Book Reviews: February 2018

Because I couldn’t post this in February due to a lack of Internet access in Cuba, here is a belated book review.

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker:

I’m always on the lookout for more books about language and linguistics, so when Steven Pinker’s name came up in John McWhorter’s Words on the Move, I decided to check out his books. If Words on the Move deals with the social and historical development of English, then this one focuses more on the neurological and psychological aspects of language (not just English). It’s fascinating, but I have to admit that some parts are too technical for me and I found myself not retaining a single word after reading several pages. It probably didn’t help that I always read this before bed. It’s not really a bedtime sort of book. Still, a great book if you’re interested in linguistics. 4/5

Vietnamese Festivals by Nguyen Van Huyen:

This collection of essays was written in French during the 1940’s by one of Vietnam’s leading historians and folklorist, and later translated into Vietnamese. It offers a wonderful look into the traditional festivals of Vietnam, most of which are still celebrated today, though some of the traditions are now lost or their meanings have become obscure. My only criticism is that it’s a collection of essays, so some of the information tends to be repeated. 4/5

The Spy by Paolo Coelho:

I knew this was going to be disappointing even before I read it, because I was hoping for a biographical novel about Mata Hari and this is too thin. But I read it anyway, figuring that even if it doesn’t give me all the details about Mata Hari’s life, then at least it could give me some sort of insights into her personality. The book, a series of letters from Mata Hari to her lawyer, is certainly supposed to do that, but it doesn’t. It tries to depict Mata Hari as a tragic figure who just wanted to be an independent woman, and that proved to be her downfall, but I don’t sympathize with her character or have any investment in her life. The book is simply too truncated to leave any kind of resonance. 1/5

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson:

This is the book I read during my Cuba trip – non-fictions are best travel read, I find, because you can pick it up and put it down anytime you want. Subtitled “More Notes from a Small Island”, this details more of Bryson’s travel around the British isle. It may not be funny as the first Notes from a Small Island, but I still really enjoyed it, because I identify with Bill Bryson as a traveler (like me, he always seeks out the museums in every town he visits and grumbles about the prices of everything). 4/5

So that’s my books for February. What have you read?

5 Comments on “Book Reviews: February 2018”

  1. Mike says:

    Nice assortment of books, Salazar. I particularly like the cover of the last one, “The Road To Little Dribbling”. Very cheerful looking!

    I just read one book for February, which I didn’t like too well; “Keeper of Myths” by Jasmine Richards. You can read why on my blog.

    • Salazar says:

      That cover is based on a travel poster for the town of Skegness (, which is mentioned in the book too.

      Based on its title alone, “Keeper of Myths” sounds like a book I would enjoy. Too bad you didn’t like it.

      • Mike says:

        Very cool. I would totally get a poster like that and hang it on my wall at home. I checked out the link. There are a few others there that I like also, such as the Cleethorpes one.

        I think you would enjoy it. Like I said in my review, if I had read the first book, I probably would have appreciated this one better. I think I’ve gotten spoiled somewhat after going through “The 39 Clues” series, which I enjoyed immensely. I expected more out this book I guess.
        But I haven’t entirely given up on Richards’ books. When I feel up to it, I’ll probably go back and read some of her other books.

      • Mike says:

        I finally got my hands on the third book of Kate O’Hearn’s series, “Valkyrie”! This one’s called “War of the Realms” The first two books were really good so I can’t wait to read this one!

  2. […] that was the most fun to read in 2018: A Cook’s Tour and The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. Bonk by Mary Roach is funny as well but it’s just too gross […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s