Saturday, October 31, 2009

who would i be but without a book?

i have not posted about the books that i have finished lately and i think it is about high time i did so, don't you?

first, we have Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo.  and i give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up.  Moyo's arguments against providing more foreign aid to africa are concise, easy for the non economist to read, and make a hell of a lot of sense to me.  we all know (and by we, i mean those of you who have either read my beefs with international development here or who i have had the conversation with) how i struggle to understand how such well meaning intentions can go so disastrously wrong and end up making people either poorer than they were previously, or do a whole lot of nothing.  if you want to read a more eloquent and educated view on this same dilemma, read this book.

next up, we have The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper, a native liberian who has spent the majority of her life in the us.  i was first turned on to this book when i moved into the new nest and didn't have tv so i watched a few podcasts from itunes u (a great source of FREE and informative podcasts on tonnes of topics, if you ever find yourself in a similar position as i did) and saw her interviewed about her memoir of life in liberia just before the civil war.  it is a relatively easy read and sheds a lot of light on the situation between the colonists and the native liberians and how that affected the break out of violence.  for anyone that thinks that all conflicts in africa are simply between two ethnic groups should read this book.  and if you have any interest in the colonies of freed north american slaves in the 1800s, this is also an interesting read.

and last, but certainly not least, is Ignorance by Milan Kundera.  it was lent to me by a friend from work and it is a short novel about two emigrants who return to the czech republic after the fall of communism.  i loved the way the author juxtaposed their experience to that of odysseus of The Odyssey fame (which i never thought i would be grateful for having had to read in grade 10 advanced placement english...).  as someone who has left and returned to a country (although not nearly under the circumstances that the main characters do or for nearly as long), the theme of the novel struck a chord with me and perhaps even more so as i have now been to the czech republic and experience prague in capitalist times.  the book really felt like a piece of literature that i need to revisit and rethink one day.  when i turned the final page, though, i felt an incredible sadness for the characters in the story, but i think that that is what a good piece of writing can do to you.

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