Thursday, November 15, 2012

3662 The hurricane reading list

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Truly great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence."
-- Henrik Tikkanen --


The 11 days without electricity were almost like a vacation to me.  A camping vacation, maybe,  but a time without distraction.  There were lots of things I could do, but I was too cold to do much of anything beyond huddle with a candle and a book.  You know, those people in the city who rioted after 5 days without electricity - I'll bet none of them were readers.

I had a few books I'd recently purchased but had not yet read.  When I'd got through those, I started on the "good" books - the leather-bound gold-trimmed volumes, classics and signed modern classics that had been sitting in the bookcases for so many years unread but looking good.

Click on the title for a synopsis and reviews from other readers.

Where the West Ends: Stories from the middle east, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus, Michael J. Totten.
Interesting, sometimes funny.   Michael is a journalist.  This is the tale of some highly unusual travels through the listed areas.  Recommended if you are interested in history, cultures, and in understanding how history affects culture.

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, Jimmy Carter.
I don't care what anyone thinks of Jimmy Carter as a president, no one can deny that he's a truly good man.  I adore him.  I wish more Americans were like him.  In this book he warns that fundamentalists, both religious and political, are deliberately blurring the lines between politics and religion, and warns that the result is an intolerance leading to an erosion of our nation's basic human values.  It was published in 2005, and it's frightening that what he saw then is even more true today.  Highly recommended.

A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, Reza Kahlili.
This book was absolutely and utterly engrossing.  Amazing.  Also the most frightening thing I've ever read, and I'm not exaggerating.  Kahlili (not his real name, and of course that's not his photo on the cover) was born and grew up in Iran.  He became disillusioned when, after the revolution, the mullahs did not live up to their promises.  He saw "his" Iran destroyed, and decided to do something about it.  The real story of what goes on in Iran is frightening enough, but the really scary part is what the real intention of the mullahs is and how they're going about it.  It's not what you expect.  Very very highly recommended.  Read the info at the link.

2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke.
I saw the movie when it first came out, at a drive-in theater (long ago replaced by a mall) in Kingston, NY.  The visuals in the movie were amazing for a time before computer-generated animation, and still look good on a TV screen.  Now imagine it at a drive-in, where the screen dissolved into a black and star-spangled night sky at a time and place with little interference from ground light.  Amazing.  Beautiful.  However, no one understood it.  At all.  (And those who claimed they understood, we considered supercilious a-holes.)
I recently heard that the book was much better.  Not as pretty, but it explained everything.  So I finally read the book.  Hey!  It really does!  It's a good read.  Absolutely nothing is confusing.  So if you were confused by the movie, read the book.  It's well worth the time.

The Litigators, John Grisham.
I don't like some Grisham books.  Yeah, they're well written, but I sometimes find the characters annoying and the situations and attitudes infuriating, the more so because they are too real, too much the way it really works.  This one is a bit different.  The three main characters manage to find themselves in a situation that's WAY over their heads.  Sometimes incompetence is endearing.  (Well, when it's not real life, anyway.)  It was a good read.

At this point, I ran out of newish books that were not ponderous political tomes.  So I browsed the shelves of leather-bound pretties.

The Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone.
I first read this back in 1968/69.  I don't know whether it was because I was young, or because I was dating a Yale-educated electrical engineer from Naples who spoke five languages so I was fascinated by Italy, whatever, anyway, I thought it was great then, so I decided to reread it.  I didn't make it far before I gave up.  Mr. Stone seems to think it's important to describe in excruciating detail every wall, every building, every doorway, every cobblestone young Michelangelo passes on his morning walk to the shop where he is apprenticed, and worse, he seems to take a different route every time.  Aaaaagh!  Basta!  Enough already!
Maybe I should skip a few hundred pages in and see if I land on some meatier stuff.  Just ... not this year....

God's Little Acre, Erskine Caldwell.
When this book was first published in 1933 it was a scandal.  Terrible.  Banned in more places than Boston.  Caldwell says it's just a story, no "lesson" in it, but I was fascinated by the contradictions in Ty Ty.  He wants scientific methods, then captures an albino to "conjure" for him.  (Everyone knows albinos can find gold, so that's "scientific".)  He wants peace in his family, then says and does things that cause calamity.  Everything is a contradiction.  A good character study.  It's worth reading, but not worth rereading, so get it from the library.

Goodbye, Columbus and Other Stories, Philip Roth.
(The title on my book is slightly different from the title on the offerings, but it's the same book, same stories.)  Pretty good light reading.

And then the power came back on.

1 comment:

Becs said...

I hibernated during Sandy and the nor'easter. Found another comforter that I had planned to donate (no way now) and piled that on the bed, got into multiple layers and went to dreamland.

I'm sorry Agony/Stone didn't turn out as you remembered it. I had much the same experience when I tried to re-read The Egyptian by Mika Waltari. But there's always Twain and Dickens to go back to. They never let me down.