Talking to Girls About Duran Duran - Rob Sheffield
Sheffield, a music journalist, wrote his first memoir about the death of his wife, as viewed through the mixed tapes he listened to with her and at the time. It was a mix of personal loss and common music that made it both poignant and solid.
The same can't quite be said about this follow-up, his homage to growing up in the 1980s as seen through various songs of the era. Each chapter is a reflection of his life as seen through one song. When it works, like his tangential ode to the cassingle, Sheffield shows he can be touching and clever at the same time.
Too often, though, it doesn't work, like his constant sorrow at being the geeky boy no girl would consider even as he drowns his whiny sorrows in, apparently, a not-too-boyish mix of Bonnie Tyler and Culture Club. He's trying, really trying, but he still comes off as that gawky teen in this uneven collection.
The AutoImmune Epidemic - Donna Jackson Nakazawa
I read this investigation -- by a journalist with an autoimmune disease -- very, very slowly. I wanted to make sure I understood the science and the questions surrounding this quiet medical epidemic that counts more patients than cancer or heart disease.
It boils down to this:
Illnesses where the body attacks itself - autoimmune disorders range from lupus to MS to diabetes to Crohn's - are on the rise at an alarming rate.
Growing scientific evidence points to a modern stew triggering the onset: a genetic predisposition combined with heavy chemical loads in our body from where we live and what we eat and what products we use.
The author describes it quite cleverly as a barrel of rainwater, where a full barrel can overflow - or trigger an autoimmune response - from a seemingly single and simple trigger, such as exposure to a common virus or bacteria.
Medical research is ages behind in treatment, given such a wide array of causes and an industrial-sized battle to fight any supposition that man-made chemicals might be - gasp - really bad for us.
Thankfully, she ends with a list of things you can do to promote a healthy immune response and either stop the onset of a disease or temper the ail that comes.
It's not uplifting, but it's certainly a must read, especially if you or someone you care about has an autoimmune disorder.
Flat, Hot and Crowded - Thomas Friedman
Fresh on the heels of reading about the environmental dangers to my health, I picked up Friedman's call for a green revolution.
He is not arguing for health, per se. Rather, he believes going green involves promoting green energy and coming to understand the true cost of being dependent on oil - financially and socially, given oil despots across the Middle East - and potential reward for inventing a new era.
It's an intriguing argument, one Friedman bolsters a bit too much, really. The massive book repeats itself several times, as if Friedman is trying to drum the ideas into our head like a song's chorus.
More time might have been spent on government initiatives that seem plausible and the security argument that follows his theory that oil prices and democracy are inversely related (that is, Russia was more free when oil prices were more low).
Droning on for too long almost does this otherwise great treatise in. Lost in some of the 400 pages is the clear case to be made against Bush's lost opportunity, of a gas tax after 9/11 for security purposes. Ditto the explanation about why biofuel is not any better than coal, and could be worse.
There is a forceful call for change in here. You just have to wade through some repetition to get it.
Pure - Terra Elan McVoy
I fear this is what would happen if I ever wrote a book.
This book, about a group of teen girls who must deal with the ramifications of wearing purity rings now that they are in high school, is fine.
The writing is meandering but clear. The author has put a lot of effort into the characters, but they still don't ring true. The topic could be a hot-button issue, but the plot line is so haphazard, there's never a chance to become too invested in any one motion.
It's all a bit too sensible for a messy reality. And, I guess, that's fine. But it's not really good.