Tag: Origin

Bill Bryson – Made in America | Review

Title: Made in America

Author: Bill Bryson

Type: Non-Fiction

Page Count: 480

Rating: 3.25/5

As a general rule, I’m a pretty big fan of Bill Bryson, although I will admit that I’ve enjoyed some of his books more than others. This is one of the ones that I didn’t quite enjoy as much as the others, but mostly because it’s just a super dense read and because the print on it is so tiny that you feel like you’re straining your eyes just to read it.

The good news is that the core subject matter here is pretty interesting, especially if you’re the kind of person who’s quite bookish or who’s fascinated by the written word. That’s because it basically covers the history of American English, beginning at the beginning with the formation of America and carrying on through pretty much to the modern day.

That gives this book a pretty weird vibe wherein it feels kind of like a history book and kind of like a dictionary, which is why I made this book one of my bedtime books. You’d have to be kind of mad to pick this up as your main read because of how difficult it is to lose yourself in it. It’s not really one of those books that you can binge on, you know?

With all of that said, there’s some great stuff in here, and I particularly liked the origin stories for some early Americanisms. Because of the makeup of the United States and its early colonies, US English has a bunch of words borrowed from French and Spanish, as well as from the many Native American languages that are now sadly extinct.

The thing that I struggled with was the way that so much of the text just consisted of italicised words in lists and stuff. You’d get a couple of paragraphs of really fascinating history and then just as you’re gearing up and getting into it, he’d hit you with a long list of the different words that relate back to that bit of history and eventually I just found my eyes glazing over.

So I think it would have been a little more interesting if he’d selected fewer words to talk about and made it matter, rather than just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. That makes it a better choice for a reference book perhaps, especially with the comprehensive sources and index at the end, but it doesn’t work so well if you’re just trying to read it like a normal book.

So make of all of that what you will. I would probably recommend it to people who are interested in language and the origins of words, but not to the general reader. Even if you’re a bit of a Bryson fan, you might find it heavy going. Yeah.

Learn more about Made in America.

 


Dan Brown – Origin | Review

Title: Origin

Author: Dan Brown

Type: Fiction

Page Count: 473

Rating: 3.25/5

You know what you’re getting with Dan Brown, at least to a certain extent, although I do feel as though in this one, there were fewer twists and turns and a lot of the plot was more linear. There was also a twist at the end which was pretty easy to figure out, although I will admit that the motives had passed me by. It happens!

The main problem that I had with this book is that something happened at the end of the last book which really ought to have had repercussions. Instead, it wasn’t even mentioned. I guess that makes sense given Brown’s style, because he tries to make each of his books function as a standalone. And in all fairness, this one does work as a standalone – as long as you haven’t read the one that comes before.

What was cool was the way that this investigated artificial intelligence. Brown’s portrayal of it wasn’t particularly realistic, especially at the time it was first published, but if we give it ten or twenty years, we might not be far off it. There were also some interesting ideas about the ultimate fate of humanity – or to quote the book, “Where do we come from? And where are we going?”

They’re some pretty important questions, and I thought it was interesting to see how Brown – and his characters – approached them. I’m not sure whether I agree with their conclusions, or whether the science involved is even possible, but it was still a pleasant journey to go on. Sure, I got infuriated from time to time by Brown’s writing style, in which he sets up a mystery and then takes a dozen chapters to reveal the actual answer, but it also did its job and kept me reading.

What I would say is that it’s worth going out of your way to get a paperback copy if you can. I had the hardback and it was difficult to hold while I read reading it. Admittedly this is totally a firstworld problem and not one that everyone would have, but it did bug me a little bit and hamper my enjoyment. Actually, this may be one of those rare books where it would work better as an e-book or an audio book than when it’s physically in print.

All in all then, I’m glad that I finally picked this up, if only because I’m a completionist and I’ve read all of Brown’s other books. I’ll probably pick the next one up too, assuming there is one, but I won’t be pre-ordering it. I’ll try to grab it from a charity shop if I can. I’ve got to be honest, I fancy my chances. And that’s about all I’ve got.

Learn more about Origin.