February Book Review
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Things have been a bit crazy lately here in Modern Lei Feng land, perhaps there will be some news regarding that soon. We apologize for the lack of content as of late, after this week things will pick up. Here goes...

Will Hutton's book has been written about a lot through the China blogsphere (here's a good summary), but if you're looking for a "starter" book, this one may be even better than Pomfret's "Chinese Lessons." While Hutton's effort covers Chinese history from the very start and leads you through modern times, its written in a style that is less story and more academia. Hutton is willing to concede that Mao wasn't all bad and that communism did a lot of good, though its no longer appropriate for today's China, which is in need of democracy if it hopes to achieve its goals. Whether or not China goes that way, the cooperation that exists between the US and China needs to continue if both sides hope to continue and prosper. I'm not going to offer a long analysis of globalization, but I think there is more than enough evidence of the interdependence of the US and China. A book that's well worth reading if you're looking for an introduction, but again, if you've read a lot on China already, this may not be worth your time.

I first heard about Mark Thomas' book when he appeared on the BBC's show "Start the Week" (a definite must listen, available on iTunes, sorry for those in China who can't access BBC content). Thomas was very entertaining, the idea of a book about international arms sellers was intriguing, and, like any law school student writing a journal note, he knows a good title is necessary. His ("As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela") is great, unfortunately I think my expectations were too high going into it knowing nothing about Thomas. After having read the book, I'd describe Thomas as the British Michael Moore. The book was a very fast read and it was interesting, but I was expecting more of an inside look at the global arms game rather than a story heavy on his own exploits and protests. Worth a read if you're interested in the topic or if you want to be spooked at how lenient US laws are in this area, but not a book I expect most poeple are going to pick up.

The biographies this month were surprisingly similar: both came from outside England to settle in the North, both came from broken homes and dealt with difficult family problems, and both showed promise from a young age. I'd heard a lot about the biography of Ryan Giggs and most people seemed to think it was one of the most forthright biographies of an athelete. I hate Manchester united, but thought Giggs' story may turn out to be interesting, far from it. A mixed race kid growing up in that era in England, you would expect him to offer a lot more than just a paragraph or two. Beyond that, so much of it was heavy on game by game breakdowns rather than actual stories. It was better than what you get from a lot of players, but with all he could have talked about, I was hoping for more.

Ramsay's story is similar to Giggs up until injuries in his late teens killed his soccer career andcaused him to turn to the kitchen. He's a perfectionist who is out to make the best possible food, a truly driven personality, almost too much so. Some of the most interesting material is when he's talking about his drug addicted brother and how those in the rehab clinics saw Ramsay's own addictive personality as a problem. This was a quick read and very interesting, Ramsay did what Giggs didn't and went into a lot of the problems and controversies he faced, the type of things that people are most interested in when reading this sort of biography.

This month was a bit heavy on Gordon Ramsay. Love him or hate him, he's one of the best chefs in the world and definitely the top chef in London. He's a bit old school and his methods may seem to be cruel, but that is what he dealt with coming up. Ramsay's cooking style is sort of hard to explain as he often uses a lot of French techniques, but it also has elements of modern cuisine as well as rustic, traditional UK cooking. None of these books are "chef books" all of them are definitely cookbooks that contain recipes that anyone can turn out without requiring special gadgetry or a high skill level. Some of them require a lot of time and aren't going to be used every night, but even beyond his "Makes it Easy," the other 2 books contain a lot of recipes that could easily be done in a half hour or so.

Alright, that's it for now, hopefully I'll have finished a lot more books by next month...

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