Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sudhir Venkatesh - Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

What a fascinating read! Although I enjoy reading non-fiction, I sometimes find the writing can be dreary and tedious when authors just rattle off facts and plod through their life experiences without really pulling their readers into their world. Sudhir captured my attention right from the very first sentence and I was immediately drawn into the book, which was every bit as engaging as any other great novel that I had read. I am full of admiration for Sudhir's tenacity and courage for stepping into Chicago's gang world -- I wonder in hindsight if the author had any fear at all? From the book, it felt like apart from certain moments, he never had any inhibitions about heading into the projects to do his research. Sudhir paints a riveting portrait of day-to-day life in a poor community dictated by violence and drugs and the struggles faced by its residents that most people will not even be able to comprehend. His interactions with the various characters made the reading experience so much richer and as a reader, you cannot help but care for these people. This is a brilliant book and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sue Walker - The Reunion

I actually finished reading this a while ago but didn't feel compelled to write down what I thought about the book -- I guess that's pretty indicative what I felt about it. It's a decent attempt for a first novel, but in most parts, it gets rather draggy and moves too slowly to truly engage readers. The flashbacks were fairly interesting but I didn't think those sections flowed well with the present moments. I also found it hard to care about most of the characters, especially after learning about the big secret towards the end. I think better editing could have helped to produce a more tightly-knit story, which would be more effective in leading up to the truly shocking climax at the end. Overall, an okay read but not one that I will choose to read again.