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Dude, Where's My Country?
Dude, Where's My Country?
by Michael Moore
Edition: Hardcover
875 used & new from $0.01

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Patriot Exercises His Beloved Rights (and Wrongs), November 21, 2003
It's amazing how many people in these reviews rage against Michael Moore's weight. I don't think they read the title. The title isn't "Dude, Where's My Hamburger?" Moore has more weighty topics to discuss here than food or his waistline (he's recently lost 50 pounds, by the way, for all those hatemongers who can't seem to think about or address the actual content in this book). He's virtually resurrecting a vision of America that puts the people in charge and jettisons the powerful, truly bloated and obese people out of their commodious seats of power and security. In their place should be all the working stiffs who currently prop up these corrupt greed machines with their labor, their votes, and their children's lives. In effect, he's trying to breathe life into the Democratic party, which always touted itself as the party of the people. And he's trying to educate a public that's being lied to every day by the big right-wing media machine now in place in the nation.
One of the best parts of this book was his reminder that fear has gripped the land, an overwhelming fear that is being used to fulfill an extreme right-wing agenda. FDR said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, and indeed, we should be greatly afraid of how fear is being disseminated from our industrial/military government and our cynical, ignorant president. That fear is driving us away from our rights and away from our senses. It's blinding us to the dirty politics that Bush practices, the lies he constantly tells, and the nasty money connections which trigger too many of his thoughts, words, and deeds. Bad boy, Bushie!
I thank Michael Moore for his love of America. He loves this place so much that he took the time and trouble to write this book and to remind us all about who should be in charge here.
Great stuff, Michael. Just watch your back because lots of people hate you. They hate you because you're telling the truth, something that's a big threat to their personal agendas.

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
by Atul Gawande
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.61
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Medicine, November 13, 2003
I highly recommend this book for those who entrust their lives to their doctors. This book gives you a good view behind the curtain of just how speculative medicine is and how fallible doctors are. It's made up of short pieces, previously published in magazines such as The New Yorker, which detail incidents and thoughts from the life of a resident who skillfully recorded medical cases and his involvement in them over the years. At first, I had a hard time just reading about medical procedures
involving needles piercing heart walls and lungs being collapsed. But after the initial shock, I found the anecdotes and cases to be fascinating and instructive. I came away with a new appreciation of our fallibility and mortality and a stronger sense that we, as patients, need to take charge of ourselves and see to it that we get the best care out there from the most experienced hands. Perhaps this was not the author's intention in writing this work, but I thank him for opening my eyes to the need for constant vigilance.
I give this book an A+.

The Namesake: A Novel
The Namesake: A Novel
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Edition: Hardcover
324 used & new from $0.01

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Really Wished for More, October 13, 2003
This review is from: The Namesake: A Novel (Hardcover)
Based on my reading of Lahiri's fine short story collection that won the Pulitzer Prize, I expected a complex, nuanced novel which would deliver closely observed and clear writing. I was ready for a real treat.
Instead, I got a kind of automatic writing of a drawn out short story. At first, the book opens very well with descriptions of a birth and an awful train wreck that changes the course of Gogol's father's life. I thought I was in for something brilliant. But then the plot, if one can call it that, drags and drags. The writing becomes antiseptic, mistaking minute observation for literature, and losing its overall passion and reason for being. I had to fight through much of this book, skipping pointless passages, and enduring elaborate descriptions of Gogol's lovers, their clothes and hairstyles, their shoes, their parents, and their parents' homes. All for what?
Then, when Gogol must confront his father's death, we see him acting like a zombie, wretching, breaking up with his girlfriend, but never getting to anything that moves us. His mother's reaction to her husband's death seems inauthentic. And in fact, much in this novel is just that. After a while, I just didn't care about the characters.
The real problem is that Lahiri is a short story writer who tried to stretch a short story into a novel, but didn't have the substance in the original idea to bring it off.
I'm frankly disappointed.

Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life
Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life
by Leonard Mlodinow
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $3.82

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feynman Speaks, September 29, 2003
There are so many informative, detailed reviews here that one can appreciate how much of an impression this little book has made on its readers. Or is it that Feynman's mythic power and personality still deeply resonate years after his death? All I want to say is that this memoir from an earlier time in Mlodinow's life opens a window to the process of discovery in science and in individuals. It recalls a crucial period for the author, who was at a crossroad and was looking for guidance. Feynman guides by not guiding, and by holding up a mirror to Mlodinow. I also enjoyed the understandable explanations of scientific theories, the discussions of string theory, and the clear presentation of Babylonian/Grecian world views.
This book is well worth reading for both the nonscientist and the scientist, and for all those young people seeking to find their place in the world.

Life of Pi
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.64
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Inventive, Wonderful, September 22, 2003
This review is from: Life of Pi (Paperback)
What a fabulous surprise this was!! This book is packed with fascinating details on topics ranging from Hindu, Muslim, and Christian religions, to Indian food, to animal behavior, to the behavior of weather, the ocean, and algae. On and on it goes. I am amazed at its depth of detail, its grand spiritual and human sweep, and its glorious, gory, and ecstatic writing, all packed into a mere 319 pages. It's a classic, no doubt about it. I recommend it for post-Harry Potter reading, and I will jump on the next Yann Martel book. I pray he has much more to tell us in whatever comes next.

By the Lake
By the Lake
by John McGahern
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.92
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, Colorful, Rich, July 29, 2003
This review is from: By the Lake (Paperback)
This is the first work I've read of McGahern's and I was deeply moved by the lyrical writing, the poetic descriptions of the countryside and its wildlife, the lake, which looms like a living character around the lives of the village in northwest Ireland, and the precise character descriptions that bring subtle, nuanced portraits of the inhabitants to life. The work centers on a childless married couple who have escaped London to live in their cosy cottage by the lake, their farming routines, and the lives of their neighbors and an uncle named the Shah, who is the richest man in the area. All these characters are portrayed sympathetically and with great empathy. They speak richly and colorfully, and the rhythms of their speech ceaselessly entertain throughout the novel.
I have to admit, however, that I did grow restless with the structure of the work, and the impressionistic techniques of the narrative that repeated a bit too much for me, which is why I've withheld the fifth star in my rating. However, this work is well worth reading, and I'm very happy that I did.

An Equal Music: A Novel
An Equal Music: A Novel
by Vikram Seth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.94
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for chamber music lovers, July 8, 2003
The main character in this entertaining novel, Michael Holmes, is an immature whiner with great talent and passion. In fact, Vikram Seth has given us a cast of very talented and plausible characters who act with passion, who are driven by the need to find the exquisite, and who are changed forever by their encounters with this passion. And who among us, like Michael, hasn't acted dumbly when we think we're in love and that love goes bad and our lives go bad with it? I know I have. I know I've been selfish, dumb, self-pitying. But in these politically correct and psychologically healthy days it's a sin to give in to emotions. One must behave like a "healthy" person, move on, take Prozac, and just GET OVER IT! I wonder, however, if artists, musicians, and novelists were always rational and just "got over" things, would great and meaningful art ever have been created? But about this book: It is a fine entertainment, beautifully composed and easy to read. Yes, it has some minor flaws, some redundancies, but this work overall accomplishes a whole lot. I was very pleased to meet all its characters and live among them for a while. I even went off to my local music store and got the Haydn string quartet that Michael loved so much. I highly recommend this novel to anyone, but especially to those who love Bach and chamber music.

The Glass Palace: A Novel
The Glass Palace: A Novel
by Amitav Ghosh
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.52
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finely Crafted Work, July 2, 2003
Be prepared to learn about a part of history and an area of the world about which you know next to nothing. Ghosh has done a great deal of research to give his novel lush detail and historical accuracy, and then provides a rich family saga which delivers the fruits of his labors. More than that, he makes us think about the evils of empires, and the implications of personal decisions to serve masters other than those of our own making. He tells the story of displaced peoples, manipulated by the British not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. One final comment: The book is damn entertaining, and will stay with you long after you've read it. Instead of what most novels do, which is fade out after the first 100 or so pages, this book builds on itself and expands in richness as it draws closer to the present day. I highly recommend it as a work in which you can lose yourself and come away entertained as well as educated about a part of the world you may never have thought about.

A Gesture Life: A Novel
A Gesture Life: A Novel
by Chang-Rae Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.16
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Read, June 24, 2003
I took this novel to Florida with me for a week, and as I relaxed on the beach I quickly realized, "Definitely NOT a beach book." Maybe that's one reason why I became both infuriated and impatient with the narrator, Franklin Hata, but I also felt sympathy for him. The author expertly presents many areas of gray in Hata's life, but I sensed early on that Hata was somthing of an unreliable narrator. Of course, his plans for his adopted daughter have nothing to do with her and everything to do with his obsessive need for control, order, and acceptance. We appreciate this need very well as we continue down the path of his life, alternating between the present comforts and discomforts and the past nightmares of his war experiences. And there's much to be uncmforable with in this book, particularly the horrendous scenes of cruelty toward women during WWII and Hata's role in them. But there's no sense in my retelling the story here, since the author is much better at it himself. Suffice to say that the ending of the book redeems much that has gone before. To sum up, this novel is clearly a fine work, but how much could I bear to be around it and its horrors? It's strong stuff. Beware and be prepared.

An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
by Robert Dallek
Edition: Hardcover
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real "Living History." Well done!, June 11, 2003
Robert Dallek is a scholar with integrity. He feels the record on JFK should be honest, fair, and balanced, and he succeeds on all counts. This book brings to life a portrait of a unique, but controversial historical figure, born into wealth and privilege, who, rather reluctantly, chose public service over an easy career as a journalist or a writer. JFK is treated here in very human terms, not worshiped and not denigrated. We are given glimpses of his motivations for his obsessive womanizing, but all of that pales in the face of JFK's intellectual depth, complex independent personality, and larger than life presence in these pages. Kennedy tried to live every day to the fullest, and understood the context of American politics in the world order. How different from presidents that followed him.
I recommend this book highly, if for no other reason than to spend time again with Kennedy, his family, and his times. I don't think we'll see his ilk among us again any time soon, and that's our great loss as a nation.

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