Bookmarked: Geeks, Straphangers, and Monsters

By Staff
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Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In “Bookmarked,” we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they’ll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Bonne connaissance!

India is a country famous for delectable curries smelling of turmeric and cardamom, colorful saris, dazzling Hindu Temples peppering every corner and busy streets bustling with a mixture of rickshaws, motorcycles and wandering cows. It is also known for its “geeks,” according to Geek Nation: How Indian Science is Taking Over the World (Hodder & Stoughton, dist. by Trafalgar Square Publishing from IPG, 2012) by science journalist Angela Saini. This fascinating exploration delves inside the psyche of the nation’s science-hungry citizens, explaining how ancient science is giving way to new, and how the technology of the wealthy is being passed on to the poor. Read the book’s introduction to learn how the Indian space program helped India evolve into the world’s next scientific superpower.

The automobile age promised freedom and self-fulfillment, but it has actually imprisoned us, impoverished us, and eroded our communities. The demand for oil is fast outpacing the world’s supply, and it is time to start imagining a world after the automobile age. Straphanger (Times Books, 2012) is the first guide to surviving, and thriving, after the automobile age. In this book, award-winning author Taras Grescoe joins the ranks of the world’s straphangers to get the inside story on the world’s great transit systems and envision the new ideas that will help undo the damage a century of car-centric planning has done to our cities. Read the book’s introduction, “Confessions of a Straphanger.” 

Originally inspired as a work that would echo the Vogues he read while going to the laundromat, Chuck Palahniuk had wanted the chapters in Invisible Monsters to break the normally straight line of fiction and bounce around, as did the articles in fashion magazines. He wanted the novel “to be a little unknowable.” As a new author, he ultimately gave the book a linear structure. Published as his third novel, it was written first. In this revised edition, the reader is invited to jump throughout the book. Intertwined are new chapters: some featuring the characters in the book, others recounting events in the author’s life. As Palahniuk knows, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Read the introduction to Invisible Monsters Remix (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012).

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