Tag: Books: Nonfiction


Review: History’s People: Personalities and the Past

Posted 10 August, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

History’s People: Personalities and the Past (CBC Massey Lectures)
By: Margaret MacMillan
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

In History’s People internationally acclaimed historian Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of figures of the past, women and men, some famous and some little-known, who stand out for her. Some have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. Others are memorable for being risk-takers, adventurers, or observers. She looks at the concept of leadership through Bismarck and the unification of Germany; William Lyon MacKenzie King and the preservation of the Canadian Federation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the bringing of a unified United States into the Second World War. She also notes how leaders can make huge and often destructive mistakes, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. Richard Nixon and Samuel de Champlain are examples of daring risk-takers who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are the dreamers, explorers, and adventurers, individuals like Fanny Parkes and Elizabeth Simcoe who manage to defy or ignore the constraints of their own societies. Finally, there are the observers, such as Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and Victor Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life.

History’s People is about the important and complex relationship between biography and history, individuals and their times.

I’m a fan of the CBC Massey Lectures series, I think it’s a great series showcasing great thinkers, academics, and public figures discussing an array of topics that are interesting from an academic standpoint but also ties in well to our everyday lives and/or the world we live in. I’ve read and reviewed a few in the past (see shiny new tag; I’ve read 5 to date, but only reviewed 2 over here) but I was really excited when I heard last year that Margaret MacMillan was going to be the featured lecturer for the latest installment. You may have heard of Margaret MacMillan for her books like Paris 1919 and Nixon and Mao: The Week that Changed the World. She’s a prominent historian too and was a lecturer when I was at UofT; alas I never got close to signing up for her class, it were pretty popular and hard to get into. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed reading Paris 1919 years ago and was looking forward to reading her take on prominent historical figures and their impact on history.

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Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 23 December, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Okay, here we are, last batch of mini book reviews for the year 🙂 Included in this batch of reviews are:



So without further ado…

The Complete Father Brown Stories
By: G.K. Chesterton
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

Father Brown, one of the most quirkily genial and lovable characters to emerge from English detective fiction, first made his appearance in The Innocence of Father Brown in 1911. That first collection of stories established G.K. Chesterton’s kindly cleric in the front rank of eccentric sleuths.

This complete collection contains all the favourite Father Brown stories, showing a quiet wit and compassion that has endeared him to many, whilst solving his mysteries by a mixture of imagination and a sympathetic worldliness in a totally believable manner.

Whoo, I finally got around to reading–and finishing–this book! I had long been intrigued by the Father Brown stories after seeing its recent adaptations here and there (haven’t watched them myself but my family has) and it has sat for an equally long time on my TBR pile. I started reading it over the summer and slowly made my way through it for a good part of the year. I admit, I found it a little harder to go through his stories compared to other short stories or novellas of such length; I don’t know if it was partly because the font in my edition was ridiculously tiny, but I find you really have to concentrate quite a bit with his stories, they’re not something you can pick up and read on a whim like contemporary mysteries. G.K. Chesterton crams quite a bit of background and detail into his stories, which I appreciate.

Which brings me to Father Brown himself. He’s quite the character, never quite in the forefront, his appearance rather average (short, homely-looking). But his remarks and observations were interesting and sometimes amusing, and I love the way he just shows up and solves things. His approach, his mix of Catholic teaching and insight on human behaviour, was wonderful, he really is quite a different “detective” from the likes of Sherlock Holmes.

I’m glad I finally read The Complete Father Brown Stories. Perhaps not the best choice if I wanted to unwind, but they’re an interesting set of stories with a lot of quirky mysteries and plenty of characters. Despite this collection containing all of the stories featuring the titular character, my favourite stories are still the first two, “The Blue Cross” and “The Secret Garden.” I also really liked “The Hammer of God”, “The Eye of Apollo,” and “The Oracle of the Dog.” Readers of classic mysteries who haven’t checked out Father Brown’s stories should!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 25 November, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Here we go, another set of mini-reviews that couldn’t possibly fit in review posts of their own xD Once again this batch of mini-reviews features mainly classics (especially from the Little Black Classics series–after oggling over them for a good chunk of the year, I finally got my hands on some of them! 🙂 ). Included in this batch of reviews are:

So without further ado…

How We Weep and Laught at the Same Thing
By: Michel de Montaigne
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

‘No one characteristic clasps us purely and universally in its embrace.’

A selection of charming essays from a master of the genre exploring the contradictions inherent to human thought, words and actions.

I first encountered Michel de Montaigne in my first year of undergrad. We had to read a selection of essays for World Literature class and absolutely fell in love with his stuff; he wrote about things that I often thought about, and I could totally emphasise where he was coming from with certain topics. I wish I had picked up his complete works when I was in undergrad instead of the required selected text, but whatever, every now and then I’d pick up a slim volume from Penguin Classics featuring a few of his essays. This is one of them, in which he contemplates on the nature of human thought, how we define ourselves, life, death, etc. I don’t know what else I could really say about it except that it’s worth checking out; a lot of his observations are still applicable today and to the human condition.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Posted 11 November, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
By: Chris Hadfield
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Chris Hadfield decided to become an astronaut after watching the Apollo moon landing with his family on Stag Island, Ontario, when he was nine years old, and it was impossible for Canadians to be astronauts. In 2013, he served as Commander of the International Space Station orbiting the Earth during a five-month mission. Fulfilling this lifelong dream required intense focus, natural ability and a singular commitment to “thinking like an astronaut.” In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Chris gives us a rare insider’s perspective on just what that kind of thinking involves, and how earthbound humans can use it to achieve success and happiness in their lives.

Astronaut training turns popular wisdom about how to be successful on its head. Instead of visualizing victory, astronauts prepare for the worst; always sweat the small stuff; and do care what others think. Chris shows how this unique education comes into play with dramatic anecdotes about going blind during a spacewalk, getting rid of a live snake while piloting a plane, and docking with space station Mir when laser tracking systems fail at the critical moment. Along the way, he shares exhilarating experiences, and challenges, from his 144 days on the ISS, and provides an unforgettable answer to his most-asked question: What’s it really like in outer space?

Written with humour, humility and a profound optimism for the future of space exploration, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth offers readers not just the inspiring story of one man’s journey to the ISS, but the opportunity to step into his space-boots and think like an astronaut—and renew their commitment to pursuing their own dreams, big or small.

Okay, I was pretty late to getting around to reading this book 😛 Chris Hadfield really hit popularity in the last few years with his work in NASA and the International Space Station and really bringing life in space and all of their work to everyone. I was curious to read about his experiences as an astronaut, reviving my childhood interest in astronomy and becoming an astronaut and exploring the mysteries of space 🙂

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Review: The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion

Posted 22 October, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion
By: Soren Kierkegaard
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase

In his seminal 1846 tract The Present Age, Søren Kierkegaard (“the father of existentialism”—New York Times) analyzes the philosophical implications of a society dominated by mass media—a society eerily similar to our own. A stunningly prescient essay on the rising influence of advertising, marketing, and publicity, The Present Age is essential reading for anyone who wishes to better understand the modern world.

I don’t normally post reviews/discussion entries on philosopical and religious texts I read just because I have so many thoughts about them that a post just doesn’t seem adequate enough to express my own reactions to the text. But suffice to say I do read them on occasion. So fun fact: my favourite philosopher is Soren Kierkegaard. I was introduced to his ideas in Grade 12 philosophy when I did a paper and presentation on his leap of faith theory. While I’m not so big on how existentialism sort of branched off since his thoughts, he remains a favourite, and it pains me whenever I hear that he’s actually not terribly popular in his hometown Copenhagen. But anyway. I felt compelled to write a post about this book after having read most of it while at the dentist’s a few months ago 😛

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