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Ew! Gross! No way! bfertig reads in far less than that.

The 12 in 12 Category Challenge

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1bfertig
Aug 16, 2011, 9:51pm Top

Will be a cold day - we're talking Kelvin scale here - when I read a gross of books in a year.

However.

I will read books in 12 categories in 2012. Not sure yet what the total number of books will be. Also, I'm not going to define the categories, but you can probably figure them out anyway.

When it doesn't get overwhelmingly depressing to listen to it for too many days in a row, I listen to NPR. So that's my tentative theme for now. Subjects are subject to change because I say so.

1. Science Friday
2. This American Life
3. Marketplace
4. Fresh Air
5. StoryCorps
6. Talk of the Nation
7. On the Media
8. Wait Wait.. Don't Tell Me!
9. Car Talk
10. A Prairie Home Companion
11. The Diane Rehm Show
12. All Things Considered

2bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2012, 11:26am Top

1. Science Friday

Nuclear scientists have two half-lives. -- Klaus Kraemer

1.1. The impact of science on society
1.2. Where the wild things were
1.3.
1.4.



Candidates
The Emperor of All Maladies: a biography of cancer
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can help save the world
Dinosaur in a Haystack: reflections in natural history
Ants, Indians, and Little Dinosaurs
Wicked Plants: The weed that killed Lincoln's mother and other botanical atrocities
Oaxaca Journal
The Archaeology Detectives: How we know what we know about the past
Time Detectives: How archaeologists use technology to recapture the past
Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, crabs and the Chesapeake Bay

Chaos: Making a New Science
Science and Religion: Some historical perspectives
The Political Mind: A coginitive scientists guide to your brain and its politics
Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos
Galileo, Courtier: the practice of science in the culture of absolutism
Galileo: heretic
Galileo's Daughter: a historical memoir of science, faith, and love
Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church
The Galileo Affair: a documentary history
The Measure of All Things: the seven year odyssey and the hidden error that transformed the world
Longitude: the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest problem of his time
The Hidden Connections: a science for sustainable living
Genius: The life and science of Richard Feynman
SYNC: How order emerges from chaos in the universe, nature, and daily life

3bfertig
Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 10:48pm Top

2. This American Life

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. -- Mark Twain

1. destiny of the republic
2.
3.
4.



Candidates
Zeitoun
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Pirates on the chesapeake
Wildfire and americans
Theodore rex
Paul revere's ride
Ascent of george washington
John paul jones

4bfertig
Edited: Jun 20, 2012, 2:48pm Top

3. Marketplace

3.1 Shucked: Life on a New England oyster farm
3.2 Sex, Death and Oysters: A half-shell lover's world tour
3.3
3.4



Candidates
The Oyster Question
Oyster Wars
Banana: the fate of the fruit that changed the world
The Orchid Thief: a true story of beauty and obsession
The Scents of Eden: a history of the spice trade
Confessions of an economic hit man
Cod: a biography of a fish that changed the world

5bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2012, 11:25am Top

4. Fresh Air

4.1 To Siberia. New to me author
4.2 the iliad. New to me DDC number
4.3 The Hunger Games. New to me author
4.4 Who Fears Death. New to me author



Candidates
The House of the Spirits - new to me author Isabelle Allende
Pearl Buck in China - new to me author Hilary Spurling
The Aenid - new to me ancient writings
The Mapmakers Wife: a true tale of love, murder and survival in the Amazon - new to me region

6bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2012, 11:24am Top

5. StoryCorps

Writing is an extreme privilege but it's also a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift of giving a story to someone. -- Amy Tan

5.1 The Enchantress of Florence by Salmon Rushdie
5.2 war and peace by Leo Tolstoy
5.3 Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
5.4 Grimm's Fairy Stories by Jacob Grimm



Candidates
A Mercy - Toni Morrison
Gifts - Ursula LeGuin
The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
Ground Beneath Her Feet - Salman Rushdie
Dead Soulds - Nikolai Gogol
A Thousand Splendid Sunds - Khaled Hosseini
The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimore Cooper
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
The Castle - Franz Kafka
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens
Burger's Daughter - Nadine Gordimer

most of these candidates are books I have in audio format that are waiting to be listened to

7bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2012, 11:23am Top

6. Talk of the Nation

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about. --Oscar Wilde

6.1 Misquoting Jesus -- for 'Misquoting'
6.2 Voices -- for 'Voices'
6.3 Mockingjay for 'Mocking'
6.4



Candidates
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Atlas Shrugged
Misquoting Jesus
Outwitting History - the amazing adventures of a man who rescued a million yiddish books
Song of Solomon
Voices
White Noise

8bfertig
Edited: Jun 12, 2012, 9:47pm Top

7. On the Media

7.1 The Great Typo Hunt
7.2
7.3
7.4



Candidates

9bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2012, 11:26am Top

8. Wait Wait.. Don't Tell Me!

8.1 Powers
8.2 Sons
8.3
8.4

11bfertig
Edited: Aug 17, 2012, 10:08pm Top

10. A Prairie Home Companion

10.1 The brother gardeners
10.2 the botany of desire

12bfertig
Edited: Aug 26, 2012, 1:30pm Top

11. The Diane Rehm Show

11.1 A mercy by Toni Morrison
11.2 Gifts by Ursula LeGuin
11.3 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
11.4 Pearl Buck in China: Journey to The Good Earth by Hilary Spurling

13bfertig
Edited: Aug 20, 2012, 6:08pm Top

12. All Things Considered

12.1 Shame of the nation
12.2 Foreskin's lament
12.3
12.4

14VictoriaPL
Aug 17, 2011, 8:02am Top

An NPR theme! I love it!

15bfertig
Aug 17, 2011, 11:24am Top

thanks Victoria~

16LauraBrook
Aug 23, 2011, 6:29pm Top

A great idea to set up this challenge! Is it January yet? ;)

17lkernagh
Aug 26, 2011, 11:07pm Top

Well, now I am impatient for 2012 to start as I don't know what NPR is but the categories you have listed are intriguing me!

18bfertig
Aug 29, 2011, 9:14am Top

National Public Radio
www.npr.org

19bfertig
Edited: Nov 21, 2011, 2:19pm Top

5.1 The Enchantress of Florence by Salmon Rushdie



This was a zesty book. A yellow haired fair skinned man parades into the court of the Moghul Emperor with the claim that he is the emperors uncle. The story of his origins spans the entire known world, centering in Moghul India and Florence Italy with the focal point of CaraCuz, Lady Dark Eyes, the most beautiful enchanting princess the world has known and a cast of three loyal friends - Il Machia, Ago Vespucci, and Argalia the Turk.

Beautifully written prose with epic and colorful details. Lots of fun tracing the characters heroics and paths as they criss-cross East/West.

5 stars.

20VictoriaPL
Oct 19, 2011, 1:48pm Top

Love your numbering scheme, may have to steal it.

21RidgewayGirl
Oct 21, 2011, 9:42am Top

Hmm, I've read one book by Salman Rushdie and didn't love it (Shame), but now you're luring me back.

22bfertig
Oct 21, 2011, 4:08pm Top

Thanks Victoria!

Ridgeway, this is the 2nd book of his that I've read (first was Midnight's Children), and I've liked both of them. He writes epics, and I can get behind that. A lot of fiction is generally to 'fluffly' for me; I need something to sink my teeth into. So far he's come through in both cases.

I liked the blending of Eastern/Western historical fiction. Il Machia is Niccolo Machiavelli, Ago Vespucci's cousin is Amerigo, and Argalia the Jannisary Turk has a historical counterpart as well but I forget who. CaraCuz is descended from Genghis Khan. Akbar the enlightened Moghul emperor is also somewhat grounded in reality I'm sure.

The themes of power and peace are interwoven throughout, contrasting pre-through-post Medici Florence with the Moghul Empire and its dream of peace through unity of religion despite conflicts between Hindus and Muslims.

23bfertig
Edited: Nov 21, 2011, 2:19pm Top


A mercy - Toni Morrison
Fairly quickly on, I realized that really the strength of this book is in its character study. With that framework, I settled in to enjoy this. There is essentially no plot or action.

The story is set in colonial Maryland and is about the people on a farmstead - the farmer/trader, his wife, an Indian servant, two female slaves, a black freedman blacksmith, and two white indentured servants. Through each of their viewpoints, we see how each are affected by the death of the farmer/trader and the sickness/recovery of his wife. We learn how they came to be on the farm, their roles, their relationships, their conditions, their aspirations, their betrayals.

The most interesting things about the interview with Toni Morrison afterwards, I felt, was the theme of betrayal and how each character acted/reacted within the context of the options available - that none of them were particularly good or wicked people, but that each profoundly affected the life of the others.

The story is beautifully told but somewhat hard to follow at times -- at least listening to. The narration abruptly switches between viewpoints and times. Though there is a clear and consistent 'I' and 'you', it is sometimes difficult to figure out which characters these are.

It is, however, overall, an excellent narrative and characterization of what it was like to live in colonial Maryland, rich with detail and an exposition of the difficulties and potential futures of the various characters - each of which represent or illustrate various social classes/status. Morrison spent a good deal of effort and interest in the research, and it shows.

24mamzel
Dec 18, 2011, 4:31pm Top

I think I'll be adding to my wish list here. Two already going on! I don't listen to NPR very often but when I do I like what I hear. "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" always makes me laugh out loud.

25bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2011, 10:28pm Top


Gifts - by Ursula Le Guin

Solid. Boy struggles with coming of age, learning to use his inherited Gift or power and deal with family issues.

The main character has a fair amount of introspection, for an adolescent male character, which makes it interesting. But there were times when the characterization sometimes felt a little flat, and the plotlines that followed from it felt a bit contrived.

Spoilers in the rest of the post.
*************************

So Oreck's Gift was that of Undoing, which was basically a magic death ray, and the mechanism of using the magic required the hand, the will, the word, and the eye. Oreck's struggle with late-blooming Gift, his experiences with it, and some chilling history/heritage all leave him rather frightened of it, especially when his father tells him that his Gift is Wild and can't be controlled, and so he winds up wanting to be blindfolded so that he can't mistakenly use it. Except then he realizes that his struggles with learning the Gift were because he never had it in the first place and he gets mad at his father for lying to him, using Oreck's 'Wild Gift' as a threat against enemies, and making Oreck miss out on the last year of his mother's life.

It was Oreck's realizations and the transitions of his identity with the Gift that I had the trouble with for two reasons, though it was the twist of not having it at all in the first place that made the story interesting and perhaps stand out. First, the transitions were somewhat flat and forced. Each happened as Oreck basically just thought about it or was talking with his buddy Gry. And once he had thought it, it must be of course be true, and the cast of characters fell into line with that reality. It just felt one-sided and somewhat forced to me, without the deftness of storytelling that amazes the reader for having missed something in plain view mentioned earlier.

Second, my feeling is that since magic is made up anyway, there must be consistent rules that are laid out and followed... otherwise whats from stopping any character from doing anything? By analogy, if magic is a game of Rock,Paper,Scissors, the rules must be set out ahead of time, otherwise you can be sure I will pull out my StealthThumbNuclearCherryBomb, which beats all of the above. David Eddings wrote something much more interesting about the subject as well. Getting back to the story, I felt that the telling of the twists of whether or not Oreck had the Gift of Undoing was essentially breaking the rules that had been laid out.

I don't know what would have been better way to go about it. But then again, I'm just a critic (and it may even be a stretch to call myself that), not an author, and I have the easier task.

And despite those two problems with Gifts, they are not fatal, and I happily picked up the second book of the trilogy, Voices, which I am more than halfway through.

26bfertig
Edited: Dec 20, 2011, 10:38pm Top


Misquoting Jesus - Bart Ehrman

It was Good to Pretty Good. Nothing earth shattering. Things get lost and lost in translation. Texts were written down and copied manually, which can introduce errors. Most errors don't matter but some may, depending. Some changes were made intentionally, for example as intentional corrections or in the context of the theological debates/controversies at the time. The people doing the copying may matter. Interesting stuff. Will think a bit more and write (maybe) write something (maybe) more profound later. I don't think this is a book that will change beliefs or opinions in either direction, but at least may raise awareness or provide examples of how of the issue that textual criticism (a field of exegesis) is important and context is critical.

27bfertig
Dec 20, 2011, 10:41pm Top

24> Thanks mamzel!

28pammab
Dec 24, 2011, 9:50am Top

Just want to say -- I love the NPR theme, and it's good to see your support for Rushdie, as I hope to read him this year.

I think one of the most interesting things about books like Misquoting Jesus is the implications that they have for the religions that rely entirely on the literal Word of God for salvation. By denying the importance of exegesis and context, there is really no choice but to believe that God was there, coaching all the middlemen along the way. So, which came first -- the belief in divine writ, or the belief in one's individual ability to fully understand God's meaning? I'm sure I take a much colder, analytic perspective on this stuff than many people are comfortable with, but the way that having one belief necessitates holding a whole host of other beliefs, many of which might not be accepted in any other context but a religious one, and the causation of that chain, is really interesting to me. It also gets my populist conspiracy-theorist brain going, when you start comparing the actual Hebrew and Greek that have made it to the present-day (which are often fragments or incomplete ideas, especially with the Hebrew) with the English translations that elide and pretend those difficulties in translation don't exist -- why would any institution devoted to allowing its people to read the real words of God allow such changes? The only way that makes sense is if they believe that God is using them and somehow ensuring that the right translation is the one that gets put into the English -- but then why are there so many translations? And why isn't the Hebrew clear to begin with? And doesn't the idea that God talks in *my* ear when I translate the Bible countermand the idea that everyone has absolutely equal access to salvation by having access to the Word of God? I'm sure there are answers to all of these questions -- and it is that process of answering them that fascinates me.

Anyway. I love seeing how people resolve these sorts of tensions and pull out all the implications of their belief systems; it gives me faith in humanity to see the innovativeness with which people resolve these sorts of tensions. Plus, it's fun to think about. Sounds like your read was more interesting to you in raising questions than in actually presenting material too.

29clif_hiker
Dec 24, 2011, 10:07am Top

re: 28

"I'm sure there are answers to all of these questions..."

well yes and no... most folks find it far easier to dismiss you with a "why do you hate God" sneer when you ask these types of questions; and those that do try to address them often devolve into bitter arguing amongst themselves over meanings etc.

so I'm not sure there ARE answers to your (and my) questions

I agree with your last paragraph.. it's a great spectator sport.

30bfertig
Dec 24, 2011, 10:23pm Top

One of the things that I've liked about the two Rushdie books that I've read thus far is that he takes the time to really flesh out the characters - and then creates circumstances where everything changes and the characters have to react and change and the reader can see how that happens, why those particular changes were made and what the effects were. The writing feels very organic and real to me, in that I feel like these characters have multiple aspects to them. They are not simply there to represent one thing or serve a single plot purpose.

31bfertig
Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 9:11pm Top


The Great Typo Hunt

This was an amusing and surprisingly compelling travelogue of correcting typos around the country. Apparently there was press coverage of their tour in 2008 and they were sued by the US Park Service for correcting a typo on a sign in the Grand Canyon - which is apparently vandalism. They formed the Typo Eradication Advancement League to encourage the education and literacy of spelling and grammar.

Some of the discussions that this roadtrip brought out were interesting -- what are the most common typos? (Turns out apostrophes, plural possessives, and a few others.) What is the point of correct spelling and/or grammar these days? (Clarity? But what if clarity is not in question?) Do typos on handmade signs at small businesses detract or add to their style and professionalism? If you read books about language, or travelogues, this could be a book for you. I found it was a good book, full of some good nerd humor and thought, and I enjoyed reading about their shenanigans.

32bfertig
Dec 29, 2011, 9:15pm Top


The Impact of Science on Society

Really interesting to take a look back and see what it was like looking post WWII at the impact of science on society. Some things are still applicable, others not so much. Some predictions were on target, others wildly off track. Many assumptions wildly off base or have subsequently proved false. But interesting reading nonetheless!

33bfertig
Dec 29, 2011, 9:29pm Top


The Shame of the Nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America

This is an incredibly depressing book. It starts out with mind-numbing statistics that describe the facts that in many American cities and urban centers schools are effectively separate and unequal. In many urban centers the vast majority of students are comprised of minorities - generally ~90+% black and/or Hispanic. It describes the teaching, curriculum, and class control methods that are used in these schools. These methods are derived from corporate and/or trade school structures and do not instill either basic knowledge nor a love of learning. The book then describes how and why this has come to be and then takes a look at the prospects for this to change in the near future. Throughout, each is bleak.

Two main things are not addressed with this book, namely real and/or perceived violence and drugs rampant in poor urban schools systems - though I will be very quick to admit that these are not limited or unique to poor urban school systems.

Kozol makes an argument that integration is necessary and that where it has happened many of the problems that have been described are not as prevalent -- test scores increase, etc. Personally, I think this is one of only many things that need to happen, and further that why it works is more straightforward than he lets on.

In any case, this is an incredibly enlightening book, and one that is quite readable ... once I could bring myself to face it again. But I had a hard time picking this book up each time and often could only read a few pages at a time.

34clif_hiker
Edited: Dec 30, 2011, 5:59am Top

on one hand we've got guys like Kozol and Ted Sizer writing about how and why we need to change the way we do education, that the old industrial revolution model is outdated, racist, and just isn't working... in other words, blaming the system for the failure

and on the other hand we've got Ron Clark and his clones all proclaiming that if you just learn how to teach like he does, you can get superior results from EVERY student... in other words, blaming the teacher for the failure

and then, in the middle (the position I subscribe to) you have authors and educators like Robert Marzano trying to fix both the system and the way we teach within the system...

education has turned into a cynical business. I'm very glad my children will be out of it in just a few years.. and that I can retire from the business in a few years after that. I love teaching.... but the daily cynicism and hypocrisy wear me out.

35mamzel
Dec 30, 2011, 3:54pm Top

I work in a high library (I'm not credentialed) and it's hard to watch teachers who have dedicated their lives to teaching deal with the pressures of program improvement, pacing calendars, test scores, standards, etc. Every time they turn around there is a new program guaranteed to improve test scores and solve all their discipline problems. IMHO, too much money is spent on these miracle programs and should instead be used for facilities, supplies, and teacher support.

36bfertig
Apr 3, 2012, 8:59pm Top

found a free copy of The Iliad and put that on my kindle app for the ipod. its kinda cool to read one of the ancient works on a newfangled gizmo. it says im already about 11% done with it. seems to go pretty quick.

also am somewhere just into Book II of War and Peace, which i am listening to. i also put a free version of it on to the kindle app to see how it compares to the audible version. the audible version translation tends to use the Russian/French versions of names whereas the kindle app translation uses the Anglicized versions of names, which not surprisingly makes comparison of the two more complicated than it needs to be for a long book with plenty of characters each of whom are referred to in multiple ways. i am sticking with the audbile version for this one - i prefer the Russion/French.

37mamzel
Apr 4, 2012, 11:13am Top

Good to see you back again!

38bfertig
Apr 4, 2012, 3:08pm Top

just about 1/8 done with War and Peace. i can't stop thinking about how similar it feels to Gone with the Wind, which is probably more or less the same story anyway, just a different place and war... but it starts out wiht aristocratic parties - the drunken party and stupid stunts like drinking a bottle of liquor while sitting on an open window sill is like stuff in stupid highschool or college party movies that are still coming out. then there's a bunch to do with the dying rich dude who has decided to give everything to his illegitimate son in his will - basically a wild teenager - while overlooking his other much older respectable aristocratic children. and then theres the other noble who has a great wife but is basically bored with her so even though shes pregnant off to war with napoleon he goes.

just such a great amount of epic detail - little little details - like what some cow crossing over some bridge looks like, or the description of the facial expressions and their interpretations which are themselves multiple expressions and feelings, far deeper than 'happy' or 'a worried look'. throw that together with individual stories of the troops cross-sectioning the russian army from general to privates and theres just a ton of room to run wiht this. so vivid it reads like a movie.

39VictoriaPL
Apr 30, 2012, 7:17pm Top

How is War and Peace coming along?

40bfertig
May 9, 2012, 12:42am Top

It's coming along. I am somewhere in the third section of the firsts book. The first on was about aristocratic parties and the death and inheritance of an uber wealthy dude who bequeathed it all to his bastard who then gets manipulated into chilling with prince vasil's daughter.

The second bit was about the war and who is fighting I it and following a bunch of chArcters across the society spectrum.

The third bit returns to the scheming and marriage plots of some of the characters. There is a fantastic description of how princess Marya, who is plain but smart, gets uncomfortably dolled up egged on by a French companion to meet a suitor and is reamed out by her father who doesn't want her to leave him or pretend to be what she is not. Though he does so in a completely obnoxious way.

Overall I am still enjoying the book. It's going slow right now because I am listening to it at he gym h have been bad abot going to the gym for two weeks. Will have to be better abot that as well.

41bfertig
May 9, 2012, 12:49am Top

Also I finished the brOthers gardeners which was interesting imparts but lost some of the interest for me about the last third or so. It started out tracing the friendship of two men and their gardens. Collinson in England and Bertram in USA. But then it side tracked into Linnaeus and his student solander and lost its train of thought somewhere in there. Probably because here was only so much to say about those first two. Some good in depth details and some interesting tidbits of the personalities of the early botanists but it was hard for me to stay interested in finishing the book.

42bfertig
Edited: May 12, 2012, 2:57pm Top

I was better about going to the gym this past week and listening to War and Peace. Am now on audible.com "Part 2, chapter 8" which in no way has anything to do with the story structure and more to do with filesize, but it does mean that I'm almost 'read' 25% of the book.

ETA that according to the Kindle app, I am also 39% done with The Iliad, and I still find the idea of reading ancient greek literature on a kindle app on a smart phone really amusing.

43VictoriaPL
May 12, 2012, 9:01pm Top

You're really doing some heavy-lifting. You will always have stronger literary muscles than I!

44bfertig
May 12, 2012, 10:24pm Top

I dunno Victoria. Right now it's just two books about wars.

45mamzel
May 13, 2012, 5:29pm Top

I still find the idea of reading ancient greek literature on a kindle app on a smart phone really amusing

Homer must be spinning in his grave!

46bfertig
Edited: May 16, 2012, 10:24am Top

Homer must be spinning in his grave! -- may be! but he has basically accomplished what i imagine one of his goals was - to immortalize the heroics and feats of the warriors and document the destruction of Troy for all time. the media and language has shifted innumerably before, and will in the future, i imagine... the smart phone is just a stone skip of time.

anyway am 54% done with the Iliad. At first the well greaved greeks were winning and now Hector of the glancing helm has turned the tide and most of the Greek heroes are wounded and stuck in sick bay. Theyve stormed the ditch and wall the greeks have built.

There's been a lot of 'this one killed that one and anOther one bit he bloody dust'. Whats confusing is at the moment of each death Homer tells the life story of the slain. Or at least the vitals. Where from, lineage, wife.

There's a lot of familiar names and it's kinda interesting to see them in one place here since they are somewhat more ingrained in my head from elsewhere. Like Laertes (thank you shakespeare) or Hercules (thank you Kevin Sorbo) or Saturn (thank you GM). and then there are the other random lesser gods like Sleep (no thanks to you Starbucks) or Aurora (the borealis is on the bucket list).

I don't know why but the translation I'm reading insists on using the romanized names not the Greek ones. Seems rather silly to me since it is a Greek story. silly stuffy old dead translator.

also i do find it somewhat strange that at the moment I find myself with a kindle app book and an audible book, but no book in hard copy at the moment... not that theres an excuse for that... since these two are about wars, i suppose i should find something else on my shelf about destruction ive been meaning to read... maybe The making of the atomic bomb

47bfertig
Edited: May 17, 2012, 12:28am Top

Honestly the Iliad reads like a game of football with the line of scrimmage moving back and forth and the Greeks and Trojans Lternating between offense and defense.

I had no interest in seeing it when it came out but I might rent Troy or 300 or something after readin this. It's about as deep.

The one thing that is kinda interesting is the idea of how involved the Greek gods were in the lives and fates of the mortals. To the point where there are teams of gods aligned loosely for or against the Trojans.

66% done now.

48bfertig
May 23, 2012, 8:43pm Top

82% done with the Iliad and 30% done with War an Peace.

The theme binding these two together right now for me is that they are classics about real wars. but are entirely different in their feel. Iliad is at times almost an accounting in the sense of documenting names and lineages who won which battle and who killed who. War and peace is also all about the people and Characters but more about their loves and relationships their families structure and duties and so ial status.

Tolstoy takes huge pains and lengths to describe the scene so that it feels like the reader is there. Homer barely mentions the scene unless it directly relates to the battle such as when the battle Is at the Greek ships or Trojan city wall or mount Olympus. Descriptions are fairly uniform and there is a lot of repetition. There are more creative ways to kill someone with a spear than I imagined though. Some of this is fairly gory. Not so much with the Russian army even though by Part Two we have already seen several main characters wounded.

49bfertig
May 29, 2012, 9:40am Top

apparently Edward Lord of Derby only translated the first two volumes of the iliad. the ebook ends at the return of Hector's body to Priam and his funeral rites. No Trojan Horse! Gah!! Will have to find a different version to read the rest. Blah. Not cool Eddie.

50christina_reads
May 29, 2012, 12:15pm Top

@ 49 -- Actually, I don't think the Trojan horse episode is actually in the Iliad. According to Wikipedia: "The main ancient source for the story is the Aeneid of Virgil, a Latin epic poem from the time of Augustus. The event does not occur in Homer's Iliad, which ends before the fall of the city, but is referred to in the Odyssey." So you may have the complete text after all.

51bfertig
May 29, 2012, 10:31pm Top

Yes I think you are right. I have downloaded several other versions and all end in the same place. The translation by Pope mentions this in the endnotes as well. Apparently my memory from elementary school and hollywod's Troy did not serve me well and I didn't believe what I was reading in front of me! Just goes to show me that my preconceived notions are not always right! And that things get muddied up when stories and retellings merge.

When reading this, in my head I was comparing it to whatever children's version I had read in sixth grade and the Greek mythology I read in high school and a few other books like Cassandra by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Also I was actually impressed with how much Hollywood got right in Troy since I expected a much more mangled mixed-up and mushy story. I think the biggest things they told differently was how they treated women characters especially Briseus' And that Patroclus' relationship with Achilles and that there was no depiction of the gods and they did include the Trojan horse episode. a lot of the detail and direct actions of the characters was right out of the book. Someone clearly had read the book which does not always appear to be the case wih movies.

Overall I liked both reading and watching the Iliad and my bones of contention differ by medium.

52bfertig
May 29, 2012, 10:39pm Top

33 more to go for this challenge.

53christina_reads
May 30, 2012, 1:07pm Top

@ 51 -- I think it's really interesting how our cultural understanding of certain books can be incredibly misleading. The Trojan Horse not being in the Iliad is just one example. I remember, when I was reading Around the World in 80 Days this year, how shocked I was to discover that there is no travel by hot air balloon whatsoever!

54bfertig
Jun 1, 2012, 4:51pm Top

I've read the first chapter or so of Making of the Atomic Bomb, and its pretty good but a bit of a mindwarp to be thinking about bronze age warfare, early 19th century aristocracy running about, and the people who split the atom all at the same time.

meanwhile, i havent quite had enough with the classics. but am not sure if i should read the Odyssey or the Aenid next. the odyssey is about the return home of odysseus (ulysses - it's really frustrating that everyone has a greek and a latin name given how many people/gods there are) after the Trojan war.... while the Aenid recounts other tales of the Trojan war including the horse episode, but was recorded by Virgil (latin) which seems quite different than homer somehow.

ive download both odyssey and aenid onto my SmarterThanMePhone... but havent really launched into either yet.

apparently according to wikipedia reading last night, iliad and the odyssey are part of something called the Epic Cycle, but exactly what is cyclical about it escapes scholars, as it consists of several accounts by various authors, most of which incompletely survive to this day.

55bfertig
Jun 5, 2012, 11:19am Top

32% done with War and Peace.
12% into The Odyssey.... I have the Alexander Pope translation and it feels more like Shakespeare than did the Edward Earl of Derby translation of Iliad. Maybe its the rhyming.
Both of these are excellent nighttime reading escapes from work at the moment.

56banjo123
Jun 6, 2012, 1:12pm Top

I love the description of the Iliad being like a football game. I have never understood football, and I didn't understand the Iliad either--so I think it's a good analogy!

57bfertig
Jun 7, 2012, 11:45am Top

well both just go back and forth and back and forth and now this one's offense is further to the goal and then the tide turns the other way.... every so often there are 1 on 1 bouts or magical plays, but really it just is a question of whose team overall is going to beat the other

football in many ways feels like a bloodless war to me

the thing about the iliad that i had to realize was that not every detail and not every name mattered ... because it was essentially a record of who killed who and how... and in football too, while each block can be important to the overall play its not necessary to know every single who blocked who in order to appreciate a good play

58thornton37814
Jun 7, 2012, 12:05pm Top

Those who don't understand football didn't live in the Southern United States during their growing-up years! On the other hand, I don't understand Fútbol (soccer). I remember having a weekly reader article about Pelé when I was in about the 4th grade. The article left me with the impression that was just something that they played in South America. Now that it is widespread in the United States, I have no concept of the game because it's not something I grew up watching.

59bfertig
Jun 11, 2012, 10:42pm Top

Well though I live south of the mason-Dixon line I don't know I can really claim a life of football (or futbol for that matter) having really only started watching it with any regularity in the last five years but ... Fly Eagles Fly and Go Pats! (yes I know these aren't southern teams but they are the ones I root for)

War and peace: 41%
The Odyssey: 19%

60ArmyAngel1986
Jun 12, 2012, 6:49am Top

I knew I shouldn't have clicked on this thread. Now my wishlist has probably doubled! Especially now that I've seen your science selection, those look particularly interesting.

Do you know when you plan to read The Divine Comedy? I recommend the translation by Anthony Esolen. It's heavily annotated for all those medieval political/contemporary/personal relationship references that most of us don't get.

61bfertig
Jun 13, 2012, 10:41pm Top

I'm not sure when I'll get to divine comedy or who the translator of my version is. I have an audio version I got from audible narrated by Nadia May.

I'm assuming that even with annotations I will miss a huge amount.

62bfertig
Jun 19, 2012, 11:27pm Top

52% done with War and Peace and 22% done with The Odyssey,

I have downloaded The Aenid, which I think I will read after I finish with the odyssey.

i feel the same way about the number of characters in war in peace as i do about the number of names in the iliad -- that there are names and characters that matter and those that don't (or at least for the long-term).. there are characters that pop in and out or wax and wane in the spotlight. tolstoy just fleshes out the characters (even the not important ones) more than homer did though.

in terms of naming conventions, ive read other russian novels so am roughly familiar with that... xxx-ovna = daughter of, yyy-ovitch = son of, etc.

yes, it took me a bit to connect that 'Rostov' was the same as Nicolai Rostov and that 'Rostov' is used while describing him in uniform in the service and Nicolai while back at home or describing his love with Sonia. but still...

also... i tend think about the characters in groups rather than individually -- groups usually centered around the interactions... e.g. familial or romantic ties, who served with who in army, etc. so really instead of remembering a gazillion, im only remembering half (or fewer!) that number.

also, its helped a LOT by the context. there's so much room to run and tolstoy is so good at character building that there are whole psyches that go along with each - so that even if the name escapes, the moral, philosophical, or political positions that a character takes tends to identify who's speaking or doing.

and if that doesn't work, i just rewind a lot .. after all, im listening to it, i have no shame in going back a bit to retrace my steps.... it does help if i listen to a lot at a time though.

also, i have started to notice how *few* characters there are in most other things - it feels very ... limited. yes given a certain number of pages can only introduce and fully flesh out a certain number of characters.. and to ensure a point or message or story comes through it helps to maintain focus and omit extranneous details, but life contains so much detail and we are able to sift through that on such a quick basis every day, it seems to me that it oughn't be so difficult to do with literature either.

63bfertig
Jul 5, 2012, 7:36pm Top

Started up Destiny of the republic. By Candace Millard and its a fun read so far. Feels a bit reminiscent of devil in the white city writing wise though of course the content is nothing of the same.

64bfertig
Jul 24, 2012, 2:38pm Top

94% done with War and Peace. Somewhere in the middle of Epilogue I. I find it amusing that there are two Epilogues.

65clif_hiker
Edited: Jul 25, 2012, 10:03am Top

bravo on pushing through War and Peace ... you're nearly done! That story has been on my to-read list for years ... never had the nerve to give it a go. And more kudos for finishing The Iliad and, I presume, The Odyssey. I have several (well .. two) of Candice Millard's books on my wishlist ... looking forward to your comments.

66LauraBrook
Jul 25, 2012, 3:11pm Top

Wow - almost done with W&P! Amazing!!!

67bfertig
Edited: Aug 2, 2012, 11:35pm Top

I just finished reading Destiny of the Republic as well and thought it as a pretty good book. Candice Millard writes really well and I've read comparison of this book to Erik Larson Devil in the white city, which I would agree is a good comparison. The book is relatively short and contains good photo illustrations and is well referenced and reads quickly. I read an unabridged ebook and was surprised that I had come to the end of the text at about two thirds through the file - the rest was notes, bibliography, figures, etc.

The book follows multiple threads - the life and assassination of Garfield, the life of giteau, the assassin, and also the scientific and medical theme mainly centered on Bell and his induction balance metal detector but also the malpractice of Bliss, the main doctor and to some extent Lister and the general medical schools of thought at the time regarding sterile practices.

Excerpts of letters helped to make the book lively but I would have appreciated longer excerpts at times and was engrossed in the book so would have been fine with a longer overall length.

Millard paints a positive picture of Garfield and at the end interesting, attributes his death with the downfall of the spoils system which is soonish left to blame for the ultimate cause of allowing someone like giteau to occur and also attributes the nation's mourning as a unifying force between country's regions. She also paints a picture of Chester Arthur as one who grows substantially through the circumstances thrust upon him though of still limited effect.

Overall it's an interesting and quick read and I would recommend it.

Thoughts on war and peace soon. Still digesting it.

Also, I've only got about 7 more hours left in The Night Circus which is good if you like visuals and prose but crap if you like plot or characters. Nothin much about human condition but it's diverting and entertaining and the audio version is a good performance so on the whole I'm enjoying that one.

Also out of morbid curiosity I've started Three Cups of tea which I know to be a sham since I've read John krakauers expose of it, but have been curious and it helps for my Dewey decimal challenge. The writing is terrible and its horridly fawning thus far. After looking at some other reviews it's not likely to get better so I'm not sure if I'll get through h this one or not.

68bfertig
Aug 6, 2012, 8:56am Top

Finished Night Circus it s a beautiful, visual book, and I recommend it generally and would like to see it as a movie, but there are a few things that I would have changed to tighten it up and give it a bigger punch. The tension and plot are slow-paced (which I didnt have a problem with) and not a typical magician's deul, so if you go into it expecting a fireworks showdown, you could be disappointed, but its a fun read nonetheless.

69bfertig
Aug 6, 2012, 8:58am Top

Clif - if the other Millard book on your list isn't River of Doubt, it should be - that was an excellent account of TR's adventures in the Amazon with his son Kermit after his presidency. He was larger than life and didn't know what to do with himself - may as well go exploring. Bully!

70bfertig
Aug 7, 2012, 12:24am Top

So some brief, tired thoughts on War and Peace. I don't think its all that great an accomplishment to have read it or anything - its a good book, it goes pretty quickly all things considered, and after all its just like any other book; its just made up of *words* after all. And its an enjoyable read if you like 19th century novels. And if you like 19th century novels, well this one has a lot of words, so you might like this one for a long time.

Basically, I liked it because it did pull together a couple different things. It was at heart a novel about Russian aristocracy and their involvement (or not) with the War of 1812 but it was also a bit of a skewering treatise on history and the philosophy of history. Tolstoy makes many jabs at contemporary historians and their conclusions regarding Napoleon and why things turned out the way they did - but more importantly about whether, over the course of history, individuals (e.g. Napoleon or Tsar Alexander) or masses of individuals (not just armies but the people making up armies) matter. Actually, that's really what the heart of the second epilogue is really all about (the first epilogue had to tie up all the loose ends and lives of all the main characters). So yes, its about the nature of Power and History and the Individual and Free Will and all that, but it tackles all that with the use of a novel to make the points interspersed with some more abstract assertions/ramblings as opposed to an all-out uber-essay. Whether or not one agrees with Tolstoy or likes the story or the characters I feel that for the attempt that is being made, the novel is 'Worth Reading', simply for the scope of what it attempts to do. And even with the room to run, I don't think it manages to achieve it. Which makes me think that this is a limitation of the format/venue. There's only so much persuasion that assertions and made up characters (even ones with clear predilections and personalities and thus behaviors that are 'in character') can achieve.

On the whole, I liked, or at least sympathized or related with several of the characters and felt they were well-rounded and not flat at all (though some minor ones were still kinda two-dimensional and others though named barely get mentioned - but hey, there's a lot of characters). Some of them I felt were timeless - in that human nature was reflected well and I could see someone today behaving similarly, albeit with different social circumstances. The wild drunken party at the beginning was something out of Animal House or Superbad or any other similar movie. Pierre's socialite wife Ellen winds up with a different ending to a scene in Dirty Dancing. Natasha is a Nice Young Girl who happens to have a crush and winds up making out with just about every male character except for her brother (but including her cousin) until she winds up falling in love with a sugar daddy. Most characters wrestle at some point with the Existence of God, the Meaning of Life, and/or What It Means To Suffer so there goes the connection with the Human Condition. Pierre is that person in so many people's lives who is Always Looking For Something and wanders through so many phases.. from atheism to wine and women to Freemasonry to altruism to politics to playing at the military to Suffering to something akin to zen/Buddhism until he finds Love (oh how cliche by now!). Boris is the ambitious one and Nickolai has the gambling problem and two loves (well, actually, there are a lot of characters with two loves). Prince Andrei is the capable practical pragmatic handsome one who gets philosophically burned and goes all Ayn Rand but then in one last return to duty/country dies young.

71bfertig
Aug 7, 2012, 12:50am Top

Re Night Circus, I felt it was good, and one of the best things about it were the visual and prose descriptions but would be better if a couple things were changed. Maybe someone will take my suggestions for the movie when/if it comes out, haha. And just becuase I have things I'd change, I still really enjoyed reading the book on the whole. **Spoiler alert. ** Lots and lots of spoiler alerts. ****

First off, I don't think that Morgenstern handled the timing of the book very well. The book takes place over a bunch of years but *nothing* was really done to show that or contrast the statis that folks in the circus were in compared to what was going on outside the circus. The years/dates are mentioned with each chapter but there's literally no mention or reference to anything going on in the rest of the world. I understand that the circus is the point and not history, and that the circus is a dream escape from reality but it would be better to contrast the stasis of the circus to *something, anything* that was changing to make the stasis more poignant or meaningful. There was one point where a conversation happened, then three years pass and then the next thing is picking that right back up again with no interjection of anything else -- so *show* us that time is passing don't just *tell* us. Or just skip the time passage all together - frankly it doesn't add that much to the magic.

Second, I didn't get the point of having Bailey's character at all. The function he plays in the plot could easily have been taken up by Herr Tiesen, which would have actually been more poignant and fitting to have someone who cared so much and did so much for the circus - started up the revererers, made the clocks, was clearly obssessed, etc. - save and take over the circus than some random punk kid from Massachusetts. And while I'm on this point - why bother having Massachusetts involved at all?? The book had very much a British/European feel - not a North American feel at all. Yes, the circus went all over the world, but again, this is told not shown, there is nothing particularly Massachuessetts-feeling about the scenes that are set there, it could easily have taken place in the English countryside or if a distant location was needed, Germany, where Herr Tiesen was from, could easily have served just as well. No other non-European venue was shown/talked about. I say get rid of the MA part and just keep it European all together. The plot could easily be changed so that Celia can heal Tiesen after the knife is thrown at him.

While I am on the subject of useless characters, Sukiko was pretty lame for having survived the previous challenge. It was completely unclear as to what she was doing or why she was doing it in the deneumont.

Third, I really liked the last chapter with Widget and Alexander. But something is missing. The deal is that Widget and co. get to keep the circus if Widget tells Alexander the story of the circus. So all those chapters describing the circus in 2nd person - those should be seeing the circus from Alexander's perspective the night he goes in and everything goes to crap. or possibly split between perspective of Alexander and Hector. Either way. But the "You" should definitely not be Dear Reader in modern day with a www.nightcircus.com on the calling card. This is just another example of a loose end that could have been neatly tied together and given a bit of a punch. Having Bailey's name on the card is just lame - but maybe it's because I didn't care about Bailey's character at all.

Fourth, the romance between Celia and Marco could have been much more intriguing, especially if one of them really was trying to game the other one rather than actually being in love. Then getting trapped in the fire for eternity together would have been that much tenser, especially if Marco was actually still trying to win.

I think other reviewers complained that the magic competition wasn't like a real duel - I don't care about that. I thought the concept of using the circus as a venue and seeing how the interactions with others influenced the behavior of the duellers is intriguing. Could have been a bit more danger for everyone involved though somehow.

All that being said, I really enjoyed the book. I write all this out probably because I felt the book had so much potential and go so close to be a really excellent novel that I am rather worked up about its otherwise fairly minor flaws.

72bfertig
Edited: Aug 7, 2012, 5:27pm Top

Well I found out by visiting erin morgenstern's website that she lives (or lived) in Massachusetts.. hence that probably is why there was a portion of the book taking place there.... which makes some amount of sense.

73bfertig
Aug 7, 2012, 5:28pm Top

Now I am on to Botany of Desire which is pure Pollan.

74bfertig
Edited: Aug 7, 2012, 5:47pm Top

The Iliad


War and Peace


The Brother Gardeners


Destiny of the Republic


The Night Circus

75bfertig
Aug 7, 2012, 5:55pm Top

Recap Summary:

1. Science Friday
1.1 The impact of science on society
2. This American Life
2.1 Destiny of the Republic
3. Marketplace
3.1 Shucked
3.2 Sex, Death and Oysters
4. Fresh Air
4.1 To Siberia
4.2 The Iliad
5. StoryCorps
5.1 The Enchantress of Florence
5.2 War and Peace
6. Talk of the Nation
6.1 Misquoting Jesus
6.2 Voices
7. On the Media
7.1 The Great Typo Hunt
8. Wait Wait.. Don't Tell Me!
8.1 Powers
9. Car Talk
9.1 Longitude
10. A Prairie Home Companion
10.1 The Brother Gardeners
11. The Diane Rehm Show
11.1 A mercy
11.2 Gifts
' 11.3 The Night Circus
12. All Things Considered
12.1 Shame of the Nation

Current books reading, or have started a few pages, or am stuck: Botany of Desire, The Odyssey, The Swamp, Making of the Atomic Bomb, Three Cups of Tea, Chesapeake, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.

I have my eye on: 1Q84, The Brothers Karamazov, The Castle, Cloud Atlas, Cutting For Stone, Dead Souls, The Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, The Emperor of All Maladies, Foreskin's Lament, Gandhi and Churchill, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, The Gulag Archipelago, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Idiot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Ivanhoe, John Paul Jones, The Last of The Mohicans, Les Miserables, Mao, Nefertiti, Nicholas Nickleby, Norwegian Wood, Oliver Twist, Pearl Buck in China, The Political Mind, Silent Spring, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Tiger's Wife, and Who Fears Death.

Whew.

76lkernagh
Aug 8, 2012, 12:49am Top

You made it through War and Peace! Yay!!!!! I have attempted to read that tome numerous times starting in my mid teens and have ended up abandoning it unfinished each and every time so you get amazing kudos for persevering and seeing it through to the end from me!

77bfertig
Aug 9, 2012, 1:06pm Top

About halfway done with Botany of Desire. Its very readable, about 4 plants (representing four types of plant and four parts of a plant) that are associated with various human desires. Apples (sweetness, fruit that can be eaten or drank), Tulips (beauty, flower that caused economic collapse in 17th century Holland), Marijuana (intoxication, leaves with varying degrees of illegality and social taboo over time), and Potatoes (control, root tuber that has been genetically modified). fyrefly98 has an excellent review of the book.

78bfertig
Aug 14, 2012, 11:57am Top

My review of The Iliad, based on cleaning up some of the comments I made on this thread:

Media and language have shifted innumerably before, and will in the future, I imagine... the smart phone is just a stone skip of time. Nevertheless, I find the idea of reading ancient greek literature on a kindle app on a smart phone really amusing.

Homer basically accomplished what I imagine one of his goals was - to immortalize the heroics and feats of the warriors and document the destruction of Troy for all time. Yet for all that, the Iliad reads like a game of football with the line of scrimmage moving back and forth and the Greeks and Trojans alternating between offense and defense. At first the 'well greaved Greeks' were winning… but now Hector 'of the glancing helm' has turned the tide and most of the Greek heroes are wounded and stuck in sick bay…. and then the tide turns again at the whim of Zeus. There is quite a lot of 'this one killed that one, and another one bit the bloody dust'. There are more creative ways to kill someone with a spear than I ever imagined. Some of the details are actually fairly gory. What's confusing, I find, is that at the moment of each death Homer tells the life story of the slain, or at least the vital information such as where they were from, their lineage, and who their wife was. There's a lot of familiar names and it's interesting to see them all in one place here since they are somewhat more ingrained in my head from elsewhere. Like Laertes (thank you Shakespeare) or Hercules (thank you Kevin Sorbo) or Saturn (thank you GM). There are the other random lesser gods or immortals like Sleep (no thanks to you Starbucks) or Aurora (the borealis is on the bucket list).

Homer barely mentions the scene or uses descriptions at all unless it directly relates to the battle. Apparently the only such things worth recording was when the battle was at the Greek ships or Trojan city wall or if the gods were yammering away on Mount Olympus. Descriptions are fairly short and uniform and there is a lot of repetition. I heard on RadioLab that Homer did not use any instance of the color blue and some thought he may have been color blind. I did find, however, two instances of blue - one as "dark blue" and one as "azure" -- though never "blue" by itself. RadioLab gets a bunch of details wrong frequently anyway, which is really neither here nor there.

One thing I found interesting is the idea and extent of how involved the Greek gods/immortals were in the lives and fates of the mortals. To the point where there are teams of gods aligned loosely for or against the Trojans. This was completely excised in the movie Troy, which I watched as I neared finishing reading this. I had no interest in seeing the movie when it came out but, figured why not. I was actually impressed with how much Hollywood got right in Troy - but of course my expectations were low to begin, thinking it would be a mixed-up and mushy story. I think the biggest things they told differently was how they treated women characters (nicer than Homer) especially Briseus. Also, Patroclus' relationship with Achilles was changed, and as I mentioned, there was no depiction of the gods. Plotwise, the movie included the Trojan horse episode, which is not actually in The Iliad (it's related in The Aenid, by Virgil). Apparently my memory from elementary school did not serve me well because I was expecting to read about the Trojan Horse and didn't believe what I was reading in front of me when the book ended without it! Even went downloading a few other versions and snooping around online to verify. Just goes to show me that my preconceived notions are not always right! And that things get muddied up when stories and retellings merge. Nevertheless, a lot of the detail and direct actions and even dialogue of the characters in the movie did come straight out of the book, so someone clearly was familiar with it, which was a pleasant surprise.

79bfertig
Aug 17, 2012, 10:12pm Top

Finished botany of desire. Pretty good though some of the science must be dated by now ten years after publication and there are a few points of wild speculation and a stretched metaphor of Apollo vs Dionysus. But high readable and interesting and pure Pollan.

80bfertig
Aug 17, 2012, 10:14pm Top

18/48...

81bfertig
Aug 17, 2012, 10:39pm Top

Picked up Foreskins Lament

82bfertig
Aug 18, 2012, 12:32am Top

It's kinda sad and pathetic memoir at first an hard to see where the humor comes in among the bitterness and angst. But it does get more amusing once I've gotten used to the droopy voice of pathos and woody Allen esque schlemiel But that takes several chapters to get to.

83bfertig
Aug 20, 2012, 9:51am Top

Wasn't particularly interested in reading the book, but rented Hunger Games over the weekend. Thought the movie was not that great, would have been better and more poigniant if they actually went for the message. Think its rather ironic that the message/social commentary of how a life/death situation was trivialized by being turned into a TV show was itself trivialized with the movie by trying too hard to fit key actions into the movie but alluded to, rather than showing or developing, any actual issues associated with any of the content. It's a shame, really; there's a lot of material that could be used to really say something. But that would have required the guts to take it beyond a PG13 rating and the craft to use the violence to make a point rather than making it the point. Now I'm at least moderately interested in listening to the audible version my wife has, or perhaps the Japanese Battle Royale its based on.

84bfertig
Edited: Aug 20, 2012, 3:40pm Top

Finished Foreskin's Lament. Was a very quick read.



Shalom Auslander depicts himself as a miserable person. In all senses of the word.

It was pretty whiny, depressing, and bitter rather than funny or biting for the most part, but there were some very funny moments, somewhere beyond Chapter 4. I can see why my wife didn't like it, but I'm glad I finished it. The acknowledgement may be the most funny acknowledgements I've read (listened to) ever.

He's not so much Woody Allen as he is a god fearing (emphasis on the fearing) Droopy the Dog who feels deeply scarred for life by family, community, and theology.

19/48... I am way behind, but maybe a slate of short books I've been meaning to read will help get me closer...

85LauraBrook
Aug 20, 2012, 4:50pm Top

short books always help me boost my numbers! i say go crazy with the shorties...

86lkernagh
Aug 20, 2012, 10:38pm Top

Second Laura's comment.... short books are very useful when trying to boost numbers.! No harm in that..... a book is a book after all!

87moneybeets
Aug 20, 2012, 11:19pm Top

Well, you've made me want to read War and Peace now by comparing it to Gone with the Wind (which I recently finished and LOVED). I guess I will have to plan for a third massive book this year!

88bfertig
Aug 21, 2012, 9:54am Top

W&P was written around the time of the Civil War, which was obviously the setting for Gone with the Wind... so in some ways the mood and themes are similar ... would have to go back to Gone with the Wind though to recall. Actually I think I may have only seen the movie, which I liked, but didn't feel the need to go back to the book at the time. Perhaps in the future I will put that on the list... but not right now.

89bfertig
Aug 21, 2012, 10:04am Top

I sorta feel that for myself, reading short books just to fit a certain number in in a particular year or fit categories is a bit backwards to my purposes...

I dont have real rhyme or reason to picking up a particular book at a particular time, but given that I generally read rather slowly and/or get distracted and that I rarely achieve reading goals, I don't want to tie myself too closely to the goals and always feel that I'm underachieving or failing or whatever.

But I suppose there are a few books that I already want to read that also happen to be short, so I may as well read those.

I dunno.

I picked up Pearl Buck in China again last night. I had read about a quarter of it but then had to return it to the library.

I rarely finish a book within the 3 weeks of loan period, and often require the maximum number of renewals. Just reading too many things at once or not enough time I guess.

Anyway, got through listening to about a quarter of it. It's quite good and read by the author. And though I am enjoying it, her performance is a bit rushed and I can hear her mild awkwardness/nervousness in her voice. But it's not that distracting and the writing is really excellent.

Its an analytical biography of Pearl Buck's childhood and how her experiences growing up as a daughter of a Presbyterian missionary in China influenced her later writing, particularly The Good Earth. There were many quite traumatic experiences in her childhood and many of her siblings died early (including three siblings she never had a chance to know).

Definitely recommend this one, if you haven't gotten to it yet. Will have to reread The Good Earth Next.

90bfertig
Edited: Aug 28, 2012, 10:29am Top



Finished Pearl Buck in China: The journey to The Good Earth last night around 2am. Excellent book. Really focuses on the events in her life that popped up in the themes and characters of her writing - The Good Earth Trilogy and to a lesser extent her other works. The tragedy, lonliness/bad marriage and the need to earn money to take care of her daughter with PKU was more than enough motivation and fodder. She really put herself into her books. And everyone read her. I had to read The Good Earth in school, but honestly don't remember much of it, except that I never understood why it was a classic or so widely read. Hilary Spurling's book gave me a much greater appreciation for the magnitude of what Buck achieved with the book - and works in general - in terms of introducing Westerners to rural poor China in early 20th century, really helping to bridge the very real East/West divide. Spurling writes that Buck's articulation was clearer and more on target even than contemporary Chinese scholars/literary circles which rarely came in contact with such folk. And Buck's public denounciation of the (Presbyterian) missionary mission in China and the rest of the world and its cultural/religious imperialism, did much to bring that to the world's attention. Her efforts to do the best for her daughter and others with disabilities, and her scandalous affair with her publisher, but more her frankness in writing about sexuality and marital strife/rape/violence also put her in a class of women breaking the mold and pushing the boundaries of contemporary societal acceptance. Buck was a fascinating woman and this is a fascinating account that renews Buck's relevancy to modern times. Based on reading Spurling's work, I am putting many of Buck's books on my to read list right now, including The Good Earth trilogy (The Good Earth, Sons, and A House Divided) but also Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China, Pavilion of Women, and Dragon Seed.

20/48

91bfertig
Edited: Aug 28, 2012, 10:30am Top



Picked up The Good Earth

92bfertig
Edited: Aug 31, 2012, 10:29pm Top

about 3/4 done wiht The Good Earth. Its fantastic. Much much better than I remember it from high school.

93bfertig
Sep 11, 2012, 9:05pm Top

yeah whatever. am reading shorter books anyway.

94bfertig
Oct 1, 2012, 3:29pm Top

listened to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and am in the middle of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Was looking for something mindless and I found it with these dystopias. They're fun but not that deep but there's enough in there. It echoes of Enders Game and Lord of the Flies. Cynically, I am rather enjoying the parallel of how horrible the hunger games are compared to the popularity of actual shows like Survivor and its me2s though of course the contestants on that don't actually die or battle royale as such. Not to say that I really know what happens/ed on Survivor since I didn't/don't actually watch it.

95bfertig
Dec 20, 2012, 11:57am Top

added the following :
Where the wild things were -- Science Friday
Hunger Games -- Fresh Air
Who Fears Death -- Fresh Air
Catching Fire -- StoryCorps
Grimm's Fairy Stories -- StoryCorps
Mockingjay -- Talk of the Nation
Sons -- Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

Current tally: 28/48

The Hunger Games trilogy was good and mindless. The ending of Mockingjay made no sense whatsoever. It was all a bit mindless, cynical, and navel-gazing which was good for me to read at the time I read it. A bazillion other people will have more in depth comments and stronger feelings one way or another about these books than me. All I'll say is that Collins did a good job depicting a complicated, self-centered, self-loathing teenager.

Grimm Fairy Stories was good and a bit darker than the Disney versions - but not as dark as I was expecting based on comments I've heard/read - but fairly repetitive. Grimm must not have liked his stepmother (stepmothers are apparently always evil), been afraid of the woods (where evil/villain always resides), and married wealth - a true sign of success of course (so of course not marrying is a waste of one's life -- *of course*, I said sarcastically). Honestly, I'm not sure if it was worth reading straight through, but I wouldn't say it was a complete waste of time and did help fill some airport time.

Sons is very good as well and picks up right where The Good Earth left off, but instead of following one central main character and his life/family, it follows his three sons after his death. Each son has a different path reflecting a different segment of Chinese society -- wealthy man of leisure, a wealthy/prosperous but hard-working merchant, and a military warrior.

I like the challenge set up from this year well enough and will finish this 2012 challenge off through next year or however long it takes. I don't think I'll be signing up for the 2013 challenge.. it looks like next year will also be a bit hellish for me, with a looming job change and move and potentially two month-long trips to other laboratories and associated disruption to the family. This was an abysmal reading year quantity-wise though the books were enjoyable on the whole.

Overall best book: War and Peace.
Overall quickest read: Longitude. (1 night)
Overall deepest & most poignant: Who Fears Death
Overall most informative: Pearl Buck in China
Overall title I agree with the most: The Night Circus
Overall most hungriest when reading: Shucked
Overall hardest category to fill: On The Media

96lkernagh
Dec 20, 2012, 9:40pm Top

The ending of Mockingjay made no sense whatsoever. It was all a bit mindless, cynical, and navel-gazing which was good for me to read at the time I read it. Love it!

Completely understand if you choose to pass on the 2013 challenge. Busy times in RL can make even the most flexible of reading challenges a commitment drain on already tapped out personal resources. Wishing you Happy Holidays and all the best for 2013!

97mamzel
Dec 23, 2012, 1:38pm Top

I was impressed by the first book of the series but thought they went downhill from there. I had serious problems with how they would sedate Katniss every time she was excited. Not a good message for teens in my opinion!

98bfertig
Dec 26, 2012, 10:25am Top

theres a lot of messages in teen literature that are not good messages for teens imho... i wrote dryly

99bfertig
Jan 10, 2013, 2:12pm Top

started several books, haven't really decided which I want to dedicate the most effort to -- A house divided, The white tiger, Packing for Mars, and Mansion of Happiness.

House Divided picks up right where Sons left off, but thus far its less inspired.

The White Tiger is pretty generic, at least for the first chapter.

Packing for Mars is probably the most interesting of the lot so far.

Mansion for Happiness (about 25% through) is somewhat all over the place but filled with fun facts.

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