Archive of ‘Book Reviews’ category

No god But God Review: Let’s Talk about Islam


I finished reading Reza Aslan’s book No god But God. It was a recommendation from John Green’s Gift Guide last year. It’s a fascinating read, but also kind of sad that someone would need to argue that a religion practiced by 2.2 billion people isn’t inherently evil, sexist, intolerant, etc. When I told a friend I had checked out this book, she joked that I was probably on a government watch list, which is disturbing a few different levels. 

The book is an interesting piece of scholarship and should definitely be read as part of a larger debate. Just how Aslan frames his argument shows that he’s responding to other pieces of scholarship.… Read more »

Misery, Marriage, and Middlemarch


This is another 25 minute essay. It’s not as in depth as some of my other reviews, and more like some slap dash thoughts. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS Do not read any further if you do not want to be spoiled by George Eliot’s 1871-2 masterpiece Middlemarch: A Provincial Life. If you ever want to read this book, do not read any further.

When I last wrote about Middlemarch, I was at the halfway point, and the plot took a sharp left into Ruin Road. Where it looks like EVERYONE is going to be ruined by scandal, poverty, hypocrisy, and despair.… Read more »

25 Minutes of Middlemarch: The Bigness of Small Things


Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been busy with a forecast of only getting busier, but I still like writing and would like to continue doing so. I’m starting a new post type centered around the idea of 25 minutes. It can take a few hours for me to write a blog post and I can discard up to half of the original drafts.

But now, I’m going to dedicate 25 minutes to George Eliot’s Middlemarch and the bigness of small things. I tend to gravitate to media with at least country-wide stakes, if not the whole world, the known universe, etc.… Read more »

Lost and Found in Furiously Happy

furiously happy

Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy dances upon broad generalizations. When I first picked it up, I was like, “Ah! Another shitty day book!” It is like retreating into a pillow fort with your zany friend where she will regale you with hair-raising tales that will make you blush and giggle.

But then there another parts that are scary or sad and there was one section that started with blood and I had to skip it. When I read about blood, I feel like my blood is coagulating in my veins and it is unpleasant.

Then I turned the page and spit all over it, because I was trying to hold in a laugh.… Read more »

Pompeii: Aqueduct Engineer Vs Volcano


I swallowed Robert Harris’ Pompeii last week, and no, it’s not the same story as the Kit Harrington gladiator movie with the same title. Pompeii is a novel about a new aqueduct engineer, Marcus Attilius Primus, who’s recently been shipped in from Rome after the last engineer mysteriously went missing. The other people on the aqueduct team are less than pleased with this young upstart, and things go bad to worse when the Aqua Agusta breaks down and the water supply of nine towns runs dry. Throw in rampant corruption, a beautiful young woman, and an upcoming natural disaster, and you won’t be missing no gladiators.… Read more »

Slow Start But Rich Finish For Michael Chabon’s Summerland


I’ve written about Michael Chabon’s Summerland in my Friday Favorites last week and spent a long time enumerating its flaws. It’s a lot to ask of readers to wade through a good two hundred pages before we even get introduced to the bulk of the cast. But once it gets going, it chugs along merrily. I’m not a huge fan of baseball, but I was gradually won over by Michael Chabon’s obvious love of it.

I won’t dig too much into the plot, but mostly it’s about Ethan Feld, who recently lost his mother, moved across the country with his lovable but absent minded scientist of a father, and is horrible at the sport that his father and his new town adore.… Read more »

Why Smart People Make Financial Mistakes


Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich’s 1999 book Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes is more popular science than advice. For those looking for another personal finance book, continue looking, because this book is mostly about behavioral economics and common internal biases. If you’re a fan of Freakonomics and Planet Money, it’s a coin toss if you’ll like the book. It’s not as rigorous as these two radio/podcast programs and doesn’t leverage many first person expert accounts, but it does look at behavioral studies. 

This book does shed insight on the irrational brain. For instance, with a simple adjustment to phrasing, you’ll be tempted to spend money in one instance while saving it in another instance.… Read more »

How to Be A Millionaire According to Stanley and Danko


The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy was first published in 1996 and spews good ol’ American values of frugality and thrift. If you’ve been following me on my personal finance journey, you’ll know that a million dollars is actually a fairly reasonable amount if you’re planning to have a comfortable twenty, twenty-five year long retirement. (See my review for A Beginner’s Guide to Investing, or better yet, buy it and do the calculations yourself). This calculates roughly to 50,000 USD a year, which isn’t much if you’re helping with, say, a college tuition or not to be too Debby Downer, have medical problems.… Read more »

David Brooks’ The Social Animal Review

the social animal

I didn’t enjoy reading David Brook’s The Social Animal even though it’s a clever book. It crams behavioral economics, popular psychology, anthropology, cultural studies, and a bit of philosophy into the narrative of a made up couple named Erica and Harold. Even when the science gets tedious, I’d skip ahead to see how Erica and Harold were doing. In the beginning, it was watching them grow up and get together, then it was their struggling careers, and then my interest dramatically dropped off the map when they hit middle age and marriage problems. And then there are the politics…

The story of Erica and Harold is a thinly veiled attempt to talk about American culture, success, and failure.… Read more »

The Smartest Money Book You’ll Ever Read

the smartest money book you'll ever read

I may have spoke too soon about Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich, because Daniel R. Solin’s The Smartest Money Book You’ll Ever Read is dull in comparison even though it goes over much of the same information. Daniel R. Solin has an entire series of “The Smartest” books in relationship to finance, investing, etc. It’s aimed for a more mature audience than Ramit Sethi with such chapter titles as “The Thrill of a Budget Beats the Agony of Poverty.” Well, I suppose anything beats the agony of poverty, but a budget is hardly thrilling. It also has entire sections on living off your retirement and KIDS.… Read more »

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