Monday, July 11, 2011

The Return of Reading

Let all the bookworms rejoice! I graduated from college, which means I finally have had time to read for pleasure again (in between hunting for jobs and doing odd jobs to make money, that is). Here is a list of all the books I've read so far, with brief reviews.
  1. The Geography of Bliss (Weiner) - A travel memoir centered around a grumpy NPR reporter's attempt to find the happiest places in the world. Not my favorite travel book, but a lot of fun nonetheless as Weiner takes the reader to places both expected and unexpected in the quest for locational happiness. Begs the question: is it really the place that matters?
  2. The Greatest Show on Earth (Dawkins) - A love letter to evolutionary biology. This book can hardly be described in any other way. It is not nearly as vitriolic as many of his other works, particularly as it refers to religion in general-- though he is unsparing in his attacks on those who discount evolution. Sometimes difficult to get through and fully comprehend, this is nevertheless an excellent piece for anybody curious to read an argument for the scientific basis of the theory of evolution. (Read a longer review here)
  3. True Compass (Kennedy) - Superb memoir by one of the greatest senators of the twentieth century. No matter your feelings about the Kennedy clan's politics, you cannot deny that they lead interesting lives. Ted Kennedy wrote this book very shortly before he died, and at least part of it with the knowledge that he had cancer. Its focus on sticking to your beliefs and pushing through tragedies rings true, but it doesn't shy away from the harder events of Kennedy's life.
  4. A New Kind of Christianity (McLaren) - Brian McLaren is a leading voice in progressive Christianity, specifically in the “emergent” church. I loved this book most for its format-- questions and responses (not answers). He raises issues that have long been considered foundational to Christianity, and points out that there may be more ways of looking at the issues than have previously been raised. It offers more questions than it answers, but that's a good thing in this case. Needs to happen more often in the church.
  5. The Killer Angels (Shaara) - A classic historical fiction novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. Depicts the battle from the perspective of a variety of different commanders on each side. I couldn't put it down.
  6. The Lemon Tree (Tolan) - One of the best books on the Israel-Palestine conflict that I have ever encountered. It treats fairly with both sides, giving voice to each side by telling the crisscrossing stories of two families who, at different points in time, lived in the same house. Don't mistake this for only a biography, though-- it's much more of a history of the conflict, just with a very unique lens. Well worth the read.
  7. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Morris) - The first in Edmund Morris's trilogy of works on the 26th president, this volume traces Roosevelt's entire life before he became president. And what a life it was: crusading assemblyman, author, soldier, media hog, police commissioner, Civil Service Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy... a diverse career, depicted here by Morris in a fact-filled but highly readable and entertaining way. How could you not be entertained by a life like that?
  8. Outliers (Gladwell) - I'm almost ashamed to say that this is the first Malcolm Gladwell book that I've picked up. However, for this recent grad, I think Outliers was a good place to start, though it was his third book. The focus was on rethinking success-- or more accurately, the most successful people. It manages to simultaneously reenforce and reevaluate ideas that you may have already had about success-- and more importantly, about how your environment affects it.
  9. Foundation (Asimov) - An Asimov sci-fi classic. He wrote it when he was 21 years old, which does rather make this 22-year-old feel unaccomplished. That being said, it's an excellent start to a series that is effectively about the rise and fall of empires. Excellent read, and certainly not a high level of complexity in terms of writing style.
  10. Mort (Pratchett) - A fantastically wacky novel about what happens when Death decides to take an apprentice. I'm not overly familiar with Pratchett's DiscWorld, but this book didn't really demand it. Funny, yet raised some interesting ideas about death, justice, and shifting realities. Not that the latter was the primary point of the novel, necessarily...

1 comment:

The Raven Lunatic said...

I absolutely love Gladwell. He won me over years ago when he wrote a long feature on the pharma industry that actually showed all the issues.