Arubabookwoman Is Back For 2020
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I’m Deborah, a retired tax attorney/fiber artist. I’ve been a member of Club Read for I think 10 years or so, but was largely absent last year due to my husband’s health issues and bone marrow transplant. We have 5 grown kids, 3 in NYC, 1 in Houston, and 1 in Tampa. We have lived in Seattle for more than 30 years, and fully intended to stay, untill one day all our kids ended up basically on the east coast and took our 5 grandchildren with them.
We were in the process of preparing our house for sale to move to Delaware (at that time our Tampa son was also in NYC), when my husband’s cancer returned, and he was told that his only chance for survival was the transplant. We decided to go ahead with the sale of our house and move to an apartment in downtown Seattle for the transplant process, which began in March 2019. The next months were very rough, but we were finally released from the Hutch in October, he is cancer-free, and the transplant is considered a success. He now has the blood and immune system of a 20 year old European woman. (If his blood DNA is tested he reads female; skin/hair/saliva DNA is still male). There are, and will be, lingering health issues, but things are fairly smooth for now. We have changed the focus of our move to Florida, alligators and all, and hope to be in Florida, somewhere between Tampa and Sarasota by May 2020.
I read pretty much everything except maybe Romance and Horror (and I don’t particularly care for YA). I read about 1/3 NF and 2/3 Fiction. I try not to be too Us/Canada/Great Britain-centric by reading as much world literature as I can. I keep track of my reading in the first few entries of this thread, and will try very hard to say at least a few words about everything I read. I love to hear your comments, suggestions, opinions about the books I read, as well as what you are reading, so please visit often, and I will try to reciprocate.
Best of 2019
In 2019, I read 113 books, 76 fiction and 37 nonfiction, with 58 male authors and 57 female authors. In addition to the US/Canada/Great Britain, I read books from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Malaysia, Taiwan, Somalia, Italy, Austria, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Israel, Argentina, and Iceland.
My favorites were:
The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Labyrinths by Borges
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado
Territory of Light by Yukio Tsushima
The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin
Trustee From the Toolroom by Nevil Shute
The Need by Helen Phillips
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Juniper, the Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Thomas French and Kelly French
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
The Apprentice by Greg Miller
The Art of Dying Well by Katey Butler
Beaufort by Ron Leshem
Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff
The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs
Deep State by James Sewart
The Hill to Die On by Jake Sherman
Unfortunately, it looks like the touchstones are not working.
Of note, I also finished Mick Herron's Slow Horses series, which I highly recommend. I also finished the Poldark series. I liked the earlier books focusing on Ross and Demelza in Cornwall better than the later books featuring their children and other locales, but I do recommend the series. I also finished Gary Disher's Hal Challis series, read a good stand-alone by him (Under the Cold Bright Lights), and hope to continue on to his Wyatt series.
A few duds (surprising given that I like these authors):
The Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Conviction by Denise Mina
And a couple of highly anticipated new books that I found ok, but just ok:
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
I’m happy to see you here Deborah. You’ve passed along some great suggestions in the past.
Happy New Year! I am glad life seems to be settling down and you are finding more time for reading and the Bookternet. I hope this trend continues. And good luck with the pending move to Florida.
Dear Deborah, wishing you all the best for 2020. I’ll follow your reading, here and on Litsy!
Happy New Year. It’s really nice to read your intro and sense some optimism. I will try to follow you here and, of course, look forward to it. Fair chance I’ll pick something up here to add to my own reading.
Looking forward to following along with your reading this year. I'm interested to see the Carmen Machado collection in your favourites of last year, since I'm reading her In the Dream House memoir at the moment and finding it very good. Hope you have a good year ahead!
I'm really glad to hear your and your husband's good news. A little hope for the new year is a good thing. Looking forward to following your thread.
Thank you to all my lovely visitors.
So I very carefully planned my potential reads for January. Overall goal, read books I own, finish Rougon Macquart, read Europe for a Litsy group, read more Classics. Possible January reads:
The Masterpiece-Rougon Macquart
The Professor’s House-Classics
My Struggle (vol.5)-Europe
Midnight in Chernobyl-NF
East West Street-NF
But of course, my first read of 2020, turned out to be one not on any list of mine. I was browsing the virtual stacks of my library, came across a book about earthquakes in the Northwest, it was available, and I hadn’t reached my limit so I checked it out. When I read the first few paragraphs, I had to keep reading.
I was at work on the 24th floor of the Columbia Tower (tallest building in Seattle) during the 2001 quake here, and I remember the building swaying back and forth like a clock pendulum as I hid under my desk and counted the seconds.
According to the earthquake book, that was a “deep quake” of which there have been 18 since 1900 in the Northwest. Since the 1980’s, the time we’ve lived here, scientists have discovered definitive evidence of the two other types of quakes that have occurred here, and could occur again: a Cascadia mega quake in the subduction zone or a quake along one of the dozens of fault lines that have been discovered running under Seattle and environs since the 1990’s.
1. Full Rip 9.0 by Sandi Doughton (2013) 288 pp
Subtitle: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest
"No one in the past three hundred years has witnessed a Cascadia megaquake, Not a single soul in the past millennium has weathered a rupture on the Seattle Fault. But hundreds of thousands of people across the Northwest have stories to tell about the third type of earthquake that strikes the region: deep quakes like the one that struck between Olympia and Seattle in 2001"
Now that we're leaving Seattle I am letting to the forefront my earthquake fears, which have been bubbling subconsciously during the 30+ years we have lived here. This book will set no one's fears to rest. It is a history of the geologic and scientific discoveries of the last 30-40 years which have deepened our knowledge of past and potential earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, otherwise known as the Cascadia subduction zone. There are explanations as to why future earthquakes in this area are likely to be much more powerful and have more dire consequences than quakes in any other part of the continental United States. While no one knows for sure, the consensus belief is that the Pacific Northwest is due or overdue for either a subduction quake or a fault quake, either of which would be devastating, rather than the more run of the mill deep quakes, which are the only kind that have occurred in recorded history here. There's also lots of information about tsunamis, and a discussion about the building code requirements that have been put into place for earthquake protection and whether they will in fact be effective should (or when) a megaquake occurs.
This book probably would appeal to a limited readership, but I found it informative and chilling.
Kevin- I went through that kind of thought process too, and was trying to think about how to express it. I think you put it well.
>16 arubabookwoman: One of my favorite (?) New Yorker articles was on this topic -- the overdue, very bad earthquake in the pacific northwest. It might have been a contributing factor in the death of my dream of moving to Portland.
>18 stretch: >19 dchaikin: On the other hand, the book mentioned a recent criminal trial in Italy in which some geologists were convicted of manslaughter because they had opined that a cluster of small quakes did not mean that a larger quake was coming. A fair number of people died when a larger quake did occur. (Seems a bit far-fetched to me for criminal liability). So I guess geologists are "damned if they do; damned if they don't."
>20 ELiz_M: We moved to Seattle in 1986, and most of what is now known about the Cascadia subduction zone has been discovered since then. The book was written by a Seattle Times reporter, and focuses mostly on the Seattle area, although there's quite a lot about the Oregon coast in terms of tsunamis, and there's a lot about the Fukushima quake. Seattle seems to be a lot more vulnerable than Portland, partly because it sits on a basin of "mush" (not the correct geological term) which will make it shake longer and harder in an earthquake than areas not located on a basin. I think Portland is pretty safe from tsunamis, although the Oregon coast (ie.Cannon Beach, one of the most beautiful places in the world) is extremely vulnerable.
Deborah, I know we've had a few glancing blows, but this is the first time we have really "met". How nice to meet you. I have experienced several moderately strong earthquakes from the New Madrid Fault where I live here in St. Louis. We are overdue for a "big one", too. I wish not to experience that next "big one", but then my kids and grandkids are in the crossfire. We love St. Louis, and have family here since about 1830. That's pretty early for this part of the country.
I expect to follow you this year, and I am looking forward to your non-fiction reads. I like non-fiction when I find some that interests me, but there is so much fiction to read that I don't usually get to that. Geology and Tectonics, including Vulcanism and Earthquakes are definitely interesting to me, so I'll be looking for Full Rip.
But wait! Aren't you worried about Hurricanes and the rising of sea levels in Florida? I think you are more likely to be hurt from those, and they are much more frequent than megaquakes.
>16 arubabookwoman: I don't know if US media report these, but did you know that there were seven quakes off Vancouver Island in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas Eve? They ranged from 4.3 to 6.2 (6.3 according to the US Geological Survey).
Interesting sounding book.
So glad to hear that your husband's transplant was successful! That must have been a very difficult time, but what a relief. And Florida now...perhaps you will end up near janeajones and the two of you can spend hot days poolside showing off grandkid photos and talking about books. btw, you have taken up 2nd spot on my profile page weighted list of "members with your books" (the 1st spot belongs to the hubby).
Glad to hear of your husband's good health news, and to see you back here. Look forward to your reading this year.
>22 sallypursell: Thanks for visiting Sally. Yes I do worry about hurricanes. We lived in New Orleans for 18 years, but left in 1986 well before Katrina. Every hurricane season there were dire predictions for a big hurricane hitting New Orleans in just the right way to wreak havoc. We also left town whenever a hurricane was on the way--and that's how hurricanes are different from earthquakes: you have plenty of advance warning and time to evacuate from harm's way with hurricanes.
>23 SassyLassy: I did not know that Sassy. The Nisqually Quake, which is the only major quake that occurred while we have lived in Seattle, was 6.8, and I experienced it on the 24th floor of the tallest building in downtown Seattle. Not fun.
>24 avaland: Thanks Lois. The transplant is a success, but, as we've learned even success is accompanied by ongoing health issues. Right now, husband is dealing with a touch of graft vs host disease, in which his "alien" immune system (originating in his donor's immune system) attacks some original organ system of the his body--in this case his skin in the form of a rash, so not so serious. And bone marrow transplants for leukemia or other blood cancers rely on the graft vs host disease phenomena to prevent the recurrence of cancer--the new immune system attacks any cancer arising from the old system. It's really fascinating all the various factors in interplay.
It would be great to connect with janeajones. I will give her a PM to see if she is interested. There is someone in the 75 group I talk to in the area who I also hope to meet when we get there. We are currently on schedule to leave Seattle in mid-April, but will be stopping on the way to Florida in Houston to visit our daughter, with a sidetrip up to Austin to visit my mother.
>25 markon: Thanks for visiting Ardon.
I did include this next book in my January plans as one of my nonfiction reads, and it's one I own (although on Kindle), so Yay for me for following through on my reading plans!
2. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham (2018)
This is a fairly complete history of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, including a consideration of the aftereffects of the accident up to the present day. The book opens years before the accident with an exposition of the development of the nuclear power industry, in particular as it took place in the Soviet Union, since, as the book details, the particularities of the Soviet system, in which workers are given impossible deadlines, resulting in corners being cut, and lies about results, played no small part in the causes and the aftereffects of the accident. As the book states, from the start, Soviet nuclear projects were governed by "ruthless expediency and paranoid secrecy."
We also learn something about how a nuclear reactor works, which is crucial to understanding the causes of the accident. Most of the reactors in the Soviet Union were RMBK reactors, and there is a lengthy discussion of the serious design flaws of RMBK reactors. Prior to the Chernobyl accident, Soviet experts were well-aware of these flaws, and the flaws had in fact played a part in several prior, less serious nuclear reactor accidents. However, because of the primacy of state secrecy, no one at the operator level in the various nuclear power plants, including Chernobyl, was advised of or otherwise aware of these flaws.
The initial investigations of the accident determined that it was caused by operator error, and several of the Chernobyl operators were found criminally liable and went to jail. Only years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, were the design faults of the RMBK reactor acknowledged as the primary cause of the accident.
After this initial very helpful background and history, the book commences an almost minute by minute account of the events of the accident, which took place in the overnight hours of April 25/26, 1986. Dozens of people were involved. Orders were given, followed, defied, countermanded. Chaos reigned. As you might expect, this part was somewhat difficult to follow, but I think it gave a real feel for what was being experienced by those involved.
After the accident, it took several days for Moscow to even admit to the world that an accident had occurred, even though relatively soon after the accident excessive radiation had been detected in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe. Even after admitting the accident, Soviet officials downplayed its seriousness, stating it was under control, even while Soviet scientists believed a core meltdown was underway and were scrambling to come up with a plan to prevent such a catastrophe, which could have made much of Europe uninhabitable for hundreds of years. Soviet officials also delayed in ordering evacuations, first from Pripyat, the city where workers at the plant lived, then from the 30 km "Exclusion Zone" around the plant, as well as the ultimate evacuation of all children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women from the city of Kiev.
In a section entitled "The Liquidation of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident," (the name Soviet officials gave to clean-up efforts) we learn that hundreds of thousands of young men were called up for military duty in the Chernobyl Zone. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in many ways, these recruits were viewed as a type of cannon fodder, or more accurately "radiation fodder." Many jobs had to be done in relays of minutes, sometimes even seconds, before dangerous radiation exposure would occur, and officials weren't always too careful about measuring the radiation exposure or even enforcing the limits. (And the book "treats" us to some very graphic descriptions of the effects and the treatments for acute radiation sickeness). For me, this section can be summed up by the following quote:
"This was a task on a scale unprecedented in human history, and for which no one in the USSR--or, indeed, anywhere else on earth--had ever bothered to prepare. Yet now it was also subject to the routinely absurd expectations of the Soviet administrative-command system
Over the weeks and months after the accident, engineers designed and constructed a "sarcophagus" to enclose the shattered reactor, even as scientists continued to try to track down the missing uranium fuel from the core, which they feared was still undergoing a nuclear reaction somewhere within the debris.
The book continues with the history up to the present day, and concludes that Chernobyl was an important factor in the fall of the Soviet Union. Surprisingly, despite everything we have learned about how unprepared we really are to deal with nuclear accidents, and how little we know or have imagined about what can go wrong, there currently is a renaissance in the nuclear power industry with some supposedly safer reactor types being proposed.
As a side note, last year I read another excellent book which analyzed the after-effects of the Chernobyl accident 30 years later which I highly recommend, Manual for Survival by Kate Brown
And my 2020 reading seems to be following a theme of "catastrophes."
3. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (2013) 240 pp
This book takes the unimaginable death and destruction of the tsunamis which followed the Indonesia earthquake in 2004 and brings down to a concrete and personal level of one woman who lost her everything. The author and her family were on vacation in Sri Lanka over the Christmas holidays when they were swept away by the tsunami which struck without warning. She lost her husband, parents, and two young sons. In language brutal, poetic, and honest she documents her emotional state, immediately after the crisis and for several years afterwards, as she remembers their lives together, and tries to come to terms with her loss. This is a powerful and moving book, and I'm glad I read it, but I can understand why someone would choose not to.
3 1/2 stars
>27 arubabookwoman: Great review. I wondered did you see the Chernobyl miniseries? I think it was on HBO. My husband watched it and said it was very good. I believe it won some Emmys.
>29 NanaCC: Just to added a bit to what Colleen said: the Chernobyl limited series is indeed on HBO; and in Michael & my opinions it was excellent, riveting and perhaps the best thing we saw last year. There was something about seeing it....
Great review about Midnight and Chernobyl and, well, wow. I'll second Darryl's recommendation of of Voices from Chernobyl (to Darryl too, 🙂) if you're up for more. It's excellent. All interviews, without questions. She captures a very powerful sense of the human impact.
>29 NanaCC: >32 dchaikin: I did see the Chernobyl miniseries on HBO and agree it was excellent. It is fairly true to this book, with the one difference that not everyone was so eager and willing to sacrifice themselves for the cleanup. A lot of “volunteers” had to be strongly “persuaded”.
>30 kidzdoc: >32 dchaikin: I read Voices From Chernobyl shortly after it was published (well before she was awarded the Nobel), and agree that it is an excellent book. Now that I’m more familiar with what went on and some of the people involved, I’d like to reread it, but it’s packed away and in storage, so I may not have access to it for many months (until we pick a town in Florida, buy a house, and move in).
>28 arubabookwoman: I haven't read Wave, but have read reviews on and off on LT and was aware of the tragedy. I was super happy a month or two ago to learn that Deraniyagala married the actress Fiona Shaw in 2018.
>34 nancyewhite: I am glad to hear that she has married. By the end of her book, she was still grappling with extreme grief, and clearly not in a place for a relationship. I hope this means she has healed.
I think the following will be my final catastrophe book for a while.
4. The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States by Jeffrey Lewis (2018)
When I was much younger, reading books about nuclear war and about survival after such a war was my guilty reading pleasure. I devoured them all. But as we moved away from the Cold War, such novels began to appear last often, and I now read very little post-apocalyptic fiction. I came across this book several weeks ago when I was browsing the library, and never having heard anything about it, checked it out on a whim. For context, I checked it out before the US went to the brink of war with Iran, but read it after that little boondoggle.
This book is a fictional, but plausible, account of how the US (and Japan, South Korea, and Guam) could end up under nuclear attack by North Korea. It is written in the form of a Commission Report several years after the attack to attempt to explain what went wrong. As such, its focus is geopolitical, rather than an examination of the devastating effects of such a war, or any efforts to rebuild after such a war. (The author is some sort of Think Tank expert, and I think this is his only fiction.)
The book is a study on how our political leaders and various countries play games of brinksmanship with each other, and how each side frequently misreads the intentions of the other side, leading to escalation after escalation. In this book, real characters in the drama include Trump as president, Mattis as Secretary of Defense, and Kim Jung Il. The fictional Trump behaves much as I expect the real Trump would behave. I found the book to be chilling, especially as I was reading it almost contemporaneously with the Iran crisis.
Several of the Amazon reviewers were disappointed with the book because its focus was not the effects of the war and its aftermath and victims. As I said, the intent of the book seems to have been to consider the political circumstances which could lead to such a war, and I think it did a good job. It is more cerebral than graphic. Some other critics were dismayed that Trump was portrayed as a clownish figure more interested in golf, but to me that's his reality.
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