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fannyprice's 2009 reading part II

Club Read 2009

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Edited: May 2, 2009, 10:12am Top

Ok, I think its time for a new thread. The other one is starting to take a while to load.

Total Books Read in 2009

What I’ve Read So Far in 2009

(1) Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet – Mark Lynas
(2) The Planets – Dava Sobel
(3) Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries – Neil deGrasse Tyson
(4) Peeps – Scott Westerfeld
(5) The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the BritishSarah Lyall
(6) Death Note, volume 6 and Death Note, volume 7 by Tsugumi Ohba
(7) MosquesRazia Grover
(8) A Certain Slant of Light – Laura Whitcomb
(9) City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
(10) City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare
(11) The Rabbi's Cat - Joann Sfar
(12) Black Hole - Charles Burns
(13) A Spell of Winter - Helen Dunmore
(14) The Nimrod Flipout: Stories - Etgar Keret
(15) The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1890-1980 - Elaine Showalter
(16) The White Darkness - Geraldine McCaughrean
(17) A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
(18) Rebel Angels - Libba Bray
(19) The Sweet Far Thing - Libba Bray
(20) The Return of the Soldier - Rebecca West
(21) Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde
(22) The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
(23) Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
(24) City of Glass - Cassandra Clare
(25) Hunted: A House of Night Novel - P.C. Cast
(26) The Road - Cormac McCarthy
(27) North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter - Sakie Yokota
(28) The Devious Book for Cats: A Parody
(29) The Intellectual Devotional: American History: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently about Our Nation's Past
(30) The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008
(31) Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII - David Starkey
(32) The Partly Cloudy Patriot - Sarah Vowell
A Jury of Her Peers - Susan Glaspell
(33) The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
(34) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks
(35) Running with Scissors - Augusten Burroughs

What I Found Unfinish-able So Far in 2009

Tithe: A Modern Faerie TaleHolly Black
Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying – James M. Olson

May 2, 2009, 10:18am Top

Wow, looking at the list for 2009 so far, I realize that I am reading a lot of crap. Last year I got into YA series books in a big way and I think I am still reading them out of habit, even though I have ceased to enjoy most of them. They are good light reading when I'm tired or intellectually lazy - which is basically all the time - but they are not really fulfilling. I am going to try to read smarter for the rest of 2009. I have so many genuinely good books calling to me, why am I wasting my time?

May 2, 2009, 10:34am Top

Copied over from my old thread

Here's what I'm currently working on:

The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats Sell Out - a small book of hobo-cat cartoons by one of my favorite comic artists.
Amphigorey Also by Edward Gorey
The Celestial Omnibus - E.M. Forster short stories
A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx - Elaine Showalter
The Well of Lost Plots - Jasper Fforde

I'm completely stalled on two books started at some point last year that I really DO want to read, but can't seem to make much progress on: Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World and The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. I'm also dipping into Bram Stoker's Dracula, which - thank God - I got for free from Project Gutenberg, because it is so unbelievably tedious. Fortunately, I also have Joseph Sheridan LeFanu's Carmilla on the Kindle & I am told that is much better.

On tap hopefully very soon are: Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939 by Katie Roiphe, Mary Gaitskill's Don't Cry: Stories, and Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart

Also need to get on task to read some Virginia Woolf - I was planning to participate in the February-April read for the Author Theme Reads and got copies of Mrs. Dalloway, The Voyage Out, Jacob's Room and Night and Day, but I've been remiss in starting that project. I tried to start The Voyage Out on the plane, but I was completely delirious & felt the need for something that didn't require much brain power. With Woolf, I feel like I need to be in a state of mind where I can appreciate not just the plot but also the use of language. I'm also hoping that I can still get around to reading one Evelyn Waugh novel during the month of April, since he's the featured author in the Monthly Author Theme Reads & I lobbied hard for him month after month. :) Finally, rounding out my list of things I should be reading but am not.... Dostoyevsky. Unfortunately I bought a lot of these books a week before I was surprised with a Kindle and already I have trouble with a paper book. But eventually I'll stop making excuses.

Finally, I should receive Road to Damascus by Elaine Rippey Imady, a memoir about Syria, as part of the Early Reviewer's program.

May 2, 2009, 11:35am Top

Found you! I have been dipping into A Jury of Her Peers all week, but will be reading it cover to cover starting this weekend. Too bad how much work and family are cutting into my reading time!! ;)

Death of the Heart is my favorite Bowen of those I have read so far. The Hotel is on mount TBR for later this year.

May 2, 2009, 12:01pm Top

>4 marise:, marise, please post your thoughts on Showalter's book in the thread avaland created! I think we can have a great discussion on the book. I'm going to put some thoughts from my old thread in there in a bit, but now I must eat lunch, for I am famished!

May 2, 2009, 3:56pm Top

>2 fannyprice: That's why I love keeping track of what I read--I read so much more good stuff when I can look over what I have been reading!

May 2, 2009, 8:49pm Top

Yes, sorry I haven't added comments to the Showalter thread yet. That Atwood book landed in my hands and I haven't been able to think straight since. I'm sure sanity will rule again in the near future. I believe I have read up to the Civil War. I'll get there eventually, do feel free to get your feet wet if you're up for it.

fanny, I see quite a bit of good reading on that list above. I know you were in a bit of a reading funk but you seemed to have pulled out of it!

May 3, 2009, 3:06am Top

Did you have any ideas about where to start with Dostoevsky?

May 3, 2009, 9:02am Top

>FMB, I have The Brothers Karamazov and a book of Dodo's short stories. Do you have any suggestions as to where to start?

May 3, 2009, 11:48am Top

I warmed up to Crime and Punishment a bit faster than Brothers, actually. Crime begins with a fair stretch of suspense right away, which hooked me long enough to keep me reading, whereas I kept leaving aside Brothers for days at a time. Plus Crime's setting is more contained (mostly to a specific neighborhood) which I think helped me focus my attention. I liked things about both, but for me it was easier to read Brothers second.

For stories, I remember liking Poor Folk.

May 3, 2009, 9:55pm Top

From your other thread--I had the same reaction to Running with Scissors. It was entertaining in parts, but really too gross and weird to be believed.

May 3, 2009, 10:29pm Top

#9 - I'd probably start with the short stories, perhaps Notes from the Underground, simply because they are short - but that's partially because I had a false start with Brothers and haven't gotten back to it yet. It's long, and takes quite a bit of concentration and thought. Brothers is now on my kindle, waiting for me...

May 9, 2009, 11:18am Top

(36) Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women, and the World - Liza Mundy

This was a FANTASTIC work of non-fiction that I read last weekend. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read, but especially to those interested in ethics, medicine, and family issues. Mundy mostly focuses on ART in the US, but provides a number of points of comparison with the EU, mostly to illustrate how they regulate it much more closely than in the US.

Let me just preface my remarks by saying that I have some strong, probably irrational, feelings about assisted reproductive technologies (ART). My issue with ART has always been “why not just adopt?” I don't really have any right to have these opinions, having never had to deal with the problem of fertility or infertility, since I have no kids and am not trying to have kids. But I have them, nevertheless. The author, a Washington Post journalist, really tried to present all of the debates about an issue from multiple perspectives and succeeded, for the most part. Consequently, this was one of those rare works of non-fiction that actually made me a more compassionate, less dogmatic person.

Mundy's thesis is essentially that the proliferation of ART has radically changed what we mean when we say "reproductive rights." Mundy asks: "What does “choice” mean, given the range of medical and scientific procedures that are rather suddenly possible? If you support reproductive freedom, do you support everything now offered in the reproductive marketplace?" She argues that the choice to have a baby is often now more fraught with ethical dilemmas than the choice to not have a baby.

Mundy addresses the social changes brought about by IVF and other techniques. These technologies are changing how we define a family, “creating unprecedented kinship patterns, altering our sense of who parents are and what parents do.” Mundy talks to parents who wonder how they will relate to their child if it is only biologically related to one of them – if donor gametes replace only one parent’s gametes. Or if the child is biologically related to neither of them but is carried and delivered by the woman.

ART is also encouraging many women to further delay having children, which Mundy acknowledges is one of the most controversial aspects of ART to even mention. “Any effort to educate women—and men—about consequences of delayed childbearing is seen by some feminist leaders as tyrannical, oppressive, retrograde.” She cites those horrid, annoying biological clock ads that so offended many women, including me, as an example of this. Mundy argues – and I agree – that the parade of celebrities having children in their 40s (most of whom probably HAD to use some sort of ART but most of whom do not acknowledge this) clouds the issue for ordinary women and makes delaying childbearing seem natural. “Even now that “biological clock” has become a grim cliché, women can be forgiven for not knowing exactly when the alarm bell goes off.”

Mundy also addresses the medical issues – which has always been my biggest issue with ART. It seems to me – from a position of layman’s logic, rather than any hard facts – that some kinds of infertility should not be circumvented. That if two people are trying and failing to have a kid “naturally”, this is nature’s way of weeding out a genetic issue that should not be passed down. But “thanks to the new techniques, infertility itself is being passed from father to son. Heritable infertility sounds like a contradiction in terms, but now, thanks to science, it isn’t. Other genetic problems are being transmitted as well, and possibly magnified. Evolution is being thwarted.” Mundy points out that people have often been concerned that assisted reproductive technologies would allow the creation of “designer babies” who would grow up to be some sort of super race. She – and the scientists she interviews – argues that is it far more likely that these technologies are having the opposite impact on human genetic fitness.

ART are fueling a rise in multiple births, which – despite popular fetishization of them – are really quite dangerous, has led to an increase in the number of children with low-birth weight and other serious medical conditions. This, in turn, has placed an increasing strain on parents who now sometimes must care for multiple children of the same age who have one or more developmental disabilities.

What emerges, as Mundy interviews doctors, patients, surrogates, practitioners of ART, bioethicists, is a rather scary picture of a world that is essentially unregulated and that is practicing medicine without a solid understanding of the techniques being used. This is – in part – due to the long-standing ban on using human embryos in research. “This ban on embryo research meant that no federally funded experiments could be conducted on the safety or efficacy of IVF, even as the field itself was surging ahead, unfunded and unregulated.” Many of the AR techniques appear to have been invented by accident and the ban means that after a certain point, if scientists want to see if something works on humans, they have to implant the cells in women and see what happens. This was one of the scariest quotes in the book: ‘There are crucial territories of assisted reproduction that remain a mystery to science. “At a certain point, what you want to be able to do is to fertilize the egg and then study its development to make sure it’s okay,” Trimarchi told me. “The only alternative, eventually, is just to put it into a uterus and see what happens. This is pretty much what happens with every lab technique for IVF. You fool around in the lab as much as you can; you test it and observe it and inject markers, but what you cannot do is fertilize it to see how the embryo would develop. At a certain point—and the point comes pretty soon—you just have to jam it into the uterus and see what happens.” ART has essentially created an entire universe of experimental pregnancies and experimental children.

But this lack of regulation – the idea that anyone who can afford to pay can have a baby – has provided a way for “unconventional” couples to start families: gay men, lesbians, straight single women who are tired of waiting for a man to commit and decide to co-parent one or more children with another straight single female friend. “ART offered some people who want to have families a way to make an end run around the people who don’t want them to have one.” And that’s fantastic. But what’s curious is how the mainstream feminist movement kind of hates gay men using ART: ‘“Any man with a checkbook can buy a baby,” objected the bioethicist Barbara Katz Rothman, speaking at a 2003 conference convened by Planned Parenthood. “The pieces are all for sale.”’ The idea that women’s bodies – probably multiple women’s bodies: a pretty, highly-educated young woman to provide the eggs and a fecund, lower-income woman to gestate them – have become a commodity yet again is rather disturbing and further complicates the issue.

There is so much more in this book – the rights of children born through ART, the rights of gamete donors, the debates over what to do with frozen eggs or embryos – are they “children in waiting” or just tissue, but I’ve gone on for far too long.

I’ve focused mostly on the negative in my thoughts, but I think it is really important to point out that Mundy always humanizes these debates by bringing real people and real children into the story. The people she interviews have struggled to conceive and are truly thankful to the scientists, the donors, the surrogates, etc. that have allowed them to have a child. And although I don’t personally care, I do understand on some level that the desire to have a kid exists and is powerful. Still, I couldn’t help wondering – why not just adopt? Why endure dangerous pregnancies and experimental treatments and years of trying and failing and the associated expenses to give birth to a child that is not biologically yours? Why such effort to bring a child into this world when there are already children waiting for homes and families? So perhaps, upon reflection, I am not really much more compassionate….

Additional Related Reading
The Perfect Baby (Glenn McGee), Redesigning Humans (Gregory Stock), Our Posthuman Future (Francis Fukuyama), The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade (Ann Fessler), The Empty Cradle: Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present (Margaret Marsh and Wanda Ronner), The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank (David Plotz), Merchants of Immortality (author unknown)

May 9, 2009, 11:25am Top

(37) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

No real thoughts on this one. I read it because it had been lingering on my shelves for the longest time and I wanted to get rid of it. Not a really great reason. I didn't expect to like it at all and I don't think it was the best thing ever, but it was an enjoyable and different read.

May 9, 2009, 12:20pm Top

Okay, I don't want to review Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot, but there were so many great quotes, I just wanted to share a few of my favorites:

"What we need is a president who is at least twelve kinds of nerd, a nerd messiah to come along every four years, acquire the Secret Service code name Poindexter, install a Revenge of the Nerds screen saver on the Oval Office computer, and one by one decrypt our woes." (regarding Bush and his brainpower)

"Adolescent nerds across the country must be shuddering now that a jock is in charge of the dreaded President’s Physical Fitness Exam." (regarding Bush and his jockiness)

"But Gore appeals to the real me, the one who can still sing a song from college German class about which prepositions to use with the accusative case—'Durch, für, gegen, ohne, um: Akkusativ.'" (regarding the mutual nerdiness of Vowell and Al Gore)

"California is about the good life. So a bad life there seems so much worse than a bad life anywhere else. Quality is an obsession there— good food, good wine, good movies, music, weather, cars. Those sound like the right things to shoot for, but the never-ending quality quest is a lot of pressure when you’re uncertain and disorganized and, not least, broker than broke. Some afternoons a person just wants to rent Die Hard, close the curtains, and have Cheerios for lunch." (regarding California and the good life)

"I was such a young fogy that growing up involved becoming less mature." (Vowell reflects on herself)

"When you have a baby around, the baby is the movie. We occupy an entire entertaining hour just on drool, nonnarrative drool." (so true...also applies to pets)

And my favorite.... "The more history I learn, the more the world fills up with stories." Yes, isn't history wonderful. I love this quote.

May 9, 2009, 12:25pm Top

Interesting review of Everything Conceivable. I've been thinking of reading a related book called The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception by Deborah L. Spar -- are you familiar with it?

Edited: May 9, 2009, 1:23pm Top

Interesting thoughts on ART and Everything Conceivable, Fanny! I am lucky that I never had to make any of these choices (having conceived two children quite easily). I don't know if I would have gone the ART route, but I have thought a lot about adoption.

To answer your question: I couldn’t help wondering – why not just adopt? . . . adoption looks great on paper: a mother who for whatever reason can't raise her child gives the child to a family who really wants a baby. That may have been the reality in the past, but it rarely is anymore. For one, fewer mothers are giving up their babies, so the waiting list is long. And then there are situations when the couple thinks they finally have a baby, or even when they actually do have the child, the birth mother changes her mind and wants the baby back. Personally, I couldn't take the risk of that heartbreak. And the trend now is for open adoptions where the child maintains a relationship with the birth mother--personally, that doesn't appeal to me either. It sounds very complicated. If you adopt a baby that comes from a mother with addiction issues, then chances are good that you adopt addiction complications too. Then there are adoptions of children from impoverished backgrounds--but if you're white and the child isn't, there is a whole community speaking out against you. And if you don't fit the perfect model, it's almost impossible to adopt. I know a couple in their late 50s who were considered too old, so their options were limited to older children (up to early teens) from the former Soviet Republics. They had to deal with a lot of charlatans in the adoption process, went through years of heartbreak and great expense, and now have finally adopted two older children who don't want to be here.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is the answer to "why not just adopt?" is because there is no "just" in the equation. It may work out beautifully, but you open yourself up to the potential of massive heartbreak. I don't know if I could take the risk. Sorry this was so long! I could have said more, but this is a book discussion site after all!

May 9, 2009, 1:35pm Top

>17 Nickelini:, Nickelini - You bring up a lot of good points and its true that I'm not being fair. Mundy is actually a lot more balanced on the "why not just adopt" question. She brings up a number of the same points that you did. Interestingly, she says the the largest percentage of babies given up for adoption in the US have traditionally been white, that african americans are very unlikely to give children up for adoption, and latinos basically never do, which suggests that the accusation leveled against non-adopters "oh, you just want a white baby and you're rejecting all these non-white babies" is actually really not accurate. However, the number of overall babies given up for adoption has declined every year since abortion was legalized, so there is a shortage of adoptable babies in the US.

Also, I think it is fair for an adoptive parent to question whether they can raise a child of another race of from a very different culture - one of the parents in Mundy's book put it really well (although the issue at hand was not wanting non-white donor sperm) when she said "why would you deliberately cut a child off from half its culture?" Overseas adoption is very time-consuming and expensive and often involves a whole different set of ethical conundrums. Mundy even says that all these factors are furthering an increase in ART, since one round of fertility treatments can cost as little as $5000, while overseas adoptions often cost $20,000. You're right that there is no "just".

What was interesting about some of the later chapters of Mundy's book, which I didn't really get into, was how people are increasingly dealing with the issue of donor rights and ART child rights. Do children conceived from anonymous gamete donors have the right to know their biological parents, even if the donor has been assured of anonymity at the time of donation? I believe that Australia actually banned anonymous donation at some point, because of this very issue. The decision quickly led to a huge shortage of donors, though, because most people doing it are thinking about the financial benefit and are not interested in a relationship with prospective future offspring.

May 9, 2009, 8:32pm Top

Interesting comments, Fanny. I'm just glad I was so lucky that I didn't need to face these issues.

May 10, 2009, 9:21am Top

>9 fannyprice: yes, I agree, start with the short stories. Which ones have you got there, Fanny?. If you've got A Nasty Story, start with that one.

>15 fannyprice: But it should be Durch, für, gegen, bis ohne, um wieder: Akkusativ no?
Those are great quotes, lol

And on the whole baby thang, I agree with Gore Vidal: Man plus woman plus baby equals famine.

May 10, 2009, 11:33pm Top

Everything Conceivable sounds really interesting. Reproductive issues are kind of academic for me, being childless and delighted to stay that way, but I find the ethical and technological issues and their possible implications for the future absolutely fascinating. I think this one is going to have to go on the ever-expanding wishlist.

May 11, 2009, 5:25am Top

found my way here from "Hot Topics" - just wanted to say I really enjoyed the discussion on ART and your detailed review of the book. Thanks!

Edited: May 11, 2009, 9:29am Top

since much of my day job has dealt w/ reproductive epidemiology for the last 25+yrs, the issues of ART are technically and ethically very interesting. But one seemingly minor issue that, i'd think would loom large in practical life, would be being the parent of a teen when one is in their late fifties/sixties (true, the same issues inhere w/ adopting late). But just the energy required in childrearing is likely to be harder and harder to bring to bear, when one goes on past the early 40s to start a family by whatever means.

Assuming away the host of other issues!

May 25, 2009, 7:50pm Top

>13 fannyprice: this looks like a fascinating book & one I'll be trying to find. Thanks for putting so much time and effort into the review, and for the 'further reading' suggestions.

Edited: Jun 14, 2009, 7:35pm Top

(38) The Sleeper Awakes - H.G. Wells

It is strange that HG Wells is one of my favorite authors when I've never thought any of his books that I've read really merited more than 3.5 stars. I think it is more about the ideas being interesting & Wells being a bit of a science visionary for his time than the writing itself.

(39) Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

So much more entertaining than Dracula.

I read both of these nearly two weeks ago. I meant to write more, but....

May 26, 2009, 10:20pm Top

It seems the Carmilla flu is making the rounds on LT. Quick, call kizdoc.

May 28, 2009, 11:33pm Top

>26 urania1:, Haha, too true. I actually read a graphic novel adaptation of it last year, but even knowing the plot, I found the book quite engrossing on my recent read through. Much better than Bram Stoker, which was simply tedious.

Edited: Jun 14, 2009, 7:35pm Top

(40) The City of Ember: The First Book of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau

A fairly good young adult dystopia/post-apocalypse story about two children who live in a decaying city surrounded by complete darkness and totally reliant on artificial light and the secrets they discover about their existence and the history of their world. (oooh, that really seems like nonsensical grammer - time for sleep...) At first I was thinking that I would read the sequels, but now I'm not sure. This kept me entertained for a few hours earlier this week, but the plot descriptions of the subsequent books in the series don't sound anywhere near as intriguing. Perhaps I'll just pretend there are no other stories.

May 28, 2009, 11:54pm Top

Struggling to find something, despite the pile of great books all around me. I started reading Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't on the recommendation of a guest lecturer for a course I was taking. Prothero's basic thesis: America is a nation of religiously observant ignoramuses (ignorami?) who know next to nothing about the origins, myths, and practices of the religions to which they adhere and know even less about religions practiced by other people.

This is a book I expected to like because, like Prothero, I am (or rather, was) a student of comparative religions & like Prothero, I believe that studying what people believe and how that impacts their motivations, actions, political positions, etc. is important. This book should be easy for me to like. But so far it is proving extremely challenging....

While Prothero's book offers a number of interesting factoids and cringe-inducing anecdotes about American ignorance of religion, I am not sure it amounts to as much as he'd like it to. He cites a lot of statistics about American religious belief that strike me as unbelievable - 40% of Americans claim to be born-again Christians - and that don't jive with numbers I've read elsewhere. I actually checked with some friends who work in public opinion research & they thought many of his numbers did not correspond to research they had been involved in. This doesn't mean that Prothero's data is wrong, but it makes me question the way he presents it, which is often out of context. I would have liked to have more information about the specific polls in question presented in the body of the book, rather than just as footnotes (which are really hard to access on the Kindle version of the book....).

Another irritating aspect of his use of polling data and statistics is how often Prothero resorts to using the word "many" - "many" self-described observant Christians cannot name the four cannonical Gospels, "many" of his students could not name a single Hindu text - I have no idea what "many" means in these contexts. Prothero wants to indicate trends, but he doesn't present the data in a transparent way, which makes it much less convincing.

The quick and dirty history of the role of religion in America - which is meant, I believe, to demonstrate that we can't truly understand anything that happened without understanding the religious beliefs of those involved & thereby support the argument that learning about religion is important - amounts to basically nothing more than a series of assertions that a particular stream of religious belief was really really central to this significant social movement or that major turning point in American history. I understand that Prothero is not writing a history of religious belief in America & the intersection of religion and social-political movements, but this entire section seems really slapdash. No footnotes, no references to secondary literature. Just assertion after assertion after assertion. Bad professor, no cookie!

Perhaps I am a nitpicky ass who just wants to hate this book, but I am extremely skeptical of a book that claims that Americans lack the most basic knowledge of religions but refers to the Torah as the "Hebrew Bible" and asserts that religion doesn't count for much in Holland or France, two countries that have seen increasing conflict over religion in public life for at least the last 5 years (the book was published in 2007). Prothero is a professor of religion at a good university & I assume he's a respected scholar, so it is irritating to me that things like this slipped through either due to ignorance or sloppy editing.

This is disappointing to me on so many levels. And according to Kindle, I've only read 14% of the book so far. I believe that a huge portion of the book is actually a glossary of religious terms and figures, so perhaps that is the reason. I'll probably stick with it, but so far I am wishing I had just hauled my ass to the library instead of paying for the instant (non-) gratification afforded by Kindle.

May 29, 2009, 1:23am Top

>8 Fullmoonblue: I would start with Notes From Underground, then move on to Crime and Punishment. NFU is almost like a precursor to C&P. Then move on to The Idiot, and follow up with Brothers. After those move on to the lesser-knowns, like Demons.

I'm a bit of a Dostoevsky nut, btw.

May 29, 2009, 11:09am Top

Fanny . . . really interesting stuff on Religious Literacy. That book has been on my TBR list since it was published. I suspect that the author's theory is right, but it's too bad he doesn't back it up with facts. Keep us posted on how you do with this book. Thanks!

May 31, 2009, 8:43pm Top

Interesting thoughts on Religious Literacy. I would be interested to read it, but suspect I would become annoyed with the lack of consistent statisitcs. The American Religious Identification Survey was recently released for this year and has some interesting things which you may be able to compare. Particularly:

"Most of the growth in the Christian population occurred among those who would identify only as "Christian," "Evangelical/Born Again," or "non-denominational Christian." The last of these, associated with the growth of megachurches, has increased from less than 200,000 in 1990 to 2.5 million in 2001 to over 8 million today. These groups grew from 5 percent of the population in 1990 to 8.5 percent in 2001 to 11.8 percent in 2008. Significantly, 38.6 percent of mainline Protestants now also identify themselves as evangelical or born again."

I can see that many people claiming 'born-again' status; however, the people I have know who were born-again were never non-religious. Which kind of blows that whole definition apart, not that they were concerned with such mundane details.

Edited: May 31, 2009, 9:22pm Top

(41) The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women - Jessica Valenti

Well, I don't know if "enjoyed" is the right word for this book, as I found myself generally disturbed and furious the whole time I was reading it, but Valenti has written a very good and important book that ties together a whole bunch of "women's issues" (sex, reproductive rights, rape, etc) by understanding right-wing rhetoric on these issues as a manifestation of the idea that the best kind of woman is a pure, docile woman who accepts that she is responsible for safeguarding traditional morality against men who "just can't control themselves" but does so in a passive way that entails giving up her moral agency to men who make decisions about how she behaves because they "know better" - whether it's about how sex will "really" impact their lives, what abortion "really" means, or how contraception will make them sluts. While I didn't really learn anything new or revolutionary in this book - except maybe how the purity police are really kind of perverts in their own way - it was still a great book in that it pissed me off and helped to remind me - as if I really needed it - that despite all the formal advances in women's rights, there is still a horribly retrograde segment of American social and political culture that demeans and infantalizes women. The feminist movement is needed more than ever. A book all men and women should read - and pass on to the teens in their lives. Small warning - some graphic content, mostly regarding rape and sexual violence.

Thanks Nickelini, for your review, which pushed me to read this now.

May 31, 2009, 10:45pm Top

Great review, Fanny! I'm glad that you "enjoyed" this book too.

May 31, 2009, 11:02pm Top

Yes Fanny, an "enjoyable" review!

Jun 2, 2009, 11:48pm Top

I am in love with the free Kindle ebook! I just "purchased" like 15 of H.G. Wells' more obscure works for $0.00. Plus several Elizabeth Gaskells. I do miss the cover art but it is a worthwhile tradeoff, especially in terms of space and money! Now, to read!

Jun 3, 2009, 9:23am Top

>28 fannyprice: I read People of the Sparks which was a worthy sequel. Did not go to the third book which took a different turn.

>33 fannyprice: Another thoughtful review on that book.

>29 fannyprice: Also interesting thoughts.

Jun 14, 2009, 7:39pm Top

(42) The Well of Lost Plots - Jasper Fforde

Continuing on with this series. I don't think I will ever enjoy any of the books in the series quite in the same way that I did the first, which was simply the most creative thing I've read in a long time. However, I do continue to enjoy Fforde's references to works of literature - classic and trash - and I love the way he thinks about the world of books and the world inside books, so I think I'll keep going back for more.

Jun 14, 2009, 7:51pm Top

I have not had a lot of time for reading or LT recently. I'm going to be in full-time language training for part of the summer though and I hope that I will have more time once that starts, if that makes any sense.

Still working on:

The Celestial Omnibus - E.M. Forster short stories - I have read two of these so far & the only word that seems to fit is magical, as much as I hate to use that. The two I've read so far draw strong links between nature and "madness" vice civilization and "sanity/proper Englishness". I am loving it.

A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx - Elaine Showalter

I finally received my ER book: Road to Damascus by Elaine Rippey Imady a memoir about Syria, as part of the Early Reviewer's program, and I am very much looking forward to starting that. So many books are written about Western women who find the Middle East completely monstrous and this one is about a Western woman who married a Syrian and remains happily married to this day. How strange that such an otherwise ordinary story - a happy marriage - should be marketed as something unusual.

I completely boffed the Virginia Woolf February-April author theme read, but maybe I can make the J.D. Salinger read, since I have been trying to re-read Nine Stories and The Catcher in the Rye. I re-read Franny and Zooey last year and was happily surprised to see that it had held up for me after first reading it as an angsty teenager. I've been struggling with Catcher though & I'm worried it is not holding up.

Jun 15, 2009, 12:06pm Top

well - if you enjoy graphic stories at all - could i suggest Cairo by G. Willow Wilson? An American expat/convert to Islam who lives, mostly, in Cairo as a journalist, this is, in large part, a valentine to the city she loves. There're djninns, drug runners, alternative journalists, flying carpets, a would be suicide bomber, a teen age boy coming over from the US to fill his destiny. But mostly there's Cairo in all its messy glory.

Jun 15, 2009, 5:32pm Top

>39 fannyprice: I went to hear Showalter speak last week and am now really looking forward to her book - it sounds completely fascinating.

Jun 21, 2009, 1:08pm Top

Read some small things recently:

Golem by David Wisniewski - An absolutely gorgeous illustrated children's book about the Jewish legend/tale/fable/what-have-you of the Golem, a man created out of earth and bound by the words of the Torah written across his forehead. This book was set in the 15th century Prague ghetto, where the besieged Jewish community, lacking any means by which to defend themselves against the blood-libelous goyim (no disrespect intended by the use of that word), create the Golem to protect themselves. The illustrations - done using layered paper cutouts which simulates a three-dimensional look - were simply beautiful and really made this book for me.

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

What is there so say about the mis-adventures of the dog Earl and his best friend Mooch, the cat? These two are so cute, without ever being cutesey. This is my first Mutts collection - I've been reading the newer ones online - and I will definitely be buying more of these. They are such a nice pick-me-up.

Jun 21, 2009, 1:13pm Top

If you like David Wisniewski's books, I recommend Tough Cookie. I'll have to check out the Golem book!

Jun 21, 2009, 2:21pm Top

Augh, my computer crashed while I was collecting my thoughts about Shirley Jackson's fantastically creepy We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

In the interim, however, I have opened a box I received from my mom that contains a whole bunch of books from my childhood and some really gross 1960s cookbooks! I am quite excited about both sets.

Edited: Jun 21, 2009, 7:56pm Top

I am so thrilled with my gifts from my mom - nearly all of the books she sent are books I owned as a child, so they are in rather poor condition, with torn and faded covers, and often contain childish scribbles on the covers or pages.

Here are some highlights of what I received:

Frances and Frog and Toad were probably my two absolute favorite series of children's books when I was small & I am thrilled to have the actual editions from my childhood. One small treasure - on the inside of A Birthday for Frances is written in my mom's neat cursive handwriting - "Krissy - Happy 4th Birthday! Love, from Mom and Dad" My brother also scrawled his name in big block letters across the front. Sure, its a totally imperfect copy of the book, but that is exactly why I wanted this one and not some new, clean copy.

Andrew Henry's Meadow was probably my single favorite non-series book as a kid. Great story about a village of runaway children who all have unusual or annoying hobbies and habits that irritate their families. Gorgeous black and white ink illustrations. So happy to own this again.

Jun 21, 2009, 11:22pm Top

That's just great! I discovered Frog and Toad, and Francis when my kids were small. I'm holding on to them for when they grow up. We also have the CD for the whole Chicken Soup with Rice musical by Carol King (Really Rosie, I think it's called). All excellent stuff.

Jun 22, 2009, 2:03pm Top

Fannyprice - My childhood books are long lost and forgotten, but we have a ton of my wife's books and they've been a hit my kids. My daughter loves pointing out where Mommy wrote her name or drew a picture or whatnot. I haven't heard of these you have posted above and I'm always looking for new books, so I'm checking out a few from our public library.

Jun 23, 2009, 10:19am Top

>45 fannyprice: well, that display puts you closer to my children's ages than mine:0) We didn't have much Frances in the house but my son in particular loved Frog & Toad and we had every one of them. He also like Jane Yolen's "Commander Toad" series (in keeping with the frog/toad theme).

Jun 23, 2009, 5:54pm Top

I just picked up a copy of the collected Frog and Toad stories for my twin niece and nephew -- when I saw it, I knew I had to buy it as my kids loved the stories so much.

Jun 24, 2009, 12:54pm Top

>15 fannyprice: So late to be mentioning this, but Sarah Vowell on audio is wonderful. Her voice adds so much to her words.

Jun 28, 2009, 9:18pm Top

Two new authors and two great creepy reads for me in the last week.

(43) We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson

Unfortunately, I read and started to review this book last weekend & then my computer crashed, so I lost whatever undoubtedly brilliant thoughts I had about this book. I really loved this creepy quirky book about a strange pair of sisters who are shunned and taunted by the local townspeople after one of the sisters is accused and acquitted of murdering basically the entire family by arsenic poisoning.

(44) Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

Although I can't really pinpoint why, this book drew me in and created a world I did not want to leave. The plot reminded me somewhat of Jane Eyre, but seemed to be more modern and less preachy. The version I read also contained what du Maurier called the "original epilogue" of the book & a small piece written by the author about her creative process - I found it very interesting to see the differences between the "original epilogue" and the published version of the book. The original was much more explicit and "Jane Eyre"-ish and I much preferred the published version of the book.

Both these books were enjoyable enough that I'll definitely be looking to read more by both these authors.

Jun 29, 2009, 9:25pm Top

Oooh...Rebecca went straight on the wishlist. Thanks.

Jul 1, 2009, 1:20am Top

This is way late, but I was just reading your earlier thread about Running with Scissors - I totally agree with your excellent review which touches on the essential problem with this book - it is massively dysfunctional and frankly GROSS. I cannot believe anyone would admire the author or the family. I think it feeding into the current society's seeking of voyeuristic dysfunctional reality.

I am intrigued by the book Carmilla - I am presently reading Dracula and enjoying it, so I think I will love the Fanu book. Thanks.

Jul 1, 2009, 7:24am Top

I don;t much like D de Maurier's style, but my OtherHalf does, if you are looking for more of her work, than Jamaica Inn is her next 'famous' book. It's based on quite a pleasant real inn in Cornwall, although these days it's very touristy because of the attention it gets.

Jul 8, 2009, 3:46pm Top

This is what I'm reading right now:

Here's what I wish I were reading right now:

or for Lois' new endeavor!

Jul 11, 2009, 8:17pm Top

Just completed a minor book purge of things I've owned for 10-15 years and have still not read. I decided it is time to admit that the further away from academia I get, the less desire I have to do things like read the The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls or Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora. Am I interested in these things? Theoretically, yes. But am I really going to sit down and tuck into them after a crazy day of writing and thinking at work? :) So, off to Goodwill they have gone, where they will (I hope) find better homes than mine and actually end up being read.

Now I'm off to make a zillion flashcards, so as not to completely humiliate myself during my Arabic exam on Monday. Why is it that when I sit down to study Arabic all my Russian vocabulary from nearly 15 years ago comes rushing back into my brain and drives out all other languages?

Jul 11, 2009, 9:55pm Top

Good Luck with your exam.

Jul 12, 2009, 6:16pm Top

(45) The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells

No actual cover for this book, since it was a free download on Kindle of some crappy badly formatted version of the book. Therefore, I present you...pulp film posters!

I finally finished this book, which I had started reading a few weeks ago and forgotten about - which probably tells you something about my level of engagement with it. I am slowly trying to read everything HG Wells ever wrote, mostly because I find his ideas fascinating, rather than because he is such a great writer. I am not so sure how I liked reading the free Kindle version of this book - I think I would have enjoyed it more if there had been some sort of essay on the history of the novel and its ideas included. I may have to abandon the idea of these completely free books. You get what you pay for.

Anyhow, I'm refreshed after a nap following about six hours of flashcard-making. Now to write essays!

Jul 14, 2009, 11:34am Top

When I began to learn German, all my childhood French popped into my head. Unfortunately, saying a french word in a german accent doesn't work in the same way saying the english word in Colonel Klink's voice occasionally does. Also I spoke german with an outrageous french accent for the first few years. Now, years later, my german is much better than my french and I can only speak french if I am not thinking about it at all, that is, when I am tired or have had a bit to drink.

I guess both would be inadvisable before your exam. Good luck!

Jul 14, 2009, 12:58pm Top

I've had the same problem. When I try to learn something of a new language, I find I think of the word first in French -- it's like there's a foreign language part of my brain and it thinks in French

Jul 14, 2009, 7:45pm Top

Done with my homework at a reasonable hour for once! Tonight - making pasta and finally getting the chance to curl up with a book and mah cats!

Jul 18, 2009, 7:17pm Top

(46) The Evil Guest - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Again, no cover, since this was a free Kindle download from Amazon. And there are not even pulp movie posters for this one. I read this on a whim - basically because I didn't want to spend my day making Arabic flashcards like I am supposed to. (Tomorrow looks to be another hand-cramping Sunday, as I attempt to make a week's worth of cards in a single day...)

This continues the sort of Gothic-y, mystery theme that my reading seems to have taken in the last few weeks - Rebecca, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, etc. Le Fanu did a decent job of keeping me interested in this story about what happens after an unwelcome houseguest is found murdered in an English country manor. Perhaps the book was too subtle for me, though, because there was one major plot development that I didn't understand even after everything was explained and this didn't strike me as the kind of book that was deliberately ambiguous, like Arthur Phillips' Angelica, for instance.

My desire for creepy is still not sated and I continue my search for something unnerving to read.

Jul 18, 2009, 9:23pm Top

If you want contemporary creepy, you might check out Donna Tartt's The Little Friend (seriously creepy), which is available on Kindle. Another creepy book, but not on Kindle is The Shape of Wilderness by Shelley Berc. And of course I'm sure you've read The Thirteenth Tale and perhaps The Historian - a good vampire story.

Jul 19, 2009, 10:50am Top

Why is it that when I sit down to study Arabic all my Russian vocabulary from nearly 15 years ago comes rushing back into my brain and drives out all other languages?

I've had the same problem. When I try to learn something of a new language, I find I think of the word first in French -- it's like there's a foreign language part of my brain and it thinks in French.

Oh Fanny, Rebecca and Ridgewaygirl, I know exactly what you mean! When I try to speak French (which used to be one of my stronger languages), Chinese comes out of my mouth, and I have no idea! It's as if all the foreign languages are stored in the same place in the brain, and the filter doesn't quite work properly when selecting between them!

Fanny, have you read Henry James's The Turn of the Screw? Totally creepy, at least to me.

What's the Arabic exam for?

Jul 19, 2009, 10:53am Top

oh, and I really like the idea of showing what you are reading, and the what you would really like to be reading! I'm always thinking of what I would rather be reading, even when I'm totally happy with what I am reading.

Jul 19, 2009, 12:40pm Top

>65 tomcatMurr:, I am kind of like that too. It's not that I don't like - even love - what I'm reading, it's just that everything I read sparks in me the interest to read something else and I am very future-oriented.

Jul 19, 2009, 12:43pm Top

>64 tomcatMurr:, Murr, I have The Turn of the Screw but - and this is kind of a weak excuse - but my copy is really old and falling apart with small print, so it's hard for me to get into it. I did see a really good old film version of it, which only increased my interest in reading it. Maybe I can get a clean copy for the Kindle.

The Arabic exam was for a month of intensive Arabic that I am doing just for fun. My office was kind enough to let me take a month off of work for personal enrichment - or torture, depending on how one looks at it. I really do love languages and Arabic in particular, but sometimes I just feel that I will never make enough progress to make the whole thing worth it. :)

Jul 19, 2009, 12:45pm Top

>63 urania1:, Thanks for the recs, urania! I have read The Thirteenth Tale, but The Historian has been on Mt. TBR for a long time. I always hear such mixed things about it though, so I am reluctant to take the plunge. I think The Little Friend might be my next purchase. However, I really need to read the books avaland sent me, or I think she might kill me. :)

Jul 20, 2009, 6:56pm Top

>64 tomcatMurr: - I agree exactly! While studying Chinese I once attempted to have a conversation in French with a French friend and had no idea that I was speaking a horrible mixture of the two until a third person joined the conversation. Then I felt very silly.

Jul 20, 2009, 10:24pm Top

Just started The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It has been recommended to me in so many quarters as a creepy, modern "ghost story" - it's got a decaying mansion, class resentment, changing social patterns, and an (allegedly) unreliable narrator. Sounds perfect. We're in the "establishing the scenery" portion of the book right now, but I am enjoying it. Especially the reflections on the changing bases of wealth/status in post-WW2 Britain.

Jul 21, 2009, 2:01am Top

Fanny - if I had to choose between Sarah Waters and Dianne Setterfield, I would definitely pick the former (I disliked The Thirteenth Tale as I keep saying). Fingersmith was a good gothic yarn.

Jul 21, 2009, 12:37pm Top

>71 kiwidoc:, Yeah, I keep hearing great things about Waters. I didn't actively dislike The Thirteenth Tale - I think I actually gave it three or four stars - but it didn't amaze me or anything.

Jul 25, 2009, 4:27pm Top

(47) The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

A rather disappointing read for me. I see that I've rated it at three stars - I might knock off half of a star. I don't particularly know why I felt disappointed with this book - it was pretty well-written, had a slightly creepy plot centered around the downtrodden, somewhat unhinged remnants of an old aristocratic family in a decaying British country house, unfolded at a slow but compelling pace, and was open to a number of different interpretations, which I generally enjoy. However, I actually thought that the ending was rather obvious and heavy-handed - it seemed clear to me that the author was putting her stamp on a certain interpretation of events in the end - and that really annoyed me.

I have also officially given up on two books that I just wasn't enjoying: Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy and Bram Stoker's Dracula, both of which I have previously complained about.

Next up, I need to tackle a couple of ER books: Road to Damascus and My Father's Paradise, the latter of which is about a year overdue for a review from me, and A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi. My dad also keeps telling me to read The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism and Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals, so I might pick up one of those two in between all my middle east-focused reading.

Jul 25, 2009, 4:44pm Top

Hi Fanny - there was a very compelling review of The Little Stranger in the London Review of Books this week which made me push it up the pile a bit. Your review has pushed it back a few notches.

Dracula not to your taste - is the horror genre or the style of writing in letter format that you did not like?

Jul 25, 2009, 5:09pm Top

>74 kiwidoc:, Really? That's interesting - I'll have to keep an eye out for that review. I wouldn't take my lackluster thoughts too seriously - I really don't know why the book didn't grab me in the end. I certainly enjoyed reading it & were I not feeling so crabby and lazy right now (it is my first day of quitting smoking and I am in a bad mood because of it), I might have written some thoughts about how intriguing the characters were, how carefully Waters evoked a mood of unease and "not right"-ness without ever actually having anything terribly obvious or supernatural happen, and how the book contained some very well-done social commentary about the changing bases of wealth/prestige in mid-century England and the new power of doctors and "mind doctors" of various sorts. By all rights, I should love this book.

Re Dracula, I honestly just found it boring. I think that the story is just so well-known and done and redone at this point that the original has lost its allure for me. I found it really slow-moving. By contrast, I very much enjoyed Carmilla, another vampire story from (I think) about the same time period. Re the letter format, I actually really like epistolary novels and really want to find more of them. There is something so different about the style - it is a shame that novels don't use it much any more.

Jul 27, 2009, 6:15pm Top

Re: languages - I am glad I am not the only one with this problem. My limited linguistic education is in French which was furthur corrupted by exposure to Cajun French in various levels of sophistication. Now I am trying to learn Spanish while being mostly around 1960s Nicaraguan Spanish. Sometimes I think I could make up words and no one would notice.

Edited: Jul 27, 2009, 8:34pm Top

75> re: epistolary novels -- Alice Walker's The Color Purple (don't know why the touchstone's not working) and Kalisha Buckhannon's Upstate are both contemporary epistolary novels -- those are the ones that immediately occur to me besides the early ones, Smollett's Humphrey Clinker (which I remember being amused by) and Richardson's Pamela (which I would NOT recommend). Oh and there's A Delightful Compendium of Consolation: A Fabulous Tale of Romance by Burton L Visotzky, which I read and reviewed as an ER and found rather delightful.

Edited: Aug 2, 2009, 11:38pm Top

Some light, engaging, but rather cheesy reads. I've been watching "True Blood" on HBO and my dear boyfriend has all the books on his Kindle, so I decided to check a few of them out. They are kind of addicting, but nothing deep.

(48) Dead Until Dark (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 1) - Charlaine Harris - Book 1 in the series; sticks closely to the plot of the first season of the show (I guess it is really the other way around, but whatever). However, it is interesting to compare the fates of minor characters in the book to their fates in the show.

(49) Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2) - Charlaine Harris - Book 2 in the series. More interesting than the first one, perhaps because I haven't seen all of season 2 of the show yet.

Jul 29, 2009, 9:10pm Top

Sorcery and Cecelia and the grand tour by Patricia Wrede and Carolyn Stevermor are two very nicely done, light witty epistolary novels - aimed at young teen girls, i'd imagine. But enjoyable for anyone familiar w/ the genre as the books don't talk down to the reader at all.

Jul 31, 2009, 12:24am Top

Stuck in bed for most of the day, recovering from dentistry. Couldn't sleep but couldn't really concentrate because of the dentistry pain, so I spaced out on vampire novels. These books all blend together after reading so many of them in quick succession. I can still say that they are more-or-less enjoyable but nothing revelatory. Book 5 was horribly boring. But I am kind of a completist when it comes to series books, so I am probably going to keep reading, especially since I already own them on the other Kindle.

(50) Club Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 3)

(51) Dead to the World (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 4)

(52) Dead as a Doornail (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 5)

Aug 4, 2009, 1:25pm Top

Seriously struggling to read and review Elaine Rippey Imady's memoir The Road to Damascus for the ER program. I had hoped to really enjoy it, since it is about an American woman who moves to Syria and becomes immersed in the country and its culture, but right now it is mostly about how she fell in love with her husband, which I find really tedious.

Aug 4, 2009, 1:57pm Top

Wow - Fanny. Six vampire novels! Kinda appropriate for a dental intervention. That is not a genre that I have ever explored before.

Aug 4, 2009, 2:06pm Top

>83 kiwidoc:, lol, I know, kinda shameful, right? I can't help it, I love vampire fiction!

Aug 5, 2009, 8:21am Top

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn is a fun contemporary epistolary novel.

Edited: Aug 5, 2009, 10:35pm Top

(57) Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima - Keiji Nakazawa

Feeling slightly sick and rather overwhelmed after reading the first volume of this manga-style history of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during WW2. I know it sounds incredibly trite, but it is almost impossible for me to believe that my country did this to people. I'll be back to post a bit more later but now I feel it is time to stare into space - and order the next several installments of this series.

More Thoughts Added Later

Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima is exactly what its name suggests - a history of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and its impact. This, the first installment of a 10-part series, actually focuses on wartime life in Hiroshima prior to the bombing. The series is at least partially based on the life of its creator, Keiji Nakazawa, himself a survivor of Hiroshima. This installment shows the deprivations and abuses that ordinary Japanese people suffered because of the war effort. The family of the main character, a young (maybe 10-year-old) boy named Gen Nakaoka, suffers doubly because of Gen's father's outspoken opposition to the war and to militarism in general.

I actually feel that I learned quite a bit about pre-war Japan and the mentality that the Japanese government instilled in its citizens through propaganda, bodily training, and punishment. I was really surprised at the level of carnage inflicted on Okinawa and the Japanese mainland by American forces - the Pacific theatre of WWII is something with which I am almost completely unfamiliar. I had no idea that civilian areas were so deliberately targeted. This carnage was compounded by the fact that many Japanese apparently chose to commit suicide en masse rather than face occupation by American forces - the panels depicting entire classrooms of students killing themselves at the direction of their teachers were particularly shocking. I have not read any non-fiction about this to know how widespread this practice was.

As mentioned previously, this installment focuses on the period prior to the bombing. The bombing itself probably occurs in the last 20 pages or so. But the aftermath is so horrifying & there is something about the stark, rather crude black and white drawings that amplifies the horror. Nakazawa's citizens of Hiroshima - those that survive the immediate impact - emerge from the rubble burned and screaming, the flesh literally melting off their faces. Gen and his pregnant mother are forced to abandon three members of the family - Gen's father, his younger brother, and his sister - who are trapped in the rubble of their destroyed house because Gen and his mother are unable to pull them out and no one will aid them, due to the encroaching flames engulfing the city. This installment ends on a bizarrely hopeful note - Gen's mother goes into labor and gives birth to a baby girl amid the burning rubble - but one can't help but feel that this is only false hope at this point.

This book was such an emotional shock - I have ordered more installments already, despite my worry that I don't know how much I can take.

I have always been very interested in the impact of the atomic bombings on the Japanese national psyche, if it is possible to talk about such a thing. How does it feel to be a citizen of the only country in the world that was intentionally subject to a nuclear holocaust? What does that do to a people? On the flip side, what did it do to the American national sense of ourselves to be responsible for that? I don't place a lot of stock in the idea of collective guilt, but I do think that part of having a national identity is having certain ideas about how your country behaves at home and abroad. It seems to me that deliberately nuking two major population centers - even to end a war - sits at odds with how Americans see their country's role in the world; I wonder how it looked to Americans who were roughly contemporary with the event.

Aug 5, 2009, 10:35pm Top

Added additional thoughts on Barefoot Gen in the post above.

Edited: Aug 7, 2009, 1:37am Top

I think that collective responsibility, and nationalist thinking has become less of an issue for many people who see themselves as part of a global society, rather than a nationalistic one.

If we reflect upon history, there are atrocities enacted in the name of almost every country in the world, from the Crusaders, to the Empire builders, to Germany, Japan and the US. It is hard to feel personally responsible for the actions of leaders in another time, even if it built the foundations of present day society. Maybe we should.

Your questions and philosophical musings are very interesting, Fanny. I wish I had some of the answers.

Aug 6, 2009, 8:19am Top

Coincidentally, I'm reading a book by the historian Margaret MacMillan called Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History that, among other topics, discusses the impact of nationalism on the what countries do and say, and how nations (a relatively recent construct in the thousands of years of human history) select events and perspectives from their past to justify the actions they want to take.

On the contemporary view of the nuclear bomb issue, of course there were a variety of perspectives, but my parents (who lived through World War II) always believed that the dropping of the bombs spared even more lives, both Japanese and US, than they took, because of how many people would be killed if the Japanese and the Americans continued to fight it out an island at a time, which was extremely brutal and deadly on both sides, although at a certain point the outcome (US winning) was not in doubt, just how long it would take and how many people would be killed before the Japanese accepted this fact.* This, of course, doesn't address the issue of killing civilians rather than soldiers, albeit, in essence, civilian (i.e., non-career) soldiers.

* I learned a great deal about this from the fascinating and extremely well researched and written Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by another excellent historian David M. Kennedy, which is one of my favorite books this year.

Aug 6, 2009, 11:19am Top

re #86: Thank you for your astute comments about Barefoot Gen. Your closing paragraph raises the essential questions which are relevant to all humanity, reaching beyond the victors and victims in the Japanese bombings.

Today (Aug 6) here in Japan, as every year, the memory of the Hiroshima bombing is commemorated in the news media throughout the day. In the television news Keiji Nakazawa was shown talking about the 10 volumes of Barefoot Gen, and he showed a special autographed sketch which he is sending to President Obama.

Also in the news, it has made a significant impression on people here (many moved to tears in public interviews) that Obama is willing to accept U.S. responsibility as the only country that has actually deployed nuclear bombs, and assert U.S. leadership in disarming nuclear warheads.

On August 9th, media attention will turn to the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki. These memorials in both cities are always sedate and sobering, with strong messages to end nuclear weaponry. I don't recall that these events are regularly commemorated in the U.S., although they occasionally show up in special documentaries.

Having grown up in the U.S., I know that the bombings are part of high school history lessons, usually represented as justified actions on the part of the U.S. (I'm not trying to open a debate, but this is the way I recall my history classes). It is a complex issue which a large number of Americans take at face value (i.e. 'they bombed Pearl Harbor, so they got what they deserved'). From Wikipedia: number of deaths at Pearl Harbor were less than 3,000; number of deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were approx. 220,000 by the end of 1945.

This year, Japanese citizens on Okinawa protested to the Japanese Ministry of Education because the Ministry had removed or watered down the content of new Japanese textbooks which described the suicides by civilians ordered by the Japanese military at the close of the war. There were dramatic, heartfelt public protests with several thousand people, including the junior high/high school students whose textbooks were affected. They accused the Japanese government, saying, "are you calling our grandparents liars?!" Eventually the textbooks were recalled and I believe they are being revised. I take this as an example that Japan is still re-examining its role in the Pacific War (as it is called here) and in many cases recognizing the wrongness of its military and imperial leadership which ultimately cost it so dearly.

Apologies for going on at length on your thread. Writing this, I've had so many interruptions and maybe I started to ramble. I am so thrilled to know that Barefoot Gen is gaining readership in the U.S., as I believe that we all need to constantly re-evaluate historical events and the manner in which governments manipulate our understanding of those events.

Aug 6, 2009, 11:24am Top

>89 rebeccanyc:, Rebecca, are you enjoying Dangerous Games:The Uses and Abuses of History? It's on my TBR pile.

Aug 6, 2009, 11:26am Top

>90 nobooksnolife:, Oh wow, that is really strange. It never even occurred to me that I was reading the book the day before the anniversary of the actual event. I am such a space case on dates.

Don't apologize at all for your post - I really enjoy your thoughts.

Edited: Aug 6, 2009, 2:26pm Top

#91, There is nothing startlingly new in it as far as ideas go, but many of the examples MacMillan uses are topical and many are new to me, so I am enjoying it but not wowed by it. It might be more eye-opening for someone who has read fewer books about history than I have.

Aug 6, 2009, 7:23pm Top

>93 rebeccanyc: I picked up the same when it first came out and did managed to read a little here and there of it before it was retired to the TBR pile.

Aug 6, 2009, 7:28pm Top

fannyprice - Thanks for the thought-provoking review of Barefoot Gen, I already have a request in at the library.

#90 nobooksnolife - The USA justification is more ambivalent. The US felt it would take ~1 million allied soldier lives to invade Japan, and even more Japanese lives; and that is the usual justification for the 220,000 civilians killed by the bombs. But this numbers games doesn't really make anyone feel better, it's pretty horrifying anyway you look at it.

Aug 7, 2009, 2:35am Top

Yes, dchaikin, I completely agree!

Aug 7, 2009, 10:45am Top

I have been considering picking up the Southern Vampire Mysteries series lately. I really want to like True Blood but I can only get through a few minutes without getting seriously twitchy from the wretched accents. But I haven't been able to get a good read on the series. Is it more serious? more funny? YA? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Barefoot Gen sounds really interesting. There is a Buddhist temple at the end of my block with a statue which survived the Hiroshima bombing. This week every year is Peace Week and they have several memorial events.

Aug 7, 2009, 10:52am Top

I picked up the first installment of the Southern Vampire Series last year. On the amusing scale, I would give it a 0.15 out of 5. Based on that, I decided not to read more of what I hypothesized would be the same. However, as post-dental work reading, I think the series works.

Aug 7, 2009, 12:11pm Top

Fanny thank your for your very thought- provoking reaction to the Barefoot General.

I wanted to write at length in response to it, but found that Kiwidoc and Nobooknoslife, Rebecca and Darryl beat me to it by all saying what I wanted to say. I just would just add that bombing Nagaskai and Horishima had very little to do with revenge for Pearl Harbour, and more to do with military strategy and the politics of empire.

The American command in the Pacific was facing a very tenacious and bitter enemy, and the Japanese military would never have surrendered on any account. They were fighting for a divine being, and death for them was nothing compared to the humiliation of defeat and letting down this Divine Being. As Julia has mentioned, they regarded the bulk of the Japanese civilian population as their ultimate weapon, and used them as cannon fodder, hoping to wear down American military might by sheer force of numbers and tenacity. The Japanese High Command had many less scruples than the Americans for conscripting young male civilians into the forces, and then simply sacrificing them. The Americans were more or less forced by these circumstance to use the bomb, to cause such extensive damage to civilian moral that the Military would be forced to surrender, which is what they did. Hirohito was stripped of his divine status by the blast of the bombs. It is of course one of the tragedies of history (but nothing new ) that civilians suffered the most from the machinations of politicians and the logistical concerns of military planners.

Aug 7, 2009, 12:18pm Top

#95 - not to mention the less dramatic, but no less real incidence of leukemia and other cancers among the survivors of the immediate blast. Got fairly close to this as my dad was on the Inst. of Med. Committee staff that put together the BEIR 3 report - "Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation." And the long time biostats branch chief at NIEHS, David Hoel, was among the chief scientific members of the board. The followup studies among the Japanese exposed populations provided a lot of what's known about the long term effects of exposure to high doses of radiation. A lot of other similar exposures (ie Chernobyl, 3 mile Island etc are a lot less well documented. It's not at the level of using the Nazi camp medical experiments, but there IS a definite quease factor involved). But then older ones amongst us here remember having Thom McCanns (sic) shoe stores use X-ray machines to check shoe fitting in the mid 1950s. Not such a neat idea after all.

Aug 7, 2009, 12:56pm Top

>93 rebeccanyc:-94, Re Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History - I've got a Kindle sample that I'm looking into as I try to pick out a good collection of Kindle books for my month-long trip out of the country during which I will not be able to download new books since the wireless downloading only works in the US and I won't have a computer! I was hoping that it would fall into the category of what I refer to as "crabby-pants books" and perhaps one of the better ones. Sometimes you just need to read a book full of cranky bitching about the decline of civilization due to obesity, consumerism, television, etc... etc... These are what I call "crabby-pants books." One may not really learn anything new or revolutionary from them, but they can be kind of fun if one is in the right mood.

Aug 7, 2009, 1:04pm Top

Wow, thanks everyone for getting into the Hiroshima discussion - I appreciate all the perspectives. On a related note,
interesting - but looong - article by Daniel Ellsberg - on Hiroshima: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090817/ellsberg

>99 tomcatMurr:, Murr, re your comments "they regarded the bulk of the Japanese civilian population as their ultimate weapon, and used them as cannon fodder....The Japanese High Command had many less scruples than the Americans for conscripting young male civilians into the forces, and then simply sacrificing them." This is something that Keiji Nakazawa really brings out in the first installment of Barefoot Gen. His condemnation of the Japanese elite - military, government - is really quite strong. The first installment is populated with minor characters who have lost limbs and children to the war effort and are expected to celebrate their sons' deaths. The anti-war message and the anti-Imperial Japan message definitely overshadows any criticism of American actions in the war, at least in the first installment.

>100 bobmcconnaughey:, Bob, I'm sure the post-blast health effects are going to become a theme of this book. I believe that Nakazawa's real-life baby sister who was also born on the day of the bombing died shortly afterward and I can't help but think that exposure as a newborn to such intense radiation is at least partially responsible.

Aug 7, 2009, 1:23pm Top

>97 janemarieprice:, Jane, re the Southern Vampire Mysteries,first I love your comment "I really want to like True Blood but I can only get through a few minutes without getting seriously twitchy from the wretched accents." Hilarious - they are horrible, aren't they? The guy who plays the male lead is British and his southern accent makes me want to kill myself. The boyfriend and I spend far too much time talking to each other in that voice just to creep each other out.

I watched season one of the TV series and part of season two before picking up the books. I would say that the books are pretty different from the series and there are things that each medium does better. While the TV show seems to follow the basic plot arc of each book, how the show does it is pretty different. I don't think the books are either serious or funny (how helpful is THAT, right?!?). I think the reader is meant to take the events seriously, as death could be in store for anyone (dramatic voice), but you really have to just take it as it comes and suspend disbelief. The series is not YA, however, as there are a number of totally cringe-worthy sex scenes and the main character quickly starts getting around with a whole variety of supernatural beings - that was probably the most annoying thing about them, but you can rush through those scenes, I guess.

I would pretty much concur with urania - they are nothing deep, but they work as light reading. However, unlike urania, I will be continuing with the series probably till the bitter end at this point. I am kind of a completist.

Aug 11, 2009, 1:32am Top

Augh, my only defense is that I had a crap first day back at work and neither of these two books was actually that bad.

(58) Evermore - Alyson Noel

Kind of a clever twist on the vampire story in that there are no vampires, but these people do live forever. The best parts of the book were the sections in which the main character, who has become psychic and can see ghosts, etc. after a near death experience in an accident that killed her entire family, is visited by the ghost of her younger, somewhat bratty sister. The worst were the Twilight-esque passages about boys. But still a pretty fun story for escapist reading.

(59) Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Yes, Vampire Academy. Stuff it. I am currently obsessed with young adult urban fantasy and I refuse to be ashamed of my escapism any longer! This was actually a pretty well written young adult urban fantasy novel, with some interesting twists on the familiar vampire story and some pretty interesting lesbian overtones, given that it is a YA novel. The author actually writes pretty decent fashion - teenagers swear, instead of saying "gosh darn it!" like in some books, pop culture references are minimal, as are descriptions of outfits. Mead has created a curious world populated by four types of "people" - living vampires, who are not monsters and use magic, undead vampires, who are monsters and are hell-bent on killing the living vampires, the half-vampire guardians of the living vampires, who are kind of badass warriors, and regular old humans. Who are either oblivious or vampire groupies. I liked this book for what it was - fun, slightly more mature than the usual YA crap, and a creative universe. It wasn't deep, but I don't care. Oh, plus it combines my love of vampire stories with my love of boarding school stories. :)

Aug 11, 2009, 10:55am Top

98 & 103 - Thanks. I am also an insufferable completist so I don't think I will start these, at least not right now. Most of my problem with the accents is that I grew up in Louisiana and have that accent and cannot reconcile the incorrectness of theirs. :)

Aug 11, 2009, 12:35pm Top

>105 janemarieprice:, I checked your profile and saw that you were from Louisiana, so I figured that had something to do with it!

Aug 13, 2009, 11:59am Top

NDE's (near-death experiences)! Vampires at boarding schools! How could one resist. Seriously, if you like YA material and vampires read Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

Edited: Aug 14, 2009, 9:48pm Top

Psst . . . Miss Price, I too have just finished Evermore and am now passionately clinging to Baron von Kindle while I make my way through Vampire Academy. Don't tell avaland. We know what she thinks about adults who read escapist YA fiction. I know you're brave and can stand up to her, but I'm claiming brain damage. I have enough trouble handling Great Aunt Martha. I wonder . . . do you suppose they're related????!!!!!

Edited: Aug 15, 2009, 1:24am Top

>108 urania1:, Mary you deserve a break! I don't think anyone will criticize you for it - especially since your normal reading is mind-boggling!

P.S. Isn't Kindle wonderful for "guilty pleasure" reading? I would be way too embarrassed to buy these books in person!

Edited: Aug 15, 2009, 10:06am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Aug 15, 2009, 1:36pm Top

Come back avaland. I was just teasing :-)

Aug 15, 2009, 3:19pm Top

>110 avaland:, 111 - Oh no, what happened?

Aug 15, 2009, 5:10pm Top

>112 fannyprice:

I don't know! I checked your thread and found only a deleted message from avaland. I hope I did not hurt her feelings.

Aug 16, 2009, 5:28pm Top

(60) A Girl Made of Dust - Nathalie Abi-Ezzi

Thanks to avaland for this sneaky, beautifully-written novel set during the Lebanese civil war - always a particular reading interest of mine. And congratulations fanny, you actually read a real book that you don't have to be embarrassed about! ;) Unfortunately, you will all have to wait to hear more about this book, as the review is being published elsewhere online. Will provide a link as soon as I can.

Aug 16, 2009, 5:56pm Top

(61) Frostbite (Vampire Academy, Book 2) - Richelle Mead

(62) Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, Book 3) - Richelle Mead

Enjoying this YA vampire series quite a lot - this is a much more interesting, much better written YA fantasy series than most of what is out there. In these two books, Mead puts her characters through more suffering than is usually present in YA books and her characters actually behave realistically in the face of trauma. An interesting element that is present in all three of the books so far is the idea of class - the tension that the guardians of the vampires feel between doing what they were born and trained to do and the desire they have to follow their own dreams and live their own lives. Again, some lesbian undertones. Things you don't find in a lot of YA series books. I'm looking forward to the release of the next installment in about a week.

Aug 16, 2009, 9:25pm Top

(63) Barefoot Gen, Vol. 2: The Day After by Keiji Nakazawa

This, the second installment of Keiji Nakazawa's graphic novel about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, focuses on the days immediately following 6 August 1945 and is truly horrifying. Gen, Nakazawa's young protagonist, his mother, and Gen's newborn sister struggle to find food, water, and shelter in the rubble of Hiroshima. Gen's mother is too malnourished to nurse her infant, so Gen embarks on a journey around the city to find rice. His journey brings him into contact with various survivors, many of whom are already nearly dead from radiation poisoning. These encounters are stomach-churning; the survivors are decaying ghouls, their flesh literally melting off of them. Perfectly healthy soldiers - who have been brought in to help rescue survivors and dispose of corpses - fall ill and die within days of entering Hiroshima, after going bald and vomiting blood.

Nakazawa also does not shy away from presenting more pyschologically-based horrors. Many of the victims of the bombing, most of whom are women and children, stoop to selfish and terrible lows in order to survive, stealing or withholding food from other survivors. Gen encounters old women clinging to the maggot-infested corpses of their loved ones; a woman's baby dies as she nurses it; Gen is attacked by a gang of orphaned boys and beaten unconscious. But there are also flickers of hope that hint at the author's fundamentally positive view of humanity in crisis.

Although this book was extremely grotesque - I had to put it down and walk away a number of times because I was actually nauseated - it is hard to argue that the author is using gore for shock value. And if he is, it is hard to argue that there is something wrong with that. The reality of Hiroshima is shocking and it is quite likely that too many Americans are insulated from that.

I will definitely be continuing with this series - I already have the third installment on hand - but I think I will be taking a break for a while. This series is kind of emotionally overwhelming.

Aug 25, 2009, 8:37am Top

Fanny, it's in!!! The fourth installment of VA!!! It is sitting on my Kindle now!!! Although I must say, when I preordered, the site said "will be released on August 25th." As far as I'm concerned, August 25th begins at 12 am. I stayed up until 1. Nada. Based on the little Amazon bloop that arrived in my email box, the 25th started at 3:02 am. I am headed off to eat forbidden fruit.

Aug 25, 2009, 1:49pm Top


I hate cliff hangers.

Aug 26, 2009, 11:39am Top

Urania, I love that I've gotten you addicted to this series. I feel like I am corrupting your mind. I actually forgot that the new volume was out but I've got it now. I have a very long plane ride over to the continent followed by a month+ alone in a hotel, so I am trying to save it for when I need a light pick-me-up.

Aug 26, 2009, 2:24pm Top

I'm spending my time reading the first 10 pages of a whole bunch of Kindle samples, frantically trying to decide what to take with me on my trip.

Anyone have any opinions on the following books:

Ella Minnow Pea
The Magicians - Lev Grossman
One Foot Wrong
Olive Kitteredge
The Terror (antarctic expedition horror) - Dan Simons
The House at Riverton
The Shadow of the Wind
The Library at Night (essays about books)
High Lonesome (short stories)
The Diving Pool (novellas)

The Limits of Power
Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History
A World Undone (WWI history)
In The Land of Invented Languages

I'm striving for a nice blend of fiction, short form stuff, and non-fiction. I was trying for a balance of light and heavy, but I can never seem to find light books when I go looking for them. Its either YA urban fantasy or non-fiction for me, it seems.

Urania, any Kindle-specific recommendations?

Edited: Aug 26, 2009, 3:34pm Top

Kindle Books: All of the following are on Kindle
I am trying to find books that might fit your tastes.

Maybe The House at Riverton - a mystery by Kate Morton of The Forgotten Garden fame. Both are light reads but not so light that you float off. If you enjoy humor Jasper Fforde's latest book First among Sequels is on Kindle. I hadgotten tired of Fforde but this one re-Kindled my enjoyment. For nonfiction, I like Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. If you go for urban fantasy, Charles de Lint has several books on Kindle. And if you want mystery that is also literary, go for Mrs. Sartoris. Dog Years is a lovely piece of non-fiction - highly recommended. And just for sheer fun Babs: The Diary of a Sub-Deb is on Project Gutenberg in mobi format: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/366. Just download it, hook up your Kindle to your computer and pull the downloaded file into the documents file on your Kindle. Kindle reads unlocked mobi just fine, so you don't have to send it off to Amazon to be translated. A short but beautifully written memoir by Amelia Nothomb The Character of Rain. More young adult The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Aug 26, 2009, 3:04pm Top

>121 urania1:, I know I asked for it, but curse you! My virtual TBR pile is now so much larger! ;)

Aug 26, 2009, 3:24pm Top

Cheap (and free if you search hard enough) are The Diary of Provincial Lady and the Provincial Lady goes further. And for free if you like early 1900s humor, E. F. Benson's complete set of the Lucia series here: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=13602. This should take you to the mobi (also called prc) version of The Mapp and Lucia Omnibus, which includes all the books. I adore these books.

Aug 26, 2009, 3:32pm Top

And also on Kindle The Thirteenth Tale, another one I loved and A Mad Desire to Dance by Elie Wiesel.

Aug 26, 2009, 4:31pm Top

I haven't read any of the books you list, but I have been eyeing Ella Minnow Pea for a while (that looks fairly light), and The Library at Night sounds like a good travel book.

Some nice light books:

* If you like mysteries, anything by Agatha Christie or MC Beaton would probably qualify
* I like the J.D. Robb ...In Death books. They draw heavily on the romance and mystery genres, and are somewhat formulaic, but they are tightly plotted, and the characters actually grow and change from book to book, which is impressive. So many authors writing long series give in to the temptation to just populate their books with unchanging caricatures.
* Mary Stewart is good. Thornyhold in particular springs to mind here.
* Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris is a fun book, if slightly manic.

Wait, I take it back, I missed a book I read on your list--The Shadow of the Wind. I did like that, although I wouldn't call it particularly light.

I love choosing books for vacation, good luck!

Aug 27, 2009, 8:43am Top

i enjoyed the shadow of the wind as well; our 25 yr old son was a bit snippy about it so i don't know if there's an age thing going on.
Surely 1066 and all that is on Kindle? I can open it up, more or less at random, and start smiling every time. Part Pavlovian response - but well earned.

Aug 27, 2009, 4:37pm Top

>126 bobmcconnaughey: 1066 and All That is not on Kindle. However, Leonard Wibberly's The Mouse that Roared is on Kindle. It sort of set in post-war period, when the US was handing out money under the Marshall Plan. Very funny satire.

Edited: Aug 27, 2009, 5:49pm Top

I've only read two. You probably won't go wrong with Shadow of the Wind, it's not exactly light, but maybe hovers on the edge of comfort reading. I didn't like my Early Reviewer copy of Olive Kitteridge, but other people like it a lot, and it's a prize winner.

As for a somewhat random recommendation, a balance between heavy and light, I might suggest The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson... it's on Kindle.

Aug 29, 2009, 12:03am Top

Talk to you all in a month or so! Going on hiatus...

Aug 29, 2009, 12:35am Top

bon voyage

Oct 3, 2009, 9:58am Top

I'm baa-aack! Missed you all and your posts so much. Now to begin the long process of catching up!

Oct 3, 2009, 3:33pm Top

First things first - most of you probably know that avaland's lit magazine, Belletrista.com has gone live.

My review of A Girl Made of Dust can be found there - http://belletrista.com/2009/issue1/reviews_13.html

Bonus points if anyone can figure out the origins of my pseudo.

Oct 3, 2009, 3:41pm Top

(64) The Other Side of the Island - Allegra Goodman

Man, I read this a long time ago, it seems. I barely remember it - a decent dystopia about a world in which everyone lives on little isolated islands following a global rise in sea levels. Honestly, I cannot remember any more details about it anymore, which doesn't really recommend it, but it was a good book.

(65) The Rabbi's Cat 2 - Joann Sfar

I liked this one, but not as much as the first installment. It was still good, but just didn't have the same charm for me, for some reason.

Cats and Dogs: Mutts II - Patrick McDonnell

Reading Mutts just makes my day.

Edited: Oct 3, 2009, 3:54pm Top

Did a lot of light reading when I was away

(66) Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, Book 4) - Richelle Mead

(67) Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn

This worked better as an idea than a book - a humorous semi-dystopia about a society that revers the creator of the 35-letter panagram (a phrase, sentence or verse containing every letter in the alphabet) "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog". When letters start falling off the statue built to honor him, the town leaders take it as a sign that they are no longer permitted to use these letters or words containing them. The society grows increasingly restrictive and totalitarian and letters drop out of the book at an alarming rate until people are barely able to communicate with each other & the reader is barely able to understand what is being said.

(68) Blue Moon: The Immortals - Alyson Noel

More light young adult fantasy. This one was pretty dull. Might not continue with this series.

(69) In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language - Arika Okrent

A fairly interesting history of artificial languages, the motivations behind those who have tried to invent them, and their successes (but more often failures). Fun for those who like light books about linguistics/language.

Oct 4, 2009, 2:07pm Top

Reading Mutts also makes me happy. And then I look at the two large, smelly, somewhat flatulent dogs sleeping at my feet, with the kitten in between (she thinks she's a dog and other than grooming herself, refuses to do cat things) and feel an enormous amount of well-being.

Oct 7, 2009, 9:39pm Top

Augh, I've been totally off my game since returning home. I'm jet-lagged...I have a terrible cold... It's all I can do to read a label, much less an actual book.

Oct 9, 2009, 10:45pm Top

Note to self: Still need to review Ninni Holmqvist's The Unit and Margaret McMillan's Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History.

Oct 10, 2009, 5:40pm Top

>134 fannyprice: like your comment on Ella Minnow Pea working better "as an idea than a book" - I felt much the same, and felt like such a meanie when so many on LT have absolutely loved it. Clever, but not outstanding.

Oct 13, 2009, 7:01pm Top

Still battling cold demons, unfortunately, and still finding myself unable to do much reading. I did manage to help a friend in need this weekend and catch up on over 12 hours of TV that I tivo'ed when I was overseas. Made me decide that a lot of the shows can go, so I guess that's good.

Right now I am finding myself paralyzed by the sheer size of my TBR pile (real and virtual) and am compulsively adding and removing items to and from my Amazon shopping cart. I am struggling to retain any interest in Mad, Bad, and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 by Lisa Appignanesi, slogging through Elaine Showalter's A Jury of Her Peers: Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx and wishing there was a half-way decent cheesy vampire novel series that I haven't already read, because that's about all my brain can handle right now. If I don't fall into a Nyquil-induced haze soon, I may try reading Faceless Killers for a total change of pace from my usual fare.

Oct 14, 2009, 4:51am Top

>139 fannyprice: I started reading the Wallender books over the summer, and at least for me, they got better as they went along. I wasn't especially impressed by Faceless Killers and found Dogs of Riga a slog, but with The White Lioness it felt like the series was really beginning to take off.

Just a warning that it may not be an ideal book to bring you out of a reading slump...

Sorry to hear the Appignanesi is hard going too - I have a copy of that, and it sounded really interesting.

Oct 14, 2009, 12:01pm Top

Fanny, you need a comfort read.

I capture the castle
The wind in the Willows
A Christmas Carol
Peter Pan
The White Horse
No Name
A visit to Don Otavio

Take a break from reading heavy stuff, but feed your soul at the same time.

I hope your cold gets better soon.

Edited: Oct 16, 2009, 5:51pm Top

Informed sources are telling me I have swine flu. I don't feel THAT horrible, but I'm going to pretend they are right so that I can consider myself halfway to being over and done with it for this year.

ETA: This is not actually me, its from cuteoverload.com

Oct 16, 2009, 8:39pm Top

I think my kids have had swine flu (they followed the symptom list very nicely), but as far as flus went, it wasn't bad. It did slow my daughter down enough to read the third Harry Potter between whines and naps.

Remember, you have to stay home a day or so after you are completely well again so as to protect the rest of the world and to get some reading done when you don't have a headache.

Oct 16, 2009, 9:11pm Top

Well, I'm basically over everything now. The worst was last week, when I did stay home. I think its one of those things that doesn't really matter from a personal standpoint but probably matters from an epidemiological standpoint.

Oct 17, 2009, 5:45am Top

fanny, are you serious? how awful!
Take good care of yourself.

Oct 17, 2009, 11:48am Top

Sleep. It's good for you . . . and drink lots of fluid.

Oct 17, 2009, 12:27pm Top

Yuck! I'm glad you didn't feel too awful. I had the regular flu back in January--never felt worse in my life.

Oct 18, 2009, 12:52am Top

(70) The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist

This was originally supposed to be a book I was going to review for the second issue of Belletrista, but I didn't enjoy it enough to unconditionally promote it. So, with that ringing endorsement out there, let me backtrack and say that this is not a bad book by any means - it is well-written, with an interesting plot and an interesting main character and some real tear-jerker scenes. I guess my main problem with the book was that I felt like I had kind of read this story before in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go & I felt like Ishiguro did it a bit better. So Holmqvist's novel suffers because I didn't read it first, I guess.

The novel is set in a future Scandinavia in which childless women and men over 50 and 60, respectively, are considered dispensable and are removed from their homes to spend the remainder of their lives in special facilities where they will be the subjects of various scientific experiments - some relatively benign, some ultimately fatal - and have their organs harvested for transplant to younger, healthier citizens who have children or other dependents. The facility is in many ways paradise - the residents are cared for in body, mind, and spirit & encouraged to pursue hobbies and artistic adventures - and many of the residents even express that they finally feel that they fit in and can be themselves.

Other readers that I respect greatly loved this book - perhaps I was just in a funk when I read it.

Oct 18, 2009, 1:27am Top

(71) Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History - Margaret MacMillan

This is one of those books that I fondly refer to as a "crabby pants book." These books are books that generally lament one development or another - consumerism, scientific illiteracy, yuppies - and claim that the world is ending because of said development. They can be well-written or poorly written, seriously or stupid, but they are always crabby.

MacMillan's essential thesis is that history is important - it shapes how we understand ourselves and others, how we understand our country and others, how governments and leaders justify their actions - and incredibly popular among ordinary people - witness the immense popularity of geneology, historical fiction, documentaries - but is dangerously open to manipulation and misuse because professional historians have immersed themselves in the minutiae of obscure topics and have largely abandoned general history to non-academics (the aforementioned geneology websites, historical fiction writers, and cable channel documentaries). In this sense, the book is not only a crabby-pants book but an elitist one as well. And I do not mean that as a smear - despite my love of crappy vampire novels and trashy cable cooking shows, I have quite an elitist streak in me.

Although MacMillan's book starts out pretty well, it quickly starts to seem shallow and repetitive. I didn't realize until I read the end-notes that the book is actually based on a series of lectures given by the author, which helped me understand why she cited the same ten examples of manipulation of history for political ends again and again and again. The author divides the book into chapters based on loose themes and uses specific examples to illustrate these themes, but because these are rich examples, history is rarely misused in only one specific way in each. So certain incidents and ideas come up repeatedly: how history is used to advance specific national ideologies, how conflicting interpretations of history spill into the public sphere in museum displays and films, disputes over whose perceptions and interpretations of events in the past are authoritative, and whether the purpose of history is to "uplift" or to "inform" (and what that even means). I wondered if it might have been more effective to structure the book as a series of case studies of disputes over specific historical events/moments/interpretations and then to draw out the themes associated with each dispute - but I can see how that method might get repetitive as well. Overall, an interesting book but one that probably would have had more legs as an essay - but of course, who publishes or reads standalone essays much anymore?

Oct 18, 2009, 2:07am Top

(72) Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors - Lisa Appignanesi

I gave this book a generous three stars and I am very conflicted about how to rate or review this book. Although there were some fascinating case studies discussed in the book - Marilyn Monroe, Zelda Fitzgerald, Mary Lamb, Alice James, Sylvia Plath, Freud & Jung's women - the book's structure (or lack thereof) really bothered me and made for an aimless, disjointed reading experience. I could never really discern a clear thesis or point behind all the information that was being thrown at me, or whether the focus was on doctors, patients, medical treatments, or theories and ideologies. At some point in the last 1/3 of the book, it becomes blatantly clear that the author has an agenda - defending Freudian pyschoanalysis as the optimal treatment method for what we now call "mental illness" and denigrating against the "medicalization" of the mind and behavioralism. There is certainly a case to be made that SSRI's are not a magic bullet, but the author doesn't even seem to be trying for objectivity near the end of the book.

I read Elaine Showalter's The Female Malady earlier in the year, and I had thought this book would be a nice follow-on that covered a slightly more current time period than Showalter's book, which was written in the 1970s. Appignanesi's book has a slightly different focus than Showalter's but for the most part she treads over familiar territory - societies throughout history have discerned and labelled mental illness in women on the basis of then-contemporary ideas of appropriate and inappropriate roles, behaviors, and aspirations for women; the emergence of a new type of mental illness in a specific time and place reflects the social and political anxieties of that time and place, rather than anything that "is". Representations of mental illness (Showalter discusses literary representations, Appignanesi focuses on the DSM and internet support sites) in popular culture provide a guide (Showalter claims doctors often diagnosed and posed their patients in conformity with literary representations of madness, Appignanesi argues that patients themselves consciously or unconsciously "ape" the symptoms of a disease they have read about). This book really didn't go beyond Showalter analytically and even ends on almost exactly the same note as Showalter's book, however, the ending comes off considerably weaker (because we've read these words before and we know now what Showalter didn't when she finished her book - that the increased entry of women into the mental health field has not really changed the balance of power between women and the medical establishment in most ways). Read Showalter instead. Or Foucault.

Oct 18, 2009, 2:11am Top

>140 FlossieT:, Flossie - Check my thoughts above. Don't waste your time - read Elaine Showalter instead.

Oct 18, 2009, 2:31am Top

Hey, well done for getting through them. Excellent reviews, too.

Oct 18, 2009, 1:10pm Top

and have their organs harvested for transplant to younger, healthier citizens who have children or other dependents

Well, I think there's a credibility problem right there--I've heard from credible sources that nobody is interested in transplanted organs from 50 and 60 year olds. They want organs from young people. Don't know why I bothered to share this with you, but perhaps it's because it really bugs me when books have credibility problems.

Oct 18, 2009, 1:13pm Top

This is one of those books that I fondly refer to as a "crabby pants book."

I love that! Might have to borrow it.

Oct 18, 2009, 2:37pm Top

>153 Nickelini:, Ha - that's fantastic. Especially since the organ harvesting was generally done at the very end of the patients' lives, after they had undergone a lot of testing and experimentation that probably - in the real world, anyway - made them unsuitable as donors.

Oct 25, 2009, 2:06am Top

Have been sitting on - and possibly subconsciously avoiding getting back to A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, but I really want to finish it before the end of the year, so I've been trying to recommit to it.

I feel as though I'm finally possibly coming out of a "long dark tea time" of women's literature with this book. The early chapters were fascinating, as Showalter examined the attempts of the first American women writers to create distinctively American forms and stories. But then we seem to have gone into a horrid slump & even Showalter doesn't seem to know why she is writing about some of these writers, except perhaps to fill the historical record. I feel like most of the chapters on the 18th and 19th centuries repeat the refrain that so-and-so's work was derivative of either Jane Eyre or Middlemarch and that so-and-so tried to transcend imitation but just couldn't.

This is intriguing to me in light of a comment Showalter made in an interview that Murr tipped me off to - that she wants to judge quality and not forgive poor writing/weak characters/etc. simply because an author is a woman. If Showalter reads a particular author's works and finds them lacking, why include them in a literary history of American women writers? I confess I've not really read many literary histories of male authors - do mediocre male authors get studied (by anyone other than PhD English lit candidates)? Or do we focus our history of literature on the few that are judged to be standouts and ignore their unsuccessful contemporaries?

I feel - at least so far - that I have discovered very few "hidden gems" whose works I desperately must read; instead Showalter seems to be confirming that the women writers from the past whom I've actually heard of are - for the most part - the ones worth reading: Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather (I know I've omitted some names here, I can't quite recall all of the highlights right now).

I am now moving into what will - I hope - be a more exciting time in women's literary production & am looking forward to reading the chapters on Wharton and Cather. I've always wanted to read Wharton and maybe this will push me to finally do so. Cather has never appealed to me, but maybe Showalter will convince me to give her a try.

(Parts of this post were copied from my contributions to the discussion thread for this book here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/63592)

Nov 2, 2009, 10:43pm Top

Little Women and Werewolves.... Brought to you by the same "genius" who brought you two Austen rip-offs. When will this end?

Nov 3, 2009, 9:39am Top

You know, the first one had a concept that astonished and delighted me, but they're taking the concept much, much further than it needed to go. Eventually, they will run out of paranormal creatures to match to classic novels. I predict that both "Barchester Tower and Bogeys" and "The Mill on the Floss and Kelpies" will have disappointing sales.

Nov 3, 2009, 10:52am Top

Going through a period of reading depressing non-fiction, I guess. Just finished Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, a collection of first-person narratives of Chernobyl survivors from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. I have a lot of thoughts that I hope to organize and post. Highly recommend this very difficult but important book.

Now I'm reading The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional Lives of Farm Animals by one of my favorite authors Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. It is also really a hard read emotionally and had got me thinking again that I really should stop eating animals.

Nov 3, 2009, 12:01pm Top

Adding Voices from Chernobyl to the wishlist — where do you find these books?

Nov 3, 2009, 12:16pm Top

>160 dchaikin:, Dan - I get a lot of recommendations from LT. I also obsessively follow about 5 book blogs, the NYT books page, NYRB blog, the Guardian, London Review of Books, NPR books blog.... sometimes I hang around on Bookslut, and I get a few book review newsletters in my email. I probably spend more time reading about books than actually reading books, which means the TBR pile is endless.

I borrowed the book from the local Arlington library but you can also get it for fairly cheap on Amazon.

I seem to be following a nuclear disasters theme this year without even meaning to.

Nov 3, 2009, 12:58pm Top

Good suggestions, thanks. I look at the NYTimes, despite what I consider flaws. I haven't looked closely at the others. My local Houston Chronicle used to give nice suggestions, but something happened when this year's budget cuts hit, and I stopped looking.

As for the nuclear them, I've been adding those to my wishilst. Janeajones pointed out this one to me...Accident : a day's news by Christa Wolf, Heike Schwarzbauer & Rick Takvorian...but I haven't gotten their yet.

Nov 3, 2009, 8:02pm Top

159, et al> Christa Wolf's Accident: A Day's News is a fascinating meditation on Chernobyl. The narrator's (whom we can assume to be Wolf) brother is having brain surgery even as the repercussions of the Chernobly meltdown become known. Wolf also mixes in the West's Faustian bargain with knowledge and science.

Nov 7, 2009, 11:17am Top

Belletrista Issue #2 is live! I didn't review anything this issue, but I still encourage everyone to check out the issue that our friend Lois - and others - have worked so hard on.


Nov 11, 2009, 10:20am Top

Yay - Wolf Hall is available on Kindle!

Edited: Nov 11, 2009, 10:47am Top

I haven't been doing much reading lately since finishing Voices from Chernobyl, but I've been enjoying the Guardian's October feature on fairy tales: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/fairytales

They have posted a number of fairy tales and a series of articles by big shots like Hillary Mantel commenting on certain themes in fairy tales. It is proving very enjoyable, in a disturbing way.

ETA: The illustrations are also quite nice. I've been reading the stories on my iphone, so I didn't notice them until now, when I actually went to the site for the older stories.

From Hansel and Gretel:

From Angela Carter's translation of Cinderella:

Nov 11, 2009, 10:55am Top

ooh -- what a treasure trove!

Nov 11, 2009, 4:10pm Top

Oh yes, those links are wonderful. Thanks, f.p.!

Dec 7, 2009, 10:03pm Top

Love the silhouette!

Jan 6, 2010, 12:17pm Top

I am so unbelievably behind on tracking my reading and reading the threads in this group. I don't know what to do!

Jan 6, 2010, 3:38pm Top

You should come here: http://www.librarything.com/groups/clubread2010#forums :)

Good luck. I'm a bit behind from 2009 as well, but I might just leave it as is.

Jan 6, 2010, 3:56pm Top

fannyprice, I agree with 171.

Jan 6, 2010, 4:51pm Top

Red Rover, Red Rover, calling fannyprice over...

to Club Read 2010!

Jan 6, 2010, 4:52pm Top

170 - I'm in the same boat. I just finished my reviewing for 2009. Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to outline my 2010 reading goals and do a couple more reviews.

Group: Club Read 2009

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