Brief Thoughts: 2015 Final Reads

I’ve spent most of December working, enjoying the company of friends and family, and hurrying to polish off some books. Here are some brief thoughts on a handful of the books I finished recently.

  • That’s Why I’m a Journalist: Top Canadian Reporters Tell Their Most Unforgettable Stories edited by Mark Bulgutch
    • Great collection of varied stories that let you get a glimpse into person who brings you the news. As a Canadian, I loved being able to read about what reporting can really be like for these people I see on TV for brief moments – what dangerous situations they enter, why they pursue certain stories, and what it’s like when they get to share something significant with the world. Reading the journalists’ own words adds a unique dimension to events I saw unfold in the news. Bulgutch provides a few paragraphs of biographical introduction to each story. Most of these journalists have been at their jobs for longer than I’ve been alive! So, I appreciated learning a little about each of their careers. 
    • One small caveat is that most of these stories could easily have been longer. I’ll have to explore which of these journalists have published their own books.  
  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
    • I’m really not the right sort of person to appreciate poetry. This stuff isn’t too bad! I most enjoy reading about the Middle-earth context of these poems. The commentary, including earlier versions of the poems, enhances the reading, but at times I thought it would’ve been better as an annotated version (i.e. with definitions for obscure words in the margins of the poem).
  • Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton
    • Intense read told in first person, alternating between Jennifer and Ronald. Your heart breaks for the both of them. Their reconciliation and further activism gives hope that some of the justice system’s injustices may yet be repaired.
  • The Way of the 88 Temples by Robert Sibley
    • Another book exploring matters close to me, so it’s hard to give an objective opinion.
    • I can with certainty that it’s a good introduction to the Shikoku Henro, even for those who know nothing about it. Whether you just want to learn about it, or if you’ve already undertaken the pilgrimage, I recommend this account.
    • I appreciated hearing a foreigner’s perspective, someone who has a very similar mindset to me – at first too rational to truly embrace the religious aspects of it, but still able to appreciate the spirituality and evolve over the course of the pilgrimage.
      • The Japanese have an intriguing relationship with their ‘religions’, Buddhism and Shinto, in that it’s rare a Japanese person will say they are religious or that they believe everything contains kami, but nearly all will visit shrines and temples as occasions call for it (53).
    • Made my heart yearn to return! Really captures the natural and spiritual aspects of Japan that are particular to Shikoku.
    • The conclusion punched me in the gut. Certainly wasn’t prepared for it. The only book that made me cry this year.
  • Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
    • Easily readable account of how human behaviour can be predictably influence to act irrationally. Based on numerous small experiments Ariely conducted on university campuses. 
    • I appreciated the bit where he explained how humans can’t value things on their own (i.e. how can you say how much something should cost without knowing how much similar/different things costs?); we must compare to other things. This made me feel better about how I always end up comparing books in my reviews 😛