Feeling like a reading fraud this year. If Lance can come clean I guess we all should.
Not reading that much, and what I do read, I just can’t make myself blog about it. My other problem, I like other people’s reviews much better than my own. For instance, I read James Blaylock’s Homunculus. It’s a tough book to jump into, many claim it as the beginning of steampunk. By page 80, I’m really getting into the story, so I search out reviews to see if I’m on the right track.
Great review already out there, IMHO. Stainless Steel Droppings. Plus, GoodReads reviews. This is what I find with everything I read. Faster readers, better reviews, and I just want to read other peoples reviews and get back to reading.
Handily, my friend and colleague and fellow blogger can take over the reins of Okie Reads. After all, he’s an okie and he reads, perfect qualifications.
So without further adieu, I’m taking a back seat, may jump in occasionally but for the most part it’s Young Bill Young’s OkieReads.
Check out what’s going on at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum on Tuesday night. Very inexpensive entertainment. Come one, come ALL!
Straight from the National Book Awards fabulous ceremony at the opulent Cipriani Wall Street where the literati met in what looked more like the Oscars than a book club, we are privy to the 2012 National Book Award winners. Congratulations to everyone. Always a treat when books are celebrated.
Just read in the GalleyCat, that the National Book Awards are Tonight!
The late Anthony Shadid, Oklahoma City born writer and journalist, is a non-fiction finalist for House of Stone. Hope he will receive the award. Morning Media Menu podcast is supposed to announce the winners in the morning. An alternative to the rather high-brow offerings of the National Book folks would be the Goodreads Choice Awards. The categories alone are enough to draw you in.
Been off from work for six weeks with the Total Knee Replacement adventure. A few suggestions if you are going to have this done. Don’t read or knit for the first 3 weeks. Awful daytime TV works because you drift in and out of consciousness. First, you’ll find you’re reading the same page over and over again, second I took out four rows of knitting about nine times before I realized those brain cells weren’t working.
Once the reading cells start up again Poisoned Pen Press mysteries are the perfect antidote to boredom.
First I read Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman. It’s a J. D. Books Mystery. Couple goes missing. Territorial issues have the local Sheriff Charley Sutter turning to Bureau of Land Management Ranger J.D. Books for help. Skeleton Picnic is the euphemism for Native American artifact and pot hunting trips, clearly illegal. Evidence shows the couple have not left by their own means. Further investigation, with his new young deputy, Beth Tanner, reveal these are not the only people going missing in the Four Corners region. Family conflicts create tension for Books and lead to more questions than answers. This book provides a good mix of interesting characters, with a strong Southwest setting. Ethical considerations bump against local traditions of collecting artifacts. Ending will not disappoint.
Looks like I missed the first in the series, On Deadly Ground, will have to go and pick it up.
Another from the Poison Pen fare, is Kerry Greenwood’s Cooking the Books: A Corinna Chapman Mystery. Good news for all you Phryne Fisher fans, now you have a new woman sleuth to follow. Corinna is a great baker, has a yummy boyfriend, and gets drawn into film set antics that lead to murder. She’s working for her caterer friend as a baker on the set of a new soap opera, called “Kiss the Bride”. The lead actress is like the tiger that erupts on the set. There is a sub-plot going with her private detective boyfriend investigating missing bearer bonds last held by a mistreated corporate employee. Setting is Melbourne, Australia, you can almost smell Corinna’s baking as she solves crimes in this 6th in the series.
Poisoned Pen Press offers a variety of Kerry Greenwood mysteries, stop by and store up.
And even though I’m a big fan of Poisoned Pen, I picked up a mystery I just didn’t like. Clea Simon’s Cats Can’t Shoot: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir. Pru is an animal behavioralist and pet psychic. Did the white Persian really kill her owner by stepping on the dueling pistol? Pru tries to get the kitty to trust her and reveal the truth. I liked the plot, Pru’s interactions with ex-boyfriends, and the disagreeable wife, but all the animal dialogue just got in my way. I have four dogs and a cat and can’t imagine those conversations going on in their heads, and my cat is as verbal as it gets. While this is an interesting twist on the mystery tale, its just not one for me.
Now that you’ve read about horrible things. (Eck) Turn your attention to Lawrence Public Library’s chart on what to read after the Hunger Games. Very clever. I feel so old because I’ve read all the Classics listed.
Well, I guess horrible things aren’t too far removed from the Dystopian novel. Taking a turn down this road leads to GoodReads analysis of distopian books. They also have a chart with a handy key for reader tastes. The Goodreads blog should be your next stop while you’re there.
Matthew White’s The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Attrocities needs to win some kind of award. It bravely goes where other history books fear to tread, and it may be the best book I will read this year. I have had my head in it off and on for the past three months, and I have been constantly amazed at how deftly the author has pulled off this gargantuan task.
Instead of just telling history via the traditional route—the rise and fall of nations and empires, the victors of battles, the ideological struggles, and the court intrigues of kings and queens—White also keeps his eye on the millions upon millions of people who have lost their lives due to human violence and indifference.
Author Steven Pinker writes in his Foreword to the book:
[White's] scorn is directed at the stupidity and callousness of history’s great leaders, at the statistical innumeracy and historical ignorance of various ideologues and propagandists, and at the indifference of traditional history to the magnitude of human suffering behind momentous events.”
If ever there was a book to appeal to the better angels of our nature, this is it.
White, a librarian in Virginia by day, is a self-described atrocitologist. Until the publication of this book, he has been best known as the creator of the online Historical Atlas of the Twentieth Century. Data from this web resource has been cited by 377 published books and 183 scholarly articles according to the book jacket. (Insert Ask a Librarian commercial here.)
White loves statistics, and he knows the numbers people want to argue about the most are death tolls. He also knows that people will argue over his death toll estimates in this book. The important thing is, he didn’t let this stop him from producing this important work.
White covers the 100 deadliest multicides beginning with the Second Persian War (480-479 BC, death toll: 300,000) to the Second Congo War (1998-2002, death toll: 3.8 million). For each entry, he gives us good historical background, lists the type of multicide involved (i.e. civil war, failed state, ethnic cleansing, religious conflict, etc.), names the major players and any secondary participants, and tells us who usually gets the most blame.
Following the individual entries, White provides an analysis, gives us a look at the raw numbers, discusses runner-up and disqualified events, and provides a note on perspective: future historians, he writes, may view 20th century events—from the First World War to the deaths of Hitler, Stalin and Mao—as “a single massive upheaval…which took the lives of some 150 million people.”
Real students of history may disagree, but for this dabbler in history, there were dozens of fascinating revelations. I’ll just share a few:
• I would have assumed that Europe would have been the site of the most destructive war related to Christian ideology. I would be wrong. It happened in China (Taiping Rebellion, 1850-64, death toll: 20 million), when Christian-convert Hong Xiuquan came to believe he was the new Son of God, the younger brother of Jesus.
• If you think the Twentieth Century was the deadliest in history, you’re right. Some of the very worst atrocities take place in that century: Second World War, death toll: 66 million; Mao Zedong’s rein, death toll: 40 million; Joseph Stalin’s rein, death toll: 20 million; First World War, death toll: 15 million; Russian Civil War, death toll: 9 million; Chinese Civil War, death toll: 7 million. Plus, two multicides stretched into the Twentieth Century: Famines in British India (18th-20th centuries, death toll: 27 million) and Congo Free State (1885-1908, death toll: 10 million).
• I was surprised to see those Famines in British India ranked as the fourth worst atrocity in history. Typically, we think famines are caused by nature, the departure of the rains. But White shows how famines are often caused by human conflict or greed. In this particular case, the famines in India were caused by commercial exploitation, and an inept and uncaring Britain that worried more about profit.
• War kills more civilians than soldiers. Turns out, “the army is usually the safest place to be during a war.”
• Some of the entries you would expect to find under their own big headings are part of larger narratives. For example, the Holocaust toll is part of the Second World War toll. Likewise, the Trail of Tears is part of a larger entry: The Conquest of the Americas after 1492, death toll: 15 million.
I could go on and on, but you need to experience this book for yourself. Every library needs a copy. Everyone who cares about the future of our world needs to give it a look.
Oh, and the next time you hear someone advocating a little revisionist history—you know, like the Holocaust didn’t happen, or the Atlantic Slave Trade (1452-1807; death toll: 16 million) should just be called the Trans-Atlantic Trade, do me a favor: throw this book at them. It’s big and heavy and should knock some sense into them.
Hey! Got a library card? Then you can flash it and get free admission to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Nature History this Saturday, June 30. What a great way to start the Summer!
If you haven’t explored this state treasure on the University of Oklahoma’s Norman campus, now’s the time to do it. A visit would make a most perfect day trip for you and your family. Take a gander below at what you can discover, and explore more at the museum’s website.
On, and this is also your Library YouTube Break!
I remember a friend telling me years ago that romantic love was an illusion. Of course, it also has a lot to do with our biology. Musician Joni Mitchell has called romance a “trick of nature, fueled by anxiety and insecurity… to get us to procreate.” In order for romantic love to be successful, both parties must be under the influence of this biological trick; or as my friend would put it, both people have to buy into the illusion.
All of that sounds pretty darn cynical. After all, romantic love is powerful stuff—so powerful that the creative among us often devote their artistic lives to consider it, analyze it, and dissect it in paintings, sculpture, song, plays and film. And in books.
I finished Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84 six weeks ago. I’ve been reading like a house on fire, but I just haven’t set aside time to blog about my recent reads. The space between finishing Murakami’s latest and this blog post has given me a chance to consider just what this book says to me, and I think I can put it into words now.
1Q84 is about the magical, mystical and illusory journey that romantic love inspires, and about the biological, sexual, and emotional journey that nature demands. It’s also about the danger of falling in love, whether because we put ourselves in an overwhelmingly vulnerable position, or because the path to our loved one is fraught with antagonistic obstacles and trap doors. So powerful is this love, we can put our very life on the line to achieve both the ecstasy and the contentment promised by the union with our loved one.
It’s a Barnum and Baily world, just as phony as it can be, but it wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me.”—It’s Only a Paper Moon by Billy Rose and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg
Our protagonists, Aomame and Tengo, could not seem more different when the novel begins. She is the product of parents who practice an unforgiving fundamentalist religion, while Tengo is the son of an obsessively insistent television-fee collector. In the present (1984 Japan), Aomame is a physical fitness trainer and self-defense instructor who sidelines as a serial killer, offing men who have cruelly presided over the destruction of the women in their lives. Tengo is a math instructor and aspiring writer.
Through their memories of growing up, we discover that both have little if any love from their family. We also discover that they knew of each other as children, and that they shared a magical moment of connection when they were ten years old. The memory of this connection eventually propels them to try to find each other, as they both realize that they have entered an alternate reality—a world that has two moons in the sky, and a world that is being influenced by an other-worldly force that is intent on taking control. (Aomame refers to this world as 1Q84, with “Q” for “question mark.” In my mind, I pronounced it q-teen-eighty-four.)
They each take different paths to the alternate reality—Aomame through an unconventional exit from a highway, and Tengo through the editing and polishing of a fantastical tale that introduces the “little people,” the outside force that is attempting to emerge into our world—but they ultimately find themselves at the same intersection, a point where they have come to believe in themselves and each other and in the power of love.
I could go into more of the story, for there is much to this story: the religious cult that provides an opening for the little people, Aomame’s path to vengeance, Tengo’s mysterious memory of his mother, the confounding teenage girl Fuka-Eri, the short story “Town of Cats,” the surprising pregnancy, and the ugly-beyond-ugly private investigator. I suppose literary critics could have a lot of fun discussing how the various elements relate to Aomame’s and Tengo’s great love story. But I’ll leave that to experts more adept at literary analysis.
Instead, I’ll leave you with this: Murakami’s story is not over when the two lovers find each other. Now they must find out if they can escape 1Q84 and return to their 1984. Just like lovers in real life, who have entered the emotional and spiritual place where romance is born and cemented, they must now incorporate their union into everyday life. Can Aomame retrace her steps along the highway to return herself and Tengo to the world they remember, or does another reality await them?
When I finished the novel, I wondered if Murakami really needed 925 pages to tell his story. Now I’m wondering if that’s a metaphor as well: It may take a long time to get there, but the journey may be fun, and the destination may be worth it.
From the site Field Candy: “Are you a big fan of books? We mean, are you a really big fan of books. Because this is, well, it’s an enormous book. It looks like a giant has dropped his favourite best seller. Plus, it also lets you meet up with other book fans on the campsite. You can even hold book groups in your tent and discuss whether Twilight is better than Harry Potter.”
Jack Maxwell is the amazing designer of this literary marvel.