Monday, December 28, 2009

Fordlandia by Greg Grandin, 416 pages

A book I'd love to talk about with my Dad (timber industry) and people from Michigan who grew up w/the auto industry. Fordlandia is the story of Henry Ford's attempt in the first of half of the 20th century to build an American-style company town in Brazil in order to produce rubber. In addition to the tales of the struggles and misfires of the managers and workers of Fordlandia, the book also provides an interesting examination of Henry Ford in his later years. The epilogue very nicely brings it all back to what is happening in the global industry today.

Genre: nonfiction
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie/Obnoxious People on Plane: Mostly
Hey, I guess this is Different: I don't really know that much about Ford, so not sure why I was surprised, but the connection between him and the Tennessee Valley Authority was interesting. Also thought the Diego Rivera Detroit Murals section was interesting. Great thing about nonfiction--always new stuff to learn.
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: not recommended--wait until spring

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon, 306 pages

In a series of essays, Chabon discusses fatherhood, marriage, divorce (from perspective of child and adult), Dr. Who, and the disturbing moment when you realize they are playing 80s music on oldies radio (sad in two ways--after all, where does the 1950s music then get shipped to?). These essays are enjoyable and as I read them I found myself wanting to get a copy for all the men in my life, particularly my brother. At the same time, I definitely need to go back and read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (I know, I should turn in my book nerd membership card for not having gotten to that one yet) because it seems like it must be an amazing book.

Genre: nonfiction, of the amusing navel-gazing family/life essay variety (but in a good way)
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie/Obnoxious People on Plane: Yes
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes, mostly--"The Heartbreak Kid" and particulary, "The Hand on My Shoulder" are kind of sad.
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Who am I kidding? I've never known what will make someone cool at parties... this bit of criteria will probably be retired, unless it is something about the book I feel annoyed about.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fool's Paradise

Fool's Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach Fool's Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach by Steven Gaines


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting account of Miami Beach--first half more interesting than the rest...


View all my reviews.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Note: first part of blog entry also appeared on my Goodreads profile.

The Art of Racing in the Rain The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein



rating: 5 of 5 stars
Meet Enzo.



Lover of crap TV, loyal friend of Denny, Eve, and Zoe; and a keen observer of human nature, one whom no one hides their true selves from because no one thinks he actually understands what it is going on.



While tales of anthropomorphism are nothing new—stretching from Aesop’s Fables to The Heart of a Dog to Animal Farm and beyond—Enzo really is something special—thanks to his laid back style and sense of humor.



A heartfelt family story for people who usually hate heartfelt family stories and stories about pets—I heartily recommend that you take a couple of hours to meet Enzo.


Now for the iPreferreading portion of the entry.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: pet story, family fiction
Location: Seattle, Washington, and one of my fave childhood vacation spots--Winthrop, Washington (oh, bubble gum ice cream--so exotic)
Cliches: Story narrated by dog (although Stein pulls it off), evil in-laws/grandparents
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: Yes
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No. This is a great book, but as anyone who has read any pet fiction knows, there usually is some kind of Charlotte's Web/Where the Red Fern Grows action by the end.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, 240 pages

Shubin was one of the scientists who discovered Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fish in the Arctic that became famous for being the missing link between fish and humans. Throughout Your Inner Fish, Shubin explains the evolutionary process that led from Tiktaalik to you and me.

Your Inner Fish is a book for people who are normally intimidated by science writing. His clear prose, sense of humor, and excellent use of illustrations throughout the text make this book not only an informative and accessible book for the readers who do not normally read about science, but an entertaining one as well.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Science
Location: University of Chicago, the Arctic
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes, Shubin keeps his prose concise, so interruptions won't get you confused.
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes, unless it is a plane movie with both Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan, it would be tough to find a book that could compete with that.
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: Yes!
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes

Monday, April 28, 2008

The House of Widows, Askold Melnyczuk, 255 pages

James Pak witnesses his father's suicide and then travels throughout Europe to discover why his father did it. Melnyczuk shifts time periods and narrators throughout so you have to really concentrate on the text in order to determine if the chapter in question is set in 1989, 1949, 1969, 2004, or 1936 (and let's not get into whether you are in New England, Oxford, Austria, or near Chernobyl or which narrator it is). While hard to get into at first, the book grows on you, but the main narrator, James, is rather uninteresting. When the book switches back to him for the final few chapters, it gets boring, and the ending is a disappointment. Intersting, but not satisfying.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Historical fiction/Family Trauma Fiction
Location: New England, Oxford, Austria, Russia
Cliches: Son with troubled relationship with father, who became depressed alcoholic after mysterious tragedy, Heathcliff Syndrome, One Night Stand = Love of Lifetime
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: No, you really need to concentrate on text to be able to keep up--and some sections require rereading
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes, as long as there are no kids or jerks distracting you.
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: No
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Farm Sanctuary, By Gene Baur--286 pages

It has been way to long...Here's to hoping I can be better about posting!

Baur details his career as a animal rights advocate--specifically as an advocate for farm animals. His stories of downed animals (animals in stockyards who are so ill they cannot stand, but are carted off to be slaughtered for food anyways) are particularly heartbreaking, and the book definitely puts one off eating meat. Baur's writing style leaves a little to be desired, as the book is informative, but boring. Some sections just read as a list of "I did this, then I did that, oh, and I met this celebrity." The best part of the work are the several profiles of rescued animals which are incorporated throughout the book.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Advocacy, agriculture.
Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Watkins Glen, New York, and Orland California.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes--chapters are short and can easily pick up where left off.
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Sadly, no.
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: no.
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No. Although it would be a good book to read when getting ready to start a diet, as it puts you off meat and dairy.
If you like, try this better book: Fat Land by Greg Crister. While Crister's book is more about the food industry as a whole, both books deal with the issue of mass production of food, and Crister's writing style is much more inviting and engaging.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do You Like Books? Do You Like People?

"If you like books and people, then librarianship may be the career for you"--just check out this career film series classic from 1947: http://www.archive.org/details/Libraria1947

From the Prelinger Archives

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cubs Nation by Gene Wojciechowski--417 pages

Wojciechowski covers a different aspect of the Cubs organization over every game of the season--interviewing players, broadcasters, Dusty Baker, various coaches, and more interestingly--the fans and people who make their living indirectly through the Cubs--musicians who play outside Wrigley for change, beer vendors, and many, many others. The book works best when the author covers these folks, rather than the manager, broadcasters, and players--who have all been covered elsewhere ad nauseum. Recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Sports
Location: Chicago
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes--the short chapters make it easy to start and stop as needed.
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: Yes, in most sections
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No--it will only make you more desperate for baseball season to begin.
If you like, try this better book: The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney. I'm not a Yankees fan, but this book is excellent--one of the best baseball books I've ever read. Olney makes things I thought I'd read about before fresh.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (240 pages)

I read this book to see if it would work for the One Book, One Campus project I am working on. It is an interesting book, with Ehrenreich going undercover in various jobs--waitressing, a dietary aide in a nursing home, a maid, a Wal-Mart clerk, and seeing if she could live on the wages.

The book brings home how difficult it is to live on $5-6 an hour (especially in terms of housing). Ehrenreich can get a little preachy and repetitive at times (yes, we know that you're a PhD, thanks for reminding us, again), and the whole scene at the Maine tent revival just seems like a pointless indulgence, it adds nothing to the narrative and just makes her come across as petty.

One really great thing about the book is that she is honest about her shortcomings--when she cheats on the budget she's set for herself, on flaws in her personality, especially the section where she's working at Wal-Mart and notices how the person she's becoming, the "Barb" on her nametag, is much different than the "Barbara" she is in real life. It is not a perfect book, it starts off strong and starts to lag in spots, put it is a perfect book for a book club discussion because the conversations about it could go in so many different directions.

A perfect tie-in for any book group would be to read this book, then watch Sullivan's Travels.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Current Events/Social Issues
Location: Key West, Florida; Portland, Maine, and Twin Cities, Minnesota
Cliches: Muckraking journalist goes undercover--living the life of the underprivileged to expose the system's flaws.
Hey, I Guess this is Different: The whole section about the drug tests for her jobs at Wal-Mart and Menards and her travails in trying to pass them--it is a pretty funny section.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Yes, but be careful, might also make you seem sanctimonious.
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes--will make you appreciate what you have
If you like, try this better book: Downsize This! by Michael Moore (Moore before he became an annoying caricature)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin (228 pages)

The first of the Rebus' novels has the detective on the trail of a serial killer that targets young children. Rankin's plot has a few too many coincidences, but its a first novel, so no big sin. The villian is a cliche not worthy of an A-Team rerun, but the atmosphere Rankin creates keeps you from putting the book down unfinished.

While more fun in later novels, Rebus is interesting enough in this book to bring you back for more. Rankin's real strengths in this novel are his descriptions of Edinburgh and the supporting character narratives--Rebus' brother Michael, Jack Morton, Gill Templar, and Jim Stevens--all are interesting, and while the novel is a bit uneven, there are spots when writing from these characters point of view the book shines (particularly the last few sentences of the epilogue, which spur the imagination on to the possibilities of a better novel never written). Not the best of the Rebus' books, but a decent, quick, read.
Genre: Mystery
Subgenre: Police Procedural
Location: Scotland
Cliches: Detective with alcohol issues, detective known mainly or solely by his last name, divorced, awkward relations with child, pesky/immoral journalist on trail of story and/or detective, detective has trauma in past (of the caused amnesia variety), family issues, serial killer with link to detective, serial killer targeting kids, detective has partner with drinking problem, detective sleeping with a colleague, detective is one night stand type--but sensitive, detective is big reader of the classics, detective listens to jazz and/or classical music.
Hey, I Guess this is Different: Late father and brother both made living as hypnotists.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Probably Not
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes
If you like, try this better book: Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Welcome to I Prefer Reading

This blog is devoted to reading and encrouraging others to read more. I'm not a genre snob. While partial to mysteries, I'm game to read anything, as long as it passes the 50-page rule (that a book is interesting after 50 pages). According the Stephen King, if you're over the age of 50, you can subtract the number of years over 50 you are from the 50 pages (so If you're 57, and a book has not hooked you by page 43, you can give it up--so many books, so little time after all).