More books

I missed a few books during the main post a couple days ago. I noticed there was a huge gap in time from The Fountainhead, which I read in June out in Montana, and The Jungle, which I just finished last week. Here are the five missing books:
Lost Mountain: A Year In the Vanishing Wilderness: Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Applachia, Erik Reece. The only bad thing about this book (other than the mining it describes, I guess) is the pictures: small, black-and-white photos of a mountaintop make it hard to see the progressive removal of the mountain. Otherwise, excellent book. Worth reading, along with this next one.
Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future, Jeff Goodell. I bought both of these coal books because the good people at Border’s left them on those “new arrivals” racks just inside the door — no other reason. But they ended up being, together, an enlightening look at what our electricity consumption is doing to our country. Being in the alternative-fuel vehicle business for the past few years, I’ve seen plug-in hybrids and other electric cars as a good step forward, even preparing the way for the mythical hydrogen economy. However, we’re going to have to develop some significant new energy sources for that to become a good path. We cannot run our vehicles on electricity (whether we use the storage medium of batteries, hydrogen or something else) when we are running most of our power plants on coal.
The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown. Nothing new — I was probably the last to read this. I did manage to read this before I, Kari and Shif saw the movie at the Brew and View — that’s better than other recent book/movie experiences.
Will You Die With Me?, Flores A. Forbes. This is the only book I’ve ever read about the Black Panther Party (another one courtesy of the Border’s “new arrivals” table). Good, engrossing read. Everyone should read histories of the Panthers, the Weathermen and other recent radical groups. Though they made have gone too far in the reader’s eyes (and usually in the author’s eyes by the time they get around to writing the books), they had good reasons for what they did. It’s important to see what our country has come through to avoid making the same mistakes again, forcing new generations to rise up against our government. That said, I don’t know much else about the Panthers, so I can’t comment on the author’s perspective.
Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich. This book is a good example of why anthropology is a formal study, because Ehrenreich screws that part of her research up royally. It’s still a good read, interesting and seemingly effective in highlighting the difficulties of making a living as a member of the US working poor class. Though the fieldwork should have been done by an anthropologist, it remains the only book I’ve read like this that attempts to show the plight of the working poor from someone working along with them.

5 thoughts on “More books

  1. Matt- tell me specifically why an anthropologist should have done the research for this book? I am just curious as to what exactly this field would have brought to the topic. I read that book a couple of years ago. I found it interesting and was actually intrigued by the experience she had. Lezlie

  2. Matt- as you have probably guessed, my comment is referring to the book “Nickel and Dimed”—-FYILezlie

  3. My problem is that her approach is amateurish. She makes it up as she goes along. It’s conduct befitting a popular book or a investigative journalist, but Ehrenreich aspires to more than just her experiment about paying the bills with low-paying jobs. She delves into studying her coworkers — their understandings and motivations — and she does this poorly.Compare it with “My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student”, which I mentioned earlier: Each attempts anthropology (lower-case or upper-case), each is entry-level and written for a popular audience, and each involves research that is fairly close to home for its respective author. But MFY:WAPLBBAS makes an attempt at methodology, defining the parameters for the research and anticipating the ways in which the researcher will interact with others — as any scientist would do. In contrast, Ehrenreich bumbles around interfering with people and making a mess of her “laboratory.”It’s still an important book simply because people that read it (hopefully) will see the working poor with greater understanding and empathy.

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