other hobbies I want to pursue). But I still find it a tempting project. I like the idea of sustainability. I like the idea that my food has all of the nutrient’s it’s supposed to have, and is not doused in chemicals. I like the idea of the improved taste of the food (although I’m highly skeptical of this claim). Obviously, the book has a certain seductive charm ;-)(less)
I barely made it though listening to this. It’s long. It’s incredibly repetitive, and there was barely anything that wasn’t obvious;...moreGenre: Nonfiction
I barely made it though listening to this. It’s long. It’s incredibly repetitive, and there was barely anything that wasn’t obvious; job competition is now world-wide, since many jobs can be done from anywhere. Yes, I knew that. I’ve done that. The advent of the World Wide Web (e.g. Netscape) changed business, science, and day-to-day living. Well, duh, I lived though that. I am not sure why this book was touted as brilliantly insightful, except possibly that these observations may not have been as blindingly obvious in 2003 as they are in 2010.(less)
This was just as readable (or is that listen-able?) an audiobook as The Omnivore’s Dilemma however I felt like ther...moreIn Defense of Food
This was just as readable (or is that listen-able?) an audiobook as The Omnivore’s Dilemma however I felt like there was a lot less substance. It’s basically some rules of thumb to use when making personal food choices, which makes it a good companion piece to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, even if some of the points made were repetitive between the books. There were a few really fascinating tidbits mentioned, like the study done on a group of city-dwelling Australian aboriginals with diabetes – they spent a month living a hunter-gather lifestyle in the brush and by the end of the month nearly all the indicators for diabetes (and the other “western diseases” they had expressed symptoms for) disappeared. It only took a month! Of course, it’s a rather large life-style and diet change… but still incredibly dramatic findings!(less)
This is a cross between a travel memoir and essays exploring different aspects of happiness. The organizing principal is exploring hap...moreGenre:Nonfiction
This is a cross between a travel memoir and essays exploring different aspects of happiness. The organizing principal is exploring happiness in relation to geography (or more accurately cultural geography).
Eric Weiner starts by heading to the Netherlands and the World Database of Happiness, which simply rates the countries of the world based on how happy their citizens claim to be. This is part of the (relatively) new science of happiness, which Weiner relies on for much of his attempts to explain the whys behind his observations. The Netherlands themselves rate fairly high on the Database of Happiness. Weiner lightly explores the idea that this is due to their lack of rules/restrictions; marijuana is legal, as is prostitution. This idea contrasts strongly with the next country he visits, Switzerland , which is incredibly rule-bound.
In Switzerland Weiner seems to have trouble explaining why the Swiss rate so high on the happiness scale. Mostly he concludes that it has to do with a lack of negative factors to happiness. Envy is a huge depressor to happiness and the Swiss culture frowns on showing off wealth, which presumably decreases envy. Inefficiencies (such as traffic jams) are linked to unhappiness. The Swiss are very good at eliminating those. Weiner even suggests that all the rules that surround life in Switzerland are actually beneficial to happiness, because it eliminates extraneous choices – people like having choices, but having too many options is overwhelming and causes depression. Finally, Weiner flirts with the idea that the Swiss’ happiness is due to their connection to nature and the beauty of their geography.
As he did for Switzerland , in all the happy places Weiner visits he flitters from explanation to explanation but doesn’t try to draw any conclusions. In Bhutan it’s attributed to having low expectations, not analyzing happiness (instead simply enjoying it), a belief in reincarnation, and having a popular monarchy with a military more known for its beer production then its military aspects. In Iceland happiness is attributed to a strong sense of community, embracing ART as a down-to-earth and expected activity, and an acceptance of (possibly even reverence for) failure – it indicates that you’re trying new things. In Thailand Weiner attributes happiness to a “don’t sweat the small stuff” attitude and again, a lack of analyzing happiness. I found the final three chapters on Great Brian, India and America to be mostly forgettable; Weiner didn’t really suggest any unusual reasons for these countries’ happiness levels, although I did find it ironic that he explored how American’s search for happiness based on location, since that’s exactly what his book was doing.
In general I found this to be a superficial search. Weiner throws out a lot of interesting potential reasons for a high happiness index; but no hypotheses can be drawn. He never tries to draw similarities between the happy places or to draw conclusions from his observations. He comes closest to drawing negative conclusions; beyond a fairly low threshold money doesn’t make you happy, feeling a lack of control will make you unhappy, and so will having expectations greater then your prospects. I guess it’s a whole lot easier to say what causes unhappiness then to say what causes happiness. (less)
Omnivore’s Dilemma is an interesting book, although very “chatty journalist” in style (not generally a style I favor). It’s making me...moreGenre: Nonfiction
Omnivore’s Dilemma is an interesting book, although very “chatty journalist” in style (not generally a style I favor). It’s making me think about my food a lot more then I ever had before. This is not necessarily comfortable. The conceit of the book is a description of how the food from 4 meals got to his plate: an industrial-farming produced McDonald’s meal, an “industrial-organic” meal from Whole Foods, a locally-grown post-organic farmed meal, and an (almost) entirely self-provided hunter-gather meal.
The first (long) sections on the McDonald’s meal, describing modern industrial farming are incredibly disturbing – both from the plant-growing side and from the animal handling side.
For the Whole Foods meal, Pollan spends a long time discussing organic food and the organic food movement. (It’s a whole lot more then a reaction to genetically engineered plants, which is what I had thought initially!) Before reading Omnivore’s Dilemma I’ve heard the claim that organic food tasted better. I had not heard that it was demonstrably more nutritious. Nor did I know the cost to the environment of industrial farming. Unfortunately for my piece of mind, Pollan also describes the failings in what he calls “modern industrial organic farming” (which is how Whole Foods procures most of it’s produce); free-range doesn’t really mean what I thought it did, and organic plant-farming is still only somewhat less destructive of the environment then non-organic methods.
The description of the meal produced at Polyface farm contrasts sharply with the previous meals. However, Pollan’s view of Polyface farm is so idyllic that I have trouble believing it’s real. He does list the problems with the local-only food chain; government policies and regulations don’t support it, nor is it a really viable solution for modern city life.
The final meal is almost entirely provided by Pollan himself via gardening, hunting and mushroom gathering. This was more of a personal memoir, then anything else. It was interesting to hear about the sensations of hunting and gathering, and this section tackled the moral dilemmas of eating directly. In many ways the book gave me lots more to worry about but very little in the way of solutions that fit into modern city life. (less)
This isn't really a book; it's more like the informational text that goes along with a business-related personality test that you must buy the book in...moreThis isn't really a book; it's more like the informational text that goes along with a business-related personality test that you must buy the book in order to take. The test and my personal results were interesting. The book adds absolutely nothing to them. It does have an interesting selection of strengths however, splitting things up that don't usually get split up (differentiating between empathetic and "glad handling") and recognizing things like cheerfulness as a strength in the corporate environment. So, there are some interesting things to think about, but I couldn't force m'self to finish the book - the fluff-to-content ratio was very very unbalanced.(less)
Genre: Nonfiction? Comedy? Analysis of the Romance Genre? Some of all of the above?
A lot of this book is a very tongue-and-cheek look at the romance...moreGenre: Nonfiction? Comedy? Analysis of the Romance Genre? Some of all of the above?
A lot of this book is a very tongue-and-cheek look at the romance genre of the last 20 years or so, including many of the tried and true tropes of the genre - such as the innocent (and 99.9% of the time virginal) heroine and the playboy hero who gets one taste of the heroine and swears off his wicked ways in favor of luv tru luv. There is a lot of raunchy language in the book - along with much talk about the hero's Wang of Mighty Loving (she comes every time, and it's always ready for more!) and the heroine's Magical Hoo Hoo (once you have it, you'll never be satisfied with anything else ever again, amen.) which had me rolling on the floor laughing. On the more serious side, there is an entire chapter looking at the history of rape in the genre and it's whys and wherefores (which always bothered the heck out of me, and left me scratching my head about what it was doing in books about romance, especially when it's not usually the villain doing the raping, it's the hero. Go figure.) The chapter on nit-picking the clinch covers is pure fun - plus I finally understand why there are so many scantily clad large-breasted women on the covers of the novels - originally it was to sell them to the (then) predominately male distributors and wholesalers, not to the actual purchaser.
I was amused by the choose-your own adventure at the end (or at least the punch line for the paranormal romance version - but then, I've read enough of that sub-genre to really _get_ what they were poking fun at). However, I could have done without the other joke sections, like the mad-libs style write-your-own-romance and the coloring book page. I agree with one reviewer I read who really would've liked a list of all the novels they mentioned - as there were a number of pointers to books I might enjoy reading (based on heroine archetypes, plot trends, favorite heroes, etc.) but they're so scattered though the book that it's hard to find 'em again to create a list of books I might want to read.
If you enjoy romance novels, and you don't mind raunchy language (I'm not sure how else they could talk when discussing the nuts and bolts of a sexually explicit genre...) this is a hilariously funny read that I highly recommend. (less)
This book isn't really what I thought it would be: We don't _know_ who made the Bayeaux Tapestry - there are 5 believable patrons, each...moreGenre: History
This book isn't really what I thought it would be: We don't _know_ who made the Bayeaux Tapestry - there are 5 believable patrons, each of which would have a different reason for commissioning the piece. There is no record of where or what workshop created it.
I have learned a bit more about the politics at the time, which is interesting (although the way it's written up is kinda dull). And there is depressingly little on the textile component of the Tapestry - although I found the analysis of the symbology quite interesting. (All done in the context of showing that whoever designed the Tapestry was educated - not exactly rocket science considering the Latin inscription - and was familiar with the international art scene of his time.)
The first chapter imo was totally miss-able - all about how different German, English and French historians have tried to claim the Tapestry as part of creating their national identity. I think my biggest issue with the book is that it's written in a very DRY style. It does give a bit more background into the personal histories (if not personalities) of the main actors in the drama that became the Norman Conquest, which was interesting. I had no idea that so many aristocrats were world-travelers in the 11th century!(less)
A common sense diet book, with a very casual - even chatty - tone. The recommendations are mostly to eat less and exercise and sleep m...moreGenre: Diet book
A common sense diet book, with a very casual - even chatty - tone. The recommendations are mostly to eat less and exercise and sleep more, the useful bits are on _how_ to eat less, which appeal to me: search out _quality_, eat slowly while doing nothing else, put your utensils down frequently and describe to yourself the flavors you're experiencing. It's also got a fair number of recipes, one of which sounds so odd I will have to try it - a green bean and mango soup. (less)
This book looks at how the sheer embarrassment of choices middle-upper class Americans have is stressful and act...moreGenre: Non-Fiction, Popular Psychology
This book looks at how the sheer embarrassment of choices middle-upper class Americans have is stressful and actually detrimental to our happiness.
The book is a quick read and there are some really interesting points that are made. Generally I really enjoyed it, however, I felt that about 2/3s of the way though it became repetitive fluff.
The beginning is fascinating - looking at the sheer number of choices we have in shopping; Barry Schwartz manages to articulate very clearly why I _hate_ grocery shopping: I can spend 15 minutes trying to figure out which can of caned tomatoes I want to make spaghetti sauce, and that's only 6 feet of one aisle of the grocery store! (And it doesn't help that while I'm trying to decide, I only have one of the two relevant bits of information on which to base my choice - Price I have, but Taste I don't. Very frustrating, imo.)
He follows this up by generally splitting people into 2 categories - "maximizers" who try to find the BEST option and "satisfiers" who stop at the first option that meets their criteria. Unfortunately since choices tend to be a trade-off, and there is an almost infinite amount of time that can be spent trying to see and learn about all the options, maximizers tend to be far less happy about their decisions then satisfiers, even if the decisions are objectively better. Apparently, there is a very strong correlation between scoring on the "maximizer" side of the spectrum and depression; since in our individualistic society with lots of choices - there ought to be a "perfect choice" and we're individually responsible if we don't find it/make it.
Barry Schwartz is very good at describing why having more choices ends up being subjectively bad, but he spends almost no time on what to do about it. Also, imo, the suggestions he _does_ make are impractical.(less)
I've given up reading this as a waste of time. Ironic, really - since it's supposedly about time management.
I finished reading half of it. I simply d...moreI've given up reading this as a waste of time. Ironic, really - since it's supposedly about time management.
I finished reading half of it. I simply don't see how making my bed each morning in any way helps me manage my time better, it just gives me yet another 2-minute project to do in a day :-S. Making lists and prioritizing tasks and breaking tasks into component bits are all good things to do - but I get paid to do them, so it's not exactly skills that are new to me or that I find helpful.(less)
I've been reading this book for years. Or rather I started the book years ago... The first chapter is h...moreGenre: History/Environmental effects on Society
I've been reading this book for years. Or rather I started the book years ago... The first chapter is highly skip-able; as it's mostly Diamond's emotional justification for writing the book. The chapters on Greenland are by far the most interesting (and compelling) in my opinion, although the stuff about Easter Island was all new to me and interesting. As with _Guns, Germs & Steel_ I thought his chapters on Mezo America simplified the history to the point that it hurt his argument - I believe his argument could be applied there and I would believe it, but Diamond himself did not convince me.
The last section of the book is where I stalled (for 2 years!). It's incredibly depressing; It's looking at modern societies/conflicts and the environmental factors there. The depressing part is that it reads like we're just aiming for collapse all over again in each of the examples.
The last two chapters are an analysis of the environmental problems of the modern world that need to be resolved. I expect what he's saying is correct, but he's spent the entire book showing there is a _correlation_ between a societies collapse and over-using their resources. The last two chapters assume that correlation means _causation_, which is not the same thing. I could believe it in this case, but Diamond assumes it to be true, rather then making the argument. Also, a minor point, Diamond claims the give pointers about what an individual can do to help, but his recommendations are so basic as to be useless, imo.(less)
I didn't find this as much fun as the Cartoon History of the Universe trilogy... despite the fa...moreGenre: non-fiction, history, tongue-in-cheek history...
I didn't find this as much fun as the Cartoon History of the Universe trilogy... despite the fact that it picks up where the previous series left off... I think it tried to fit too much in too few pages. It was much more choppy then the other cartoon histories, and I don't think it drew connections as clearly. There are better overviews to Early Modern history then this, although it does have the benefit of not focusing solely on Europe, which is a failing of most overviews. (This is compared to the earlier books, which I thought were some of the best overviews of Antiquity and Medieval history I'd encountered - as well as being amusing and fun to read). (less)