Ratty (blinger) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 6, 7 & 8 - 2013

Book 6: The Iliad by Homer – 460 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Much more than a series of battle scenes, the Iliad is a work of extraordinary pathos and profundity that concerns itself with issues as fundamental as the meaning of life and death.

It took me close to two years to read this book but I was determined to (my own novel series references it, so I felt I had to in order to be legitimate) so I got there in the end. It’s a tough slog, very descriptive, and sometimes I got so bogged down in those and trying to keep track of who’s who that I lost the story. The thing I took most of it was how little Helen is discussed despite the fact that she is the whole reason the battle even takes place. Ultimately, I felt sorry for Hector more than anyone. When I watched the film, starring Brad Pitt and Eric Bana, I really felt sorry for Achillies as well, but that same sentiment doesn’t come through in the book, except perhaps towards the end. The Hollywoodisation of the story improves it in my opinion, though obviously I appreciate that the time period the book is set in is very different. Ultimately it’s a fascinating story about life, death, the choices we make, and what drives us to do the things we do. Now to read the Odyssey! 

6 / 50 books. 12% done!

2965 / 15000 pages. 20% done!

Book 7: The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. – 343 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
In this groundbreaking book, Dr Louann Brizendine describes the uniquely flexible structure of the female brain and its constant, dynamic state of change - the key difference that separates it from that of the male - and reveals how women think, what they value, how they communicate, and whom they'll love. She also reveals the neurological explanations behind why: a woman remembers fights that a man insists never happened; thoughts about sex enter a woman's brain perhaps once every couple of days, but may enter a man's brain up to once every minute; a woman's brain goes on high alert during pregnancy - and stays that way long after giving birth; a woman over 50 is more likely to initiate divorce than a man; women tend to know what people are feeling, while men can't spot an emotion unless someone cries or threatens them with bodily harm! Accessible, fun and compelling, and based on more than three decades of research, "The Female Brain" will help women to better understand themselves - and the men in their lives.

I picked this book up several years ago when I was on holidays in Dubai (I know, weird right?) and I was on a small non-fiction kick this year so decided to read it. Whilst I don’t agree with all the book says, it does give a very interesting perspective on how the female brain works and how it drives a woman’s decisions. Moreover, it provides quite an interesting comparison of the way male and female brains differently perceive emotion, and I must admit, I have referred to it on a number of occasions in real life (i.e. reminding myself that a reaction from a man doesn’t necessarily mean what I think it means because we perceive things differently, which should be obvious and yet I know so many people who don’t even care to think that someone else might perceive something differently to the way they do). I also enjoyed the piece on menopause (not that its remotely relevant to me at the moment) as I explained a lot of what is happening to the body at the time much better than anything I’ve ever read. I’ve even offered to give a little summary of the book to my female colleagues at work (we have a future female business leaders discussion group within the professional services firm that I work for) as I think there is definitely stuff in here that every woman should know about (even if its just to be conscious of it in raising our own daughters and dealing with our mothers and sisters!).

7 / 50 books. 14% done!

3308 / 15000 pages. 22% done!

Book 8: Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity by Gary Paul Nabhan – 223 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Do your ears burn whenever you eat hot chile peppers? Does your face immediately flush when you drink alcohol? Does your stomach groan if you are exposed to raw milk or green fava beans? If so, you are probably among the one-third of the world's human population that is sensitive to certain foods due to your genes' interactions with them. Formerly misunderstood as "genetic disorders," many of these sensitivities are now considered to be adaptations that our ancestors evolved in response to the dietary choices and diseases they faced over millennia in particular landscapes. They are liabilities only when we are "out of place," on globalized diets depleted of certain chemicals that triggered adaptive responses in our ancestors. In Why Some Like It Hot, an award-winning natural historian takes us on a culinary odyssey to solve the puzzles posed by "the ghosts of evolution" hidden within every culture and its traditional cuisine. As we travel with Nabhan from Java and Bali to Crete and Sardinia, to Hawaii and Mexico, we learn how various ethnic cuisines formerly protected their traditional consumers from both infectious and nutrition-related diseases. We also bear witness to the tragic consequences of the loss of traditional foods, from adult-onset diabetes running rampant among 100 million indigenous peoples to the historic rise in heart disease among individuals of northern European descent. In this, the most insightful and far-reaching book of his career, Nabhan offers us a view of genes, diets, ethnicity, and place that will forever change the way we understand human health and cultural diversity. This book marks the dawning of evolutionary gastronomy in a way that may saveand enrich millions of lives.

I went on holidays to Hawaii in November this year just gone. Every time I go somewhere new I randomly decide a few months before hand that I should read some books about the place, that I should learn the language, the culture, etc. I never do. This year at least, I actually made an effort. I typed Hawaii into the local library’s catalogue and ended up ordering three books, of which this was one. Coincidentally, this book suited my new interest in diets and intolerances. The Hawaii connection is pretty small, a discussion in the final chapter. The actual book itself is about the significant increases in food intolerances and issues as a result of deviating from historical diets established in particular races over thousands of years as a result of the food available in their native homes. It’s an interesting hypothesis, and being from Australia, with our own indigenous population who are fairly well known to have issues with alcohol (personally I think this whole country has problems with alcohol – the binge drinking culture is out of control – but I say that as a non-drinker), learning of similar problems in other indigenous cultures and Nabhan’s theories on why was a great learning piece for me. Moreover, as I have recently self-diagnosed myself as being gluten intolerant, learning about the increase in similar problems throughout the world was fascinating. A good read, and an interesting hypothesis, even if it is backed up by as much anecdotal evidence as it detailed research.

8 / 50 books. 16% done!

3531 / 15000 pages. 24% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory – 437 pages
-        Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore by Bettany Hughes – 412 pages
-        The Diviners by Libba Bray – 578 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages
Tags: academic, anthropology, classic, food, health, literature, science, war

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