Posts Tagged ‘non-fiction’
So many people hate Thomas Friedman, and so I would never tell them this, but I kind of like the guy’s books. Granted, his writing is not by any stretch of the imagination all people should read about foreign relations, but it’s a good start and hell, he’s not nearly as dry as some people. Or as humorless. Plus, controversies and criticisms keep us all entertained.
Therefore, whether you like Friedman may be irrelevant, and I think the truth of his thesis stands: Corporations are not going to move to energy efficient products/processes because it’s the right thing to do (though it is). It also has to be profitable for them. Secondly, if American corporations don’t start working on it big time, the Chinese will, and then we’ll be buying all of our energy efficient products from them. Now, there’s a zillion different ways to get from point A to point B, but it’s long past time to get started.
Friedman makes the excellent point that 16% of the healthcare budget goes into research, but less than 1% of the budget for energy goes toward research. Ramp that up and we could make the technology- which is already there- much more accessible by decreasing size and increasing production, both of which would bring down costs.
This book only served to reinforce my view that corporations aren’t individuals, and as much as we might want them to do something because “it’s the right thing to do,” if it’s actually going to happen, it needs to be profitable for them. Corporations are not in the business of helping people; they are in business to make money. This isn’t a judgment statement, but rather a full recognition on my part that the only way to truly begin handling climate change and sustainable living will involve at the very minimum regulation and incentives, and possibly the small reminder that sooner or later, all businesses have to evolve or risk going extinct.
So I was about 10 years late to The Lexus and the Olive Tree party (unsurprising given that it has sat on my shelves unread for about seven years), but I still found it a fascinating and valuable read. Thomas Friedman has long been on my radar for his op-ed column in the New York Times. I find him to be a smart, insightful writer, and look forward to his take on events around the globe.
In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman addresses the tensions between “the drive for prosperity and development, symbolized by the Lexus, and the desire to retain identity and traditions, symbolized by the olive tree.” He ties together global news stories and interweaves his own experiences, and by midway through the book, I was looking at the international page totally differently. My Google friends probably wondered why I was suddenly sharing items about the Greek debt or accounting procedures in China.
And still, I considered this reading to be only a start, which is why I’m now hip-deep in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Friedman’s most recent work about the need for a clean energy revolution.
I’m tempted to send every policymaker I know a copy of both books.
The Monsters rocked my socks off about a month ago. I loaned it to Sonika when I visited her, so sadly I can’t give any quotes. Well-researched and equally well-written, The Monsters is a captivating read for anyone interested in Frankenstein, Mary and Percy Shelley, or Lord Byron. If you weren’t interested in these topics before, you might be by a quarter of the way through the book. Oh, and if you’re interested in people who are in love with their half-siblings, this book could be for you. Who knew those Victorians were so explicit in their letters to family members?
In fact, I read even MORE on vacation than I normally do, which puts me way the hell behind on my updates. I’m just going to write little blurbs as if I try to write actual entries, I’ll procrastinate from THE PRESSURE and then I’ll never update again and you will never, ever know what I’ve been reading. Think of how sad you’ll be then. (The correct answer is: VERY.)
It Sucked and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong: I liked this more than Kat did, but I think that might be because I wasn’t expecting much more than your typical dooce-fare in book form. Also: I started reading dooce late (read: like, two years ago) and so I went back from the very beginning and read the entries chronologically, so since I wasn’t waiting in between “episodes,” it felt kind of book-like. It’s funny and sometimes insightful and was just the thing to keep me busy but not having to exert more than five brain cells while finishing my job and moving.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: Since this is Kat’s favorite book, I HAD to read it. I don’t know what took me so long, really. And holy effin’ hell, it’s amazing. It’s the sort of book where I was very upset that there was an ending to the story because I just wanted Ondaatje to keep writing forever, damnit. I guess this means maybe I should read some of his other books. I’m also going to watch the movie, which I have from NetFlix, perhaps tonight. Maybe. I’m way worse about watching my NetFlix than I am about reading. Way, way worse.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson: Ah, Swedes. My people. I read this book while I was in Portugal and didn’t have the wherewithal to read Infinite Jest (yes, I’m doing that Infinite Summer thing) while jetlagged. It was comforting to read a book with my people while being in a place that bore no resemblance whatsoever either physically or culturally to Scandihoovia. Did you know that the Portuguese don’t speak in subtext? Yeah. What’s with that? I can tell you that this book is about eight pages of subtext for each paragraph of dialog, because that’s the Swedish way. It’s very well written and the plot is intense and pretty much perfectly done. And man, the ending. I laughed my ass off at the last two pages for just how PERFECTLY SCANDINAVIAN it was. If you want to know anything about Swedes, read those two pages. That’ll do ya.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: This book reminded me of what a Terry Pratchett book would be like if ratcheted up about 50 IQ points. “Sci-Fi” in that “alternate universe” sense and not the dragons and wizards sense, very very smart, and hilarious as hell. I honestly LOLed. In public. Amazing, amazing book.
Pattern Recognition by William Goldman: I read this book on the plane, and not only was it the perfect book for such a thing being as it deals extensively with travel and jetlag features prominently into the character of the protagonist, but it was so compelling that I found out that I can read an entire book in six hours. I’ve always been a fast reader and since I read for at least two hours a day at this point in my life, my reading speed is about Mach III. This isn’t skimming either, this is “notes in the margins” reading. With a break for lunch. Six hours. The downside of this is that I only brought one book on the plane and it was an EIGHT HOUR flight. TWO HOURS sans book. I nearly broke out in hives and immediately bought a book in South Station for the train ride home. And proceeded to read 100+ pages in an hour. Again, notes in the margins and everything. I win in Olympic speed-reading. So, yes, this is an excellent book and if you’re not me, you can probably make it stretch through an entire trans-Atlantic flight.