Saturday, May 28, 2016

Books of 2016 - #9 "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Short Version: Interesting story about an imagined future world where women no longer have control of their bodies.

I'd heard about this book a few times as I started to learn and read more about feminism, and decided to pick it up to read while on a recent trip. Atwood creates an interesting world where women's lives are heavily regulated, and I enjoy her writing style of revealing details bit by bit as the story unfolds.

For folks up to speed on gender inequality and feminism, this book won't seem too implausible.

Books of 2016 - #8 "The Culture Map" by Erin Meyer

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Short Version: Excellent business book to help navigate and succeed across cultural differences.

This was a homework assignment for a work trip. We're expanding globally (customer-wise), and we've also got a fair number of international offices. This book helps people understand the differences between cultures, especially as they relate to business.

The author uses the idea of relativity across a variety of dimensions (building trust, giving feedback, making decisions) to educate the reader how countries across the world differ. Understanding where your culture sits on each dimension is critical, as is the relative difference between cultures if you're working internationally.

Highly recommended if you work in a multi-cultural environment.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Books of 2016 - #7 "The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey" by Ernesto Che Guevara

The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Ernesto Che Guevara

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Short Version: Excellent travel diary from Che in his pre-revolutionary days.

I was in Cuba recently and picked this one up at the Havana airport. I was aware of the movie (hadn't seen it), but didn't know that it was based on a book by Che. Ana is a fan so I figured I'd pick it up for the 6 hour plane ride home.

A quick read - it covers Che's trip across South America in the 50s with his friend Alberto Granado. It's funny, touching, and gives a sense of how Che developed into the historic figure we now know. He observes life and struggles across South America, including many encounters with lepers and indigenous people, and he's transformed by his experiences throughout the book.

Books of 2016 - #6 "Men Explain Things to Me" by Rebecca Solnit

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Short Version: Terrific collection of feminist essays from the woman who made the concept of 'mansplaining' popular.

My first 5 star book of the year! I bought this for Ana last year while we were staying in Pt. Reyes at the house that hosts The Mesa Refuge. Rebecca Solnit had done a residency there and her Infinite City atlas of San Francisco was there on the coffee table (itself is a wonderful book).

Solnit is famous (for among other things) the title essay of the book, which is noted for originating the concept of 'mansplaining.' For some reason, Amazon categorizes the book as humor, but while it has funny parts, it's quite a serious book. Solnit does a great job exploring various aspects of gender, feminism, patriarchy, etc. All of the essays were great, and I especially enjoyed "Woolf's Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable" and "Grandmother Spider."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Books of 2016 - #5 "Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South" by Angela Stuesse

Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South by Angela Stuesse

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Short Version: Ethnography and history of how Latinos entered and experience life in poultry processing facilities in rural Mississippi.

Really great work from Angela Stuesse - part of UC's Public Anthropology Series, which I came to know of after reading Jason De Leon's phenomenal Land of Open Graves (one of the best books I've ever read). She spent quite a lot of time working with workers in the chicken trade, and goes quite deep into how poultry farming became so big in the rural South.

I learned a lot about how capitalism works from this book, and it's pretty depressing. A bunch of good follow ups from her references and bibliography, which I always like. I'm especially interested in better understanding black labor organization and myths around work ethic.

Overall quality writing and I appreciated the explicit intros/summaries to make sure I was tuned in to the key issues.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Books of 2016 - #4 "God's Eye View" by Barry Eisler

God's Eye View by Barry Eisler

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Short Version: A thriller about surveillance in the post-Snowden era.

Saw some good tweets on this one so picked up the Kindle version. Decent quick read, definitely a page turner. The story brings together some interesting characters and has lots of action. Author is former CIA, and the story and tech involved is at least reasonably plausible. The writing style is a bit over-the-top for my taste but I imagine fairly standard for this thriller genre.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Books of 2016 - #3 "A Little Lumpen Novelita" by Roberto Bolaño

A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolaño

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Short Version: Short novel about two orphaned siblings and a few other characters in Rome.

Ana got this book a few years back. Wanted to read some fiction so decided to check this one out. Really short read (maybe 110 pages), translated from Spanish. I like the writing style - tension increases a bit with each chapter.

The main character (written in first person) is an orphaned girl living with her brother in Rome. Two of the brother's 'friends' end up living with them, and some plotting and scheming ensue. I enjoyed the book and the author, but the book ended leaving me wanting more.