Archive for June, 2013

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

By David Sedaris

The Short Take:

It’s Sedaris at his absolute best: insightful, delightful and exceptionally thoughtful. Every time you finish one of his wonderful essays you are torn between reflecting on the bigger issues behind it and diving right into the next one. That’s the kind of conflict one can love.

Why?

I admit to being very disappointed in Sedaris’ last book with its anthropomorphic chipmunks and other assorted animals. This outing more than makes up for it. While his essays are just as personal as ever, they also seem to have even more of a world view than usual.

His observations about everything from air travel to Chinese food to colonoscopies certainly made me reconsider a lot of things. For example, Sedaris’ essay, Obama !!!!!, pretty much explains why Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, without ever mentioning that honor.

That’s the kind of writing that makes you just love this man.

A Little Plot:

There isn’t a plot of course. However, don’t be overly concerned about the title — there is an essay revolving around owls but they don’t have diabetes. If there was any reference to diabetes at all, it was so minor as to pass unnoticed.

Along with his essays drawn from real life, there are a few fictional short stories, written in the same first person style but adopting personas as different as a teen girl, a father, and a woman.

I found no real website for Sedaris, but a simple Google (or Bing) will bring you more information than you could wish for.

Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

By Peter Ackroyd

The Short Take:

If you want a reasonably short (roughly 450 pages) history of early England, this might be the book for you. It was certainly informative. However, it read like it had not been thoughtfully edited. Or, maybe that’s just Ackroyd’s style.

Why?

I gleaned a lot of fascinating information from this book and the writing is certainly accessible. However, I suspect one would be better off reading several books that went more in depth on the particular historical periods covered.   There just wasn’t enough context to make me fully satisfied.

Add to that the fact that Ackroyd repeated himself with the same editorial comments throughout. I got the idea that life for serfs was hard without constant repetition of the fact. I didn’t dislike the book: it certainly educated me a great deal without a lot of effort on my part. However, I never warmed up to it, either.

Perhaps this reading suffered from coming too close on the heals of an Alison Weir biography about Queen Isabella (who was part of this history); and Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, which covered a lot of the same time period but from a social rather than historical perspective.

Ultimately, I’m glad I read it and will probably read some of the later books, though I’ll skip the next one on the Tudors since I’ve read all of Weir’s excellent books on that era. Whatever else, it is a good way to get an encapsulated history.

A Little Plot:

The title basically says it all. It starts before Stonehenge and continues through to the death of Henry VII (why he isn’t with the other Tudor’s in the next book I have no idea). The earlier parts were the most interesting to me, especially the waves of invasion/immigration. But, that’s just me.

 

 

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