March 24, 2011

Sitzbook: 4 Flash Reviews!

I've been reading a lot lately, but not writing much. I've decided I should put up some more book reviews. But, in my original review of The Art of Non-Conformity, I decided to be gimmicky and I called it a 300-word review, and it was indeed 300 words. That led to some confusion, so I had to write another, much-longer review.

So, in the interest of creating even more misunderstanding, I've decided to write four short "flash reviews" for a few of the books I've finished recently for my book-a-week Sitzbook project. Each review is literally 100 words long, so they're easier to digest and misinterpret. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, or if you have read any of these books, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

1. The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love is a book that my sister recommended to me after she read Everything is Illuminated. I can definitely see where she saw the connection. Both deal with descendants and acquaintances of Eastern European World War II survivors, and both have “dueling” narrators and narrative styles. Both are excellent. In The History of Love, the cornerstone of the story is a book of the same name, and the reader alternates between an author and a girl whose mother is translating a book. I can’t give away too much, but I can say that this book was excellent.


2. The Story of English: How the English Language Conquered the World, by Philip Gooden
From the outside, The Story of English looks like coffee-table fluff history, but despite the pictures, it does contain quite a bit of information about the English language. So it is legitimate. The main problem I have with this book is that Bill Bryson already undertook a similar task with his book The Mother Tongue, and his work was quite a bit more engaging, interesting, and humorous. In fact, there are many parallels in the books’ content, and this book even references Bryson’s on a few occasions. I can now understand better why I found it on the discount shelf.


3. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
If you happen to have been following my Twitter feed, you may have noticed that I was having trouble hacking my way through Crime and Punishment. It was well-written (it’s a classic, after all), but around 200 or 300 pages over-written. As I recently mentioned, I seriously calculated the book’s content, and it’s 97.1% Crime and 2.9% Punishment, and the Punishment part doesn’t happen until the Epilogue. Those numbers make me think of skim milk, for some reason. I’ve officially decided that although I respect Dostoevsky, I much prefer Tolstoy. Call me a Russian Lit lightweight, but I don’t care.


4. Pigeon Poo, the Universe & Car Paint, by Karl Kruszelnicki
Finally, Pigeon Poo, the Universe & Car Paint, which I borrowed from Lucy, is actually a bona-fide science book, but it’s definitely accessible for non-scientists (like this guy). Over its 175 pages it covers 17 topics as diverse as why silk is stronger than steel, how Elvis died (hint: eating loaves of deep-fried bread probably didn’t help), and why traffic jams can happen seemingly in the middle of nowhere and without apparent cause. I blazed through this book in a few sittings, and it was probably just what the reading doctor ordered after something as long as Crime and Punishment.


365: Picture a Day Project    365 Leftovers    All My Pictures    Sitzbook

4 comments:

AnnaLisa said...

You've convinced me to put "History of Love" and "Pigeon Poo..." on my to-read list. Thanks!

When I saw "The Story of English," I thought I'd read it already and was surprised at your blahh take. But it turns out yours is a different book by the same name. Look for the one by McCrum, Cran, and MacNeil instead. (Though I'm sure they all share a lot of factual similarity, I agree with you--presentation matters!)

Sitzman said...

Hey AnnaLisa!

Thanks for the comment! I'm sure you can get your hands on "The History of Love," although "Pigeon Poo" may be harder to come by. I think it's Australian, and it's part of a series, actually. If you can get it, it's nice "casual" reading. I'd also highly recommend "Everything Is Illuminated" if you've not read it. It was great!

As for "The Story of English," I think I read a review on Slate of three or four "history of English"-type books that came out a year or two ago, and I'm sure that they've all got their pluses and minuses. This one was OK, but I did keep thinking, "Didn't I already go over this with dear ol' Bill Bryson?" At least it was only 5 bucks or so. Haha!

Thanks again, and have a good one,
Ryan

Lucy said...

well, you sold me on the HISTORY of LOVE. I saw the movie of eVErYTHING IS ILLUMINATED (with Frodo!) and loved it, but can imagine i would like the book even better, or even a book like it.....do you happen to have it in a lend-able state-format? if so....???? =D

Sitzman said...

Hey Lucy!

Yep, I'd be happy to loan it to you. I wish I'd read this post earlier, and I could have given it to you today... In any case, it's a nice, convenient paperback. I also have Everything is Illuminated (the book), but it's in Colorado, I believe. I do have the DVD of it here, if you're interested in seeing it again. I can try to bring the book next time I visit my family.