SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #45-46

Book #45 was "The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah-1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam" by David Harris. This was an interesting time to read this, particularly with Jimmy Carter being in the news recently announcing he was fighting cancer. I remember the Iran Hostage Crisis from when I was a kid and all the anti-Iran sentiment in 1980 and 81 but I really didn't understand it as a kid. This book provides the context you need to understand why it happened, why it took so long to resolve and why they weren't released until after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. My one criticism is that I would have liked to hear more first-hand accounts from the hostages themselves. He does quote the hostages here and there, but I would have loved to hear more and longer quotes from them. However, that's clearly not Harris' focus. His intent was to write an updated book on the Crisis based on classified documents that have only recently been released and interviews with the main behind-the-scenes players. His focus is firmly on the diplomatic efforts to get the hostages released and the complicated politics in Iran that made that almost impossible. I've seen one review criticize him for being somewhat sloppy in his documentation, but it was actually a strength to me that this was written for a general audience with endnotes but no footnotes. It is compulsively readable, like a real-life spy novel. I thought it was outstanding.

Book #46 was "A Fire Upon the Deep" by Vernor Vinge. This is a re-read for me, but a much beloved book that stands the test of time and was excellent the second time as well. Vinge creates a galaxy where there are "zones" that range from the low-tech "slow zone" to the "Beyond" where AI and other futuristic technologies exist all the way up to the "Transcend," where some races have become so powerful that they are practically gods. Some of those gods are malicious, though, and when humans open an archive in the Beyond, they release one of these vicious beings, called The Blight. They send their children away in a spaceship with what might be the key to saving the galaxy from the Blight. The narrative is split between the children on Tines World and a ship with two humans and two alien "Skroderiders" who are racing the Blight to find the children and the antidote to the Blight before the Blight finds and destroys the children and the cure. The children have landed on a world where dog-like creatures band together in packs of 4 to 8 individuals to form collective minds. These "Tines" have their own culture and politics, and the children get enmeshed in their schemes while awaiting rescue. Vernor Vinge does an absolutely wonderful job of world-building and plotting. My only criticism is the logs of internet communication seem kind of quaint in this day and age, and some of those transcripts are more entertaining or plot-relevant than others. 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)
15. The Mosquito Coast [fiction]- Paul Theroux
16. The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis [non-fiction]- Arthur Allen
17. The City of Devi [fiction]- Manil Suri
18. The Lovely Bones [fiction]- Alice Sebold (unabridged audiobook)
19. The Office of Mercy [fiction]- Ariel Djanikian (unabridged audiobook)
20. A Thousand Acres [fiction]- Jane Smiley
21. The Snow Queen [fiction]- Joan Vinge
22. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian [fiction]- Sherman Alexie
23. Memoirs of a Survivor [fiction]- Doris Lessing
24. Moral Disorder, [fiction/short stories]- Margaret Atwood (unabridged audiobook)
25. Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father [non-fiction]- John Matteson
26. The Wasp Factory [fiction]- Iaian Banks
27. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony [fiction]- Eoin Colfer (unabridged audiobook)
28. Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing [fiction]- May Sarton
29. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day [fiction]- Pearl Cleage (unabridged audiobook)
30. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction [non-ficiton]- Annalee Newitz
31. Free Enterprise [fiction]- Michelle Cliff
32. The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory [nonfiction/memoir]- Kenny Fries
33. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void [non-fiction]- Mary Roach (unabridged audiobook)
34. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir [non-ficiton/memoir/graphic book]- Roz Chast
35. Two Serious Ladies [fiction]- Jane Bowles
36. Herland [fiction]- Charlotte Perkins Gilman (unabridged audiobook)
37. The House of Hades  (Book #4 in the Heroes of Olympus series) [fiction]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
38. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books [nonfiction/memoir]- Azar Nafisi
39. Thinking In Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math [non-fiction]- Daniel Tammet
40. The Bellini Madonna [fiction]- Elizabeth Lowry
41. A Perfect Blood (Book #10 in The Hollows series) [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
42. Crossing to Safety [fiction]- Wallace Stegner
43. The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story [graphic non-fiction]- Vivek J. Tiwary (author), Andrew C Robinson (illustrator), with additional illustrations by Kyle Baker
44. The Round House [fiction]- Louise Erdrich (unabridged audiobook)

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