I'm not an historian. There's no real reason for me to read the source text of Julius Caesar's Gallic campaigns. And yet, there's something fascinatinI'm not an historian. There's no real reason for me to read the source text of Julius Caesar's Gallic campaigns. And yet, there's something fascinating about reaching back through two millennia to read the account in the author's own words (more or less).
So I'm torn. The account is very interesting, both the text itself and the information about the text. But the text is also not quite as thrilling as a modern historical telling could be. I ended up being informed about the style of writing back then, but not entertained by it. Is that a good or a bad thing? The text isn't difficult, by any means, but it isn't engaging. I slogged through the book over several months, when I should have been able to finish it in a couple of weeks.
I'm glad I read it, but I would have a hard time recommending it. As a side note, this is the first time that I've ever wished I was reading on an ereader. I enjoyed all of the footnotes, but it would have been so much more convenient to be able to click on them in the text. Also, more diagrams and/or illustrations would have been welcome....more
I picked this up on a whim because I like both Tarkovsky and Soderbergh's movie adaptations. However, this is one of those few occasions where the booI picked this up on a whim because I like both Tarkovsky and Soderbergh's movie adaptations. However, this is one of those few occasions where the book is *not* better than the movie.
I was surprised by how short the book is and by how much of it is dedicated to the "science" aspect of the planet. The quick story synopsis: Solaris is a planet that is also one giant, sentient being. A group of scientists orbit Solaris and attempt to study it while the planet manifests dead people who were significant to the scientists. Are these manifestations an attempt to communicate or understand or torture?
Both movies focus primarily on that last question, making them studies of loss, memory, and the human condition. Those things are in the book as well, but not nearly as in depth. The author spends a lot of time describing the history of the planet and previous expeditions, the scientific studies performed by previous crews, and this crew's attempts to untangle the situation.
Perhaps my experience with the movies tainted my reception of the book too much. It isn't fair to judge it based on my expectations. However, even when the passages describing the strange workings of the planet were interesting, my mind always wanted to go back to the "story at-hand" concerning the scientists and their visitors. I found the "science" too distracting from the "fiction."
Overall, it wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't as worthwhile as I had hoped it would be....more
A hodge-podge of stories and characters centered around (although not specifically related to) Philippe Petit's famous high wire walk between the twinA hodge-podge of stories and characters centered around (although not specifically related to) Philippe Petit's famous high wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
The structure of the book is similar to what Roger Ebert called "hyper-link movies," where individuals gradually reveal to be linked in some way, whether or not realized by the characters themselves. Think Babel or even Pulp Fiction. I didn't realize this going into the novel, so it was a little jarring when the perspective first jumped to a completely new set of characters.
I found many of the stories interesting, but none of them compelling; most notably not what I guess could be called the "main" one. I found it hard to care about these characters, even though I felt like I should. The author did a great job of evoking the period and really getting deep into different characters' heads, though. I especially enjoyed the scenes from Petit's perspective.
(view spoiler)[I also didn't care for the last chapter. Most of the book had been a depressing examination of loss, loneliness, and responsibility. The final chapter jumped ahead about 30 years to show the adult life of a character that had been an infant during the events of the book. It gave a positive ending to certain plot lines that didn't seem earned or even consistent with the rest of the book. (hide spoiler)]
Overall it was an interesting and pleasant read, but not one I'm eager to recommend. ...more
Judd Apatow has been fascinated by comedians from a very early age. As a high schooler, he wrangled his way into interviews with many comedians in ordJudd Apatow has been fascinated by comedians from a very early age. As a high schooler, he wrangled his way into interviews with many comedians in order to learn the craft. It served him well, obviously, and this book assembles a few of those interviews from the 80s with many more from the past few years. I think it would have been more interesting if he had kept exclusively to the old ones.
The "interviews" range from casual conversations to panel discussions to straight, actual interviews, but all of them suffer a bit from Apatow inserting himself too much into the story. He believes that great comedians come from childhood suffering or hardship, and he holds onto that premise even when his subjects directly deny it. In the more recent interviews (after his own success), he laments that his children might have life too good to be successful. It's a little off-putting to read a celebrity commiserating with other celebrities about the difficulties of raising kids when you're rich.
Each chapter is a different celebrity (not all are strictly comedians), and they are arranged alphabetically by first name. This was an odd choice, but I enjoyed the randomness of not knowing who might be on the next page.
I enjoyed the interviews he conducted as a teenager the most. Probably because he was young and naive, and the interviewees were kinder and saw him as a protege. Plus, it's just neat to read the thoughts of Jay Leno or Jerry Seinfeld when they're just on the cusp of becoming huge.
If you have any interest in how comedians work, you'd do well to just pick the chapters that interested you. For most readers or casual fans, it's probably not worth the effort....more
Each chapter is an interview with a different filmmaker about his craft or particular movies. Overall I found it to be a good introduction and overvieEach chapter is an interview with a different filmmaker about his craft or particular movies. Overall I found it to be a good introduction and overview, but not really worth the time if you are serious about any of the directors discussed. I'd much rather recommend classics like Truffaut's Hitchcock, Lumet's Making Movies, or Jones' Chuck Amuck where you could get a real feel for the person and a deeper understanding of their work.
It's a good introduction or overview, but I wouldn't consider it essential....more
As far as pop fiction goes, I've read worse. This is my first experience with Gabriel Allon, the main character of apparently quite a lot of books. HeAs far as pop fiction goes, I've read worse. This is my first experience with Gabriel Allon, the main character of apparently quite a lot of books. He's an Israeli spy with varied tastes and talents to match his storied history. This particular tale follows him as he tracks down a missing English girl, and the many circuitous paths that leads to.
I won't spoil the several twists and turns the story takes. I found them predictable, but I don't think that's the point. It's a thrill to be along for the ride, just like any other mystery/spy/thriller. There are plenty of exotic locations with precise detail. I was a little bothered by the fact that everyone always has to be "the best at what they do." Excellence is fine, but near-perfection is tiresome.
It's a very quick page-turner with simple writing and brisk pacing. It's a perfect light summer read....more
The story is rather ordinary and familiar: humans show their barbarity by destroying an alien ecosystem. Others have commented on LeGuin's talent forThe story is rather ordinary and familiar: humans show their barbarity by destroying an alien ecosystem. Others have commented on LeGuin's talent for world-building and her great imagination, and those do elevate this novella, but it still seems rather predictable. Even as short as it is, the book takes too long to get past the thin characterizations of the barbaric evil humans and the noble savage aliens.
The parallels to the US involvement in Viet Nam are obvious, but not unexpected, especially for sci fi from this time period. James Cameron's Avatar clearly borrowed heavily from this book as well.
A great, light, quick read to help people like myself get better at letting go of the clutter that fills their lives. It's mostly a tutorial on the beA great, light, quick read to help people like myself get better at letting go of the clutter that fills their lives. It's mostly a tutorial on the best methods for tidying, but it also includes quite a bit of light philosophy about how we live our lives and how our possessions reflect that. I don't know why, but parts of it really spoke to me in a very unexpected way.
The author can sometimes be a little off-putting due to her youth and perspective, and it is often repetitive, but there's no denying her enthusiasm for the subject. Warning, though: Do not read the introduction! Her sales pitch for her "KonMari Method" is so strong that it can scare you into thinking you're about to sign up for an 8-hour Tony Robbins lecture....more
As a light-hearted, science adventure story, I really liked it. It was funny and clever and thrilling, but it's also super light, almost frivolous. ShAs a light-hearted, science adventure story, I really liked it. It was funny and clever and thrilling, but it's also super light, almost frivolous. Short chapters filled with cliff-hanger moments, perils overcome by dumb luck just as often as by cunning, and feel-good moments of triumph.
My biggest complaint about the book is rather minor, but it really got under my skin. Far too often the writer spoke directly to the reader in the guise of the main character Watley's diary. I had no problem with him keeping a journal or video diary or whatever. That made sense. Even him thinking out loud about how to solve certain problems was fine. But I hated when he explained things that the character would have no reason or thought to explain. It happened in the very first few pages when there was a line like "Using normal rockets, a trip to Mars would take x amount of time, but now we use technology Y, which works like this." Anyone hearing his message would already know that. Only we the readers needed to be brought up to speed, and it really took me out of the book. And that sort of thing happened frequently.
In the end, it was still a fun read, and I'm sure the movie adaptation will be just as enjoyable....more
The premise of the book is preposterous, yet intriguing-- human brains are hardwired in a way that allows certain verbal commands to override and contThe premise of the book is preposterous, yet intriguing-- human brains are hardwired in a way that allows certain verbal commands to override and control our actions. An agency (perhaps governmental? It wasn't clear) is dedicated to not only discovering all the ways language can be used, but also to training people who are particularly skilled in the art of "persuasion."
The story follows several characters as they deal with the consequences of finding a "bareword," a word so powerful that even looking at it renders you completely obedient to any suggestion. Let's just ignore any questions about what language it's in, your ability to read it, or anyone's ability to create or copy it.
The book shifts around between characters, time, and location in a very Pulp Fiction-esque manner, but it comes across as unfocused rather than engrossing. Your perspective of characters shifts frequently as well. Sometimes they're good, sometimes bad, sometimes just misunderstood, sometimes bad but justified. I suppose these were intended to be interesting plot twists, but I found it annoying.
There is plenty of action and it's a quickly-read page-turner, but in the end it wasn't worth the effort....more
The title describes the book very well, in that it covers the biography of the man at least as much as the creation of the famous work of art. I reallThe title describes the book very well, in that it covers the biography of the man at least as much as the creation of the famous work of art. I really appreciated having the context of Leonardo Da Vinci's life, his patrons, and the history of the surrounding area.
The book is also filled with illustrations, which were very helpful to understand certain points. It was unfortunate that the center spread, an oil painting reproduction of The Last Supper, couldn't have been a fold out to allow more scrutiny of the details. As it was, the figure of Jesus was lost in the binding. This may not be a problem in the hardcover edition of the book.
I was also a little disappointed whenever the author made references to The DaVinci Code. Although I don't fault King for it; it seems inevitable due to the popularity of that book, but it also seemed to detract from the more scholarly nature of this one.
Overall, a good, informative book. I learned a lot about both subjects, and it should have been a much quicker read than it ended up being....more
An intern at NASA manages to steal a safe full of invaluable rock samples from the moon. In telling the story, a writer manNeat story, crappy writing.
An intern at NASA manages to steal a safe full of invaluable rock samples from the moon. In telling the story, a writer manages to turn what should have been an interesting feature story in The Atlantic into an over-blown, padded book.
One of the most irritating--in the sense of both frequency and severity--things about the writing is the excessive, almost ludicrous use of dashes and commas as asides, like parenthetical comments, throughout the book. On average, there had to be at least two em-dashes per page (and these are short pages). I counted ten on one page alone. Way too much prose. It was laughable.
Don't believe me? Take a gander at this single sentence:
Except, a little after midnight in the middle of the week as a subtle rain sputtered against the thick glass of the windowpanes above the bureau, there were at least two things that did not seem to be in their place, or way, at all; Axel was awake, for one, which was easily explained, the result of a particularly heavy dinner of vlaamse stoofkarbonaden, a Flemish stew made with beer--though in this case not anywhere near as satisfactory a vintage as the amber concoction he had just drained.
Ugh. A whole book like that. Brutal.
After finishing the book, I looked at the author and realized I'd been suckered by him once before: Bringing Down the House, which I think I had similar feelings about. So, no more, Mr. Mezrich. You've fooled me twice, shame on me, but no more. ...more
A real page-turner of a thriller/mystery about a husband and his missing wife. The writing style is a little over the top and annoying, but I can't deA real page-turner of a thriller/mystery about a husband and his missing wife. The writing style is a little over the top and annoying, but I can't decide if that was by design or not. It's a very quick summer read for sure. Unfortunately, I can't really say much more without getting into Major Spoilers, so stop reading now if that bothers you.
(view spoiler)[The book is told in first person, with chapters alternating between the husband's and wife's point of view. Since the wife, Amy, disappears at the very beginning, her chapters are done via diary entries over the previous few years.
Amy and her husband Nick are both former New York magazine writers, and I guess that's the author's excuse for making them over-articulate, pretentious, and annoying. Nick is clearly made to look guilty of murdering his wife, both by the facts revealed in the book and by the subtle tricks used by the author.
But surprise! About halfway through the book it is revealed that Amy is actually alive and is framing Nick for her own murder. She is a sociopath mastermind who wreaks revenge whenever she feels slighted. The narrative switches gears and the story is filled with twists and turns as the race is on to see who will get caught, and for what. (hide spoiler)]
My biggest problem with the book isn't the blatant manipulation of the reader, but rather the fact that I really disliked both main characters. I don't know if that was intentional (one of the Book Club Discussion Topics in the back seems to hint that it was), but it doesn't matter. Moral ambiguities are fine, but it's less enjoyable to me when I'm actively rooting against both protagonists throughout the book. I also found the ending less than satisfactory.
A good potboiler summer read, but not much more. I'm very interested to see what the screenwriter does with it in the adaptation coming out later this year....more