A fascinating read that both fed my appetite for information about WWI and whetted it for information about two countries I knew almost nothing about...moreA fascinating read that both fed my appetite for information about WWI and whetted it for information about two countries I knew almost nothing about and the impact they've had on recent history. I was a little thrown at first by the personal nature of what I had initially pegged to be a straight biography of Gavrilo Princip, but once it got going, I was hooked. Part travelogue, part war history, and part biography of both the author and the subject, it's like no history book I've read before. The author's style is crisp but engaging. He teaches without lecturing, he philosophizes without sentimentalizing. By the end, I desperately wished I could have gone on this hike with him, but I was glad for the book that represents the next best thing.
I'd recommend it to everyone who likes a good, intelligent history without being too formal about it. Think Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, but less centered on food and a host less likely to offend or annoy. (less)
Even if one disagrees with the politics, Homage to Catalonia is still a fascinating read. Beyond a simple biography or war journal, it is a testament...moreEven if one disagrees with the politics, Homage to Catalonia is still a fascinating read. Beyond a simple biography or war journal, it is a testament to the humanity of its author and he, in turn, takes it upon himself to express his intense love of the Spanish people. It's the story of an outsider intricately involved in another culture, it's the story of a soldier experiencing a war, it's the story of a man being shaped by history, it's a historical account shaped by the thoughts of one man. It is marked by Orwell's dry, matter-of-fact style and his wry wit. It felt like nothing more than sitting in a dark bar being told stories by a veteran as you buy each other drinks. It is a privilege to have a personal view into such an important historical event and even more so that this personal view comes from someone that is honest, insightful, empathetic, and intelligent.
If you only know Orwell from 1984 , then you are doing yourself a disservice. (less)
Holocaust narratives are always challenging reads. Our modern minds struggle to comprehend these events....more Multi-Layered and Deeply Thought-Provoking
Holocaust narratives are always challenging reads. Our modern minds struggle to comprehend these events. We cannot ever understand, cannot wrap our minds around things so alien and preposterous. The events of that time are simply too tragic and too hurtful for most of us to ever fully fathom.
Maus is a unique addition to this genre. Told in graphic form, it also removes the pretense of period. We are not in the shoes of the victim as his ordeal unfolds, as we never can be. Rather, we are looking back with him in the place of his son. We struggle to understand in the way the son struggles to understand, we yearn as the son yearns to come to grips with these events. As we watch his difficult relationship with the unyielding characteristics of his father, we vicariously experience our own difficulties with our equally relentless collective past. We too wonder about the exploitation of victims and survivors in our push to understand, we too worry about our right to judge a difficult man in the light of his difficult life. We feel guilty as the son feels guilty as we condemn the very characteristics that a man credits with his survival through one of the worst times in modern memory. We wonder about the term "survivor" - does anyone truly survive or do they just incorporate and move on? What does it mean to survive, what does it mean to the survivors to be the guardians of this terrible chapter of human history?
These examinations of complex relationships are what make Maus so nuanced and worth reading. From the relationships within Spiegelman’s family to the meta-textual elements about morality and modern society’s relationship with the past, Maus is a rich work that merits study. It won’t make you feel good, but it will make you think. (less)
An unflinching view of a man made remarkable by the circumstances of history, Maus tells the tale of its own writing: a son asks his father about the...moreAn unflinching view of a man made remarkable by the circumstances of history, Maus tells the tale of its own writing: a son asks his father about the father's experiences in the Holocaust. It is complex and nuanced, the family's dramatic history unromanticized. The reader is invited to all the complex relationships the subjects must have experienced, that between father and son, son and mother, oppressed and oppressor, etc.
It won't leave you feeling good, but it will make you strive to understand someone better. (less)
While I don’t regret reading it, I had an unpleasant experience through most of this book. Most of this came from the schism of Jillian-Lauren-as-narr...moreWhile I don’t regret reading it, I had an unpleasant experience through most of this book. Most of this came from the schism of Jillian-Lauren-as-narrator and Jillian-Lauren-as-character. Narrator!Jillian is self-aware and willing to look her mistakes squarely in the eyes. Character!Jillian is self-righteous and self-centered, as well as a hypocrite.
Because most of this book spends its time narrating in a past tense but moving linearly and chronologically (for the most part) through the events in Ms. Lauren’s life, the disconnect undermines a lot of the story for me. When I should be sympathizing, I’m left judging because that is the language Narrator!Jillian couches the situation in. While she does her best to address these moments of disconnect, they came after I’d already been struggling with the disconnect for so long that her dealings with them didn’t feel like enough for me.
If she had included something earlier, possibly in the first chapter, along the first lines of “I was really confused then, though I thought I had it all figured out. I thought, if I made a mistake, I wouldn’t ever have to own it if I just kept on moving too fast to have time to reconcile myself with it. I didn’t realize that I was just feeling unfulfilled and that was why I felt frustrated and impotent”, it would have gone down a lot smoother for me.
But she doesn’t, and since all we’re left with is a pretentious character and a knowing narrator, I just felt frustrated with all the rationalizations and excuses of this unlikeable character for her poor decisions. It lessens in the later chapters, but I was already feeling sick of it by then.
Other than all that, it’s fine. It’s certainly not as erotic as the blurbs on the inside cover would have you believe, it’s definitely not any more scandalous than any episode of a Real Housewives franchise. It isn’t as well-written as they say, nor as subversive as it tries to be. Definitely not seedy or gritty. It’s mostly just the story of someone trying to come to terms with herself and her past. And that’s all well and good. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else, but I’d definitely be willing to discuss it if it turned out anyone around me had read it. (less)
From just the introduction alone (which readers should not skip over), it is instantly recognizable that this book is written by someone who both care...moreFrom just the introduction alone (which readers should not skip over), it is instantly recognizable that this book is written by someone who both cares passionately about her subject and is also profoundly knowledgeable in regards to it. Ms. Paglia comes with an array of skills that made me yearn for a full fictional novel from her - she has an excellent command of the English language and she is able to confer passion from herself onto her readers. It made me want to go out instantly and read more about Art History. I found myself so enamored of her writing that it would help promote my opinion of the art works she chose to highlight in her chapters. I would initially feel just a vaguely positive reaction towards a piece, but then, after her description, would flip back to look at the painting or piece and find an intensely more passionate response. Her poetic summaries gently guide you through what there is to love and admire about a piece.
All of this is undeniably a good thing. The part where the book wavers (in my opinion) is in regards to less conventional forms of art. Ms. Paglia lovingly describes each movement and each piece she addresses. This can sometimes come off as bombastic and pretentious. For some readers not already steeped in art culture, it can be an especially tedious slog through the last few chapters of the book. (Also, despite whatever the back cover claims, this book is subtle like a sledgehammer. It has many fine traits but subtlety is not one of them).
All told then, it's a great read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in art or history. It does come in a bit of a "sample platter" style so don't expect to come away with too much in the way of in-depth analysis, but it is definitely a good starting point for anyone looking to learn. (less)
"You: The Owner's Manual" contains some genuinely helpful information but personally, I would consider that statement as damning by faint praise. It's...more"You: The Owner's Manual" contains some genuinely helpful information but personally, I would consider that statement as damning by faint praise. It's a health book written by a host of doctors, the least it can do is contain some helpful nuggets of information.
As is, the book is weak. You can tell by reading it that the authors were seeking to really fulfill the needs of the elderly, older-than-fifty set but decided to attempt to broaden the book's appeal in order to try to pull in money from other demographics, but it doesn't work. The information is still generally geared to the older audience and the only appeal outside that niche are attempts through "humorous" examples, puns, and allusions to Britney Spears and the like. It falls flat and either comes across as patronizing, awkward, or annoying, like an older uncle who desperately tries to "keep it cool with the kids" by scouring the internet for pop culture referential knock-knock jokes.
The information, as stated, is genuinely helpful but this too should be stressed so others know what they're walking into here: anatomy and physiology are immensely complicated subjects. This book strives to simplify it to a comprehensible level for most readers, in order to empower them to take control of their health. As said though, most of it is somewhat skewed towards an older audience though, so if you're not part of that group and you were looking to read this just to learn something about anatomy/physiology/health in general... Skip it. The authors manage to simplify things to the point where it is confusing again, by the omission of several steps in any one given process, so instead of seeing A lead to B lead to C, you're just treated to A=C with an accompanying cutesy diagram.
And as a final note, should have been proofread by an editor better. Tons of missing words, missing clauses, unclear sentence structure, and incorrect punctuation. But that isn't the author's fault.(less)
An excellent account of historical events occurring in one of the cultural capitals of the world during one of the most intriguing, confusing, and dis...moreAn excellent account of historical events occurring in one of the cultural capitals of the world during one of the most intriguing, confusing, and disturbing periods of modern history. Glass uses an extremely accessible tone to discuss the events taking place within the scope of this book's focus, making it easy to get very quickly sucked in. However, I would caution readers that the accessible tone is mildly deceptive - this book will reference many, many personages across multiple chapters and has the capacity to leave one's mind spinning. A cursory knowledge of WWII history and politicking is almost a prerequisite. Otherwise, it would be all too feasible to become confused and frustrated with the constant intertwining of the separate historical narratives. Despite that, it is still an excellent and worthwhile read. Loved it from beginning to end.
And also, enough gratitude would be hard to extend for Glass' spirit of inclusiveness. That the book introduces black Parisians into the narrative and refuses to let history off the hook for the injustices perpetrated against them or refuses to sensationalize the lesbian affair between two of its major focuses, treating it with the balance of respect and detail afforded to all other relationships described in the book - simply commendable. (less)