It’s a travel book, most fun because Troost has a keen eye, a sharp tongue, precise wit, and he is no sissy when it comes to difficult journeys (See Getting Stoned With Savages.) So it is especially appealing in a literary sense to see through his eyes how much there is to not like about China: First, the pollution; second, the overwhelming crowds; third Chinese disdain for foreigners; fourth, their preoccupation with international recognition. The book lingers a little too long, and his inability to speak Chinese is a barrier. Nevertheless, I take away an insight (and laughed aloud on more than one occasion) I have not been able to find anywhere else. January 2010.
This is Hessler’s third book on China. He speaks the language, has lived in-country for more than 10 years, writes regular reports for The New Yorker and National Geographic, and has made it his job to immerse himself in the heart of China’s transition from peasantry to global economic powerhouse. Country Driving contains three scenes: the depopulating countryside, economic transition in a small towns near Beijing, and the explosive growth of a newly constructed factory town. Hessler’s insight is exceptional, but the book feels somehow impersonal, despite being full of stories of real people. It veers towards textbook, never a good thing, but is worth it for its depth, breadth, and timeliness.
Written in the 1960s, The Source still stands as a definitive work on the history of the Jews, that is if you accept the plot as being dated from the Rock Hudson – Doris Day era of romance and simply a tool for delivering key concepts. More than just Jewish history from Abraham to the present, Michener captures the evolution of the relationship between God and man from the time when a single, inanimate God was invented 6,000 years ago to the present day conflict between religious and secular in Israel. A work of fiction soundly grounded in historical and archaeological fact. February 2010.
Here is a Power Point I recently shared with the U.S. State Department in Jerusalem for a video conference on the US at Copenhagen. The video conference was held with several Palestinian environmental scientists.