Thursday, August 27, 2009

Recent and Upcoming Books Read

A Passage to India (Penguin Classics) A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

I'm reading this for the Read the Classics discussion group at the library.

I welcome people joining me in a slow read, from August 31 to October 3, at a rate of 7-8 chapters each week.

Interpreter of Maladies Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

reading for the MCL Hollywood library book group on September 15...

I got this one in the book group vote because when I shared how much I loved the movie "Namesake," several people from my alumni email list said I should read this.

The Complete Maus The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this for my book group, and it was a great book with many threads for conversation. We don't usually read graphic novels, so several began it with a bias against graphic novels, and found themselves won over.

In some cases the holocaust scenes depicted would be so horrific, it was a little easier to confront with the people depicted as various animals, Jewish people being mice, Germans cats, Americans dogs, etc.

Some sources for book group questions:
Here's some great questions, and an interview with the author.

Here's a local article for a book group that happened here in Portland. Included is a video of Marjani Satrapi (Persepolis) who talks about how Maus inspired her.

And some more questions, some of which I found were useful for getting more out of what the pictures are doing.

Doomsday Book Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At first I thought this book was a little too hard science fiction with the overuse of numbers and jargon. Too much time on establishing medical parameters, etc. It was distracting from the story, and not completely necessary to establish a foundation.

That soon receded though, and then I was hooked, wondering if this young history scholar would be stuck back in medieval times while people in her time were dropping from a deadly flu.

One thing that dated the book was the reliance for plot on not being able to get a telephone line in a crisis. Cell phones already existed at the time of the book's publishing, though I could understand not imagining how ubiquitous they would become so soon.

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I chose to read this book because someone asked people's opinion on an email list. I couldn't buy into it enough to finish it.

First, we are asked to accept geopolitical analysis, then we are asked to accept that George Friedman's analysis using geopolitics is accurate, and that his angle is the only one that counts.

Well I don't buy it. Most of the time he picks and chooses what specific world events to highlight to 'prove' his geopolitical forecast. I kept thinking of other events he ignored. I also kept thinking of a vastly different interpretation of those events. What it comes down to is, it's all his opinion, and since he picks and chooses what history we should look at to prove his points, his forecasts are built on sticks and cards.

Especially dubious are the premises that countries will act in their best, what, Machiavellian? interests, even when one person is essentially making those decisions. So George Bush Jr. acted the way he did because it was the next step for our country to take. Right.

You have to buy Reaganomics, you have to buy that this crash of 2008 was just a blip, and we still have prosperity for a real crash 20 some years from now, and nowhere does he take into account peak oil having anything to do with future economic least as far as I got.

An example. He says, "...these alliances and maneuvers are not difficult to predict. As I have said, they follow well-established patterns that have been ingrained in history for many centuries. What I am doing is seeing how traditional patterns play themselves out in the context of the twenty-first century." ...this after countless arguments that could conclude just the opposite of what he posited as givens.

He actually thinks Japan will rise again as a military power. Right. This would completely ignore the anti-war effect that the carpet-bombings of Tokyo and the atom bombs had on the country. I think the country has discovered what prosperity can be had by choosing not to have to build a military-industrial complex. The people there don't want to go back to the militaristic arrogance they had in WWII, at least that I have witnessed.

I take more of a Zinnian view that depending on what prism through which you look at history, you will find vastly different accounts. It is my instinctive response that if you ignore these different views, your predictive ability will be woefully myopic, as evidenced by Friedman's view of this recent economic crash.

Stoneheart (Stoneheart Trilogy, #1) Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the first audio book I chose due to the reader, rather than the author or title. I think Jim Dale could make any book sound good, though it took a little while for me to forget this voice was Harry Potter, and that voice was Dumbledore.I'm not sure, but I think I would have liked it less if I had read rather than listened to it. It is an interesting premise for a world...that architectural sculptures have lives and wars and intrigues with the rest of us being none the wiser. Edie the glint reminded me a bit of Lyra from the Pullman Dark Materials books.

View all my reviews >>

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