Short Takes

Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceDecember 8, 2012 


Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956

Anne Applebaum, Doubleday, 608 pages

Writing from the vantage points of individuals rather than governments and political leaders, Anne Applebaum sheds long overdue light on the devastation experienced across Eastern Europe after World War II. It’s well known how brutal and destructive Stalinism was. But Applebaum, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for “Gulag: A History,” studied newly public archives and interviewed more than 80 survivors; she also read numerous diaries and personal accounts of the decade following the division of Europe. Her resulting account – centered on East Germany, Poland and Hungary – is singularly detailed, compelling and graphic.

Applebaum drills way down to offer multiple, highly tangible views of well-known events, but also to record the massacre of a family and to show why collaborators might live in denial or how a particularly promising grassroots youth group was erased. Her writing is evocative and dense with detail but dispassionate and highly organized.

Applebaum focuses each chapter on one aspect of personal, social or political life: policing, economics, ethnicity, youth, art and entertainment, and so on. It might have been easier to assimilate this much information if it were presented with more variety, with an occasional step back to explore ironies like the stark contrast between Stalinists’ dedication to securing ever more power and their naive faith in economic plans that absolutely everyone knew were based on fabricated statistics. Associated Press

The Facebook Diet

Gemini Adams, Live Consciously Publishing, 144 pages

With almost a billion users, if Facebook were a country, it’d be the third-largest in the world behind China and India. The average user spends 10 hours a month on the site, and almost 50 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds check Facebook right when they wake up.

Award-winning author and artist Gemini Adams tackles the negative side effects of Facebook enthusiasm in her new book, “The Facebook Diet.” Subtitled “50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Tech-Detox,” the book takes a humorous look into what it means to be a Facebook addict. Through 50 cartoons and captions, Adams points out the more embarrassing and hilarious actions of the Facebook-obsessed.

For example, “you art-direct when someone’s taking your photo so it’s perfect for your next profile picture,” or, “you frequently stay up late stalking your friends, or posting YouTube videos of stupidly cute kittens.” Sound familiar? Don’t worry, Adams wraps up the brief paperback by advising how to break the Facebook addiction. This includes sitting down with your family and friends to give them a face-to-face status update or joining a club with “real-life human interaction.”

“The Facebook Diet” is the first title in the Unplug Series, which encourages social media mavens to disconnect from the in order to reconnect with the people around them.

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