I don't have time to write a full review at the moment, but I must say that The Emperor of All Maladies is an absolute must read for anyone who worksI don't have time to write a full review at the moment, but I must say that The Emperor of All Maladies is an absolute must read for anyone who works in cancer research, prevention or treatment and anyone who is or has a family member being treated for cancer. In fact, I recommend it for everyone. This is an incredibly honest accounting of where we've come from in cancer treatment and where we stand now while also succeeding in a feat rare to such works: Mukharjee capably demonstrates compassion for cancer patients, treating them as humans and not abstract intellectual concepts.
Mukharjee is a very talented writer and scientific/medical concepts are built up in a logical progression, starting from simple principles. I will hang on to this book as an important reference work.
This is a nice, short history of Queen Victoria on vacation, which earned its fourth star in the last chapter with a fascinating bit of British colon This is a nice, short history of Queen Victoria on vacation, which earned its fourth star in the last chapter with a fascinating bit of British colonial history and the illumination of how important the Queen's leisure was to international relations.
This work suffers from the same problems that plague most histories of the French Riviera. Never a seat of political intrigue and relatively safe from military campaigns, there isn't much history to write about. It has a great climate, but was hard to get to until engineering advances (and the order of Napoleon) brought the Corniche Road and, later, the railroad. Nice was a popular winter resort for consumptives fleeing cold northern climes, until people got the bright idea to vacation there. In a moment of economic uncertainty, someone built the Promenade des Anglais (that is, the Englishmen's walking path) which brought jobs and more Englishmen. Royalty and hanger's on started coming down to walk, gamble, and see each other's flower gardens.
So Victoria did what everyone else did when they came to the Riviera: next to nothing. She spent nearly a year of her life, in six week segments, visiting Cannes, Hyeres and Nice. She visited the Riviera more than any other vacation spot outside of England. She visited Churches and was an engaged participant in the yearly Battle of the Flowers.
Nelson's short history is a lovely work of insight into the vacation habits of the elderly Victoria - rote knowledge of the Royal families of Europe helps keep the characters sorted, but there is a helpful 'Dramatis Personae' in the back if the reader needs some help. ...more
If Guy Ritchie has one excuse to make another Sherlock Holmes movie, it is to be the filmmaker who built a scale model of the Crystal Palace at SydenhIf Guy Ritchie has one excuse to make another Sherlock Holmes movie, it is to be the filmmaker who built a scale model of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham and then blew it up. Or blew part of it up. I'd settle for a wing, and pay the twenty bucks to see it done in IMAX.
'Reclaimed', in the modern parlance, from the glass hall built for the Great Exhbition in 1851, the Crystal Palace was a Victorian Epcot Center of the ancient and prehistoric , built in the center of a three story hothouse, overdone and cluttered as only the Victorians could clutter and overdo:
The ethos of the new Cystal Palace was to be the education of the masses, by giving them an 'Illustrated Encyclopedia'. To that end, a historical theme park awaited them, with prehistory in the grounds, and the march of time in ten 'Architectural Courts' . . . There was an eact replica of the Court of Lions in the Alhambra Court, and an authentic copy of an elaborate Moorish stalactite-honeycomb roof, in 5000 separate pieces of gelatine. [Edible? Kate wonders.]The Pompeian and Italian courts exploded with color. [That is your cue, Mr. Ritchie!] The Assyrian Palace was guarded by gigantic winged and bearded figures. The Egyptian court glowed wit the pharaonic temples . . .Two of the colossal figures at Abu Simbel were reproduced in painted plaster, 51 feet high, towering into the vaulted transept roof. The Greek court was peopled with white plaster casts of ancient statues, the damage time had inflicted on the originals made good in Sydenham. (p227-8)
Anyone who has ever seen a picture of a Victorian Drawing room knows: this just wasn't enough.
. . .this grand design got tangled up with . . . Zoological collections, and freak shows and the Directors concern to make money. The many beautiful illustrations show greenery dripping from every projection and palm trees everywhere. There were bazaars selling everything from shawls to pianos, toys to furniture. . .Attentive visitors in search of enlightenment found themselves confronted by models of grotesque people and collections of stuffed animals, including a hippopotamus. . . One of the iguanadons was 34 feet long, big enough for twenty gentlemen to sit under the mould prepared for it and enjoy a splendid dinner, in 1853.
The palace itself contained 400 tons of glass and 4000 tons of iron. It was twice the size of the Great Exhbition hall with three stories and three vaulted transepts and could bee seen on its perch on sydenham hill from Hammersmith, some 12 miles away, if the night was clear. it sounds amazing, and somehow this is the first I've heard mention of it. It burned to the ground in1936 (there are spectacular photographs of the fire available on line), too late for Mr. Holmes, and has largely been forgotten by history. Let's hope historical fiction and period films can one day bring it back.
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I could never get into Our Mutual Friend, though I wanted to so badly. Bleak House struck my fancy immediately, and remains one of my all time favorites, but OMF, though the book blurb sounded right up my alley, was a slog. I out in down, hoping to pick it up again before I reached my deathbed, but this was more from sheer obstinacy than a true desire to read OMF from cover to cover. Reading Victorian London, however, I kept thinking back to it. More than BH, which takes as its target the whole of Victorian society, OMF, from it's Thames watermen to the wealthy 'dust pile' owner, all described in vivid detail by this fine history, is a novel of London itself. I think Victorian London may have filled in the pieces I need to finish OMF and enjoy it. ...more
This is an excellent overview of the cultural attractions of the French Riviera, from the Roman ruins to famous film sets of the 1960s. Hale points ouThis is an excellent overview of the cultural attractions of the French Riviera, from the Roman ruins to famous film sets of the 1960s. Hale points out the important architecture, gardens, museums and works of art and is judgmental with out being cynical, which I much appreciate in a travel writer. This book will be of particular interest to those seeking information on the lives and works of, or anecdotes about, expats and artists in the Riviera in the inter- and post-war years; the work of artists and writers like Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, the Scott Fitzgeralds, Rebecca West, Leger and others. In this it differs markedly from Robert Kanigel's High Season, which focuses most of its cultural reporting on the 19th century. There is very little over-lap between the two books. There is an excellent chapter on the collector- and show-gardens of the Riviera, as well as a great chapter on the attractions of the villages perches - the hill towns. Not a traditional tour guide like Frommer's or Rick Steve's, Hale's The French Riviera:A Cultural history is none-the-less an essential travel guide for any tourist or journeyman/woman headed for the South of France. ...more
Kathryn Atwood's Women Heroes of World War II tells the stories of 26 spies, resisters, rescuers, nurses and performers and celebraWhat a great book!
Kathryn Atwood's Women Heroes of World War II tells the stories of 26 spies, resisters, rescuers, nurses and performers and celebrates the role that women from all over Europe and America played in the defeat of the Third Reich. Atwood brings these womens' stories to life by providing tales of their bravery and intelligence but also putting their work in the greater context of the war. The book is aimed at younger readers but there is much for older readers here too, and Atwood kindly provides sections on 'Further Reading' for each chapter.
Much of the history here was ignored in my school text books which boiled the entire war down to: Hitler invades Sudentenland, Hitler invades Poland, Hitler invades everywhere else, Americans arrive on D-Day, Hiroshima, war is over. For young Americans, Atwood's book not only provides an introduction to the role that women played in defeating Hitler but also gives an excellent introduction to World War II history as it was lived by non-Americans.
This book is highy recommended for people of all ages.
[Small Disclaimer: Kathryn Atwood is a friend of mine on Goodreads and was before I read this book, but I've never met her in person and I purchased the book of my own accord.] ...more
I met Eric Larson in 2004 or 2005 when he came to the small bookshop where I worked to give a reading of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, I met Eric Larson in 2004 or 2005 when he came to the small bookshop where I worked to give a reading of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. I was really impressed then, and still am, with his dedication to researching a subject and his talent at teasing out important details on a complex topic and laying them out in a clear narrative that will grip a reader's imaagination. All of those skills are on display here in Thunderstruck, and yet, I couldn't wait for the book to be over. Thunderstruck is the story of two very different men - one Dr. Crippen and a Mr. Marconi. Crippen was born in the small town of Coldwater, MI, which I vaguely remmeber driving through on the way to a sporting event sometime in highschool. (Our coach: "This is how you know you're in Coldwater: corn field, corn field, gas station, corn field. . .") He was trained in homeopathic medicine and opthamology and went into Patent Medicine, which brought him to New york and then to London. In New York, he married a 'robust and fiery' actress named Cora, who had pretentions for the stage, and whose penchant for expensive things and desire to be a great singer and actress Crippen tried desperately to fulfill. Marconi was an Italian-born son of Irish-Italian parentage who, due to an eccentric mother, never had a formal education yet managed to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for "Wireless Telegraphy", or 'radio', if you will. Larsen mostly succeeds in tying the stories of these two men together, but not in a way that at the end, seems satisfying. The detail surrounding Marconi's attempts to communicate by radio across the Atlantic drag on and on, as do the details surrounding his patent feuds with other inventors. The general history of the Edwardian age that Larson writes is interesting, though much of it is a repeat from my recent reading of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. This book may have begun with best intentions but in the end left me bored and unsatisfied. I look forward, however, to reading The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, which I've heard great things about. ...more
The Fever suffers from being too short. I trying to be too many things in 240 pages+footnotes: a cultural history, an environmental and ecological history, a popular science work of microbiology and entymology, and a post-colonial history. The fascinating thing about malaria is that any book on this disease must be all of these things. And no author, no matter how good, can do that well in a book this short, a choice I'm sure that was made by an editor trying to capitalize on malaria's recent resurgence as a cause celebre(covered in the last chapter) with out scaring off a book reading public scared of anything over 300 pages.
Shah gives it the old college try, though, and a reader of The Fever will uncover a lot of facts with some trite but spot on analysis. One point I found fascinating:
Malaria was a global phenomenon until lthe early 20th century and its prevalence until then accounts for the lack of habitation or agriculture in many otherwise arable and habitable places that remain relative uninhabited today: rural Georgia and Alabama, for example. It was fascinating to me that a disease that is today associated so heavily with the tropics would be responsible for the poor settlement of places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where my mother's family is from: a decidedly non-tropical locale. Malaria did not recede from the developed world through aggressive tactics like those practiced in poor, tropical countries today, however. It receded because development destroyed mosquito habitats and increased herds of farm animals were more attractive sources of food for those mosquitos that remained. Shah gives the lie to people like economist Jeffrey Sachs, who claim that malaria creates poverty and eradicating malaria will also eradicate it: Poverty, she points, out, can create malaria, too.
Shah is also very good when it comes to the malaria and drug development, and makes a really interesting point that Siddhartha Mukerjee also makes in The Emperor of All Maladies. There is an almost militant and religious dedication to high-tech solutions to diseases from malaria to cancer. These high-tech solutions have their draw backs, however: they are incredibly expensive, result expensive therapies, and here's the kicker for malaria - rarely work as well as wormwood or quinine and, because of their high specificity, are theoretically more likely to generate resistant strains. In both cases, new chemotherapies are just as likely to be found through the classic stab in the dark methods as they are through high-tech engineering. Yet we chase high-tech methods because, as Shah notes, they are 'economy building.'
I really would have loved to hear more about the modern drug development efforts being made, and the efforts being made to deliver the drugs to malarious countries. I do believe, like a Nigerian health official quoted in the last chapter, that we have to find a way to manufacture these drugs in situ, as opposed to manufacturing them outside and then shipping them in, with all of the extra costs and difficulties that ensures.
This is highly recommended as an introduction to the history and current state of the epidemiology and treatment of malaria. ...more
Ashort retelling of the sinking of the Titanic, told from the perspectives of the passengers who made it into lifeboat no. 8. While the story was toldAshort retelling of the sinking of the Titanic, told from the perspectives of the passengers who made it into lifeboat no. 8. While the story was told with flare - I teared up twice - this is another kindle single that really should have been turned into a full length book. It was too short on detail.
Recommended, though, for anyone looking for a good, short read. ...more
A great travellogue/history of the European conquest of the America's between the arrival of Columbus and the Pilgrims. There are some fascinating stoA great travellogue/history of the European conquest of the America's between the arrival of Columbus and the Pilgrims. There are some fascinating stories and insights here that weren't taught in school; most of the book, however, is dedicated to Horwitz' retelling of his travels along the routes of the conquitadors, and makes for a good lesson in how the conquest of the continent resonates among Americans (United States-ian and otherwise) today. This book makes an excellent companion volume to Charles Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which is probably the best modern history of America before European settlement that I've read. ...more
What a perfect introduction to the archaeology of Pompeii! An engaging and honest look at the town and its history. I have wanted to see Pompeii sinceWhat a perfect introduction to the archaeology of Pompeii! An engaging and honest look at the town and its history. I have wanted to see Pompeii since I was a little girl and am finally going to have the chance in four weeks. I will know better how well this prepared me then. Review to follow . . ....more