SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #15-16

Book #15 was "The Mosquito Coast" by Paul Theroux. I'd seen the movie back when it first came out on video and liked it, but as is usually the case, the book was more detailed and nuanced and better all around. It follows the story of Alexander "Allie" Fox and his family. Allie is a brilliant inventor who thinks that the United States is going to hell and decides to take his family off to a wild and undeveloped place in Guatemala, the Mosquito Coast, to start a new utopia. Allie is a bit of a blow-hard and a hard character to like, but luckily the story is told from the viewpoint of his 13-year-old son Charlie, who is a much more likeable character. At first, the family realizes their little utopia in the jungle, but things slowly start to go wrong, and by the end of the book, things fall completely apart, and Charlie has to decide between continuing to follow his father's disastrous course or making some bold moves of his own. Theroux's descriptions of the natural world are phenomenal, and Charlie feels very real. I ended up liking the book a lot.

Book #16 was "The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis" by Arthur Allen. I read a positive review of this in Science News magazine and knew I would want to read it. There are a lot of Ukrainian and Polish names and places that are unfamiliar and a fair bit of scientific terminology, but I still felt this was a fairly smooth read for non-fiction because it's the personalities involved in fighting Typhus - while simultaneously trying to sabotage the Nazis and keep their Jewish co-workers alive - that make this book so interesting. The descriptions of using lice to incubate typhus for vaccines might make a squeamish reader's skin crawl, but it is worth it because the book is just so interesting, touching on facets of World War II that I wasn't familar with. It has many horrors related to war, sickness, poverty and hunger, but there are also moments of heroism and humor. Highly, highly recommended!

1. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood [non-fiction]- James Gleick
2. Stones from the River [fiction]- Ursula Hegi
3. The Penelopiad [fiction]- Margaret Atwood
4. Woman Warrior [non-fiction/memoir]- Maxine Hong Kingston
5. The Son of Neptune [ficiton]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
6. The Poe Shadow [fiction]- Matthew Pearl
7. Nat Turner [non-fiction graphic "novel"]- Kyle Baker (illustrator)
8. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception [fiction]- Eoin Colfer (unabridged audiobook)
9. The Daughter of Time [fiction]- Josephine Tey
10. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) [non-fiction/biography]- Stacy Schiff
11. Gilgamesh: A New English Version [literary criticism/epic poetry]- Stephen Mitchell
12. Back When We Were Grownups [fiction]- Anne Tyler
13. Red Azalea [non-fiction/memoir]- Anchee Min
14. The Mark of Athena (#3 in the "Heroes of Olympus" series) [fiction]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)

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