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books o41 - o51 :D

( o41. communication as... : perspectives on theory; gregory j. shepherd, jeffrey st. john & ted stripas, eds. )
I read this for a graduate Communication Studies seminar, and I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it more than my classmates. But such is life. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore communication studies past the undergraduate level. I think it gives a fair account of the many different angles that are pursued under the name 'communication studies.' Though a few of them kind of turn me off.

Here is the product description from Amazon: In Communication as...: Perspectives on Theory, editors Gregory J. Shepherd, Jeffrey St. John, and Ted Striphas bring together a collection of 27 essays that explores the wide range of theorizing about communication, cutting across all lines of traditional division in the field. The essays in this text are written by leading scholars in the field of communication theory, with each scholar employing a particular stance or perspective on what communication theory is and how it functions. In essays that are brief, argumentative, and forceful, the scholars propose their perspective as a primary or essential way of viewing communication with decided benefits over other views..

Genre : Non-fiction, academic, reference.
Length : 296 pages.
Rating : 3/5 = Worth the read.

( o42. critical reading and writing for postgraduates; mike wallace & alison wray. )
Here's another book I read for my seminar. Though I appreciated it, I found it a bit dry. Helpful, but dry. Go go SAGE publishing!

Here is the product description from Amazon : This guide to critical reading and self-critical writing is a must-have resource for postgraduate students and early-career academics. It is packed with tools for analyzing texts and structuring critical reviews, and incorporating exercises and examples drawn from the social sciences.

Genre : Non-fiction, education, academic.
Length : 240 pages.
Rating : 3/5 = Worth the read.

( o43. bright-sided: how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined america; barbara echrenreich. )
I have never read any of Barbara Echrenreich's other books, but I'm curious about doing so after reading this book and talking to other people. I do get the distinct impression I might like those other books more than this one. The basis behind the book (as the title implies) is that America is in a state where positivity rules, but happiness does not necessarily follow. Nor are the two essentially related. Positive thinking in and of itself may not be such a bad thing, but there are limits, and in this book published just a few months ago, Echrenreich sheds light on and expands upon them. While I may not like all that she has to say, I think she brings up an interesting point of view, and I find her opinion to be entirely valid, as much as anyone else's, anyway. What I really liked was her inclusion of self as well as her research of the history of positive thinking. Some complaints I've heard is that she didn't go far enough or hit the big issues we continue to deal with. While I tend to agree, I realize that she had to stop writing and get the book out at some point.

A review from Publishers Weekly (as quoted on Amazon) : Starred Review. Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) delivers a trenchant look into the burgeoning business of positive thinking. A bout with breast cancer puts the author face to face with this new breed of frenetic positive thinking promoted by everyone from scientists to gurus and activists. Chided for her anger and distress by doctors and fellow cancer patients and survivors, Ehrenreich explores the insistence upon optimism as a cultural and national trait, discovering its symbiotic relationship with American capitalism and how poverty, obesity, unemployment and relationship problems are being marketed as obstacles that can be overcome with the right (read: positive) mindset. Building on Max Weber's insights into the relationship between Calvinism and capitalism, Ehrenreich sees the dark roots of positive thinking emerging from 19th-century religious movements. Mary Baker Eddy, William James and Norman Vincent Peale paved the path for today's secular $9.6 billion self-improvement industry and positive psychology institutes. The author concludes by suggesting that the bungled invasion of Iraq and current economic mess may be intricately tied to this reckless national penchant for self-delusion and a lack of anxious vigilance, necessary to societal survival. (Oct.)

Genre : Non-fiction, health, sociology, culture.
Length : 256 pages.
Rating : 3/5 = Worth the read.

(o44. the year of the flood; margaret atwood. )
Though I was not altogether very fond of The Handmaid's Tale, I was excited to hear that Atwood was coming out with another book. And so she came out with The Year of the Flood in September, and I happened to like this book much more than the former. I don't know if it's her choice of language, the way she paints the world and her characters, but something draws me in. It's set in the near future and leaves you with so many questions as you see through the eyes of two characters. Perhaps, after reading The Handmaid's Tale, I've gotten used to this unusual form of storytelling, so I was ready to follow along. It was hard to put down. And only after I'd read it did I hear about the direct connection to Oryx and Crake, which she published in 2003. Though I think you are expected to have read Oryx and Crake beforehand, I'm not unhappy about reading it afterward. I think I like this way better.

A review from Amazon : The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners--a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life--has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers...

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away...

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

Genre : Fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction.
Length : pages.
Rating : 4/5 = Pretty darn good.

( o45 - o49 : the southern vampire mysteries; charlaine harris. )
I'd wanted to get through the entire series by the end of the year, but apparently school has decided to ruin that show. I was able to get through the first four, though, and they are:
Dead Until Dark (May 2001)
Living Dead in Dallas (March 2002)
Club Dead (May 2003)
Dead to the World (May 2004)

I don't expect I need to give a long explanation of the series. Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the matter : The Southern Vampire Mysteries (informally known as The Sookie Stackhouse Novels / Chronicles and retronymed the True Blood Series upon their reprinting) is a series of books written by The New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris, first published in 2001. In The Southern Vampire Mysteries series, Harris has developed a detailed mythology. Her series describes an alternate history which assumes that the supernatural is real and that vampires have only been public knowledge for a couple of years. Other supernatural beings, such as shapeshifters, werewolves, etc. exist, but do not go public until later in the series. Its history has otherwise unfolded so identically to that of the real world that the series contains occasional references to popular culture.

The series is narrated in first person perspective by Sookie Stackhouse. She is a barmaid and telepath in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. The first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Mystery in 2001. The ninth book, and sixteenth story, Dead and Gone was released on the 5th of May 2009. Harris is contracted to write at least 10 books, the next of which is entitled Dead in the Family will be released in May 2010. During the True Blood panel at Comic Con 2009, Charlaine Harris revealed that she has signed a contract for three additional books.

Why you should care : It is, in my opinion, well written (certainly by comparison to other books involving the supernatural). I also think that Harris provides a really interesting perspective. The fact that it's through a girl and that she's human is surely redundant. But for one thing, the girl's not a teenager. For another, she impresses me as being a normal human (cut the telepath jokes; it kept me wary during the first book). And it's unlike most of the other vampire books I've read (admittedly, not many). It's kind of refreshing. The books are short and very easy to read. I'm not in love with them, but I'm going to make the effort to finish the series.

Genre : Fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction.
Length : 292 + 291 + 292 + 291 = 1166 pages.
Rating : 4/5 = Pretty darn good.

( o5o. holidays on ice; david sedaris. )
After reading and enjoying Me Talk Pretty One Day and receiving a recommendation, I gave David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice. I'd like to think I appreciate Sedaris's humor, and sometimes I do, but I don't think I did as much with this one. It's a short book of six stories, and I found three of them to be pretty amusing. The book is full of dry humor and I'm fond of the mockery.

Genre: Humor, fiction, short stories.
Length: 134 pages.
Rating: 3/5 = Worth the read.

( o51. odd and the frost giants; neil gaiman. )
Being a huge Neil Gaiman fan, I found this at a bookstore and had to give it a read. I was not let down in the least. This is the story of a young man who finds himself dealing with Norse gods and giants. What I love most about Neil Gaiman's stories concerning young people is the way he portrays them as clever and child-like. I'm also a sucker for mythology. The book is a quick read and includes illustrations by Brett Helquist. I'd definitely recommend it.

Genre: Fiction, young readers, myth and legend.
Length: 117 pages.
Rating : 5/5 = Would (and will) read it over and over again.


Currently reading: Andre Agassi's Open. Since it's long and late in the year, I'm putting it into my 2010 reading list, which can be found here. Happy hols!



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