Ellesee's 2012 Reading Challenge
Join LibraryThing to post.
This year I hope to actually reach the 50 book goal. I must say, however, that even though I have yet to reach the target, I do read all the time--news magazines, news blogs and online news, articles of all types, so I could reasonably claim another 5 or so "books" in the amount I read outside of "bookland".
One of my "sub" goals for 2012 is to read about 1/2 of the overall goal in YAL. A second sub goal is to resume blogging about the books I read. I find it makes it so much easier to recall a book when I have written about it afterward.
And now for a dose of determination and perseverance. May these serve me well.
1: Divergent by Veronica Roth (1/2/2012)
A wonderfully intense dystopian YAL novel, reminiscent of Lois Lowry's The Giver, in which sixteen-year-olds must choose among five factions in which to spend and dedicate their lives. Protagonist Beatrice Prior discovers, however, that she is not "normal" but rather divergent--one who does not fit neatly within the five "factions"--and as a result, is considered a danger to those who seek to overthrow the ruling faction, Abnegation, Beatrice's birth faction.
Joining with the faction known for bravery, Dauntless, Beatrice becomes Tris, and must learn who to trust and how to stay strong even when filled with fear or uncertainty.
First of a series, I could not put this book down. I hope the next one is out soon since Divergent left questions hanging and the characters charting out new territory.
2: Eve by Anna Carey (1/9/2012)
At the age of five, Eve's mother, along with over 90% of the Earth's human population, perished when a plague ravaged the planet. Orphaned children were taken to Schools, fortresses, that either educated them (if girls) or forced them to work (if boys)--all for the King of New America whose City in the Sand was the promise of a better future.
But, one the eve of her graduation, Eve learns a terrible secret. All the promises the Teachers made to her and the other girls were all lies. Her future would be as a "sow"--a breeding machine--along with previous "graduates" who are kept drug and pregnant in order to repopulate New America; all under orders of the King.
With the help of a compassionate Teacher, Eve manages to escape, but what she thought she knew about the world turns out to be much less than she imagined and when she hooks up with a fellow student whom she never got along with, and a young man she begins to have feelings for, she begins to learn what it will take for her to survive.
The first of a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic world in which women are treated like cattle, and men have "devolved" to hunter-gatherers. But there is a light that shines in the form of a Trail which orphans and other exiles can take that will lead them to safe havens outside of the City of Sand and the control of the King.
Looking forward to the next book in the series, Once.
What's the name/URL of your blog?
I'm trying to blog about the books I'm reading as well, as part of the much larger Dewey Challenge.
Here's mine: Lifelong Dewey
I have several but the one where I keep my book reviews is http://karmicvoodoo.net/. (I can't seem to create a link using this interface.) I have pages listed from 2005 to current with my books read and most reviewed or responded to.
3: Maze Runner by James Dashner (1/17/2012)
Every bit as intense and engaging as I was told by other readers. Thomas is the last of about 60 adolescent boys to have lost all memory of who he is and where he comes from who live in the center of a gigantic maze. Daily the "doors" of the maze open, and when the sun drops they close. Runners explore the maze while the majority of the boys tend the center farms, growing food, raising animals and building shelter. Their survival is dependent upon doing things according to their assigned jobs and the rules. No one wants to get caught outside in the maze after dark--those who do never return. Yet, even during the day, Runners have encounter awful creatures called Grievers, half organic, half machine, who can "sting" the boys with a powerful toxin that unless treated can kill. Even when treated, those who get stung experience The Changing, an horrific nightmarish vision of memories from their actual lives.
Thomas is different than those who came before him. He's curious and seems to recognize the place, even while not actually knowing the residents or system of survival. He knows he must become a Runner and explore the Maze, but even so, he's held back by those who do not trust his intentions or purpose. When the only girl arrives with a cryptic prophecy, the Glade (center of maze) rapidly turns chaotic, and within a few days it becomes evident that in order for some of the boys (and girl) to survive they will have to risk the safety of their makeshift home, take on the Grievers and even sacrifice themselves so that Thomas and Teresa can find a way to end the maze for those remaining.
This is every bit a story of survival that rivals The Hunger Games (and was published during the same year)--themes include courage, self-sacrifice, love, friendship, compassion, hatred, fear and of course, survival. The ending shocks the reader into realizing that human survival might require sterile experimentation and even ruthless brutality, although one hopes these aren't the only ingredients necessary.
Followed up by two sequels which promise more about the world that Thomas and his friends must learn to survive in: The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.
4: How I stole Johnny Depp's alien girlfriend by Gary Ghislain (1/24/2012)
I wasn't expecting to fall for this book, but boy did I ever! What a funny, adventurous, amazing book! Ghislain writes with a subtle, somewhat sardonic humor that sucks the reader into this mad tale of insanity gone reality that made me want continue reading well past my "bedtime."
The protagonist, fourteen-year-old David Gershwin, lives with this psychiatrist father outside of Paris in a small medieval-esque villiage named Cornouaille (Cornwall). His father helps mentally unstable teens, and Zelda, the most recent patient, is certifiable. She believes she's a 325 year-old space alien whose "mission" is to find her "chosen"--none other than Johnny Depp. Her sincerity, "meanness" and violence all combine to attract young David in a way he's never known, and when Zelda escapes impossibly, the young man cannot stop himself from following her. And boy what a ride he goes on as he escorts her through Paris looking for her chosen and discovering that, perhaps, Zelda isn't so crazy after all.
I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a good read, and an exciting story. I booktalked it today and had at least 2-3 boys fight over it. I imagine a few girls might even read it also.
I have starred your thread!! I love your reviews and will have to add these books to my TBR pile!
5: The Piper's Son by Marlina Marchetta (1/30/2012)
"Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Stole a pig and away he run..."
Tom Mackee Finch lost his grandfather, Tom Finch, to Vietnam and his uncle, Joe, to a terrorist bombing in London. Seems like whenever someone in this close-knit family ventures out beyond Australia, tragedy strikes--leaving the family in shambles. Tom's father is a charismatic union leader whose drinking drives away his wife and son; Tom's aunt, Georgie, cannot forgive her ex-husband, who still loves her dearly, for a a brief interlude with another woman that results in a son, and Tom dropped out of university, started heavy drug use, turned on his best friends and rejected the love of his live. Tragedy heaps upon tragedy after Joe's death, and the family just hasn't been able to pull itself together.
After a drug-induced accident that sent him to the hospital, Tom moves in with Georgie, who is pregnant by her ex-, and attempts to make sense of his life and his relationships to his family, and to come to terms with how he has behaved toward his friends and his one-time love, Tara.
The Piper's Son is a very unexpected pleasure--at first I was frustrated by Marchetta's almost random plot and character introduction, the obviously Australian idioms and the "daytime drama" events that started to unfold. Yet, the more I read, the more I wanted to read; the story had an addictive quality much like a Henry James or EM Forester novel--slightly Victorian, yet modern, on the edge of melodrama but so very human that it made my soul ache. I absolutely loved this family with all of their faults and brokenness as well as their joys and epiphanies.
Sold as a Young Adult novel, I'm reticent to say that my students would read it. It is not REALLY a teen novel. It is an adult novel but in YAL packaging (for whatever purpose the publisher had). I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates a well-written, heartfelt, family drama that incorporates themes of loss, grief, friendship, love and forgiveness.
6: Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter (2/3/2012)
After years of working for the healthcare industry as a PR "man," Wendell Potter made a break with big insurer CIGNA to speak out about the strategies and tricks used by healthcare insurance companies (among others) to manipulate public and political opinion in their favor. Although Potter covers at length the various techniques in the PR "playbook" developed by Big Tobacco and subsequently used by other corporations, the book reads as more of a personal narrative about how and why Potter "woke up" to the role he played in protecting these corporate behemoths and what finally made him break with the insurance industry altogether.
What really makes Potter's story intriguing, and very frightening, is that he shows us how the big insurers "think," as well as how they behave toward their customers. He is not the victim of claim denial or dropped coverage; instead, he walks the read through how "the industry" finds (or creates) loopholes in laws or simply use the power of PR and lobbying to maintain their stranglehold on healthcare, in much the same manner a detective might "profile" a serial killer. We get the nuts and bolts from someone who "speaks the language" of big insurance, and gives us insight to the nasty inner workings of the HMO "mind".
In the end, Potter admits that "it's all about the Benjamins"--and that big healthcare insurers are willing to spend millions, if not billions to guarantee their "right" to control healthcare, even at the expense of the general health of our nation. Which I must say, seems like cutting one's nose off to spite one's face; the HMOs could simply cover people's healthcare with the amount of money they spend on PR and lobbying.
The final two chapters of Deadly Spin focus on the specific industries that developed and use the increasingly unethical strategies and techniques of PR spin-doctoring, including creating front groups to provide the appearance of "grassroots" organizations, playing the "we're part of the solution" card, and using ad campaigns to denigrate or undermine the oppositions position, no matter how credible it may in fact be. As a career educator, I am always seeking new and better ways to help students understand how media works to manipulate public opinion, and ultimately, to get what "they" want. These final chapters could be helpful in demonstrating how spin is used as a tool of persuasion and manipulation, especially by corporations, to instill their "brand" and make them seem benign or benevolent. Yet, like Potter warns, trust these industries at your own risk, since in the end they aren't about caring whether your air is clean or water drinkable. They are about profit plain and simple. And, power, I might add.
7: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (2/6/2012)
Thomas and the Gladers thought they were safe--from the Maze, from the Grievers, from the tests. But, they could not have been more wrong. After a harrowing "rescue" and a night of relative calm, Thomas hears Teresa warning him in his sleep that "something is wrong" and awakens to find her missing and in her place meets Aris, a boy who claims he was the only male in a Maze trial made up of girls whose experiences were uncannily similar to those of the Gladers.
What Thomas and the boys discover is that the Trials have not ended. And the worst is yet to come. Now, they must traverse a hundred miles of the Scorch, the deserted, dead land between that lies between the two tropics (Cancer and Capricorn)--the lasting reminder of the solar flares that scorched the Earth and brought the Flare, a brain virus without a cure that reduces all who catch it to an insane, zombie-like existence. WICKED is once again in control, and they must put the Gladers and Group B through this trial of survival to find the right patterns that might someday rid the world of the Flare.
A sequel on par with the first novel _The Maze Runner_, _The Scorch Trials_ keeps the reader's interest piqued with unexpected twists and turns in the plot, and frustratingly human responses toward the situations each character must face. Everything is possible--nothing is as it seems, but one thing must always be remembered: WICKED is good.
Next _The Death Cure_--the final book of the trilogy.
8: Blood Roses by Francesca Lia Block (2/7/2012)
I normally do not read Block's books, but having been given this book of "short stories" by a fellow librarian with the caveat that she did not feel comfortable putting this book in her library, I felt compelled to read it.
Each of the nine stories focus on one or two teen girls who, for lack of a better description, "not quite right" in the head. Some are schizophrenic, some delusional--all are excessive, obsessive, manic, impulsive and bizarre. Although each story stands alone, many of the characters are connected in some way to one another, as friends or acquaintances. And each has an unusual perception about men.
The stories felt chaotic, raw, unrefined--perhaps emulating the near insanity of the various characters. None contained what I would consider "a plot" per se; these resembled flash fiction--quick, highly concentrated snapshots of a life, of a day, of a moment, highly encapsulated to make it easier to swallow.
Unfortunately the graphic sexual encounters in two of the stories make it a book I'm reluctant to place in even the high school library. There's a creepy, sado-masochistic feel to many of these stories that simply do not make the sexual encounters ones I might otherwise be able to justify.
Undeniably an intriguing read, but not one I would select intentionally.
9: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Felton Reinstein found his father hanging in the garage when he was five years old. Nothing has been "normal" for his family since. His mother is a "feel-good" hippy-type who insists her sons call her Jerri; his younger brother, Andrew, is obsessed with classical piano; and, until recently, Felton was a diminutive nerd--picked on by his classmates, friendless except for fellow nerd, Gus.
Something happens to Felton during the spring of his sophomore year. He grows tall, he grows hair in places he never imagined, and he gets fast. So fast that he nearly supplants the current State Champion in track, so fast that the football coach recruits him for the varsity team. So fast that he can't stop running--running up hills, running on the field and running away from the problems that he and his family have not talked about in ten years. Problems that started when his father took his own life when Felton was five and his mother burned the past in attempt to move on.
But, it's never that easy, and Felton learns, as he learns about his body, his speed and football, that he cannot run away from his problems--and with the help of his younger brother, his girlfriend, Aleah, and his new friend and team quarterback, Cody, he takes responsibility for helping himself and his family make sense of the tragedy that endured for so long.
It is a book about football, yet so much more. I am not a "sports fiction" reader, but this book really swept me away--it's funny, sad, thought-provoking, frustrating, exhilarating, heart-wrenching, joyous and makes you want to stand up and cheer. It's a book for nearly everyone--regardless if they like sports or football, whether they are a girl or boy--there is something to engage everyone.
10: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Biologist and researcher Bill Masen is one of a handful of survivors in an apocalyptic event that leave the majority of mankind blind and at the mercy of giant, mobile, and insidiously malevolent plants commonly known as triffids. Joining up with other sighted survivors in attempt to find the means of keeping humanity from extinction, Masen provides the reader a first-hand account of how quickly humanity "devolves" into a whimpering chaos.
At first, Bill and his compatriots, as well as a woman who later becomes his wife, Josella, must find their way out of London in the wake of a plague that sweeps through the city and countryside. Only after managing to "settle" down at an old farmstead does the triffid menace make itself more than a secondary concern. It is then that Bill realizes that in order for humanity to beat the odds, one day they will have to find a means of destroying these carnivorous plants once and for all.
Written in 1951, The Day of the Triffids comments on man's folly in developing more and more lethal Cold War technologies--technologies which very well might have not only caused the vast majority of the world to go blind, but may have contributed to the development of the triffids. Serving as a template for the post-apocalyptic novel, this story weaves social and political critique into an engaging plot and somewhat melodramatic characters. Syntax, diction, rather stereotypical views about women color the novel with a quality that one might find familiar in mid-twentieth century science fiction--much of which gives the story an amusing quality of something "out of time" yet within the realm of reasonable hypothesis.
It's too bad that more people do not read such novels in our more "sophisticated," high-tech era. The nuances of character connections, discussions, conflicts and thoughts provide a more thoughtful read than many subsequent stories more structured around "action" rather than message.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone enjoying the post-apocalyptic genre, and who might think about human survival after the unthinkable happens.
(Note to self: avoid using the word "much" so much. ARGH!)
I loved The Day of the Triffids! Just a shame it wasn't longer, but then maybe it would have lost some of it's charm?
There's a good TV adaptation done in 2009 which adds an interesting spin to the triffid oil concept.
11: Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill
A graphic novel set in "small town USA", Americus focuses on a nerdy reader named Neil who encounters the narrow-mindedness of several ultra-Christian community members who are attempting to ban one of the most popular books from the public library.
Neil's best friend's mother starts the jihad against a well-read fantasy book series claiming that its content, including talking animals and witchcraft, is the work of the devil and should not be allowed on the library shelves. She has her own son shipped off to a military boarding school as a result of his reading this series, but that isn't enough: She calls together a group of like-minded community members to remove "the menace."
Neil is confused by the reaction the book receives (reminiscent of the Harry Potter "scandals"), and observes as the city librarians try to demonstrate the positive aspects of this series to its detractors at a city council meeting. Of course, the uber-religious zealots will hear nothing of it, and although it is revealed none of these people have read the book in question, they insist it be removed.
The fervor escalates as the town splits itself into "for" and "against" during the weeks that lead up to the decisive town council meeting which will determine the book's fate. Neil, who started working at the library when his friend was shipped off to boarding school, is asked to comment about this books series at the council meeting. Although he is initially reluctant, he and many unexpected kids and adults give their testimony about how the series had a positive impact on their lives.
What frustrated me about this story is that it is real. And although the librarians attempted to reason with this fanatic religious group, as well as reminding them of the First Amendment and person's right to read, this meant nothing to them--only their God and pushing their faith on the community would suffice. As a teacher-librarian I am opposed to censorship within the library. What is offensive to one may not be offensive to others. It is about choice. Who has a right to remove another's choice in reading? Nothing raises my hackles more than these religious lunatics (and they are lunatics, IMHO) who are so narrow and authoritarian they cannot even see the positive features of something they would not choose for themselves. Of course, they have the right to keep their own children from reading these books; but, they haven't the right to keep others from reading them.
I'm amazed at how some groups of people believe it is their "duty" to prevent others from having what they don't like. We see it in other places than just the library (like the GOP actively maneuvering to restrict birth control)--and it speaks to the inability of some to recognize that not all people think the same way, nor should. I might find some materials even in my own library to be "offensive" to my sensibilities, but that does not permit me to tell others they cannot access or read such materials.
I plan to feature this book during Banned Books Week in September.
12: The Death Cure by James Dashner
The last of the Maze Runner trilogy finds Thomas, his Glader friends, Newt and Minho, and two WICKED operatives, Jorge and Brenda running for their lives. The Trials have ended, the Variations have provided WICKED with all the patterns they need to find a cure. All that is necessary is for Thomas and the other "subjects" to have their memories returned. But, Thomas begins to remember things in his dreams, and what he remembers he doesn't like--about WICKED or himself, the way he used to be. The only option he has is to stop WICKED before they pour more resources, which could help to heal the planet, into yet another round of Trials.
Unfortunately, the story is slower than the first two to "take off"--it chugs down a path similar to The Scorch Trials except there are fewer characters involved. After a rather predictable escape, Thomas & Friends end up in Denver only to discover it is about to succumb to the Flare, something the world governments have denied, and WICKED has done little to stop. Newt, who is not Immune, is quickly becoming a Crank and his demise pushes Thomas over the edge to join a "fifth column" radical group called the Right Arm where he meets up with his old nemesis, Gally. Yet, the former adversaries become comrades-in-arms as they both fight to destroy WICKED once and for all, and lead the Immunes to a place of safety beyond the reach of The Flare and WICKED.
Is WICKED good as Teresa persisted throughout the trilogy? Perhaps, in the end some good came from the testing, torture and death the young "subjects" were put through. But only the survivors will be able to judge once humanity has repopulated the planet and healed the horrible damage caused both by the solar flares, The Flare and human hubris.
It was a good trilogy--but as will nearly all trilogies, the first seems to outshine the second two. It was good that after all of the grief and demoralization that Thomas and the survivors could finally "live" rather than merely survive. Yet, the reader is left with the knowledge that the road ahead for these Immunes will not be easy. At least it will not involve WICKED and their experiments.
13: Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges
I've never been disappointed by Hedges's writing or tenacity. He has the ability to tell the truth about power and privilege in a way few do--and he's been in the trenches himself, which gives him a credibility other journalists lack. However, reading this book is not for the faint of heart or those who still believe that reform is possible within the "system". Hedges traces the history of the liberal class throughout the past two centuries, noting how through hook and crook, the liberal class--the so-called protectors and advocates of the working class--lost its focus and succumbed to the same corporate greed and political power as that of their rivals, conservatives.
We now live in a world in which both sides of the political coin operate at the behest and for the benefit of the corporate war-machine. There is nothing to stave off the final power and resource grab by those in power--the top 1 percent or less--who wish to control the worlds remaining resources at the expense of every creature on the planet. Hedges does not mince words about his disdain for those who claim to be working for "the people" (say, "Obama") but who have demonstrated repeatedly that their hands are in the corporate cookie jar. There no longer exists the mitigating force of radical groups whose purpose was to disrupt power and point those who would do otherwise to use their power toward a common good. It's now a free-for-all with those at the top waging a devastating war upon the majority.
Hedges calls for rebellion, and although he dances around the need for violence, there seems to be an underlying recognition that before humanity finds it's course (or becomes extinct) it might have to come to such. There is no saving the United States--this country is on a spiral into the Abyss. But there is restructuring society without civilization; and those with the foresight and wherewithal to pay attention and think might have a chance to survive and with them their children and future descendants.
My hope is that we open our collective eyes soon lest the damage already done be as irreversible as Hedges already believes.
14: Who's Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? : The essential writings of the professor Glenn Beck loves to hate by Frances Fox Piven
This is a series of her better known essays spanning from 1963 through 2010. I had not heard of Piven before reading Alexander Zaitchik's Common Nonsense, an critical biography about the rise and "fall" of Glenn Beck. So, I suppose I must tip my hat in gratitude to one of media's most vile celebrities for introducing me to such a remarkable woman.
After reading these ten essays, I can see why people of the Beck ilk would feel so threatened by her: She's intelligent, articulate, compassionate and can identify the processes that would best be used to help the poor and working classes in our country to achieve progressive reforms--something the reactionary elites deny and avoid bitterly.
She is one of the first social commentators from whom I have gained a better understanding into the social, cultural and political mechanisms behind protest, power and social change. Disruption cannot just happen--there must be a set of circumstances preceding it so that it gains maximum leverage, and it must be able to persist initial attempts by the power-elite to repress or weaken the protest efforts.
I could not help but think about the OWS movement last fall and early winter, and whether or not it will manage to re-emerge stronger this spring as a result of the violence they encountered by police and the encompassing nature of the movement's focus on equity, economic and political justice and compassion.
Piven's works could prove to be a source of information as well as strategy to better shape a global movement to reinstate greater regulation, more equitable distribution of wealth, and perhaps a resurgence of compassion to a system (capitalism) which benefits only a small handful while the rest of us (99%ers) struggle to make our lives livable.
Another feature of these essays which struck me was how history has once again come around--many of the tactics and strategies the business community and the wealthy elite used as far back as the 1940s and 1950s to undermine labor unions, welfare relief, and fair housing are nearly identical to the tactics used today: excessive focus on deficit, blaming public employees for economic downturns, cutting vital services to the poor and working classes, etc. It's amazing that our society has even survived into the 21st century given the complete disregard the power elite have toward those who have spent their blood and lives to build for them.
15: Generation Us: the Challenge of Global Warming by Andrew Weaver (review for Puget Sound Council Children's Books Review)
I’ve always appreciated Orca Publishing’s dedication to producing accessible low-level novels for teens and reluctant readers. Yet, I’m disappointed with this non-fiction specimen. Generation Us covers in three sections, the science behind global climate change, the issues raised by increasing temperatures, and finally, an exploration of possible solutions. While I found the first section credible and informative, the author bases an increasing portion the content of the middle and final sections on particular assumptions (about social history, “free market” solutions, and the government-corporate relationship) that I found problematic, presumably in order to maintain language simplicity. In the end, however, Weaver makes a strong case, as he indicated he would, for finding solutions to global climate change.
The book itself lacks many features I would expect in a non-fiction resource: no table of contents, no index, no bibliography. The sections are broken into smaller sub-sections each with related heading. Graphs and charts (mostly black & white) are provided and briefly explained. A glossary of terms is provided at the end. Overall, however, the book is text-heavy and rather drab. Not very inviting for a reluctant reader; that it is non-fiction will make it an even harder “sell” to most teens. It would not be my first choice for a book about climate change, especially when there are much better sources available. I would also place this book in the 360s rather than the given DDN for better circulation.
16: Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci
I'm a huge fan of Plum-Ucci and promoted her books from the get-go. I really loved The Body of Christopher Creed, but more so, What Happened to Lani Garver? and The Night My Sister Went Missing. Although well-written and very much in her style, this recent book just doesn't match up to the intensity and mystery of her others. Following. . . seems lacking--the plot seems contrived, almost forced, at first, as legally blind, Mike Mavic, goes to Chris Creed's hometown, Steepleton, in attempt to find out what really happened to the disappeared teen nearly five years prior.
Mike, with his girlfriend, RayAnn, a teen prodigy, tries to get a sense of how much the community has been impacted by Chris's disappearance in addition to three dead bodies found in the nearby "haunted" forest (the first two were discovered in the first novel). Throughout the novel, Mike connects his present investigation of Chris Creed, to a now a possible murder (Bo Richardson's teen sister, Darla), with memories of various content contained in Torey Adams's blog--it is immediately evident Mike is dealing with his own dysfunctional family history and Torey's blog has served as much as therapy as information.
The novel picks up when Mike eventually encounters Chris's 16-year old, bipolar brother Justin. Mania and secrets surround Justin, who skips between high and low, full-speed and trashed--he is desperate for his "big brother" and gloms onto Mike as a surrogate. Adopting a fringe, New Age philosophy called "Quantum Thought", Justin convinces himself that if he envisions his brother's return long and hard enough, he will materialize. Unfortunately for Justin, the truth does not set him free--his mental illness and drug habits keep him from actually recognizing what is right in front of him.
A major plot twist does make for a rather interesting finale for this novel, but I don't know if it's enough to put it on the same level as Plum-Ucci's previous works.
17: This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement edited by Sarah van Gelder and the staff of YES! Magazine
YES! Magazine is a broad spectrum politically progressive magazine out of Bainbridge Island, WA which focuses on environmental, education, social justice and peaceful issues. The editor, Gelder, and several of her staff have been involved since September in the Occupy Wall Street movement that has gained notoriety over the past 9 months. This small booklet contains various essays and expository writings regarding the OWS movement--starting from its inception in August and running through October. It contains several speeches that were given at Zuccotti Park from Naomi Klein (Shock Doctrine) and Ralph Nader (Unsafe at any speed) as well as from many of the participants "on the ground" as they developed their democratic, open assemblies.
It's an insightful look in to a movement in the making and ends with a list of ten things that people can do to participate or show support.
Accessible to all and worth sharing with others. I will put my copy into our school library so that students might also get involved.
18: Orchestrated Murder by Rick Blecheta
This was a very quick (1 hour) read, published by Orca Soundings--a publishing company out of Custer, WA and Victoria, B.C. which produces low-level novels with teen themes.
As is standard, almost all Orca Soundings novels for middle and high school are about 100 pages and use very basic language structures and vocabulary. Typically, the plots and characters are appropriate for the age groups: a teen or small group of teens must deal with a problem or issue particular to adolescence such as drugs, gangs, crime, runaways, sex and so on.
This one, however, focuses on a fifty-plus-year-old detective, Pratt, investigating a homicide of a very talented-yet-despised conductor named Luigi Spadafini. The story itself is okay--it's easy to follow along and there are some twists and turns along the way--but there seems no end to the cliches regarding police, detectives, and suspects. Understandably, with limitations on vocabulary and syntax, developing complex characters and plot is probably not very easy. Yet, I have read other Orca Soundings novels that contained much more thought-provoking themes than this one.
My biggest concern about this particular novel, and which seems to be a departure from the majority, is the focus on such an older protagonist. I asked a few students--both those who read regularly and those who do no--whether they would find interest in a book without a teen focus. The majority indicated they would not. Perhaps Orca is branching out toward the low-level adult reader market, since it seems they will not attract many teens with a novel such as this.
19: Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton
This is the second installment of the Angelfire trilogy. In this novel, Ellie must continue to fight bigger and badder demonic reapers (fallen angels that follow Lucifer) while coming to terms with her own memories and knowledge that she is the embodiment of the archangel Gabriel. Together with Will, her Guardian, and several other angelic reapers including Nathaniel, Marcus and Ava, she must stop the demon Bastian from resurrecting the sarcophagus that holds a great and terrible power that threatens to start a chain of events to bring Hell on Earth.
In the meanwhile, Ellie is torn between her love for Will and her desire to live life as a "normal" seventeen-year old. This proves nearly impossible as the reapers infiltrate her life in ways she never expected and begin to decimate all that matters to her.
The plot is decent enough and worth reading the final novel (this one is a cliff-hanger, so be warned). However, more pages are devoted to Ellie's adolescent pinings over Will and their on-again, off-again love affair that just barely starts to become something interesting toward the end of the book. It is disturbing how much like Twilight this novel has become, unfortunately, with Will at 500+ years (immortal) to Ellie's barely 17. One must wonder whether the authors of these stories consider the implications in such and arrangement or whether they view men as perpetual adolescents regardless of age. The "man must protect female" and "helpless female" motifs are stronger in this second novel than the first, which is very disappointing given that Ellie is supposed to be the big badass archangel. Perhaps, Moulton wanted to give the character a vulnerability not as apparent in Angelfire, but one can show vulnerability and still behave maturely. Ellie does not. It's apparent that the author is also somewhat steeped in particular gender lore that depicts women as so needy for a man that she cannot function alone. Had the love "drama" been significantly reduced--it had become quite cliche by the novel's end--this would have been a much better read.
Yet, regardless of my criticism, I will read the last of the set. The play on the Buffy-type plot with an angelic twist do make these novels intriguing. They are an entertaining escape from a less black-and-white world into one where girls with angels can kick ass, take names and forget their pencils.
#24 - I admit I am intrigued by this review! It sounds like a great premise to a novel / series, but the love and gender stuff makes me doubt whether to include it on my wish list / TBR stack. :o)
If you would rather read YAL with strong female characters, and little to no gender stereotypes or those that fight stereotypes, I'd suggest the following:
Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Kiki Strike (series) by Kirsten Miller
There are more that I've enjoyed but these have the most "kick ass" female protagonists--who use there brains, wits and physical talents in order to grow, learn and help those around them.
This Angelfire series (and other one called the Shade series by Jeri Smith-Ready) are really just "chick lit." designed to entertain but not much else (IMHO). I like to read them once in a while to "keep up" with the teen girls at my high school, but for the most part I'd rather read YAL that has depth of plot and character. Something with strong themes and messages.
20: Witch Child by Celia Rees
Having read Soul Taker previously I imagined that Witch Child would be much more paranormal in subject than it actually turned out to be--and that isn't a bad thing.
The story is set initially in 17th Century England were we meet Mary Newbury, a teen girl who has lived her entire life with her grandmother. Sadly, the Puritans of her village have been taken by the witch-craze and her grandmother becomes the target of their torture and finally, her death. Mary is whisked away by a strange, elegant woman who helps her "disappear" by providing her with passage, along with a community of Puritans, to the New World. After several horrific months at sea, the group lands in Salem and promptly heads out for the wilderness to find those in their community who came before. It is in a small place named Beulah that this motley group of Puritan zealots and adventurers try to make a home.
Mary finds herself adopted by a woman named Martha who recognizes Mary keeps a dark secret and hidden talent that if exposed could lead to problems within the community. Mary is not a girl to demure, which instantly makes her the target of the Preacher's ire--she is willful and curious, taking to the forest and making friends with the local Natives. She learns that Beulah was built on stolen land, not because God prepared it for the newcomers, and that the Puritans will stop and nothing to keep the "savages" and their "evil" away.
A harsh winter, the death of the preacher's wife in childbirth, and the ignorant behaviors of several teen girls raise superstitions among the townsfolk, many who, hiding their own secrets, begin pointing fingers at the strangers--and Mary is the primary object of their vengeance.
She is forced to flee into the wilderness in order to escape the fate of her grandmother, and those who helped and protected her must leave Beulah for Salem, and the promise of freedom that the village failed to manifest.
It is never clear whether Mary is, in fact, a witch--she does have the ability to scry, and she seems to have "feelings" that warn her about the presence of people or their emotional state. Whether one can truly call this "witchcraft" is the reader's call, however, by and large, Rees keeps to a more historical fiction format providing only subtle clues about Mary's origin and abilities.
One of two--sequel: Sorceress picks up the story of Mary and adds new characters.
21: Z by Michael Thomas Ford
For the love of ZOMBIES!!! I hadn't realized this was a YAL, but it didn't matter. It is a zombie book, after all.
Set in the not so distant future, the protagonist, Josh, is a high school student who spends his days playing a holographic zombie-kill-'em game on-line with his friend Firecracker. His parents do not approve--they lived through the zombie epidemic, a flu-like virus that destroyed the neo-cortex and super-enhanced the "reptilian brain". In fact, Josh's aunt was the first to become a zombie, which makes his mother extremely sensitive to her son's cavalier attitude toward "meatbags".
Josh's adept playing snags the attention of a game master named Clatter who has created a "In Real Life" zombie hunt that people watch and wager on from clandestine locations. At first, Josh is excited and proud to become part of Clatter's "team" of Torchers--the name given to those who had to burn the zombies to rid the world of the virus. But, the "games" take a downward turn when two members of their crew are injured and disappear.
When Josh's best fried, Firecracker, also suddenly disappears, Josh discovers Clatter keeps a dangerous and awful secret; and it becomes Josh's mission to stop him.
Although the plot is fast-paced and intriguing, the characters are pretty dull and flat. A "love" interest sparks between Josh and another team player, Charlie (who recruits Josh initially), and several friendships form but with none seem convincing. Ford seems to have placed his emphasis on the plot and forgotten that well-developed characters also matter. It's difficult to think of Josh as a high school teen--his behaviors and conversations are decidedly much younger. Moreover, I had difficulty reconciling the contradictions of the setting: a world recently ravaged by a zombie epidemic yet quite technologically advanced--it seems very unlikely that humanity would "bounce back" from such a horrific disaster so quickly.
Z was a quick and entertaining read, but not something I would add to the Tyee library unless it was requested by a student.
22: Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
I am always wary of novels set in the recent past--especially when the author appears barely old enough to have been born during the period of focus, let alone know much about that time to be able to provide a clear sense of it. Unfortunately, Rosenthal does not manage to make the 1980s "happen" for me, and it was clear that her knowledge of that decade is limited and relies much on media sources which stereotype the era in ways that give it a superficial feel--as if the story were written in the 21st Century, only the dates have been changed.
This criticism aside, Other Words for Love was surprisingly engaging--part family drama, part love story, part social growing-pains. Ariadne is the younger of two siblings--her sister, Evelyn left home to marry at the age of nineteen because she deliberately got pregnant. Ari feels the weight of her mother's expectations to succeed where her sister did not. As a consequence, Ari never feels quite sufficient, not for her mother, not for her sister, and especially not for her best friend, Summer Simon, who only seems interested in Ari when she's between boyfriends. Yet, when Ari develops a new friendship of her own, Summer becomes jealous--"punishing" Ari for perceived disloyalty by attempting to sabotage the new relationship.
Ari tries to keep the peace between Summer and her new friend, Leigh, but Summer will not be mollified. When Ari starts getting involved with Leigh's cousin, Blake, the conflict between her and Summer escalates, words are exchanged and the friendship crumbles. Little does Ari realize, however, that how she feels treated by Summer is exactly how she's treating Leigh, who pulls further and further away from Ari as she and Blake get more and more intimate.
It's a heartbreaking melodrama of first teen love, trust, betrayal, heartbreak and resolution. I was often frustrated by Ari's inability to speak out about her feelings, her always giving people the "benefit of the doubt" when they clearly did not deserve it, her "too girlish" demureness. Yet, I could relate to her, as well. She is artistically talented, smart, yet humble and shy. She lacks confidence, seeing herself as a disappointment to everyone around her, confused as to why people seemed intent on squelching even a speck of self-esteem she might have. It all leads to severe migraine headaches that have no physical cause--except for the stress of Ari's internalization of all the negative drama that surrounds her. When the proverbial "shit" finally "hits the fan," Ari's entire family is affected as she struggles through a deepening depression and anxiety about all the mistakes she feels she's made.
In the end, however, Ari manages to pass through her dark time and grow in ways that neither Summer and Blake seemed to do. She becomes aware of her talent and begins to appreciate herself regardless of her flaws. It's a true feminist awareness--one that supersedes any generation or era. It need not have been set in the 1980s to do this.
23: The Project by Brian Falkner
Nothing beats a mystery scavenger hunt novel, especially when it involves old books, codes, Leonardo DaVinci, time travel and...wait for it, wait for it!!!! NAZIS!
Yes, The Project is chock full of excitement from a search for the "most boring book in the world" to the discovery of a dangerous secret kept for centuries in the hands of those who might potentially destroy the world as we know it.
Luke, who with his family recently immigrated to the US from New Zealand, and his best friend, Tommy, get caught vandalizing their high school's beloved founder's statute. As a consequence and due to the nature of their offense, the two friends find themselves having to "prove" that The Last of the Mohicans is the most boring book in the world (no argument here). Yet, instead, Luke finds that although the Cooper novel is not considered the most boring, there is, in fact, a most boring novel. When a flood threatens to destroy the rare book collection housed in the basement of the public library, Luke and Tommy get volunteered to help move books before the waters hit. It is then that Luke, helped by his photographic memory, spots the book he so recently encountered online.
With Tommy's help, Luke braves one of the worst storms in Iowa's history to get back to the library and find this mysterious book. Only, when they finally get there, they find another group of "thugs" searching through the saved books as well. Once the two boys find the object of their search, and apparently the same sought for by the goon squad, they find themselves faced with an even deeper mystery--one that connects the most boring of books with Leonardo DaVinci and a dog-faced man who made his fortune in rare earth magnets.
The novel is loaded with cliche of the best order keeping a pace on par with movies like National Treasure or adult novels like the DaVinci Code. It is readable, entertaining and just plain fun. And there are Nazis with time machines! What more could a person ask for?! Even the "All-alien-WWII-Hitler" Channel (History Channel) cannot compete with this one.
I think the boys will be eager to get their paws on this one.
24: The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin by Corey Robin
The Reactionary Mind is a complex philosophical, historical and political look at what makes a conservative and how the notion of "conservative" has developed and evolved since the time of Edmund Burke's reaction to the French Revolution.
Because it is a book to be read, and reread--studied even, I do not feel I can do much justice to it in a few words. However, at the risk of over-simplifying the points Robin is attempting to make I will resort to a "list" of ideas and concepts that stuck with me about conservatives and the way they think as I gleaned from this weighty volume:
1. Conservatives fear loss--more specifically, losing something they have had or would like to have. This leads to much of the current rhetoric about "socialism" as somehow "bad". The fear is that socialized medicine, for example, would "take away" healthcare for those who already have better healthcare than others. There is not conception that it might simply provide the same kind of care to others equally.
2. Conservatives do not like change. They become comfortable in their "realm" and prefer to wield authority over what they "know" over feeling small and insignificant about what they do not know. Comfort is important to a conservative inasmuch as they have control over their environment.
3. Conservative thought and ideology relies on and is predicated on liberal thought and revolution. Without radicalism there were be no reason for reactionarism to exist. And, with some exception in our contemporary era, most conservatives formulated much of their tactics and strategies by borrowing heavily from the political left. In fact, many of histories famous conservatives admired and respected the leftist radicals and revolutionaries more than their own compatriots for their ability to "shake things up" and get rid of complacency.
4. Reactionaries are not necessarily about returning to a past era--however, they seem intent on establishing clear and well-defined systems of hierarchical relationships with a dominant power elite (typically male and probably white). Think Confucius in the Western 21st Century.
5. Struggle and hardship is what makes humanity strong. The welfare state, in the conservative view, creates a society of dependence (rather than interdependence) and makes people soft. Yet, traditional rulership can become complacent as well, and purging can be necessary to restore strong leaders (as happened during the French Revolution). The idea here is that good leadership is not about emotions, caring or aiding the people--it is about having the "courage" to do what is necessary for the good of the state in order to maintain its position in the greater scheme. This can look authoritarian, dictatorial, even totalitarian--such judgments are inconsequential if the end is achieved. A leader cannot allow compassion or guilt sway what is required of him or her (in true Randian flavor).
6. Conservatives and reactionaries find the sublime, enlightenment, as it were, through conflict and struggle--primarily in the fantasy of warfare. This isn't the same as fighting in a hand-to-hand combat, or shooting an enemy. It is the idea of warfare that "turns on" the conservative. To me this came across as very sexualized in a warped way that was very disturbing. Such a reactionary glorifies war as the "proving ground" for not just manhood, but for worthiness as a leader or elite. How one conducts himself in such a struggle speaks about the character of the individual. However, in true conservative contradiction, REAL war, REAL battle, almost instantly loses this sublimity--this "grace" as it were. The moment war, or conflict, becomes intimately understood or experienced, it fails to elevate the individual to this heightened state. The actuality of war, rather than the romanticizing of it, reduces the idealism of war to a chore--it's a bloody mess and undesirable. This goes a long way in explaining why so many neo-cons who have NEVER FOUGHT or participated in a war are so eager to cause them.
7. Although in recent years conservatives have used "law" and laws to rationalize and provide support for their actions (torture, war, internal surveillance), typically reactionaries do not favor the idea of Law or the rule of law as tantamount. Rather, it is Freedom or Liberty which is primary importance, and since laws inherently restrict these in order to maintain a fair playing field, they looked upon with some disdain. The truly free individual (read white, wealthy, male) is "king" of his domain--he should be free to dictate at will to those inferior to him. Laws that restrict his freedom to do this cannot be tolerated because by virtue of his freedom, he is above law. Remember that conservatives see the world in hierarchies of inferior to superior. It is the power that the superior have over the inferior that bespeaks freedom. Laws are designed for the powerless.
8. It is important to be recognized for one's power. Adoration and respect are the equivalents of "love" in the conservative mind (which reeks here of psychopathy, IMHO). To the reactionary, there is no love--there is power and the recognition of power. A man respects that which can kill him, but not which cannot. However, a man requires that he be needed and admired for that which he accomplishes or does for his inferiors. Thus, even a homeless man with a dog has a kind of power through the caretaking of his animal. The dog looks up to the man even if his is abhorred by others around him. This concept requires hierarchical structure to function properly since all but the outcast and the supreme ruler experience both the feelings of admiration from their inferiors and in turn respect and attempt to emulate the behaviors and actions of their superiors.
There is much more that I realize I am excluding--more because of my failure to process the information than by design. I will say this: I have a greater understanding of how the current conservative factions (GOP, Tea Party, Libertarians) perceive the world and their place in it as well as the history of conservative thought and reaction for the past several hundred years. What is truly intriguing is how small the conservative forces really are in our world--but how powerful they've become. Humanity, by and large, is progressive (this is undeniable historically), yet that a such a small faction of reactionaries could have shaped modern and contemporary thought and ideology so completely is truly an astounding feat. I believe this has much to do with the generally tolerant nature of liberals and progressives (weak) toward those who are less tolerant (reactionaries, bullies). This generalization is depicted specifically by Robin in the relationship that Supreme Court Justice Antoin Scalia has with other members of the Court. As far as I'm concerned, the man has a Napoleon complex the size of a small planet and should be removed from his position for a number of reasons which make him unfit to sit as a Court Justice. Yet, all evidence demonstrates that even the most liberal member of the Court speak highly and positively of Scalia, who often will not reciprocate the same to his compatriots.
Seems to me that Karl Popper was spot on when he said, "If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." If we do not stand up to the reactionary bullies of our world--the one's who perceive genuine compassion and desire for equality with contempt, who find freedom in other people's enslavement, who consider warfare the pinnacle of human evolution, who think the law beneath their pursuit of glory and recognition--we are doomed to not only lose our humanity, but to extinction.
Book 25! Midpoint before June! Woot!
25: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
What the BLEEP am I always reading the first book in a trilogy that isn't finished yet? And constantly with the really interesting ones also!
Ana is born in a world where the souls of the million residents of Heart have been reincarnated countless times. All, that is, except Ana's. She is new--a newsoul, and one who has replaced the soul that had been expected, and because of her everything has changed. Her mother, a reincarnated warrior, abuses her until she's 18 and Ana strikes out on her own to find answers about her mysterious origins. Her father vanished the day she was born and left nothing but his diaries and copious notes for her to sift through. And then, there is Sam--Dossam--a 5,000 year old musician whose music has always entranced Ana and kept her sane during the worst of Li's abuses.
Ana faces mythic creatures (in our world): sylph and dragon, as well as the doubts she harbors about her own soul's authenticity. She learns that although some people will always hate her for being different, others befriend her and view her as a person, not a nosoul. When she finally faces her father, Ana learns that her birth may not have been the accident she and others believed, but an unintended result of an experiment that, when repeated, could potential destroy immortal souls and bring more newsouls (or nosouls) into Heart.
It's a coming-of-age, falling-in-love novel that keeps you moving from one adventure to the next with political intrigue, growing pains, battle and passion. And through it all there is music--the music from one who could only have a soul: Ana.
Can't wait until the next installment: Asunder.
26: Crash Boom Love by Juan Felipe Herrera
Written in verse, Crash Boom Love is a heart-wrenching story about Cesar Garcia, fifteen-year old only son of a Mexican, migrant farm worker, who faces gangs, racial violence, indifference and ignorance--all of which accumulate to a point that almost causes his death.
Abandoned by his father, Cesar lives with his mother, who cannot speak English and seems incapable of helping her son deal with the problems he faces at his high school. At school, he is the "new kid"--and the other boys beat him up regularly. Soon he starts huffing glue, smoking pot, drinking and stealing. After getting caught a number of times, but not helped by a school administration that prefers to ignore racial or ethnic needs or conflicts, he is sent to a "special" school--resembling an "at-risk" alternative school.
Life does not improve much, however, since any attempt Cesar makes to do better, to get good grades, to engage in his education is thwarted by this "friends" who berate and bully him into behaving in destructive ways. This all comes to a head when one night the "gang" goes driving while high on pot laced with PCP. After stealing a truck, the boys and one girl drag race on a back road, and, as expected, there is a severe accident.
Everything changes, and the story ends, although painfully, with hope for something new to rise from the ashes of disaster.
Throughout the novel, Cesar is haunted by the memory of his father, who left him and his mother for another woman, moved to Colorado and started a new family. He needs adults to guide him, he wants his mother to engage in his life but she, too, is trying to work through her own demons. Cesar's accident brings their lives back to each other and gives them a perspective they had lost--that life and family, connections, are of the greatest importance.
27: Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
Alison Jefferies killed the most perfect girl, Tori, in her school. Watched her explode into billions of particles and just vanish. She didn't want to be a killer, but the Noise that came from Tori had reached such a crescendo she simply could not bare it.
And then she goes crazy.
Or that is what she is told. She breaks with reality and her mother, fearing that Alison has crossed over into schizophrenia, has her involuntarily committed. But, Alison is not insane. She's has a rare condition known as synesthesia--words have flavors, stars sing and sounds have colors. This isn't all, she can see the color spectrum beyond that of "normal" people and it gives her an insight into people and objects that others might consider "psychic".
Her mother thinks Alison is crazy. Alison considers herself cursed, until she meets Sebastian Faraday, who convinces her that she has a gift and is not insane, just different.
Although the first 2/3 of the story focuses on Alison and the struggles she has with her condition, her bottled up emotions and her memory of the impossible, the last section shifts gears and moves down the path of "really?" Anderson should have left well enough alone in exploring Alison's synesthesia, but instead moseys into hyper-reality bringing in aliens, wormholes and space/time travel. This might sell to a publisher, but there's a cheesy quality about it that I think sophisticated teen readers will see through.
For me, Alison's fight toward normalcy and dealing with her condition engaged me by far more than any subsequent story line. I was expecting the dissolution of her nemesis to be her mind's way of dealing with the girl's murder (at Alison's hand or another's) rather than some hokey space alien gizmo ripping her from the planet.
Be that as it may, Ultraviolet is overall a good read and worth the time. It does make one ponder (in Matrix-like fashion) about the nature of "reality" and whether even the majority of "sane" people actually have that market cornered. We all see things differently, whose to say what is "red" is actually "red" or whether numbers have flavors or a lie is bitter?
28: The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales
When a person is lonely for their family, eating a Tequila worm (from Mecal bottle) will help the homesickness. These "remedies" and family stories create a rich Hispanic American tapestry of Sofia's life growing up in the barrio. But, Sofia, the oldest of two daughters, is unsatisfied with what she views often as the quirky behaviors and practices of her community. For Halloween, she wants the chocolate candy from the more affluent "white" side of town rather than the homemade trinkets and cucumbers from her poorer barrio. Her Papa shows her the wealth and value of her own culture, and although Sofia does learn to appreciate where she's from, she longs to adventure outside.
Unlike her cousin, Berta, and her sister, Lucy, Sofia loves to read, study and learn. She forgoes her quinceanera, much to her mother's disappointment, and when she earns a scholarship to a renown, Protestant school, she works hard to convince her family of her need to go.
Go she does, but learns valuable lessons about a culture unfamiliar to her--one of money, power, race and discrimination. Over and over, Sofia must "fight with her head" in order to persevere, but in the end she succeeds.
Through loss, hatred, loneliness and sometimes overwhelming exhaustion, Sofia--perhaps mirroring the author--achieves her career and family goals and finally uses her success to better her community, the barrio, she grew up in.
A quick read with many cultural stories and events. Excellent for students who _A House On Mango Street_ would be too difficult.
29: Failure by Design by Josh Bivens (Economic Policy Institute)
As indicated in the introduction, the Economic Policy Institute has published "The State of Working America," which details the data behind the US economy. As the author indicates, the steady decline in the US economy, and the connections those working at the EPI have observed over the last two decades has prompted this short interpretive book.
The major points Bivens makes that stuck to my non-economics major brain:
*the economy is in bad shape
*it would have been in worse shape if not for the Stimulus
*the rich are indeed getting richer
*wages and income for the wealthiest 10% have increased steadily whereas wages and income for the rest of us have stagnated and declined
*minimum wage in 1972 would be the equivalent of $9.45 in 2009 dollars, today federal minimum wage is $7.25 and hasn't the buying power of wages in the 70s.
*economy is a CHOICE not inevitable
*the Powers That Be (PTB) chose in the 1980s to focus on keeping down inflation than creating jobs to make sure everyone was employed (which was the focus from the New Deal until that time)
*the best way to "jumpstart" an economy is to create jobs that pay a decent wage
*the push for globalization has crippled production in the US, and as a consequence has forced wages to Third World levels--this is by design and need not have happened this way
*the Fed could save the economy by pouring dollars into it, but they deliberately keep the value of the dollar high so that it offsets the cost of debt
*did I mention that our economic system is a CHOICE not inevitable? It is not some "god-given" edict that cannot be changed or modified. It is only in place because a small, powerful elite desire to keep all the money and resources at the top.
*focusing on the financial sector and specifically Wall Street has paid off for a small percentage but has hurt the rest of the nation
*Employment and wage inequality effects blacks and Hispanics more severely than whites, the poor and uneducated more than the affluent and educated.
*Removing banking regulations was not just a mistake, it was naive to believe that the banks could regulate themselves
*What caused the Great Recession of 2007-8 is still in play today--NOTHING HAS CHANGED!!!!
*Capitalism, especially corporate capitalism, must be questioned if our economy is ever to benefit more than just a slim fraction of our population. This isn't to say that there should be no markets or businesses--but the ideologies behind "free-market" capitalism need to be scrutinized for what their purposes are and who benefits from them.
And, of course the financial institutions that caused the problems will expect another big bail-out from the taxpayers when they "do it" again.
I would recommend this book to anyone remotely curious about our economy but has felt threatened by all the terminology batted around. This book is clearly written in layman's terms and when economic terms appear, they are defined or clarified. Charts, graphs and tables accompany the text with interpretations and clear indications of who or what service generated them. Amazingly, much of the statistical data on the positive results of the stimulus come from the financial sector as well as this think-tank (EPI).
The vast amount of the EPI's statistical data will be published this year on-line as well as in their standard print publication. As indicated in the Epilogue, EPI is renown for its unbiased research techniques and information and is commonly used by both left-leaning and right-leaning constituents as a valid source for information.
31: Eaarth by Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben is perhaps one of the foremost environmental activists in the US if not the world. His website came about as carbon emissions have pushed their way beyond this number and are now hovering around 400 parts per million.
In Eaarth, McKibben gives us the facts of what we are now facing on our changed planet--rising temperatures, melting ice caps, bigger storms, soil erosion due to heavy rains, freshwater reduction, desertification...the list continues and it is not a pretty sight. And humanity is to blame. Our push into industrialization from the late 18th Century set off the mechanisms that have not only polluted the Earth, but have pumped billions of tons of carbon, in the form of fossil fuels, into the atmosphere. The result is an Eaarth that no longer resembles the Earth of our youth, but one in which various feedback loops caused by the drastic rise in temperature continue the process of heating up the planet. For instance, the Artic icecap melts. The ice that once reflected some of the sun's heat back out to space is now dark water which absorbs the heat, storing it. That stored heat raises the ocean temperature which damages species of plants and wildlife that dwell within (not just the Polar Bear which will surely become extinct). Ocean acidity rises, the warmer surface water prevents cooler water below from circulating---this can change the flow of water along currents, which in turn, affect weather patterns. Warmer ocean water leads to the creation of larger clouds which dump heavier rain onto areas that generally are unaccustomed to such (like the PNW). That's just ONE of the processes our Eaarth is experiencing as a result of human "progress" using fossil fuels. It is a complex system in which connecting the dots takes time and thought--something the global climate change deniers (really? they're still out there?) use to their advantage, by professing a simpler explanation (it's a "cycle") or not at all.
McKibben isn't all gloom and doom, however. His harsh honesty is tempered by some hope that as survivors on our new planet we will have to get dirty--literally relearn how to feed ourselves. We will need to get rid of the old ways of growing food (agribusiness and industrial farms which harm the soil and weaken plants) and employ more local, personal methods of feeding ourselves--which will be one of our biggest concerns next to finding and maintaining fresh, drinking water. His proposal is one that I have favored for years--grow small. Our political and economic systems have all been geared toward and focused on growth--ever expanding growth. But as was clearly understood by science and those of us wise enough to see a bigger picture, you cannot have unlimited growth with finite resources. Especially, when, all things considered, you are also destroying the very environment you were once able to produce many of those resources.
Eaarth isn't a debate about global warming or whether humanity caused it. These are facts and proven repeatedly throughout the past three decades. Rather, it is a call for a paradigm shift away from the "business as usual" model from our old planet Earth, toward a slower, sustainable model that could prevent additional damage and perhaps, one day, reduce the amount of carbon in our atmosphere.
We live now own planet Eaarth. Those of us who survive the next several decades will need to learn a different way of living and this book helps get that shift in thought and practice started.
32: 23 Things they don't tell you about capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
The ONE thing they don't tell you about capitalism is that for a few people to be filthy rich, a larger number have to be dirt poor. Yet, this is not the kind of critique Ha-Joon Chang provides. Instead he takes the reader through 23 myths that people believe or accept about capitalism, and specifically financial capitalism (vs. industrial capitalism) as we know it, debunking each or at least providing some evidence for a reasonable doubt in the efficacy of said myth. Many of these myths are no-brainers, like "There is no such thing as a free market"; others, which seem to require a bit of fancy footwork on Chang's part ("More education in itself is not going to make a country richer").
In all, Chang's critique does drill a number of holes in neo-liberal economics orthodoxy, revealing the "dark side" as it were of a system that has revealed more of its true colors in the past decade than many might have imagined.
This would be a reasonable supplemental text for identifying various aspects of neo-liberal thought from a less glaze-eyed perspective.
33: The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need it More than Ever by Cass R. Sunstein
A bit pedantic and ponderous, this book focuses on the Roosevelt's near success at providing Americans with a second, social bill of rights which would, in effect, enhance the political rights of those enumerated in the Constitution. FDR's overall premise, that "necessitous men" cannot fully experience the political liberties as laid out in the US Constitution resonates with much of today's on-going debates about social justice, fairness and wealth distribution. Cass points out repeatedly, and for good reason, that proponents of laissez-faire government--one that supposedly is small and does not intrude on human interactions, are living in a fantasy world. Those who have accumulated wealth and property have, in fact, been able to do so BECAUSE of government and because of laws that protect that property. Without government, property would be non-existent, or very tenuous and much more dependent on day-to-day circumstances. Problems with democracy ensue when propertied individuals flex their political might over those without property. Who speaks for those poor without property to use as leverage for political and economic gain? From here, Cass reasons that it is not unreasonable to suggest that in order to protect the political rights of those without property that certain measures must be put into place to level the playing field. Without a social contract of "constitutive commitments" only the "economic royalists" would have the liberty to access their political power to its full extent. Equal opportunity cannot exist without economic security.
It's a complex debate and one that I am obviously simplifying because my puny brain is about to explode. However, I was fascinated by the historical context of this work, particularly the uncanny similarities between many of the debates that took place during Roosevelt's presidency regarding social "rights" and government obligations, and those we hear about today. Seems that times really don't change much after all.
34: Mr. Was by Pete Hautman
35: Rush by Jonathan Friesen
36: The Little Blue Book by George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling
37: Zombie Generation: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture by Stephanie Boluk
40: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
A fun "candy-for-the-mind" high action quest that takes Clary Fray from Mundane city-dweller to Shadowhunter. When her mother disappears, Clary discovers that her past, and her identity, is a lie--hidden from her by her mother in order to protect her from a father she's never met who sees himself a the "purifier" of his kind. This novel has everything--magic, demons, sword-fighting, mystery, evil and not-so-good guys. Not a novel to put down easily.
41: Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly
Angels are the new vampires in 2012. Of course, with a twist--these angels are from another dimension where they feed off the ether of their planet, only their planet's resources are diminishing and there is nothing for them to eat. Except good old planet Earth with its billions of people just "dying" to be "touched" by an angel.
Willow, a half-angel, and her soon-to-be "Angel Killer" boyfriend, Alex are on the run--away from the angels who do not want their secret to get out, and who see Willow "the one" who can destroy them all.
The first wave of angels arrived a year ago and set up immediately feeding off of human energy. Now, they have a growing human cult following of devotees who believe the angels are a blessing and will do anything to protect them. Only a few people know the truth, and with Willow and Alex the must try to stop the Second Wave from happening.
I enjoyed the story and characters right up to the point where their "hatred" for each other became undying love. No, I'm not opposed to a good love story, but this was dripping with goo. At least two very long chapters were devoted to the mush of teen love--lots of making out without the release of sex. But, Alex was "okay" with that. Poor guy.
This dalliance into teen girl romance took away from the general movement of the novel--the tension between the two main characters caused by their dislike for each other made for a better, more intriguing narrative than the fawning, over-the-top emotion. It made the ending rather anti-climactic and somewhat disappointing.
Sequel: Angel Fire--but I'll wait a while to start it.
City of Bones sounds really good! Even with the romance "goo" (lol) would you recommend the Angel one?
42: The Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Science fiction has always led the way in dealing with social issues from racism to genetic engineering and more. In The Long, Long Sleep, the issue is abuse, particularly abuse through neglect and 16-year old Rose (going on 100 years) is the truly innocent victim.
Found in a "stass" (stasis) tube in a subbasement after 62 years, Rose Fitzroy wakes to find her world gone--her parents long dead and the global company, UniCorp, her parents created and ran, expanded throughout the solar system as well as intricately woven throughout every aspect of people's lives. She is the sole heir to this empire, now run by a greedy individual who would rather Rose not been found.
Rose's troubles worsen when she learns that her frequent trips in and out of stasis, sometimes lasting for several years, cost her not only her life as she knew it, but her love to a man who she knew first as a child but who grew up as she "slept". To her horror, Rose discovers that UniCorp has monopolized not just the planet and parts of the solar system, but other living beings. And with each new discovery she makes, she must come to terms with how she had been treated by her parents and what she really meant, or didn't, to them.
Not all abuse is physical, and this novel helps the reader see that sometimes the worst abuse is that which the victim subjects herself to by choice. This is not a "happily everafter" sort of YAL fiction--it is intense, disturbing, full of rage and anguish and coming to terms with being left behind and having one's life, in effect, "stolen".
43: The Twilight of American Culture by Morris Berman
Not for the weak of heart or spirit, this pre-9/11 critique of American culture identifies historical elements common to all collapsing empires and shows how these same elements have grown more apparent during the past 50 years. The result of this collapse is a coming cultural Dark Age; yet, unlike the European Dark Age of 400-1200 A.D., this dark age will be obfuscated by corporate glitz and media distraction. Few will recognize it for what it truly is, but the result will be the same--a loss of civilized culture which already or will include:
*the loss of scientific reasoning in favor of faith-based "truths"
*simplification of language (dumbing down)--debate by quip or sound-bite rather than debate by reasoning and evidence
*entertainment/infotainment as distraction and opiate
*increased "me-first" mentality; hyper-individualism and anti-social behaviors; lower civic awareness or concern
*infantilization of adults; reduction of civilized adult behaviors
*greater control by authoritarian elites (corporations)
*co-optation of democratic ideals--masking "choice" of brand as "democracy"
*degradation of institutions of higher learning except as utilitarian "training centers"
*resurgence of superstition, hearsay and stereotyping
*loss of quality time (living to work, not working to live)
*widening gap between wealthy 1% and 99%
*increased terrorism, violence or warfare abroad (to bring about "democracy")
*permeation of advertising (new corporate religion) into every aspect of daily life
*lack of real "choice" in one's lifestyle or interests to improve one's self
*anti-intellectualism and a belligerent disdain/rejection of education, reading, learning for its own sake
*denigration of arts (not utilitarian, not valued)
*loss of imagination; promotion of "following" rather than experimenting or exploring
*criminalization of dissent (unpatriotic)
*the adherence to post-modern philosophies that "truth" is irrelevant or disposable--a nothing is sacred, nihilistic approach to life
The list can go on.
Berman doubts that any of this tide can be reversed--but offers a "monastic option" in which particular individuals take it upon themselves to preserve beneficial and civil aspects of our culture as it was at it's peak (mid-19th Century), as well as the aspects of it today which promise the possibility of a better, more caring world.
Not much about this book was surprising or contrary to my own thinking during the past several decades; rather it simply confirmed my own conclusions about where this country has been heading for sometime. I would like to argue that perhaps there is more hope for change since the end of the Bush, Jr. years, but the drastic measures we'd likely need are not part of the political will of our current leaders (neither side of the aisle). Decline is inevitable--as history has demonstrated repeatedly. Unfortunately, most Americans are historically illiterate, so most will not see these "signs" nor have the imagination to not repeat what has already come before.
Reading "sequel": Dark Ages America c. 2006.
44: Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle
In graphic/comic format, this "travel-logue" of vignettes from Guy Delisle's year in Burma in 2005. I know of Delisle's work through Pyongyang, another of his works, which I have in our school library. I ran across Burma Chronicles at the Seattle Asian Art Museum's Saturday lecture series; a local independent book deal sets up a table with subject-related books for purchase before and after the lectures. I missed my "chance" to purchase it earlier, but when I saw it again, I snagged a copy. Knowing next to nothing about Myanmar/Burma, I figured it would make and easier way to start soaking my brain in "things Myanmar" before launching into more serious texts. I was not disappointed.
Having lived abroad myself for several years, I recognized many of the frustrations and joys Delisle experienced during the time he spent in Burma. He does not sugar-coat his perceptions in attempt to create a romantic mythos like so many literary expats try to do with countries like Japan, Korea or China. Things were (and still are) harsh in Myanmar for the poor majorities as well as the various ethnic minorities. Even with the drastic political changes which have taken place during the past couple of year, much work remains. Yet, Delisle ends the work with a sense of hope that perhaps the cycles that perpetuate the totalitarian state might give way to something new--which apparently it has.
I think I know a bit more now about the Burma that was, and am better able to understand the Myanmar that is becoming.
45: The Time-Keeper by Mitch Albom
I'm not really much of an "inspirational book" reader, but this one by Albom, unlike his other more famous ones, caught my eye at Costco. It's short, precise and to the point...
Dor is a Bronze Age man who is obsessed with counting. He invents the first clock and because of this becomes Father Time. God appears to punish Dor by making him immortal but live in a cave in which he hears the pleas of all the humans throughout time. They want only one thing: more time.
Six millennia later (oh, how Christian!), Dor is release with a geas--he must find two people who need to learn the lesson of Time a he had over the past several thousand years. And so, Dor adventures to New York City where he finds Sarah Lemon, a seventeen-year-old "nerd" who just wants to be loved, and Victor Delmonte, and octagenarian billionaire CEO bent on preserving his body and life for another lifetime. Only when Dor teaches them the meaning and value of Time can he move on to the place, and time, he was meant to be in.
It's a thoughtful novel. One that will generate discussions and careful consideration. I only wish it wasn't so steeped in Christian motif. Oh, well. Can't have everything.
46: It's even worse than it looks by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein
The authors identify the problems currently hindering Congress, leveling much of the blame at obstructionist Republicans who seem bent on wrecking government in order to satisfy their ideological agendas. The second part focuses on solutions to this increasingly hostile situation--including expanding voter rolls, limitations on redistricting, decreasing the use of filibuster and cloture in the Senate, and establishing behavior ethics within the Republican Party which will discourage the more outlandish and undignified behaviors the public has witnessed in recent years.
I commend Mann and Ornstein for their balanced approach to the problem and the solutions--they do not refrain from criticizing either party for the role it has played in current partisan politics. However, they are courageous in their assessment that in the current situation, Republicans are predominantly to blame--and that although it is typical of the media to attempt to "play nice" by asserting that both sides do damage, the news agencies glossy over the real imbalance between the two party's behaviors.
If I were to find fault with Democrats, it is that too many are moderate still. We need a resurgence of a liberal, progressive left--not a "right-of-center" left that currently panders to Republicans. More Bernie Sanders, less Joe Donnelly.
Nevertheless, "It's even worse than it looks" stands out for me as one of the most informative, explanatory political critiques I've read in recent years. Especially impressive is that the authors do not simply point out the problems, but actually proposed ways these problems might be fixed AND indicated how likely such solutions might be implemented.
It's a quick read, and very engaging. Something for those who really want to understand how Congress became so dysfunctional.
47: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo
Chuck Taylor (not the basketball player) has OCD. For real. Not the little "ocd's" that most people claim to have, but the kind that keeps him up at night checking and rechecking the stove to make sure it's off so his family doesn't burn in a house fire, the kind that makes him spin the lock on his locker exactly 14 times before he can go to class taking the same route everyday, the kind that won't let him go to sleep at night until his has gone pee more than a dozen times. His hands must always be washed, he won't touch elevator buttons, money or animals and he collects Chuck Taylor sneakers, in every solid color there is. He knows it's ridiculous to live this way, but he cannot stop. But, when he meets the new girl, Amy, he wants desperately to be "normal".
But the road to normalcy won't be easy, and Chuck's OCD impulses continue to get in his way. Senior year started out promising, but by spring, it's the worst year of Chuck's life.
If only he could stop DOING the things he does!
Lexapros and Cons is a dark humorous look at this disorder from the perspective of a teen trying to fit in. Although not as severe as some OCD suffers, Chuck's impulses provide some illustration of the difficulties people with OCD face, and how hard it can be for even family to understand or empathize with their challenges.
A strangely light read for such a serious topic.
48: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Lisabeth Lewis is slowly starving herself. The "Thin Voice" in her head berates her constantly--she is FAT, FAT, FAT. Every morsel she eats only adds to her weight. Her friend tells her she's anorexic, but it cannot be true. Whenever she looks in the mirror, all she sees is imperfection and fat. Then, Lisa gets a mysterious package delivered by an equally mysterious man. Inside are a scales--the old-fashioned metal kind with a balance bar on which two small, round disks are attached by several fine chains. "Thou art Famine," she is told. And with this symbol of her new office, and a black steed she dubs Midnight, Lisa literally becomes Famine--one of the Four Horse"men" of the Apocalypse. But, she cannot do the horrible things to others that she suffers through herself. She's a "new kind" of Famine, and with her horse and scales she is determined to change the world.
One of a four book "trilogy"--Hunger starts the Four Horseman series. What I really liked about this book was that everything that happens to the protagonist, Lisa, could be real, or a figment of a starving mind. One is left to wonder... Regardless of the "reality," Lisa learns a valuable less in balance, which after all, is the meaning behind Famine's symbol.
Bought the three in the series currently available, Hunger, Rage, and Loss. Will buy the fourth when it comes out in 2013, Breath.
49: The book of blood and shadow by Robin Wasserman
This is a marvelous mystery, with twists and turns and unexpected villains and equally unexpected heroes.
Nora Kane's life was turned upside-down when her older brother, Andy was killed. Her parents retreated into their work or the bottle, leaving Nora, now an "only child" to find reprieve on her own. When she met Chris, and his girlfriend, Adriane, a part of her life found fulfillment. She had two best friends who loved her and, although she never spoke of her brother, they seemed to understand her.
Then, Chris, his roommate, Max, and Nora began working on a translation of 16th century letters and something called the Voynich manuscript. Nora began putting together the pieces of an ancient puzzle, and a real machine called the Lumen Dei--the Light of God--which alchemists believed could allow a human to speak with God. Yet, Nora's new-found discovery comes at a price as she and Max, now her boyfriend, begin to unravel the mystery of the Lumen Dei and two secret societies that want to either build the machine or prevent it from reaching human hands.
This is an intricate, convoluted mystery complete with dead-ends, personal betrayal, death, travel (to Prague), and finally, answers to questions both asked and unasked. I'm rarely surprised by plot turns in YAL, but this managed to do just that. Well-written and worth the read.
50: Tomorrow, when the war began by John Marsden
Not a bad "last book" for the challenge. Tomorrow is set in Australia involving 8 rural high school kids who, after coming home from a week-long trip into the bush, find that their town has been invaded by a foreign army and their families and the townspeople are being held at the local fairgrounds. They must learn to not just stay alive and adjust to the dramatic changes in their lives, they consciously decide to live on the land in Hell, a secluded, hard-to-reach area that affords shelter and a means for safety, while they determine their course of action. Eventually, they become guerrilla fighters--taking out key "targets" in order to slow down the enemy.
What I appreciated most from this novel wasn't the "action"--there was plenty of that peppered throughout--but the primary protagonist's moral musings. Ellie, a farm girl, ponders the importance of morality even in a time of chaos. She has killed to survive, and wonders how this can be justified. She considers the implications of changing the "rules" in order to survive, and whether basic morality is simply a man-made instrument. Evil, she wonders, is not apparent in Nature. Only humans can see something and call it "evil". Additionally, she and her friends do not automatically adjust to their new circumstance. They struggle, they breakdown, they show fear and hatred. They argue with each other, disagree and compromise. They aren't Hollywood heroes who take to arms like a Bruce Willis knock-off or a Batman clone. They make plenty of mistakes, they suffer the consequences of some of them, they get lucky with others. Tomorrow presents a better than usual scenario for a survivalist situation. And, for that reason I plan to read the rest of the 7(?) book series next year.
The final book of 2012!
51: Power Systems by Noam Chomsky
Having read quite a few books by Chomsky, I'm already familiar with his style and perspective. Most of the material in these interviews can be found in other published works or on video--many of his public appearances and interviews are filmed and archived by such Internet news sources as Democracy Now! I always appreciate reading or listening to Chomsky, and this books, like many of his more recent ones (primarily transcribed speeches or interviews) reads remarkably quickly. The content was loosely categorized by themes that were given as chapter headings, and overall it is a fairly digestible example of much of Chomsky's political assessments. I highlighted a few passages, however, that grabbed my attention--mostly in connection with my profession (educator) or ideas I've mulled around myself to which Chomsky's similar thoughts give credibility.
"There's no point in having a lot of data available via the Internet unless you can make some sense out of it. And that takes thought, reflection, inquiry. I think these capacities are being degraded to an extent." (105)
I see this myself as a high school educator. Students (and even teachers) are so enamored with the Internet and its vastness that they unconsciously presume that it can "do" the work of thinking for them. They want "the right answer" and believe that the Internet will somehow intuit what they want and find it for them. The data might be there, but it is meaningless without thought and reflection. Students do not INQUIRE. They do not have CURIOSITY. They just want to "get 'er done!" and turn in the assignment for the next one. Teachers cannot be completely blamed for this. They must maneuver through a system that demands that students perform well on state standardized tests, much to the detriment of creative teaching or learning. Chomsky criticizes this as well.
In response to a question about linguistics: "There's this commonsense idea: when I talk, I don't think about any of those things linguists are talking about. I don't have any of these structures in my head. So how can they be real? This kind of anti-intellectualism, an insistence on ignorance, runs through a large part of the culture." (141)
This critique can be generalized to nearly any topic, not just linguistics, when it comes to describing the average American, and in my world, especially the political right. This notion that an intellectual "elite" is a "bad" thing while the economic elite are elevated to the realm of aristocracy is not just mind-bogglingly hypocritical, but downright frightening. One can be an intellectual elite without arrogance, just as one can be one of the 1% and be a criminal. Yet, this aside, without an intellectual elite, this nation is suffering from a shortage of creativity, imagination and innovation. We are already bringing in educated people from other nations to do our thinking for us--because we have anti-intellectualized ourselves into a mental dark age. This has been a pervasive problem for the better part of 150 years. Alexis de Toqueville noticed it in the mid-19th century and it persists even more pervasively today.
Back to education: "If you look at the percentage of our gross domestic product that would be required to provide free higher education, it's very slight. So it's very hard to argue that there are any fundamental economic reasons for rising tuition costs. But it does have the effect of control and indoctrination. Look at K-to-12 education, kindergarten through high school. Policies like No Child Left Behind under Bush and Race to the Top under Obama, despite what they may claim, basically require schools to teach to the test. They control teachers and make sure that they don't move in independent directions. Anyone who has experience with the K-to-12 system knows how this works. Students are required to conform, to memorize to pass the next test. And there are punitive measures to keep teachers in line. If students don't get a high-enough grade on the test--which could mean they're too creative and independent--then the teacher is in trouble. So they are forced to conform to this system." (153)
To take this another step further--by enforcing such "drill and kill" expectations on teachers and students, they undermine real learning. And because these tests can only measure set quantifiable aspects of specific skill sets, students can actually graduated with LESS understanding of and preparedness of the world than simply not going to school to begin with! Of course, this is just ammo in the pockets of private corporations who see the only "fix" is to privatized all schools. This is also a big mistake, but inevitable since it is the private sphere that has been demanding said "reforms" to public education for several decades now. These reforms are exactly the various standardized measures that are killing public education and pushing communities to vote for charters schools and voucher systems as "fixes" for the "problem". We're being led right were the corporate elite want us and we're mooing the whole way.
Here's one for those who think ridding ourselves of government is beneficial: "There's a lot of commitment to what in the United States are called libertarian ideas. Libertarian in the United States is pretty close to totalitarian. If you really think through what are called libertarian concepts, they basically say that we're going to hand over decision-making to concentrations of private power and then everybody will be free. I'm not saying the people who advocate it intend that, but if you think it through, that's the consequence, plus the breaking down of social bonds."
One of the things I really do appreciate about Chomsky is his ability to see to the core of an issue and to follow it through to its logical ends. I'm astounded by people (like some in my own family) who can advocate with vehemence bordering on zealotry the destruction of the government, yet truly believe that turning over the reins of political control to "the market" would be a lovely thing. We are already so steeped in corporate control that it may be that we cannot escape it. Corporations have invaded our lives--they keep us in debt with their credit cards and student loans, and they keep us that way with their advertising/propaganda campaigns to keep us ever consuming their products in order to "gain fulfillment". We are nothing more than consuming mouths to the corporate industry--and we are only useful as long as we continue to buy, buy, buy. Once we no longer can keep the corporate beast satisfied, it will either abandon or destroy us just has it has in so many other "third world" countries.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.