Books Of Interest: May 7th, 2014

This is a very diverse number of books that I thought our readers might have an interest:

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The Word Exchange     Alena Graedon

This is the author’s debut novel and is a thought-provoking look into the future dealing with the web’s invasion of our lives. Devices called “Memes’ are invasive in the character’s decision-making and this is interwoven in the heroine’s, Anana Johnson’s life and what she is dealing with in the plot of the book. I am particularly interested in this because of the futuristic aspects of the book and how it will shape society and our culture. I normally don’t delve into fiction but this looks interesting because of the combination of science fiction as well as how the use of words play into the plot.

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The Hard Way On Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From The Rustbelt     David Giffels

I never thought in a million years that I would be interested in a book on Akron, Ohio, but I must say that David Giffels intrigued me. He gets down to the nitty-gritty in describing the history, its culture and most of all, and this is the part that I like most of all, how it affected and continues to affect him personally.

Giffels shows us the plight of the blue-collar worker and how the closing of plants such as Firestone, Goodrich and General Tire afftected the city via the loss of 40,000 residents. Through these essays, Giffels shows Akron as it really is and how it is handling its struggles in order to rebound and regain its luster.

He shows us what it means to really be a part of community and that it is difficult to understand what people are really going through unless you live it every day.

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Congo: The Epic History Of A People     David Van Reybrouck

The author does a tremendous job in bringing the Congo and its people to life in an very well-researched book. One of the most fascinating discoveries is that the Congo is over 905,000 square miles and how much wealth in resources in the way of rubber, copper, iron, diamonds, and uranium. There is no wonder that countries such as Belguim, Germany and China have come to plunder these resources.

Van Reybrouck delves into the history and we discover that over four million Congolese were shipped to America as slaves. He spends a good amount of time on King Leopold II of Belguim and how he raped and pillaged the country in order to build up Belguim.

The author also found elderly Congolese who shared their stories of the most recent history of their country and its struggles. If you have any interest in the Congo, its history, how it affects the rest of Africa and how it plans to move forward, this would be an excellent book to start with.

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John Quincy Adams: American Visionary     Fred Kaplan

I am always interested in former presidents and I am embarrassed to say that I did not realize that John Quincy Adams served in the House of Representatives for seventeen years after he had served as our country’s sixth president. The author, Fred Kaplan, who has also written biographies on Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln has does an extensive job here in portraying Adams as a man that was ahead of his time. Kaplan shows him as a man whose ideas would be accepted later into the national scheme of things. Kaplan writes this and this is taken from the New York Times Review of Books: “Adams days of strife and sorrow had been many. But the strife had been on behalf of deeply held ideals about his own and his nation’s moral life, about justice and the American future.”

It is interesting to note how Kaplan portrays Andrew Jackson, who was one of Adam’s nemesis, as much different as other biographers of Jackson have done and this may make this book not the standout that it should be because of his one-sidedness towards Adams.

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Decoded     Mai Jai

The real name of the author is Jiang Benhu and I must say that I had never heard of him even though he has published several novels involving intelligence. I have been fascinated by foreign authors in the fiction arena such as Roberto Bolano, Haruki Murakami and Sweig Larsson. Mai Jai writes about cryptography, in which I am extremely interested, but what fascinates me is how being from a communist country, he is able to write and I wonder how much of this is realistic or not.

This work is more of a psychological study of the main character, Rong Jinzhen, and how is work at Unit 701, a government campus which focuses on cryptography, affects his life from the standpoint of being watched at all times and being recorded. To me, this work gives me a better understanding of what China is truly about as compared to reading some non-fiction work by a foreigner who is looking from the outside.

 

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