Non fiction reading I

>> Saturday, August 22, 2009

One of the main changes to my reading in the last couple of years since I moved to England and got access to a good library has been that I've been reading a lot more non fiction. Here's a very brief round-up of some of what I've been reading:

TITLE: Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years
AUTHOR: Jared Diamond

Have you ever wondered why in the 15th and 16th century it was the Europeans who conquered the Americas, and not the other way around? The obvious answer is that it's because the Europeans had guns, germs and steel, and the inhabitants of the Americas didn't. But why did Europeans have all that while the American natives didn't? Diamond goes back 13,000 years to try to understand why different areas and peoples developed the way they did. The result is extremely convincing, the sort of argument that makes you go "ahhhh, of course!" There's a bit of repetition in some areas, but the book was good enough to forgive this.

MY GRADE: An A-.



TITLE: Freakonomics
AUTHOR: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Economist Steven D. Levitt is a genius at using economics tools to answer unlikely real-life questions. His co-author, journalist Stephen J. Dubner is a genius at helping him explain it all in an accessible, entertaining manner. By reading this, you'll discover things you've always wondered about, like why drug dealers live with their mothers, among other fascinating insights *g*

MY GRADE: An A-. Loved the book, and love the blog.


TITLE: La Sociedad de la Nieve (The Society of the Snow)
AUTHOR: Pablo Vierci

Most Uruguayans are obsessed with the story of the Uruguayan plane that crashed in the Andes in the 1970s, leaving the survivors stranded for so long that they had to resort to eating the dead to keep on going, and I'm not that different. There've been plenty of books, both by some of the survivors themselves and by other people, and even a Hollywood movie. La Sociedad de la Nieve is unique in that it's the first time all 16 survivors have agreed to speak in their own words. Each chapter is from the POV of one of them, and even though I believe the actual writing is by Vierci, each has a very distinct voice.

It's not straight narrative, although it's written in a way that I'd say you'll get the story even if you didn't know anything about it. Rather, it's about the people the survivors have now become, thinking back and reflecting. It doesn't sound so great put like that, but it was really interesting and well written.

MY GRADE: An A-.


TITLE: From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction
AUTHOR: Susan Rowland

I love all the authors analysed here (in addition to the two of the title, there's Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and PD James), so I was really looking forward to a proper analysis that took their works seriously. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite a bit too technical an analysis for me, and I just didn't have the training or skills to really appreciate it. Or understanding it at all, really. After one too many instances when I realised a couple of pages had gone by and all I'd got was "blah, blah, blah, gendering the detective, blah, blah, blah", I decided to stop.

MY GRADE: DNF, and this is one case where a DNF is not a bad book, just one that's not for me.

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