san diego, CA, United States | Member Since 2014
Orphan has got to be the most popular author in Turkey right now. His books are piled up everywhere.It was hard for me to relate to his spoon fed life, but the story of his first love was poignant and his decision to become a writer even though his parents had him enrolled to be an architect was also very interesting. The book jumps all over the place chronologically and there is an awful lot about French writers who came to sum up Istanbul after only very short visits. Orhan describes the city as black and white and melancholy. These seem to be right on point and I tried to look at some of the dilapidated buildings that sit often nearby the fantastic mosques that are ubiquitous here. There are lots of small neighborhoods with steep winding streets to explore. The place is surrounded by sea and teems with vitality.This was really a biography and we learn about Orhan's childhood and sibling rivalries and a great deal about his personal life. I wonder what a book exploring places like Anatolia would read like. In the end, Istanbul appears different than other cities. There is a reverence for the past, but there is the same desperate passion to get rich quickly that every city seems to exude in it's hollow pursuit of money that really lies at its heart.
This was packed with information that has made me more aware of my computer use and all its vulnerabilities. Learning about the coming Internet of things and the so called ambient internet that will infiltrate every private moment of our lives as ordinary objects begin to communicate with one another was both disturbing and unsettling. We are headed for a world in which man and machine merge and reality may blur into something we aren't prepared fully to cope with just yet. Chapter titles were things like, You are the product and In screens we trust will whet your appetite for this well written and incisive book.
We already knew potatoes came from Peru and learned they were basically peasant food, which was fed to the Bolivians while they extracted silver from the mines. It move on to Ireland, where once again, it was subsistence food, but soon was regarded as pretty healthy. The population soared to 8 million mostly on potatoes. Until the potato famine that is. Next we are beaten with the details of such things as the corn laws and the painstaking details of how the discovered copper and lime could make a suitable fungicide. I thought we would learn about for instance, who invented French fries or mashed potatoes. The cover looked fun. This was a rather dry, academic study that didn't teach me as much as I had expected it would. Maybe a book like the History of the world in six glasses would have made this more engaging. Something like history of the world in four grains. With a couple hours devoted to each continents contribution.
This was a great book about the fragmented cultures of Russia ,and I first saw it on NPR's booklist. The author struggles with Russian, battles the cold and toughs it out. Russians don't need to speak English and so this is a epic adventure where we learn about a country spanning 11 time zones.
I really tried to get into this, but the country itself just isn't interesting. I got a refund. This is perhaps Paul's least interesting work. Somehow the country that got us all speaking this language must have something redeeming to write about, but it wasn't in this book.
Elizabeth is another person who can speak the major language and traverses every corner of this vast group of islands with an eye toward seeing the distinct differences, as well as the government's attempt to spread Javanese as the dominant and sophisticated culture. I've never been outside the airport in Jakarta, but an island with 100 million people has got to be just chaos. Then the government wants to move people to Kalimantan. Culturally different people. Elizabeth is a brave lady riding boats between islands. Thanks for the adventure in between my own.
The biggest takeaway with this book is that the virtual world is not governed by the Constitution, so Obama and Bush don't care about your privacy. The major software companies, Apple being one of the last, gave back door access to the NSA. It is all legal in their minds. In today's news we see China complaining about this back door access. You can bet that the entire G-20 wants to protect their little fraternity. Whatever we think we have these guys have something that can probably read minds by now. Maybe we will all become some sort of cyber zombies? I pound into this iPad 5 hours a day with endless drivel. It is reshaping my thinking. The machines really are too much. You are not anonymous, so don't ever feel that way. Big Brother is watching. Down with Big Brother. Power to the people!
Gavin Menzies has illuminated us with an alternate history of the world that is backed up by his extensive research. I still had to feel that whatever books were shared with the Europeans had to have been in Chinese,so without good translators I find it a bit hard to believe that the Italians could have simply copied many designs from the Chinese and set off the Renaissance in Europe. Maybe Michael Angelo was simply a talented artist who set about taking these ancient texts and vividly improving the quality of the pictures within. Much like 1421, I think this book might be one best read and so when I have some time I will check out both from the library and have a good look at the pictures provided. The maps and artifacts demand visual representation that an audiobook simply can't provide. This was an entertaining book and was well narrated by Simon Vance, who has an excellent British accent. Maybe Audible could provide us with a PDF of these photos to further enhance our understanding of what could be a very clear and significantly different history from what we learned in school. Some other good histories were provided by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel and a pair of books called 1491 and 1493, which also challenge the dogma we have been presented.
This is a global trip that takes us first to England, then to India and finally America. All the while sowing the seeds of why coal came to be used so frequently and why we would not be enjoying the use of our computers, wearing our colorful clothes or simply being fat and satisfied. This is the history of Industrialization itself. It made me realize that bigger countries or countries with the right resources have an unfair advantage. Coal is not the cleanest of fuels, but it is cheap and abundant in some places and after the English cut down trees to build house and simply keep warm they needed an alternate source of heat. Perhaps America became such a revered place after the discovery of what coal could do for it. A combination of things occurred to position the country for greatness. Coal was certainly the fuel for that abundance.
This is a good overview of China and I often think of some of the words when I am walking around here now. The one that most comes to mind is disparity. I see the construction workers and cleaners who lead a hard scrabble life working all day and often sharing squalid dormitories at night, where they play cards and sit around simply constructed tables with stools playing cards or eating. This is in sharp contrast to the so called middle class guy that now has a car, an apartment, built by one of the hard working migrants mentioned above and all the trapping of success we have come to associate with a decent life.In all fairness, I live near Shanghai, so my perspective is perhaps a bit too optimistic. There are plenty of other provinces where this disparity is greater and the infrastructure isn't as modern as where I am based. Yu Hua gives us a great overview in this brief account of a large and complex country that is hurtling towards modernity. I especially liked his account of how he learned to be a dentist. A profession he took up after high school. He describes in poignant detail how a veteran dentist showed him how to extract teeth and then had him copycat the process after having only watched two times. He was nervous and couldn't even look the patient in the eye. The book is by no means an exhaustive work, but it was entertaining and provoked some better understanding of a place I have been in for nearly 5 years. Chinese people are not usually so forthcoming and so it can be a place that seems barbarous and even bizarre at times. It is always interesting and many times shocking and surprising to simply observe life in China.
We are introduced to a number of species and what led to their demise. It seems mostly big and slow to reproduce animals are doomed in man's world. We shot the great Auk, killed off the elephant from its once great number of 10 million to its now endangered level of 500 k and even things like the ocean have been altered by coral bleaching and ocean warming trends. I thought it was interesting that corals not only reproduce but also form shelters for smaller creatures. Man destroys the earth and sometimes even kills one another. This book and several others have convinced me that science is not always good for the earth. It is only good for man. The book is basically divided into chapters based on various extinct species and sums things up by helping us realize that we too may become extinct one day if we aren't good stewards to the animals, environment and one another. The reader was well paced and clear.I also liked The Ragged Edge of The World and anything written by Jared Diamond seems to also raise and awareness of how irresponsible we are being towards the world we live in.
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