? how do you find hope and humor in the midst of despair
? how can you remain optimistic in the face of tragedy and grief
michael chabon has written a flowing, literary and magical answer
in the mid-50's senator estes kefauver attacked comic books
his claims of their unamerican nature couldn't have been more wrong
they were paradoxically the most american of all literary forms
they encapsulated all the 20th century american contradictions
old world VERSUS new world
sexual repression VERSUS gender liberation
escape VERSUS settling down
nebbish immigrants VERSUS homegrown super heroes
rural midwestern virtues VERSUS complex urban skills
jews VERSUS gentiles
nation with immigrants VERSUS nation of immigrants
this wonderful tale is wrapped in erudite and elegant prose
more than once i paused the recording to look up a word in the dictionary
but chabon has a relentless affection for human nature and weakness
the story is told with a beautiful affection and insight
the characters are simultaneously so human and so noble
it takes ordinary difficult lives and makes them amazing adventures
dr. kelly mc gonigal now teaches psychology at stanford
previous academic stops include new jersey and boston
i'm told, her lectures are popular and more than well attended
basically, this book is an outgrowth of those lectures and lessons
i assume her audience includes neurotic, bay area undergraduates
she patiently guides them through willpower exercises and experiments
the tone of the book is that of a charming, perky yoga instructor
it implies that 20 minutes of slow breathing will solve most problems
recent small studies with short followup are cited to support her claims
the material is presented in a soothing, optimistic and deliberate manner
issues include fast food, depression, exercise, tobacco, chocolate etc.
if those are the sort of things you struggle with, then you'll like this book
i had hoped the author might address more consequential willpower issues
i.e. narcotic addiction, pedophilia, suicide, autism, divorce, anger etc.
these topics may simply be beyond the scope of her collegiate audience
the 1995 film " the usual suspects " had a character - keyser soze
he was a powerful, mysterious and relentlessly willful criminal mastermind
it was said of him : "...he showed these men of will, what will was..."
but, mr. soze might have to look to other sources to learn about willpower
roy baumeister, scott jurek and daniel kahneman have written good books
each of these three authors approach the subject from very different angles
true willpower, like excellence, is a habit and comes at a great cost
people who tell you differently are selling an easy, "royal road" to happiness
dr. mc gonigal's book is a comfortable, first step along that important path
have you spent significant time in washington DC ?
do the inner workings of politics just fascinate you ?
do you have a greater tolerance for gossip than your classmates ?
if so, this might be a very good book for you
if not, you might find the book insular and a bit repetitive
it's basically a prolonged and chatty lesson on human nature
in 1975, 3 % of former congressmen became lobbyists
in today's washington DC, the number has risen to about 40 %
mr. leibovich would like to tell us just how that transition occurred
those in political power are a sad but predictable bunch of people
p.j. o'rourke's book " parliament of whores " outlined them clearly
it's those next to power that are an even sadder, clumsier group
the press corp, legislative aides and socialites all buzz around DC
they all lack the power and leverage that money or electability brings
so they traffic in the only commodity left to them : relationships
mr. o'rourke's effective book commented on DC from the outside
sadly, mr. leibovich tries to the same from " inside the machine "
it's a difficult task since the reader can often questions his motives
can mr. leibovich remain next to power without actually having power ?
will all of his efforts keep the wolf of insignificance away from the door ?
niccolo machiavelli would say no and he's probably right
did you grow up in the turbulence and drugs of the 1960's ?
was your family built on a foundation of fundamentalist religion ?
was your youth devoted to brothers and athletics and academics ?
do you have the patience for an epic, lengthy novel with literary references ?
if so, this might be the book for you / if not, it might be a long haul
the characters are all lovingly drawn and have an honest affection for each other
but the regular references to the (SDA) seventh day adventist church grew tiresome
the SDA denomination has a high school graduation rate of only 30%
almost all SDA universities remain in the "unranked" category
it just doesn't add up to an especially insightful, literary or self aware group
the book has a pleasantly indulgent and somewhat sophomoric tone
the problems of the main characters, however, seem to be largely self-inflicted
they all seemed like very kind and friendly people / just not too bright
do you just love dogs ? / did you have a favorite dog as a kid ?
do you believe that dogs are unique within the animal world ?
does all the recent canine scientific research confuse you ?
john homans has written the perfect book for you
he is not an academic veterinarian or a research scientist
he is simply a NY magazine editor with a breezy and urbane curiosity
homans makes no attempt to be exhaustive or authoritative
he simply asks and answers the questions he thinks we'd like to know
the book has an ironic, humorous, sophisticated and affectionate tone
recent MRI research confirms that dogs can in fact "read" humans
they're also an antidote for the sadness and loneliness of modern city life
homans reminds us that most dog owners have known these facts for years
books by g. berns, c. warren, a. horowitz and t. grandin are more scientific
homans is happy to let them have their expertise and elegant theories
he simply wants to tell us what a real dog lover would want to know
reza aslan was born in teheran, iran; he now lives in hollywood CA
that's quite a scholarly transition to accomplish in one life time
it gives him a unique perspective to relate islam's own impending transition
islam began, in tribal desert isolation, about 600 years after christianity
three of the first four islamic leaders, to follow mohammed, were assassinated
even today, islam retains many of its' harsh, mercantile and feudal elements
but, aslan persuasively argues, much of that history really doesn't matter
the changes outside of islam are minor compared to the changes within islam
the conflict and carnage we see from the outside, obscures an inner turmoil
islam is desperately trying to come to grips with the modern world
it's similar, aslan argues, to the catholic church's encounter with the reformation
the problem is that islam lacks the enlightenment tools for the job
of the 500 best universities on the globe not one is in the muslim world
basic literacy in many arab countries approaches only 40 %
illiterate, uneducated tribesmen make for a slow religious renaissance
reza aslan has the almost impossible job of explaining islam to the west
the task requires equal measures of bravery and scholarly insight
we should applaud him for trying, many others will follow in his steps
my early childhood focused on "...good, better and best..."
competition, literacy and education were constantly stressed
and then, after 26 years of schooling, i became a resident physician
i was asked to care for people living "...good, bad and ugly..." lives
a steady diet of medicaid and uninsured patients came my way
i didn't help them so much as try to keep them from harming themselves
their capacity for self destructive behavior was truly impressive
their homes and neighborhoods were a finishing school for failure
mary pilon captures the mood and tone of this world better than anyone
bobby cannavale's matter-of-fact narration fits the story perfectly
does the USA really rank 38th in global, overall health care quality ?
the lives, brought to light, in mary pilon's story may help explain why
years ago, e.b. white wrote a small book about NYC
"... new york will bestow the gift of loneliness and...privacy..."
white's book had other, almost clairvoyant, insights about the city
in the days after september 11th, rudy giuliani spoke almost everywhere
"...the number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear...alone..."
so who is right, is it a city of loneliness & privacy or togetherness & sharing ?
colum mc cann uses the events of august 1974 to answer that question
he picked a time when the towers were new, disliked and largely unoccupied
the daring wire walker philippe petit then caught the city and nation's attention
the wonderfully written drama weaves 11 very different lives together
clearly, life has given each of them much more than they can bear
in their sorrow and brokenness, they learn to accept and overcome
i was a skinny college freshman outside NYC in the fall of 1974
the events of august 1974 and september 2001 are indelible to me
colum mc cann's achingly beautiful story agrees with giuliani, so do i
as a child of the NYC suburbs, i wasn't familiar with tribal warfare
my college room mate, however, was from ozark, alabama
his entire extended family were more than loyal auburn fans
graciously, they allowed me to tag along to auburn - alabama games
it is a gross understatement to say "...there is nothing like it..."
i later insisted my young son accompany me to these unique events
warren st. john's life in birmingham, AL and then NYC paralleled my room mate
he brings both kindness and humorous insight to his research
the subjects he depicts are neither monsters or comic book characters
these people don't want to be UA fans, they deeply need to be UA fans
most of them solider on through difficult or diminished lives
football gives them companions and a chance to experienced shared joy
rural alabama life provides a steady dose of adversity and heartache
the civil rights struggle then delivered an unspoken shame on white alabama
the football game allows the faithful to gather and then share those burdens
warren st. john has delivered a wry and thoughtful portrait of a state he loves
he celebrates the paradoxical and, at times, frail nature of his subjects
the book is truly "...a journey into the heart..." with a wise and funny guide
jonathan haidt is a psychology professor at UVA
he has spent his entire life in academic research and teaching
he now wants to write a book about politics and religion
i suspect he believes his truth and insight will change the world
much of what he says is very wise and informative and perceptive
we humans are hard wired for fear, deception, treachery and self-righteousness
but haidt's academic tone puts a distance between the author and his subject
politics and religion are, however, contact sports with blood, sweat and tears
a deliberate, historic and slightly tired tone would have suited the topic better
it's a mystery to atheists why ancient religions remain a force in the world
for some of them, politics and academics become their " modern religion "
but modern psychology is usually more diagnostic than therapeutic
psychology often offers a precise and accurate definition of the problem
it's religion and politics that offer the long hard road toward fixing the problem
i look forward to mr. haidt's next older, wiser and slightly weary book
nate silver is the son of a michigan state professor
his careers in poker, finance, and baseball proved unfulfilling
i suspect the wolf of insignificance was nagging at his door
he needed a new and meaningful focus for his considerable intellect
he now aspires to be the high priest for our digital and data-driven age
the wise sorter of signal & noise / truth & lie / wheat & chaff
the book isn't entertaining because nate silver isn't entertaining
he wants to tell you the truth and show you how to recognize a lie
he then applies his focus and filter to the ocean of data we swim in
at heart, the book is a sturdy compass and a very necessary tool
we live in an expanding jungle of useless and biased information
nate silver wants to lead us to the promised land of the true signal
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.