Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Thích Nhất Hạnh’s the Miracle of Mindfulness (1975)

With how widespread Thích Nhất Hạnh’s name is in the new age world, I completely misunderstood who he was and what he taught. Hanh’s Miracle of Mindfulness is a series of translated letters from 1968 — written while exiled from Vietnam — instructing young monks overseas on meditation. His ‘mindfulness’ isn’t the confusing buzzword it is today, but simply a way to inch towards the Buddhist idea of enlightenment.

I expected scam artistry akin to Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra, not legitimate Buddhist teachings. There’s still a few lines of woo-woo that don’t mean anything (to me, at least), but the majority of Hanh’s Buddhist ideas reject the nonsense of religious text and simply want the the reader to be self-aware: Recognize their emotions and the emotions of others; the causes of social strife and personal discomfort; the is-ness of all things.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Non-fiction

Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (2004)

Any coverage of civilian life in North Korea will be fascinating, and Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea doesn’t challenge those expectations. Delisle worked as an animator for 2 months in Pyongyang, and his experience during those two months doesn’t say anything new or particularly exciting compared to other literature or documentaries out there, but it’s still an engaging format and an engaging experience.

Pyongyang’s a shell of a city, where everyone’s role is to keep up appearances: Make the city and the country look prosperous and content and happy. It’s all very blatantly Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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Book Reviews, Non-fiction

we should all be feminists we should all be feminists we should all be feminists what is wrong with you we should all be feminists

Feminism is a hard topic to talk about. It only takes two seconds for me to start rambling an incoherent mess without a point, without an argument. The underlying social issues are complex, and the complexity is so ingrained throughout every aspect of our culture that it feels impossible to tackle; how can focusing on a single aspect — a single page, a single frame, a single pixel — reflect the greater picture?

It’s impossible; it’s infuriating; it’s stupid.

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Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Alan Weisman’s the World Without Us (2007)

I’m judging Weisman’s work a little more harshly than most because I feel it’s too slim and simple on presenting its ideas. Everything from this book can be found in the readings for a single introductory college course on environmental ethics or resource management — all it adds, I feel, is the context suggested by the book’s gimmicky title.

That’s not to say simple can’t be excellent, but with how the World Without Us presents its info, it feels like Weisman did the bare minimum amount of research — as if his only source was a single introductory class or textbook filtered through a writer’s whimsy. E.g., he shies away from referencing original research, and instead cites news headlines inaccurately covering original research as his sources. E.g., he references a number of outdated terms or ideas, such as continental drift or, positively, “The cure for pollution is dilution.” (Ouch….)

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