Monday, February 27, 2017

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun mean-spirited fairytale. I enjoyed the writing, and I couldn't predict the course of the story, though I thought several times that I could. I can't decide if it was actually deep though. It pretends to be deep- it's about the damage we do to our soul when we make poor choices- but I'm not convinced it actually was deep.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Book by Alan W. Watts

The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You AreThe Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I got more from The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley and from some modern similar books, Waking Up by Sam Harris, and The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. This is a good companion book though and it goes in its own very unique direction. Plus I always give bonus points for brevity.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Things seem pretty bad in the United States right now. Just last Wednesday a white American man shot two Indian men in a bar, yelling "Get out of my country." Women's rights, racial minority rights, GLBT rights are all on the chopping block, and when you add those people together, they're actually the majority of America. This novel isn't moving or frightening because it's a prediction of where the United States is headed so much as it reveals how too much power in the hands of a few degenerates into a situation that's awful for everyone. It's a continuum. Misplaced power is already hurting us. Letting the powerful grow more powerful will make the situation worse.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Lathe of HeavenThe Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book! It was well-written, it was philosophical, political, frightening, and enjoyable all at the same time. My one complaint early on in the novel when I thought the main character George was behaving inauthentically, was actually explained later in the story. The underlying political message seems to be a bit conservative or at least pessimistic, with the antagonist being kind of a liberal optimist, but I still enjoyed it as a liberal. Le Guin creates a better dystopia than Ayn Rand.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in A Series of Unfortunate events, this one is just as dark as the first but somehow less creepy for children. It has a fun little mystery for the kids to solve. It depends on knowledge from the first book so unfortunately, you can't skip to this one.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. DallowayMrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though I gave this 4 stars, I didn't actually enjoy this book. It just didn't work for me. My husband thinks I need to wait a few years and re-read it, but it was a bit painful. There are beautiful parts and interesting parts, but it wasn't all that interesting to me as a whole. I was reading to get through it.

It reads like someone imagining a story, or just thinking, going back and forth between a few characters without anything actually happening. It reads like a dream with a lot of medium-painful nostalgia and no action.

View all my reviews

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

Forward: A MemoirForward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The best thing about this book is how honest Abby Wambach is about her struggles. She seems like a very decent person, and her honesty might help people struggling with similar issues. I'm not a big sports fan, but her descriptions of games were interesting and not too lengthy.

Unfortunately, the book isn't very well written. There's a lot of public statements and personal emails in the book- and those are largely filled with cliches. Her most important relationship in the book (besides her relationship with her mother) is her relationship with her wife Sarah, and I closed the book without actually knowing anything about it. She doesn't explain how she fell in love with Sarah in any detail, while her relationship with Hailey was covered in some very personal detail. Though we are told many times that she and Sarah were having problems after she didn't go back to Buffalo, there's no actual discussion of what the specific problems are or how she and Sarah tried to work through them.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIALegacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book a great deal because it explains American history from after WWII until about 2007-08 with the benefit of documents that have been declassified and other information that has been uncovered. It presents a different account than the original explanations at the time (some of which was false).

It may be (or may not be) overly harsh towards the CIA, but it didn't strike me as biased against either political party. As a liberal, I felt somewhat more forgiving towards the George W. Bush administration after reading this book. It is a sobering look at flawed US intelligence and its effect on foreign policy. Definitely worth reading.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 20, 2017

March: Book One by John Lewis

March: Book One (March, #1)March: Book One by John Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suspect that the full trilogy will be 5 stars, because this first one is very good. I only took a star off because I don't think it stands alone well. I think it's just the first one third of a book, not a stand-alone graphic novel.

Now that a majority of the US population is dissatisfied with the leadership and more people are organizing and protesting than ever before in my (relatively short) lifetime, this book is very important.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long IslandEtched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The beginning of this was particularly good and I think it could have been a better memoir with tighter editing. Part of the issue is the main story of her abuse and overcoming the abuse to build a good life is over way before the memoir is over. It could have ended with her first job, quickly summarized her adult life- possibly with a focus on her role as a leader in Long Island.

I was particularly confused about the lengthy section about her paternity test suit, even though as an attorney myself I understood what she explained about the case itself. I understand why the lawsuit may be important to her, but that's different than what's likely to be important to a reader. In any case, I think she sounds like a remarkable person who views her past in a self-aware and rational manner.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Redeployment by Phil Klay

RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great collection of short stories about men in the US military in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. There's a good consistency in the quality of stories, and the stories shift in perspective on and off the battlefield and in different limited positions in the military. The collection is both interesting both for the insight into the military and for the collections literary value. My main critique is that although the characters are carefully varied, there is something about the consistency in author's writing style that makes the characters still seem too much the same.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

The Voyage OutThe Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first Virginia Woolf novel, and it's remarkable for so many reasons. It's very well-written, and it's interesting and thoughtful throughout. Woolf introduces a great number of characters but lets you know three of the characters intimately from both each other's and the Greek choir's perspective. It's a remarkable work of art, though at the end I felt a little used so that Woolf could demonstrate her perspective on the world.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 13, 2017

Congratulations, By the Way by George Saunders

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on KindnessCongratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a deeply biased Saunders fan. This "book" is just one graduation speech he gave at Syracuse University in 2013. It's a really great speech, and as close to conveying the meaning of life in as few words as possible as I have yet read. It takes less than 20 minutes to read so everyone should read it.

It's available in its entirety online, but of course, the book version makes a lovely graduation gift.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An okay middle to the story, but the best part is the hobbits and they're missing from a good deal of the beginning of this volume.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

Heart of a DogHeart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Deeply strange. I really enjoyed it- though it was horrifying in places. I'm sure I didn't fully grasp all the commentary on Russian life and politics in the era, but still enjoyable. (I read a different translation but couldn't locate it in the list.)

View all my reviews

Friday, February 10, 2017

The People Speak by Howard Zinn

The People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known: Dramatic Readings Celebrating the Enduring Spirit of DissentThe People Speak: American Voices, Some Famous, Some Little Known: Dramatic Readings Celebrating the Enduring Spirit of Dissent by Howard Zinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been a number of years since I read Zinn's A People's History, so I don't recall most of these speeches. However, even if I had recalled these speeches, I am certain that they carry more weight with me during the current administration, than they would have carried previously. I particularly enjoyed the McCarthy trial transcript. It's a very short book with 86 pages, and the audiobook is less than two hours long, so I highly recommend reading or listening to it.

View all my reviews

The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong

The Bible: A Biography (Books That Changed the World)The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Armstrong writes about the interpretation and reinterpretation of the Bible, over and over again through the centuries. It has a similar thrust to her book, The Case for God, but it is much shorter because it focuses only on the text of the Bible and not the overall concept of God. It was a little boring in its early history and sped through contemporary history, and it wasn't as strong a thesis as The Case for God, but it was a solid read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Angels and Insects by A.S. Byatt

Angels and InsectsAngels and Insects by A.S. Byatt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's two novellas. The first one about a man who studies insects. It's probably 3 stars. Pretty well-written except it tries to surprise the reader with something you can see a mile away. The characters are all a bit flat.

The second novella is a 1 or 2 star jumble. I just kept reading it to say I finished it.

View all my reviews

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Citizen: An American LyricCitizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I almost gave this book 4 stars (or 4.5 stars) because it is a difficult book to read. It's painful. I had to go slower than I wanted to go to really take it in. I felt dejected. I felt defeated. I felt outside the experience. I felt suffocated inside it. It's really hard to read. When I got to the end, I realized that all my agonizing meant Rankine had done an amazing job as an artist.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A new favorite. An amazingly well-written memoir that brings the history of America to life. This should be required reading for every American high school student (preferably September of their freshman year) for how it elucidates the importance of education, human rights, and history. In this work, Douglass is also a powerful and moving religious leader that abides no hypocrisy.

View all my reviews

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

Live and Let Die (James Bond #2)Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lacking in redeeming qualities. Readable, but mostly boring. A strange brand of racist that pretends to celebrate racial equality in a very condescending and demeaning way.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown by Charles R. Morris

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit CrashThe Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash by Charles R. Morris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first third is the history the US economy after WWII, the middle third is the 2008 financial crisis, and the final third is systematic problems in our economic and political system.

I thought it was going to be a book just on the financial crisis, and if that's what you're looking for there are better books on that topic, such as The Big Short. I agree with the analysis in the last third, and that was my favorite part of the book, but I think that for people that don't already hold these views (or no views on the issue) Morris will fail to convince anyone.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I and Thou by Martin Buber

I and ThouI and Thou by Martin Buber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I recognize that this rating/review says more about me than the book, but I just didn't understand most of this book. To the extent that (I think) I understood some of the ideas, it was because I have previously encountered the ideas elsewhere, such as the Judeo-Christian tradition or the ideas of consciousness in Buddhism. According to Kaufman, Buber himself couldn't elucidate some of these passages. Life is already a mystery- Buber 's ambiguous writing isn't particularly helping me navigate it. Since I own the book, maybe I'll try again when I'm older and wiser.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and ReligionThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent biological science and anthropology book about the development and driving force behind ethics, religion, politics, and tribalism. It will help you view your friends and family members of the other political party with increased understanding and respect. It appears to be mostly directed at United States liberals to help them understand the moral framework of United State conservatives, but it also provides an explanation of the liberal and libertarian framework to conservatives. It is based on controlled studies of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians in the US. There was a lot of information that was new to me, such as the effects of ethnic diversity and culture education. It is not condescending to any political party or religion, which is not the same as saying that everyone will like what Haidt says in this book. In fact, I predict people of both parties will find plenty to try to dispute.

For me, there were some problems with this book which are mostly outweighed by what it contributes. One is that this was written pre-Trump era and it won't help you contemplate the blatantly racist supporters and members of the administration. (Please don't deny these people exist, they have been very vocal in a number of places.) Two is that I think that Haidt goes too far in numerous places with his own policy analysis both in favor and against liberal or conservative beliefs. As a liberal myself, when he says that some policy provides money and therefore dampens the necessity of marriage, I think of people - mostly women- stuck in abusive marriages because they can't afford to get themselves and their children out. Also, there were comments about diversity and cultural education which, whether they are accurate or not, seem to need more context and balancing particularly now that we are facing so many problems with racism in our country.

Also, since a lot of conservatives claim that Christianity is the basis of their moral framework, I'd like to see what Jesus's moral matrix looks like. I think a lot of liberal Christians would think that Jesus's moral matrix would value Care-Harm more than Fairness-Cheating, but that might or might not be a biased view. (See figures 12.2-12.4, http://righteousmind.com/wp-content/u...)

I also strongly recommend Haidt's book "The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom," and you might want to read that one first since this book seemed to build on some ideas he fleshed out in there.

Bonus for my UVA friends- Haidt wrote this book while he was a professor at UVA and he uses UVA Wahoo fans as examples of the joys of groupish behavior.

View all my reviews
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...