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Eduardo Santiago

esm@bookwyrm.social

Joined 10 months, 1 week ago

Los Alamos, NM, USA

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Kim Knott: Hinduism  (2000, Oxford University Press, USA) 3 stars

Hinduism is practiced by about 80 percent of India's population, and by about 30 million …

Review of 'Hinduism ' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Not what I was expecting or hoping for, but in many ways I think I’ve gained valuable insights. Knott touches only lightly on the religious aspects of Hinduism, focusing almost entirely on the cultural values of misogyny, classism, and oppression. And in many ways I get it: if one were to write an intro to Christianity, the “father and son but they’re the same person oh and there’s a ghost too and also Mary is a demigod but not really” parts would, and should, be secondary to the Christian cultural values (misogyny, classism, and oppression. Also guns).

Anyhow. Won’t help me understand a book I’m reading, but may help me better understand more about a billion or so people. Seems fair.

David Quammen: Heartbeat of the Wild (2023, Disney Publishing Worldwide, National Geographic) 4 stars

Review of 'Heartbeat of the Wild' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A risky gamble: repackage twenty-plus years of articles written for NatGeo, add a one-or-two-page intro and followup to each, and publish ... but without photos. I think it mostly worked. It kept the focus on conservation, fascinatingly bracketed by its two siblings, exploration and restoration.

Quammen writes about the boundaries. Where humans and nonhumans interact, it tends not to go well for the latter. It doesn’t have to be that way. When possible, he writes about exploration: learning about little-known wildernesses while they still exist. At the other extreme, he includes a few examples of restoration: through education and unimaginable devotion, some near-catastrophes can be averted. Maybe. “It’s late, but it’s not too late,” he writes in his Afterword. I like to think so too, and am moved by his cautious and honest optimism. I intend to give a copies of this book to someone or someones young.

Ed Yong: An Immense World (2022, Penguin Random House) 5 stars

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and …

Title

5 stars

“Five senses,” they told me. How chauvinistic that seems now. Understandably so, but still.

Remember [book:Flatland|433567]? (I like to think everyone read that in grade school but am now wondering if it was only us math geeks?) Anyhow, Immense World brought back those feelings of wonder; of imagining what we know is out there but can never, ever fully understand. A dog navigating the world through smell. The countless ways of arranging color receptors, giving some animals a visual experience we can barely even describe. Touch. Vibration, through air (sound) and through ground. Sensing electrical fields. Magnetic fields! How little we know! And of course, [book:bats|197189543]. All creatures taking their senses for granted, just like we do, but we have that amazing ability to study and learn and devise instruments that help us see-hear-sense farther. And to imagine.

“[...] we can try to step into their worlds. We must choose …

James P. Carse: Finite and infinite games (Paperback, 1987, Ballantine Books) 3 stars

Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life, the games we play in business …

Review of 'Finite and infinite games' on 'Goodreads'

1 star

Don't bother. Or at least, put it on your soporific pile. It’s long-winded, full of semantic games, and a bit simpleminded. It reads as if some guy had a great acid trip, figured out all the world's problems in a flash of insight, came down, and tried to make sense of his trip.

That’s what I wrote to a friend back in 2005, years before I even heard of Goodreads. Also years before I tried psychedelics, and now that I have a few trips under my belt I retract that last sentence: yes, I’ve had moments of understanding but ugh, I’ve never been pretentious enough to play condescending word games with it. If you’re in the mood for Deeply Profound Insights, go visit the New Age Bullshit Generator instead.



Jessi Kneeland: Body Neutral (2023, Penguin Books, Limited) No rating

Review of 'Body Neutral' on 'Goodreads'

No rating

2023-10-27 abandoned, p.238 (over halfway). Not because it was in any way bad, I just found it unrelatable, even weird. I stopped reading because it was not helping me understand or be a better ally to anyone I love or even anyone in my distant circles; and probably a big reason for that is that people don’t talk about these things. Or maybe just not with me. I really have no idea, and just felt lost. I’d probably be glad to continue or even restart this if I just had some idea of how to understand it better.

Review of 'Pot Thief Who Studied the Woman at Otowi Crossing' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

An unexpected pleasure which I might’ve appreciated more with a little preparation, so I’m targeting this review toward people who know nothing about this book series.

The most important thing to know ahead of time is: whatever expectations you might have, let them go because this will be both more and less. Yeah, there’s a murder mystery, and an interesting (VERY CONVOLUTED) side plot, but those feel incidental. The bulk of the story, as I saw it, is just a pretty decent fella living a fairly ordinary life, treating people with respect and kindness and compassion, and for the most part surrounding himself with similarly caring loved ones. As other reviewers have noted, what makes this book is the relationships. And they’re lovely. Mature. Strong. Low-drama. Some people might find a book like this boring; I found it refreshing even with the pages-long digressions into college scheduling conflicts. It …

Nella Larsen, Brit Bennett, Nella Larsen: Passing (Paperback, 2021, Signet) 4 stars

Review of 'Passing' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Remarkable. Emotionally powerful on many levels. Larsen writes with a bold directness that I found both refreshing and uncomfortable. Narration is third person but entirely from the POV of one character, Irene, almost as if it were first-person disassociated: the reader has constant awareness of her emotional state but only indirect awareness, via her inferences, of the minds of others. Unusual but effective. Even more unusual, there’s only one sympathetic character in the book and it’s not Irene: it’s her husband, who we realize she does not know at all, and her imaginings of who he is are a tragedy of their own. This is a complex, layered book.

Larsen must’ve been a fascinating person. Insightful, sensitive, witty. The main themes for me were choices, consequences, loss, loneliness, and the crushing of our hopes as we commit to paths in life. There is more than one character living a lie, …

Ann Leckie: Translation State (2023, Orbit) 5 stars

The mystery of a missing translator sets three lives on a collision course that will …

Review of 'Translation State' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

This is YA. Why isn’t it classified as such on Goodreads? It would’ve been nice to know ahead of time, to set my expectations.

Anyhow, it was fun at times, even sweet. Lots of complex mental states. Interesting side threads on the nature of consciousness, but nothing as sophisticated or thought-provoking as [b:Ancillary Justice|17333324|Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)|Ann Leckie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1397215917l/17333324.SY75.jpg|24064628]. And, Leckie has been reading [b:Murderbot|32758901|All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)|Martha Wells|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1631585309l/32758901.SY75.jpg|53349516], and those bits of influence worked really well here.

The pronouns were irritating beyond belief: a complete U-turn from the wonderful pronouns of her first books. But I get it, it’s YA, and as I predicted we get to learn Very Important Lessons later in the book. (And it was okay. The book is infused with well-done kindness). YA isn’t my thing, but this is a book I would totally recommend to any teenager.

Henry Grabar: Paved Paradise (2023, Penguin Publishing Group) 4 stars

Review of 'Paved Paradise' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Five stars for important content, but the presentation, ugh! Impenetrable prose, confusing metaphors (“the parking industry’s white whale”?!), weird nonsequiturs. Overlong jargony sentences. Overlong book. I ended up just skimming after the first third: actually reading was too painful.

The material is crucial, I just wish it had been better edited. Am looking forward to someone writing a shorter, more approachable version.

Side note: I came to this book as a convert already; I don't mind that it's an unbalanced diatribe. I kind of enjoyed that. It’s the writing that I couldn’t take.

Ed Yong: An Immense World (2023, Random House Publishing Group) 5 stars

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and …

Review of 'Immense World' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

“Five senses,” they told me. How chauvinistic that seems now. Understandably so, but still.

Remember [b:Flatland|433567|Flatland A Romance of Many Dimensions|Edwin A. Abbott|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1435435775l/433567.SY75.jpg|4243538]? (I like to think everyone read that in grade school but am now wondering if it was only us math geeks?) Anyhow, Immense World brought back those feelings of wonder; of imagining what we know is out there but can never, ever fully understand. A dog navigating the world through smell. The countless ways of arranging color receptors, giving some animals a visual experience we can barely even describe. Touch. Vibration, through air (sound) and through ground. Sensing electrical fields. Magnetic fields! How little we know! And of course, [b:bats|197189543|What Is It Like to Be a Bat?|Thomas Nagel|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|40899183]. All creatures taking their senses for granted, just like we do, but we have that amazing ability to study and learn and devise instruments that help us …

Didier Alcante, Laurent-édéric Bollée, Denis Rodier, Ivanka Hahnenberger: Bomb (2023, Abrams, Inc., Abrams ComicArts) 3 stars

From the Big Bang to Hiroshima, The Bomb is the multi-award-winning black-and-white graphic novel revealing …

Review of 'Bomb' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Five stars for research! The authors did their homework; the presentation was accurate down to the minutest details I'm aware of. I even learned a few more.

Unfortunately, too many flaws that I couldn’t overlook. First is the narration gimmick: first-person from the perspective of ... self-aware Uranium? It’s unclear if it’s a particular lump of it, or just one atom, or maybe just the gestalt of all Uranium? I found it annoying. Second, the characters were drawn almost indistinguishably; perhaps unavoidable given the heavy-stroke artwork, but I found it hard to keep track of the dramatis personae.

Third and most painful was the expository dialogue. “Yes, you are a renowned chemist and you are an excellent engineer, as well as being the indispensable president of...”; and “Oh no! Another flat! It’s the third one this week!”; and (Groves to Oppenheimer, December 1943): “But do you realize, only a few …

Emily Tesh: Some Desperate Glory (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

Review of 'Some Desperate Glory' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

You’re almost certainly familiar with Kahneman’s and Fredrickson’s wonderful ice-water experiment (“When More Pain is Preferred to Less”, also called the peak-end rule), the one where victisubjects opted for a longer (90s vs 60s) painful experience if the last few seconds were less painful. I love that result. I’ve found it invaluable for reframing life situations.

This is a 436-page book, of which the first 220 or so pages are excruciating. Oh, how I wanted to toss it away! But I was encouraged to stick with it. I did. And I’m glad.

Halfway through, it took an interesting twist, and yes it was foreshadowed but no, not the directions it took after the midpoint. That was thoughtful, creative, nuanced, suspenseful, engaging, and even sweet; and it just kept getting better. A whole lot of Did Not See That Coming, even when you think you see what’s coming, and damn, I …

Dolen Perkins-Valdez: Take My Hand (2022, Penguin Publishing Group) 4 stars

Review of 'Take My Hand' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Haunting. A powerful beginning; so good that the first thing I did upon finishing the book was reread the first few chapters. Effective first-person narration, ostensibly epistolary but inobtrusively so. Dual timelines worked beautifully: about 80% was 1973, tense, dramatic, distinctly uncomfortable; the rest, in 2016, tempered the heat with mature reflection. Getting to know the narrator like that—first as an interesting, conflicted adult, then as the hotheaded but caring young person she was— ... well, I found myself crushing hard on her. The book is much more than about her, of course, but it’s so enjoyable to have the author devote care to every aspect. That’s why we read.

The story is fiction, the events behind it are not, and near the one-third mark I felt compelled to read up on the historical basis. Waiting that long worked well for me, and I recommend it. Or perhaps even waiting …