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english books, what a concept [Feb. 13th, 2009|09:09 pm]
[Current Mood |bouncybouncy]

Amazon Kindle 2 has better features, but it's still...not very stylish. I wouldn't mind having one to read my non-fiction (it's easier than lugging around hardcovers), but I'm waiting for it to look nicer. Maybe I'll be waiting forever?

Some of the non-fiction I read recently:

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby is a polemic against the forces of anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism in America. The author is passionate and knowledgeable (a plus) yet comes off as condescending and elitist at times (such a turn-off!). She does engage in sweeping generalizations as well as implying that an anecdotal experience (typically from her life in "middlebrow America") applies to a broader group with absolutely no evidence, but overall it is a powerfully written book.

Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America (Kindle Edition) by Steven Waldman (there's no real book edition on Amazon!) gives an overview of the religious landscape of Revolutionary America, focusing on the personal faiths and views on the religion/state relationship of several Founding Fathers. He also discusses myths that liberals and conservatives in modern times have used to push their agenda. Sometimes it felt too much like "he says this, but it's actually this" rather than a unified and coherent narrative, but I still learned a lot. Now I want to learn a lot more about this period of history...Possibly by someone who can do a history book true justice. I'm not complaining about the contents of this book, it's the format and this writer's style that got to me.

Dark Banquet by Bill Schutt is about blood and blood-feeding creatures. There's lots of information on the nature of blood as well as the history of human belief about blood. The author mostly covers vampire bats, leeches, and ticks/mites. (The beg bug chapter made me paranoid about becoming infested.)There were lots of interesting tid-bits thrown in, such as the one that really made me cringe--leeches being inserted into women's vaginas on their wedding night to seem like virgins in 16th century France. Yuck! The author's attempts at humor mostly failed for me. Luckily most of the book is absent his lame attempts at being funny. He got a bit too technical at times, but overall it was a light and entertaining read.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink is an eye-opening look at how humans eat and why we tend to overeat in modern times. He also gives a lot of constructive steps to lose weight. I knew some of the stuff he mentions, but seeing it all put together really helped. For example, we can't judge portion-size very well, so we are influenced by the presentation of our food in determining what a portion is. Don't serve on huge plates because a not-insane portion will look like it's too small on it. His descriptions of the various studies he and other researchers like him have conducted were amusing as well as enlightening. I love that they did a bottom-less bowl of soup experiment (with a tube feeding the bowl from the bottom) to see if people with the bottom-less bowl ate more than people with normal bowls that didn't automatically refill. People did indeed drink more if they had a bottom-less bowl because people take cues on when to stop by things like when the plate is cleared of food rather than if they feel full.