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Search tags: sociocultural
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quote 2017-07-16 08:18
Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Odede, Kennedy, and Jessica Posner. Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum. N.p.: Ecco, 2015. 13 Oct. 2015. Web.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-27 22:25
The Secret Rooms
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery - Catherine Bailey

Alright, so this is odd - Goodreads and Booklikes and a few others list this book as "The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery" while Amazon and the library and other places list it as "The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret."

 

The story flips between, firstly, the author's experience navigating the Duke of Rutland's family archive of letters for a book about the effect of the Great War on the local population which quickly changes to uncovering why there are missing sections of documents in this reportedly perfect record?! and, secondly, the events that occurred within the Manners family during and around the missing periods of time. The main character of focus is the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Manners whom was responsible for creating the archive originally. The mystery is narrowed down by the author to three missing sections of time in the records and she eventually uncovers enough evidence to recreate what likely happened.

 

An interesting story, but the reprinting of letters in their entirety multiple times towards the end of the book to show how all the pieces come together became very tiresome, very quickly. Otherwise I quite liked it.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-09 09:34
Hillbilly Elegy
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance

A bluntly honest reflection of the author's life and his family history dealing with being "hillbillies." The poverty and violence is not sugar-coated. He reflects on what is considered normal for their people and the change, generally for the worse, that has happened since his youth with the culture. There are some interesting observations about the middle-class white America attitudes in regards to contemporary policies under Obama, although it does not really touch on the results of the 2016 election as this was published in the middle of campaign season.

 

I thought it particularly interesting when he recapped what helped him succeed and it wasn't one or two people doing him a good turn, but several individuals closing gaps in his knowledge of social and life skills throughout his life. Although it is not discussed in depth except in regards to the small-town community lifestyle, the general message seems to be that in the absence of formally taught or available skills, the "it takes a village" method is the only way to succeed. It feeds into that line of thought that "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" isn't enough, you need a bit of luck. Or a few well-placed friends that possess the know-how that you need.

 

Overall good. I hope there will be a follow-up in the future.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-27 22:55
Arthur and Sherlock
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes - Michael Sims

Interestingly informative book about Arthur Conan Doyle's creation of the Sherlock Holmes character, drawing from childhood inspirations (perhaps Dr. Watson was named after someone that had attended a school here or for the name of this other person there) and his adult life - specifically, the practice of doctors at the University of Edinburgh, notably, Dr. Joseph Bell, using physical clues to 'deduce' facts about their patients. A lot of comparisons are rightfully drawn between Dr. Bell and Sherlock Holmes, including the emphasis that while the 'science of deduction' seemed magical, "such assessments required educated scrutiny but not second sight."

 

The book also goes into the history and increasing popularity of the 'science of deduction' and pokes at the fact that deduction is the wrong word entirely for the line of logic that Sherlock Holmes uses. The history and influence of the crime genre in literature, going from sensationalism to thriller and eventually leading to series featured around singular detective characters, is also examined. A lot of name-dropping happens for books and authors that I had barely or never heard of, or the books that I knew them to be famous for were not the ones that the 19th century reader knew well.

 

Overall, it was well-researched, but the chronology was a bit skewed and the writing tended to end on a tangent and pick up on a completely different topic's tangent from a chapter ago. I did not read it all in one shot so it did not bother me.

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review 2017-02-11 02:08
Through the Language Glass
Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages - Guy Deutscher

Nonfiction book about languages and the effect on culture, or culture and the effect on languages. Depends on how you read it and what you think about it, really. Deutscher discusses at length various linguistic theories and how they have evolved over time as the scientific side of intellectual curiosity gained prominence and became more refined with the use of experiments and scientific method that weeded out human fallacies. (Or tried to, anyway!)

 

He starts and ends with color - the peculiarities of the vocabulary of color in Homer's Odyssey at the beginning of the book and the testing of color differentiation across various languages native speakers at the end of the book - and covers several other topics along the way. It is long and overly confusing at times because the author can't resist making a tangential joke that doesn't really add to your understanding of the subject; in fact, I'm inclined to believe it's more to do with page count requirements. Comprehensive reading of this book may require a graduate-level vocabulary and the high-brow humor may fly over the head of someone not looking for it. He does bring to light several experiments/studies that the general public would not be aware of and explains the reasons for their importance in laymen's terms, or makes an attempt at doing so at least.

 

It took me three-quarters of a year to read this book because I got stuck in the middle and was bored. I say this as person strongly interested in linguistics but not involved in any particular career related to the field, so this may be more geared to those with a professional rather than a casual interest in languages.

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