In English, Leonore Tiefer, Nonfiction on 2012/06/15 at 09:09
Do you do this? Do you sometimes pick up a book, but you don’t really get it into it after the first chapter, so you leave it and then you come across it again months later and enthusiastically devour it? It’s not something that happens to be very often, but occasionally, the first time I pick up a book, I am just not in the mood to devote myself to that particular book, no matter how interested in it I might think I am beforehand.
And I usually read several books at a time (different books for different occasions!), so it’s pretty easy for me to disengage if I am not actually interested. I just push that lunchtime book to the side in favour of my afternoon reading book with the thought that I just want to read a few pages of this right now. And before I know it, the lunchtime book is buried under all the other books and may even make its way back to the shelf still unread. This appears to be happening with a book of short stories right now (although I am keeping an eye on that book, so it may make it back into reading rotation sooner rather than later), it’s what happened with Sex Is Not a Natural Act (high fives to publisher Westview Press for resisting the urge to add a subtitle below this very clear title). Read the rest of this entry »
In English, Nonfiction, Raj Patel on 2012/04/13 at 09:16
I know we’ve been over this before, but seriously, can we stop with non-fiction having the two titles all the time? Why is one title not enough to stand on its own in the world of non-fiction? I mean, if your title won’t induce a reader to pick the book up, turn it over and read the back to find out what it’s about, then maybe you need to think a bit harder about that title, rather than toss an annoying sentence underneath it. Imagine if publishers did this with fiction: 1Q84, Two Moons in the Sky, This Is Not the 1984 You Thought It Was; Nikolski, A Compass That Doesn’t Point to True North Ties Three Lives Together; The Master And Margarita, The Devil Comes to Moscow and Messes With People. Nonfiction publishers, hear me! Just let a title be a title! We’ll look at the back of the book if we want to know more.
You probably guessed already that The Value of Nothing has a second title. Sigh. But like the majority of these subtitles, it’s pretty accurate: Why Everything Costs So Much More Than We Think. And this is one of those topics that’s pretty dear to my heart, which is why it was such a treat to get it for my birthday from my mom this year (along with the latest Chester Brown) (It was a good year for birthday books). Read the rest of this entry »
In Art, Bilingual, Nonfiction on 2012/02/24 at 10:06
Do you wish someone would translate Shigeru Mizuki’s many encyclopedias of supernatural beings into English already so you can learn about the many strange demons and spirits of Japan? This is not that translation, but it should bring you some solace at least. (Also, no one will ever translate Mizuki’s monsterpedias into English. Face facts, you are going to have to learn Japanese.)
Mythical Beasts of Japan: From Evil Creatures to Sacred Beings is, oddly enough, exactly what the title says it is: a book of Japanese yokai (the very handy catch-all word for monsters, demons, spirits and basically any supernatural creature good or bad; I’m making it my mission to get this word into English dictionaries. It is just so useful, and lacking an English counterpart, unlike some other loan words. *cough* I’m looking at you, kamikaze. *cough*). I’ve been flipping through its pages for a little over a year now, ever since T. was thoughtful enough to get it for my birthday-before-last. There is a laht to take in here, over three hundred pages of full colour photographs of various depictions of yokai in various media, although the majority are paintings. Read the rest of this entry »
In English, Katherine Ashenburg, Nonfiction on 2012/01/06 at 10:23
Lucky you! Today is the day you get to learn too much about my personal hygiene! Because you can’t read a book like The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History without being forced to consider your own thinking on just what it means to be clean.
I heard an interview with the author on some science podcast I listen to ages ago, and was intrigued enough by what she said to bring the interview and the book up in later conversations, but not intrigued enough to actually remember to buy the book. Thankfully, I have T. in my life who gave me Dirt for my birthday this year. I assume this is because he stores up my random noodlings and acts on them when a present-giving occasion comes around, and not because he wants me to re-consider my take on hygiene and is encouraging me to do so in the most passive-aggressive way possible. Read the rest of this entry »
In Cordelia Fine, English, Nonfiction on 2011/10/07 at 08:53
I am reading all the depressing news for ladies these days. First, I find out that no one wants me, and now I learn that society is working hard to keep my math-loving brain down. What is a science nerd to do?
Oh, right, ignore all that bullshit and keep loving math. (Here’s a fun math-y treat!) But what if my math potential has been hindered by my very own math-loving brain?!
That’s basically what Cordelia Fine discusses in the first and third sections of Delusions of Gender. She takes a look at all the ways our society constructs gender, how gender-neutral parenting is a lot harder than refusing to buy your daughter a Barbie, and how the environment in which you are raised is inextricably intertwined with the genetics that code your physical self. Obvious culprits are brought to the forefront, like stereotype threat, but what was really fascinating to me was the myriad of ways these factors are subtly affecting you each and every day. Like, the simple fact of checking a box “male” or “female” is enough to trigger stereotype threat effects on your subsequent behaviour. And how many forms start with that simple checkbox? (A frustrated aside: So binary! What if you are neither?) Read the rest of this entry »
In Mara Hvistendahl, Nonfiction, Science on 2011/08/12 at 09:33
This book depressed the hell out of me. Really. Page after page detailing just why I, as a member of the lady subset of humans, am really not wanted, and all the terrible things that people are doing to get rid of me. Mostly they are having sex selective abortions. And they are mostly having them in Asia and Eastern Europe, thanks to Western pressure and technology.
Unnatural Selection is yet another non-fiction book with an unwieldy subtitle that says it all: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. Hvistendahl spends the first third of the book, “Everyone Has Boys Now”, documenting how people are choosing boys over girls, mostly in the developing world. Right off the bat, she makes a depressing point: “Sexism might be an obvious culprit for imbalance if it weren’t so universal. Parents in nearly all cultures say they prefer boys, and yet sex selection only strikes in part of the world.” Almost all parents would rather have boys. Read the rest of this entry »
In Brian Greene, Nonfiction, Science on 2011/07/15 at 08:59
Put on your science pants! My brain’s taking a trip down science-nerd lane! A trip it often takes!
Here’s the thing. I am a science nerd. I very nearly went into theoretical physics at university, but instead opted for pure maths. But it was always a close race. I dabbled in physics throughout my university career, and I could never quite satisfy my curiosity, which led to me reading popular science book after popular science book in my quest to bridge the gap between my math and my physics, but in a way that didn’t require me to go back to school and suffer through academia again. (I am just not built for that world, despite my true love of learning all things.) Someday, my brain will put to pixel its adoration of physics classics like Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne, or In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat by John Gribbin, but until then, you’ll just have to take my word that my brain loves physics. String theory, M-theory, quantum field theory: bring it! is the general attitude around these parts. Read the rest of this entry »
In Barbara Ehrenreich, English, Nonfiction on 2011/06/24 at 12:49
The subtitle for Bright-Sided is “How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America” and Ehrenreich builds a solid case to support this idea. Like her previous books, Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch, her writing is compelling and effortless, carefully and confidently guiding the reader to all the important points in her argument.
The book starts off on a personal note as Ehrenreich tells us about her breast cancer and how it brought her face-to-face in a rather alarming way with the cult of positive thinking. The first encounter comes before “the mother of all mammograms” in a changing room filled with pink ribbons, poems and a list of the “Top Ten Things Only Women Understand”. She tells us, “I didn’t mind dying, but the idea that I should do so while clutching a teddy and with a sweet little smile on my face—well, no amount of philosophy had prepared me for that.” She then gives an overview of current and past cancer treatment and the growth of positive thinking in the world of cancer. In her search for information and options, she grows more and more isolated, noticing that no one is asking hard questions, like why breast cancer is so common in industrialized societies or why the death rate had changed so little over the past eighty years or so, and instead, that the women were instead going so far as to embrace their cancer as a gift. When she dares to express anger at the frustrations of treatment and battles with insurance companies, the others in the forum are quick to call her out for her “bad attitude”. Read the rest of this entry »
In English, Erwin S. Strauss, Nonfiction on 2011/05/13 at 07:33
In case you weren’t aware, part of my brain is occupied with ruling a small country. With an iron glove. That part of my brain has no mercy and is hellbent on taking over the world. Normally, it takes what it wants by force, but since the force method has still not resulted in me taking over the world, it seemed prudent to take a look at other approaches.
Enter How to Start Your Own Country. My dictatorial self was roadblocked in a way, with so many obstacles blocking her path to world domination. But Erwin Strauss opened up some previously unconsidered options. For that alone, this book was worth the cost. And it was a gift! So it basically paid me! Triple win! Read the rest of this entry »