Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: The Long Earth

The Long Earth
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very engaging book. I'm afraid to say much about it though, out of fear of spoiling the story. I will say that I found the literary and cinematic references amusing.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This author is obviously angry at being fooled into believing that a vegan lifestyle would be better for her and the planet, and the book is an impassioned argument against such beliefs. Her arguments against the three main arguments for vegetarianism (ecologic, moral, and health) also appear quite strong, although I suspect there is some handwaving at times where the science gets beyond her. In particular, I noted the use of "chemfear" (the belief that "if you can't pronounce it it must not be good for you") in a few places, and there's other spots where I'm not convinced that she's connected all the dots. But there's enough here to at least make one question the merits of the positions she rails again, which are often held with a religious fervor.

Vegans will hate this book, as will many vegetarians, as she calls them childish and ignorant. (I suspect this accounts for many of the "1 star" ratings I'm seeing.) But, sadly, she is right on both counts, certainly with respect to vegans and also with respect to many vegetarians. And while I think her closing recommendations are problematically impractical for many people, she admits that she doesn't have all the answers. But at least she is putting the questions on the table. Unfortunately, the closing of the book includes an excessively aggressive indictment of liberals, the American left, and men, which will tend to put off people who do not share her beliefs in radicalism and feminism. Bad bridge-building there that mars an otherwise very good book.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Fields of Fire

Fields of Fire
Fields of Fire by James Webb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because [a:Rachel Maddow|4085286|Rachel Maddow|] mentioned it in her book, [b:Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power|13564710|Drift The Unmooring of American Military Power|Rachel Maddow||17113518]. Normally I'm not that fond of war novels, but this one definitely held my interest. Intensely emotional at times, but overall not a difficult read.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Review: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A sobering look at the way meritocracy fails everyone except, of course, the rich, who are often not those of the highest merit. This is one of the few books I've read recently that has led me to jot down ideas for things that need future investigation. One in particular has to do with the conservative mindset (as identified by Joss and others) and indeed whether we have the relationship between conservativism and wealth backwards; that is, conservatives become plutocrats because they are psychologically structured (by genetics or upbringing) to pursue the ouroboros of endless acquisition, rather than the wealthy simply tending to conservatism because it makes rational sense to do so.

I also saw clear connections between this book and [a:Rachel Maddow|4085286|Rachel Maddow|]'s [b:Drift|13606169|Drift|Rachel Maddow||17113518] and [a:Lawrence Lessig|25159|Lawrence Lessig|]'s [b:Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It|12062331|Republic, Lost How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It|Lawrence Lessig||16768310], but that's not all that surprising given that Hayes works with Maddow and was a fellow at Harvard under Lessig's sponsorship. I would recommend all three books, since really they all address the same core problem, from different points of view: the ways in which our government's leaders become detached from the people they govern.

I borrowed this from the library to read, but I think I'm going to need to buy a copy because I want to write notes in it (something I rarely ever do) and I can't do that with a library copy.

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