The 6th Extinction

The 6th Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Published By: Henry Holt and Co.

Year of Publication: 2014

Categories: Non Fiction.

Pages: 319

Summary (from goodreads.com):

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes. Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Mastodon’s Molars, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Review:

I really enjoyed reading The 6th Extinction. Although I usually go for fiction books, I’m glad I went out of my comfort zone to try this one. The writing was great considering it covered a lot of ground, and I learned a lot.

First off, I can’t believe that people don’t care about the earth, it’s plants, and it’s animals. Reading this book make me want to do even more for the environment. It’s pretty sad when you realize how many animals are going extinct. It’s happening way faster than I thought. It’s sad to think that once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. I work with native plants, and I’ve come to appreciate them so much since I started this job. They grow almost effortlessly outside, yet we put so much effort into growing them in the greenhouse. I can only imagine how much effort goes into researching animals and trying trying to protect them.

Every chapter focused on one topic – everything from frogs to Neanderthals. Elizabeth Kolbert also travelled the world to make her points – from the Amazon rainforest to Siberia. It was great to get a worldwide view. At the same time it was also kind of scary to know that no part of the planet is safe from having animals disappear forever. Reading it also made me kind of angry with people who would pay for a horn or tusk, knowing that they come from endangered animals, and that those animals were killed in the process of getting them.

I know I’ll be more aware of how I treat the planet after reading The 6th Extinction. While I know there are something things that are harder for people to change, I know I’ll be making a bigger effort to do my part. I take transit to school, but once in awhile I’ll drive. I don’t think I’ll be doing that anymore. I’m usually pretty good at recycling and reusing things as well, but I’ve noticed since I’ve started reading this book I’ve been even better at it.

If you’re at all interested in how humans impact our planet, you should definitely give The 6th Extinction a read.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

The King’s Speech by Mark Logue

The King's Speech January 23 2013

Summary: Based on the recently discovered diaries of Lionel Logue, The King’s Speech recounts an inspiring real-life tale of triumph over adversity, when an Australian taught a British king with a crippling speech defect how to speak to his subjects.

Review: I ended up reading this book cause I had seen the movie and really liked it. I’m kind of a history nerd, so little did I know how good it was going to be!

The book is about the relationship between Logue and the King, from it started in the 20’s to the 50’s when the King died. A lot was happening around the world during that time (the great depression, WWII), so it was really interesting to see how the story of their friendship was laid out on the backdrop of world events.

The details in The King’s Speech is what makes it worth reading. The authors included snippets of letters, journal entries, and even newspaper clippings. While there were lots of details, it didn’t get overwhelming, instead it enhanced the story.

It was interesting to read about how because radio was one of the main medias of the day, the King’s stammering was such a big deal. It’s easy to think about how something like that could be dealt with, with all the technology we have now, but back then most of his speeches were done live, so there was a lot more pressure on the King to get things right.

While I can see how the movie was based on the book, the movie only highlighted a few parts from the book. There’s so much more content to read about. Even though there was a lot of history, it was still very easy to read.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Published By: Penguin

Date of Publication: 2008

Categories: Adult, Food, Non Fiction. 

Pages: 205

Summary (from goodreads.com): Michael Pollan’s last book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating; now In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time. Pollan proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

Review: Awhile ago I put this book on hold at the library. I forget what made me want to read it, but when I got home with it and read the summary, it sounded pretty good. I was excited to read it.

While I thought some of it made a lot of sense (eating as much as you can unprocessed), some just didn’t make sense to me (don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients). Um, most of the salads I make have more than 5 ingredients. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make them unhealthy.

Something I’m going to try really hard to do it eat more local produce. Generally that’s only something that can happen during the summer here. 6 months out of the year there’s snow on the ground, so that makes growing things here pretty hard. But there’s a farmer’s market that’s pretty close to me during the summer that I can buy all kinds of veggies at. While I’ve made trips there previous summers, I’ll try to get there most weeks this year.

Another thing that it really made me think about is the processed food I eat. I’ve found myself reading ingredient lists more and trying to pick things that have the least amount of additives. At least it’s a start, right? I think I’m going to try making things at home rather than always buying the grocery store version just because it’s quicker and easier.

All in all I thought this was a good read that makes me think more about what I eat. Have you read it? What did you think?

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.

An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina

Published By: Viking Adult

Date of Publication: April 6 2006

Categories: Adult, biography, genocide, humanitarianism, non fiction.

Pages: 207

Summary (from goodreads.com): An Ordinary Man explores what the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda could not: the inner life of the man who became one of the most prominent public faces of that terrible conflict. Rusesabagina tells for the first time the full story of his life-growing up as the son of a rural farmer, the child of a mixed marriage, his extraordinary career path which led him to become the first Rwandan manager of the Belgian-owned Hotel Milles Collines-all of which contributed to his heroic actions in the face of such horror. He will also bring the reader inside the hotel for those one hundred terrible days depicted in the film, relating the anguish of those who watched as their loved ones were hacked to pieces and the betrayal that he felt as a result of the UN’s refusal to help at this time of crisis.

Including never-before-reported details of the Rwandan genocide, An Ordinary Man is sure to become a classic of tolerance literature, joining such books as Thomas Keneally’sSchindler’s List, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, and Elie Wiesel’s Night. Paul Rusesabagina’s autobiography is the story of one man who did not let fear get the better of him-a man who found within himself a vast reserve of courage and bravery, and showed the world how one “ordinary man” can become a hero.

Review: This was definitely a hard book to read, but it’s a book that should be read. Paul Rusesabagina writes about how he survived the Rwandan genocide and was able to protect almost 1300 people hiding in his hotel.

If you’ve seen Hotel Rwanda you know the jist of how things happened. I really enjoyed the details in the book though. There was a lot of history which helped to set up how a genocide could happen. It put things in context. It’s pretty shocking to think that friends and neighbors would kill each other, but with the history of colonialism and racism in Rwanda, it was easier to understand how it could have happened.

It’s amazing to think that Rusesabagina was able to keep 1300 people safe with just money, liquor, and the ability to talk. He never picked up a gun but he was able to fight against the genocide.

It’s shocking to think the international community could have cared less about a nearly a million people. The UN and the western world had more than enough information to stop the killing, but they decided not to. They let people be killed, traumatized, and pushed from their homes to become refugees.

All in all if you’re wanting a great non-fiction read, go with this book. If you’re looking for something else to read about the Rwandan genocide, I would definitely recommend Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire, the head of the UN mission in Rwanda.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I bought this book.

We All Fall Down by Nic Sheff

Published By: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Date of Publication: April 5, 2011

Categories: Memoir, Mental Illness, Non-Fiction

Pages: 368

Summary (from goodreads.com):

In his bestselling memoir Tweak, Nic Sheff took readers on an emotionally gripping roller-coaster ride through his days as a crystal meth and heroin addict. Now in this powerful follow-up about his continued efforts to stay clean, Nic writes candidly about eye-opening stays at rehab centers, devastating relapses, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

Nic Sheff and his father, David Sheff, captured a nation of readers with their bestselling memoirs Tweak and Beautiful Boy. Those books explore teen drug addiction from two different points of view: a son’s and a father’s. Nic currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Review: Once I started reading We All Fall Down, I couldn’t stop. I was immediately drawn into Nic’s world.

And it’s definitely a tough, scary world. You feel like you’re right there with him, going through everything with him. This makes parts of it tough to read, because at times it feels like there’s no hope for Nic, or any other addict. It was definitely interesting to get inside of the head of an addict, to see the world as he saw it.

I’d definitely recommend this book for an older YA reader. It deals with some pretty heavy duty topics. Nic doesn’t hold back talking about the realities of being an addict – it’s not pretty.

While the writing wasn’t amazing, one thing that I did really enjoy about it was that Nic’s voice really came through loud and clear. Some parts almost felt like a conversation between him and I. It felt very genuine and real.

Although I haven’t read his previous memoir, Tweak, also about addiction, or his father’s book about Nic’s journey, Beautiful Boy, I really did enjoy reading We All Fall Down. So if you’re wondering if you need to read either of those ones first, I would say no (cause I didn’t, and I felt like I understood what was happening). But now that I’ve read We All Fall Down, I’m kind of interested in the first part of Nic’s story.

If you’re looking for a book about addiction, from an addict’s perspective, I would definitely recommend We All Fall Down.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review.

I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

Published By: Polka Dot Press

Year of Publication: 2007

Categories: Non Fiction, Biography

Pages: 197

Summary (from goodreads.com): A fascinating true story of a young woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage.
In 1969, Ann-Marie Dornn’s parents did the unthinkable. They left a Hutterite colony near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba with seven children and little else, to start a new life. Overnight, the family was thrust into a society they did not understand and which knew litte of their unique culture. The transition was overwhelming.
Desperate to be accepted, ten year-old Ann-Marie is forced to deny her heritage in order to fit in with her peers. I Am Hutterite chronicles her quest to reinvent herself as she comes to terms with the painful circumstances that led her family to leave community life.

Review: About twenty pages into this book I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but by page 50 I was hooked and I had a hard time putting it down. I was drawn to this book because I like reading about things that are different from what I know or experience. I think the author has a unique viewpoint, having lived the Hutterite way of life and then living in the world as I know it.

I found reading about a culture that I knew nothing about so interesting. I live in a province that has a lot of Hutterites in it, I even lived and worked in towns were they were seen everyday, but I surprised myself with how much I didn’t know about them. I didn’t even realize it until I started reading this book.

I really enjoyed getting an inside look into colonies in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve never been to one, so I had no idea what they’re like. I’m sure they’ve changed a bit from the ones described in the book, but I still found it really interesting.

I had never really thought  about what it would be like to have one life and then leave, and try to fit in to the “outside world” that is so different from the one you’re used to. It sounds like a pretty scary thing to do, especially at ten years old. The closest thing that I would be able to compare it to in my life was the two moves that I went through when I was nine and  fourteen. I went through three different provinces in five years, and it was TOUGH. I can only imagine the change that Mary-Ann had to go through.

I loved the message this book gave me – that no matter what language we speak, what we wear, or our faith, in the end we’re all just people. It’s so easy to separate ourselves into “us” and “them”, when really, we’re more similar than we know.

Image: goodreads.com

Disclosure: I got this book from the library.