Here are some brief reviews of non-fiction I have read recently.
5 star reads
The Tiger Ladies: A Memoir of Kashmir, by Sudha Koul: With lyrical and evocative writing, Koul describes her childhood growing up in a beautiful and somewhat idyllic Kashmir before the ravages of war took over. I enjoyed this lovely window into another time and place, as well as the latter part of the book which touched on the immigrant experience in the United States.
4 star reads
Contemplative Living, by Joan Duncan Oliver: Interesting overview of different ways to engage in mindfulness, meditation, prayer, and contemplative living.
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women, by Geraldine Brooks: Interesting and thoughtful investigation into the lives of Islamic women, primarily in the Middle East, but also with some attention to Africa. Although Brooks is Caucasian (Australian) and not Islamic (actually, she converted to Judaism as an adult), I felt that this was a well-balanced portrayal of women very different from herself. She lived in the Middle East for many years as a journalist and this book is reflective of her training in that field.
No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, by Estelle B. Freedman: This is a thorough presentation of the history and development of feminism around the world. The aspect I most appreciated about the book is Freedman’s nuanced cultural analyses. She does an excellent job of setting context, discussing the variety of “feminisms” and feminist movements that exist through-out the world, and pointing out the ways in which race, class, and nationality affect women’s experiences and perspectives. In fact, from reading this book I gained a new understanding of the way in which my identity and my view of my relationship to the world are culturally determined. My biggest criticism of the book is that it was a bit dry in places. At times I felt that the historical facts dominated and I wished there was more analysis of the reasons behind the events and perspectives she was presenting.
3 star reads
where we stand: class matters, by bell hooks: bell hooks makes a lot of important points and connections in these essays on class, as well as on the intersections between class, race, and gender. However, I found it rather repetitive; since each chapter was apparently written as a separate essay it felt as if the same thing was said many times through-out the different essays. Within each essay, I sometimes felt that the writing meandered and it was difficult to follow the train of thought at times. This was my first book by bell hooks and I would definitely like to read more by her, but unfortunately my library does not have many of her books.
The Drunkards’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow: An engaging review of probability and statistics, but I sometimes wished he would explain the mathematics behind things in more detail. Also, there was more historical information than I was expecting, which I wasn’t that interested in.