E-/audiobook reviews: Non-fiction, by Charmaine Chan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 October, 2014, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 October, 2014, 11:53pm

The Happiness of Pursuit
by Chris Guillebeau

You’ll either see the quests Chris Guillebeau writes about as futile or life changing. Sparked by his selfimposed challenge to visit every country in the world, this book explores the goals people have set themselves for a greater purpose in life. Only those that make a better person of the pursuer qualify for the book; other criteria include sacrifice and a sense of mission. Not surprisingly, Guillebeau met many people with similar wanderlust. But readers might wonder whether they just wanted something to do or had surplus free time: one chap devoted 10 years to jumping into every lake in the Glacier and Waterton Lakes national parks for charity. Also included are those quests that have become famous because of (or despite) failure, including Chris McCandless’ attempt to live off the land in Alaska (depicted in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild). Among the stories is one that will make readers smile: Jia Jiang began a “100 days of rejection” project to remove the sting of being turned down in business. His “journ


The Glass Cage
by Nicholas Carr
W.W. Norton

Less than 70 years after the word "automation" was introduced by Ford Motor engineers to describe new machinery on the company's assembly lines, Google this year presented a prototype of a self-driving car with no steering wheel or pedals. If the prospect of "look Ma, no hands" seems frightening on roads, Nicholas Carr reminds us that what car designers are doing with computers today, aircraft designers did decades ago. But flight automation, like advances elsewhere that have diminished manual skills, has plusses and minuses. Of the latter, two airline crashes in 2009 blamed on human error give pause for thought. Providing a grand sweep of the tools most of us use today with nary a thought - from Siri to apps that identify songs - The Glass Cage looks at the human consequences of automation. While saying it is not necessarily bad, Carr cautions that computerisation is undermining analytical skills and curbing creativity. Having the internet at our fingertips is also a double-edged sword, he says. "Knowledge involves more than looking stuff up."


The Pornographer’s Daughter
by Kristin Battista-
(read by Nancy Linari)
Audible Studios

From stockbroker to porn broker. That's how a US magazine described Kristin Battista-Frazee's father, who was indicted in the 1970s for distributing pornographic film Deep Throat. Then, Anthony Battista was only trying to make money on the side - and he did, the movie grossing millions of US dollars. Battista would go on to open a strip club and own sex shops, but it wasn't his work that tore his family apart. Battista-Frazee's mother had no problem with pornography, she just couldn't bear her husband's lack of consideration and long absences, during which he fooled around with women. Her attempted suicide and a divorce were the result. Battista-Frazee, who grew up shielded from much of her father's business, describes America in the 1970s, reveals what it was like to visit one of her father's stores, and tells how his work was rarely discussed among her relatives. Read languidly by Nancy Linari, Battista-Frazee's memoirs will make you smile when you hear an aunt telling her: "I can't believe you turned out normal!"