Skip to main content

Book Reviews

Back in January I guessed that I would read about fifty books in 2009. That was actually a pretty accurate prediction. You can check out my Shelfari profile for the full list, and here are some thoughts on my six favorites (not all of these were published in 2009, I just got around to reading them in 2009), in no particular order:

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein - You don't have to be interested in economics to find this book fascinating. It's an in-depth criticism of Chicago School economics, Milton Friedman, Jeffrey Sachs, and the concept of economic 'shock therapy'. Klein explores the historic significance of transition economies in a depth that most sources on this question fail to wrestle with. The Shock Doctrine is extremely well-researched and reads smoothly the whole way through.





Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt - I never would have expected to enjoy a book with the subtitle "Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)", given my feelings about car-culture; but Vanderbilt's book is about so much more. Traffic explores the science behind what happens to us when we get behind the wheel of a car. We learn that humans did not evolve to maneuver vehicles at high speeds, and for many people, driving is psychologically damaging. Most people think driving is simple. Most people are wrong.



The Fence by Dick Lehr - I discovered this book entirely by accident while browsing the "new arrivals" section of the public library on a lazy Sunday. The book tells the story of Michael Cox, a plainclothes Boston police officer who was beaten nearly to death by his fellow officers at the end of a high-speed chase of a group of thugs. Lehr goes on to tell the story of the subsequent finger-pointing, denial, cover-up, court cases, and struggle for reparation. The Fence is a spectacular piece of writing and journalism.




Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes - OK, so this is my dorky urbanist/cyclist book for the list. I initially read a review in Next American City and decided to give it a shot. My expectations were not particularly high; what would a book about bicycling actually have to say? The history of bicycling in the United States is a lot more comprehensive than I realized, and while the U.S. as a whole is not very bicycle friendly, there really are a few places that are leading the way. I also appreciate that the author, like myself, is not a hardcore bicyclist, but is enough of one to present these issues seriously.



Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley - I picked this up after my weekend in Las Vegas. Binkley is a journalist and has written for the Wall Street Journal, and the book reads like something I would expect from a journalist. I find the story of the development of Las Vegas fascinating, particularly how such a seedy town became such a bastion of opulence. Winner Takes All tells the story of the three big casino moguls in Las Vegas and gives some insight as to why no other city is or will be like Sin City.




What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell - I'm typically not a fan of books of essays, but Gladwell's was really excellent. I had not read about two-thirds of the pieces, since they pre-dated my magazine reading days, and I was more than happy to re-read the others. Gladwell has an amazing talent, the ability to take even the most mundane topic and turn it into a page-turner. Would you have any interest in reading a several thousand word article about ketchup? or women's hair dye? I probably wouldn't. Unless it's written by Malcolm Gladwell.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Yo, for future reference, especially since you mention that you get many books from the library yourself, you might use Worldcat as a link for each title instead of Amazon. But if you must direct people to a vendor, try Powell's or, hell, even Bookfinder. Check corporate donations in The Blue Pages, and if I recall correctly you're liable to find that Amazon money will be found in predominantly Republican coffers.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Good Advertising

The blogosphere seems to be one fire over Microsoft's new "Lauren" TV commercial. Frankly, I don't see what the commotion is about.



If the critics are correct, then "Lauren" is actually Lauren De Long, a Screen Actors Guild eligible actress; and apparently, if you look close enough, she never even enters the Apple store.

Even if all of that is true, it doesn't refute the fact that Apple's laptops are significantly more expensive than most PCs. It isn't a lie that Apple doesn't sell any 17-inch laptops for less than a grand. The advertisement doesn't make any reference to the quality of the machines (or contest any of the claims made in Apple's "I'm a PC" commercials) or provide any good reason to buy one other than price.

As far as I can tell, after years of horrible commercials and a series of flops, Microsoft seems to finally have hired an ad agency that put together a decent advertisement. It's not likely to persuad…