[ARC] Slipping by Lauren Beukes

Standard

Leggi questo articolo in italiano


Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls, Moxyland and Zoo City, here collects stories and essays published elsewhere during years.

The collection is heterogeneous: some of the tales emerges with respect to others and leave a vivid memory. One of these is the one that gives the title to the book, and it is quite strong: in the future corporations sponsor athletes and their body enhancements; the girl protagonist of the story do not have any more her guts, other athletes have some limb replaced by something similar to a paw and so on.

In some tales we face women protagonists forced to adapt to exploitation or market rules, more or less willingly, and women able to fight for their independence (like Thozama in Smileys who fights against the soldier who wants to protects her and asks for her money).

Some setting are extreme (like the dramatic science-fiction The Green), to get to the absurd and to the meta-fiction (Unathi Battles the Black Hariballs, a story with mechas that I did not particularly like).

The essays are the last part of the book and deals about violence against women (All the Pretty Corpses, where the author explains what brought her to write The Shining Girls), about live in the African cities suburbs (Inner City, linked to the researches to write Zoo City), and the last one, On Beauty, is a beautiful letter to the author’s daughter about beauty to teach her that it is not only about – extreme – physical standards, but it’s something more: to be gentle, to be smart, to be intelligent.

Overall it’s a good collection, not all the story have the same quality, but the best of them will be remembered.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Slipping by Lauren Beukes ★★★☆☆½

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Phone Booth by Ariana Kelly

Standard

Leggi questo articolo in Italiano

The publisher Bloomsbury Academic created the series Object Lessons, short essays about the object around us, focused on their history and their impact on our lives.

Among them, Phone Booth focuses on phone booths, on one hand on their history and evolution, deeply linked with the technological evolution of communication systems, on the other on the emotions the significance and emotions we associate them to.

Phone booths are about protection, isolation, places for confessions, as the author points out by providing also references to movies and novels.

Before reading this essay I did not think it could be possible to talk so much about such a simple object (and a nearly forgotten one), but this small, refined essay made me change my mind.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

_______

* Phone Booth by Ariana Kelly ★★★☆☆½

*I read this book in English

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Standard

Leggi questo articolo in Italiano

We think we are rational being in control of our decisions, but in truth we are not.

This is the thesis of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, a very interesting book where Dan Ariely helps in understanding how our minds work, also thanks to examples and real experiments made also during his teaching course.

It emerges how our choices are function of indirect information we receive: a cheaper medicine is less effective than an expensive one (even if they are the same, and even if none of them is a medicine at all), the choice among similar objects is function of our ability to compare two alike products (like two apples) than different ones (like an apple and a pear).

Our brains are influenced also by words: recalling the ten commandments make a person more honest than another, reading anger-like words lessens out tolerance level (and finally I have a reference for my book-pathy: I sometimes aware of how my feelings and thoughts are function of the book I’m reading) and so on.

Each chapter is for an irrational trait of the human behaviour, that however is not random, but absolutely predictable: and is also thanks to this knowledge that the marketing activities make us prefer a product respect to another one.

I think Predictably Irrational is a very interesting and nice read, also thanks to the examples that proof the proposed thesis. I suggest to read it also to become consumers more aware about the mechanics of our daily choices.

P.S. To have a hint of the topic here you can find  an interesting talk of the author in a TED conference.

_______

* Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely ★★★★★

*I read this book in English

Bugiardi nati by Ian Leslie

Standard

Bugiardi nati” è un interessante saggio che ci racconta il nostro rapporto con la menzogna: le bugie – che hanno sempre quell’aura negativa – forse sono quel qualcosa in più che ha portato gli esseri umani a distinguersi dagli altri animali (capaci anch’essi di mentire in determinati frangenti).

La bugia è un mezzo necessario per interagire in società sempre più complesse, e in effetti, come fa notare l’autore, anche con la migliore delle predisposizioni non riusciremo mai a essere completamente sinceri nelle nostre interazioni (“Come stai?” “Bene”).

Ogni capitolo è dedicato ad un aspetto diverso della menzogna: si parla della bugia nei bambini (quando si “struttura”) e di come l’educazione possa influire sulla quantità e la convinzione delle bugie pronunciate, di casi particolari, patologie che costringono a dire sempre la verità o a mentire in modo compulsivo e in generale del grande potere di autoconvincimento e adattamento del nostro cervello.

E’ un testo scorrevole corredato da vari esempi e con riferimenti a casi reali che ho trovato molto interessante (a meno di un paio di capitoli meno coinvolgenti dal mio punto di vista); è un approfondimento utile per capire anche come funzioniamo e ragioniamo (anche se non ce ne rendiamo necessariamente conto).

_______

Born Liars” is an interesting essay about our relation with the need to lie: lies – that always have a negative connotation – maybe are the thing that distinguish humanity from the other animals (that, however, sometimes lie, too).

Lies are the tool to interact in complex societies, and, as the author points out, we are unable to always tell the truth, despite our best disposition in doing so (How are you? Fine thanks!).

Each chapter has a focus on a different aspect of the lie: the book talks about the lies in children (when they actually learn to lie) and how education may have influence in the quantity and quality of the lies told, and talks also about particular situations, like people – with particular issues – who tell always the truth or other who lie in a compulsory way; in a more general view the book is about the great power of our brain to adapt and to self-belief.

It’s an easy to read text in which are provided examples and references to real cases that I found quite interesting (a part from a couple of less engaging chapters); it’s an interesting in-depth analysis useful also to understand better how we function and how we reason (even when we are not quite aware how to).

_______

Bugiardi nati by Ian Leslie ★★★★☆

The Omnivore’s dilemma by Michael Pollan

Standard

Leggi questo articolo in Italiano

In this essay Pollan describes three macro alimentary chains: the industrial one – bound to the fast food concept – the biological one and the one that most reminds the idea of hunt-harvest, the food to eat is the one supplied by oneself.

For each chain the author describes its rules and how it does work by taking as examples various realities he visited while writing the essay. Each section ends with the description of a meal based on the alimentary chain described. Here the author does not want to discredit food in general and promoting a vegan or vegetarian approach, but he helps increasing the awareness on the logic the modern alimentation works on; these logics are not necessarily linked to the cultivation methods, but mostly are connected to social, political and economic issues.

The essay is interesting, despite some parts that for me, not living in the USA, were not particularly engaging. The chains described have in fact a focus on the USA life and alimentary style and only marginally may be transposed to an European or Italian set. Nevertheless I’m convinced of the need of being updated on a theme that has great repercussion on our lives and our health.

_______

* Il dilemma dell’onnivoro by Michael Pollan ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in Italian

Supergods by Grant Morrison

Standard

Leggi questo articolo in Italiano

Supergods is a very detailed and complete essay about superheroes, mainly in comics – where they born – but also in other media (movie, tv series).

The book has pro and cons.

PRO. I found interesting the evolution of comic characters with respect to human history (the born of Superman before WWII, the need of human like superheroes like Spiderman and the X-Men).

PRO. The author follows the evolution of superheroes since the origins and till nowadays with lot of details, references to the original comic issues and the graphical image styles.

CONS. The description of original images loses strength if the reader does not now neither the image neither the artist’ style. I liked a lot the section about Watchmen – that I read – but other image descriptions bored me a lot since I did not know the artists. In the end my opinion is that the book need more images to support the description made by the author in order to help the reader in understanding the graphical evolution and main features.

CONS. Morrison speaks a lot about himself and his career by inserting his biography in numerous chapters. I think that reading the author story is not the purpose of the book (for the reader), moreover if the reader does not know the author works. Cutting some parts would have helped the whole book.

In the end it’s a very interesting book on this theme, but it needs some reasearch by the reader – mainly images.

_______

* Supergods by Grant Morrison ★★★

*I read this book in Italian