Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan … And the World

Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan ... And the World

author: Courtney Humphries
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.67
book published: 2008
rating: 4
read at: 2009/03/12
date added: 2009/04/16
shelves: environmentalism, non-fiction, science, sociology, urban-studies
review:
This was book was rad! It’s been about a month since I read it, so some of the details are fuzzy, but it was totally enjoyable. Read it on the plane/in the airport, and my biggest complaint is that it’s so quick & short that I ended up having to buy a book for my return trip. (I read both this and the Ida Tarbell book on the trip out.)

Covers the pigeon as a historical, scientific, and cultural phenomenon, including both pigeon fanciers (like Darwin!) and pigeon mothers (people who feed urban birds), plus Skinner’s attempt at guided missiles. Makes the case for the urban pigeon as a special case in the animal kingdom: neither wild nor domesticated, but evolved to co-exist in proximity to human settlement. (Will the same prove true of raccoons in North America?) Lots of interesting characters met along the way.

Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future

Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future

author: Will Bunch
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.96
book published: 2009
rating: 3
read at: 2009/03/31
date added: 2009/04/16
shelves: biography, history, politics
review:
A short book with a very readable style, punctures the recent pro-Reagan rhetoric, particularly about the economy & the end of the Cold War, also about Reagan’s popularity during his actual time in office. I think I read a magazine article that was an excerpt; my only complaint about the book is that it gets repetitive occasionally, as if padding out an article. Nothing super-duper surprising, even from my vague memories of the era. (I was 6 when he was elected the first time, and his election is basically the first political event I remember.) Although I will say that I was interested and impressed by Bunch’s depictions of Reagan’s moves towards the middle, in fact his totally pragmatic approach to any particular situation.

The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It

The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It

author: Jonathan Zittrain
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.60
book published: 2008
rating: 4
read at: 2009/04/16
date added: 2009/04/16
shelves: history, politics, read-again, sociology, technology
review:
I want to read this again (probably online), to reabsorb some of the lessons and get a sense of whether I have any part to play in the landscape as it moves forward. (ugh, mixed metaphor roundup!) This is the other book that I read after seeing its author at SXSWi ’09, and in this case, his presentation was on the same topic of the book. So there was a lot that felt familiar, but with more depth and nuance.

"Generativity" is the central metaphor of the book: what allows for it and what are its consequences. It’s a useful construct for understanding a wide variety of phenomenon, from the beginning of the PC to the current technology landscape.

I read someplace recently that most books about the culture of the internet are either optimists or pessimists, and I’d agree with that sentiment generally. What strikes me about Zittrain is that he takes a reasonable middle approach: here’s the awesome parts, here’s how that leads to something scary, here’s something insane that could happen as a reaction, here’s some ways we could work ourselves out of it. I like that.

Dreams from My Father

Dreams from My Father

author: Barack Obama
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.91
book published: 1995
rating: 4
read at: 2009/03/18
date added: 2009/03/20
shelves: autobiography, non-fiction, psychology, sociology
review:
Picked up a copy at the Austin airport and read it on the way home. Fascinating, especially since it was written in 1994. Chock full of that Obama nuance, and a striking amount of angst. Plus, wow, that’s a crazy childhood!

The Fool’s Tale: A Novel

The Fool's Tale: A Novel

author: Nicole Galland
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.31
book published: 2005
rating: 3
read at: 2009/03/11
date added: 2009/03/13
shelves: fiction, history
review:
placeholder. write more later. (ending bummed me out.)

Community Gardening (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide)

Community Gardening (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide)

author: Ellen Kirby
name: Elaine
average rating: 4.29
book published: 2008
rating: 4
read at: 2009/03/07
date added: 2009/03/09
shelves: gardening, politics, urban-studies
review:
Didn’t finish (another book overdue!), but even just reading the first few chapters reinvigorated my interest in an Eastside community garden. Got me thinking about research, and maybe about scouting an alternative location to the Madison Scenic Overlook. Short, enthusiastic, lots of pictures.

My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire

My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire

author: Michelle Goodman
name: Elaine
average rating: 4.03
book published: 2008
rating: 3
read at: 2009/03/07
date added: 2009/03/09
shelves: business, legal, read-again, self-help
review:
Had to take it back to the library — a good sign of its quality: there were IIRC several other people with holds. A cheerful and encouraging guide to starting as a creative freelancer. I’m feeling a little too overwhelmed at the moment to really take it in, but I want to get my own copy when I’m in a better space for it.

The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way

The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way

author: Hillary Rettig
name: Elaine
average rating: 4.12
book published: 2006
rating: 3
read at: 2009/03/07
date added: 2009/03/09
shelves: politics, psychology, read-again, self-help, wishlist
review:
Had to go back to the library. 🙁 Good stuff, like a GTD for the leftist. Doing one of the early exercises helped me clarify what I do and don’t want to do as a volunteer, and to get some perspective on a project that I feel like I botched. Definitely want to get my own copy and finish working through it.

A Civil Action

A Civil Action

author: Jonathan Harr
name: Elaine
average rating: 3.70
book published: 1995
rating: 4
read at: 2009/03/07
date added: 2009/03/09
shelves: business, economics, environmentalism, history, legal, non-fiction, politics
review:
My first non-library book in a while. ($1.99 at Goodwill!) Gripping story, both the legal and the personal aspects. The author draws rich portraits of the players, making even the "villains" into interesting and sometimes sympathetic characters. I found the ending almost unbearably depressing, which I guess is the way life actually works. Only the smackdown by the EPA redeemed the flameout of the lawsuit.