Trying to play catch up, here are two books I read this year and... didn't like so well. So I'm grouping them together:
I picked up Blink
by Malcolm Gladwell mostly out of curiosity – for specific personal reasons I'd met him one time and knew about his work, but had never actually read anything by him.
I ... wasn't impressed by this. While the overall point seems to be about our tendency to make snap judgments, what those mean, and how helpful they are, this floundered throughout the book. In part, this was because it felt less like a well-researched, scientifically-based approach, and more like Gladwell had talked to a lot of friends-of-friends. It amounted to a relatively small pool of loosely connected anecdotes, and what felt like a lot of coastie-elitism. I also grew a little tired of Gladwell's invented terminology, like "thin-slicing" and especially "temporary autism." Which I just found flippant and, aside from anything else – well, terminology is important, and that term is imprecise and unhelpful.
So, it just came off as a weak popular press book, with a nebulous point of "snap judgments are good, except when they're bad." Parts of it reminded me of Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear
, which I'd also recently read, and which handles concepts like instinct, snap judgments, and fear reactions with more clarity and insight than I think Gladwell was able to afford, in part because de Becker drew from a wider range of experiences to shed light on a more specific point. The Gift of Fear
isn't heavy academic reading, either – but by comparison, Blink
goes so broad, in such a shallow way, that it doesn't really say anything.
I think my mom bought The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah, presumably because it's been a big bestseller? I don't really know, I chose it at random.
This is a novel about two French sisters during World War II, one of whom becomes involved in the French resistance, the other who is more pressed with maintaining her daughter's and her own safety, particularly when a Nazi officer is quartered in their home.
This story is pretty much everything you'd expect from an American woman writing about WW II France, and … nothing else. Almost every cliché imaginable comes to pass, from postcard-perfect France to Stupid Americans to Woman Super Proves Wrong The Man Who Doubts Her (I'm not like… always opposed to such things, but this just doesn't add to it, and I didn't care enough about the characters to get much from it) to unspoken illicit romance and tragic wartime romance to Jewish Best Friends, and etc. I just can't say I found anything new, or especially interesting, in this story – it read like the book version of blatant Oscar-bait. And while generally decently written, the use of figurative language could be cringe-worthy at times. Overall, if I weren't in my I'M GOING TO FINISH EVERYTHING binge, I might not have finished it.