Showing posts with label elizabeth kolbert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elizabeth kolbert. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

IT'S FAVORITES TIME!!!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. Day Four by Sarah Lotz
If you haven't read Lotz's The Three yet, do that first, and then do yourself a favor and read this book.  The Three was on my 2014 favorites list, and the sequel did not disappoint!

2. The Shore by Sara Taylor
Potentially the most unique novel I read this year.  I can't wait to see what else Taylor has in store.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
One of the only 5-star reviews I gave all year.  This story is heart-wrenching and beautifully told.

4. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is still one of my favorite nonfiction writers.  He handles this delicate subject with the same objectivity and fastidiousness that is the trademark of his other works.

5. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A truly awesome reading experience from cover to cover, made even more enjoyable because I did not originally expect so much from it!  I love it when a novel makes me bend my typical genre preferences.

6. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
This novel made me feel all the feelings.  Not the most uplifting choice on my list, but certainly one that continues to stay with me.

7. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Few nonfiction writers can bring their subjects to life the way Larson can.  These real-life events read with the suspense of a fiction novel, while still capturing all of the historical detail needed to make this an enlightening read.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
You had me at "post-apocalyptic literary fiction."

9. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
This is one of those books for which I did not write an especially amazing review, but due to the fact that I continue to mull it over and over, and hit my friends with random factoids from it all the time, it has still earned a spot on the favorites list for this year.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Ughhhh, I feel so bandwagon-y and lemming-like putting this on here.  I mean, it's on every list EVER, right?  But I can't deny it was one of the top 10 books I read this year.  Fact.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2015?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Spoiler: We're All Gonna Die. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert


Title: The Sixth Extinction
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.

In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, The New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.


My Review:

As I mentioned last week, I jumped into this book so that I could participate in Katie's Nonfiction Book Club September readalong, over at Doing Dewey.  I'd heard about this book around its release last year, and was itching to read it--the subject sounded fascinating, and I loved Kolbert's previous book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.

When I first dove in, I was not at all disappointed.  In each chapter, Kolbert highlights a different species that has either gone extinct, or is currently being driven in that direction.  In doing so, she brings us through the history of extinction (not just extinctions themselves, but how modern humans figured out that species do go extinct...I had never considered that that was something that needed discovering!), and also introduces the myriad ways that humans, as a species, are likely pushing the world towards yet another mass extinction.  (Not, like, tomorrow.  No need to hunker down in the fallout shelters just yet.  But yes...extinction!)

While the overall intention and message of this book certainly held my attention, the organization and writing style did leave a bit to be desired.  The different-species-for-each-chapter format could have been a home run, but the order in which Kolbert put them did not always seem to make sense, especially in the middle part of the book.  This disrupted the flow of information significantly, and sometimes took away from her core points.  It also didn't help that those middle chapters tended to be rather dry--so on top of disorganized information, it wasn't always the most stimulating.

HOWEVER.  I am glad that I didn't give this one up, because the last few chapters were excellent, and by the end I felt that Kolbert had brought everything together for me.  I learned so much cool stuff (did you know BATS are going extinct?  And frogs?  TONS OF THEM!  More every day!  I had no idea.  Also, sadly, the science behind Jurassic Park is totally not feasible...WHOMP WHOMP).  One question that I kept asking myself throughout the book was, are human-caused species extinctions inherently bad?  For example, let's say that humans killed off a species of bird back in the 1800's primarily because it was a source of food for them--is that something we should be vilified for?  Especially if it was at a time when we did not have the scientific means that we do now to track and monitor a species?  I'm not saying it's okay to kill off animals--poaching/trophy hunting, no good.  And with the information we have now, there is no excuse for it when we have the means to assist endangered animals.  But I just thought it raised an interesting question...because humans are animals too.  We gotta eat, right?

After spending much of the book mulling this over, Kolbert does finally address it a bit in the last chapter, noting that humans are likely causing the "sixth extinction" simply by existing as we do.  By reading and writing and having complex thoughts, we are outgrowing the natural limits of this world, often in damaging ways.  We don't always mean to.  But we're doing it anyway.  The question is, can we reverse any of the damage we've done?  And if not...will we be able to survive it?

While this book definitely requires an interest in the sciences (biology/ecology/geology especially), and some patience with the chapter formatting, I think it is an excellent read to get your wheels turning and take a closer look at the everyday impact that we, as humans, have on the world around us.

Join Katie & crew for the next Nonfiction Book Club readalong in October: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Where dey at, doe?

(In case you are unaware, this post title comes from the title of a T.I. song, which I love because of this amazing video that went viral several months back...really, it is worth watching over and over again.)
But seriously...where The Well-Read Redhead at, doe?

Apologies for the blog silence.  What a crazy month!  Small Fry started up preschool again, as well as soccer classes, so the transition there has kept us quite busy.  Tater Tot and I have started attending a music class for toddlers during Small Fry's school hours, which is fun.  My husband and I celebrated our 8 year anniversary last week, and actually got to go on a REAL DATE for the first time in a year!
Plus, we recently joined our local YMCA, which means we've been trying to figure out a new workout routine.  My husband is back in the weight room after a lengthy, PhD-writing-induced hiatus, and I'm having a boatload of fun trying out the classes.  Yoga and spin are my current faves.  Yoga makes me feel amazing post-long run!  And spin is a great cross-training workout when I don't want the high impact of running.  (Plus, the hill work is going to come in handy for sure.)

All of this schedule juggling has left little time for reading, and even less time for blogging.  I'm currently reading 2 books, but both are rather slow going.  The first is The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (reading it as part of Katie's Nonfiction Book Club for this month).  I was DYING to read this beforehand, but it is proving to be a slower journey than I originally hoped.  The material is interesting, but the organization of the chapters makes much of the information feel disjointed.  I'm hoping the last third of the book brings all of her concepts together a bit more clearly.

The other is Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, my book club's current pick.  Our meeting is Sunday and I'm getting worried that I won't finish in time!  I think the concept of the novel is intriguing, but the pace and writing style are getting to me.  Hoping for an explosive ending to save the day.  Review forthcoming!

Here's hoping for more reading time in the coming weeks, especially because I have a few blog tour books to complete in October!  In the meantime, hopefully things will settle down here, and these two books will get a bit more enjoyable for me.

How is your reading life these days, friends?  Any other parents still adjusting to school schedules?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BBAW Day 4: Pimp This Book!

Today's Book Blogger Appreciation Week challenge is to promote a book that you love, but other people don't know much about.  This was tough for me, because so many of my favorite books are well-known ("Oh wow, you love The Hunger Games?  HOW UNIQUE.").  However, I do have one fiction and one non-fiction book to highlight for you today!

My fiction pick: The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

I got this book on sale from B+N a couple of years ago, and got around to reading it last year.  If you like dystopian fiction, this is a phenomenal read.  The only reason I don't think it gets more attention (at least in the US) is because the author is Swedish and the book is a translation.  (Apparently there's only room for 1 bestselling Swedish author in this country.)  Anywho, whatever the reason, I think this book deserves way more popularity!

The novel follows Dorrit Weger in a fictional future Sweden, in which all childless women over age 50 and all childless men over age 60 are considered "dispensable".  Thus, they are sent to isolated units where their organs are essentially harvested to the more "essential" citizens that need them.  They are harvested until they die.  This has been a fact of life in Sweden for a while, but Dorrit starts to question if this is really the way her life needs to end.

This book captivated me from start to finish.  I was especially intrigued by how the author makes you contemplate the meaning of being "needed"...as in, are you really only "needed" in society if you have children? What about your siblings, parents, pets...can they "need" you in the same way?

Overall, I found this novel to be very unique, and I was surprised by the ending. The writing style makes it a quick read, but one that is guaranteed to stay with you for a while. I'll admit that my predominant emotion while reading was sadness...but that wasn't enough to keep me from wanting to find out what happened anyway.  READ IT!

My non-fiction pick: Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert
I read this book a few years ago, and I still find it fascinating.  Kolbert did extensive research about global warming and climate change by traveling to various locations around the world (Greenland, the Netherlands, Alaska, etc) and explaining the specific ways that temperature shifts are affecting their environments.  These are real-life illustrations of how global warming is changing our daily life.  Kolbert also spends a bit of time talking about why many corporations and politicians are trying to downplay the effects of climate change.

I don't want to get all political on you, dear bloggers, but this is a politically charged book, no matter what side of the aisle you're on.  However, I recommend going into it with an open mind, because I think this book has important, down-to-earth information about an issue that is so often spoken of in generalities or impossible-to-understand data.  Read, learn, and reflect.  If any of you have read this, I am very interested in your thoughts!

What lesser-known books have YOU enjoyed lately?
 
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