Monday, November 29, 2010

Book review catch-up, again

Here are some books I've read since the last time I caught you up on my reading material.

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. This was only mildly interesting to me, certainly less so than Outliers. I think that means I've spent too much time reading and editing Jeremy's thesis and dissertation. An anecdote, a survey, and a statistic do not always paint an accurate picture of some quirk of life. I was constantly questioning the research and conclusions in this book.



Falling Angels, by Tracy Chevalier. In one word: absurd. I swear sometimes these authors randomly pick a time period and pet historical cause and then build up a story around them using an unfortunate woman who has lots of terrible things happen to her. I simply loathed this book. The Virgin Blue was much better and I'd like to read Girl With A Pearl Earring to see whether it tips the scales in Chevalier's favor.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. Honestly, sometimes I felt like I was reading a dramatized Wikipedia entry about 19th-century Chinese women's history. But it was a very good dramatized Wikipedia entry.

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. The quintessential Civil War novel. You know, I have never really cared to read much about the Civil War. As far as it and the War of 1812, I would prefer reading a book about any other war the US has ever been involved in, and I include the French and Indian War in that assessment. But The Killer Angels was amazing to me. There were no good guys and no bad guys. It was just war, and it was explained in a spare, careful, and engaging manner. I've never read a book quite like this one, and I mean that in a good way.

Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman. It took me a while to get through this one, but it was worth it. I found it quite fascinating. However, I think you would have to be British to really LOVE it. Judging solely from this book, the 18th century (for rich people anyway) was different than I thought it was, at least as far as gender roles and morality go. I'm shocked the entire British aristocracy didn't drop dead from venereal disease, the way this book tells it. And I was amazed at Georgiana's substantial role in politics, even as a woman in that day and age.

Zorro, by Isabel Allende. When I saw the words "Zorro" plus "Isabel Allende," I got really excited. Too excited, as it turns out. The book ended up being only mediocre. I thought the writing and story (as she presented it) were uneven and murky. There were times when I didn't know who to root for, or if the heroine was worth falling in love with. I kept wondering when Zorro would get back to California already and let the story really begin. So I think my problem was that I was expecting a different book - the one where Zorro fights injustice in California like that old show from the 80s that played on The Family Channel (and which I adored). Instead, there is this one. And I think I'd really love the book that comes after this one. All that said, I think a lot of people - especially teenagers - could really get a lot out of this book. Historically, there is a lot going on in this time period and the book does a good job of placing its characters in the social and political context of the times.

I found all of these at the university's library, by the way, which may account somewhat for their being all over the place, thematically.

9 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

I kind of like the variety going on here.

What are the chances that you would find books like "Infidel" or "Guests of the Ayatollah" at the AUS library? I'm purely curious.

Bridget said...

I just checked and they have both of those titles!

Susanne said...

I always enjoy these reviews so I can get new ideas on what to read.

Does your library have "No God but God" by Reza Aslan? My friend in Abu Dhabi told me it was banned, but that was awhile back.

Thanks for the reviews!

Bridget said...

Yes, they have that one, too! Someday I should think up a really controversial book list and see which ones are there...

Carrie G said...

I had the exact same response to 'Blink' that you did. Something happening to somebody once does not a thesis make.

Carrie G said...

I had the exact same response to 'Blink' that you did. Something happening to somebody once does not a thesis make.

Susanne said...

I like your controversial list project...hehehe. Sounds like a good upcoming blog post from Investigator Bridget. :)

I told my friend what you said and she said yes the book became available there (legally) in September. Weird.

Kelli said...

hummm.... drawing conclusions from an anecdote, survey, and statistic... sounds like Josh's dissertation.
love your reviews & your blog, Bridget. :)

Amanda said...

The teens do love that version of Zorro (at least they did at Pueblo High School when I worked there) but me, not so much.

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