My list of books read but not written about is getting unwieldy:
Death Sentences: How Cliches, Weasel Words and Management-Speak
are Strangling Public Language by Don Watson
I think Don Watson is just a cranky guy. I thought this would be a
good book, along the lines of Eats, Shoot and Leaves, but
it was mostly just Watson complaining vaguely about the way public
figures speak these days.
Don't get me wrong; I hate management speak and blather and bafflegab.
I wish marketers and
athletes and politicians would use plain language and say what they
mean. (Yesterday on TV they were interviewing the super of a building
which had had flooding due to a water main break. The interviewer
said "What about the possessions of the people with basement apartments,
are they destroyed?" The super said "Well, there was extensive
flooding in the basement area of the building and that would include
the apartment areas, so the residents will experience some property
damage." What would be wrong with "I'm afraid so, yes"? Don't want
to cut short your fifteen minutes by being concise?
The problem with Watson's book is that he doesn't give enough examples
of what he doesn't like, and suggestions for improvement. He also
asserts that this kind of imprecise language leads to imprecise or
even deceitful behaviour, but he doesn't give any examples or concrete
basis of any kind for that assertion.
I would give this book a miss.
102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the
Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
I felt a little bad about reading this book. I thought, "I guess it's
been long enough since September 2001 that I can read about the
destruction of the World Trade Center for my amusement". But this
isn't all that sensational; it's a description of how various individuals
coped, helped, and escaped (some of them) the attack.
also details how the attack and the collapse happened, with a
focus on the myriad things which were done incompetently, or not
done at all. Do you know when they tested the fireproofing for the
steel beams in the Towers? Summer of 2004. Yeah. Although it
probably all shook off from the impact of the planes, anyway.
Generally it was a collosal fuckup in many ways.
The book is well- and engagingly-written and sheds light on how
decent people can be in a crisis.
Who should read this book: I think Morgan might like it; normally
her thing is natural disasters but the man-made kind are interesting
Making The Cat Laugh: One Woman's Journal of Single Life on the
Margins by Lynne Truss
This is like a really well-written blog of a clever, funny, single
English woman. There's not much else to say about it, but I liked
it very much.
Who should read this book: my brother Dave would probably like it; in
fact I tried to send him a copy but my local Indigo didn't have it.
Kathryn should definitely read this book; I think she will
really enjoy the humour, and the English-ness of it.
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
This is a book about all the things that happen to human bodies after
they die. Roach covers the usual stuff: burial and cremation; but
she also goes into some weirder options: being rotted to study how
to determine time of death, being smashed into in the name of crash-test
research, being dissolved in lye or composted, being used to teach
anatomy, being cut up so your organs can be used to extend the
lives of others, being plastinated... being dead is almost as interesting
as being alive.
Roach is a very funny writer, and I look forward to reading more of
Who should read this book: I think Kate from The Usual Suspects might
like it; I think she liked corpse, which is a similar sort
of thing. Maybe Morgan, too.
Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About The
Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Leonard Sax
This is a book which refutes the hippy-dippy idea that boys and girls
are naturally identical and any difference between their behaviour is
socially constructed, a fact which anyone with small children could
have told you is nonsense. In fact, it's surprising it took this
long to throw that idea out the window, since there's a pretty quick refutation:
See, the hippy
idea is that the kid thinks something like this:
I am a boy.
Boys play with trucks and balls.
Therefore I must play with trucks and balls.
The problem is that kids as young as eighteen months show gender
differences in play, and eighteen-month-olds don't know if they're
a boy or a girl. Delphine is two-and-a-half and she still asserts
her boyhood sometimes.
Sax starts out with a description of what we know about the differences
between boys and girls, then he gets into how to apply that knowledge
when raising or teaching children. The advice seems pretty sound,
although he strays pretty far from gender-based advice
later in the book.
Who should read this book: Beth (thursday) because it might give her
some insight into her (very boyish) boys, Kathryn because she has
to deal with boys and girls every day at work, and Ellen because
I know she's interested in this stuff.