Book Reviews

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

This book should have been unreadably awful for the YA audience. The writing is full of
Kurt Vonnegut-isms:

And who do you think was made to clean the spit off the door each night?
Yes--you got it.

The ending is unrelentingly awful (and spelled out at the beginning). It's over 500 pages long (and not a Harry Potter sequel). As if on a dare to be as pretentious as possible, the narrator is Death.


Liesel Meminger and her brother are being taken to a foster home in Germany by their mother in the late 1930s when her brother dies on the train. While he is being buried, Liesel discovers a book that has fallen out of one of the gravediggers' pockets, a manual on burial. She can't read, but she steals the book nonetheless. Liesel makes a new life for herself in Stuttgart, the birthplace of the Nazi party. Her stepfather teaches her to read to get her through the nightmares of her brother.

Everything changes when their family hides a Jew in their basement...

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, by Manuel de Landa

What happens when history and chaos theory collide?

The book takes three different metaphorical approaches: the movement of materials (geological formations), evolution of culture (biology), and transmission of ideas (linguistics). The main idea running throughout the book is that the past 1000 years of human history have not been leading up to the pinnacle of modern culture (McDonalds, W, pinnacles?!?), but that it has changed to fit the requirements of the times with the materials at hand.

One of the best ideas I took out of it was that capitalism wasn't a recent development--that it could be broken into two coexisting principles, market forces and anti-market forces. Market forces are when people trade goods and services on an individual basis; anti-market forces are when institutions are used to facilitate the exchange (banks, monetary systems, capital, monopolies, corporations, etc.). Without the market, the system is homogenous, fixed, and inflexible. Without the anti-market, everybody starts at zero all the time. Recent times have found excessive growth in anti-market forces...but from within one of them (the Internet), market forces are working to spread ideas and exchange goods and services on a more individual basis.

Just one of those books that makes you go, "I am so living in history. Dude."