Pandora’s Seed, while containing all the essential ingredients to make me giddy - Natufians, evolutionary history, the rise and fall of empires - never quite congealed into a focused or inventive text. Because of its breadth, it skipped quickly between topics without any of the depth and insight that a reader expects from an expert-in-his-field like Spencer Wells. The overall effect of such a scatter-shot tour of the agriculture revolution, is that of a mash-up of the works other more inspired texts of authors such as Jared Diamond, Michael Pollan and Karen Armstrong. Still though - Natufians!
While the central tenet is allied with those held by academics like Dambisa Moyo and William Easterly, who argue that development aid (not to be confused with humanitarian aid) is a hindrance more than a service, Jacqueline Novogratz’s ‘The Blue Sweater’ is a personal, reflective and deeply humane testament to the power of economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Partly a heartfelt reflection on her years in Rwanda, before and after the 1994 genocide and partly a lighthearted memoir of a young activist trying to find where she is welcome (and more amusingly, where she is not) in the world around her, this book is a warmly toned, inspiriting guide to making a difference in our communities.
Two extremely haunting stories, "Sleep" and "Barn Burning", buoyed up this whimsically scattered collection of short stories.
This penetrating look at life in East Germany, seen from the perspective of an outsider, is saturated in heartbreak, courage and a fractured senses of safety.
Simon Winchester once again charms with an inspired framework and ever lilting tongue, wrapping the deep history of the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful language, personal narrative and a sprinkling of Kiplingesque turns of phrase. My only disappointment is that Winchester occasionally speaks with undue authoritative confidence about some ‘facts’ of history and science, without putting them in their rightfully muddied and complex context.
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