Let's do lightning reviews

I thought it might be fun to break the trend and treat this post like a collection of bento compartments. First things first, let's talk about...

Books. Specifically books that have come in my library in the past two weeks. Lightning reviews!

Hokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
by Christine Guth
University of Hawai'i Press, 2015 

As a lover of ukiyoe prints, this is the kind of book I buy in a tizzy and I want to love. Unfortunately the author engages in boring, theory-based meandering for the first twenty pages, and never quite gets comfortable with telling the story of Hokusai's wave. (Is anyone going to argue that this isn't an icon?) The writing is stiff and insecure, but if you skip around, you can learn about the history of the print itself and a few interesting reincarnations in modern art. Pass. 

Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History
by Q Edward Wang
Cambridge University Press, 2015

First off, hats off to Q. Edward Wang for researching and writing on such a tricky topic. At a glance, something widespread like chopsticks seems simple, but it's certainly not. Wang's read countless texts, poured over archaeological records, and distilled his history into a book less than two hundred pages. A lovely resource for scholars, although hard reading for those outside Chinese history. Experts only. 

 

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
by Malcolm Gladwell
Back Bay Books, 2013 

I had the opportunity to hear Gladwell speak on at the LA Times Festival of Books, and we received a signed copy after the talk. I tore through this book in two days. Gladwell's writing snap, crackles, and pops along. He interviews basketball coaches, Hollywood producers, and dyslexics, and he turns the idea of a disadvantage on its head. Gladwell's interviews shine, but I question his reliance on old research, with some studies seeming out-of-date. Think Freakonomics but without numbers. A nice airplane read or gift to the light nonfiction reader.

Nimona
by Noelle Stevenson
Harper Collins, 2015

When shapeshifter Nimona shows up at villain  Blackheart's fortress and offers to help him take down his nemesis, Sir Goldenloin, Blackheart accepts. But between bank robberies, rescuing poisoned citizens, and warriors riding triceratops dodging laser beams... Heroism and villainy blur, and the story becomes irrelevant enough to be sincere. Extraordinary. Stevenson calls it "Monkpunk." I call it Fun. Buy the hardcover. 

 

Did you read anything interesting this week?