Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

A biologist tries his hand at anthropology and does a pretty decent job.

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 480 pages.
Read from October 25, 2017 to November 27, 2017.

“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.”

I honestly did not know that this book was published in 1997. I remember working at Chapters in 2005 and this book being very popular so I assumed that it was published at that time. Little did I know that this book created such a wave that it became a basis and main theory contender for how humans developed in countries all over the world. What is even weirder is that Diamond is not even an anthropologist, he is a biologist! After spending 30 years of his career in New Guinea he wanted to answer one of the biggest questions in anthropology: Why did some areas of the world develop more than others?

“Why you white men have so much cargo [i.e., steel tools and other products of civilization] and we New Guineans have so little?”

Diamond’s basic argument is that farming and agriculture enabled some areas to develop faster than others as the lands native and natural vegetation and species adapted and took well to domestication, like the Fertile Crescent. The abundance of easily available and mass-produced native vegetation allowed for the expansion of a population which then leads to more innovations and progressions. Some areas of the globe, like New Guinea, did not have the land, space, population or resources to introduce farming and agriculture making it an unstainable move away from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  Hunter-gatherers have to put all their time and energy into attaining food, leaving little time for other innovations and developments.  Hunting and gathering is no easy feat either. It requires a lot of specific skills and knowledge and within that other types of innovations are made. Diamond goes into detailed examples of the progression of human history in a variety of areas around the globe as well as the spread of contagion, military developments and the invention and use of writing and its effects.

giphy (1)Diamond’s arguments and examples are solid and I was intrigued for the first half of the novel but sadly, towards the end, I was found the content a bit dry, regardless of the facts he was presenting and their importance. I suppose it is because I read this novel 21 years after its initial publication in which, Diamond’s ideas and arguments already seem so commonplace, but I imagine when his book was first published it would have been quite revolutionary.

I do not know how Diamond’s works hold up in the current anthropological environment but the book is still an important one to consider reading. Especially if you have ever asked yourself the same question Diamond did, which I would say is one of the most important questions of human history. Diamond’s intention was to show a scientific and anti-racist approach to some of the ‘whys’ of our human history. I believe he succeeded in that.

In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume. Rather, it was due to accidents of geography and biogeography—in particular, to the continents’ different areas, axes, and suites of wild plant and animal species. That is, the different historical trajectories of Africa and Europe stem ultimately from differences in real estate.”

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

There are parts of this story that hard to believe. How much, if any, was embellished?

“I told myself, ‘All I want is a normal life’. But was that true? I wasn’t so sure.

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 315 pages.
Read from October 9, 2017 to October 12, 2017.

As a species, we have always been curious about tragedy, in that when something bad happens we can’t look away, like a terrible car wreck. This book is the terrible car wreck of Augusten’s childhood and as readers, we are utterly absorbed and shocked at the wreck and mess that follows. I know this book is supposed to be somewhat humorous as that is one way the author has found a way to deal with the failings in his upbringing but I, for one, found nothing about this to be humorous.

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Actual footage of me reading this book.

Augusten’s young life started off dysfunctional but still somewhat normal. His mother was always dramatic and his father reclusive but they were a family.

“My mother began to go crazy. Not in a ‘Let’s paint the kitchen red!’ sort of way. But crazy in a ‘gas oven, toothpaste sandwich, I am God’ sort of way.”

Shortly thereafter his father abandons him and so Augusten is left with his spiralling mentally ill mother. Augusten starts off as a very neat and tidy boy with a flair for fashion and often finds his mother’s antics and resulting behaviours distressing, even at such a young age.  Deidre, Augusten’s mother, has a love for poetry, feminism and the dramatic and when it is compounded with whatever illness she is battling makes for a troubling situation for Augusten. Deidre begins to see Doctor Finch as a form of therapy for herself. While the doctor is legitimate his methods are not and Augusten soon finds himself apart of these strange therapy sessions and even begins to know the doctor and his family on a personal level. Then, a few years into the sessions, Deidre, after reclaiming her sexuality as a gay woman, decides that the best decision for the two of them is if Augusten is adopted and forced to live with the doctor and his messy and peculiar family. From this point in the story onwards, you are going to count your blessings for your own dysfunctional family.

From find the word of God within bowel movements to underage gay sex with a paedophile and having the free reign to do whatever he pleases Augusten’s time with this family is beyond quirky. There are parts of this story that hard to believe.  I mean the author’s real name is actually Chris Robison and the truth of this novel came into question after its publication and immediate popularity.  How much did Chris elaborate and how much did his memory fail in regards to his time with the Finches? There was a call to remove the non-fiction and memoir tag from the book but at the time it was already too wildly popular to change.

From depictions of his mother to the doctor and his family have been called into question with the depictions that Chris lays out in his book. His mother even wrote her own book so that she could tell her own story in response this book. The real name of the Finch family is the Turcottes and the children of the family have since sued the author for the false allegations that this book made about them.  Theresa, or Natalie as she is referred to in the book, remembers Chris’ obsession with fame when he was younger and was shocked with the “categorically false” and “wildly embellished” story that he put together. Chris has stood by his story and his memories:

“This is my story. It’s not my mother’s story and it’s not the family’s story, and they may remember things differently and they may choose to not remember certain things, but I will never forget what happened to me, ever, and I have the scars from it and I wanted to rip those scars off of me.”

I am thankful that I did not know about these allegations before reading the book as it allowed me to read the novel without prejudice. I enjoyed the quirky story, even if it isn’t true or strongly embellished but deep down a part of my hopes that it isn’t true because the events in this story are truly shocking.

I will stick with my 4-star rating on this book because I did still enjoy it despite just recently reading about the controversy surrounding it. Overall the novel is an easy read with mediocre writing but with a story that makes you unable to look away, like a car wreck, and won’t let go. I would encourage readers to approach the book with a grain of salt and just enjoy the insanity of the plot. I think that the those who enjoy memoirs and quirky and dark stories with a dash of humour will enjoy this novel.


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Moody Bitches by Julie Holland

“Medication can make a bad situation tolerable and mask the need for change.”

“We are not men. We are women. We feel more deeply, express our emotions more frequently, and get moody monthly. It’s normal. It’s nature’s way. And we don’t necessarily have to medicate away the essence of who we are to make others more comfortable.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 432 pages.
Read from September 17, 2017 to September 26, 2017.

I will admit, this is not normally the type of book I would read but after a bad batch of PMS symptoms that I am just getting reacquainted with, I felt I needed a bit of reassurance and validation with my lady cycles. You see, I came off the birth control pill for a variety of reasons after being on it for 13 years. That is a long time to take a medication regardless of its positives (like, you know not having babies). After coming off the pill I came to realize just out of sync I was with my body and coming to the realization that I had not had to deal with any of these natural symptoms since I was a teenager. tenor

This book discusses how to deal with your body’s natural monthly hormonal changes and how society has stifled them. The author also delicately talks about the use of other medications and how they affect your mood and other aspects of your life and just how society views women and our perceived neurosis. She always enforces that many of these medications are necessary for a lot of people and encourages the reader to analyze their own use and assess it. She finds a good balance between discussing our natural cycles and how medications can affect us as women without being accusatory or denying the importance of medications. The author also subtly endorses the use of cannabis. I am not a user, nor will I likely ever be but I can’t deny the science behind its use. It is important to note that the author is a legit psychiatrist and her work is full of science-based references in facts with everything that she writes about

<blockquote>”The problem with taking your happy pills and puttering along as before is that it’s no better than sweeping dirt under the carpet. I want you to take that rug out back and beat the hell out of it.”</blockquote>

You cannot deny the benefits of birth control and the liberation that it has brought to women for so many reasons but what is not discussed, ever, is the potential side effects it has on women’s health and that fact that it is currently the millennial generation that has become a guinea pig to its long-term use. The pill is amazing and is very much needed but I was never told of any side effects of being on it and it is not something that is ever discussed in the doctor’s office and it needs to be. I feel more mentally stable after coming off the pill. I have had friends who were not themselves while they were on the pill as they had trouble with being a weepy and depressed mess. Like many other women, I also lost my sex drive while on birth control and my ability to have an orgasm while on other medication.

Women’s bodies go through a variety of hormone changes throughout the month of our cycle and we are never really taught about each stage and how to deal and welcome it. Instead, as a society, we stifle our feelings and natural cycles with Midol, anti-anxiety/depressant pills and hormonal birth control and are told that we are irrational and that our feelings are not valid. That is a major problem. It is no surprise that so many women drink, don’t get enough sleep and doubt their self-worth. We medicate away our problems, often with added side-effects, to deny ourselves our emotions and lack to find value in them. For example, that same anxiety that you may feel is also what makes you good at your job or a good parent, provided that it is not debilitating these are natural emotions that the author finds do not need to be medicated as often as they do based on her observances of the women that have frequented her office. By reconnecting with our natural cycles the author advocates for an improved well-being for women.

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While the book provides some solutions, mostly cannabis-based, the value in this book comes from the facts and information that this doctor provides in recognizing your own cycles and with validating our experiences and feelings as women.

As silly as I felt purchasing and reading this book I am so glad that I did. I think that every woman needs this book as a re-education for their well being and sexual self  Ladies, take care of yourselves and be a badass ass moody bitches.