Friday, October 07, 2005

Big Ells Bookshelf

Here is the first installemt of Big Ell's Bookshelf. I initially planned on writing book reviews on a farily regualr basis but couldn't find the time. Here’s a list of some of the more interesting books I finished reading during the first 6 months of the year.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss

I really enjoyed this book from Lynn Truss. I liked her schoolmarm sassiness and dead-pan wit. She also taught me a lot about punctuation but I have already forgotten. This book is well written and apparently punctuated correctly. Not much else to say; the book is on punctuation.

Gun’s, Germs and Steel: The fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond attempts a monumental undertaking with this book. He attempts to chronicle the development of human history and why some cultures have ‘succeeded,’ while others haven’t. He argues that the primary factors behind human development have been: the domestication of plants and animals, geography, knowledge transfer and population density.

I have never had much of an interest in pre-history. I did take a few undergrad courses in university but I never found the subject matter to be very interesting. This book did pique my interest and I had planned on reading more then looked at all of the unread books on my bookshelf and decided against it. Guns, Germs and Steel is a very interesting book; it is well written and researched. Diamond deserves credit for trying very hard to detail opposing positions that contrast his own. The only major problem I found is that he doesn’t take human variables into account, except in passing. All in all a good read and worth checking out.

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

This is the memoir of a young Augusten Burroughs from about 13-16 years old. During this time his alcoholic father leaves the family right before his insane mother comes out of the closet. The crazy lesbian mom then gives custody of Augusten to her insane psychiatrist and is later molested by his 33 old step-brother.

This book is hilarious and disturbing both at the same time. I found myself laughing out loud or cringing in pain. It is a quick read and I found it wildly entertaining. I highly recommend it unless you have issues with homosexuality, child abuse and drug abuse; if so please stay clear.

The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

I didn’t mind this book too much when I first read it. I don’t usually read books like this and finished it quickly. I won’t bother with a plot synopsis as everyone must know it by now. It did keep me captivated and I read it in a day or so. I found the subject matter interesting but really don’t see why it won all of the awards.

I read Angels and Demons after the DaVinci Code and it made me angry. The reason I don’t read John Grisham or Michael Crichton is that I find their formulaic writing boring. Dan Brown is no different at least with DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. Uber Professor Langdon races around trying to beat the clock to solve some mysterious crime. These crimes are caused by forces so devious only he can truly understand what they are really about. In addition, he has some super intelligent hot chick with him who invariably falls for his Symbologist magnetism. Gimmee a fucking break. I have never been to Harvard but based on my long University career, the only things my profs could have picked up would be crabs from the whores on Hastings. If I would have read this book before the DaVinci Code I am sure I would have hated the DaVinci Code as much as I hated this book. If that makes any sense.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken

Al Franken takes aim at the neo-conservatives in American politics and media. Not much of what he says is new. He does say it in a rather funny way using sarcasm and irony to skewer fairly easy targets. His rants on Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity are quite good. I really loved his visit to Bob Jones University with his son. He does lose me at times but it is interesting to read about the effect of 911 on Americans, especially ‘liberal,’ Americans. He writes that he and his family were truly scared and that they were going to die at any moment from WMDs. I am sure I would have found the material more interesting if I read this book when it first came out. When I read Lies … this past spring, it just seemed old. It left me to wondering if any of the anti-Bush books will age very well?

Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

This book is wildly popular and basically looks at the role of intuition and how it is a more accurate means of prediction than logic or reason. Gladwell argues his case with many different stories ranging from heart attack triage, speed dating, to selling cars. He is basically trying to persuade us not to think, or not to think too much.

I found this book very interesting. He seems to make some good arguments, but I am a Migrant English Teacher who by that fact doesn’t know too much. I would recommend that a much smarter person than me read this book and refute all of its claims. I would appreciate this because this book seems to validate the Taiwanese saying ‘You think too much.’ I hate this saying more than stinky tofu but get it all the time from the wife and in-laws. Is it possible to think too much when you live in a country where the system/culture discourages thinking? Anyway read this book it is well written and interesting.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi is the story of Pi Patel a precocious boy from Pondicherry, India. The son of a zookeeper he examines animals and spirituality then his father decides to move the family to Canada. The weather started getting rough and the ship was lost if not for the courage of a fearless Pi the animals would be lost. Well, that isn’t exactly what happened.

When I first heard of this book I figured that I would hate it, a boy and a tiger on a lifeboat seemed ridiculous. Then I heard that it contained spirituality and would force me into a bout of personal introspection. Personal introspection is always a good time, with the weeping and cleansing. The fact of the matter is that the more I read this story the more I got into it. Martel is a very good story teller and I found myself actually caring for what happens to Pi and the tiger. I rarely care about characters, which is why I shy away from fiction. This is a very good book check it out.

disregard continue here


Megan said...

Enjoyed Eats, Shoots and Leaves as well as Life of Pi.

Have you ever read Ann-Marie McDonald's "Fall on Your Knees"? It's a disturbing, funny, heart-wrenching, heart-warming book that rates among my top 10 (and this coming from a Lit major). She's a Canadian author too!

Also, I'm not sure if you're from the West coast, but I'm currently reading "Stanley Park" by Timothy Taylor for the second time. It's FANTASTIC! I love CanLit (esp from B.C.) and even more if it's about food. This one has a mystery in it too, and explores the relationship between a man and his dad. Also looks at issues of capitalisation and the debate between regionalism v/s multinational corporation.

ps: How's wifey? Show her the belly pic on my blog, I'm sure she'll relate!

BigEll said...

Thanks for the comment. I will try and find these books when I am back at X-Mas. I lived in Vancouver for 5-6 years so I know a bit. The wife is good all things come to fruition on Thanksgiving.

Marc said...

Heard about the sprog! Congratulations big man. Nice you've had one now, so I don't have to.

225712012 said...

Didnt you feel a little let-down at the end of 'Pi' though? I got the idea that Martell was saying that the whole story was just a figment. Still, I guess a story is a story right?

BigEll said...

I did feel a bit let down at the end of 'Pi' but wasn't really sure why. I think you nailed it on the head.