Friday, April 23, 2010


18. Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
I am not totally sure what to think of this book. I thought it was really well written and the characters and setting were all interesting. The book follows a woman who studies chimps through three key time periods in her life and I thought this was really well done. Also, as a primatologist, I was impressed with the author's portrayal of primatology. He must have done some serious research!

Here's why I am not sure what to think about the book in the end, though. I felt like there is some deeper meaning I am meant to grasp, but I don't know what that meaning/message is, and all the ones I can think of seem not interesting to me. Apes and humans are the same? We have a cruel, animal nature? Chimp society is not a peaceful ideal? I feel like all those are obvious truisms, and I think I would have liked the book a little more if it seemed more like the story of the main character, and left the attempt at bigger messages out.

19. Fire by Kristin Cashore
I really loved this book, which is sorta related to the author's other book, Graceling, but not really. It is the story of a kingdom where there are "monsters", versions of living things that are more beautiful and mesmerizing than the normal sort. They can also control minds to get what they want. The main character is Fire, the last human monster.

I thought the characters in this book were so compelling and well-realized, and the rather complex plot with political intrigue and war was handled really well. The story is really that of people with power learning how to handle their power responsibly. Seriously, I could not put this book down and wish I still had more of it to read.

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
This book is a pretty harsh critique of America's obsession with positive thinking. I was skeptical of reading it as I consider myself an optimist and a positive thinker. However, my kind of positive thinking is not what Ehrenreich is talking about. She is more talking about a belief that a good attitude will get you success in life without the accompanying work. A la The Secret.

Parts of this book were great, and parts were not. In the end, I think it was not enough content for a whole book. I thought the first part, about the problem with the obsession with positive thinking in regards to cancer and medical treatments was great. I also like the part about how positive thinking lead to the recent economic crisis. The middle parts about how positive thinking has roots as a backlash against Calvinism and how it is used today in Christian mega-churches were not as strong.

In the end, this is an interesting premise, that I think either needed a lot more rigorous research and a longer book or should have remained as two essays, about cancer and the recession.

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