Category Archives: 75 Books
|1||How to Train Your Dragon||Cressida Cowell||A|
|2||How to Be a Pirate||Cressida Cowell||B-|
|3||How to Speak Dragonese||Cressida Cowell||B|
|4||How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse||Cressida Cowell||A|
|5||How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale||Cressida Cowell||B|
|6||Pride and Prejudice||Jane Austen||A|
|8||Sense and Sensibility||Jane Austen||B-|
|9||Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians||Jason Long||A-|
|10||I Love You, Phillip Morris||Steve McVicker||A|
|11||God Hates You, Hate Him Back||CJ Werleman||C|
|12||The Vile Village||Lemony Snicket||A|
|13||The Hostile Hospital||Lemony Snicket||B+|
|14||The Carnivorous Carnival||Lemony Snicket||A|
|15||The Slippery Slope||Lemony Snicket||A|
|16||The Grim Grotto||Lemony Snicket||B|
|17||The Penultimate Peril||Lemony Snicket||B|
|18||The End||Lemony Snicket||B|
|19||Moab is My Washpot||Stephen Fry||A|
|20||The Hunger Games||Suzanne Collins||A|
|21||Catching Fire||Suzanne Collins||A-|
|23||Guns, Germs, and Steel||Jared Diamond||A|
|24||The Blind Side||Michael Lewis||A-|
|25||Catch Me If You Can||Frank Abignale, Jr.||B|
|26||The Lost Gospel of Judas||Bart Ehrman||B|
|30||The King’s Speech||Mark Logue and Peter Conradi||A|
|31||Bossy Pants||Tina Fey||B|
|32||Doubt||Jennifer Michael Hecht||A-|
|33||The Next Ancient World||Jennifer Michael Hecht||A|
|34||Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality||Jack Rogers||B-|
|35||Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin||Frank Bailey||B+|
|36||The Tudors||GJ Meyer||B-|
|37||The Princess of the Midnight Ball||Jessica Day George||B+|
|38||The Family||Jeff Sharlet||B|
|39||The Invisible Gorilla||Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons||A|
|40||Goblin Quest||Jim C Hines||A-|
|41||Dragon Slippers||Jessica Day George||A|
|42||Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency||Douglas Adams||A|
|43||Goblin Hero||Jim C Hines||B|
|44||Dragon Flight||Jessica Day George||B|
|45||The Pluto Files||Neal deGrasse Tyson||A-|
|46||Goblin Tales||Jim C Hines||B+|
|47||The Men Who Stare at Goats||Jon Ronson||B|
|48||Princess of Glass||Jessica Day George||B+|
|49||Jane Eyre||Charlotte Bronte||A-|
|50||Goblin War||Jim C Hines||B|
|51||The Rise and Fall of the Bible||Timothy K Beal||C+|
|52||The Stepsister Scheme||Jim C Hines||B+|
|53||Breaking Their Will||Janet Heimlich||A|
|54||Them, Adventures with Extremists||Jon Ronson||A|
|55||Rabbit-Proof Fence||Doris Pilkington||A|
|56||Dragon Spear||Jessica Day George||B|
|57||The Selfish Gene||Richard Dawkins||A|
|58||The Ancestors Tale||Richard Dawkins||A|
|59||Towards a Rhetoric of Insult||Thomas Conley||A|
|60||Artemis Fowl||Eoin Colfer||A+|
|61||Internet, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys||Don A Dillman||A|
|62||Artemis Fowl 2: The Arctic Incident||Eoin Colfer||A-|
|63||The God Delusion||Richard Dawkins||A-|
|64||Artemis Fowl 3: The Eternity Code||Eoin Colfer||B|
|65||Artemis Fowl 4: The Opal Deception||Eoin Colfer||B+|
|66||Artemis Fowl 5: The Lost Colony||Eoin Colfer||A|
|67||The Rogue||Joe McGinniss||A+|
|68||Artemis Fowl 6: The Time Paradox||Eoin Colfer||B-|
|69||The Humanist Approach to Happiness||Jen Hancock||D|
|70||God, No!||Penn Jillette||A-|
|71||Percy Jackson 1: The Lightning Thief||Rick Riordan||A|
|72||Percy Jackson 2: Sea of Monsters||Rick Riordan||B|
|73||Percy Jackson 3: Titan’s Curse||Rick Riordan||A|
|74||Percy Jackson 4: Battle of the Labyrinth||Rick Riordan||A-|
|75||Percy Jackson 5: The Last Olympian||Rick Riordan||B|
|76||Heroes of Olympus 1: The Lost Hero||Rick Riordan||A-|
|77||I Shall Wear Midnight||Terry Pratchett||A+|
|79||Bromeliad 1: Truckers||Terry Pratchett||B+|
|80||Bromeliad 2: Diggers||Terry Pratchett||B+|
|81||Bromeliad 3: Wings||Terry Pratchett||B+|
|82||Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture||Susan Murray and Lauren Ouellete||A-|
|83||Heroes of Olympus 2: Son of Neptune||Rick Riordan||B+|
|84||Carpet People||Terry Pratchett||B|
|85||The Blind Watchmaker||Richard Dawkins||A-|
|86||Bad Science||Ben Goldacre||A|
|88||The Witches||Roald Dahl||A|
|89||The Twits||Roald Dahl||B+|
|90||Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||Roald Dahl||A-|
|91||Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator||Roald Dahl||B|
|92||The Fantastic Mr. Fox||Roald Dahl||B|
|93||Freak Show||James St. James||A+|
|94||Aunts Are Not Gentlemen||PG Wodehouse||A|
|95||Flatland||Edwin A Abbott||B|
|96||Charlotte’s Web||EB White||A|
|97||Fleetwood Mac: The Definitive History||Mike Evans||A|
|98||Happy Accidents||Jane Lynch||B+|
|99||Jeeves in the Offing||PG Wodehouse||A|
|100||Thank You, Jeeves||PG Wodehouse||A|
Jen Hancock’s The Humanist Approach to Happiness D
Emma – Jane Austen
Griftopia – Matt Taibbi
Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
The Rogue – Joe McGinniss
I Shall Wear Midnight – Terry Pratchett
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Freak Show – James St. James
66. Artemis Fowl 5: The Lost Colony – Eoin Colfer
I loved this one — there’s a new character called N°1 who I like even more than Artemis. N°1 is a demon. Imagine a world ruled by Tim Curry in Legend and then imagine a really dorky, kinda sweet misfit teenage demon who just can’t seem to hit puberty. There are parallel stories of Artemis learning how to time travel and N°1 escaping the demon realm, discovering that he’s a warlock, and trying not to get killed. But it’s really less about the story and more about how adorable N°1 is. A
67. The Rogue – Joe McGinniss
You really have to admire McGinniss, I have no idea how he survived the research and release of this book. Palin released her rabid legions on the poor guy because he rented one of the only available houses in Wasilla when researching this book. And that house happened to be right next door to Palin, and somehow living next door to someone you’re researching makes you a stalker. Palin is a childish bully, a middle school mean girl, and McGinniss shows that clearly and calmly. The best part of the book has little to do with Palin herself, however. McGinniss knows Alaska in an intuitive way, I feel like I’ve lived there now. You really get a sense of what living in Wasilla is like, and it’s both not as bad as you think it would be and very depressing. A+
For surviving the onslaught of Palin hate, McGinniss really deserves:
68. Artemis Fowl 6: The Time Paradox – Eoin Colfer
This may be my least favorite of the series so far. I’m not a big fan of time travel stories, especially when the story becomes about how it all makes sense because things couldn’t have happened the way they did if people hadn’t gone back in time. I mean, it’s fine, but I just don’t particularly dig on it. The best part of the book was seeing older Artemis, who is a better person now, interacting with young Artemis, who is a bit of a sociopath. B-
69. The Humanist Approach to Happiness – Jen Hancock
I did a very long review of this earlier, but the summation of it is that I disagree strongly with her perspective on sex and relationships. To quote myself:
But when she says things like women who hate their dads transfer that hate to all men; and people who dated can’t really be friends and shouldn’t contact one another for at least a year; and, no matter what they say, women who say they’re OK with a solely sexual relationship are really just looking for an emotional relationship, whether they know it or not; and people who watch porn lose sense of reality and it’s a catalyst for bizarre violent activity and it’s addictive… when she says things like that, it is all I can do not to punch the screen.
There’s some good stuff in the book about embracing who you are and being a dork, but I really can’t say I recommend it. There’s just something so gallingly sexist about her belief that women can’t have sex for its own sake or that a woman’s relationship with a man is based on her relationship with her father that the rest of the book just loses any worth for me. D
70. God, No! – Penn Jillette
This book is basically a collection of personal stories loosely connected to the idea of a different, more humanist ten commandments. Most of the stories are funny, but a few are really touching, particularly when he’s talking about his family. I think the anecdote that most stuck with me was when he was talking with his friend and his sister about the Unabomber being turned in by his brother. They were discussing what it would take for you to turn in your sibling and his sister said she wouldn’t do it, not ever, no matter what Penn had done, even if he was going to destroy the entire planet, she trusted Penn. The book, in the end, isn’t really a book about atheism so much as it is a book about Penn’s life and personal beliefs and how they impacted him. Go into it looking for stories about Penn Jillette, and you’ll enjoy it, but don’t go in expected anything like a Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens book. A-
61. Internet, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys – Don Dillman
I had to read this for grad school. If you have a major need to understand the intricacies of how to create a survey, this is the book for you. Actually, it was fairly readable and not nearly as dry as one might expect such a book to be. There was no unnecessarily obtuse language, which has so far been quite rare in PhD World. A
62. Artemis Fowl 2: The Arctic Incident – Eoin Colfer
Like Harry Potter, the first book of this series is brilliant and the following books are slightly less transcendent, but still quite good. The difficulty of these books is that Artemis’ defining characteristic is that he’s a schemer, a not very nice guy, a baby Hans Gruber. And unlike Harry Potter, he is exceptional. So you have the double problem of how do you maintain an interest in a character who is constantly become more good and how do you keep his genius believable but still have obstacles. This book manages pretty well, but it also gets rid of so much character motivation and conflict at the end that you sense the series has to change drastically for it to work. A-
63. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
I enjoyed this book, but I can’t help but compare it to God is Not Great by Hitchens, and this is just not nearly as brilliant as that. It should be said that the two books have different primary arguments; The God Delusion is primarily about why belief in God is incorrect while God is Not Great is primarily about why belief in God is harmful. It’s a very good book, there was just nothing in it that I didn’t already know and Dawkins really reaches his heights when talking about science, not philosophy. A-
64. Artemis Fowl 3: The Eternity Code – Eoin Colfer
This book opens strongly but weakens as it goes. Colfer is good at having many wildly divergent stories come together perfectly for the end, something like Ocean’s 11. But part of that trick is withholding information to prevent the reader from being able to fully guess what is going on — unlike a mystery, where it’s possible to reach the conclusion on your own, it’s very action-adventure in making sure the end is a reveal. Sometimes that feels forced, and I felt like it did in this book especially. It’s difficult to write very smart characters who seem omniscient and then not have them explain how they’re two steps ahead of everyone. It’s lazy writing. B
65. Artemis fowl 4: The Opal Deception – Eoin Colfer
Artemis loses his memories at the end of the previous book which allows Colfer to make him more of a bad guy again, rather than a reluctant hero. It’s fun to watch him transform back into Hans Gruber, but the tone of this book is very different from the original. The series becomes less about outsmarting and unraveling and more about just action-adventure, relationships, and Artemis’ inner-life. B+
(The amazing photo is from this: http://digitaljournal.com/article/267416)
(x-posted from SheThought)
Jen Hancock was kind enough to reach out to the SheThought writers and offered me a chance to read and review her book, The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom. The book is aimed at teens and young adults as a way to teach ethics, critical thinking skills and decision-making to young people. If you’re more interested in the book than anything I have to say, just scroll to the end and there’s more information on the special deal she’s offering SheThought readers.
This is perfect for me because, as someone who automatically hates everything and thinks grown-ups are stupid, I am exactly the right audience for a book aimed at teenagers.
So I suppose that’s a good place to start. I didn’t totally hate it, but I didn’t love it either. Some parts of it were really good, and some parts really rankled. It is written in an easy to understand way with plenty of examples and metaphors that are appropriate to a younger readership. The writer clearly has a very keen memory of her teenage days and isn’t afraid to mine them for engaging examples.
One of my bigger problems with the book came from formatting choices. There seemed to be some errors with the margins, which is fairly minor, but the author also made the decision to pepper the book with quotations from famous speakers. Now, I’m not against quotations, but giant quotations in between connected paragraphs makes me feel a little bit off kilter. When the quotes intrude, I feel the need either to read the quote and then re-figure out what I was reading or to skip the quote entirely.
There’s a lot of great stuff, however, on what makes people “good” people, and what makes people not so good. Her three required traits are compassion, ethics, and responsibility, and these seem pretty accurate to me. She’s also happy to list bad people as well, people who generally don’t follow those three guidelines. She’s neither pro or anti-religion, at least not explicitly, and simply says that people can be good or bad regardless of faith and the only real caveat she gives in the book is that if you or someone you know is grieving, don’t assume your faith is the way they want to deal with grief. And be skeptical about supernatural claims, because that stuff is ridiculous and can get you killed!
My favorite part is where she insists that everyone is a dork. Because we all are dorks, and the sooner we embrace it, the sooner we can move beyond lame attempts at being cool. She also thinks we should be more eager to engage in lifelong learning and learning from our elders. Amen to that. We are all dorks who should hang out with old dorks.
And then she starts wandering a bit away from things I agree with into territory I feel a little confused about. She insists that people should aim for simplicity generally, including in their diet. Now, I’m all for simple tastes and simple lifestyles, but I am always skeptical about diet claims of any kind. Insisting on food simplicity strikes me as faddish and there are no references that make it seem like she’s making scientific claims, just personal ones. Why is a drink with chemicals worse than a drink with no chemicals? Am I really to believe that natural means healthy? I mean, arsenic is natural.
And she goes on to really discourage people from indulging in “sinful” pleasures (her quotes). Now, I appreciate that a book aimed at a young audience isn’t going to say go try drugs and sex and rock and roll because they’re interesting and part of the human experience… except that’s exactly what I think it should say. This is clearly just a difference of opinion between the author and myself, but I feel a little confused as to how her view is the only one justified by humanism, though perhaps it isn’t trying to claim to be the only point-of-view.
And then there’s sex. The author and I are clearly coming from totally different worlds on this one. Her advice to play the field while dating and wait for sex are things that I don’t personally find compelling, but I don’t think it’s necessarily bad advice. But when she says things like women who hate their dads transfer that hate to all men; and people who dated can’t really be friends and shouldn’t contact one another for at least a year; and, no matter what they say, women who say they’re OK with a solely sexual relationship are really just looking for an emotional relationship, whether they know it or not; and people who watch porn lose sense of reality and it’s a catalyst for bizarre violent activity and it’s addictive… when she says things like that, it is all I can do not to punch the screen. Where are the citations? Why on earth does she think this stuff?
The book ends, however, on a high note, in a sense, about grieving. This is the best part of the book and speaks from personal experience and love. I’ve never seen much literature on the humanist perspective on grief, and this handles it gracefully.
So, there are good and bad bits and, if you rip out the section on relationships and sex, I think the book is a great read for young adults. I think few adult readers would find it challenging, but there are still some enlightening moments to it.
More information from the author:
Even though the book is explicitly Humanist, I’m finding that moms of different stripes and interestingly enough, religious folk who work with teens, are interested in the book. My book is currently in the curricula for the Royal Military College of Canada to teach cadets critical thinking and decision-making skills. It’s also going to be in the new curricula for the UUA for youth education in the areas of critical thinking and character development. Oh, and it’s enjoying its third month atop the Kindle best seller lists for Parenting/Morals&Responsibility and Parenting/Teens.
For a copy of the book go to: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22621 20% off both the ebook and the paperback formats, Coupon code: UT36F – Price will be $4.80 instead of $6.00 – this coupon expires Oct 1st 2012.
For the paperback go to: https://www.createspace.com/3463716 and use the discount code: 2SV7A43M 20% off the list of $12.98 – so the price will be $10.38
The book is also available at whatever online book retailer you might prefer to use.
PS – I’ve also got a new little e-book out – Jen Hancock’s Handy Humanism Handbook – I’m giving that away free to people who sign up for my email list and the Humanist of Florida Association are giving it away free to anyone who donates to them or becomes a member.
56. Dragon Spear – Jessica Day George
This is the final book in this series. The story follows the discovery of a land where dragon’s have enslaved humans and Creel leads the “good” dragons to rescue the humans and reform the “bad” dragons. This book was just as entertaining as the earlier ones but lacked a little bit of the funness. B
57. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
I have never actually read a Dawkins book all the way through until now. Crazy, I know. I always found his prose less engaging than Hitchens’, but it turns out the reason I wasn’t drawn towards it was because I was reading the wrong thing. When Dawkins talks about evolution he is absolutely fascinating. Much of the science in the book seems intuitive to me, probably because I was raised in a world where the science was well established, but there were many interesting examples and Dawkins does a great job of making relatively dry concepts fun and interesting. A
58. The Ancestors Tale – Richard Dawkins
So, I went on a Dawkins thing and thought I’d follow up the previous book with another of his. I think this is a book that shows how creative someone can be in the sciences without seeming totally pretentious. There were a few times that it was a bit much, really anything written first-person from a living thing, but otherwise it was really compelling. I can see why The Selfish Gene is considered his classic work, but this is very good as well. It’s really kind of mind-blowing to spend the book thinking that, in a not insignificant way, I’m related to sponges and mushrooms and moss and jellyfish. A
59. Toward a Rhetoric of Insult – Thomas Conley
I read this book primarily in preparation for my speech at Dragon*Con. It is about the history and rhetorical uses of insults. It’s actually quite good and I incorporated a decent amount of it into my speech, much more than I expected to be able to. Some of the most interesting things he pointed out were the ways insults were important to cultures and to how people interacted. I really recommend this book if you’re at all interested in the tone debate or if you’d like to read a few good HL Mencken quotes. A
60. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
OMG. This is like my new Harry Potter. The author describes it as “Die Hard with fairies” and that is totally what it is, except the main character is the 13 year old version of Hans Gruber. Yes, in my mind, Artemis is a tiny Alan Rickman. It’s BRILLIANT. I am so sad that I only have discovered it now. But it’s OK, because it’s good to know that there’s always something new to discover. A+
51. The Rise and Fall of the Bible – Timothy K. Beal
I didn’t enjoy this book. I only finished reading it because it was short and I’m trying to read a lot of books, otherwise I just would have stopped. It’s subtitle is “the unexpected history of an accidental book”. That sounded pretty intriguing. I thought it would be a lot more like a Bart Ehrman book, and it was not that scholarly and was pretty milquetoast on putting out opinions. Beal is a Christian despite thinking that Biblical literalism is silly, and he spends too much of the book reminding you that he is NOT an atheist.
It feels really unfocused, and what I was expecting (a concise history of the Bible) was really more a sort of meandering story that occasionally focused on moments in time, and occasionally on metaphors about grapefruit trees, and occasionally on how to make paper. Learning about the current bible business was interesting, but it felt all over the map. I think it would have been better if it was at all chronological. C+
52. The Stepsister Scheme – Jim C. Hines
In a bold move, I decided to read something by Hines that wasn’t a goblin book. It’s a weird premise — the heroines of fairy tales, after their tales have taken place, team up in the face of adversity. There have been lots of comparisons to Charlie’s Angels, though I would argue it’s slightly deeper than that. Hines’ humor is there, but it is not nearly as bouyant as in the first Jig book. I enjoyed it, his books are very easy to picture, very visual without being overly descriptive. And his characters have quirks that are not actually endearing, which I love, most authors won’t have characters that are not all that likable. B+
53. Breaking their Will – Janet Heimlich
This is a book about religious child abuse, and it’s very well-written. I hesitate to say it’s an easy read, because it’s very disturbing, but it was a quick read nonetheless. Religious (or cult, if you prefer) child abuse is particularly scary to me because it happens on the part of parents who are convinced that they are doing the best for their children. These people think, I cannot treat my child’s cancer, that would be against my religion; I must beat the devil out of my child, even if it kills them; I must have sex with this underage girl (Warren Jeffs)/I must let my underage children have sex with this priest; I must not complain to legal authorities about child rape; I must not go to the authorities about abuse within my closed community. It is disturbing and I agree very much with her premise that children have rights that aren’t enumerated or particularly respected by adults — you see this particularly in the public school system. Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone concerned with the way religions treat children. A
54. Them, Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson
I don’t find conspiracy theories that interesting, so I started reading this book with a little reluctance. But it ended up being fascinating to see him fall down this rabbit hole of conspiracy, to the point that he became a little paranoid. What I found interesting was that most Christian, Domestic, Muslim, and International Terrorism has its roots in the same basic Conspiracy Theory mindset. Namely that the Western World has a small group of capitalists (this often means Jews) who are trying to control the world. Of course, the world is controlled by capitalists, just not very well.
What I found most disturbing was the story of Ruby Ridge, something I’d never heard of, that happened right before Waco. Basically, the FBI murdered a little boy (who was armed) and an unarmed woman who was holding a baby because they were kooks who lived in the woods and maybe were associated with white supremacists. Like the attack on Waco, it was just not the way to go about solving the problem they thought they had. It’s sort of mind-boggling.
And I learned about the Bilderberg group and this ritual that they do in Bohemian Grove every year, which convinces me more than ever that the political elite are a bunch of immature frat boys obsessed with being cool. So embarassing to be a human sometimes. A
55. Rabbit-Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington
I saw the movie version of this sometime earlier this year — Kenneth Branagh plays the bad guy, so that always is interesting because I have an irrational extreme dislike of Kenneth Branagh that makes him a very effective person if I’m supposed to hate him. (See: Gilderoy Lockhart)
The story is the true story of three half-caste girls in Australia who were basically abducted from their aborigine families to be put in “schools” to be educated on how to be servants. The school was basically not much better than a prison. It reminds me of the school in Jane Eyre. The eldest girl immediately decides that they are going home, and they walk through the wilderness for 1500 miles, eventually finding the rabbit-proof fence which runs the entire height of Western Australia and following it to their home. It’s amazing because it’s so horrifically racist and the girls are so resourceful. A
41. Dragon Slippers – Jessica Day George
Having read her version of 12 Dancing Princesses and liked it, I thought I’d find some of her other work. This is her first novel, and it is quite different than the Princesses, in a good way. It reminds me very much of Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons series, but is slightly less flip. I enjoyed it. A
42. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
I had read this a long, long time ago, probably when I was 15 or so. I love Douglas Adams. It was interesting to go back and read this after having read all of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s work. It’s amazing how much they remind me of one another. It also reminds me of Dr. Who/Torchwood, now that I’ve seen a bit of that. I love it all. A
43. Goblin Hero – Jim C. Hines
I actually had to buy this book because the library only has the first and last in the series. This one was not as good as the first one, but I admire the fact that Hines added new characters and didn’t continue to focus solely on Jig. The thing is that when you write a book that has a complete character arc, it’s very difficult to follow it up with another book about the same character and also have a complete character arc. He cleverly kept the same character, but added someone else to support the arc thing. I didn’t like it as much as Goblin Tales (see 46), but it was good. B
44. Dragon Flight – Jessica Day George
This is the sequel to Dragon Slippers and it was quite good. I’m not sure if she wrote the first one with the intention of following it up, but it is a very natural continuation of the story, I thought she handled it quite well. The dragon characters are surprisingly complex, as are the intercontinental politics. B
45. The Pluto Files – NdGT
I am in love with Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is so hysterically funny and bombastic and snarky. But he killed Pluto, and that was so sad. But today they discovered a fourth moon for Pluto, so maybe Pluto’s going to be OK. This just tells the story of the downfall of Pluto, it’s very good. A-
I have just finished book 41, which puts me a bit ahead of the game for the year. Which is good since TAM will be a non-reading sort of a place. Though the flights will be good reading time.
36. The Tudors – GJ Meyer
This is a history of the entirety of the Tudors, which in reality isn’t that big — just over 100 years. Henry 7, 8, Edward 6, Mary, and Elizabeth. Unfortunately, despite claiming to be a history of all the Tudors, it was probably 3/4ths devoted to Henry VIII. There was almost nothing about Henry VII, and not nearly enough on Edward, Mary, or Elizabeth. I appreciate that there’s a lot written about all of them elsewhere, but the comprehensive claim the book makes is absurd. It should have been called Henry VIII and Family.
One thing I really liked about the book was that between each chapter about the Tudors, there was a chapter giving background on general life in England or Europe at the time. It was very helpful. I also liked the fact that, unlike most writers, Meyer had a fairly negative view of the Tudors — a very interesting shift in perspective.
37. Princess of the Midnight Ball – Jessica Day George
I have two favorite fairy tales: Donkey Skin and The Twelve Dancing Princesses. This is based on the latter. The book is fairly similar to the original telling, just much expanded. I enjoyed George’s writing style, and I particularly liked how much she weaved knitting into the story. Seriously, the book has knitting patterns in the back for the knitting that took place within the story. Goofy? Yes. Awesome? Probably.
38. The Family – Jeff Sharlet
I have been reading this for like 4 months. It is a slog, and incredibly depressing. Not bad, mind you, just dense. The book follows three basic stories: the rise of fundamentalism, the power the family has in American and World Politics, and the importance of political power to Christianity. I particularly enjoyed the parts about Ted Haggard, who was an even bigger player behind the scenes than I had realized, and Hillary Clinton, who I am horrified to know actually has worked with the Family on numerous occasions. As Sharlet says, in the US there is only one party, they just are smart enough to pretend like people have choices. The information is important, but not terribly well-organized, and it can be difficult to read at times. It seems to flop back and forth between third and first person too much.
39. The Invisible Gorilla – Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
Non-fiction usually takes me a long time to get through. I guess because there’s no plot, or maybe because writers don’t think they have to be entertaining or provide forward motion for a book that’s mostly about facts. This book was the first non-fiction book I’ve read in a while that was easy to get through. It’s a fascinating exploration of how terrible our minds are at a lot of different things. We’re bad at noticing unexpected things we aren’t paying attention to, we’re bad at remembering things accurately, we’re bad at differentiating between confidence and skill — our intuition about our brains is usually wrong.
They talk about film editing and continuity, which I found very interesting because we know we can get away with a lot. When you’re editing, particularly non-scripted, you use a lot of stuff that has horrible continuity errors. Have people talking to each other when they’re not even in the same room, cut to a different day and pretend it’s the same one because the shirts look close enough, cut from the exterior of one car to the interior of a different car. We do some blatant crap in the editing room, and it’s almost always missed.
Another interesting thing about this book is that, during this whole Elevatorgate thing, Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear has come up a few times. I was required to read the book for a self-defense class I took in college. It was, I thought, fairly useful — though depressing, since it was basically aimed at women because women need to be vigilant at all times. It is truly a gripping book, but it talks a lot about relying on intuition, which is sort of funny next to a book that says how wrong our intuitions are. I suppose when in a situation where you feel threatened, it’s better to get out of it than to try to clinically dissect whether you’re being reasonable or not.
Not that The Invisible Gorilla really addresses anything like that, it’s just fairly anti-intuition. Anyway, the book was a fantastic read, and I recommend it highly. Particularly to anyone who thinks they’ve got an accurate memory.
40. Goblin Quest – Jim C Hines
This book is like reading a Dungeons & Dragons game play out, except it doesn’t suck. I know, that’s very confusing to you, it was confusing for me too. Basically, in a sort of Pratchett-esque way, it tells a very good adventure quest story while making fun of all of the conventions of adventure quest stories. Sort of meta like that. It was very entertaining, easy to read, and my only real disappointment with it was the ending, which I felt was abrupt and unnecessarily got rid of interesting characters. The interesting characters only matters because there are sequels. I did like that the end sort of emphasized how miserable it is to return to your small life after living a larger than life adventure. It’s difficult to grow and change and have everyone you know stay the same. I’m upset that my library has only the first and last in the series. I’m going to have to buy the middle one.
31. Bossy Pants – Tina Fey
I like Tina Fey, she’s funny, but her humor often feels very shallow to me. I really loved Mean Girls, but I don’t really like 30 Rock very much. The characters don’t seem to have any real emotional touchstones, which makes it difficult to care about the show. It’s a problem I often have with Community, except Community does a better job at having emotional depth than 30 Rock. Which says a lot about 30 Rock. Well, this book has the same problem. It’s funny, at times incredibly so, but it feels so surface level that it’s hard to feel like you’ve done anything with your time when you’ve finished. I wanted to know more about her, her life, her struggles with making it in an industry that doesn’t like women very much, her experiences on SNL and Mean Girls. There wasn’t much of any of that. I can’t see myself rereading it, so I’m going to have to take advantage of that whole sell it back to the airport thing when I go to TAM next month. Which is fine, I just was disappointed. B
32. Doubt – Jennifer Michael Hecht
This book is like forever long, jeez JMH. I think it has single-handedly put me behind on my book goal. More than anything it introduced me to people I hadn’t known about and want to learn more about. Some day, when I have free time or am back to being ahead of book reading schedule, I will want to sit down with it again and take notes on who I want to read more about on Wikipedia. There’s so much here that I feel like I haven’t retained all that much of what I read. It is not a light read, it’s trying to balance depth with breadth, it’s a survey course that would take two semesters to do justice. There are so many characters and philosophies and stories and time periods that it’s difficult to keep it all straight if the figures are all new to you. It is a scholarly work, in other words, it takes effort to get through. A-
33. The Next Ancient World – Jennifer Michael Hecht
To make up for all the time Doubt had eaten up, I decided to read JMH’s poetry book. Mostly because she’d given it to me, and I’d been at a crazy awesome party in at the SCA Summit where she read quite a few of the poems in there. Poetry is difficult to analyze or to review, if you’re not into poetry it’s hard to share any enthusiasm for the subject. I will say this, it is as though TS Eliot was interested only in mythology and sex and had way more of a sense of humor and less need to pretentiously add footnotes to everything. My favorite poem from the book:
Even Eve, the only soul in all of time
to never have to wait for love,
must have leaned some sleepless nights
alone against the garden wall
and wailed, cold, stupefied, and wild
and wished to trade-in all of Eden
to have but been a child.
In fact, I gather that is why she leapt and fell from grace,
that she might have a story of herself to tell
in some other place.
34. Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality – Jack Rogers
I like to be able to effectively argue my points with the religious, to quote scripture back at them and so on, so when I saw this book I thought it could be useful for defending LGBT rights within the Christian community. I don’t know how well it can do that. Perhaps among moderates, but anyone who still thinks that women are to be submissive to their men, which is a great deal of conservatives, will probably have a hard time with the idea. The point of the book is essentially that the bible can be used to justify any number of things that most Christians now think of us reprehensible: Slavery, subjugation of women, racism, and polygamy. There are passages in the Bible that support all of that, some of it much more direct (in the original language) than any condemnation of the homosexuality. The modern idea of loving, exclusive homosexual relationships isn’t mentioned at all in the Bible in the same way that Penicillin, Stem Cell Research, and In Vitro Fertilization isn’t mentioned — it didn’t exist.
Rogers argues that the way the church evolved on the other issues was to take everything back to the philosophy of Jesus, and if something written in the Bible somewhere didn’t jive with what Jesus said, then it was not as good as Jesus’ words. If Jesus’ commandment is to love God and your neighbor and gay people can be good, honorable people, then there’s no reason not to give them equal access to the church and to marriage rights. But then, if people just used the bible to justify love, forgiveness, and kindness, there wouldn’t be a Religious Right, so we can see how much I’m holding out hope for that set of circumstances. I just doubt that the arguments in this book could be very effective. B-
35. Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin – Frank Bailey
What a fascinating book this was. I have a macabre obsession with Ms. Palin, like so many of the people in the US. She is a polarizing figure, though less and less so as more and more people realize she’s totally nuts. The book was interesting because I learned that it’s not that she’s incredibly stupid, it’s that she’s lazy and a habitual liar. She cannot tell the truth, she just instinctively lies. For example, the question about what newspapers she read could have easily been answered with “I read a collection of news stories gathered for me every morning, primarily from Alaskan outlets.” Instead, she didn’t want to sound like a rural, ignorant governor so she tried to stall and think of a national publication that she could read that wouldn’t make her sound elitist. The New York Times wouldn’t be an option, and she couldn’t think of The Wall Street Journal off the top of her head. B+
I tried to read The Good Book: A Humanist Bible by AC Grayling, and I just couldn’t get through it. The Bibley formatting and the lack of attribution and the flowery language… I was just too bored and it was too difficult to read through the formatting. I wanted to like it, because theoretically it sounded interesting, but I just hated it.