Sunday, April 29, 2012

Australia, Monsoon, Flavia, Joan, and Pinker

The Other Side Of Dawn (Tomorrow, #7)The Other Side Of Dawn and Burning for Revenge by John Marsden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent conclusion to the Tomorrow, When the War Began series.

Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American PowerMonsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another thorough and thought-provoking book from Kaplan. Monsoon had a very personal feel for me. Although it is only very peripherally about the UAE, it is also somehow ALL about the UAE. The nations of the Indian Ocean (Oman, Pakistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, and to a lesser extent, Burma) are all heavily present in the population of the UAE. They run this place. Ever since we moved here, I've thought that the UAE represented a kind of future where national boundaries don't matter that much, and language and ethnicities who might be political enemies back home mix together happily for the sake of trade and business. It turns out that this is not (only) the future, it's how it's been in this area in the past, too. Fascinating.

This was close to a five-star read, but I thought Monsoon was ever-so-slightly less lyrical than Kaplan's other books. Maybe I just know his formula too well. Also, I personally was not so interested in the chapter about the Chinese navy. And sentences like this made my work-and-MA-beleaguered brain hurt:
"Despite all the pageantry and stagy contrivances of Sukarno's leftist theater state, which developed a useful myth for the new Indonesian nation, and the Dutch- and Japanese-style post-colonialism of Suharto's right-wing military state, which fortified that myth with new institutions, geography has eventually overwhelmed both those attempts at extreme centralization."
Four (or 4.5) stars it is, and required reading for anyone who wants to understand more about the people who make up UAE society.

(PS - when we first moved here, I met a stunning, exotically beautiful woman who was half Yemeni, half Zanzibarian. I decided that was the craziest mix of parentage I'd ever heard of. Turns out, it's a totally logical marriage connection when you know more about the trade routes around here.)

A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia de Luce, #3)A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dearly love Flavia de Luce. I go from wanting her to follow me around all day to narrate my life, to wanting to just hang out and be her friend, to wanting to give her a big hug and tell her how wonderful she is. I think this is my favorite Flavia de Luce so far.

This is the best kind of book to read on a Kindle. Every other page has a word I've never heard before, but with just a touch of the finger I can call up the definition.

Also with the touch of a finger, I can save my favorite passages. These might not be so clever out of context, but I promise they are genius:

On the imagination running wild anytime it's dark and creepy: "I'd learned quite early in life that the mind loves nothing better than to spook itself with outlandish stories, as if the various coils of the brain were no more than a troop of roly-poly Girl Guides huddled over a campfire in the darkness of the skull."

Also: "Whenever I'm with other people, part of me shrinks a little. Only when I am alone can I fully enjoy my own company."

Also: "I had long ago discovered that when a word or formula refused to come to mind, the best thing for it was to think of something else: tigers, for instance, or oatmeal. Then, when the fugitive word was least expecting it, I would suddenly turn the full blaze of my attention back onto it, catching the culprit in the beam of my mental torch before it could sneak off again into the darkness."

My favorite line taken out of context: "Well, I thought, I'm not afraid of zinc, and green corrosion is something that has always interested me."

Lovely lovely lovely.

Pope JoanPope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I appreciate the work that went into the book more than I appreciate the book itself. This is in that "very good dramatization of a Wikipedia article" category...but at the very top of that category. I did enjoy reading about the Dark Ages. It's not a time period I know a lot about.

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates LanguageThe Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second reading April 2012.

I've been working on this one all semester. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to read a book about heavy-duty linguistics while also taking two classes about heavy-duty linguistics. Some parts of this book were a little thick to get through (and my BA is in Linguistics!). I remember it being more accessible the first time I read it and I wonder if I somehow got my hands on an expanded edition (I read it on my Kindle this time so it would be hard to tell if it's longer than the edition I read before).

Still a great book, though. Spend a whole class on each chapter and it just about adds up to my undergraduate degree.

1 comment:

Kathy Haynie said...

I am amazed and in awe that you find time to read at all. Kudos to you, and thank you for some excellent reading suggestions. You make me want to fall in love with Flavia de Luce, too.


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