26. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (448 pages)
27. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (244 pages)
28. Dapper Caps and Pedal-Copters (Wondermark Vol. 3) by David Malki
29. Every Man For Himself by Beryl Bainbridge (224 pages)
30. Skellig by David Almond (182 pages)
Bold: read it now! It’s great
Italics: run away! It’s awful
Plain Text = various degrees of OK
"You are all striving for money. What do you want it for?"
..."I really don't know. But money is not what I strive for."
26. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (448 pages) Oo, boy, do I love 19th century Brit Chick lit! I must admit, though, that I enjoyed the beautiful BBC miniseries (which I saw first) more than this book, as the characters came off much more real and the story flowed better and it had some wonderful additions, including more of a focus on the mill setting. Gaskell was obviously rushed and constrained by the serial form her novel took, and her plot obviously suffers. The novel is like the offspring of Charles Dickens (with its eye for social concerns) and Jane Austen (with its character romance and its use as symbol). Though it lacks the wit and style of either Austen or Dickens, it is not without real modern application and import. The North, a society based on money and industry, is capitalistic, individualistic, practical, fiercely free, urban, suffering, dirty, and starving. It is embodied in Mr. John Thornton. The South, an old agrarian society based on class, is rural, intellectual and cultural, humanitarian, elitist, naturalistic, and is embodied by Miss Margaret Hale, an outsider in the mill town of Milton. The novel explores the cultural differences and the conflicts of capitalism in the relationship between Thornton and Hale in a fascinating, touching, and beautiful story that not only comments with complexity and justice on society (the war of the classes, the duties and freedoms of both workers and owners), but also on the individual (the need for balance between work and freedom, between money and intellect, between the self and the community). Grade: A
"The best ethical and environmental choices also happen to be the best choices for our health--very good news indeed."
"Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks."
27. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (244 pages) Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. That is the great advice that Pollan explores and eventually concludes with. He investigates and traces the history of the Western diet, the fallacies of industrialized, processed, and capitalistic foods and nutritional science. The book examines the history of the Western diet and the problems and limits of nutritional science. While some of his logic is a bit weak, his basic premise is utterly sound and packed with common sense and good news (we can and should eat real and delicious foods). Eating real, whole foods from environmentally sound practices is not only morally sound and good for our planet, but also good for us. Perhaps more importantly, our diet, our eating, should be a bigger part of our lives. We should enjoy food: growing it, cooking it, and eating it. We will, in every way, benefit from this. Great read, inspiring, encouraging, and helpful. Grade: A-
28. Dapper Caps and Pedal-Copters (Wondermark Vol. 3) by David Malki Book of an assorted collection of various Wondermark comic strips placed in easy-to-read printed-page form for your perusal, enjoyment, and edification. Can be read anywhere! Though not while pedaling your copter, probably. Though these fantastically original, clever, and hilarious comic strips (the best ever written, I assure you me!) can be accessed free through electronical means, this collection boasts superior durability. Can be read during a black-out or after the apocalypse (probably) or both! Also, it contains even more hilarious sundries that can only be seen in the printed form (such as the Twitter page of a bear in an ill-fitting hat: "I literally farted out a bumblebee.") I laughed so hard, I believe that an internal organ shot out of my left nostril. So, there's that too! Amazing, eye-popping, side-aching, hilarious collection saturated with the ridiculous, nonsensical, and brilliant word-play; an amalgam of Victorian flowery prose and stock illustrations and modern-contemporary wit and stupidity. Genius. Pure genius. Grade: A+
29. Every Man For Himself by Beryl Bainbridge (224 pages) Every year, I read a Titanic book; this year, it's fiction. Morgan, somehow related to JP Morgan, comes from a scandalous and poor background, which gives him both an outsider's and moral perspective on the glittering, amoral, shallow world of the upper crust of Edwardian society. He befriends Scurra, a man whose stark view of the world enchants him, even as he stands for all the selfishness ("every man for himself") that horrifies Morgan. Women are a foreign, bizarre world to Morgan, and he looks at them like he does the ship itself, a work of art that is also a lifeboat. The style of the book is wonderful, as if being told from a survivor suffering post traumatic stress disorder. That is, oddly detached, but minutely observant. As a Titanic novel, though it is not the best (Cynthia Bass' Maiden Voyage remains the queen), it is refreshing in its eyewitness-like portrayal, in its bringing to life the people and time of the ship. Rather than trying to capture the complete tragedy, the book narrows its focus brilliantly. Grade: B+
30. Skellig by David Almond (182 pages) Michael's baby sister is desperately ill and he's moved to a new, run-down house, where he finds a mysterious arthritic, winged man in his garage. Is the man a bird or an angel or some new evolutionary creature? This gothic, dark, lyrical, dream-like tale is part mythology, part fairy tale, part poem. Beautiful, simple, and sweet, it is a great book for advanced young readers and adults. Grade: B+