I've finished this book, and I'm not really sure what it is. Is it a holiday memoir? A political essay? A religious self-help primer? Recipe book? Com...moreI've finished this book, and I'm not really sure what it is. Is it a holiday memoir? A political essay? A religious self-help primer? Recipe book? Comedy? Tragedy?
I guess it's all of the above. I can't help but wonder if Palin had a ghost writer for this book. If she did, I feel really sorry for that writer, trying to make any sense at all out of this complete nonsense. It's mind boggling that someone with such a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of freedom of speech and religion was once a serious candidate for the vice presidency. Palin clearly sees religion as some kind of contest that must be won by any tactic possible. At one point, after droning on and on for pages about how Christians are in danger of losing their fundamental rights to push their religion onto other people, she stops to pay tribute to the proud day that Christianity confiscated the Winter Solstice from the Pagans. They won the Solstice for Christ, and it's the duty of every American Christian to make sure the pagans never take it back. The thought process behind this argument is so bonkers and un-christlike, you can't help but laugh. Still, she makes a lot of emotional arguments that will successfully incite fear in her fans. And maybe some of the arguments almost seem convincing on their surface, if you live in a fear bubble, and if you take her words as a balanced representation of the facts. It's too bad there isn't a single citation anywhere in the book, so good luck with the fact checking. Palin seems to misunderstand the most basic issues upon which she bases her thesis. She fundamentally doesn't seem to understand the difference between public and private institutions and property, and she has no concept of why the government should remain religiously neutral, all the while attacking all the religions she doesn't want to have any part of. You can taste the irony. There should be a recipe for it in the last chapter. She cries 'freedom' over and over, but she's not interested in freedom. She wants a Christian Theocracy, and the further we move away from that ideal, the more violated she feels.
If the book weren't written at a 4th grade reading level and easily readable in a couple of hours, I never would have been able to finish it, but I'm glad I did, because I really appreciated her detailed recipe on how to make Rice Krispies Treats. But if you don't have 2 hours of your life to waste on complete drivel, I recommend you skip straight to the chapter where Palin imagines visiting her grandson in college 20 years in the future. It is a fascinating inside look at the rantings of a clearly delusional mind. Incidentally it's also in this chapter that I think Palin got one fact right. In 20 years, no one is going to remember who she is.(less)
I picked this book after reading Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth. After a series of conversations I had with some young-earth creationists, and in lig...moreI picked this book after reading Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth. After a series of conversations I had with some young-earth creationists, and in light of what is occurring in the battle for science curriculum here in Texas, I wanted to find a book that I could recommend to creationists, since most creationists have absolutely no clue about the actual science. Dawkins' book is not that book because he is unable to keep his contempt for young-earth creationists out of the conversation. I think the book would only insult those people who I wish would open up their worldviews a bit. To that end, Dawkins defeats his own purpose for writing the book in the way he delivers the material.
This book has a far more neutral tone, and is a a nice succinct look at the science of evolution. He chases less rabbits than Dawkins also, and he presents the evidence with a less impassioned tone than Dawkins, which I think is real plus if you're actually hoping to get those who disagree with you to listen to what you're saying.
You can see the differences in these two books just by looking at the titles. Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth is an impassioned case for evolution. It's practically a love letter to the natural world. Why Evolution is True is a far drier presentation of much of the same evidence. I personally enjoy Dawkins clever writing and all his rabbit chasing, and the passion for the subject that he can not hide, so personally I didn't enjoy this book as much as The Greatest Show on Earth. But it's a very good general-interest overview of the science of evolution. Reading these two books together, I realize how much my education as a child failed me, largely because my science teachers were clearly afraid of wrath of the religious influences in our community if they really taught the facts of evolution. To me that this is still going on is a travesty.
Since I started the quest for a book that I could share with young-earth creationists, I've realized the search is a futile one. Once you realize where creationists begin their argument, you realize there's no point in trying to have a reasoned conversation with them. They start by stating their hypothesis is fact, and indeed is revealed through God's own words. Then they work in reverse. Anything that doesn't support this conclusion is suspect, and is thrown out, or otherwise ignored. They aren't looking at the evidence to see where it leads, they are looking at the evidence to figure out how to discredit it, or how they can possibly warp it into a way in which it might lend some kind of credibility to what they already believe. Their minds are already made up. They have no respect for the scientific process, and consider the academic process of peer reviewed publication--probably one of the greatest things to happen to the process of learning--to be a conspiracy. I don't know how I forgot this, but i'm grateful for the reminder. Far greater minds than me have been unable to get these people to see how flawed this worldview is. It's certainly not something I'm going to cure. So I think this book concludes my quest. I don't think it will sway many minds that are already made up, But if you're someone out there just looking for a great overview so you can learn more about about the massive evidence used to understand the process that got us here, or if you genuinely don't know what to believe, because science education in this country has failed you miserably, this is a great place to start.
One more thought. I think he should have left the final chapter out. I understand why he feels like he needs to assuage fears that if society in general accepts evolution is true, we'll quickly de-evolve into a pack rabid dogs, but i don't think the argument is something that can be tacked on to this conversation and dealt with fairly in a few pages, and I don't think it has any place in a book about the science itself. It's the job of science to excavate the truth about how the world around us works. It's up to philosophers and religious leaders and the like to figure out what to do with that information. I think the fear of evolution destroying religious world views is about as rational as the fear that the entire universe doesn't revolve around the earth will end the Christian world view. When religion and science spar, historically, religion always loses, and it always finds a way to bounce back. I think the best way to forward for science is to continue to present the evidence and let the religious leaders work out how they're going to work it into their wordview, though I see why Coyne and Dawkins and others feel that to this point, that approach hasn't worked out so well. Still I think the important point that should be hammered relentlessly is that science makes no commentary on faith. Evolution makes no true commentary on God. It isn't even a theory on origins, merely a theory on how life adapted over time. Faith deals with the super-natural. Science stops at the natural world. I think the scientific world would make better progress if they continue to make this point with the religious communities. (less)
I really enjoyed this book as a good comprehensive primer on the current state of the theory of evolution, and how the evidence continues to mount in...moreI really enjoyed this book as a good comprehensive primer on the current state of the theory of evolution, and how the evidence continues to mount in favor of the undeniable fact that the earth is ancient on the scale of billions of years, and the diversification of life on earth through natural selection. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for someone like Dawkins to walk a delicate balance between making these subjects easy enough for those of us who don't hold PhDs in zoology or microbiology to follow the evidence, without watering it down to the point that it loses all poignancy. I think He does a brilliant job.
One of my primary reasons for reading the book was to find something I could give to christians who are young-earth creationists that might give them a singular place to go to unpack just how misleading and manipulative the young-earth intelligent design movement is. I think most people in this position mostly read information from dishonest sources that are deliberately misleading and full of pseudo-science and rhetoric. I'd love to find a primer on the actual science behind evolution that could explain the massive problems with young-earth creationism in a way that doesn't insult their core beliefs. I had my doubts that a writing by the world's most famous atheist could do this, and I think I was right. Despite what I think is an honest effort, Dawkins still has trouble hiding his contempt for "history-deniers" as he calls them, and his atheist world view bubbles to the top pretty often. I don't personally have an issue with this, and in fact I can empathize with why Dawkins is so demonstrably irritated with proponents of young-earth creationism. And he's right. It's deplorable that scientists in 2012 have to stop their legitimate research and put dealings in the academic arena on hold in order to defend the basic facts of the universe from what basically amounts to medieval religious persecution. And I think his anger over the matter is directed entirely at the leaders of the movement who are so deliberately ignorant and/or misleading, and not at the average believer on 'the street." But, that's a subtlety that readers who don't believe in evolution on spiritual grounds will likely miss. In a perfect world, people would be able to read this dispassionately. Unfortunately we live in the polarized time of rhetoric and sound bites, and I think the people that most need the information in this book will be turned off and offended by Dawkins' tone. It's a shame, and it shouldn't be true, but it is. What evolution needs is someone who can deliver the science on this 'street-veiw' level without being critical of people's spiritual views. I don't think this book quite hits the right tone.
Still, I really enjoyed it. I learned many things I didn't know. I read it twice straight through, because there was so much here to chew on. (less)
This is one great book, and I'd recommend pretty much everyone read it. Especially if you struggle with your weight, or heart disease or diabetes run...moreThis is one great book, and I'd recommend pretty much everyone read it. Especially if you struggle with your weight, or heart disease or diabetes run in your family, as they do in mine. My mom recommended this book to me after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, despite the fact that she's very fit and active, not even slightly overweight, and has eaten 'right' all of her life. The basic theme of the book is everything you've been taught about the right way to eat and manage your weight is wrong. It's based on bad science with little to no evidence to back it up, while there continues to be more and more and more mounting evidence that the food pyramid is killing us all. Taubes is not a particularly gifted writer. There is little here in the way of clever writing. It's just straightforward explanation of facts. The amount of research he has done to uncover data and debunk popular concepts of healthy eating is enlightening and frightening.
My one issue with the book is how down on the concept of exercise Taubes is. I think he's only trying to make the point that if you continue to heat high-carb diets, exercise a ton, and subscribe to the calories in/calories out ideas about weight loss (which he disproves both through an in-depth look at how your body actually metabolizes food, and through lots and lots and lots of clinical data) you're never going to lose weight, and you'll still be at risk for things like heart disease and diabetes. But he's practically dismissive of exercise, giving it only one general nod in the whole book that it "may have other health benefits." People looking for an excuse not to exercise could certainly use this book to come to the conclusion that it isn't necessary, and while maybe it's true that exercising is not going to keep you thin if you don't understand the devastating effects of carbs on your body, There most certainly are lots and lots and lots of other reasons to keep yourself fit and strong through regular exercise.
Other than this one point, I think Taubes has laid out a solid, easy-to-understand, if sometimes dry blueprint for what's wrong with modern Western diets, and why the way we eat is killing us via obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and a plethora of other diseases.
If you've done a bunch of traditional diets to try and manage your weight and failed, I think Taubes work could be particularly helpful. His contention is that it isn't your fault, to this point, that you can't control your weight. It's not that you lack will power or are too lazy, as many of us have been told. It's that you've been given the wrong information to succeed. You've been set up for failure, and then blamed when you do fail. Do yourself a favor, read this book, find a physician who understands these principals, and tell your nutritionist to suck it.
This is a book that every American who is wondering what the hell is going on this country needs to read. Taibbi digs deep into the hot mess that is t...moreThis is a book that every American who is wondering what the hell is going on this country needs to read. Taibbi digs deep into the hot mess that is this country's financial system, to uncover how wall street and it's vile relationship with our government is literally stealing our wealth in a series of schemes that are so criminal in nature, to say they're unbelievable is a huge understatement.
If you've been trying to pay attention the past few years, trying to follow mass media to figure out how a few banks were allowed to tank our economy, and then take trillions of dollars in bailouts, pay themselves hundreds of millions in bonuses, and avoid jail, Taibbi lays it out in a concise series of investigations that manage to get deep into the guts of the blueprints of an economic system that incubated such a catastrophe, while managing to deal with it in a way all of us plebeians can understand.
This book is frightening. It's frightening enough that people who don't want to look at where our country is headed can easily enough wave it off as "conspiracy theory" only the problem is there's no conspiracy here. Taibbi uses interviews with industry insiders, and the recorded statements of the CEOs and government officials who perpetrated this crime on the american people to expose what is going on. The most frightening part is when you realize that the crises of 2008 isn't the first crises that has resulted from this criminal setup, and it most certainly isn't going to be the last.
The heart of Taibbi's thesis is how these industries have managed to completely rape the American dream while somehow passing it off as capitalism--which it isn't--how the government is so infested with industry cronies and bureaucratic inefficiencies it's completely powerless to stop it, and in some cases down right complicit in the crimes, and how in the meantime they've got the rest of us reduced to playing politics like they're some kind of sporting event, rooting for blue versus red and boiling down these insanely complex and nuanced crimes into an us vs. them fight that has us all so emotionally blinded by red herring sound byte politics that we're too paralyzed to demand the government stand up and actually do it's job.
And here also lies the book's biggest weakness. In terms of facts and figures, Taibbi is not playing partisan politics here. He indicts both sides of the aisle for getting us where we are. He is equally as critical of the Clinton and Obama administrations and the democrat-controlled congress as he is of republican leadership. He speaks openly about is own disillusionment with the entire bi-paritsan system. But in his tone and language, his historical liberal biases come blazing through. In the opening chapter he attempts to lay out an argument for how the elite in this country have taken the legitimate anger of the tea party movement, and completely neutered it in an elaborate shell game that has well-intentioned, concerned Americans barking up all the wrong trees. I 100% agree with this assessment, but Taibbi writes about the tea party movement with such offensive disdain that he immediately sours any chance of getting any of these people to pay attention to the rest of his argument, and that's a real shame, because these are the people Taibbi really should be hoping to win over with this book. They're the Americans that are upset enough to try to do something to change the system. IF he weren't so intent on insulting them on a such a base level, he might be able to get them to hear his arguments. But in the end he proves his own point about the state of bi-partisan politics in this country, that he can't control his own emotions enough to afford these people any respect whatsoever.
But regardless of his personal biases against conservative leadership, the heart of this book is not that conservatives are bad and liberals are good. His point is that a small group of people have hijacked our country while the rest of us scratch at each other's faces about mostly non-issue politics. When you read the brunt of his argument, only the most blinded libertarian extremists could possibly argue that the problem is that these industries are somehow over-regulated. In is epilogue he sums it up nicely:
we are faced with "A national economy in which the old Adam Smith capitalist notion of companies succeeding or failing on their merits, with the price of their assets determined entirely by the market, was tossed out the window. In its place was a system in which mergers and bankruptcies were brokered not by the market, but by government officials...and prices of assets were determined not by what investors were willing to pay, but by the level of political influence of the company's leaders." (less)
I picked this up for a nice pulpy, summer read. I assumed it would be pretty entertaining, since that Marky Mark movie Shooter that derived from this...moreI picked this up for a nice pulpy, summer read. I assumed it would be pretty entertaining, since that Marky Mark movie Shooter that derived from this book is so fun. Awful. But fun.
There's a pretty good thriller in this book. It's a shame that it's trapped inside so many unnecessary words. Hunter suffers from the delusion that he is a gifted writer, and clearly thinks that going into unimaginable amounts of detail is the sign of inspiration. It isn't. He drones on and on about some of the most mundane detail you can imagine. The conversations between characters are the worst. They were so repetitive that at times that I had to check to make sure I wasn't accidentally re-reading the same page.
I would also like to applaud Hunter on his courageous use of the word 'banal.' If I were a writer, i think I wouldn't have the gumption to use a word as contrived as banal more than once or twice in a given opus. But Mr. Hunter fearlessly and relentlessly invokes the word so often that the use of the word 'banal' actually becomes banal. It is one of the greatest uses of irony I've ever seen in a modern work of fiction.
There was a brief moment at the end of the book, when it got very exciting and it looked as though dredging through the mire of the first 490 pages was going to pay off in the last act. It didn't.
Do yourself a favor and skip this book and just watch the movie Shooter. No, it isn't any less contrived than the novel, but at least then you've only wasted two hours of your life, and, hey...Marky Mark.
okay, first I decided to read this book for one reason. Manny Howard is the only person Ive ever seen beat Stephen Colbert at his own game. On multipl...moreokay, first I decided to read this book for one reason. Manny Howard is the only person Ive ever seen beat Stephen Colbert at his own game. On multiple occasions during his short little interview on the Colbert Show, Howard really managed to take Colbert by surprise and left him at a loss for words. He was hilarious. I was sold.
What I expected was a witty little story about home farming with a trendy social lesson at the end about how we're all doing our part to destroy the earth by not growing our own food, or at least eating 100% local.
The book is funny, but it is not at all preaching. Howard approaches the assignment purely as an experiment, and the story is a deeply personal one. I wasn't prepared for some of the more heartbreaking stories about what it was like to deal with the mounting failures of the farm, or the tremendous pressure the project put on his relationship with his wife.
I find Howard to be incredibly relatable. In a very specific way. He seems like the kind of guy who loves to start projects. I'm a little that way, and my wife is a lot that way. We start lots of projects. We've even made stabs at container gardens that deliver fresh vegetables and herbs to our table. But we manage to consistently kill things like basil and rosemary, which both grow wild where we live. So I felt genuine empathy for Manny when his potato crop never grow larger than the size of shirt buttons.
There are some interesting social statements here, at least in the subtext. it is interesting to think about how in only a few generations most of us have become very removed from our food sources. Many of us would have no real clue how to raise or grow food if we ever had to do it. But the most interesting thing about the book, is the personal story of one guy trying his damnedest to live off of a back yard farm in the middle of Brooklyn. And as a story about one person's quest, it succeeds wildly. I could not put this book down.
This is only the second book by McCarthy I've read, and already I feel somehow like the man has had a profound influence on me as a reader. Frankly i...moreThis is only the second book by McCarthy I've read, and already I feel somehow like the man has had a profound influence on me as a reader. Frankly i feel cheated that no one insisted I read something much earlier in my life. No Country For Old Men was simply one of the best books I can ever remember reading and I could not stop thinking about it once I was finished. Not in any kind of profound "what does it all mean?" kind of way. I just kept thinking about how perfect it was, as a novel.
The Road is not as good as Old Country, but it is well worth the read. Really the biggest fault of the book is the premise itself. The post-apocolyptic setting of some grey, destroyed planet earth is hardly a fresh idea, and it was hard for me to shake the cliché. But if you get past that, McCarthy's writing is no less poetic. It's the rhythm of his writing that I find so compelling. He's concise, minimalistic in every way. Not a single wasted word, and there really is almost a music to his prose. I've never found it so easy to get swept up in someone's writing.
the story itself is harrowing, gruesome, and incredibly bleak. Reading it before bed kept me up on more than one occasion. I won't go into all that, because you can read all about that in every other review, but even writing about the most depraved state of humanity, I just found his writing to be so beautiful I could not put it down. I closed the book last night, and the only question on my mind was which of his back catalogue I should crack open next. (less)
This is quite simply the best book I've read in a really long time. McCarthy doesn't waste a single word. In a culture dominated by trash from the lik...moreThis is quite simply the best book I've read in a really long time. McCarthy doesn't waste a single word. In a culture dominated by trash from the likes of Dan Brown, this book was a tall glass of water. (less)
An enjoyable read overall. Through the middle of the book I had a really hard time putting it down. Following Ender through battle school was exhilara...moreAn enjoyable read overall. Through the middle of the book I had a really hard time putting it down. Following Ender through battle school was exhilarating.
From there the story breaks down a bit, sort of storming to an unsure ending, but overall really exciting book. (less)