HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
  • LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

Oberon's First Thread of 2018

This topic was continued by Oberon - Second Thread of 2018.

75 Books Challenge for 2018

Join LibraryThing to post.

1Oberon
Edited: Jan 1, 11:46am Top



My 2018 thread, my sixth in the 75 Book Challenge.

About me: I am a trial and appellate attorney who lives and works in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am married to an elementary school teacher and am the father of three wonderful children (5, 10 and nearly 13 - a teenager!) who consume a lot of my free time.

The photograph above is a sunset over the lake taken this summer. Since it is presently -10 degrees out without factoring in the windchill, it is heartening. Despite the cold, I could admire a red tailed hawk perched in a tree along the frozen lake today. Living on a lake is one of my chief enjoyments.

I mainly read non-fiction. Books of history and travel are favorites. I have passions for art and theater. I have a particular love of African art that usually results in the addition of a couple of books every year as well as some art purchases. I think I will be spending the Amazon gift certificate from my inlaws on an African art book.

I try to do as much travel as my budget and my kids' sports obligations allow. Last year, my wife and I took a short trip to Chicago and the family took a road trip to Yellowstone and a spring break trip to Costa Rica.

My reading plans for 2018 consist of participating in Suzanne's Non-Fiction challenge again. I succeeded in reading all 12 books even though I didn't manage to post all of my reviews. Beyond that, I participate in a small book club that is loosely based on reading work from Susan Wise Bauer's A Well Educated Mind.

I will leave at that and work on the thread later tonight but I need to run as we have just one child at home tonight so we are going out for a nice meal.

2Oberon
Edited: Jan 3, 10:40am Top

2017 Book Year in Review:

2017 was a very good reading year for me. Beyond reading 101 books, I read a lot of really good books. While I have a top five the honorable mention category is far larger than normal.

1. Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen
2. The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
3. On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
4. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the honorable mention category are: The Lost City of the Monkey God, His Father's Son Edmund Morris's trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt and The Black Earth.

3Oberon
Edited: Mar 10, 11:21pm Top

Books Read in 2018:

January

1. Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill (audiobook)
2. Black Panther & the Crew by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Inanna's Tears by Rob Vollmar
4. JLA: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Mark Waid
5. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
6. Rubicon by Mark Long
7. 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham
8. Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog
9. The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright (audiobook)
10. The Story of Egypt by Joann Fletcher (audiobook)
11. The Africa House by Christina Lamb
12. Black Panther Book 4 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
13. Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller (audiobook)
14. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

February

15. The Road to Character by David Brooks (audiobook)
16. The Amazing Screw-On Head by Mike Mignola
17. Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane
18. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
19. Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible by Mike Mignola
20. Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder (audiobook)
21. World of Wakanda by Ta-Nehisi Coates
22. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

March

23. The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan (audiobook)
24. Baltimore: The Red Kingdom by Mike Mignola
25. Trumpocracy by David Frum (audiobook)

4Oberon
Edited: Jan 3, 10:41am Top



Books from Christmas. Until I got these I had actually reduced mount TBR for the year. However, the addition of eight books pushed TBR to 124 books. That is a net increase of 2 from last year's total. The TBR pile has grown every year that I have done this challenge.

Sadly, one of the books is from Iceland and was a present from my parent's trip. I cannot seem to catalog it. It does not show up in any catalog.

5Oberon
Edited: Dec 30, 2017, 9:31pm Top



One other warning for new visitors: I am a rabid fan of the Minnesota United soccer team aka "The Loons." The season home opener is against the Chicago Fire on St. Patrick's Day. I plan to be in attendance. Hopefully it will have less snow than last year's home opener.

6Oberon
Edited: Jan 10, 12:49pm Top

Reserved for a review (hopefully) of my last 2017 book. I will be hanging out on the 2017 threads until the clock turns but will be starring 2018 threads as they come on line.



Spain: A History by Raymond Carr

I finished this book right before Christmas and hadn't gotten around to doing the review so I am remedying that now.

I had seen this book reviewed as the best, single volume, concise history of Spain. Being a sucker for all things Spanish stemming from my college days, I thought I would pick it up.

I can't say that it is the best single volume treatment because I continue to believed that James Michener's Iberia remains the very best history of Spain I have read but this book is a solid second. Plus, it has the benefit of being far more current as Michener's book was written while Franco was still in power.

The book is not by one author but rather a group of authors covering discrete time periods of Spanish history. For example, Henry Kamen wrote the section on Spain's Golden Age (I enjoyed his How Spain Became a World Power. I thought the prehistoric and Roman sections to be some of the better parts of the book. Some parts admittedly dragged but I think that is a function of the history rather than the writing. Personally, I find the long period of imperial decline to be somewhat boring with the exception of Francisco Goya.

I think there is a lot to commend this book to a general reader. The history of Spain is especially diverse and interesting and that history played a significant role in the overall development of Western Europe.

I will say that the book could benefit from a new edition that dealt with Spain's recent efforts to deal with the legacy of Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. At the time this was published there was less of a concrete challenge to the Pact of Forgetting then there is now. Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett covers this more recent development and has my vote for an additional chapter.

7drneutron
Dec 30, 2017, 6:45pm Top

Welcome back!

8Crazymamie
Dec 30, 2017, 7:09pm Top

Dropping a star, Erik! The topper photo is STUNNING.

9kidzdoc
Dec 30, 2017, 9:37pm Top

Starred, of course. I'll join you in Suzanne's Non-Fiction Challenge, and I'll be very interested to see which books you choose to read for it.

>5 Oberon: Hmm. I think my team's stadium is a far more comfortable venue to watch a soccer match.

10Oberon
Dec 30, 2017, 9:41pm Top

>7 drneutron: Thank you Jim. As always thank you for all of your work in putting this community together.

>8 Crazymamie: Thank you Mamie! I have your thread starred for the new year too!

11Oberon
Dec 30, 2017, 9:45pm Top

Darryl - very glad to see you among the threads again. Glad to hear you will be doing the non-fiction challenge - I have enjoyed it immensely.

As to your stadium, I will admit yours is impressive but 2019 will see Minnesota United's stadium come on line and we don't have to share with a football team.





Structural steel is rising and can be seen from the highway when you drive between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

12katiekrug
Dec 30, 2017, 9:59pm Top

Dropping a star, Erik. Happy new year!

13kidzdoc
Edited: Dec 30, 2017, 10:01pm Top

>11 Oberon: Whoa. Very nice stadium! From the looks of it you won't have to worry about contracting frostbite during Minnesota United home matches after this coming season.

Athough Atlanta United does have to share Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank owns both teams, and each is given equal billing and their own permanent locker rooms and other facilities, from what I understand. The stadium is located Downtown and is within walking distance of three MARTA metro stations, which is particularly convenient for me since I live and work close to the Arts Center and Medical Center MARTA stations and don't have to deal with the normally hideous highway traffic here. I'll definitely attend more Atlanta United matches in 2018.

My online presence on LT will drop significantly once I return to work on January 2nd, as the hospital service is still very busy. However, I hope to read far more books in 2018 and write reviews of them more consistently.

14SqueakyChu
Edited: Dec 30, 2017, 11:41pm Top

>5 Oberon: Hi Erik!

Happy New Year! Am I going to have to be a Loons fan, too?! Darryl already hooked me onto being an Atlanta United fan. I was so sorry when they were beaten by the Columbus Crew and kept from the championship games, but then I started following the Crew's goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who I've come to find out used to play soccer at the University of Maryland, a college I attended for a while. DC United is hopeless. Even goalkeeper Bill Hamid left them!

I very much want to go to some soccer games this year, but I think I'd prefer to do it in warmer weather, though.

Happy reading for 2018. Stay warm!

P.S. Our soccer team is getting a new stadium as well. Do you think that will help? :)

P.P.S. Cute picture of everyone being snowed upon! :D

15FAMeulstee
Dec 31, 2017, 12:04pm Top

Happy reading in 2018, Erik!

Lovely to see the soccer stadium. I used to go to De Kuip, home of my favorite soccer club Feyenoord in Rotterdam, from 1989 to 1994.

16The_Hibernator
Dec 31, 2017, 12:20pm Top



Happy New Year! I wish you to read many good books in 2018.

Interesting. I didn't know we had a soccer team. I enjoyed watching soccer when I lived in Ohio, but my friends here are not sports fans and so I don't spend much time exploring MN sports. I would love to go to a Wild game someday, though.

17cameling
Dec 31, 2017, 4:04pm Top

Happy new year, Erik. Starred you so I don't lose you in the madness once this group gets going.

18Ameise1
Dec 31, 2017, 5:14pm Top


view from Zürich's landmark mountain Üetliberg

19thornton37814
Jan 1, 12:17am Top

Hope your 2018 is filled with good reads!

20PaulCranswick
Jan 1, 4:23am Top



Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.

21Carmenere
Jan 1, 7:13am Top

22Caroline_McElwee
Jan 1, 8:26am Top

HAPPY NEW YEAR Erik.

>4 Oberon: Great haul.

You should be able to catalogue your book manually, and upload a photo of the cover.

23msf59
Jan 1, 9:09am Top



^Have a great year with the family, Erik! Love that topper!

24richardderus
Jan 1, 12:00pm Top

>11 Oberon: WOW. That is one fine stadium! Many happy seasons of winning to the Loons!

25jnwelch
Jan 1, 2:29pm Top

Happy 2018, Erik!

I've got On Tyranny lined up for reading in the next month or so.

That top photo is a stunner.

26Berly
Jan 1, 9:26pm Top

Love your topper!! And the snowy family photo at the Loon's game.



Happy 2018!!

27ctpress
Jan 2, 7:19am Top

Happy new reading year, Erik. Great family photo and great to see another soccer fan - football for us :)

I follow a soccer team as well - FC Copenhagen - and have season tickets - although they don't perform so well this season - going up against Atletico Madrid in the Europe League 1/16 final which will no doubt be the last stop for us :)

Wow, looking like a great new stadium!

28Oberon
Jan 2, 10:57am Top

>12 katiekrug: Hi Katie! I have you starred as well - you are off to a roaring start in 2018.

>13 kidzdoc: The top is still open to keep the grass alive so I suspect it will be cold for some games. We shall see. Very much looking forward to it.

>14 SqueakyChu: Hi Madeline- great to see you. I was cheering for the Crew up to their elimination. Certainly the MLS feel good story for the year. I don't know about DC United. They do seem a bit hapless. Maybe the stadium will be a good catalyst.

>15 FAMeulstee: Hi Anita. I would love to invest some time watching club soccer in some of the European arenas. I am hoping that the Loons stadium will be a great fan experience. Before moving to MLS they played in a lower league but the games and stadium were fantastic so I know the organization knows how to create a great fan experience.

>16 The_Hibernator: You are killing me Rachel. You have to go to a Loons game. Wild games are fun but tickets can be tough to get. I haven't been to a Wild game in a year or two though my son gets a game from his aunt every year.

29rosylibrarian
Jan 2, 11:00am Top

30Oberon
Jan 2, 11:01am Top

>17 cameling: Caroline - lovely to see you. Did you start a 2018 thread? I haven't been able to locate it if you have (finding threads is enjoyably difficult at the start of the year).

>18 Ameise1: Thank you Barbara. Lovely picture for your New Year's greetings.

>19 thornton37814: Thank you Lori - I hope your reading for the year is wonderful as well.

>20 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul. Planning on another 10K post year? I will be reading along as always.

>21 Carmenere: Hi Lynda. Thanks for stopping by.

31Oberon
Jan 2, 11:22am Top

>22 Caroline_McElwee: Hi Caroline. I confess I have not had much success in adding book manually. I haven't tried for a few years so I guess it is time to try again. We shall see how long it takes for me to get through all the new books.

>23 msf59: Hi Mark. Thanks for stopping by. Doesn't look like it is much warmer for you right now either.

>24 richardderus: Richard, right now I would take one winning season! The offseason has been pretty disappointing thus far.

>25 jnwelch: It is a quick read Joe. I think you will like it. Thanks for stopping in.

32Oberon
Jan 2, 11:26am Top

>26 Berly: Thanks Kim. I love that photo but oddly I am having trouble recruiting my wife to attend this year's home opener!

>27 ctpress: Thanks for stopping in Carsten. Didn't realize you followed FC Copenhagen. Athletico Madrid is a tough draw. Best of luck!

>28 Oberon: Hi Marie! Happy New Year to you as well.

33Oberon
Jan 2, 11:33am Top

Update: New Year's Eve went well. We got together with a large group of neighbors and enjoyed ourselves. One of the unexpected benefits from our move was the number of neighbors that we have become friends with and do things with socially. Sadly, a few of them voted for Trump so I have had to keep my loudest opinions to myself. It is safe to say that no one in the neighborhood has questions about where I stand politically. At least the Trump voters have the decency to seem slightly ashamed by what they have wrought.

On the LT front, I am still finding and starring threads. I have yet to come up with a fancy picture to insert to announce that I am starring and watching threads. I fear that it leaves me a bit of a lurker. If I was better with photoshop I would put together a picture of PK the Loon mascot holding a star to announce my presence. Anyway, still working on it.

34Ameise1
Jan 2, 11:39am Top

>30 Oberon: thanks, Erik. It's from my homeplace.

35BLBera
Jan 2, 2:17pm Top

Happy New Year, Erik. Here's to a great 2018.
Go Vikes. I know you're a soccer fan, but still.

Stay warm. My car did start when I got back from St. Croix. The 90 degree temperature change that I went through yesterday was unpleasant. You might have to remind me why we live here.

I spent the week in St. Croix without news. It was so pleasant. I'm rationing myself today.

36Oberon
Jan 2, 8:34pm Top

>34 Ameise1: I am envious. That is gorgeous.

>35 BLBera: I will cheer for the Vikings. I do think that a true Viking outcome will be heartbreaking - it is part of the mystique of the team.

Personally, I can’t really justify living here right now. Minnesota is tough to take this time of year.

37banjo123
Jan 2, 8:37pm Top

Happy new year, Erik, and happy reading in 2018! I love the picture in >5 Oberon:.

38karenmarie
Jan 3, 11:17am Top

Hi Erik!

Happy new thread and happy new year.

>4 Oberon: Nice haul. I bought The Silk Roads for my daughter for Christmas. I almost bought myself a copy, too, but I resisted. D don't remember why, now, something stupid about being strong, what with over 1800 TBRs on my shelves.

39Oberon
Jan 4, 10:23am Top

>37 banjo123: Hi Rhonda. Thanks for stopping. Sadly appropriate for our weather right now.

>38 karenmarie: Thanks Karen. Personally, I consider books bought into the family as basically the same as buying them myself as they get passed around. The only restriction is my parents love of Kindle so I only buy them "real" books for Christmas.

40rretzler
Jan 5, 8:24pm Top

Hi, Erik. Dropping a star.



Looking forward to hearing about your kids soccer this year. My older son, who is playing U17, just announced last night that this was his last year, as he does not enjoy it as much as he used to. It has become very, very competitive, and so much less enjoyable this year, as his team plays in the National Premier League. My younger son plays U13 and is still loving it - he is hoping to make the ODP state team again this year.

It looks like the Loons are building a very nice stadium. Our family is very bummed that the Crew may be leaving town. We knew once the Hunts sold the team that it was a possibility, but Precourt promised that the team would stay and now he is changing his mind. Of course, we gave up our season tickets a few years ago because it was harder to make all of the games, but we do still enjoy going, and I don't know what we will do if we don't have MLS games to attend. The next closest team for us is the Fire, but I don't think we'll drive 6 hours for a game if we couldn't make it across town very often.

41Oberon
Jan 5, 11:04pm Top

>40 rretzler: Hi Robin. Tough to hear that your oldest is walking away from the sport but I get it. I quit playing hockey my senior year of high school because it wasn't fun anymore and it was absolutely the right choice.

Sadly, today was a tough day for us soccer-wise. We are in the process of moving clubs and we heard today that her current club won't release her. I think it is mainly out of spite but it is extremely frustrating and she will be really upset.

The Crew are a sad story for MLS. I would love to see some solution where they stay in Columbus. While the Loons are nice and new, Minnesota has gone through this several times. The North Stars moved to Dallas and both the Twins and Vikings have played the "we are going to move unless you massively subsidize our stadium" game. In fact, that is one of my favorite things about the Loons - the new stadium is funded by the ownership group and not public money.

In a month everyone can admire US Bank Stadium that got built for the Vikings as their bribe money. It cost the taxpayers something like $700 million and is a pretty lousy venue. Very frustrating to me.

Anyway, lovely to have you stop by and hope that your soccer seasons are wildly successful!

42Berly
Jan 5, 11:57pm Top

Erik--That's a bummer that your daughter's soccer club will not release her. Good luck dealing with the influx of football fans in a month--yikes! My sister said they have already shut down various streets downtown, I guess to check the effect on traffic flow? Anyhow, her GPS was useless. LOL.

Hope you are staying warm!

43rretzler
Jan 6, 1:04am Top

>41 Oberon: Ugh. How horrible that your daughter's team won't release her. I think you should try to complain to the governing body (USYSA or US Club) - it's a shame, especially as I'm sure that you have already paid and will be walking away from the money as well. We moved clubs last year for my younger son, not in the middle of the year though, but it was still difficult. I won't get on my soapbox about the state of youth soccer coaching in the US, but I will just say that the club coaches are a HUGE reason why the US is not going to the World Cup. I'll leave it at that because I don't want to rant.

If you want to read a great book about soccer coaching, I highly recommend Coaching Outside the Box. I've read it several times, and it is fantastic. I would love to purchase a box and then just hand them out to the majority of soccer coaches we know. Unfortunately, the only coaches that would read it and take it to heart are the ones that don't need to read it.

I quit band my junior year of HS, so I am also sympathetic, and I also have no regrets. I fought with my mother for weeks over the decision, and I vowed if I was ever a parent that I would respect my child's choices. So I am - I totally get it. I think he is going to try fencing next year, which is a HS club. I've told him that I don't care what he does, but I want him to find some physical activity that he enjoys and that he can continue to do as he gets older.

It's unfortunate that all of these sporting ventures are more about the money than anything. I get that its a business, but sometimes I think that we have our priorities all wrong when athletes are paid millions of dollars and teachers paid hardly anything. Sports are capitalism - pure supply and demand - while teaching is government funded, so I realize that it is comparing apples to oranges, but the fact that these teams can hold cities ransom like they have and cost so much in taxpayer dollars. Plus it is getting harder for a normal family to be able to afford to go to see some of these teams. Oh, well - I guess that's another conversation for another time. It is indeed frustrating - and I have no idea what the solution would be.

44Oberon
Jan 7, 12:32am Top

>42 Berly: The various court systems have been making announcements basically saying that they will not be scheduling hearings during the week of the Super Bowl and so on. Seems like quite a mess to me.

>43 rretzler: Yeah we are really frustrated. It is just so short sighted. Our club has been dysfunctional for a long time and we have just kind of put up with it. I think the gloves are coming off in that dispute.

Totally agree that this sort of crap has echoes all the way up to the national team. US soccer is more business than sport and the pay to play system is a big problem.

45rretzler
Jan 7, 12:41am Top

>44 Oberon: I have to wonder whether any club is really any good. Certainly the two that we are associated with have many problems. We have some good friends who are on their 4th or 5th club in town now, including the Crew, and from what I hear, it hasn't been any better for them.

Good luck - I hope it all works out for you.

46BLBera
Jan 7, 11:16am Top

Note to self: Avoid the Twin Cities during Super Bowl week.

Good luck with your daughter's soccer team change.

47ronincats
Jan 8, 9:41pm Top

Hi, Eric--finally getting a chance to stop by and drop a star. That photo of your lake is gorgeous!!

48Kassilem
Jan 9, 10:54pm Top

Well I don't watch sports, hardly know much about it, but I do love the topper photo! And I forgot that you had a love for African art. I will definitely be around to see anything related. :)

49Oberon
Jan 10, 12:20pm Top

>45 rretzler: Robin, I think you are right. I have heard plenty of grouching about even the top clubs in Minnesota and they appear to pretty regularly steal from each other. It is hard for me to distinguish how much of that are legitimate issues and how much is tied up in a perceived slight to playing time or not making the top team.

>46 BLBera: I think that that is a good idea. I think we will be attending a Super Bowl party in Edina - well away from downtown.

>47 ronincats: Hi Roni - thanks for stopping by!

>48 Kassilem: Nice to see you Melissa. There is lots here besides sports so you are certainly welcome to skip over the soccer talk, etc.

50Oberon
Jan 10, 12:58pm Top

>6 Oberon: I finally got around to reviewing my last book of 2017.

I have had to take a brief break from the intensity (and excellence) of Country of My Skull and thus am padding my reading stats with a bunch of graphic novels, a few of which are review worthy in my opinion. I also finished one audiobook Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill which was interesting enough. However, I don't think I have anything to add to the existing reviews and, other than inspiring me to want to make the Met's show on Michelangelo, hasn't had a great deal of impact on me.

51evilmoose
Jan 10, 7:14pm Top

Heya Erik, hope your weather isn't as unpleasant as ours currently is. Good motivation to stay indoors forever (or at least until the wind chill factor dies down a bit).

52Oberon
Edited: Jan 11, 5:32pm Top

Yesterday was in the 40's and today it is 5 degrees (F) with wind and snow. Would have been nice if the temp shift had been 40 degrees up and not down. Not looking forward to my commute home tonight.

53Oberon
Jan 11, 5:46pm Top



Inanna's Tears by Rob Vollmar

Interesting graphic novel set in Mesopotamia right at the dawn of writing. The story depicts a period of transition as a city - one of the very first cities - as the high priest and ruler of the city passes on his rule. Tribes living outside the wall take advantage of the chaos of the ruler's death to begin war. Meanwhile, a scribe in the main temple is starting to write sounds, the very beginning of writing.

It is an interesting depiction of the religious and economic structures of the pre-writing civilization and also an interesting take on the flood myth that appears both in ancient writings and in the Biblical story of Noah. The story is, I suppose, historical fiction in the sense that it is based on what little we know about the people and their beliefs but the individuals are entirely fictional. I thought it was a neat story and worth the read.

54richardderus
Jan 11, 5:52pm Top

>53 Oberon: What a weird world the graphic novel publishing one is. I am pretty sure such a novel-novel wouldn't be published at all, but this appears to be pretty standard for graphic novels, this byways-of-history thing.

55Oberon
Jan 11, 5:55pm Top



The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

Another in my recent graphic novel binge, this is a graphic novel that will hit home to most LT members as it is about the love of books and how those books inform our lives. The story itself is quite short. A young woman encounters a bookmobile on a late night walk. Upon entering the bookmobile, she realizes that the bookmobile is stocked with all of the books she has ever read. Starting from half remembered books from her childhood up through half finished novels, her entire reading life is on the shelves.

The woman leaves the bookmobile only to be unable to find it the next night. Instead, the bookmobile reappears at various intervals in her life with years separating its appearance. Ultimately, the woman learns what the bookmobile is and why it appears but I will leave that to the reader. An enjoyable read for a book lover.

56Oberon
Jan 11, 5:57pm Top

>54 richardderus: Maybe as a short story? Fair point though, I am not sure how you would tell a lot of these stories in anything other than a graphic novel format.

57richardderus
Jan 11, 6:10pm Top

Adding to their appeal, I suppose, is the availability of unusual (permaybehaps only to me?) takes on storytelling. I'm the lukest of lukewarm in appreciating the genre. Frequently to the point of disliking it.

58Oberon
Jan 11, 6:15pm Top

>57 richardderus: Agreed - though my take is that when a graphic novel is firing on all cylinders it tells a story that could not be told effectively in a different format. Boxers, which depicts visually, the belief that the Boxers were protected by ancient spirits and thus were immune to Western firearms is an example. I don't know how that story could be told without a graphic novel format.

As to disliking them, my recollection is that at one point you refused to touch the genre entirely so frequent dislike is progress!

59richardderus
Jan 11, 6:17pm Top

>58 Oberon: Heh, accurate assessment...I remain determined to test my opinions against new experiences so as not to turn into a blinkered old fuffertut reliably spewing The Same Old Noise. I live among dozens, if not hundreds, of those and *dread* becoming (more of) one.

60BLBera
Jan 11, 8:04pm Top

Safe drive home, Erik. It was a slow commute here. I don't mind the snow, but it is SO cold.

Both these graphic novels sound good. Off to check to see if the library has them.

61Oberon
Jan 11, 8:49pm Top

>59 richardderus: Reading will keep you from becoming a fuffertut Richard. Just never stop reading.

>60 BLBera: The roads were a bit slick but the commute wasn't terrible. I was bit surprised. Home safely and back to reading.

62richardderus
Jan 11, 9:35pm Top

>61 Oberon: No smallest chance of that, Erik, I'm a lifelong biblioholic and reader. I got my own library card in 1969 and have finished an average of a book a day since then. Often, in younger years, the same book multiple times...and now I'm slower, finishing between 250-300 books a year. The reviewing I've been doing the past decade-plus has really helped keep them from melting into an amorphous blob of Book in my brain. There are some that do flop over into blobbishness. I'm learning to let them go with a casual flip of the wrist, but it's still a challenge!

63rosalita
Jan 12, 11:32am Top

I'm glad you made it home safely last night, Erik. The roads here were also a little dicey but the biggest challenge was getting from my car to my front door. Fortunately I keep a small container of rock salt in the car for emergencies, so was able to sprinkle my way into the building.

64rretzler
Jan 12, 11:11pm Top

>55 Oberon: Oooh! BB! Sounds like something I would really enjoy! Audrey Niffenegger seems to have a penchant for things disappearing and reappearing throughout time, doesn't she?

65Oberon
Jan 13, 8:54pm Top

>62 richardderus: Your reading rate continues to impress Richard. I hope I am several years away from having to get used to letting books go. I think it will be very hard for me.

>63 rosalita: You are better prepared than I. I am lucky to find my ice scrapper in my car.

>64 rretzler: It is a theme for her Robin. Great book though.

66Oberon
Jan 13, 8:56pm Top

Bitterly cold here again. On the plus side, the drama of switching soccer clubs appears to be resolved in our favor. Now Sophia has to prove herself all over again but I think she is up for the challenge.

67Oberon
Jan 14, 8:46pm Top

I suppose I need to be a Vikings fan after that game. Skol.

68BLBera
Jan 14, 9:17pm Top

Can you believe it, Erik? That's the best ending I've seen in a while.

69Oberon
Jan 14, 9:25pm Top

>68 BLBera: I will admit it - I was being pessimistic. A game like that makes me want to believe.

70Oberon
Jan 15, 3:05pm Top



Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog

As part of a family trip to South Africa a few years ago, my mother gifted me several books on southern Africa for reading before the trip. I got through most of them but not Country of My Skull. Recently, Charlotte mentioned that she was reading the book late last year and that nudge plus the Non-Fiction Challenge prompted me to take the book off the shelf.

Clearly I picked the wrong book to skip prior to my trip. Country of My Skull is an extraordinary book. The book is largely a look at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was established following the collapse of the apartheid state. Krog was a journalist who reported on the Commission from beginning to end and much of the book draws from that reporting. However, what really elevates the book is Krog's own writing as she tries to grapple with what words and concepts like reconciliation really mean. She addresses contradictions like the tension between the ANC's "just" struggle against the apartheid state and the horrific violence that was meted out against perceived informers by the ANC. Krog also does a remarkable job of putting a human face on the proceedings. In addition to the gripping testimony of victims and perpetrators she talks about the emotional toll and post-traumatic stress that afflicts the commissioners and reporters covering the Commission. She also grapples with her own Afrikaner heritage and the experiences of her family both during and after the fall of the apartheid state. All of this leads to a very nuanced understanding of what was and was not accomplished by the Commission as well as an understanding of apartheid and its generational impact on both blacks and whites in South Africa.

The way Krog personalizes many of the stories gives the reader a digestible understanding of apartheid and its consequences whereas a book of pure reportage would have minimized much of the horrors. Some stories are very difficult to tell without numbing the reader and thus reducing the horrors of the reality. Krog overcomes this challenge and tells a chilling story of a crucial period in South African history without losing the vital human aspect of the story.

Very highly recommended. Do not make my mistake and leave this book on the shelf.

71majleavy
Jan 15, 9:25pm Top

>70 Oberon: Thanks for the review - I'm sorely tempted.

72BLBera
Jan 15, 9:26pm Top

>70 Oberon: Great review, Erik. Onto my list it goes.

73msf59
Jan 15, 10:13pm Top

>70 Oberon: Excellent review of Country of My Skull, Erik. Sounds fascinating.

74Berly
Jan 16, 1:16am Top

>67 Oberon: Skol indeed!

>70 Oberon: And another skol!

75charl08
Jan 16, 1:21am Top

Great review Erik. A book that has stayed with me.

76Caroline_McElwee
Jan 16, 2:43pm Top

>70 Oberon: Ouch, hit by a bullet.

77Oberon
Jan 16, 10:43pm Top

>71 majleavy: My pleasure. Thanks for visiting Michael.

>72 BLBera: Thanks Beth. Always happy to add to the list.

>73 msf59: It really was Mark. I am embarrassed to admit that I was not familiar with the level of brutality until I read this book.

>74 Berly: Kim - we might have stolen the thunderclap from Iceland but I love it.

>75 charl08: Thanks to you Charlotte. It might have stayed on the shelf but for the nudge from your thread.

>76 Caroline_McElwee: Sorry/not sorry Caroline :)

78rretzler
Jan 16, 11:02pm Top

>66 Oberon: I'm glad to hear things worked out. I'm sure she's up to the challenge!

>70 Oberon: Great review!

79Kassilem
Jan 16, 11:40pm Top

Count me in as being hit too.

80Oberon
Jan 17, 5:32pm Top

>78 rretzler: Thanks Robin. We are still holding our breath to see if her ankle issues resolve or if we are going to have to do surgery.

>79 Kassilem: Yes!

81Oberon
Jan 17, 5:52pm Top



The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright wrote what I consider to be the definitive book on Al-Qaeda and 9/11 called The Looming Tower. This book, The Terror Years is in some ways a sequel and a prequel to The Looming Tower as many of the sections deal with threads from the broader narrative of The Looming Tower.

A sizeable chunk of the book deals with the ideological underpinnings of Al-Qaeda and how the group was formed. As central as Osama Bin Laden is to the story of Al-Qaeda, Wright shows that in many ways he was a financier and figurehead and not a real driver in the formation of Al-Qaeda. Rather, much of what became Al-Qaeda had its roots in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood and later al-Jihad, a radical Egyptian Islamist group. An Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri provided much of the religious justification for Al-Qaeda as well as much of the organizational ideas for what Al-Qaeda became. When Bin Laden was killed, Zawahiri succeeded Bin Laden as head of Al-Qaeda and remains at large - the most senior figure involved in 9/11 who has not been captured or killed. Wright's profile of Zawahiri is fascinating and worth the read alone.

Other parts of the book, such as a piece on the Syrian film industry, which is used as a lens to discuss Islamic insurgency and the Asad regime was less compelling. However, the book ends strongly with a piece on the rise of ISIS and the brutality associated with that group.

Wright is one of the very best writers on Islamic terrorism. The Terror Years is an excellent book but I think it is important to understand that the book serves as an addition to The Looming Tower rather then as a stand alone history of the conflict with Islamic terrorism.

82richardderus
Jan 17, 8:16pm Top

>70 Oberon: Wonderful review!

>81 Oberon: Oh dear, I've got to read that one since I read The Looming Tower.

83Oberon
Jan 18, 10:58pm Top

>82 richardderus: If you enjoyed The Looming Tower then yes, you need to read The Terror Years.

84evilmoose
Jan 19, 7:44pm Top

Oh gosh, both of those reviews sound tempting.

85Caroline_McElwee
Jan 20, 2:43pm Top

I thought The Looming Tower a tower of a book. Adding this to the list.

86Berly
Jan 20, 3:00pm Top

Just sending "Go Vikings!" cheers.

87Oberon
Jan 21, 1:27am Top

>84 evilmoose: Be tempted.

>85 Caroline_McElwee: I agree about The Looming Tower. I learned a ton from that book.

>86 Berly: I am practicing my thunder clap for tomorrow.

88Oberon
Jan 21, 1:28am Top

Tough day for my daughter. A couple of soccer practices pretty emphatically proved that she needs to have surgery to remove an extra bone in her heel. Coming right after she switched soccer clubs this is a pretty big blow for her.

89Berly
Jan 21, 2:56am Top

>88 Oberon: That sucks. Good luck getting the surgery set up soon so she can get it over with and be back to running the field.

90BLBera
Jan 21, 10:43am Top

Go Vikes!

91Oberon
Jan 21, 8:29pm Top

Starting to feel like a true Minnesota year again.

92msf59
Jan 21, 8:34pm Top

Wha' happened? The Vikes are getting trampled by the Eagles. Can they make a gallant effort? Still time, I think...

93Oberon
Jan 21, 8:52pm Top

>92 msf59: Pretty much a systems wide failure by the Vikings. Sad but sadly not surprising.

94Oberon
Jan 22, 10:57pm Top



Serious snow day here. One of a handful of days all year where I seriously regret not having four-wheel drive.

95Oberon
Edited: Feb 1, 12:26pm Top



We went to the Science Museum of Minnesota over the weekend. One of the neat things the museum does is something called Collector's Corner. It is aimed principally at kids but anyone can participate. Basically, it is a nature themed trading post. You bring in an item from nature (pinecones, shells, rocks, fossils, etc.) and based on the rarity of the item and demonstrated knowledge of the item you earn points. So, my kids have done this for a long time and they do mini-reports on the items they collect and earn points. It has been a great way for each of them to fill out their rock and fossil collections.

The older kids have kind of phased out of the program but my youngest is still collecting rocks so we checked it out this weekend. They had a sale going on for fossilized fish. So, with my daughter's permission I burned some of her enormous horde of points and added this nice fish to the library.

96Berly
Jan 23, 12:37am Top

>95 Oberon: Awesome fish catch!

If only the Vikings could have caught half as well. Sigh. So are you pulling for the Eagles or the Patriots now?

97karenmarie
Jan 23, 7:59am Top

Hi Erik!

>94 Oberon: How much snow did you get? We got 12" down here in central NC last Wednesday and everything pretty much shut down for 3 days. It's only now just finally melted with a good rain early this a.m.

>95 Oberon: Awesome fossil. My daughter was fascinated with fossil fish, and we have several nice ones here at the house somewhere.

98drneutron
Jan 23, 9:51am Top

Nice!

99Oberon
Jan 23, 11:56am Top

>96 Berly: I am kind of struggling on who to support. The Eagles fans were such jerks that I find it hard to support them but supporting the Patriots is like cheering for the Empire over the Rebel Alliance. Probably going to be another Super Bowl where I will only half pay attention to the game and will be indifferent to the outcome. Candidly, I think the part of the whole thing I am most interested in is Leslie Odom Jr. singing America the Beautiful. I really liked last year's with the original broadway cast Schuyler Sisters singing.

>97 karenmarie: The closest couple of stations to us are showing 11 to 12 inches. 12 inches in NC is insane. I can see why that would shut everything down. The schools are all delayed or closed with 12 inches and this is Minnesota and we are supposed to be used to this.

>98 drneutron: Thanks!

100rosalita
Edited: Jan 26, 4:22pm Top

I'm belatedly catching up with your thread, Erik. I'm sorry to hear that your soccer star needs surgery —that wouldn't be easy at any time but just at this moment when she is switching clubs it must be especially difficult for her. I hope it all goes well and she heals quickly and completely. And a hearty boo to the snowstorm. We were fortunate to be completely in the clear other than some rain yesterday, as the temperature reached 50 degrees, but it's colder today and very windy. Still, no snow on the ground is always better for me than snow, so I'll take it.

101richardderus
Jan 23, 2:49pm Top

>95 Oberon: Cool fish fossil!

102Oberon
Jan 23, 11:09pm Top

>100 rosalita: Thank you. We were in today confirming things and trying to get a schedule figured out. Wish it had rained here - would have made getting to the appointment a lot easier.

>101 richardderus: Thanks Richard.

103Kassilem
Jan 23, 11:48pm Top

Love the fossil.

Every time the Vikings are mentioned here I automatically think of the show The Vikings. It's made for some real interesting first impressions of the conversations here ;)

104Caroline_McElwee
Jan 24, 6:14am Top

>88 Oberon: I’m sure she will cope Erik. There must be a good book out there to distract her.

Love your new fossil.

105evilmoose
Jan 25, 12:05am Top

You own a fish fossil!! *boggles*

106Oberon
Jan 25, 11:46am Top

>103 Kassilem: I think the show is more enjoyable than the football team. Actually the Vikings football team trades pretty heavily on the mythical aspects of Vikings and almost not at all on the history. One of my favorite objects on display at the Science Museum of Minnesota is an actual viking sword on loan from the government of Norway. It is displayed with a note that the Norwegian government insists that the sword was found in Norway and not Minnesota. There is a whole crazy theory that viking traders came through Minnesota hundreds of years ago. Google the Kensington Rune Stone for more.

>104 Caroline_McElwee: I hope so. Being in constant pain is aggravating a lot of the other stresses of middle school life. She is having a tough time of it.

>105 evilmoose: Actually several - I had collected some as a kid too but this is the biggest and nicest one. They are really quite plentiful but I never cease to be amazed at how well preserved they can be.

107richardderus
Jan 25, 12:03pm Top

>106 Oberon: There is a whole crazy theory that viking traders came through Minnesota hundreds of years ago.

...you mean they *didn't*...?! No! Pshaw! Of course they did. White people always come early and often to places they like now.

I enjoy the show The Vikings a good deal and am completely indifferent to the sports team.

108Kassilem
Jan 25, 11:38pm Top

>106 Oberon: Very interesting! I had no idea such a thing had been found and argued over so much.

109banjo123
Jan 26, 12:09am Top

>70 Oberon: I read the Country of my Skull a few years ago, and liked it, but not as well as you did. I think it would have helped if I had had a bit more background knowledge.

>81 Oberon: Sounds good. I read Looming Tower; so this goes on the list.

That is such a bummer about your daughter and her heel pain. Is the surgery very difficult?

110Oberon
Edited: Jan 26, 3:13pm Top

>107 richardderus: A common theme, right Richard? My personal pet peeve are the supposed lost tribe of Israel building things in far off South American or Africa. Because Africans and Native Americans could never do such things.

Anyway, Alexandria, which is where the Kensington Rune Stone is, has a fantastic huge viking statue.



Great stuff.

111Oberon
Jan 26, 3:17pm Top

>108 Kassilem: Yeah there are even some bogus documentaries on it. People who have looked at it are pretty confident it was carved with modern tools. Crazy little bit of a hoax IMO.

112Oberon
Jan 26, 3:18pm Top

>109 banjo123: Hi Rhonda. Thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, it looks like the surgery is fairly invasive. The bone is deep and there is a lot of stuff to work through to get there. They have to move a nerve and such. So, not anything fun.

113richardderus
Jan 26, 4:35pm Top

>110 Oberon: *bwaaahaaahaaa*

Oh my heck. That's right up there with the Crystal City, Texas, Popeye:

My oldest sister taught elementary school there in the 1970s. (I once worked with one of her former students who *lit*up* when she heard my last name. Quite touching.)

114Oberon
Jan 31, 2:30pm Top

>113 richardderus: Is there some link between Popeye and Crystal City?

115Oberon
Edited: Jan 31, 3:01pm Top



Typically my tastes don't run to modern art but every once in awhile there is a piece that I appreciate. This is Odyssey by Ai Weiwei about the refugee crisis done in the form of a Greco-Roman frieze. Thought it was pretty cool.

116Oberon
Jan 31, 3:00pm Top

My daughter's ankle surgery is set for Friday. That will make for a nerve-wracking time. Meanwhile I have a couple of reviews I need to get around to writing but the books have been good.

117richardderus
Jan 31, 3:42pm Top

>114 Oberon: It's called "the spinach capital of the world" because the soil and climate are great for raising spinach.

>115 Oberon: That's Guernica-level moving.

>116 Oberon: Good surgical fortune for your daughter, and a valium washed down with a G&T for dad.

118Oberon
Jan 31, 4:35pm Top

>117 richardderus: I hadn't made the Guernica connection but you are right - different way of depicting the events but very similar in its political impact. Spinach capital of the world explains things a bit. Thanks for the best wishes. I imagine they will frown on me drinking in the lobby.

119The_Hibernator
Jan 31, 5:10pm Top

Ooo, it sounds like that surgery will be very stressful. Good luck on it!

120richardderus
Jan 31, 6:29pm Top

>118 Oberon: They'd do it too if it was their daughter getting operated on!

121BLBera
Jan 31, 6:55pm Top

>115 Oberon: I love it.

>116 Oberon: Good luck on the surgery. I hope she makes a speedy recovery.

Are you enjoying the Super Bowl Hooplah? My sister has been taking the bus downtown every day to participate.

122Oberon
Jan 31, 10:57pm Top

>119 The_Hibernator: Thanks Rachel

>120 richardderus: Truth.

>121 BLBera: We haven't done much of anything for the Super Bowl. We talked about going downtown but with the temp supposed to drop so much we are second guessing. That plus all the back and forth about my daughter's ankle has really distracted us.

123Caroline_McElwee
Feb 1, 7:53am Top

Crossing everything for your daughter's surgery tomorrow Erik.

124Oberon
Feb 1, 11:47am Top

>123 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks Caroline.

125Oberon
Feb 1, 5:54pm Top



Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller

Quiet Until the Thaw is a novel. The is remarkable because Alexandra Fuller has written non-fiction for most of her career. Her breakout book, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, was about her family and childhood in Rhodesia as it transitioned to Zimbabwe. I think Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is one of the very best books about Zimbabwe and I have enjoyed her other books set in Africa, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Scribbling the Cat. Based on the strength of those books, I tried Fuller's book Leaving Before the Rains Come which chronicles her marriage to an American, her move to the western United States, and the painful collapse of that marriage. While Leaving Before the Rains Come chronicles Fuller's time in America, it is autobiographical and relates strongly to her African childhood and the experience of her family. Which brings us to Quiet Until the Thaw.

Quiet Until the Law is a novel. It is set primarily on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The book tells the story of a Lakota family, principally two brothers who were brought up by a surrogate mother. Through their stories the book provides information on the Lakota, their history and the reservation itself. If you know anything about the Lakota you know that much of this is not an uplifting story. That said, I enjoyed the story immensely.

The story itself is told in fairly short paragraphs. At the start, it made the book feel choppy but as it continued and I got used to the writing style, I found it engaging. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book to me is how completely Fuller captures the characters and place of a distinctly American people. Given the style of the book, I would have expected her to have lived and worked on the reservation for years. The book has that sort of feel. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the depiction but it feels very authentic. Even if it is not authentic, the story is so engaging that I don't think it matters. I will definitely try more fiction from Fuller if she writes it.

126richardderus
Feb 1, 5:59pm Top

I will definitely try more fiction from Fuller if she writes it.

A higher compliment a reader cannot offer a writer. What will you take to read in the waiting room tomorrow?

127Oberon
Feb 1, 9:10pm Top

>126 richardderus: I was debating this very question. I finished Norse Mythology last night so I am in need of a new book. I was going to start Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind tonight primarily because it is a library book and see if it holds my attention.

128richardderus
Feb 1, 9:19pm Top

Sounds promising given your interests...and Macfarlane's chops are established. The Lost Words is gloriously beautiful.

129Berly
Feb 1, 9:21pm Top

>116 Oberon: Sending lots of good mojo to your daughter (and you) for Friday.

Hope the Super Bowl traffic is not horrendous.

130SandDune
Feb 2, 4:30am Top

>125 Oberon: I very much enjoyed Don’t let’s Go to the Dogs tonight when I read it some years ago. I didn’t realise she’d written so many other books.

131Oberon
Feb 2, 1:28pm Top

>129 Berly: Thank you. We are just waiting now.

>130 SandDune: I would especially recommend Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness as it is basically a continuation of the first book.

132richardderus
Feb 2, 1:40pm Top

*happy daddy whammy*

133Oberon
Feb 2, 4:49pm Top

>132 richardderus: Surgery went well. Bone piece was successfully removed and we are all home and relaxing.

134richardderus
Feb 2, 4:50pm Top

>133 Oberon: Excellent! Great time for mobility restricting surgery, the winter.

135Caroline_McElwee
Feb 2, 5:10pm Top

>133 Oberon: great news.

136karenmarie
Feb 2, 6:38pm Top

Hi Erik!

Glad to hear that the surgery was successful and that everybody's home and relaxing.

137katiekrug
Feb 2, 6:44pm Top

Hope you all have a restful and healing weekend, Erik!

138kidzdoc
Feb 3, 9:37pm Top

I'm glad that your daughter's surgery went well, Erik.

139Berly
Feb 3, 9:45pm Top

Yay for the successful surgery!! Phew. Now you can relax.

140Kassilem
Feb 4, 12:15am Top

Fantastic news!

141The_Hibernator
Feb 4, 6:21am Top

Good that the surgery went well, Erik! Hopefully a speedy recovery is in store!

142BLBera
Feb 4, 10:41am Top

Happy that the surgery went well. Take care.

143drneutron
Feb 4, 3:35pm Top

Glad for the news! Hope recovery goes well too!

144Oberon
Feb 4, 10:37pm Top

Thank you all. It turns out that they removed a fairly sizable chunk of bone from her heel. After seeing the fragment the doctor thought it was more likely that it was caused by a fracture and not a bone that had not fused. In either case, the size of the bone piece vindicated the decision for surgery - certainly not something that was going to resolve by itself.

My daughter is in a fair amount of pain and is having trouble negotiating the crutches but I am pretty confident she is on the road to recovery and will be back on the soccer pitch very soon.

145rosalita
Feb 6, 2:10pm Top

I'm so glad to hear that your daughter came through the surgery and is on the mend. I've only had ot use crutches once but I was hopeless at it, but I'm sure her athleticism will help her adjust quickly.

147Oberon
Feb 7, 11:51pm Top

>145 rosalita: Well she is now healing sufficiently to ditch the crutches which is helping a lot with her mobility and her mood.

>146 richardderus: Seeing the bone fragment it looked pretty painful.

148Oberon
Feb 8, 12:12am Top



The Story of Egypt by Joann Fletcher

Thought I would post a short review of this book. I have tried a couple of different histories of Egypt. Thus far, this one ranks as the most readable. For me, this mattered a lot.

Egypt is ancient. Really, really ancient. As a result, any history of Egypt can grow pretty monotonous as it becomes a march through similarly named pharaohs interspersed with the occasional confusing religious struggle.

Fletcher's book still has these elements but manages to tie the various dynasties into a more coherent narrative than others. In part, this is done by lightly touching on Egypt's neighbors and tracing their various rises and falls and how they related to Egypt's own history. Further, Fletcher does a good job of explaining how the history ties to the present archaeological understanding. So, when discussing a particular dynasty, Fletcher will talk about when the tomb of the pharaoh was found, what was learned from it and so on. Some of this is quite helpful as a purely archaeological books can be difficult to follow because the archaeology is so complex. Egyptian tombs were looted, people were buried in other people's tombs, people were moved to different tombs by later dynasties to be used as prestige symbols while others were largely destroyed for religious reasons.

Highly recommended as a readable, broad overview of ancient Egyptian history (the story ends with Cleopatra as Egypt's pharonic dynasties ended with her).

149ronincats
Feb 8, 12:20am Top

So glad the surgery went well and the daughter is on the mend, Eric!

150banjo123
Feb 8, 12:27am Top

Hooray for successful surgery!

151Oberon
Feb 8, 1:06am Top


The Africa House by Christina Lamb

This book, ostensibly about a house at Shiwa Ngandu in Zambia, is really the story of the man who built the house, Stewart Gore Browne.

Stewart Gore Browne was an English nobleman who visited what was then Northern Rhodesia shortly before the First World War and fell in love with an area around Lake Shiwa Ngandu (Lake of the Royal Crocodile).

Following his service in WWI, Stewart Gore Browne returned to Northern Rhodesia in 1920 and set about constructing his own version of an English country estate in the midst of what was then a relatively unsettled portion of Africa. Gore Browne set about employing large numbers of the local populace and built from scratch much of what was needed to construct his ideal mansion. This including setting up a wood shop and training locals in wood working, setting up various agricultural operations, creating his own roof tile kilns, and so on.

The house project is quite interesting but the extraordinary portion of the book is the portrait of Stewart Gore Browne. He started as a purely Victorian colonial throwback and was called Chipembere (meaning rhinoceros) by the local people he employed. He thought himself utterly superior to the backwards Africans and believed it was quite proper to use violence to motivate his workers.

He insisted on rigid, outdated manners at all times. He sat down to formal dinners every night with African servants wearing uniforms complete with white gloves to serve him. He dressed impeccably and actually regularly wore a monocle. For much of his early life at Shiwa Ngandu he strolled about his estate alternating between Great White Hunter of the various game and harsh overseer of his African plantation.

Equally weird, he spent most of his life wrapped up with an apparently unrequited love for his aunt, Ethel Locke King, with whom he corresponded frequently (maybe weekly?) even while he was in Northern Rhodesia and she in England. Yet that wasn't the weirdest part of his personal life. Prior to his first visit to Northern Rhodesia, Stewart Browne courted, for almost three years, a woman named Lorna Bosworth Smith. However, when he had the chance to propose marriage he hesitated and she married another man she did not particularly care for. Stewart Browne spent his life mourning this failure to propose marriage. However, he availed himself of a weird second chance of sorts. At Lorna's funeral, he met Lorna's daughter, Lorna Goldmann. He fell for her just as he did her mother but this time marries her despite the fact that there is a 25 year age difference between the two of them. Because you can't make this stuff up, the two of them had a daughter and name her Lorna also.

All of this would make for an odd and mostly disturbing story except it doesn't end there for Gore Browne. As he continued to build and expand his estate and agricultural pursuits, Gore Browne become ever more enmeshed in the local Bemba people. The Bemba treated him almost as a chief and as Northern Rhodesia slowly developed, especially after the Second World War, Gore Browne increasingly acted on behalf of the Bemba people and the Africans themselves. He set up schools and hospitals, made a point of employing as many people as he could and eventually got involved in politics.

Once in politics, he become involved in fighting racial views that were coalescing into governing rules like apartheid in nearby South Africa and generally becomes a staunch advocate for de-colonialism and self governance by the Africans. As Northern Rhodesia gained independence and becomes Zambia, Gore Browne was the first major white political figure to openly ally with the majority African party. The first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, was a friend and mentee of Gore Browne.

In addition to his political role, Gore Browne created a vibrant and long lasting friendship with his Bembe driver, Henry, to the point that that Gore Browne made arrangements for his friend to be buried beside him after his death.

Gore Browne died in 1967. He was buried at Shiwa Ngandu as a chief of the Bemba people. He was also afforded the only Zambian state funeral for a white man in that nation's history. President Kauda spoke at Gore Browne's funeral.

The house, after a long period of disrepair, is still there and has been restored. http://www.shiwangandu.com/ After reading the extraordinary story of Stewart Gore Browne, it is very high on my list of places that I would like to visit.

152Oberon
Feb 8, 3:19pm Top

>149 ronincats: Thanks Roni! Hopefully tomorrow's appointment brings further upbeat news.

>150 banjo123: Indeed. Thanks Rhonda.

153drneutron
Edited: Feb 8, 6:42pm Top

>151 Oberon: Sounds like a good one!

154richardderus
Feb 8, 8:25pm Top

>151 Oberon: What a life trajectory! Fascinating, thanks for that review.

155SandDune
Feb 11, 3:59pm Top

>151 Oberon: We read that in my RL book club some years ago. It was an interesting read.

156Crazymamie
Feb 12, 11:32am Top

>125 Oberon: Nice review, Erik. If you posted that, I will add my thumb. I love her non-fiction stuff.

Morning, Erik! SO happy to see that your daughter's surgery was a success. And now that she is off of the crutches, she must feel like she is making some headway, which is good for the spirits.

Some excellent reviews here, I enjoyed reading all of them - thumbs from me if you posted them.

157Oberon
Feb 12, 4:28pm Top

>153 drneutron: I really enjoyed it Jim. Far more than I expected to. Obviously, I am a bit of a sucker for non-fiction set in Africa but I really liked the book.

>154 richardderus: Thanks Richard.

>155 SandDune: Did you enjoy it Rhian? I could see it being a good book club book given the life lived.

>156 Crazymamie: Thanks Mamie. I am not always as good about adding my reviews here to the pages mainly because I object to adding the book to a collection before it can be reviewed. Pretty sure I posted The Africa House review though as that was off my shelves.

158Crazymamie
Feb 12, 5:15pm Top

>157 Oberon: I thumbed The Africa House. If you post the review of The Story of Egypt, let me know as there is only one other review and yours is better. Quiet Until the Thaw has three reviews, but one of them is for a completely different book.

159rretzler
Feb 13, 10:14am Top

Glad to hear that your daughter is doing well after surgery. When does the PT start? That's always the worst of surgery IMO!

160rretzler
Feb 14, 7:00pm Top

Happy Valentine's Day, Eric.

161Oberon
Feb 16, 12:12pm Top

>158 Crazymamie: Thanks Mamie.

>159 rretzler: Robin, we had an appointment today. It isn't clear if the doctor will order PT or not. My daughter has two more weeks in a boot and then she can go to regular shoes. We see the doctor two weeks after the boot is off.

162streamsong
Feb 17, 2:36pm Top

Hi Erik! Happy reading! Hoping your daughter's recovery goes smoothly. I broke an ankle when I was in high school and was totally surprised and dismayed at how stiff and un-bendable it was when it came out of the cast a couple months later. Nobody had told me that it takes time and work to get the mobility back. But, I think I had a much worse break than your daughter.

I am so intrigued by your review of The Africa House. I read an LTER novel last year, The Dance of the Jakaranda, that has a very similar character, Ian Edward McDonald of Kenya. Your review made me google McDonald to see if he was real, or based on Stewart Gore Browne. I can't find much out there, but I still fall on the side of McDonald probably being real. I'm sure there was more than one bwana who made a land grab on a lake, built a mansion and set himself up as a local potentate. According to the novel, McDonald was one of the officials responsible for the building of the trans-Kenyan railway, was knighted for his service, and given his choice of land. He also had an unusual love life, marrying a British socialite who refused to live with him.

163Oberon
Feb 18, 12:06am Top

>162 streamsong: Hi Janet! We are hoping that she will be close to normal by the end of another month but we will see. Thanks for pointing out The Dance of the Jakaranda. That looks really interesting - I am going to see if the library has a copy.

164Oberon
Feb 18, 12:08am Top

Big weekend for movies. I saw both Black Panther and Early Man. Black Panther was excellent but I actually enjoyed Early Man a bit more. It is by the same people who do Wallace and Gromit. Plus, most of the movie is pretty much a giant soccer film. Right up my alley.

165Oberon
Feb 18, 12:09am Top

Also, in soccer news, the Loons lost a preseason game. Yeah, yeah it is preseason but sadly the Loons made a big play for a young midfielder and got rejected so it looks like we are starting our season with a big hole in the central midfield again. We won't be league worst or anything but I want a realistic chance at the playoffs.

166Oberon
Edited: Feb 26, 11:36am Top



The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This is another book that I encountered solely because of chatter on LT. The book is a fable about a young girl on the verge of being a woman who is connected to the old beliefs that dominated Russia prior to Christianity. In the book, what we would call folklore is real. Thus the creatures of myth and old gods, both good and bad, exist and are contending with one another. The heroine, Vasya, must deal with the supernatural struggle as well as cope with a world in which the majority of her village and family believe to be fables.

The book is well written and enjoyable. While I knew something of Russian folklore, The Bear and the Nightingale was a deeper immersion. Arden does an excellent job of updating old stories and weaving them into a story of her own. Apparently, the second book in this trilogy is available and I certainly plan to go looking for it.

167Berly
Feb 20, 12:14pm Top

Erik--Hope recovery continues to go well for you daughter and good luck with the Loons. I really want to get out to the movies; it has been forever. But I am snowed in today. And that means books!

168thornton37814
Feb 20, 10:20pm Top

>166 Oberon: That one is still on my TBR list. I hope to get to it soon.

169Oberon
Feb 22, 3:30pm Top

>167 Berly: Thanks Kim. The Loons managed a preseason tie against Atlanta United so that was a decent outcome. You should definitely get out and see both movies IMO.

>168 thornton37814: You certainly should Lori. I blew it off as not my area from the first couple mentions on LT but after it kept getting mentioned I decided to check it out. Very glad I did.

170Oberon
Feb 22, 3:49pm Top



Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder

Following up on my earlier reading of On Tyranny and The Black Earth, I finished Bloodlands, Snyder's history of the mass killings in the area of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus during the 30s and 40s. A chunk of this book overlapped with Black Earth, namely the detailed description of the Holocaust and some of the same points were made (that Auschwitz was not the primary means by which the Holocaust was conducted - rather it was mass shootings). Thus, having read the two books nearly back to back, there was a portion that was duplicated. So for me, the parts of the Bloodlands that were most interesting dealt with Stalin's Red Terror and the deliberate killing, primarily of Ukrainians, through famine. While I was certainly familiar with both, Snyder's level of detail was highly informative as well as chilling.

One of Snyder's larger points was that Stalin's crimes, in terms of total dead, come very close to Hitler's. However, because Stalin won the war against Hitler, much of the atrocities committed by Stalin prior to Second World War are far less known and discussed. Snyder also provided an interesting study of how Soviet satellites - Poland, Czechoslovakia, and so on used propaganda after WWII to portray the Nazi's (and thus the West and capitalism broadly) as the cause of the Holocaust. This was particularly interesting to read now as Poland as in the midst of a highly controversial effort to bar individuals from proscribing blame for the Holocaust on the Polish people or nation. Snyder's detailed look at post-WWII nationalism and the ways that the people have attempted to grapple with the mass killings of the 30s and 40s felt especially timely.

Finally, Snyder's conclusion wherein he made a particular effort to connect the massive numbers (14 million souls) with the individual people who were exterminated was effective and poignant. The deliberate killing of millions of human beings makes it harder to consider either victims or perpetrators as human. Snyder's book makes an admirable effort at trying to bridge the divide between people and statistics.

Highly recommended (though perhaps with some space from a reading of Black Earth which is also highly recommended).

171Oberon
Feb 23, 5:09pm Top

Going to go see Ladysmith Black Mambazo in concert tonight. Hope it will be a good show.

172Caroline_McElwee
Feb 24, 7:45pm Top

>171 Oberon: Lucky you Erik. I did see them once years ago. Hope it was a good show.

173Ameise1
Feb 25, 2:26am Top

I finally caught up here. Sorry to read about your daughter's foot issues. I hope the recovery is going well. You did some wonderful reading.
Happy Sunday, Erik.

174kidzdoc
Feb 25, 1:38pm Top

Nice review of Bloodlands, Erik.

How was the Ladysmith Black Mombazo concert?

175Oberon
Feb 26, 5:54pm Top

>172 Caroline_McElwee: & >174 kidzdoc: The concert was excellent. Mom and I really enjoyed it (it was my Christmas present to her). It was impressive the range of sound that they could create with just their voices. Also, it was a surprisingly physical performance. Ladysmith Black Mombazo has been around for a long time and the founder of the group has handed it off to some of his sons. Still, there was a member of the group there who had joined the group in 1969. That guys was jumping around and dancing almost as much as the members that were half his age. Very unique sound.

I picked up a CD, Shaka Zulu Revisited, and have been listening to it in the car.

176Oberon
Feb 26, 5:56pm Top

>173 Ameise1: Hi Barbara. Recovery is going well. She will get the boot off by Friday of this week. It will be a bit longer before she can go back to soccer but she is heading in the right direction and it is starting to feel like she will be back to normal soon.

177Oberon
Feb 27, 11:13am Top



A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Another book I picked up due to LT recommendations. An absolutely lovely book. It chewed up most of Sunday as I worked to finish it. It is a sign of a good book when I start to taking flak for neglecting the kids and household obligations.

The book starts shortly after the Russian Revolution as aristocrat, Alexander Rostov, is confined to house arrest in the Metropol hotel for writing a poem deemed to be subversive. The book is about Rostov's life in the hotel as Russia goes though a long and especially turbulent period. While history does intrude on the hotel, much of the action is focused on Rostov's life as he grapples with confinement and makes new friends and adversaries in his changed circumstances.

It is hard not to like Rostov. Rostov embodies some of the best qualities of a "gentleman" - he is polite, highly cultured, and shockingly optimistic given his circumstances. The story is Rostov's life in the hotel and it is a beautiful and engrossing story. Highly recommended.

178Caroline_McElwee
Feb 27, 11:36am Top

Glad you enjoyed this lovely novel Erik. It was one I gave away as Christmas presents this year.

179Oberon
Feb 27, 1:30pm Top

>178 Caroline_McElwee: I recall you mentioning that Caroline. Having read it now I completely understand why! A great book.

180EBT1002
Feb 28, 9:55am Top

>177 Oberon: "It is a sign of a good book when I start to taking flak for neglecting the kids and household obligations." Indeed! A Gentleman in Moscow definitely fit in that category for me; I'm glad you had a similar experience.

Your thread is always a wonderful resource for nonfiction reading, Erik. I'm adding The Black Earth and Bloodlands to my wish list. And wondering what you're going to read for Suzanne's NF challenge in March. Travel books. It's a category I'm struggling with. So I'll pop over there and see if you've posted any planned reads for this category.

I hope your daughter continues to adjust to the crutches. I'm thinking Sophia is the nearly-13-year-old, right?

181Oberon
Mar 1, 11:56am Top

>180 EBT1002: I am a big fan of travel books so this was a category that I was planning on just pulling off the shelf. I am leaning strongly to Explorers of the Nile. My only hesitation is that it is pretty big and I hate failing to get through my appointed reads.

Sophia is my 13th year old. She went to school today without crutches and without her boot on so she is making a lot of progress. I am hoping it is pain free for her today. If so, I think we just have to worry about strengthening.

182Oberon
Mar 1, 11:58am Top

It was book themed dress up at pre-school today.

183Caroline_McElwee
Mar 1, 3:07pm Top

Great photo.

184drneutron
Mar 1, 6:07pm Top

Nice!

186richardderus
Mar 2, 8:07pm Top

>182 Oberon: *baaawww* all my Papaw genes just activated. Adorable!

187Berly
Mar 3, 2:33am Top

>182 Oberon: Awesome photo! I hope your daughter's day without the crutches and boot went well.

188rretzler
Mar 4, 12:36pm Top

>182 Oberon: Love!

Have the Loons had their home opener yet? The Crew won their first game 2-0 against Toronto in Toronto yesterday and play their home opener this coming weekend. They have announced plans to merge their youth development program with another soccer club from the area (except for Crew Academy, which is the elite player development team(s)). I see that as probably the most concrete sign that they will be moving to San Antonio. *sigh* I read an article that said that a group of prominent Columbus business people put together an offer to buy the Crew from Precourt, but he refused. I'm hoping that they will take that momentum and just try to start a new club (hopefully there would be room for an expansion.)

189Oberon
Mar 4, 10:06pm Top

>188 rretzler: No, our home opener is the 17th. We have tickets.

We started the season last night against San Jose. Lost 3-2. Might be a long year.

That is really bad news about the Crew. I think it is a real shame.

190Oberon
Mar 10, 11:23pm Top

The Loons win their first game of the year!

Minnesota beat Orlando 2-1 tonight. Especially nice win as it was on the road (we didn't get a road win last year until August) and Orlando was where our coach got his start.

A major negative however was the apparent injury to Kevin Molino - one of the top Loon attackers. We will see how long he is out for.

191Caroline_McElwee
Mar 11, 9:49am Top

I'm sorry, whenever you talk about the loons Erik, I think of Katherine and Henry, On Golden Pond, it certainly takes me to a different mood to the one you are talking about.

192Oberon
Mar 12, 6:12pm Top

>191 Caroline_McElwee: Well - at least it is memorable? Definitely a different mood.

193Oberon
Mar 12, 10:31pm Top

New thread is up. Please join me there.

This topic was continued by Oberon - Second Thread of 2018.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

386 members

109,143 messages

About

This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

Touchstones

Works

Authors

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 129,011,499 books! | Top bar: Always visible