Sunday, August 24, 2014

Blink (by Malcolm Gladwell)

I got this book for free years ago and it has been sitting on my shelf, promising that it would be a quick, easily digested read, but never really grabbing me. In hindsight I should have just crossed it off my list and moved on.

I don't think Gladwell proved his thesis very well, particularly when he is trying to prove two opposite things--in some situations snap judgments are great, in others they are terrible. Okay then. There are some interesting insights here, but because he keeps having to account for so many counterexamples, it ultimately reads as muddled.

Also, the apologia for white police officers shooting a black suspect in cold blood hits way too close to home in the wake of Ferguson, and that whole chapter is cringeworthy as a result. Some of his other examples fall completely flat (the military exercise; some singer named Kenna). I did love the discussion of how you can prove racial bias with word association, and that one of the answers is to expose ourselves and our kids to positive representations of people of color.  I've been really big on looking for positive representations lately, so this was cool.

But god, I got sick of Gladwell restating his points at the end of every chapter, and bringing up the kurous one million times. I was sick of it all by the end. Next!


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Silkworm (by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling)

I parceled this book out to myself 20 minutes at a time at the gym, so it was an unusual reading experience in that way! If I hadn't done that, I'd probably have torn through it in a day like I did with the previous one.

This is the second mystery novel in the series, and I knew I wanted to read it as soon as I finished The Cuckoo's Calling. It's the story of a writer who has disappeared, and a cast of people (including his agent, a rival writer, his wife, and his mistress) who knew him and may know more than they let on about his disappearance. The private detective investigating the disappearance is Cormoran Strike, and his assistant Robin is an aspiring detective with a douchey fiance.

I love the characters of Cormoran and Robin, and the relationship between them--they clearly have some chemistry that they're both working very hard on ignoring. (Cormoran is described in many less-than-flattering ways and yet in these two books he sleeps with many attractive women including at least one literal supermodel, so no idea what we're supposed to think of that.)

Scanning the reviews at Amazon, people found this one to be slow, lots of interrogation scenes and references to the unpublished novel of the missing writer. I can totally see getting frustrated with it if you're reading it straight through. But 20 minutes at a time, I really enjoyed getting to spend more time with Cormoran and Robin, and I didn't mind the plot meanderings because I didn't want it to end.


Guide Her Home (by Jolene Lavine)

I should actually have a tag for this I just made a tag for this. This book was written by yet another friend of mine from the old-timey days of online journals, Jolene.* It's the memoir of her daughter Jessica being kicked in the head by a horse four years ago and her survival and recovery from a traumatic brain injury, an event that I followed along with on Facebook with my heart in my throat.

At the outset I have to say that although this book is self-published, it absolutely stands alongside other traditionally published works, most notably Schuyler's Monster, with which it has a lot of similarities. I could nitpick a few things that didn't work for me, but on the whole I was impressed. Even though I knew how it ends, it was still hard to put it down until I was done. Congratulations, Jolene!

*Can I just say how impressive our old-timey journal crew is? So many people have published successful books, Stee's show You're the Worst is really good, John is about to have his books turned into not one but two TV series... who knew, eh?

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