Tag: Books

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Boys in the Boat (2013) by Daniel Jams Brown

All I know of the 1936 Olympics is Olympia and Jesse Owens. So this story, the story the American Gold medal-winning 8 man crew, their coxswain, their coach and their boat builder (yes, even him) was completely new to me. I don’t even remember the rowing scenes in Olympia very well. This is an exciting …

1966, 1968, Books, Fiction

Cancer Ward (1966, 1968) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I have no idea why it took me so long to finish this one. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but something about it turned into a slog for me. (It also happened that I was listening to podcasts when I supposed to be reading, which was a problem.) Anyway, the time it took …

2013, Books, Music, Non-Fiction

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion (2013) by Robert Gordon

This book tells the story of Stax Records, but it isn’t just a the story of Stax the record label, as it also places the story in the context of Memphis and the civil rights movement, and there are some very interesting parallels between the rise and fall of Stax and other American businesses.

2008, Books, Economics, Non-Fiction

Predictably Irrational (2008) by Dan Ariely

This is a fascinating and sometimes amusing exploration of behavioural economics through descriptions of experiments that the author has conducted, and some he’s read about. It’s a pretty good introduction to behaviourial economics and social psychology. A number of these experiments were unfamiliar to me and some of them are really illuminating. I’m particularly interested …

2018, Books, Non-Fiction, TV

All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of the Wire

Note: This is an oral history of how The Wire got made. You should only read this if you have seen The Wire in its entirety. The spoilers in this review concern the show, not the book.

2004, Books, Fiction

The Plot Against America (2004)

This is a flawed but near-great alternative history of the United States in the first years of World War II that manages to be incredibly compelling and affecting even while you suspect the premise might be slightly implausible. However, Roth is such a good writer that you kind of stop caring and if his handling …

2014, Books, Non-Fiction

The Human Age (2014) by Diane Ackerman

This is an endlessly fascinating book about how human beings are currently shaping the world through technological innovation, and how we have shaped the world in the past. Though the back might convince you it’s about how humans are fighting climate change, it’s really about much more than that, as the climate change section is …

1960, Books, Fiction

The Caretaker (1960) by Harold Pinter

This is my first Pinter and I should mention that I had no idea what I was getting into before I read it. I suspect that it would have made more of an impression on me had I seen it, rather than read it, simply because some of the tone of one of the characters …

2016, Basketball, Books, Non-Fiction, Sports

Boys Among Men (2016) by Jonathan Abrams

This is a pretty excellent narrative history of the one and only generation of NBA stars to come directly from high school. Though I have one minor quibble, I got over it and, for the most part, it’s probably the definitive book about this topic.

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Meaning of Human Existence (2014) by Edward O Wilson

This is a weird book, which doesn’t exactly live up to its title. It’s a book of philosophy by a biologist, who spends his time telling us where evolutionary biology is in 2013, what he thinks about aliens and getting mad at “The Humanities” for ignoring science. I can’t say I really enjoyed it all …

1995, Books, Fiction

A Fine Balance (1995) by Rohinton Mistry

Every day, but especially days in December, I see someone in Canada or the US on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter who is complaining about how awful our world is. If it’s not an individual, it’s an article or other post about something terrible happening. And this really drives me crazy because I know that …

2012, Books, Non-Fiction, TV

The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Forever [Updated] (2012) by Alan Sepinwall

Sometime while I was making my way through The Wire and Deadwood for the first time, I had an idea for a book. It would be about how a bunch of HBO shows, and a few other select shows, altered the nature of fictional TV series (drama but also comedy) forever, finally bringing TV to …

1968, Books, Non-Fiction

The Revolution of the Saints (19968) by Michael Walzer

Many years ago, I read a history of ideas about radical/left-wing politics, Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski, which felt to me like the definitive statement on the religious origins and nature of ideologies. The only thing lacking with that book, to my mind, was its scope was limited to the left; whereas liberalism …

1969, Books, Fiction

Runaway Horses (1969) by Yukio Mishima

All of us approach anything new from our frame of reference. And so I cannot help but liken this novel, the second part of a tetralogy the rest of which I haven’t read, to Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (aka Demons). It’s been years since I read it, but I felt strong echoes of it in this …

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City (2013) by Russell Shorto

When I was in high school and even when I was in university we learned liberalism like this: The Magna Carta invented “responsible government” Thomas Hobbes invented the liberal constitution but his king had too much power John Locke took the Hobbesian constitution and paired it with better institutions and gave us liberalism Then the …

1982, Books, Fiction

Space (1982) by James Michener

The older I get the more I seem to be winning the battle – or at least not losing the battle – with my completist streak. I am writing a review of this flawed novel after having read only 470 pages as a celebration of defeating my completist impulse yet again. I do not need …

1959, Books, Fiction

Hawaii (1959) by James Michener

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 …

Books, Movies, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Society, Theatre, TV

In Praise of Cultural Appropriation

This article is about the accusation of “cultural appropriation” being thrown around at works of art. I may not be entitled to write this.

2016, Books, Non-Fiction

A Natural History of Human Morality (2016) by Michael Tomasello

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” …

2001, Books, Non-Fiction

Fooled by Randomness (2001) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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.

1978, Books, Fiction

The Westing Game (1978) by Ellen Raskin

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 …

1994, Books, Non-Fiction

Jung: A Very Short Introduction (1994) by Anthony Stevens

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 …