NEW YORK, NY, United States | Member Since 2010
This is really cool and well-paced fiction, with a kind of business twist to it. Wait a second, not fiction? I cannot believe it but wikipedia says indeed it is.
But, whether or not it is fiction, the story-telling is simply amazing. Written in a more personal tone than usual thrillers but keeps you on your toes for a 100% of the ride. If only more thrillers had been this way. The only minor disappointment is the ending, which lacks closure and stops in the run of it; it's a pretty minor thing though because the rest is history.
No simple war is an impressive about the history of World War II which, uniquely, manages to simultaneously pay homage to the courage of the soldiers fighting on the wrong side of the moral line and document the many darker acts committed by these same soldiers.
Although the book is rich in detail and goes through all the parties involved in the conflict, there are two special places were the study deserves special praise and goes far beyond what other books in the area have done.
- The book takes special attention to describe the unknown German heroes of the war. These are the soldiers that won battles on two fronts, against sometimes impossible odds. Many of these soldiers had nothing to do with what was happening on the political front and were (soon enough) fighting, and dying, for Germany's survival. Few books document that well the German ordeal on the Eastern front, in particular, how this was all very different from a well-equipped and organized army.
- Second, the book is one of the few to be honest about a fact of the war, that it was mainly fought, and won, by the Russians with the allied mostly creeping in as a sideshow. But this was not easy and while the Russians numerous, it boggles the mind to imagine how they could transform from a second-class world power to one that could push back a major industrial power. According to the narrative, this was accomplished mainly by the Russian grit never to give up and fight until death.
No simple victory is marketed as a tale of the war atrocities committed by the victors but this is just a part of the story. More than this, the book tries to explain how we came to this by defining what "total war" really is. It is also a cautionary tale about a kind of war that might have occurred only once in the history of humanity.
As a new parent, I felt like reading about children even though I find the general purpose of this unclear given that knowing what to do is the easier, but doing it is a different story.
NurtureShock is sold off as "new thinking" but, to be honest, there's nothing very new about anything there and I was telling a friend about what the book said and that person wasn't surprised. Certainly, praising a child's intelligence might increase the fear of failing. Sure, indifference can be worse than fight. And, yes, it's good to interact/speak with baby.
This is not so much new thinking, as mainly everybody knows what is there, but a question of whether parents are really willing to do it; as I said, knowing something does not mean you would like to do it. Most parents might want their kid to feel good about themselves, not maximize intellectual prowess, or do not want to be facing constant fights between siblings, or do not want to be constantly exchanging with baby. I am not saying that that these are good things, but that presenting these as grand insights are like teaching that eating burgers every day is probably not the best diet choice.
A good history book gives you the facts and weaves them into a consistent sustained narrative. A great history book catches the human element that pushes history forward. Pacific Crucible is a good history book. It is well-documented, well-paced and never boring but, unfortunately, is somewhat complacent in big picture grand strategic facts over the actual human experience of the war, who the people that fought were and why they chose to do what they did.
If one is to pick up a first book on this issue, I much strongly recommend "the Battle of Midway" by Craig Symonds, a far superior account on all fronts which, contrary to what one may suspect, is not solely about Midway but covers mostly the same period. Unlike Pacific Crucible, Symonds' text provides a much more fleshed out account of the human mistakes made on both sides and of the pilots and of the generals. It also avoids the pitfalls of heavily documenting the life of generals that were far from the fronts and whose role in 41-42 might have been real but is tactically far from obvious.
Readable, but a disappointment.
I'm a fan of Sawyer's books and I love how he is able to mix modern sci-fi and detective stories, as the true successor to Asimov. Sawyer's new novel has a lot going for it, Mars, a tight intrigue, and immortality. It's a great homage to the Robots of Asimov, to film noir, to Bradbury as well to standard Sawyer novels.
Unfortunately, the book is fine but not great. The environment is well-done and the story flows but there are a few problems that break with typical Sawyer's greatness. First, the characters are cartoonish, in a bad way. It is very difficult to stick to a stereotype that not only lacks substance but seems to have been pulled out of from a different author (i.e., Casablanca); other characters come and go with style but nothing behind it. Second, the intrigue is broken in two pieces, as if there wasn't enough material for one book and Sawyer added No.2 to this one. Not a great manner to create a rich enthralling intrigue. Third, the denouement is just not that surprising or great and there are few mysteries to discover.
It's still entertaining enough and the narrator is amazing at voice-acting. But nothing memorable.
The title says it all "A True Financial Thriller." This is not intended as an account of Madoff's fraud but as a thriller of a person in search of the world's largest fraud. Although entertaining, I have to say it fails completely as a personal biography or a thriller, let alone as an explanation of the fraud or the SEC investigation. The problem is that, right at the start, there is little Markopolos knew about Madoff, since he gathered most of what he knew from public sources. Except for the 'mathematical' proof, which should have triggered further investigations, most of the book is spent rambling about other's inability to push further. This also makes for a very poor topic for a thriller.
As a biography, Markopolos is too emotional about his own character to be convincing or interesting. It's initially amusing when he thinks he will get shot by Madoff or robbed by the SEC, without any actual events that would indicate that would happen, but it gets old quick and certainly is not a topic for an entire book. It's also amusing to poke fun at otherwise clueless "financier," i.e., elevated salesmen, but there is so much material there to build on.
Should Markopolos have testified about his experience with Madoff and the SEC? Yes, definitely. Should he had written a book? Not really, nothing to see there beyond what you can find in 5 minutes on the web.
I admit it, I delayed reading the book; the Great Depression of the 30s and its preambles is a fascinating period but the inner workings of the Central banks seems the most boring place to watch history.
Not so! Ahamed makes a convincing case that a few people, namely the four heads of the major central banks, were central in the grand orchestra of the Great Depression. Their errors, perhaps a mix of poor economic training, selfishness and obstinacy, led to real consequences, prompting the world toward what would be the greatest disaster in human history.
You will find here a detailed account of the consequences of Britain joining the gold standard, France's policy toward gold hoarding, the well-intentioned but ultimately destructive support by the Fed toward European cheap credit and, lastly, the lacking attempts as everything unravels to take power away from these men.. too little too late.
There is one point where the author, apparently not an economist, appears overly naive and out of context. The book is about the errors of a few men in powers, but in places, the admiration for the economist John Maynard Keynes becomes blinding to the extent that it misrepresents both current attitude toward his theories or, even, at the time, whether his ideas would have worked his place. In a gratuitous manner, the book ridicules I. Fischer not on theoretical grounds but on silly comments he made, or completely fails to note that Keynes' work, falsely presented as the panacea that protected us from crises, collapsed during the decade of the 70s.
The book shines as a epic economic history of the times, not as a guide for future policy.
When I got the book, I wondered whether this would not just be for aspiring novelists, not at all!
If you are like me, there are times you're listening/reading a book and thinking that you don't like the book. You don't know why, but you just don't like it. Usually, that's because you're bored but why you're bored is not clear. Further, you're wondering whether it is worth going a bit further into the book, maybe it will get better.
What Stein's text does is tell what works in a book and vice-versa, tell you why you don't like a book. And it's simply amazing how many books do not follow Stein's basic recommendation and how this shows when listening to them.
Read this book and you will know why you don't like a book and when it is time to let it go. If I had known about it earlier, it would have saved me so much time not giving second chances to books that were ultimately completely pointless. I will give here a few examples of things (among many others) that Stein's clearly identifies as poor boring writing:
1. Characters that are sissies or winny, and have no strength of will,
2. Stories that tell but do not show what's really happening,
3. Stories in which things just do not start with something unusual, it's just the plain regular life.
What's interesting about Stein's ideas is that they are delightfully adapted to our times. There are classics that do not follow these rules and that, if they were not accepted as classics, would probably fail. It makes the lessons quite fresh and certainly not obvious and a must read for anyone who wants to know why he did not like a particular book.
Some take it as a lesson on writing, take it as a lesson on reading.
There is this kind of book which takes a bunch of savvy characters, gives some unusual occupations and places them in an out-of-the-ordinary environment. This is more or less what this book as can be seen by the following elements: (a) a deranged hermit, (b) a bunch of obsessive fishermen, and (c) the swampy old South.
The story is an after-thought to the characters and their environment. Completely forgettable, unpredictable (in a bad way), borderline trivial or borderline far-fetched, I doubt that this kind of story will satisfy any fan of thrillers that keep you on your toes. While some pretty serious stuff actually happens, it all feels more like a picnic and gentle children's play.
I gave it three stars because the book works well as a guilty pleasure. The action moves forward and remains mildly entertaining. The characters are one-dimensional but are unusual enough that it's fun to read. The performance is okay with some nice distinction between Miami and central Florida accent, but I feel more diversity would have been better.
You love your pets, right? And I assume that you feel that a minimum level of humanity and decency, let alone respect, should be given to other animals?
Then, do not read this book. I did not think about this but the treatment and exploitation of the animals we eat is terrifying and the authors make a good point when they note what the ethical thing to do is. It is not so much well documented (a disappointment) as it is convincing in its main message: that animal products, at least right now, are produced in a pure evil manner. Forget meat of course, but also think fish (fished or farmed), eggs and milk, etc. I honestly stopped reading after a while; I gave it only three stars in my review because it hardly qualifies as an experience I would like to have when I get a book to read.
Perhaps some will criticize the book as being judgmental and that it is the producer's fault. That's plainly wrong as, like any good economist knows, any demand creates its own supply. Books like this one are doing the ethical thing, to put the focus on the demand for animal products.
So, yes, do not read this book, do not buy this book, as it will probably will make you feel worse when you eat the foods you like.
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