This is a funny and thought-provoking examination of Vowell’s personal obsession and America’s greater obsession with the past, with presidents and with their assassinations. Read More
This was my first Michener, though I did read a novel called London, which was basically an imitation Michener, back when I was a teenager. My understanding is that he is very much the author of these alternative histories of given places. So I guess I had to read him at some point. But holy shit, does this guy need an editor. Read More
Architechture, Art, Books, Cultural Appropriation, Group Rights, Identity Politics, Movies, Music, Novels, Painting, Philosophy, and Visual Arts.
This article is about the accusation of “cultural appropriation” being thrown around at works of art. I may not be entitled to write this. Read More
2016, Anthropology, Books, Evolution, History, Morality, and Non Fiction.
For the vast majority of recorded human history, we humans have believed that morality comes from somewhere outside of us; from “above,” from the ether, from some kind of benevolent creator, etc. Even as we have learned more and more about how humans evolved from apes who evolved from “lower” animals who evolved from “lower” lifeforms who evolved from, essentially, “ooze” we have still maintained that human morality comes from outside of human beings. The idea is that morality has been bestowed on us by something, or existed before we did, and we access it. When I was growing up Read More
This review contains major SPOILERS. Read More
Books, Business, Investment, Literary Non Fiction, Non Fiction, Philosophy, Probability, and Psychology.
This is an important, valuable book. It’s basically a must-read. It would go on my list of essential non-fiction only I have a few reservations (all of them stylistic). Still, very, very important stuff. Read More
Books, Humour, Mystery, Mystery Comedy, Novels, Puzzle Mystery, and Young Adult.
This is the kind of novel all kids should read. I am far too old for this type of book now but, as a child or tween, this would have been great. It feels like a legitimate game (it’s basically a far more complicated version of Clue with character development) and its humour is rooted in character and well-known stereotypes (in the sense of debunking them). It’s a crime this book wasn’t turned into a kid’s adventure film in the 80s, ala Goonies. Read More
1994, Books, Carl Jung, Non Fiction, Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology.
When I was a teenager, some adult told me about Jung’s collective unconscious. I didn’t read a thing about it, but took whatever they told me and created my own elaborate theory about our thoughts influencing others (which has nothing to do with Jung). Ultimately, that theory was a responsible for a lot of mental stress on my part. Years later, it feels like a lot of wasted energy. Read More
At long last I am done with this tedious novel. But, I shouldn’t start this on a bad note, so let’s start with the positives: Read More
Finally, at long last, I am done with this book. If this isn’t the longest English-language biography of a novelist, I don’t want to read the longest one… Read More
I hate giving up on a book – I just hate it. I have a really strong completist streak in me that has helped me endure through things I’ve really disliked. Since I graduated university I can count the number of books I’ve given up on, on one hand. Usually, it’s non-fiction (such as The Creature from Jekyll Island) when I recognize huge flaws in an argument that will not be corrected by the end. But with fiction I always hold out hope that the ending will redeem the book (same thing with films). I don’t know if it’s because Read More
Even more than Volume 1, this is for fans only. Read More
This podcast covers the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Andes, at a university in Ohio in the 70s. It’s a new take on the rash of podcasts that are out there as, in this case, the crime is unsolved. (However, when In the Dark started recording, that crime was also unsolved.) Read More
I forgot to review this when I finished listening to it (and I presume I have forgotten to review a bunch of other podcasts I finished). This is a frustrating, devastating and infuriating portrait of a child kidnapping in the 80s, the near-absolute power of country Sheriffs in the US (and their general incompetence) and how badly things can go when something seizes national attention in a democracy. Read More
This is, for the most part, a compelling, affecting and, at times, devastating novel of what it was like to live as a woman in Afghanistan for the last quarter century or so of the 20th century. It is particularly effective of giving insight into men who hate women – into a whole society that hates women. Fortunate as I am to have been born in Toronto, and raised by a strong, intelligent career woman, it continues to boggle my mind that there are so many men in the world who blame and punish women for their own faults, failings Read More
Much of what Schlosser covers in this boo I was already familiar with, thanks to things like Food, Inc. But I’ve never read a book about the industrialization of food before and, as books are wont to do, Schlosser covers this in much more detail than any documentary you’re going to watch. For the most part, this is an engaging and even darkly amusing read, full of tragic but humourous depictions the kind of hypocrisy we’ve come to expect from American champions of “the free market” who take advantage of government subsidies and regulations, but who think nobody else should Read More
Full Disclosure: This novel was written by a friend of my brother. When I was younger, I reviewed everything without regard to who created it and so wrote some reviews of music made by friends that I didn’t love (though I couldn’t tell them this to their faces because I’m a coward). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that personal relationships are more important to me than the supposed “integrity” of a review I’ve written and that, if I don’t have anything nice to say about something a friend or colleague has created, I shouldn’t say it unless I’m asked Read More
I took math through university, being so silly as to think I could minor in it (I couldn’t…not quite). But since I graduated I have forgotten so much of the more advanced math that I did understand, and everything I partially understood has utterly vanished – over a decade later, it’s as if I didn’t take 10 university level math courses. I recognize that I shouldn’t be the audience of this book, but I am, given that I have forgotten most of what I learned. Thought his book is written for a UK audience, it’s easily decipherable to a North Read More
This coming of age story is quite affecting and feels like a much better glimpse into the youth of a German male of the era than I am used to, either from Hesse himself or from someone like Thomas Mann. Read More
This is the kind of book I’d have eaten up when I was in my early 20s, I think. It’s one of those novels of ideas, and the ideas are vague enough that one can project one’s own feelings on them. That’s one reason it would have appealed to me. Also, I was a young man struggling with what I thought/knew and what I wanted to be, like most young men. So I think I could see reading this 10+ years ago and thinking it was pretty decent. I liked Steppenwolf back then too. (And I wonder how I’d feel now.) Read More
This is a memoir by a Hungarian-Canadian about her Grandfather and her early life in Hungary. Her Grandfather was full of stories about their family and Hungary. Though these stories are probably quite compelling for some people, particularly Hungarians but also anyone who enjoys a good yarn, I had trouble caring. I am somebody who is much more interested in truthful history than in imagined history. I understand why people would prefer the latter, but I do not. And so I struggled with the first 100 or so pages of this book. Read More
2011, American Literature, Baseball, College Novel, Fiction, Novel, Sports, and Sports Novel.
This is an excellent debut novel, featuring a richly constructed world and (mostly) believable characters. It works as both a baseball novel and a college novel. It has been a long time since I cared about characters this much. Read More
2012, Books, Creativity, Non Fiction, Self Help, and Writing.
At this point, Pressfield has made a second writing career out of inspiring others to write. This is the third book of his I’ve read, and they get less effective each time I read a new one. Why? Because basically they are all the same book. Pressfield is passionate about writing something that compels us to write, but he gives the same advice in each book, with only slight permutations (even quoting from The War of Art here). Your much better off buying War of Art (or something you find more effective) and just re-reading that one book. I don’t Read More
This is a book about exercise, nutrition and mental health, geared towards retired American men. I did not actually finish the book; I read it until it was due back at the library. I made it most of the way through, though, and I don’t fee like I missed much. Read More
Books, Evoluntionary Biology, History, Neurobiology, Neuropsychology, Non Ficition, Psychology, Statistics, and Violence.
If you watch the news today, you will be told the world is awful. Even if, like me, you do not have cable, you can still get enough news of the awfulness of the world from your antenna or the internet. The news is an endless barrage of controversy and tragedy; controversy over the supposedly awful things that people do to each other, and the tragedy of yet another series of deaths, caused by human beings or natural disasters. Even if you’re a bit of an optimist, as I am, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that the world is Read More
I discovered there was a free audio version of Moby Dick online, as a podcast, so I started listening to it. However, 3/4s through it, the site went down. So I resumed with an audio book from the library. I think listening to it was a mistake. I distracted myself too many times and missed a lot of stuff over the course of the months I listened to it. I think I will have to read the novel. The good news is that now I am committed to reading it at some point. What I did get from it is Read More
Sometimes I can handle stories of the idle rich, sometimes I cannot. This is one of the latter, where I really struggled to care about any of the characters, their rich, bored lives and their endless emotional struggles. I can understand why this novel is so well regarded: it exposed the fraud of “keeping up appearances,” it is told in, what was, for the time, an extremely unconventional way, with what I assume is one of the earlier uses of an unreliable narrator. These things should be celebrated. But I have a really hard time relating to these rich, religious, Read More
2013, Books, History of Journalism, Journalism, Media, and Non Fiction.
This book was written to make the case for “knowledge-based” journalism. It was sponsored by an initiative that is trying to establish that kind of journalism. The author believes strongly in the cause ans has been a crucial part of the initiative that sponsored his work here. But despite the fact that this is very much a work of advocacy, it is a compelling and informative read, touching on the history of American journalism (print, radio, TV and internet) as it explores the issues that have arisen with the rise of “Infotainment” and “Citizen journalism.” Though I question the methodologies Read More
On some level, this feels like an ’80s LA Catcher in the Rye, albeit with richer and older kids, and drugs and prostitution. I feel like this may have been Ellis’ intent, I also think that the acclaim that greeted it upon its release likely was due, in part to that comparison, however misguided. Holden is a compelling character because so many of us can relate to him, if not his situation (I never went to boarding school). Clay is not as relatable – few of us are this rich and few of us are this world weary at 18. Read More
2009, Books, Culture, Non Fiction, Society, and Technology.
This is a relatively interesting and amusing book about how modern technology and modern culture have created a brave new world that we don’t really understand how to navigate (and which could have all sorts of unintended consequences for us. However, the book suffers from a number of problems which make it not among the best books to examine this particular moment in human history (and there are a lot of these books). First, Niedzviecki tries to give all the different things he covers one name: Peep. Obviously that didn’t stick. And the problem is that he comes off as Read More