Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Big Sort

The Big Sort: why the clustering of like-minded Americans is tearing us apart by Bill Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

The simple answer to the question posed by the title is that “clustering of like-minded Americans” in particular cities, states and towns exacerbates political polarization and thus tears us apart. The key insight offered by Bishop is that polarization is the effect, not the cause. While it is hard to remember those days, in 2008 the U.S. was still a prosperous society. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the economy was so strong that many of us could afford to move to our ideal location where people like us resided. Without always being conscious of it, we moved to places where the dominant culture reflected our values. According to Bishop, most of us ended up in highly homogeneous neighborhoods, places of worship, and organizations (although I think he over-generalizes). Nevertheless, he does have a lot of data and stories that point to the overall truth of his argument. He sheds some light on the decline of non-Evangelical Protestant churches, and also places some blame on the advertising community for our political polarization. The Big Sort is an interesting read that makes you rethink your assumptions.


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Filed under Social Science

An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte Press, 2009).

Much to my surprise, it turned out that “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” is not the last book in the Outlander series.  Neither is this one. The current projection is for one more novel, to be published in fall 2013. I read this one in print rather than on CD, so it went a lot faster.  The emphasis was on the battles of the Revolutionary War, so some of the story was told from the point of view of Jamie’s illegitimate son William, a British soldier.  Brianna and Roger, now back in 20th century Scotland, read about the experience on the American side through the letters Claire and Jamie left for them.  The main characters narrowly escape death numerous times during the book, as always, but more of the book was based on real events.

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Filed under Fantasy, Romance, Science fiction, United Kingdom

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

A breath of snow and ashes by Diana Gabaldon (Recorded Books, 2005).

This was it, the big finale to the double trilogy. Forty-eight discs on CD that took me 6 weeks to listen to in the car (and I have a long commute). It was excellent, although the ending was slightly anti-climactic; they didn’t die in the fire that the old newspaper clipping they read 200 years in the future said they would. I was surprised, since everything else happened as history predicted. But after 6 very long books, I guess the author couldn’t bear to kill off the two main characters so dramatically, and who can blame her? At least she finally killed off the heinous pirate who had been following the characters throughout the books. Jamie and Claire, on the other hand, lived happily ever after, as they deserved to.

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Filed under Historical fiction, Romance