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The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Title: The Selfish Gene

Author: Richard Dawkins

Publisher: Oxford 2006 (30th Anniversary edition)

Genre: Nonfiction — Science

Pages: 523

Rating:  4 /5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey – 500s; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Richard Dawkins’ brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands of readers to rethink their beliefs about life.
In his internationally bestselling, now classic volume, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains how the selfish gene can also be a subtle gene. The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature. Bees, for example, will commit suicide when they sting to protect the hive, and birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk.
This 30th anniversary edition of Dawkins’ fascinating book retains all original material, including the two enlightening chapters added in the second edition. In a new Introduction the author presents his thoughts thirty years after the publication of his first and most famous book, while the inclusion of the two-page original Foreword by brilliant American scientist Robert Trivers shows the enthusiastic reaction of the scientific community at that time. This edition is a celebration of a remarkable exposition of evolutionary thought, a work that has been widely hailed for its stylistic brilliance and deep scientific insights, and that continues to stimulate whole new areas of research today.
This is such a dense book.  Although I must say that I really enjoyed it.  Okay okay, I started to nod off here and there.  Basically those chapters that dealt with DNA and the really long explanations of genetics caused me to nod off a bit trying to read this before bed.  Once I got to the chapters on the applications of genetics on human behavior, I perked right up.  Those chapters sustained my interest through the rest of the book.  I love Dawkin’s way of explaining using a ton of analogies.  This really did help me understand the topic.  After reading this one, I am debating about when to read his other books.  I’m intrigued, but I might need a month or two to decompress.

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Title: Suite Francaise

Author: Irene Nemirovsky

Publisher: Vintage 2007

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 434

Rating:   4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.

Wow!  A very powerful novel.  I started reading it thinking it was a modern novel writing about the past.  Of course I realized my mistake when I looked up the author on wikipedia.  I thought that the language and sentence structure was a bit strange for a recently written novel.  And it is…  because it was written during WWII and has been translated from the original French.  That explains it!

As to the story, I loved following the various families through the ordeal of the German occupation of France.  We get to see how various people reacted to the events of turmoil.  I can’t imagine having to become refugees in your own country.  It seems inconceivable and yet people had to continue with their lives.  There are some villains (besides the Germans) and yet I can understand why they are how they are.  Overall it was a very interesting read.

When starting this book, I realized that I have read multiple fiction books set during WWII this month.  All three  (Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, The White Pearl, and Suite Francaise) were set in different places.  It was interesting to see how different locations affected lives during the war.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall

Title: The White Pearl

Author: Kate Furnivall

Publisher: Berkley 2012

Genre: Historical fiction (WWII)

Pages: 433

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Fall into Reading; Mount TBR; Color Coded — White

How I Got It: I own it!

Malaya, 1941. Connie Thornton plays her role as a dutiful wife and mother without complaint. She is among the fortunate after all-the British rubber plantation owners reaping the benefits of the colonial life. But Connie feels as though she is oppressed, crippled by boredom, sweltering heat, a loveless marriage. . .

Then, in December, the Japanese invade. Connie and her family flee, sailing south on their yacht toward Singapore, where the British are certain to stand firm against the Japanese. En route, in the company of friends, they learn that Singapore is already under siege. Tensions mount, tempers flare, and the yacht’s inhabitants are driven by fear.

Increasingly desperate and short of food, they are taken over by a pirate craft and its Malayan crew making their perilous way from island to island. When a fighter plane crashes into the sea, they rescue its Japanese pilot. For Connie, that’s when everything changes. In the suffocating confines of the boat with her life upended, Connie discovers a new kind of freedom and a new, dangerous, exhilarating love.

Hmmm… First off, I have to say that I liked The Russian Concubine trilogy much more than this stand alone novel.  I loved the setting in Malaya and the Pacific.  I liked the backdrop of WWII.  I liked many of the side characters.  I just couldn’t stand Connie.  Sure she was stuck in a bad marriage.  But did that mean she had to treat everyone else like she was the center of the universe?  I felt no sympathy for her.  And it made me want to throw the book down a few times.  Don’t get me wrong, the story’s great.  My annoyance at one character made my reading of the book feel like more of a struggle than an enjoyment.

Historical Fiction

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Mini Reviews

https://i0.wp.com/www.bookdealers.co.za/sites/default/files/imagecache/product_full/AHistoryOfEgypt_Front.jpg

I’ve recently read a few nonfiction books, but just didn’t have enough to say about them for full reviews.  So here’s my mini reviews:

Title: A History fo Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present

Author: Jason Thompson

Publisher: Anchor Books 2008

Genre: Nonfiction — History

Pages: 382

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 960s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

This is the type of history books that I should be reading.  This volume is a much more comprehensive history of a culture, people and country.  I enjoyed the depth and readability.  Good read.  And I learned much about the rise of Islam in the area (definitely a lacking area of my historical knowledge).

Title: Blue: 350 Inspiring Ways to Decorate with Blue

Author: Lisa Cregan

Publisher: Hearst Communications 2011

Genre: Nonfiction — Home decor

Pages: 272

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 740s; Fall into Reading; Color Coded — Blue

How I Got It: Library Loan

Such pretty pictures.  I would love to add more blue into our decor, but it seems the boys’ room is the only place I can get away with it.

Title: The Green Book

Publisher: Three Rivers Press 2007

Genre: Nonfiction — Enviroment

Pages: 204

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 330s; Fall into Reading; Color Coded — Green

How I Got It: Library Loan

Tips to live a greener lifestyle.  Okay introduction book, but some of the ways to green your lifestyle area bit hard to do without owning a business or at least your own house.  The testimonies from celebrities seemed a bit wonky to me.

Title: Active Liberty

Author: Stephen Breyer

Publisher: Alfred Knopf 2005

Genre: Nonfiction — Law

Pages: 164

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 340s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

A great slim but dense volume on the differences between active and modern liberty and their applications.  I am a huge Constitutional Law geek.  I love reading about interpretations and applications of the various sections of the Constitution.  And Breyer definitely knows his Constitution.  I’ve never quite looked at it his way, but it was a nice analysis.

Title: Minigami

Author: Gay Merrill Gross

Publisher: Firefly Books 2005

Genre: Nonfiction — Paper Craft

Pages: 144

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 730s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

I loved looking at all the pretty pictures, but origami is harder than I thought it would be.  I tried to do some of the designs and they weren’t that clean looking.  I imagine that practice would make cleaner designs.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Click edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan

https://i2.wp.com/www.pbgtoolkit.com/docs_pbg/1271441653Click.jpgTitle: Click: When We Knew We were Feminists

Edited by: Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan

Publisher:  Seal Press 2010

Genre:  Nonfiction — Women’s Studies

Pages: 240

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 300s; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library Loan

When did you know you were a feminist? Whether it happened at school, at work, while watching TV, or reading a book, many of us can point to a particular moment when we knew we were feminists. In Click, editors Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan bring us a range of women—including Jessica Valenti, Amy Richards, Shelby Knox, Winter Miller, and Jennifer Baumgardner—who share stories about how that moment took shape for them.Sometimes emotional, sometimes hilarious, this collection gives young women who already identify with the feminist movement the opportunity to be heard—and it welcomes into the fold those new to the still-developing story of feminism.

This book took me back to to my college women’s studies day.  I loved reading about how others found out they are a feminist.  This is more of a feel good book for me.  I really enjoyed the the stories that were a bit more sad.  They seemed to really ring true.  This is a great little introduction to feminism.  Definite read.
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Sprezzatura by Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish

https://i2.wp.com/images.betterworldbooks.com/038/Sprezzatura-D-Epiro-Peter-9780385720199.jpgTitle: Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World

Author: Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish

Publisher:  Anchor Books 2001

Genre: Nonfiction — history

Pages: 396

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Dewey — 940s; My Years — 2001; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: Library loan

A witty, erudite celebration of fifty great Italian cultural achievements that have significantly influenced Western civilization from the authors of What Are the Seven Wonders of the World?
The word “sprezzatura,” or the art of effortless mastery, was coined in 1528 by Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier. No one has demonstrated effortless mastery throughout history quite like the Italians. From the Roman calendar and the creator of the modern orchestra (Claudio Monteverdi) to the beginnings of ballet and the creator of modern political science (Niccolò Machiavelli), Sprezzatura highlights fifty great Italian cultural achievements in a series of fifty information-packed essays in chronological order.
A very detailed overview over 50 gifts from Italy.  I was familiar, at least in a general sense, with all 50 entrants.  I especially enjoyed the chapters on satire, the Roman Republic, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the legacy of law, and da Vinci.  While I overall enjoyed the volume, I didn’t dive completely in because of my prior knowledge.  I guess I am too much of a history buff truly enjoy skimming the topic books.  I need to grab onto deeper tomes.
Dewey Decimal SystemMy Years

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Chocolate by Shara Aaron and Monica Bearden

https://i0.wp.com/cdn3.fishpond.co.nz/0011/290/023/3954044/4.jpegTitle: Chocolate: A Healthy Passion

Author: Shara Aaron and Monica Bearden

Publisher: Prometheus Books 2008

Genre: Nonfiction — Food

Pages: 213

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mixing It Up — Food; Fall into Reading; Color Coded — Brown

How I Got It: Library Loan

The world loves chocolate and chances are, with the majority of the population saying their favorite flavor is chocolate, you do too. This enjoyable book will serve to deepen, not only your love, but also your understanding of chocolate.Some may think that chocolate is simply a treat, something that satisfies a sweet tooth. After reading this truly pleasurable and educational account by two leading nutritionists, you will agree that chocolate is much more than that. You will discover it encompasses a culture, a cuisine, a treatment, and much more!

I went to the library to grab some food related book to finish my challenge.  At first I was thinking food travel memoir or a bio of a great chef, but then I spied this gem on the shelf.  A book about chocolate?  How could I resist?  While it does contain a fair amount of recipes involving chocolate, by favorite sections was all about the history and spread of chocolate.  I knew about the Aztecs and Mayans enjoying an ancient version of hot chocolate, but loved hearing more about its place in their cultures.  Although less enjoyable, I still found the detailed process of making chocolate interesting.  If I was a better and more patient cook, I would totally try these recipes.  As it is, I did enjoy a nice cup of raspberry hot chocolate while reading.

And with this book, I have now completed the Mixing It Up Reading Challenge!  Woohoo!

2012 Mixing It Up Reading Challenge

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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