Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Books Read, May 2014


May 2nd: Treason's Harbour, Patrick O'Brian. Another good entry in the Napoleonic War-era series about two best friends in the British Navy, a swashbuckling captain and a ship's doctor/spy. Grade: A-.
May 6th: Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure, Sarah Macdonald. Memoir of an Australian who temporarily moved to India (for her boyfriend, then fiancee/husband). She is sprightly and often amusing but kind of a ditz. Entertaining if a bit superficial. Grade: B+.
May 11th: The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived, Clive Finlayson. Surprisingly boring, given the (to me) fascinating subject material. I suppose that what's you get when academics write popular books. Lots of interesting information here, including the influence of climate change on human evolution. Grade: B+.
May 17th: Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, Rachel Reiland. Excellent memoir about a woman's recovery from serious mental illness thanks to her dedicated psychoanalyst. Very honest. Grade: A-.
May 20th: The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why, Richard E. Nisbett. Argues that cultural differences significantly affect people's thought processes, something overlooked in standard psychology/philosophy. I found his argument convincing (for the most part, there are some issues like most experiments cited only included college students, or that the author overlooks other major categories like gender, cultural subgroups, etc. in favor of his pet theory). The book is really boring though, and despite being short I had a hard time finishing. Grade: C-.
May 24th: Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, Louise Bates Ames. Oldie-but-goodie on child development. The title says it all for this age. Grade: B+.
May 26th: The Buddha and the Borderline: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism, and Online Dating, Kiera Van Gelder. Van Gelder is a better writer (and much funnier) than Reiland, but she uses both her eloquence and humor as kind of defenses from total honesty (what generally makes a memoir compelling). Grade: B.
May 27th: The Dinner, Herman Koch. Strange Dutch novel about yuppies at a highbrow restaurant, there to discuss their potentially psychopathic children (who turn out to have been up to some very sordid things indeed). A little too gimmicky. Grade: C+.
May 28th: Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys. Atmospheric re-imagining of Jane Eyre, told from the perspective of Mr. Rochester's crazy Creole bride. Memorable descriptions of Creole life, decaying gentility, and the tropics. Grade: A-.

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