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50 Book Challenge

Discussion in 'Entertainment, Culture, and Sports' started by edinatlanta, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. Recoil

    Recoil Senior member

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    80 pages in and I'm enjoying it. I'll take it for granted as a I'm reading it that all of these events did in-fact happen. I go investigating afterwards to find out about the critiques of whatever I've just read. I like to know all sides.
     
  2. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    22 -- The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio

    Very good. Baglio was not sensationalist or overly skeptical.
     
  3. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    23 -- Against Joie de Vivre by Philip Lopate

    Well I guess I will continue this challenge even if no one else does...

    A collection of Lopate's essays over several years covering a huge range of topics. He starts off with his story of putting on Uncle Vanya in an experimental elementary school (I believe the school was. It was certainly non-traditional). While you could easily predict the challenges that would arise, what makes it entertaining to read is Lopate's observation and insight to the process. He was clearly limited with what he could do artistically with the children, but marshaling them to turn the class project into a "legitimate" production (that technically was produced on Broadway) turned out to be a very entertaining read.

    In between a series of short essays allows us to glimpse into Lopate's world, dealing with many quotidian affairs that would be boring to read, if Lopate's keen eye and wit weren't used. He offers his insight into friendship, a topic which he wonders if there is any new ground to be covered; the personal essay; subletting apartments; living above your landlords; and an essay on Houston's development. Had he changed a few street names or one of the major industries, I could have sworn he was describing Atlanta. The similarities were very eery.

    For his final essay, he tackles a very tricky subject--the suicide of one of the teachers at the school where he worked. The teacher took his life during the school year which made the situation even trickier for the school and teachers involved. The teacher involved was brusque and often un-liked by his coworkers. Living close to Lopate meant to the other teachers that he and Lopate had a relationship. This, Lopate tells us, is not true. And in fact the lack of relationships may have had something to do with the suicide. Lopate ended up writing an incredibly touching essay dealing less with the suicide itself, and more of a consideration of how we impact others' lives, and an existential question of our purpose. If it sounds grand it is. However, the restraint Lopate showed kept the essay from spiraling out of control and becoming grandiose. It seemed at the end that it was a very personal reflection about life and death. Truth be told, while reading it on the plane I was forced to make a run for the bathroom to get a tissue. It was a powerful and intimate way to finish a superb collection of essays.
     
  4. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    24 -- War at the Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle To Control an American Business Empire by Sarah Ellison

    This was good. I read it over a month, starting the stopping so I forget much of my impression about it. It was fascinating to see how the Bancroft family was so incredibly dysfunctional. What impressed me most about Ellison's writing style is that the purchase of DowJones by Murdoch was so anti-climactic, which was good, considering it takes place about halfway through. It should be noted that while NewsCorp bought DJ, all Murdoch cared (and cares) about is the WSJ. Instead we had two separate dramas unfold--how the Bancroft family and WSJ execs attempted to fight off Murdoch's purchase, then how Murdoch would actually run the Journal.

    I would have preferred to see a little more of how the newsroom reacted and treated the the purchase but Ellison doesn't deal very much with that. This may be because she was engrossed covering the purchase itself for the WSJ, and spent more time tracking down leads from the execs she writes about here.

    What remains to be seen is if Murdoch &co. can turn the WSJ profitable again. He had to write off $2.8 billion of recently, a little more than half of what he bought the paper for, so we'll see. His approach to resuscitating newspapers also seems just slightly out of touch with the American marketplace. At a meeting of bureau chiefs, Murdoch said he wants the paper to be the first one purchased by Americans everywhere at the newsstand. A Detroit bureau chief then quipped: "we don't have newsstands in Detroit".

    Ellison, who wrote for the WSJ for 10 years, was able to expertly craft two narratives into one seamless story. For a blow-by-blow account of how a great newspaper dynasty finally crumbled--and let's be honest, made out like bandits considering that Murdoch purchased the stock for much more than it was worth, and a glimpse into what could be the future of American media, this is fantastic.
     
  5. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    # 25 In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir by Neil White

    Hooray halfway there!

    White was sentenced to 18 months of prison after kiting checks. By his own admission, he was a stupid criminal, he had nothing to show for his crime except keeping the lights on in the office of hte publishing company he ran. His prison was located on the grounds of the United States' last leprosarium. He originally was gong to write a great expose of the facilities and win an award for his journalism (he was a journalist before being locked up), but in the end passed realizing he was friends with the patients and other inmates.

    ISO has the standard wistfulness in a typical memoir but it never gets overly sentimental which is good. There are many truly sad moments in the book and they would just be sappy if White hadn't gone to great lengths to be non-judgmental about his prison time.

    some of the moments are predictable (his wife leaves him, he misses his kids, his elderly friend dies) but it doesn't matter. you're still moved when it happens. If White hadn't been a journalist the book would have been overwrought and a bit of a pity party. but his ability to tell a story kept the book moving and actually a fun read.
     
  6. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    I've read several books that I haven't reviewed. I just finished my first book in a long time the other day,hooray.

    27 - Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Ages by Blair Kamin

    He's the architecture critic for The Chicago Tribune. Not much to say about a book that's a collection of columns from the Trib and a couple other publications. Kudos to the editor for allowing the book to be an interesting read. The grouping of essays kept the book fresh and interesting. At times it was a little Chicago-centric but that's to be expected. Kamin's postscripts were great, now that he had time to reflect on his columns and see how the buildings have progressed with occupants or plans have changed with the recession...

    28 - Little Money Street: In Search of Gypsies and Their Music in the South of France by Fernanda Eberstadt.

    It was pretty bad. Eberstadt never really ties anything together..for most of the book I was left saying "O....kay..." to myself wondering why it mattered. She fetishizes the gypsies and their culture. She gets overly poetic, self-indulgent and pretentiously verbose, calling a cd a "cultic vessel" at one point... yeah.
     
  7. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    29 Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson

    Wilson isn't so much concerned with giving you the defining qualities and flavors of a spirit. He focuses on the experience surrounding spirits. That keeps the book humming along at a good pace as there's plenty of other books to read about that. But this book isn't just a travelogue or even a memoir though at points he does the book does get memoir-ish. The writing is good. Wilson is clearly under no pretenses that he is writing a great book that will be revered for generations. His lively and colloquial, sometimes crude style is entertaining and a breeze. What is a little disappointing is he doesn't spend as much time getting into the more obscure or rare spirits, as you'd think would happen. Still we get insights to well known spirits that are pretty rare itself.

    Oh and his recipes at the end of every chapter are pretty solid too.
     
  8. olstudios

    olstudios Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to try at least shoot for 2 books a month next year. I just hope I can stick with it.
     
  9. paco_deluca

    paco_deluca Senior member

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    i will watch 50 movies next year!
     
  10. edinatlanta

    edinatlanta Senior member

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    #30 Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities by Witold Rybczynski

    A short book discussing the history of America's metropolitan growth and some of the theories behind it in history, where we are now and a discussion of what we should do for the future. Not really a spoiler but he suggests the key to strong cities is good planning. Kind of a, well duh moment, but Rybczynski is able to present ideas clearly and without jargon that keeps them all accessible and still insightful. The book clocks in barely at 200 pages with a blank page between chapters and tons of photos. Its an entertaining read.

    Yay 30.
     
  11. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    In my 20s I read hundreds of books a year. I had the time and the cafe.
     
  12. odoreater

    odoreater Senior member

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    I'll give this a shot, even though I'm getting a little bit of a late start. Here are the books I've read so far this year:

    1 Through 4. The Lincoln Lawyer Novels[/B by Michael Connelly]: These include: The Lincoln Lawyer, The Brass Verdict, The Reversal, and The Fifth Witness. As a criminal defense lawyer, I enjoyed this a lot. I was pretty surprised about how accurate some of the things were in the book that actually deal with real life aspects of legal practice (getting paid, investigating cases, using inside channels to get information, etc.). All in all, a very enjoyable read.

    5. There's A Sucker Born Every Minute by Jeffrey Robinson: I am very interested in white collar crimes, scams, cons, etc., so I picked up this book to get some more information on the various types of shenanigans scammers engage in. It was ok, but a little light on each topic. It only covered things very broadly and then gave advice to regular people on how not to get scammed, which is kind of common sense.

    6. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson: This book explores the question of whether there are high functioning psychopaths in society. A psychopath is someone who cannot function normally due to a disconnect in their brain. It goes over the various criteria that are used to recognize people as psychopaths and how, often, many leaders in politics and business possess those characteristics. Pretty interesting and entertaining, but kind of useless.

    7. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: I don't think I really need to say anything about this one. Very useful.

    8. Body Language by Allan & Barbara Pease: They describe being able to understand people's body language as walking around in a dark room and only being able to figure out what the objects in the room are by touching them and then all of a sudden somebody turns the lights on and you can see it all. Much of communication is done by body language and this books helps you to understand the unstated messages people give by body language.

    9. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely: This book is about the idea that people do not act in rational ways, in fact, people very often act very irrationally; however, that irrationality is predictable. In other words, you can figure out the situations in which people are going to act irrationally, and predict how they will act.
     

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