First batch of mini book reviews for the new year! The following are books that I read recently or from last year that I never got around to writing full book reviews for. Included in this batch are:
By: Allison Marie Conway
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
A seductive mix of poetry and prose, Luminae is about soul-searching, longing, finding your truth, and feeling comfortable with an inner being who is both tender and strong.
Luminae will resonate with intuitive souls, those who yearn to explore the wild depths of their true nature, and who believe they must hold sacred both the darkness and the light, without turning their backs on love. It speaks to those who embrace the totality of the human experience—even the difficult, ugly, and messy parts.
Our chaotic world is starved for wholehearted, compassionate words like these. Now, more than ever, is the time to quiet the outside noise and come home to the splendor, power, and magic of yourself.
Now is the time to experience Luminae.
I actually read this collection late last year after having followed her poetry IG for some time. The book blurb is pretty apt in that her works are a bit about soul searching, of what is and what can be. On a personal note, and I don’t think I mentioned it previously, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer just straight up short–not necessarily micro–format poetry over poetic prose (I don’t know the actual term for them but they’re like mini essays). Nonetheless I like her poetry, some of them resonated with me and I enjoyed reading her collection.
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
By: Nicholas Ostler
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word is the first history of the world’s great tongues, gloriously celebrating the wonder of words that binds communities together and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it. From the uncanny resilience of Chinese through twenty centuries of invasions to the engaging self-regard of Greek and to the struggles that gave birth to the languages of modern Europe, these epic achievements and more are brilliantly explored, as are the fascinating failures of once “universal” languages. A splendid, authoritative, and remarkable work, it demonstrates how the language history of the world eloquently reveals the real character of our planet’s diverse peoples and prepares us for a linguistic future full of surprises.
I think I first came across this book…on The Economist as a book review. This was years ago. I was intrigued by the book because while language isn’t my strong suit per se, language’s importance in history and culture and just the overall development and progression over the centuries greatly interested me (perhaps the former moreso as that was the focus of my grad work, and something I realised was very important when studying national identity politics and culture). Fast forward to last year and I finally got my hands on the book 😀
Leonardo and the Last Supper
By: Ross King
Format/Source: Hardback; my copy
Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history’s most influential and beloved works of art-The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at forty-three, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant bronze horse to honor Sforza’s father: His 75 tons of bronze had been expropriated to be turned into cannons to help repel a French invasion of Italy. The commission to paint The Last Supper in the refectory of a Dominican convent was a small compensation, and his odds of completing it were not promising: Not only had he never worked on a painting of such a large size-15′ high x 30′ wide-but he had no experience in the extremely difficult medium of fresco.
In his compelling new book, Ross King explores how-amid war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations-Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting. Examining who served as the models for the Apostles, he makes a unique claim: that Leonardo modeled two of them on himself. Reviewing Leonardo’s religious beliefs, King paints a much more complex picture than the received wisdom that he was a heretic. The food that Leonardo, a vegetarian, placed on the table reveals as much as do the numerous hand gestures of those at Christ’s banquet. As King explains, many of the myths that have grown up around The Last Supper are wrong, but its true story is ever more interesting. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, Ross King presents an original portrait of one of the world’s greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.
I read Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome a few years ago (review) and greatly enjoyed it; it was an informative book that left me with a new appreciation of the dome in Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore. I had been meaning to read more of his books so here we are 🙂
Oops, it’s already mid-year and I realised I never posted the following up. I actually read the following books late last year but never got around to finishing up typing out my reviews until…well, a few weeks ago :3 Luckily I did keep notes around the time that I read the following books so I have some recollection of my thoughts and reactions to reading them 😛 But as you may notice, this is a non-fiction edition of a mini reviews post. Included in this batch are:
The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics
By: John B. Judis
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
What’s happening in global politics? As if overnight, many Democrats revolted and passionately backed a socialist named Bernie Sanders; the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union; the vituperative billionaire Donald Trump became the presidential nominee of the Republican party; and a slew of rebellious parties continued to win elections in Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Austria, and Greece.
John B. Judis, one of America’s most respected political analysts, tells us why we need to learn about the populist movement that began in the United States in the 1890s, the politics of which have recurred on both sides of the Atlantic ever since. Populism, on both the right and the left, champions the people against an establishment, based on issues–globalization, free trade, immigration–on which there has been a strong elite consensus, but also a strong mass discontent that is now breaking out into the open.
The Populist Explosion is essential reading for our times as we grapple to understand the political forces at work here and in Europe.
I picked up this book exactly because of what was going on late last year and how the word “populism” was being thrown around, both in Europe and North America. It’s pretty informative if you’ve never heard of the term and the history behind the political concept and how it’s evolved over time. It was also informative from an economical-political viewpoint in understanding what’s going on with the rise of these nationalist groups. It was a good refresher, but I was expecting more in-depth analysis on the subject and its ramnifications. Despite the blurb mentioning the European Union, I thought it could’ve been more comprehensive with the European side as the book was discussing the United States more. It also doesn’t touch too much on these groups’ social context and their impact post-elections especially in the case of Trump (though it does touch on immigration in relation to jobs/the economy) but I suppose you’d need to loo elsewhere for a more detailed discussion. Nonetheless the book was a good starting point on the subject matter.
Tiny Beautiful Things
By: Cheryl Strayed
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel.
Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
I had long heard of this book and good things about it but I never got around to picking it up (even at times when it seemed like this book would really come in handy). Well, I finally got around to picking it up this year and then figured this was the perfect book to read when I went on holiday weeks ago (see Instagram post)