April 2011 Books
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Earlier today, I finished Whisky, Kilts, and the Loch Ness Monster (Traveling Through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson) -- I didn't appreciate the historical footsteps much, but fans of B & J likely would - the author's modern day experiences worked well as a travel narrative.
One that definitely recommended would be the one I finished last night: Portrait with Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked - formatted in tiny essays of roughly a page each on average, and a bit scattered in terms of structure, but even though I've never been to South Africa, the authenticity of the unique viewpoint struck me at once.
Finished my Early Review book, Red Heat: Conspiracy Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean by Alex Von Tunzelmann. I highly recommend it but it's a disturbing read.
I'm currently reading The Atlas of the Prehistoric World by Douglas Palmer. Or maybe browsing is the more accurate term. It's quite good, with a more geographical slant than most dinosaur books.
I am starting Barbary Plague next-- which won't be until tomorrow. Company is coming, and need to get offline and get ready.
I tend to like public health books, more and more. I work in biotech, so the public health aspects appeal to me. If anyone has any recommendations, I'm open. I have read the brilliant Randy Shilts, as well as a number of others.
I finished Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon, which was excellent and dispels many myths about her, though she did take thrift to a repulsive level.
Started on Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.
I read Who Are You People? this weekend and really enjoyed it. I love books that take a look at different slices of life. The author takes 3 years to research fandom, collectors, and offbeat sports.
I'm reading Prisoner of Tehran right now. So far it has been very good. I'll let you know more on my thoughts once I've finished it.
Reading Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, depressing so far but a great story.
I've just started The Hanging of Lucky Bill about a notorious Gold Rush era event in Alpine County, California.
Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman by Merle Miller
Not sure what I am going to read next.
I am about halfway through The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Really well written, very compelling, very eye-opening.
I'm reading Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.
I just finished Molotov's Magic Lantern. Really a beautiful book -- I could almost see the landscape as she describes it. You don't even have to know that much about Russian writers or Russian history (I only know the major stuff) to be drawn in.
I finished Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe She describes a world of writers, artists, and actors emulating Hemingway in their alcohol, women and living full tilt. The people, famous and not, were intriguing but I most appreciated her close observation and ability to portray the scene. I was particularly impressed with her thoughts as she pulled herself out of the spell and chose to be a writer herself. My only complaint was that I found it hard to become emotionally attached to the author.
I'm starting Battle Cry of Freedom - my local PBS station has been playing Ken Burns's "The Civil War" almost nonstop this past week, so I'm on a bit of a Civil War kick. I'm looking forward to this one since I've heard nothing but good things about it.
I caught some of those PBS episodes and, as for myself, I've started Landscape Turned Red. That George McClellan was a real piece of work.
I'm still reading Anthony Eden quite slowly - because it's very good and I do love Eden, even if he wasn't of my political persuasion (I'm the same about Ted Heath!)
Picked up The Sisters of Sinai on a whim at one of our branch libraries, and it is wonderful so far!! What a unique upbringing these ladies enjoyed! Great education, even if they were girls, and the chance to travel widely.
I have an "Unsuggestion". Barbary Plague was terrible. I barely made it past the prologue, and gave up about 5 pages into the text. The writing is just atrocious. I officially put it down at the sentence "Angel Island was his castle and the San Francisco Bay was his moat". Bleggh.
I picked up Amusing Ourselves to Death instead. Already loving it, and that was reading the prologue!!
PokPok said: I have an "Unsuggestion". Barbary Plague was terrible. I barely made it past the prologue, and gave up about 5 pages into the text. The writing is just atrocious. I officially put it down at the sentence "Angel Island was his castle and the San Francisco Bay was his moat". Bleggh. OMG! Maybe it will make a nice coaster.
Started My Life in France last night, Carlsbad's Read for 2011, because I couldn't sleep and didn't think any of my other books would help me sleep. It's not boring, but it's much less intense than the others. Reading it is a bit strange, because I keep hearing her voice speaking in my ear. Don't think that's happened with anyone else whose voice I've known well. Maybe it's because I always found her voice grating.
Still reading The Victorian Home by Judith Flanders. I am up to the chapter dealing with the Scullery.
rockinrhombus - looks like a neat book thanks for tip. I recently read How We Got the Bible
which contains similar material.
Finished the memoir, A Mountain of Crumbs today. While it is a memoir of a girl's emotional growth dealing with family and coming of age, it's most unique in portraying a picture of Russian life, culture, and mind set. For that I found it fascinating.
I've started Turning the Tables - author went from attorney to blogger and restaurant reviewer, giving "inside" information. So far, nothing particularly new, and what there is doesn't seem like information I'd find particularly useful. Still, it's a reasonably short book, and decent enough to continue reading.
I am currently reading Africa Counts: Number and Pattern in African Culture by Claudia Zaslavsky.
This books looks at the various why the people of Africa count, the weights and measures they use, mathematical games they play, taboos against counting etc. It is an interesting book though a bit dated. The author first published it in 1973 but the author did do some updating before she released the 1999 edition (which I am reading).
#5 I loved Hetty: The genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon. She was certainly an interesting character and quite different from the woman I envisaged her to be before I read the book.
I always knew of Hetty Green as her daughter was married in the Episcopal (Anglican) church in my hometown (Morristown, NJ), where Hetty and the kids lived for a while - the daughter left a significant endowment for it in her will.
I just finished 1066 The Year of Conquest. Concise, well-written, outstanding.
Today I put down 'Africa Counts" so that I could read After Port Arthur by Carol Altmann. I wanted to read this book before the 15th anniversary of the massacre (which is four days away).
I cried and cried as I read the book but I am glad I got though it. I have done a review of it, the very first review I have done on any book for LibraryThing.
Having read Anneli Rufus's book Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On recently, I decided to try her book on saints' relics Magnificent Corpses ... which turned out to be a good choice.
It's part travel narrative - in the sense that the author gives an overview of the town (or immediate neighborhood) where each saint is located, as well as a description of the church/shrine/chapel itself, to give a complete picture of her experience. Entries also contain a brief biography of the saint's life. They are sometimes humorous, in the sense that Rufus mentions some of the more self-consciously pious ones were disliked by their peers as "goody goodies", etc. She does, however, successfully focus on giving historical context.
Sometimes in reviews I'll mention I'm not the target audience, but here I pretty much am - a non-Catholic interested in the appeal of relics (Rufus is Jewish, by the way), but not wanting to get mired down in a book of theology.
Recommended for fans of Theroux, Bryson, etc. for the travel aspect, and although the writing is solid, I didn't really gain insight into why it's important to actually visit, or be in proximity to, the relics themselves? Perhaps Rufus could've covered that better (in the introduction) as I came away with the same impression I had at the outset: chopping up corpses and distributing the pieces seems a gruesomely superstitious practice.
Started Saturday Is for Funerals this morning. It's about the AIDS crises in Botswana, and so far is neither depressing nor preachy. It should only take a few days to finish it.
About 100 pages into The Great Reset, which I'm finding interesting but not fascinating. He looks at how the current economic downturn/crisis is affecting the US, and how it fits into the broader historical context.
I just finished Wicked Intentions which was very good and have started Torso:The Story of Eliot Ness.
I've started The Pope and Me at Yankee Stadium: My Life as the Beer Man & Stand-Up Comic by Steve Lazarus. Lazarus was a vendor at Yankee Stadium for many years and also became a stand up comic. This is his self-published memoir. A gift from a friend. Seems a little goofy, but entertaining.
Read these two this month.
Arctic passage: The turbulent history of the land and people of the Bering Sea, 1697-1975 by William R. Hunt
The Snow People by Marie Herbert. Interesting look at the Inuit people of Greenland.
Liked The Snow People better than Arctic Passage.
I'm currently reading The View from Lazy Point. 'Depressing as all get-out, but very good.
finished (listening to) Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms,and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester; it was very good in parts, and dragged somewhat in others... overall a very good history.
started The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
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