mini reviews #6: nonfiction and theatre of the absurd

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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BAD BLOOD by John Carreyrou
★★★★☆
date read: February 26, 2019
Knopf, 2018

Wow. This was every bit as wild as everyone has been saying. Bad Blood is probably the best embodiment of ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ that I have ever read. Trust me, you do not need to be interested in Silicon Valley or business or medicine in the slightest to be riveted by this incredible piece of investigative journalism.  You can pick up a copy of Bad Blood here on Book Depository.

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WAITING FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett
★★★★☆
date read: April 7, 2019
Faber & Faber, 2006
originally published 1952

This is famously ‘the play where nothing happens,’ so I certainly didn’t expect this to be the surreal, madcap romp that it is. I’m going to have to think about this one for a while.  You can pick up a copy of Waiting for Godot here on Book Depository.

 

1035312SPY PRINCESS by Shrabani Basu
★★★☆☆
date read: May 22, 2019
Sutton, 2006

This is a competent biography of a really remarkable woman. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Noor Khan, an SOE agent and the first woman to be sent into occupied France, who was executed at Dachau after being imprisoned for a year and not revealing anything under extensive interrogation. But while Spy Princess certainly has value in filling in the gaps left by other biographers, it does occasionally beatify Noor at the expense of other women (what does Shrabani Basu have against Mata Hari, my god) and fall victim to making very generic statements about Noor’s life when there isn’t documented information (i.e., a page-long description of the global advancement of WWII followed by a lazy statement like ‘Noor was worried about this’). Still, Basu does an impressive job at chronicling Noor’s life and contextualizing her legacy.  You can pick up a copy of Spy Princess here on Book Depository.

13944THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI by William Kalush and Larry Sloman
★★★☆☆
date read: May 28, 2019
Atria Books, 2006

In this book’s introduction the authors state that although they did an extensive amount of research, they made a decision at times to spin fact into imagined dialogue. That should set your expectations for this biography: wildly entertaining, often sensationalized, but decently informative nonetheless.  You can pick up a copy of The Secret Life of Houdini here on Book Depository.


Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

9 thoughts on “mini reviews #6: nonfiction and theatre of the absurd

  1. I love your mini-reviews! I agree, Bad Blood was so fascinating and I was pleasantly surprised that you don’t have to know or really care much about Silicon Valley, business, or medicine to appreciate it. What a nutso story.

    Spy Princess sounds interesting, I hadn’t heard of her before and I love stories of people who did great things but aren’t household names. Your example of the lazy generic statements cracked me up, and blergh, that doesn’t sound like a good way to deal with missing info in a biography.

    Secret Life of Houdini also sounds potentially really interesting, but I HATE imagined dialogue, seriously one of my biggest pet peeves. I got intrigued by his life last year reading a book about Arthur Conan Doyle’s obsession with spiritualism, and how Houdini was also obsessed with it, but more with debunking it despite wanting to believe. I’d like to read a good biography of him but I really don’t think I could get past the imagined dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bad Blood was one of those books that I approached thinking ‘ok, everyone and their mother likes this so I’ll probably not hate it but I also don’t see myself getting very invested.’ I was very wrong. What an absolutely wild and entertaining and HORRIFYING story.

      Ooh if you haven’t heard of Noor Khan I highly recommend digging into her a bit! She’s fascinating and utterly brilliant – she was the first female SOE agent to be dropped behind enemy lines and Britain’s first Muslim war hero – she also withstood torture and imprisonment for over a year without giving any information and her final word was ‘liberté’ before she was shot at Dachau (I’m doing research on her for work, can you tell.)

      Houdini was a really interesting person too, but if you can’t handle imagined dialogue you would hate this book! I found it pretty entertaining, but I’m not a total stickler about that and tbh I wasn’t all that interested in Houdini to begin with (another one I read for work) so I was kind of glad it was an ‘easier’ read… though I did end up riveted by his life and character. The spiritualism stuff with ACD is INSANE, isn’t it wild that the author of one of the world’s most logical detectives was so into spiritualism?? But yes, Houdini’s relationship with spiritualism and the way it evolved over the years is fascinating, I’m sure there’s a book that focuses just on that!

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  2. I started Bad Blood on audio a while ago, but then my Scribd subscription ran out and I haven’t continued on, but what I’ve read of it was INSANE. And I am so glad you enjoyed Waiting For Godot, one of my favorite things we read in school and just in general a piece of literature I still think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was pretty positive I was going to enjoy Waiting for Godot, and I thought I knew exactly what it was about, but I was not expecting it to be such a trip! And Bad Blood just gets wilder and wilder, I promise. I remember reading the first few chapters like ‘ok, interesting but how is there going to be a whole book about this?’ but then it just kept getting MORE AND MORE CRAZY.

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