July 5th, 2015


Books #31-32

Book #31 was "Free Enterprise" by Michelle Cliff. This is the story of two women who are friends and who are involved in the anti-slavery movement, supporters of John Brown. It's told through flashbacks and letters, and explores the lives of women who were important in the abolitionist movement but who didn't get the same notoriety as Brown. I learned a great deal from the book and parts of it were very beautifully written, but overall, it didn't hang together as a novel the way I might have liked. It's gotten a ton of rave reviews, so maybe I need to do more research about some of the unfamiliar terms, people & events and re-read it some day to see if I'd appreciate it more. I suspect this is one of those novels that I'm going to perceive in the short-term as ambitious but flawed but also one I may be thinking about for a really long time. Even if this book did nothing more than make me aware of the real-life person of Mary Ellen Pleasant, I'd say it was well worth the read.

Book #32 was "The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory" by Kenny Fries. Fries is a writer who has written about disability and edited an anthology of writing by diabled authors before. He was born without several of the bones in his lower legs and while he can walk, he needs the aid of a cane and special orthopedic shoes. The story interweaves the saga of Kenny trying to find someone who can make new shoes to fit his special feet with the tale of the development of the idea of evolution and natural selection. When Fries first hears about the idea of "survival of the fittest," it is very threatening to an 8-year-old disabled boy. But the more he learns about evolution, including visiting the Galapagos Islands where Darwin first expanded and developed his ideas, he begins to realize that the "fittest" is something that constantly changes and that everybody has to adapt. I'm pretty sure this will end up being among my most favorite disability memoirs, in part because it's so unusual in structure and subject matter. Additionally, Fries is gay and doesn't shy away from talking about sex and disability, so that's another angle I haven't seen covered a lot in the books by disabled authors I've read in recent years. 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)
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
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Early yesterday, I had the pleasure of finishing the new Expanse novel by James S. A. Corey (nom de plume for two authors, actually...) called Nemesis Games. It's the...fourth?...novel (along with two or three supporting short stories that fit into the timeline) in The Expanse series. I started aggressively reading these books when I heard that the series was going to be made into a ScyFy Channel show, and I've really liked them each and every one, and Nemesis Games goes right along with this.

Now, I couldn't put my finger on the exact reason I was liking these books until this week. I was listening to a podcast of Krypton Radio's The Event Horizon in which they were interviewing David Gerrold. He was talking about the differences in certain sorts of stories. Some, you have individuals who have special powers to get things done (I guess here I'd be thinking about Ender's Game, for example, IIRC). However, he suggested that it's more interesting to read about normal people who due to circumstances are forced to step up and do extraordinary things. I recognized as I heard that, that it was exactly what I was loving about this series, and I can acknowledge it without it being any sort of spoiler.

So I highly recommend the series, which starts with Leviathan Wakes, and this book just carries right on and leaves you hanging wanting more. Wow!

Book 25- The Vanishing Newspaper, by Philip Meyer

25. The Vanishing Newspaper, by Philip Meyer. I wasn't sure I was going to finish this one. It's not the book per se. It's well-written, with a lot of good information and takeaways despite its age. But that's the big problem: it was published in 2004, which means that the information itself was most likely written at least 13 years ago. A lot of things have happened since then, rendering large parts of this book moot. The whole third chapter about advertisers can easily be skipped or skimmed. As I said, there are some interesting statistics (although almost certainly dated) and information, but it's fascinating in a way that looking into a time capsule and looking at predictions of the future holds one's interest. I am curious whether the author has come back to this book, or would consider doing so, and doing an update. It did enlighten me a bit on why many newspaper companies have taken the actions they have, and it has a good chapter on the impact of Wall Street on the newspaper business (really, the news business in general). But the ultimate lesson learned- I will try to remember, with a book like this, to check the publication date. Had I realized it was so old, I would have left it on the shelf.

Currently reading: Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas (yeah, still plugging away- this is a good story, just very long); The Angel Tree, by Daphne Benedis-Grab; and Dead Wake, by Erik Larson.