I wasn’t terribly impressed by The Kite Runner. I understand why it got the accolades it did, but the writing didn’t do much for me, kind of like a mediocre movie being made worse by lackluster acting. The Seasons of Trouble: Life Amidst the Ruins of Sri Lanka’s Civil War, in comparison, is simply stunning in its ability to focus on the biggest tragedy of war: the everyday people caught in between.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Friday, June 12th, 2015||No Comments »|
I can’t help but imagine Teddy Roosevelt as a beloved character in period dramas rather than an actual person, much less a president who heavily influenced the relationship between the Oval Office and the media. William Taft, too, in my mind is mostly just a caricature of a mustachioed walrus, rather than a man who pursued Progressivism just as staunchly as Roosevelt and served best in his short time as Chief Justice.
In an era where we can follow real-time updates of our Commander in Chief via Twitter, Doris Kearns Goodwin offers up this glimpse into the interconnected lives of our former 26th and 27th President of the United States in The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, June 9th, 2015||No Comments »|
If you hadn’t noticed, my Memoir Mondays are mostly chef memoirs interspersed with the stories of media personalities. I like food and mostly work in media, so of course I like reading about people in those fields, but once in a while a friend will recommend me something outside my usual literary haunts that will totally snag my attention. Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body is something I would never have picked up on my own, with a subject so peculiar and intimate.
Martin Pistorius was 12 years old when he fell into a mysterious coma and regained consciousness only to find his mind to be the only responsive part of his body. What makes this book such a compelling read is the universal horror any sentient person would feel had they been in Pistorius’ position, to be considered not a person but some kind of living object with perhaps no more feeling than a houseplant. That’s what life was like for Pistorius from age 15 to 26.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Monday, June 8th, 2015||No Comments »|
It’s insane to consider the enormity of the United States. You can fly from LA to NYC in roughly the same amount of time you can fly from London to Baghdad. The difference is that the latter would also encompass flying over at least a dozen other countries. Colin Woodard proposes in his book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America that, in fact, passing over our vast federation is in many ways much like that flight from London to Baghdad. The reason? The US is divided into 11 distinct nations that are determined not by political lines, but by the ethnographic characteristics of a region’s original settlers.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015||No Comments »|
When Marcus Samuelsson won Season 2 of Top Chef Masters, he technically didn’t even own a restaurant. He had a denim chef’s coat with Red Rooster printed on it, but at the time of the show’s filming, the restaurant was barely out of its conceptual stages. When Marcus was competing for the finale, he was flying back and forth from DC, hammering out the details of the menu for President Obama’s first state dinner.
When Marcus was adopted by a Swedish couple and raised in an almost completely homogenous country, the other boys used to shout “neger” at him because he was Ethiopian. When he moved to America, he learned that he would still occasionally be called a “nigger,” but at least the black and ethnic communities had a greater foothold in the States than they did in the Swedish kitchens he trained in.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Monday, June 1st, 2015||No Comments »|
Lie to Me was a poorly executed show, however the premise (and Tim Roth) was genuinely intriguing. Who didn’t love that intro that calculated disgust, anger, and fear from the minute increments of facial expressions and involuntary bodily reactions?
Joe Navarro isn’t claiming to suddenly turn us into body language geniuses like Dr. Cal Lightman, able to dissemble lies from an eye twitch. We all naturally react to body language and unconsciously process it in the context of every day situations, but there’s a palpable difference in being consciously aware of people’s level of interest in your conversation by the way they’re turned toward you or the slight uptick in their expression when they’ve received a good card at a blackjack table.
What Every Body Is Saying will feel almost like common sense advice at first, but will eventual peel back the layers of what we know about body language and what our brains are doing behind the scenes. Even if you don’t end up using some of the tips about pacifying behaviors, it’s a fun read full of interesting insight.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, May 26th, 2015||No Comments »|
Theory of Knowledge was a college-prep level class I was required to take in high school. Suffice to say, grasping epistemology was difficult and frustrating at a time when even selecting a daily outfit was terribly confusing. But my teacher found a way, by using it as a language I totally understood: book nerd. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All marries Tolkien’s original mythos and many tenants of philosophy—old, new, modern, introductory, and strange.
The first chapter has to do with Plato’s story of the shepherd Gyges, who also came upon a ring of invisibility and used it for immoral acts. Plato uses the story to explain the implications of power dynamics, choice, and morality when the threat of punishment is removed. Tolkien, of course, illustrated that struggle amongst the characters who interacted with the ring and their various reactions to it.
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Tuesday, May 19th, 2015||No Comments »|