Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Books

Not a bad month, but I had much higher hopes for several of these. Only the Grimes exceeded expectations, and it is a pretty frothy concoction.


ConnectionsIn this bestselling book, James Burke examines the ideas, inventions, and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. He untangles the pattern of interconnecting events, the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to major inventions of the world. Says Burke, "My purpose is to acquaint the reader with some of the forces that have caused change in the past, looking in particular at eight innovations - the computer, the production line, telecommunications, the airplane, the atomic bomb, plastics, the guided rocket, and television - which may be most influential in structuring our own futures.... Each one of these is part of a family of similar devices, and is the result of a sequence of closely connected events extending from the ancient world until the present day. Each has enormous potential for humankind's benefit - or destruction."
Easy to read look at how discoveries and accidents have an incredible impact on progress. The adjacent possible is an incredibly powerful force for progress.

Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail

Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American CocktailThe cocktail is as old as the nation that invented it, yet until this entertaining and authoritative account, its story had never been fully told. William Grimes traces the evolution of American drink from the anything-goes concoctions of the Colonial era to the frozen margarita, spiking his meticulously researched narrative with arresting details, odd facts, and colorful figures. 

The book includes about one hundred recipes--half of them new for this edition--for both classics and innovations.

Slim look at drinking in America and the evolution of the cocktail before and after Prohibition. A pleasure to read.

The Invention of the Modern World

Blank-133x176From the preface: 'This is a book which synthesizes a lifetime of reflection on the origins of the modern world. Through forty years of travel in Europe, Australia, India, Nepal, Japan and China I have observed the similarities and differences of cultures. I have read as widely as possible in both contemporary and classical works in history, anthropology and philosophy.'

Prof Macfarlane is also the author of The Culture of Capitalism, The Savage Wars of Peace, The Riddle of the Modern World and The Making of the Modern World, among many others.
Like listening to a brilliant Oxford professor go on at a dinner party. Enjoyable, but an editor might have helped.

Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of The Marx Brothers

Monkey Business: The Lives and Legends of The Marx BrothersStrange but true: this is the first authentic account of the Marx Brothers, their origins and of the roots of their comedy.

First and foremost, this is the saga of a family whose theatrical roots stretch back to mid-19th century Germany. From Groucho Marx's first warblings with the singing Leroy Trio, this book brings to life the vanished world of America's wild and boisterous variety circuits, leading to the Marx Brothers' Broadway successes, and their alliance with New York's theatrical lions, George S. Kaufman and the 'Algonquin Round Table'.

Never-before-published scripts, well-minted Marxian dialogue, and much madness and mayhem feature in this tale of the Brothers' battles with Hollywood, their films, their loves and marriages, and the story of the forgotten brother Gummo.
Disappointing. Didn't learn much, except that they were Vaudeville veterans who gained success on the silver screen. Chico like to gamble. Not recommended

The Children Act

The Children ActFiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.

But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.
Interesting take on aging, law and religion. Succinct, but I was expecting more.

1 comment:

  1. To really get the most out of Connections you have to watch the tv series. It must be on Youtube. The book is good, but Burke is fun on tv and, if memory serves, there is actually a little more depth to the stories in the show than the book.

    I liked the Children Act but also wanted more. His writing seems as good as ever but his cold clinical detachment has made it harder and harder for me to connect with his characters over the years.