Non-Fiction

  • Palestine

    Joe Sacco

    Image of Palestine

    Joe Sacco spent two months in the occupied territories in 1991–1992 interviewing people and gathering stories. like Persepolis this book shows how powerful graphic novels can be with historical and political subjects. Palestine is a direct chronicle of his time there, a comic of him making the comic basically. it seems like the best way for this work to be presented as, unlike Persepolis, his is an outsider experience. that distinction is important as people occasionally turn the tables and question him about what the good is of them talking to him and other journalists, has media attention done anything for them? in Sacco’s 2001 foreword he acknowledges, “While Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded, no major outstanding issues...more

  • Persepolis

    Marjane Satrapi

    Image of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

    amazing memoir of growing up in iran during the islamic revolution — i was unfamiliar with iran’s history and this gives a good overview from the perspective of being a girl from a resistant family, growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s. the drawings are stark black and white, there is a lot of humor amid the painful parts. i really loved this.more

  • Fast Food Nation

    Eric Schlosser

    incredibly in-depth and well-focused, this bestseller looks at the influence of fast food in the US (and, to a certain degree, beyond). Schlosser starts with a solid foundation of the history of fast food companies and afterwards builds a framework of how the companies and the companies they control run today. only a small amount of this is about the food itself and why it’s unhealthy. most of it is really the role the fast food industry has played in the corporatization of the US — and why that is unhealthy.

    i’m impressed by the scope of this book and how neatly and securely it is nailed together. Schlosser’s gigantic research is well-narrated in plain, clear language. all that may be...more

  • Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

    H.J. Jackson

    Image of Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

    celia suggested this book to me a while back when i found someone’s notes in one story of a Mavis Gallant book. it is the first book to look at the history and argue for the value of writing in books.

    marking books in any way is a practice largely unaccepted for most of the books i read, since i rely so much on the library. extensive annotation (not just highlighting passages, but writing extensively in books) used to be taught as part of standard education, but once textbooks started being shared over years of students, it was no longer possible. it’s interesting how present marginalia used to be and that there are a few people who were somewhat famous...more

  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities

    Jane Jacobs

    Image of The Death and Life of Great American Cities

    i’ve spent the last week getting myself to the halfway point on this. it’s always a little bizarre to read non-fiction books and realize that while reading fiction, my brain must not be engaged as intensely or something, because suddenly i’ve “read” several pages and don’t remember a thing.

    this is a classic book on urban planning, published in the early 1960s. while i occasionally wish that this text was updated for today, it’s amazing how relevant it still is, without ever having been changed from its original edition. it serves as an historical record, as Jacobs uses so many examples from big cities (i. e., “Great American” — as those are the cities she has extensive knowledge on), but from the...more

  • Kafka was the Rage

    Anatole Broyard

    Image of Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

    this claims to be a “Greenwich Village memoir,” but it didn’t give me much of a sense of greenwich village directly after WWII, perhaps because this book was never finished. the stories and perspectives are interesting, but it feels more like a series of sketches than a cohesive work.more

  • Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947–64

    Simone de Beauvoir

    Image of A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren

    Published as A Transatlantic Love Affair in the US

    it was bound to happen, and it was likely to be during the summer, that i would find many distractions from reading. it didn’t help to be in the midst of a 600-page book that at times doesn’t have a steady plot to pull itself along. maybe now my reading pace seems less horrifyingly fast than before.

    i’ve never read a collection of letters before, and this is a good collection to read because there is somewhat of a narrative — the evolution of Simone and Nelson’s relationship. she also just writes beautiful letters, and i especially love the way she writes about Paris. the situation between Simone and Nelson is...more

  • Power Politics

    Arundhati Roy

    Image of Power Politics (Second Edition)

    we saw arundhati roy speak last month, with her cleverly titled Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free). i expected nothing less than these eloquent essays about globalization and privatization of public assets in india. her writing is so engaging and accessible that it’s gratifying that she writes on these topics.

    after the essay on the dam projects, it’s sad this week reading about the three gorges dam in china and the various effects it is already having....more

  • Camera Lucida

    Roland Barthes

    Image of Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

    theories on photography by someone who is not a photographer. knowing little of the technical aspects of photography, Barthes attaches his own kind of technicality by applying his own terminologies to the observation of photos. the first section is much heavier, laying out his basic theory; though the second part, written at a later date and after the death of his mother, repeatedly references a photograph of her that is not printed in the book. a kind of frustrating work.more

  • Just as I Thought

    Grace Paley

    Image of Just As I Thought

    these are miscellaneous writings collected from throughout grace paley’s life, as a result, it doesn’t always retain a steady level of continuity. predictably the parts that were most interesting to me, in light of recent events, were about wars (mostly vietnam, but also an essay about the gulf war), as paley was very involved in those anti-war movements. the various prefaces to books are definitely worthwhile to be included in this random collection, but at times lacked a necessary context for me to get into them, most notably when they are about specific people i’ve never heard of before. it probably doesn’t help that i tend to read such “prefaces” after i’ve read the whole book, kind of to test...more

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