What a book!

October 31, 2010

Review: The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier’s Account of the War in Iraq

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in IraqThe Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier’s Account of the War in Iraq by John Crawford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quick recommendation: I read somewhere, I can’t remember where, that the current armed forces are the most literate soldiery in world history and the volume of war memoirs in the past few years are proof of this.

I heard this author interviewed on NPR and he was very funny, which made me read the book.

The book, of course, wasn’t always funny because it is about war after all. It is funny, sad, heartbreaking, and sometimes inspiring. There are a number of excellent war memoirs, so many you certainly can’t read them all. Be sure to make time for this one.

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October 14, 2010

Review: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

Filed under: Audiobooks,Food,Non-fiction — mike @ 5:49 pm
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Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild FoodFour Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paul Greenberg does a terrific job of summing up a complicated subject in this book. With farmed animals, genetically modified animals, environmental and habitat destruction for animals much on everyone’s mind, this book offers a balanced and well-reasoned look at the four main fish mankind has fished for food (although Greenberg does sneak a few more in here and there).

That it’s written in such an easily engaging manner without dumbing the subject matter down is a plus. And he does not really beat the drum for any one cause (nor does he get preachy). Of course the book offers no quick and easy solutions, but one book can’t really do that, I am afraid.

Some may find the state of the wild fish stocks detailed in this book depressing. And it is. But don’t let that stop you from reading the whole book. The epilogue/lament at the end sums up his point of view (hint, the section is labeled “Conclusion”) and, while the depressing aspects of the book are revisited (Greenberg is a fisherman himself, and he can only be saddened by the decline of wild fish stocks), he still holds out hope that man can fix things, and not just through technology.

You will like this book: If you liked “Cod” by Mark Kurlansky (which is referenced in this book), you will enjoy and be interested in this one. As a side note, I am going to read “Trying Leviathan” now as a result of its inclusion in this book. Apparently, a whale was considered a fish for a lot longer than necessary because a reactionary response by a jury in New York in an oil labeling dispute.

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June 18, 2010

A suspenseful tale even though you know the ending

I remember reading ‘Day of the Jackal’ one summer during college and, despite some of the dense writing in parts, not being able to put it down. That’s how it felt to read ‘Hellhound On His Trail: The Stalking Of Martin Luther King Jr. And The International Hunt For His Assassin’ by Hampton Sides, except I knew the outcome and there was no dense writing.

Despite knowing the outcome, it was hard to put this book down for the night. The chapters are written like the most engaging of page turners, short and punchy, but the wealth of information is amazing. I am too young to have even been alive when King was shot, so, of course there would be things in here that would be new. But this book took the dry, two-dimensional people we read about in history class and really fleshed them out, made them whole people, all against, a backdrop of events that were rocking America.

Much like the agents and officers working the case, Sides finds some of the smallest of details and puts them in without bogging the story down at all. I also especially liked his reconstruction of quotes and conversations from primary sources instead of reimagining them as they might have occurred.

This is a great and very accessible read of a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Highly recommended, even for summer beach reading.

February 11, 2010

When you are engulfed in belly laughs

Filed under: David Sedaris — mike @ 12:39 pm
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David Sedaris will be appearing in South Bend in a couple months, so I need to reread/catch up on some of his books . I had read parts of “When You Are Engulfed In Flames” before but I listened to it because I like when authors read their own stuff.

He says in the book that he reads out loud for a living. It shows in the audio version of this book, which was funny enough in print, but even funnier when the author himself reads it. I’m a fan of fish-out-of-water stories, and this one has plenty. Another favorite essay here is “Town And Country,” which was so crude and crass that you can’t help but laugh. Other favorites: “The Monster Mash” where Sedaris spends time in a morgue; “In The Waiting Room,” highlighting the trouble you can get into if you are a little sketchy on language;  and “The Smoking Section,” one of the aforementioned fish-out-of-water stories. I also found the perspective on relationships in “Keeping Up.”

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