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Category Archives: Literature

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Review

Rating: ★★★★★

As a general rule, I don’t like nonfiction.  Which is strange if you know me, because I’ve always been a history lover, a facts seeker.  But somehow nonfiction books manage to be incredibly boring to me.  It’s dry, it’s filled with facts, which is 100% the point of the book, but where’s the story?  I firmly believe that everybody’s life, any event has a story that needs to be told.  And every story doesn’t only have facts — it has people’s motivations and feelings.  You can tell me how many millions of people died in WWII and the numbers of death camps and Hitler’s words, but what were his motivations?  What where the motivations of the soldiers who ran the camps?

But I digress.  I should also add that I was given an iPad a year ago and bought the iPhone primarily because of its camera capabilities.  Other than that, I have always been strongly against the Apple brand because of its lack of consumer customizability and closed system.  While the biography isn’t a commentary on Apple, Steve Jobs did make all the primary decisions in the path of the company while he was alive, so I believe it’s important to know where I came from when starting the book.

Walter Isaacson does an incredible job with portraying Steve Jobs the tech giant, Steve Jobs the family man, and Steve Jobs the friends.  He spoke to Jobs’ allies and enemies in order to get a more rounded and unbiased view of the mistakes and successes of Jobs’ life.  Isaacson gave the general public a truly great insight into the life and mind of a man that those not directly in contact with him didn’t have.  He provided the motivation and psychology behind Jobs’ actions as well, painting the story of Jobs’ life.  There were times in the book you hated the person that you were getting to know, and times you admired him.  But by the end of the book, I didn’t dislike the Apple brand as much as I did, and I came to understand and respect Steve Jobs for what he tried to accomplish in his life.  I have not enjoyed a biography as much as I did this one in many many years.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in 5 Stars, Nonfiction

 

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Incontinent on the Continent Review

Rating: ★★★☆☆

In her book, Incontinent on the Continent, Jane Christmas tells the story of her first time ever to Italy – a country that she had dreamed of often throughout her life as a place of large families, matriarchs, good food, and love of life – in short, a movie.  In an attempt to fix a broken relationship with her aging mother, she brings her mother along on the trip.

I have to admit, up until the last chapter of the book, I would’ve given the book two stars.  For a majority of it, Jane Christmas complains about how Italy doesn’t live up to her expectations and the difficulties of managing a disabled mother in accessible-unfriendly Italy.  Her constant allusions of mother-daughter pairs she sees on the road or town attitudes or statues to her own relationship with her mother were at best awkwardly paced and reflected upon.  But the last chapter makes much of the whining worth it.  The book also touches upon the soul and history of many of Italy’s touristic gems, so if you want a rough and tumble look at what it is like to travel in Italy, plus a little bit of familial reflection on the side, this is the book for you.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in 3 Stars, Literature, Nonfiction

 

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1Q84: A World of Two Moons

Rating: ★

“Tell me, Tengo, as a novelist, what is your definition of reality?”

Murakami’s novels have consistently explored the merging of the surreal and the mundane in a truly Kafkaesque manner. His latest work, 1Q84, is no exception.

It follows the stories of two protagonists, Aomame and Tengo, in two separate storylines, as they find themselves shifted to the alternate reality of 1Q84, a world where two moons hang in the sky, and strange forces are at work. When Tengo, a 30 year old cram school teacher and fiction writer, ghostwrites a novel titled Air Chrysalis, he throws into motion a series of events. This is 1Q84; anything can happen. Yet, the world does follow its own set of strange and inexplicable logic.

This novel is Murakami’s best work yet: with his matter-of-fact, softly unemotional tone, he manages to capture the essence of modern Japanese society perfectly yet again. And, despite this softly unemotional tone, the reader feels a distinct connection with each of the protagonists.

In the end, it is an exploration of the loneliness.  The two protagonists, having borne their loneliness for so long, do not realize how unconnected they have become, and perhaps this is what allows them to shift to 1Q84…

I won’t say too much, but it is a long book, filled with subtleties and nuance. Sometimes the pace can be slow. But for one who would enjoy a deeply introspective query into what it means to live our modern life, flavored by a touch of Kafkaesque surrealism, I can think of no better book to recommend.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in 5 Stars, Literature, Postmodern

 

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