Friday, July 25, 2008

reading machine

(july 18, 2008)

with extra time on my hands, i have been doing a lot of reading and am happy to report i have two big thumbs-up recommendations.

the first is a book that i had heard a lot about, but was always turned off because of its title, is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. it is a book that answers a lot of questions i have always had about why countries like canada were colonised but countries in europe were the colonisers and why certain technological advancements have never taken hold in sub-saharan africa. it is a non-academic academic book that tells the scientific story of how guns, germs, and steel (and other fascinating things like plant and animal domestication)dictated who colonised who and explains the current power distribution in the world.

if i had a critique, it would be that the book is too much about papau new guinea and the author’s own experiences and that it drags in places, especially where he goes over concepts he has already covered. but his day job is a uni professor, so i guess that is to be expected. i loved the first half of the book about plant and animal domestication (and now i know why no one bothered to domesticate zebras, which are EVERYWHERE in africa doing little else than eating and herding together) and how our fruit and vegetables became edible. a good read.

the second book on recommendation, although a quarter of the size of the first, is as difficult to read due to the setting and topic of the book. i had had this book on my To Read list for ages and finally found it on (thanks to my ma!) and brought it with me to germany. titled A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali and written by canadian author Gil Courtemarche and translated into english from its original french, it is a fictional account based on a journalist’s experience of the situation at the famed Hotel Milles Collines (Hotel Rwanda) during the genocide in 1994.

if i had to find a word to describe the feel of the writing it would be raw. but i think that it is warranted and as hard as parts are to read and as the author says in the preamble, the story is not wholly fabricated.

interestingly, the book also chronicles canadian involvement in rwanda before and during the genocide, Romeo Dallaire’s role in the conflict, and the lifestyle of the humanitarian aid workers in kigali. i always enjoy these accounts as they are close to home for me and my recent experience. this book deserves to be read.

my book pile is running low and soon i will have to dig into the soldier’s conspiracy theory books (...), does anyone have any reading recommendations? not having english book stores to peruse makes it tough to remember books i wanted to read to look up on amazon.


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liz said...

I read Guns, Germs and Steel three or four years ago - and I was a big fan! And it was super interesting and full of interesting facts that make you sound smart in day-to-day converstaion.

lu said...

i totally know what you mean about the day-to-day convo sense. sometimes the uni education doesn't exactly lend to interesting dinner table talk!

K said...

what are you talking about? i bring up what i learned, such as how to unsuccessfully train a rat to press a bar using banana flavoured sugar nuggets, in university at every dinner time conversation...

lu said...

oh yes, i bring that up a lot too. and how i was SO afraid of my little rat and the way it squeaked.

matter of fact, i brought it up the other day as i now live in the home of the pied piper, of rat expulsion fame. can't say i blame the guy but now there is rat paraphrenalia all over the place for the tourists, ick.

Taylor said...

Guns Germs and Steel is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years. One day I will, I hope!

Anonymous said...

I hope you go back and read comments on old posts because I have a book recommendation. I read 'Sweetness in the Belly' by Camilla Gibb. The storyline follows the life of a white Muslim woman living in Harar, Ethiopia and London. It was an easy read, but mentally challenging in some ways because it made me admit stereotypes I didn't realize I had. I found myslef thinking this white woman should feel certain things and had to remind myself that her background didn't dictate her beliefs, rather her upbringing did. I like books that make me question myself and this one did.


lu said...

man, i wish that blogger let me know when i had new comments on old posts, but it seems it only does that for new posts.

anywho, Sweetness in the Belly is one of my FAVOURITE books. so well written, so fascinating, and so made me want to go to ethiopia!

we have the same taste in books, it seems!