::Literate Blather::
Monday, June 25, 2007
Cracked-Back Book Reviews: June 2007

(Welcome to Cracked-Back, a new monthly DaRK PaRTY feature about the books we’ve recently read. A “cracked-back” is what happens to the spine of a new book once you’ve thoroughly read it. Please feel free to add your own list of recommendations by leaving behind a comment.)

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
By Laurence Gonzales

Only 10 percent of people confronted by a life or death situation remain level-headed – cool, calm and collected. The remaining 90 percent panic – and those are usually the ones who die. Laurence Gonzales, an adventure writer for National Geographic, delves into the psyche of those 10 percent. What makes them survivors? He theorizes that the key to surviving mountain climbing accidents, boating accidents, being lost in the wilderness, and other calamities is the ability to surrounded to the circumstances and adapt (which is why many Type-A personalities fair poorly when confronted by disaster). Gonzales uses real-life examples of people faced with death to put together a compelling and fast-paced book. It starts slow, but once you get through the first chapter, you won’t be able to put it down.

Grade: B+

Strange Piece of Paradise
By Terri Jentz

More than 20 years after being attacked by an axe-welding assailant during a bike trip through Oregon, Terri Jentz returns to the scene of the crime to solve her own attempted murder. It sounds like something off of tabloid television, but Jentz – a Yale graduate – has written a very personal and explosive memoir that is part Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part confessional, and part whodunit. The result is a book that explores the underbelly of violence in America and how some criminals can hide in plain sight with few consequences.

Grade: A-

One Shot
By Lee Child

Jack Reacher novels are escapist fun and “One Shot” is one of Child’s better efforts. Reacher is a one-man wrecking ball and the series is the most fun when Reacher is up against hard, evil protagonists that show little mercy for their victims. Then Reacher shows up and puts these bastards in their place. “One Shot” features some nice twists and turns as Reacher shows up in a small mid-western city to investigate the sniper deaths of several people allegedly killed by a sniper Reacher once arrested when he was an Army MP. Things get a bit complicated and Reacher has to kill a lot of bad guys. What more can you ask for?

Grade: B+

Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine
By Harold Bloom

Literary critic and old-school snob, Harold Bloom weighs in on the character of Jesus and the Jewish God – basing his analysis on the Bible and the Torah. He dissects both Jesus and Yahweh like they were Hamlet and Macbeth. There’s been a lot written about Christianity lately and add this often disjointed essay to the list. Bloom is usually an interesting read, but “Jesus and Yahweh” suffers from Bloom’s habit of literary name dropping – the man simply can’t write a book without genuflecting to Shakespeare at some point. While you can give Bloom credit for his boldness and his fearless approach, there’s little no ground here.

Grade: C+

Stumbling on Happiness
By Daniel Gilbert

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert presents a fascinating premise: human beings are bad at predicting what will make them happy. We spend most of our time trying to make ourselves happy, yet because of the way our minds our structured you screw it up all the time. As a result we often make poor decision now about what will make us happy later. For example, Gilbert gives us brides left at the altar. As a coping mechanism, most women end up thinking this extremely humiliating experience was the best thing that ever happened to them. That’s how our minds help protect us from harmful emotional episodes. This sugarcoating makes us often forget how much we dislike bad things and on the flip side often exaggerate the things that make us happy. Thus, we’re lousy at predicting what will make us happy in the future. Gilbert makes complicated ideas easy to digest and the result is a funny and charming book.

Grade: B

Click here to see our observations and impressions of the classic "Moby-Dick"

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Stumble Upon Toolbar StumbleUpon | Digg! Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati Technorati | E-mail a Link E-mail
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
The Template is generated via PsycHo and is Licensed.