Divya Manian

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Book Reviews for Jan 2010 – Part 2

I spent a lot of time this month trying to get through Good Money: Birmingham Button Makers, the Royal Mint, and the Beginnings of Modern Coinage, 1775-1821, but I just cannot read academic books. The book covers a very interesting era before the rise of paper currency when coins of small denominations were in short supply and how private corporations tried to mitigate that (rich people melted the higher denomination gold/silver to create smaller denomination coins). Unfortunately, it meanders through the years with no clear progression and is quite boring to read. It is a miracle I got through the first few chapters. Onwards with the reviews!

  • Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

    Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is written by designer William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart talks about how complex and chemical-induced the environment around us has become. It astounded me know an average shampoo contains 22 chemicals including some used to offset the side-effects of other harmful ones.

    They ask, why we have no problem using things that contain some of the most harmful chemicals which are not even allowed in the vicinity of human life in their raw form. Why does the “packaging” makes it harmless?

    They also mention how “recycling” is usually misguided as it only utilizes more chemicals than normal to make these things fit for reuse.

    The authors advocate the philosophy of waste = food, something that would ring true for people who still follow old cultural traditions. They suggest using things that can biodegrade and be consumed by other living organisms. This strongly underscores for me the use of cow manure in Hindu traditions as fuel, fertilizer, and disinfectant, among others.

    The book does not advocate eliminating all chemicals but judicious use of them in ways that can make the environment richer.

    Everyone needs to read this book, just to understand how industries are disrupting nature.

  • Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

    Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel is not a travel book but a book that advocates taking things slowly, travelling to gain an experience and not to tick off “must-see” places from the list. I am guilty of “weekend” and holiday trips done hurriedly to just see a place with a bit of “experience” thrown in at some three-star hotel. I would love to do this when I take a sabbatical.

  • The Art of Herge, Inventor of Tintin: Volume 1: 1907-1937 (The Art of Herge)

    This is a better book than The Adventures of Herge, with lots of pictures of Herge’s advertising, illustration works and sketches right from childhood. The Art of Herge, Inventor of Tintin: Volume 1: 1907-1937 seems to be written for a younger audience and contains a sanitised biography of Herge as compared to the other book.

  • Sagramanda: A Novel of Near-future India

    This is a poor man’s version of River of Gods, and a terrible one at that. Avoid.

  • “The Sandman” by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon

    The Sandman has great artwork as usual. Reading this, I realise what Neil Gaiman did with this franchise is quite radical.

  • Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction

    Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction is just brilliant. I now see the appeal of Hellboy (did not think much of Hellboy when I saw the movies). It is so absurd on so many levels that it is good (and I develop love-at-first-read with such stories). If you like comics and Terry Pratchett, you will love Hellboy.

Any books you have read recently that you recommend? Do comment!