This story continues along in its convoluted way, and I can't put it down. Lots of big crazy stuff happens in this one, but she manages to hold together a big cast of characters while keeping their personalities clear and distinct.
Fascinating coverage of a part of the Civil War that I'd never really thought about: the immediate aftermath of Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination. In particular, I was intrigued by the slow unwinding of the end of the Confederacy: Davis's hopes to keep going, the surrenders of the various armies, the insistence of his associates that Davis either flee the country or try to keep the Confederacy going in Texas. (!!!)
What bugged me, ultimately, was the entirely sympathetic treatment of Davis and the Confederacy, which just made me madder and madder in the last portion of the book. Davis lived to be a VERY old man, ultimately receiving the adulation of Southerners as the exemplar of the Lost Cause. And good grief...in a lot of ways (IMHO) the Lost Cause is one of the root causes of the mess of modern American politics. So cue gnashing of teeth trying to read the last chapter in particular.
"the core function of finance is financial intermediation -- moving money from a place where it is currently not needed to a place where it is needed. The key questions for for any financial innovation are whether it increases financial intermediation and whether that is a good thing." (continues to talk about "innovations" in credit cards mostly being ways of making pricing more complex)
"much of the positive effect of homeownership is due not to ownership itself, but to other factors that differentiate owners and renters" (mostly looks like income and length of time in the home/apt)
"the founder of Daewood [...] also placed a big bet on cars" (in talking about the chaebol of Korea overextending. we briefly owned a Daewoo.)
Oh, so depressing, and yet, so useful in understanding how we got to this damn place over the last 30 years. In particular, what seems like a long digression about oligarchs & financial crises in Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, etc. turns out to be provide plenty of a-ha moments later, seeing some of those very things -- somewhat disguised -- in our own economics & politics over the last couple of years.
There's a LOTR quote (not sure if it's in the original books or just the movie) in which Galadriel says something to the effect of the quest being on the edge of a knife; stray but a little, and you shall fail (or fall, I can't remember which) and the end of this book feels that way to me. There's this moment that we're in -- and honestly, may have already passed through -- where the status quo of the 1990s & 2000s could have been overturned. It won't last forever, and maybe it's already gone.
LOVE. Totally different from "The Company" books, except in the quality of the writing and the quirky realness of the characters. The main character's complicated relationship with her mother, her brother, and the rest of the world is delicately and thoughtfully drawn. Plus it's got just enough plot to keep pulling you forward.
(I almost cried after finishing, seeing "1952-2010" under her name. So very sad that there won't be any more of these.)
I definitely need to read all the books in a row again, because although I was mostly able to pick up the plot threads & characters, I definitely felt like I was missing something. Great book, though, deeply engaging. Love the consistency and imaginativeness of her invented magic worlds & systems.
Fascinating. Gawande is just a great writer, to start with, connects practice and theory really well. Walks through the problem of medical errors, especially in surgery, and then connects it to other fields handling complex decision-making: flying and construction in particular. I want to put this stuff to work in my professional and personal life.
[ed, 4/2/2011: I realized on Friday that I already do some of this. I was updating Drupal on my work site, and I have a very clear checklist that I've refined over the last year, so that I don't leave out any crucial steps. I often find that I would have forgotten something, either in back up or in the actual order of updating, too! Checklists FTW.]
They pull together a lot of the literature around the psychology of personal change and organizational change into something very clear. (Much like Made to Stick, as you might imagine.) It's been a couple of weeks since I actually read it, so some of the details are weak in my memory now, but the overarching metaphor remains helpful. Would like to pick up a copy for my personal reference.