wshaffer: (Default)

June 2017

456 78910
18 192021222324

Custom Text

Most Popular Tags

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth GapThe Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taibbi writes with a very distinctive style - he has a gift for outlandish and vivid metaphors, and a taste for highly emotive language. Sometimes, I wish he would cool it a little, because as a reader I'm wary of being manipulated. And there's plenty of stuff in this book where the bare clinical facts are entirely sufficient to produce outrage, and I don't need the author metaphorically poking me in the ribs saying, "Hey! Hey! Are you angry yet?"

And this book will definitely make you angry (and depressed), but it's an important read. Taibbi does an excellent job of dissecting two trends in the American justice system. First, the extent to which corporate fraud and other financial crimes are prosecuted very gingerly, if at all, and second, the extent to which (often poor, often non-white) individuals can routinely have the full force of the court system thrown at them for relatively minor offenses. The causes behind this are many. There's a big dollop of flawed legal precedent: the tale of the Holder memo is an amazing case study in unintended consequences from a policy that wasn't thoroughly thought through. There are lots of skewed institutional incentives: it turns out that if you evaluate police performance on a metric of number of arrests, police will find ways to make arrests at any cost. And if you tell the Justice Department that the thing that matters most is successful prosecutions, you can pretty much guarantee that the Justice Department will only prosecute slam-dunk cases. There's a whole lot of political theater in the form of politicians scoring cheap points by going after welfare recipients and undocumented immigrants. And a great big chunk of simple racism.

I don't think that there are simple solutions to any of these causes, but having read this book, I now feel much better informed about what the causes are, and ready to join the discussion of how to address them.

View all my reviews
The Coroner's Lunch (Dr. Siri Paiboun, #1)The Coroner's Lunch by Colin Cotterill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This comes pretty close to everything I could want in a mystery series. It has an interesting historical setting (Laos in the 1970s, just after the Communist takeover). It has a protagonist with a sharp sense of humor, and a supporting cast of characters who are interesting and likable. The crimes to be solved range from personal crimes of passion to political intrigues. And there's an interesting hint of the supernatural which manages to walk a fine line between "yes, something that can't be explained by science is happening here" and "this guy's intuition has really interesting ways of operating." It's something I've seen other writers attempt, and it's often annoyed me, but in this case it works.

I don't think these books are nearly as well known in mystery reading circles as they deserve to be. If you like mysteries, check this one out.

View all my reviews
Something More Than NightSomething More Than Night by Ian Tregillis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the kind of book that really seems like it could only have been written by someone who really loved both Raymond Chandler and John Milton. Since that also describes me, I was quite eager to read it, and I wasn't disappointed. Basically, the story starts in the aftermath of the murder of the angel Gabriel. Bayliss, an angel who strangely speaks almost entirely in the dialect of noir detective fiction, has to find a replacement for Gabriel. He accidentally ends up with a young woman named Molly, and the two of them begin an uneasy partnership to solve Gabriel's murder and follow up on what he was working on when he died.

Molly makes a terrific protagonist: she's brave and outspoken, but also struggles realistically with adapting to her new role as an angel and the powers that come with it. Bayliss is…well, let me just say, if you get through this book without ever saying, "Jesus, what is with the Sam Spade schtick?", then maybe you're an even bigger fan of noir than I am. That question does get answered, though, and the mystery gets wrapped up very satisfyingly in the end.

I do wonder if the noir pastiche element will put off just as many people as it attracts. I would recommend giving this book a try even if it doesn't quite seem like your kind of thing - it is a really imaginative and well-written fantasy.

View all my reviews
Well, apparently I'm feeling ranty this morning.

So, I don't know how serious this really is, but apparently there is a move afoot to nominate Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series for a Best Novel Hugo, on the grounds that a work appearing in parts is eligible for the year that the final part is published.

While I think that something like the Wheel of Time was probably not what that clause was intended to cover, my general attitude when there is ambiguity in interpretation of the Hugo rules is that the administrators should be lenient in allowing works on the ballot, and let the voters decide. So, if The Wheel of Time gets enough nominations to make the ballot for Best Novel, I think it should go on the ballot.

I really hope that this doesn't happen, for a couple of reasons.

First, it hardly seems like a level playing field to pit a series that a generation of fantasy readers has grown up with against standalone novels that have been around for a year or less. People have had decades to discover the Wheel of Time novels, read them, discuss them, eagerly anticipate subsequent novels in the series, and form their opinions. How do you judge a book that has been out for a few months against that? The comparison doesn't even make sense.

Second, the pro-WoT argument seems to hinge a lot on the idea that it's been so hugely influential to the genre that it deserves to be recognized. While I suspect that the Best Novel Hugo is often used as much to reward an influential author for being influential as it is used to recognize what is genuinely the best novel of the year, I'd rather it were used to recognize the best novel of the year, and not as a general Rocket-ship of Awesomeness. We have other awards specifically for recognizing overall contribution to the field (although the most obvious one is the SFWA Grandmaster award, which can't be awarded posthumously.)

Don't nominate Wheel of Time for the Best Novel Hugo. If it makes the ballot, don't vote for Wheel of Time for the Best Novel Hugo.
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn't even really sure whether I should review this book, because I figure everyone has either already read it or made up their mind whether they're going to read it. But, here we go.

First off, there's no getting around the fact that the pacing is extremely leisurely. At times, this can be pleasant in a "relax and let the author spin you a yarn" kind of way; at other times, you are just waiting for something to happen. It does pick up a bit in the last third of the book.

Otherwise, this is a book whose virtues are very much bound up with its flaws, and whether you like it or not probably depends on how much particular flaws grate on you. For example, the world building is not terribly original, but by the standards of other books in the big fat fantasy genre, it at least feels reasonably solid and convincing. And Kvothe is just the sort of omnicompetent precocious protagonist with a prodigious ability to get himself both into and out of trouble that is going to strike some readers as a perfect wish-fulfillment character, and some readers as an egregious Gary Stu.

In the end, I found it reasonably entertaining, although I'm a bit frightened of the sequel, because statistically, multi-volume big fat fantasy series do not get more briskly paced as the series moves on.

View all my reviews
The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast (Audiobook)The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast by Josh Kaufman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a start, I don't recommend getting this book on audio. It's well-narrated, but the chapters on learning programming and learning to play go would benefit a lot from visuals. (All the visuals are available from the book's website, but since I usually listen to audiobooks when I'm not sitting in front of a computer, that didn't do me a whole lot of good.)

This book is an interesting mix of how-to and memoir. The how-to part starts from the now-famous assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill…and then makes the happy assertion that it only takes about 20 hours of focused practice to get competent at a skill. Kaufman then lays out a check list of what you should do to maximize the results that you get out of your first 20 hours of practice. The principles seem to me to be good ones- some are things that I already do when learning something new, and some are ideas that are new to me.

The second and much longer part of the book is a kind of memoir of how Kaufman applied these principles to learning several different skills: yoga, programming basic web applications in Ruby, relearning to touch type, learning to play go, playing the ukelele, and windsurfing. I think it's probably a rare reader who will find all of these equally fascinating. The chapter on learning programming was fascinating, but if I weren't already half-competent at Ruby myself, I'm not sure if I'd have followed along at all. The chapter on relearning to touch type was actually unexpectedly fascinating. I found that the chapters on yoga and go dragged a bit.

Overall, this is a great read for relentless autodidacts everywhere, but get a paper or ebook copy so that you can skim the parts that you don't find as interesting.

View all my reviews
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very vividly written account of the siege of Constantinople in 1453. Crowley has a knack for vivid writing, and can really make you feel as though you were there.

Crowley is particularly good at explaining military tactics and the technology of warfare. And the technology of warfare was particularly remarkable at the time. For example, the Byzantines protected the entrance to the harbor of the Golden Horn by stringing a giant chain across the mouth of the harbor, preventing ships from entering. So, what did Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottomans, do when he couldn't break the chain? Well, he had his men carry a bunch of war galleys overland and rolled them into the water on the other side of the chain. I also hadn't known that the Ottomans were early adopters of field artillery. Crowley's description of how they forged immense cannon in an attempt to bring down Constantinople's land walls is fascinating. As is his description of how the defenders of the city made a virtue of necessity - when the Ottoman cannon smashed their stone walls, they rebuilt them as wooden palisades with dirt piled between them - which did a much better job of absorbing the impact of the cannon balls.

Overall, the book is a great read, both informative and suspenseful. Though, be warned, it is a book that will make you want to read lots of other books, starting with Crowley's Empires of the Sea, which appears to be something of a sequel to this one.

View all my reviews
Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical WisdomTeaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom by Bell Hooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think that this is probably not the ideal place to begin my reading of bell hooks. I guess that this is what happens when you realize one day that you have somehow become a grown up person who calls herself a feminist without reading any bell hooks, and so you hop over to Amazon and grab the first couple of Kindle titles that sound interesting.

Not that this is a bad book by any means. If you do any sort of teaching (and I still do quite a lot of teaching even though "teacher" or "instructor" appears nowhere in my job title and hasn't for years), there are lots of good insights and things that will make you think here. But this doesn't feel like a "bell hooks 101" level book. The essays are short, pithy, and sometimes feel to me like they could use a bit more unpacking, as if they take for granted ideas and arguments that hooks has made at greater length elsewhere.

View all my reviews
The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330 by Ian Mortimer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is really two books in one. The first (and largest) part of this book is a well-researched and engagingly written biography of Roger Mortimer, the man who (with the assistance of Queen Isabella) deposed Edward II of England and ruled for 3 years, until he was in turn overthrown, tried, and executed by Edward III. 14th century English politics can be quite messy and confusing, with lots of personal rivalries, shifting alliances, and constantly changing positions and titles, and Ian Mortimer (no relation to Roger) does a good job of making it all make sense.

The second part of the book is an epilogue in which Ian Mortimer lays out the evidence for his theory that Edward II wasn't actually murdered at Berkeley Castle in 1327. In Ian Mortimer's version of events, Roger Mortimer faked Edward's death to stave off political intrigues designed to return the deposed king to power. It's a tale of conspiracy at least as thrilling as those woven by all those folks who want to convince you that Richard III didn't kill the princes in the tower, but it has the advantage over those that I think I might actually be convinced. At any rate, I'm convinced that a fair number of people who had reason to be in the know believed that Edward II was alive after 1327. I'd want to do a little independent fact-checking before rendering a definitive opinion on Edward II's fate.

This book also really made me want to find a good biography of Queen Isabella. Because you really have to admire a woman, who, having been abandoned by Edward II and his favorite in the path of the advancing Scottish army, arranged her own passage back to England in a harrowing journey in which two of her ladies-in-waiting died, and then went straight to the Tower of London and struck up a secret correspondence with her husband's worst enemy, Roger Mortimer. Because she had clearly decided to be Done With Edward II's Bullshit. Forget all these kings and lords - I want to read a book about her.

View all my reviews
The Player of Games (Culture, #2)The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first read it, over a decade ago, Player of Games was not my favorite Culture novel. In fact, it was my second least-favorite, ranking just above Excession. Not that it was a bad book, by any means, but I felt that, in the Empire of Azad, Banks had created a ridiculous caricature of a xenophobic, militaristic, authoritarian, sexist society, and used it as a rather smug way of proving the moral superiority of the Culture.

I don't find the Empire of Azad nearly so ridiculous any longer. I still think there are a few places in which Banks over-eggs things a bit in terms of convincing the reader that the Azadians are really horrible, but overall, they're entirely plausible.

More importantly, I see the book less as a smug exercise in demonstrating the superiority of the Culture than as an attempt to address two philosophical objections to post-scarcity societies like the Culture: first, the idea that in such societies, life lacks purpose because people don't have to struggle for existence; and second, the idea that a peaceful, consensus-driven society like the Culture will always be defeated by a warlike authoritarian society because the inhabitants of the warlike society have greater will and fortitude in defending their ideas. It's still preaching the choir (at least for a reader like me), but at least it's a more complex point than, "Genocide, torture, and sexism are bad, okay?"

I still don't think that this will end up being my favorite Culture novel when I've finished this re-read, but it's a better book than I'd given it credit for. I'm really curious to see whether my reaction to Excession will change, but I've got a few books to read before I get there.

View all my reviews
Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New LabourServants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour by Andrew Rawnsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very readable account of Tony Blair's first term as British prime minister. Rawnsley does assume a certain level of political knowledge that might be reasonable for the typical British reader of this book. If you're not British, and things like "Clause Four" and "Ernest Bevin" don't ring even vague bells for you, you might want to keep Google handy at a few points.

Being an American who wasn't following British politics closely for much of Tony Blair's time in office, I was mostly aware of Blair when he did something that got substantial coverage in the American press. From this, I had two rather contradictory images of him. One was of a world leader who seemed to demonstrate much more focus and moral clarity during the war in Kosovo than President Clinton. The other was of a politician who made himself President Bush's willing accomplice in misleading the world about the case for war in Iraq. Rawnsley's book certainly makes it possible to square these two Blair's as the same man: it seems clear that Blair was capable of great energy and accomplishment when he was willing to wholeheartedly commit to something. However, it's also clear that he was obsessed with opinion polls and the idea of securing his future place in history, that he didn't actually have many strong political convictions of his own, and that he had a lot of difficulty dealing with conflict among the members of his cabinet.

Mostly, though, this is a book that is likely to make you want to read lots of other books. In particular, Rawnsley's account of the Northern Irish peace negotiations is riveting, but clearly highly compressed. I do hope some good books have been written dealing with that in more detail. I'm also quite eager to read The End of the Party, Rawnsley's book that picks up where this one left off.

View all my reviews
Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've embarked on a re-read of The Culture novels, starting at the beginning and going all the way through to the end.

It's been quite a long time since I last read Consider Phlebas, and I was a bit wary of rereading it, for fear of that it wouldn't hold up to the passage of time. After all, intelligent, literate space opera is no longer a rare or surprising thing, and the Culture isn't the startlingly new idea it was back when I first read these books either. Does Consider Phlebas still hold up?

It does, although I think some of its flaws are more obvious now. This novel has a very large cast of characters, many of whom never rise above being a collection of miscellaneous tics and traits before they're unceremoniously dispatched in the course of some giant set piece action scene. And I don't remember being quite so thoroughly annoyed by the book's protagonist, Horza, on my first read. Although given that he is an anti-hero who's fighting the Culture, maybe that's not a flaw.
Of course, the things I loved about the book the first time are here as well: the outsized futuristic settings - the megaships, orbitals, and underground rail-systems filled with ancient nuclear-powered steam trains; the action sequences in which these feats of futuristic engineering are often spectacularly demolished; and the slightly twisted sense of humor.

It's interesting that in this first Culture novel, we don't see that much of the Culture - and a large chunk of what we do see is through the eyes of their enemies. It's also a very early version of the Culture - both in series chronological order and, of course, in publication order, so what we do see is much less developed than in the other books which are set hundreds of years later. We don't see any banter between Ship Minds; characters don't have the ability to back up their personalities and download them casually into new bodies; even things like the drones and the Culture's genetic modification technologies seem a bit more primitive than what we see later on. Even the trademark "wacky ship names" seem subdued compared to what we'll see later - the main text features ships called "Nervous Energy", "Eschatologist", "The Ends of Invention", "Trade Surplus", and "Revisionist". Unusual names, to be sure, but hardly on a par with "Size Isn't Everything", "Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival, The" or "Just the Washing Instruction Chip in Life's Rich Tapestry".

It'll be interesting to watch how the Culture develops through the subsequent novels, and to see how much looks like deliberate cultural evolution on Banks's part and how much is just him throwing in cool stuff as he thought of it.

View all my reviews
The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10)The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd rate this one as a solid, but not spectacular Culture novel. It doesn't have the philosophical weight of Surface Detail, or the epic stakes of Consider Phlebas, or the sheer mess-with-your-headness of Use of Weapons. And without spoiling the ending, I'll say that it's the sort of ending that ought to feel like an anticlimax. The book is a bit like a roller coaster - it keeps you so engaged with its twists and turns that you don't feel cheated that at the end you're back where you started.

The book probably also has some of Banks's most spectacular action sequences. The Culture novels have always been notable for the fanciful futuristic constructions that Banks loves to create - giant ships, orbitals, and so on. In this book, he gets to destroy a few of these. Spectacularly and messily. Just as one example, a climactic sequence takes place on a giant airship (location of a continuous year-long floating party) which has been filled with a giant tank of water which party guests have to traverse to get to the ultimate party location. An android pursuing the book's heroes blows a hole in the tank, triggering massive flooding, gale force winds in the upper party area, and a huge increase in buoyancy for the airship, which proceeds to crash into the roof of the tunnel it's flying through. Then there's a laser firefight in the wreckage. This is one culture novel that I think would make a great movie, just for the pyrotechnics.

View all my reviews
I listened to the audiobook version of this, but I think I'd recommend going for the print version. First, because Erik Davis's occasionally florid rock-journalist prose sometimes sounds a little odd being read aloud. (Especially since every time the reader says oeuvre, mese en scene, or avant la lettre, I flinch. I'm not necessarily going to defend Davis's constant use of French expressions, but given that he did it, they should have gotten a reader who could pronounce French.)

Secondly, the straightforward audio adaptation that Audible did of this book strikes me as a missed opportunity. It would have benefitted tremendously from having short illustrative snippets of the music under discussion being played at appropriate moments.

At any rate, the book takes the interesting tactic of analyzing Led Zeppelin IV as if it is a narrative, which each song representing a different stage of the hero's journey. While I think this probably exaggerates the coherence of Led Zeppelin IV (which is not, after all, a concept album), it does provide an engaging way of pointing out thematic connections and recurring tropes in the songs.

The book spends roughly two-thirds of its time discussing lyrical themes and the overall Zeppelin "mythos", and only about a third of its time discussing musical elements and details of song recording and production. I'd personally have preferred it if that ratio had been flipped, but probably the ratio is right for the general reader who didn't spend a good chunk of her teenage years trying to learn the guitar parts to at least half the songs on Led Zeppelin IV. Also, if you've read Hammer of the Gods or any other Led Zeppelin biography, you'll be familiar with a lot of the basic biographical details the book covers.

Still, I learned some new things from the book, and it would probably be the perfect introduction for someone not already steeped in Zep lore or who wants to get a sense of what all the fuss was about.

Finally, I'll be forever indebted to the author for his description of listening to a Led Zeppelin album being like, "opening the doors on a raunchy Arthurian advent calendar." What an image.
So, I was wearing a T-shirt with a cartoon drawing of Sun Wukong on it yesterday, and The Nephews were quite intrigued. Who'd have thought that a talking monkey with martial arts skills and an a knack for thwarting authority would hold any appeal to 4-6 year old boys?

Which got me wondering if there are any kid-friendly adaptations of Journey to the West out there, in either TV, movie, or book form? The late 70s/early 80s live-action TV series Monkey (which used to be available in its entirety on Youtube, but, alas, seems to have been taken down) might entertain them and is scripted in such a way that the references to Adult Concepts would probably go over their heads, but it wasn't really a kids' show.

Oh - I wonder if anyone ever did a manga adaptation. Older nephew has become enamored lately of a series of comic book adaptations of stories from Greek mythology, and will happily pore over the pictures even when there isn't an adult handy
to read the text. I'll have to look in to that.

(no subject)

Apr. 10th, 2013 10:05 am
wshaffer: (pencil)
The author of a couple of books I'd reviewed on Goodreads just "liked" my reviews, which prompted me to go back and reread them. My reaction was, "Hm, I actually sound kind of smart and interestingly opinionated about books," which was nice.

I have not been feeling very smart and interestingly opinionated about books lately, which is probably why I haven't been posting many reviews. Still, it's nice to know that that part of my brain is there and will come back out to play sooner or later.
Into Thin AirInto Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I am possibly the last person on earth who might conceivably be interested in this book who hadn't read it or seen the film. So, I'm slightly uncertain about the utility of reviewing it. But here goes...

In 1996, Jon Krakauer joined an expedition climbing Mt. Everest as a reporter for Outside magazine. He ended up getting a bigger story than he bargained for, as a storm caught climbers on the mountain, resulting in 12 deaths, including several members of the expedition Krakauer had climbed with.

I've always found stories of high-altitude mountaineering fascinating, albeit in a way that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. They're always stories of extremes, both physical and mental. People perform amazing feats of strength and endurance, or suffer complete and total physical breakdown. (And sometimes do both alternately or sequentially.) People show amazing bravery, compassion, or quick thinking under nearly impossible circumstances, or exhibit unbelievable selfishness, apathy, or stupidity. (Again, sometimes the same people at different times.) I can't decide whether Everest stories reveal something important about human nature or are merely sideshows about people behaving freakishly under freakish conditions that humans were frankly never meant to endure.

Anyway, Krakauer has a talent for sketching out the personalities of his fellow team members in a way that make them very vivid. And he has a real talent for making a complex series of events clear - I've read some other accounts of mountaineering disasters, and many writers have a lot of difficulty juggling varied accounts of what happened on different parts of the mountain without creating a muddle. The book is a fast and gripping read.

Of course, this very vividness and clarity has opened up Krakauer to criticism. Some people have objected to the way they or their relatives were portrayed in the book. And Krakauer was not actually present for some of the most dramatic events of the book, and is able to document that for at least one incident in which he was present, his memory was faulty, fogged by exhaustion and oxygen deprivation. It's possible that of the differing versions of events in the 1996 disaster, Krakauer's may have prevailed just because it is the most compellingly written.

In Krakauer's defense, he seems to have tried hard to make the most honest account he could. The second edition of the book, which I read, includes a section in which he addresses some of the criticism of the first edition. Of course, he may be misrepresenting his critics, but in general he seems to acknowledge where they have legitimate points.

View all my reviews
Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance SportsWaterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports by Tim Noakes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're an endurance athlete who has ever been told that you should drink before you're thirsty or that you should drink sports drinks with electrolytes to prevent your blood sodium levels from dropping too low, you should read this book. Noakes meticulously outlines the science that proves that a lot of the conventional advice given about hydration is at best useless, and at worst, potentially fatal.

It's also a fascinating look at how the combination of faulty assumptions and commercial interests can skew the interpretation of scientific research. It was actually a bit shocking to me how little we really know about the causes of heatstroke or exercise-induced cramping. Because these conditions are difficult to produce in controlled laboratory conditions, much of what we know has been based on anecdotes or on experiments with less than ideal design.

It's also a very readable book, despite the quantity of detailed scientific data that Noakes discusses. (It might help that I've got a background in chemistry, and went in knowing what "millimolar" means.) I did find that the book got a bit repetitive towards the end - Noakes rightly takes seriously his obligation as a scientist to address all alternative hypotheses and interpretations of the data, but if you're just someone who wants to know how much you should drink while running, you've probably absorbed everything you really need to know by halfway through the book.

View all my reviews
Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be CreativeOut of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative by Ken Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you've had the pleasure of hearing Ken Robinson speak (or seen his TED talk), you've already experienced most of the best bits of this book. This is a very entertaining book, with an important message, but in my case, I felt it was preaching to the choir. It is certainly nice to have someone saying that creativity is important in nearly all fields of endeavor, not just the arts; that creativity is a basic human skill that everyone can develop and nurture, not just special people; and that modern Western school systems do a terrible job of nurturing creativity in their students. But I believed all of these things before I read the book, and I can't escape the nagging feeling that the people who most need to be convinced of these things wouldn't read this book and wouldn't be convinced by it if they did.

Also, I do think the subtitle, "Learning to Be Creative," is a bit misleading. This is more a book about how institutions and cultures do or don't encourage creativity, and less about how individuals can be more creative.

View all my reviews