01 November 2007

On my bookshelf, still unread

  1. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond
  2. Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
  3. Himalaya, Michael Palin
  4. Amsterdam Als Emancipatiemachine, Leo Platvoet/Maarten van Poelgeest
  5. Anatomy of Love, Helen Fisher
  6. Open je hart, Dalai Lama
  7. Ethica Nicomachea, Aristoteles
  8. The Code Book, Simon Singh
  9. Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali
  10. Tomorrow Now, Bruce Sterling
  11. The Complete Robot, Isaac Asimov
  12. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
  13. The Joy of Work, Scott Adams
  14. The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans
  15. The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Gary Shteyngart
  16. The World According to Garp, John Irving
  17. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  18. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  19. Een Kleine Geschiedenis van Amsterdam, Geert Mak
  20. Misdaad en straf, Dostojevski [English: Crime and Punishment]
  21. Feest (Symposium), Plato
  22. Hilaria, Kees van Kooten
  23. The Little Friend, Donna Tartt
  24. Mijn manifest voor de aarde, Gorbatsjov [English: Manifesto for the Earth]
  25. Pour Your Heart into It, Howard Schultz
  26. McDonald's: Behind the Arches, John F. Love
  27. The Emperors of Chocolate, Joël Glenn Brenner

31 October 2007

13 September 2007

36. In ongenade

In ongenade [English title: Disgrace]
J.M. Coetzee
ISBN: 9026316089
My rating:

I certainly liked Coetzee's writing style, for example his sarcasm and irony, and his playing with language, formulating sentences in an original way. I also appreciated the insights he sort of gives into literature and poetry, speaking through the main character teaching at the university. However, I didn't as much feel at ease with the story itself. There is certainly some message that Coetzee is telling you as the reader, but it often frustrates me when I don't completely get that.

27 August 2007

34. A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini
ISBN: 1594489505 (I read the palm version)
My rating:

16 August 2007

33. The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini
ISBN: 1594480001 (I read the palm version)
My rating:

09 August 2007

32. The Informant

The Informant: A True Story
Kurt Eichenwald
ISBN: 0767903277 (I read the palm version)
My rating:

11 October 2006

28. Linkse Lente

Linkse Lente
Femke Halsema, Michiel Zonneveld
ISBN: 9035130766
My rating:

23 August 2006

11 August 2006

26. Freakonomics

Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
ISBN: 0141019018
My rating:

01 August 2006

25. Vrijheid als ideaal

Vrijheid als ideaal
Bart Snels, Femke Halsema, e.a.
ISBN: 9085061466
My rating:

22 June 2006

24. My Life

My Life
Bill Clinton
ISBN: 140003003X (palm version)
Pages: 1056
My rating:

25 October 2005

21. The Future of Life

The Future of Life
Edward O. Wilson
ISBN: 0679450785 (palm version)
My rating:

A Clear and Urgent Message

I am grateful to Edward Wilson for having written "The Future of Life". This book has given me new insights into the current situation of our ecology, scenarios for future developments and solutions for problems we are facing.

Wilson clearly describes the urgency we are in. On the one hand the human population keeps growing. If all people have to be fed and at least many of them want to have a high standard of living, this requires more and more from our natural environment. On the other hand, at the same time humanity is destroying that environment very rapidly. Wilson makes a point that during the coming decades we will have to go through a "bottleneck". We either find solutions in which humanity can live in harmony with its natural environment, or...

Whereas I used to be just "concerned" about the environment, because of Wilson's clear descriptions and detailed examples I now understand much better the processes behind deforestation and the extinction of species. Although it is clear on which side Wilson is (he was a member of the board of directors of the World Wildlife Fund from 1984 to 1994), he is very convincing and remains objective.

At a certain point, Wilson compares preventing the extinction of species with that of conserving art. Both nature and culture are a piece of our history and we are responsible to save them. I found it an original argument, but not very convincing and perhaps a bit too anthropocentric. Although nobody knows what the eventual effect will be on the total ecology when a specific species becomes extinct, I think we should not take the risk of letting this happen, especially in cases we can do something. One thing is sure: an extinct species will never return, and the pace of extinction is currently many times faster than that of the evolutionary rise of new species.

I was amazed by the fact that tropical rainforests are so cheap: in the order of $1 per acre. Combined with the fact that the profits made by cutting the trees are relatively low, Wilson shows that it should be relatively easy to buy pieces of land to protect them. NGOs are actually doing so already. Based on some figures Wilson uses, I estimated that it will cost approximately $110 billion to buy the most important pieces of land worldwide to conserve biodiversity on earth forever. Alright, let's be pessimistic and make it $300 billion. And alright, not all plants and animals will be saved. But still, it will help a lot. Then look at the subsidies governments are paying annually: $390 to $520 billion on agriculture alone, and a total of $2 trillion. Couldn't we simply use a very small part of those subsidies and conserve our nature?

I highly recommend reading this book. (Maybe I should be proud for having read the electronic version of it on my PDA, saving another tree somewhere...)

18 September 2005

20. The Silent Takeover

The Silent Takeover
Noreena Hertz
ISBN: 006055973X (palm version)
My rating:

Mind triggering, but just not elaborated well enough

In my opinion, "The Silent Takeover" gives only an introduction to the global problems Noreena Hertz sees developing in the 21st century.

Probably she did it on purpose, but when reading the different chapters, I was often wondering where she was taking me. From the very start it is clear that Hertz does not agree with the economic policies of the USA and the UK, that now dominate the world. But every now and then, especially in the beginning of the book, I wondered: so, what's so bad about all this?

Hertz sums up loads of data to illustrate the point she is trying to make. Somehow, I got the feeling that she often makes somewhat strange comparisons. Probably, those who oppose her point of view will find it rather easy to prove her wrong (in their own manipulative way of using statistics).

But all in all, I think the general idea of this book is interesting. It is probably true that companies are acting more and more globally and getting more and more bargaining power with respect to governments. We also see that people are losing interest in politics and that they start protesting against companies. Yes, information provided by the media is crucial for people to know when they should protest, and yes, media companies depend to a large extent on advertising revenues from those same companies, so there you have another problem.

There are many social issues that cannot and will not be dealt with by companies. I think Hertz could have explained that in more detail. I also missed a deeper discussion about the fundamental difference between people voting during elections and people influencing the way companies do business by boycotting them and/or using their votes as shareholders. Or, of course, between NOT voting and NOT influencing those companies.

But my largest disappointment was that the suggestions Hertz offers are very concise. I think she should have spent at least one third of her book in providing solutions, not just some one liners covering the last five pages of the book. With such an abrupt ending the book is unfinished, giving the George Ws and Berlusconis of this world all the opportunities to claim that it is always much easier to criticize than to really do something.

Finally, I think it is also not very convincing to mention that more and more people are joining the camp of the "anti-globalists", when it is clear that most of these have completely different reasons to protest. Although probably many readers of this book would sympathize with Hertz's ideas, I doubt that they would also identify themselves with those protesters we see on TV during G8 meetings etc. In that sense, I think Hertz also failed to present a clear vision, something all her readers would be able to keep in the backs of their minds and do something with, for example convince other people.

In the end, I believe that political parties with such a clear vision could have the impact to change.

So, I think this book is incomplete and therefore a missed opportunity. However, I sympathize with the thoughts presented by Hertz, so I hope she will compensate for the missing solutions in next books.

09 September 2005

19. Zodiac

Neal Stephenson
ISBN: 0553573861
My rating:

01 September 2005

21 July 2005

17. Een mooie hondenbaan

Een mooie hondenbaan
Paul Rosenmöller
ISBN: 9050186173
My rating:

24 March 2005

17 January 2005

13. Tenzing and the Sherpas of Everest

Tenzing and the Sherpas of Everest
Tashi Tenzing and Judy Tenzing
ISBN: 0709072260 (I read the
palm version)
My rating:

15 December 2004

1 - 12. Read in 2004

12. Mother Earth Mother Board
Neal Stephenson
[finished: 15/12/2004]
My rating:

11. The Religion War
Scott Adams
[finished: 18/11/2004]
My rating:

10. Robot City 3
Rob Chilson and William Wu
[finished: 15/11/2004]
My rating:

9. Robot City 2
William Wu and Arthur Byron Cover
[finished: 18/09/2004]
My rating:

8. Robot City 1
Michael Kube-Mcdowell and Mike Mcquay
[finished: 09/09/2004]
My rating:

7. Free Culture
Lawrence Lessig
[finished: 31/08/2004]
My rating:

6. Against All Enemies
Richard Clarke
[finished: 01/08/2004]
My rating:

5. Siddharta
Hermann Hesse
[finished: 15/07/2004]
My rating:

4. Across Realtime
Vernor Vinge
[finished: 13/07/2004]
My rating:

3. The Price of Loyalty
Ron Suskind
[finished: 29/06/2004]
My rating:

2. The Next Big Thing is Really Small
Jack Uldrich and Deb Newberry
[finished: 02/04/2004]
My rating:

1. De Gebroeders Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky
[finished: 26/02/2004]
My rating: