To those in her Cape Cod town, Mother is an exemplar of piety, frugality, and hard work. To her husband and seven children, she is the selfish, petty tyrant of Mother Land. She excels at playing her offspring against each other. Her favorite, Angela, died in childbirth; only Angela really understands her, she tells the others. The others include the officious lawyer, Fred; the uproarious professor, Floyd; a pair of inseparable sisters whose devotion to Mother has consumed their lives; and JP, the narrator, a successful writer whose work she disparages.
Lots of characters, but the central one is mother, who lives until 104. She has 8 children, but the one that died, Angela, is celebrated yearly and mothers care taker is also named Angela, who JP the character we are to assume is Paul himself, falls in love with. I could get how he feels. I too live abroad and have felt closer to Latino, Asian and Africans along the way. Family is complicated and once you are grown flying the coop is a lot more interesting. His brother Gilbert often visits the Middle East and Fred, the lawyer, frequents China. the other characters were rather dull. Accept for Floyd, the poet, who manages to have a number of colorful lines, which had me running for the dictionary.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
One of the world's leading authorities on global security, Marc Goodman takes listeners deep into the digital underground to expose the alarming ways criminals, corporations, and even countries are using new and emerging technologies against you - and how this makes everyone more vulnerable than ever imagined.
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.
The potato - humble, lumpy, bland, familiar - is a decidedly unglamorous staple of the dinner table. Or is it? John Reader's narrative on the role of the potato in world history suggests we may be underestimating this remarkable tuber. From domestication in Peru 8,000 years ago to its status today as the world's fourth largest food crop, the potato has played a starring - or at least supporting - role in many chapters of human history.
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Through the stories of fellow travelers, Greene explores the challenges and opportunities facing the new Russia: a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity yet still continues to endure oppression, corruption, and stark inequality. Set against the wintery landscape of Siberia, Greene’s lively travel narrative offers a glimpse into the soul of 20th century Russia: how its people remember their history and look forward to the future.
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.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
American-born Paul Theroux had lived in England for 11 years when he realized he'd explored dozens of exotic locations without discovering anything about his adopted home. So, with a knapsack on his back, he set out to explore by walking and by short train trips. The result is a witty, observant and often acerbic look at an ever eccentric assortments of Brits in all shapes and sizes.
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.
1 of 4 people found this review helpful
Bewitched by Indonesia for twenty-five years, Elizabeth Pisani recently traveled 26,000 miles around the archipelago in search of the links that bind this impossibly disparate nation. Fearless and funny, Pisani shares her deck space with pigs and cows, bunks down in a sulfurous volcano, and takes tea with a corpse. Along the way, she observes Big Men with child brides, debates corruption and cannibalism, and ponders "sticky" traditions that cannot be erased.
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
It began with a tantalizing, anonymous email: "I am a senior member of the intelligence community." What followed was the most spectacular intelligence breach ever, brought about by one extraordinary man. Edward Snowden was a 29-year-old computer genius working for the National Security Agency when he shocked the world by exposing the near-universal mass surveillance programs of the United States government. His whistleblowing has shaken the leaders of nations worldwide, and generated a passionate public debate on the dangers of global monitoring and the threat to individual privacy.
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!
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
The brilliance of the Renaissance laid the foundation of the modern world. Textbooks tell us that it came about as a result of a rediscovery of the ideas and ideals of classical Greece and Rome. But now bestselling historian Gavin Menzies makes the startling argument that in the year 1434, China - then the world's most technologically advanced civilization - provided the spark that set the European Renaissance ablaze. From that date onward, Europeans embraced Chinese ideas, discoveries, and inventions, all of which form the basis of Western civilization today.
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.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
The fascinating, often surprising story of how a simple black rock altered the course of history. Yet the mundane mineral that built our global economy, and even today powers our electrical plants, has also caused death, disease, and environmental destruction. In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins three hundred million years ago and spans the globe.
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.
From one of China’s most acclaimed writers, his first work of nonfiction to appear in English: a unique, intimate look at the Chinese experience over the last several decades, told through personal stories and astute analysis that sharply illuminate the country’s meteoric economic and social transformation. Characterized by Yu Hua’s trademark wit, insight, and courage, China in Ten Words is a refreshingly candid vision of the “Chinese miracle” and all its consequences, from the singularly invaluable perspective of a writer living in China today.
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful