On China by Henry Kissinger
It’s truly a testament to American exceptionalism when a bonafide war criminal like Henry Kissinger can walk freely about society, let alone publish a best-selling book. On China chronicles his bureaucratic adventures as the first diplomat to reconnect politically with Maoist China. The first third of the book is a highly engaging political and social history of China which is the part that I heartily recommend. The rest is just incredibly boring accounts of the stultifying bureaucracy involved in international diplomacy. I can’t even imagine how mindnumbing the actual experience was if this is the “book version” of events. This is the part that makes me realize I would have been miserable if I had ever become a diplomat. this was very cool to read in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. the last third is terribly boring. You also have to endure Kissinger’s acute pomposity throughout, although it’s hard to criticize him too much on that front because he was actually there. There is also no escaping the feeling that this book is almost a weird double feint that is actually written for a chinese readership.
One time I saw Henry Kissinger at cocktail party at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. My plan was to walk up to him, sock him in the nose as hard as I could, yell THAT WAS FOR CAMBODIA! and then dash out of the room. The assault charges would have been worth it (if I had been caught) but I didn’t want to lose my fellowship at the law school.
:: Amazon :: Nubs Up, but you don’t need to finish it.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
I had to give up on this book after 40 pages. You could say that it has a non-linear plot line or that it’s simply badly written (Sorry Dana!). The former seems like a hard sell given that it won the nobel prize in literature. For me, it was aesthetically unpleasant and I was never able to get a grounding in the world that Morrison weaves because of seemingly random shifts in narrative voice. Sometimes with no warning from sentence to sentence which is partially due to pomo time jumps that dissolve the entire plotline. I can concede such things are sometimes necessary but it appears the book is polarizing because it never stops. It was #19 on the Readers List of the best books of the 20th century. I have crossed it off the list.
:: Amazon :: Nubs Down, but some people I respect like it.
All of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris
I just finished the 13th book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. All of the books are delightful easy reads but they peter out as the author shows she can’t get away from her previously winning formula over and over again. The 13th book was the last in the series and I really wish I had waited until now to read all of them because I think I lost a lot in the years in between when books were published. Reading the reviews of these books on amazon is a tedious slog through what it must be like to be a beloved author. People are very angry about this book. Angry in a frothing, irrational way that bespeaks how emotionally attached they got to the first books which is sort of a massive endorsement in its own way. I didn’t think the ending was amazing but I’m not crazy enough to write a huge insane review on amazon. I don’t think this book is as compelling as it’s predecessors but I don’t care all that much because it’s just candy.
:: Amazon & reviews :: Nubs up, with southern charm!
The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
This was delightful and I was halfway through it when my backpack (with kindle inside) was stolen in Beijing. Apparently, it’s a pretty good Orson Welles film too. #100 on the hundred best books of the century list.
:: Amazon :: Nubs up, of what I read.
It Worked For Me by Colin Powell
I skimmed this but it was folksy and enjoyable with nothing that could really offend anyone. There is no policy analysis and the diplomacy parts are mostly about the great presents that you get from foreign leaders. I like to read biographies of accomplished people who are sharing their techniques. It was also kind of an advertisement for Powell’s highly touted speaking engagements. I feel like there were a few genuine nuggets of wisdom in the book but I don’t really remember them. The whole thing felt like a long article from the Sunday magazine insert of USA Today.
:: Amazon :: Nubs up, I guess
Orange Sunshine by Nicolas Schou
This is pretty much a history of the surfer bullies turned acid heads that imported so much hash from Afghanistan that the DEA was created. This is also kind of a history of post millbrook, post harvard Timothy Leary. It reads like a very long newspaper article and isn’t really held in place by a consistent narrative or core characters. It’s entertaining though. I only read it because I met this guy who helped break Timothy Leary out of jail and he said the book was bullshit. Also, Leary later turned that guy into the cops and he ended up doing five years in jail while Leary went free. What an asshole.
:: Amazon :: Nubs up, but only if you’re into that sort of thing
Earth Unaware (Enders Game Prequel) by Orson Scott Card
When I was getting hyped on the previews of Enders Game I started digging around. OSC released a new prequel to Enders Game called Earth Unaware. It slipped by my notice (probably because it was greeted by little fanfare and very poor reviews). Human beings are strange because they want something new that hews to the same formula that they loved before. A lot of reviewers were angry that this wasn’t enders game. Also, there were some nitpicks from armchair physicists which I didn’t think were inconsistent with any other science fiction. Mostly people were angry that this wasn’t another Ender’s Game which is interesting because even the sequels to Enders Game were not another Enders Game. This is a book about love, struggle and family.
:: Amazon :: Nubs Up, I enjoyed it but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. The sequel is here and comes out june 4th
Enders Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
Reading earth unaware made me want to reread Ender’s Shadow, which is amazing. Definitely as good as Ender’s Game. Then I wanted more and decided to read Shadow of the hegemon was an attempt at a political thriller that fell flat.