Avowed Anti-Capitalist Screed Still Highlights All Too Real Issues. And these issues absolutely need to be more openly discussed. If you dismiss the blinders to anything other than the set premise and worldview the author comes to this research with and look at the points he raises instead, this is a solid examination of at least some of the ways the central Appalachia region of (primarily) Kentucky / (some) West Virginia / (some) Virginia has transformed from being driven by a coal economy to now being driven by a prison economy – largely on much of the exact same land. With a bibliography clocking in at 38% of the ARC I read *even with* the author conducting much of the research and interviews himself, the scholarship within his worldview is largely beyond contestation. This truly is one of the most well documented ARCs I’ve come across in nearly 800 books (across all genres, fiction and nonfiction). Ultimately the star deduction here was because the author never leaves his particular biases to even make strawmen of opposing views, much less actually examine whether they may explain the issues at hand better than his own views do. Still, for what it is, this truly is a remarkable text that covers a particular topic that few others do. Very much recommended.
This review of Coal Cages Crisis by Judah Schept was originally written on April 16, 2022.
Love Song To Geometry – And A Look At How It Is Truly Everywhere. This is a mathematician showing just how prevalent geometry is in our every day lives – and why modern math classes tend to ruin it for most people. As a mathematics oriented person myself (got one math-derived degree, very nearly got two others almost at the same time, former math teacher, current active software developer), this was fairly easy to follow – Ellenberg mentions some advanced concepts without actually *showing* many of them, though there *is* more actual equations in here than some might like in a “popsci” level book. Thanks to Ellenberg’s explanations of said equations and concepts, this *should* be an easy enough follow for most anyone. And he really does do a great job of showing how even advanced ideas really do come down to the most basic principles – just applied in particularly interesting ways. Indeed, the only real critique I have here is that when Ellenberg gets off the math specifically and into more political and social commentary – even when ostensbily using the math as a shield – it gets much closer to “Your Mileage May Vary” level. Overall, those moments weren’t quite pervasive enough nor did they stray far enough from the central premise to warrant dropping a star, and thus the book maintains the full five stars that all books start with for me. Very much recommended.
This review of Shape by Jordan Ellenberg was originally written on March 27, 2021.
Enlightening. Read This Book Before Voting. In this book, the most recent former Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States of America – the person who led the organization prior to the current Acting President – explains what trade is and why it is good for America in a mostly objective fashion. In his recommendations for future action, particularly in the last couple of chapters, he gets a bit blatantly partisan and thus lost a star (and arguably could have lost another one – it gets that blatant at times). But beyond that particular part of the book this is a genuinely amazing and even shocking look at just how prevalent trade is in the modern American marketplace and just how much so many of our various – and not always obvious – systems and towns rely on it. For example, apparently 100% of US Penicillin – the main base component of all antibiotics I am personally aware of – comes from… China. Pretty well the entire US higher education system is dependent upon… foreign students paying full tuition. And despite being a “Chinese product”, the Apple iPhone is only… 8% Chinese. So take the recommendations for future action with at least a fair amount of salt, but read the dang book – you need to know the basics here so that you can no longer be manipulated on this issue. Very much recommended.
This book publishes in January 2020 and I am writing this review on December 16, 2019. Obviously this is an Advance Review Copy. And while I hate having to say this because I treat *all* book reviews exactly the same, just so no one gets in trouble with any agencies let us be clear that this review is both freely given and my own uncoerced thoughts on the book.
This review of Trade Is Not A Four Letter Word by Fred P Hochberg was originally written on December 16, 2019.