Thursday, November 7, 2013

Books Read: October

October 1st: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg. Interesting and pretty helpful guide to more effective communication (in which one focuses on being honest, emotionally self-aware and non-confrontational). Disliked the author's personality: he came off as a bit full of himself (something which others, as described by him in anecdotes throughout the book, frequently mention). Grade: B+.

October 5th: Beauty, Disrupted: A Memoir, Carre Otis. Impulse read about the youth of Carre Otis, supermodel and ex-wife of Mickey Rourke. Thanks to a dysfunctional family/upbringing and hanging out with exploitative and/or screwed up people, it was a traumatic one. Interesting read, if only for descriptions of the modelling industry. Note to self: discourage R from such pursuits. Grade: B.

October 8th: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Elizabeth Gilbert. Read despite my dislike for the self-absorbed, self-consciously "charming" Gilbert because it was supposed to contain an "erudite" exploration of research on marriage. Actually the author is incapable of this: it was mostly about her (rather boring) relationship with an older Brazilian. Not terrible but somewhat dull overall. Gets docked points for condescending speculation on the marriages of "traditional" people. Grade: C-. 

October 11th: Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross. The suggestions are largely banal and have been written about dozens of times elsewhere (get rid of broken toys! make sure your kids have free time!), yet it takes the authors an incredibly long time to state them. You can just read the blurb and save yourself a couple hours. Grade: D+.

October 16th: The Golden Chersonese, Isabella Bird. The intrepid and awesome Victorian lady traveler Isabella Bird visits Singapore and the Malay Peninsula back when it was covered in primary rainforest and swarming with wild animals, insects, and Chinese gangs. Highlights include formal dinners attended only by her and two gibbons (who sat at table and used silverware), descriptions of Imperial China's jail in Guangdong (appalling), and riding in a dugout for hours through the uncharted jungle. Fascinating and highly recommended. Grade: A.

October 17th: Chinese Among Others: Emigration in Modern Times, Philip A. Kuhn. History of the Chinese diaspora (one of history's largest movements of people). Written by an academic, and it shows: lots of space dedicated to questions of minor (and dull) detail, plodding writing style and a fair amount of jargon. The author also takes a surprisingly biased, judgmental tone, especially when discussing Western cultures. It was a struggle to finish. Grade: D. 

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