Bout of Books 11 Wrap Up

    bout of books Ok, so this isn’t really a wrap up post because I actually didn’t post anything on the blog during Bout of Books. But I did read last week, so that counts. I finished one book, Ireland Unhinged by David Monagan and also got half-way through a novel by Susan Isaacs called Any Place I Hang My Hat and read a total of 390 pages. I didn’t manage to get to Persuasion like I wanted, and also I didn’t post any reviews which means I am still backlogged from the end of last year- not to mention what I’ve read so far this month. Also, I realized last week that I completely forgot all about my Classics Spin Challenge book! This really upset me because the one I got was a good one- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, which I actually own and I’ve been wanting to read for forever. I’m actually not sure where it is at the moment which is probably why I forgot about it. So, once again, I have completely failed to even open the book I got assigned, just like all the other Classics Spin challenges I’ve signed up for. At least I’m consistent when it comes to this challenge. Just not a good way 😉
   So I read a bit last week, which was good, but I didn’t get caught up on the blog, which was bad. I have Friday off this week and next Monday for Lee Jackson and MLK days so I’m going to try to catch up then and figure out a more consistent posting schedule then just making notes in my head like I currently do. Anyway, that’s how my Bout of Books went.
How did you all’s Bout of Books go?        
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Bout of Books 12

It’s time (well, almost time) for the 12 installment of Bout of Books! I wasn’t around for the previous 11 so I am very excited to participate in my first one! In case you don’t know what Bout of Books is all about, here’s the official blurb:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team
     Sounds like fun, right? I don’t think that I’ll have any set goals for the week, but I think I’ll try to make it a priority to finish up some of the library books that have been sitting around for way too long (one of the perks of working in a library is that there are no late fees!) and to finish up whatever books I wanted to read this past month but didn’t get too, like Persuasion. I’ll also try to catch up with my reviews, although I am hoping to already have that done by the new year.
     So those are my little plans for Bout of Books 12- who else is joining in the fun?
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A Christmas Carol Readalong

  chrismas carol You guys! Brona’s Books is having a little readalong for A Christmas Carol! It’s really chill and runs from tomorrow, the 15th, through to Christmas day. The readalong is just for A Christmas Carol but I’m planning to read the Penguin Classic edition A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings which is still not that long so I should be able to finish it. Any one else planning to join or enjoying other holiday reads this month?
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The Classics Club December Meme

     classic memeThe Classics Club December Meme was posted a few days ago and this one sounds like fun. I’m actually not sure if I’ve ever answered one the monthly memes before but I guess there’s a first time for everything and this is a particularly good time to do one, considering it will be the last one of the year! Here’s the December’s Meme question: Let’s talk about children’s classics! Did you read any classic works as a child? What were your favorites? If not, have you or will you try any classic children’s literature in the future? (We’re aware children often read at an adult level. Please feel free to share adult OR children’s classics that you treasured in childhood OR children’s works that you’ve recently fallen for.)
     This is such an exciting topic! For me anyway 🙂 When I was a child, I did read some classics, although at the time I didn’t realize that they were classics- I just considered them regular books. We had a couple of  copies from the Great Illustrated Classics Collection when I was a kid, which were classic books edited and abridged for younger readers. I read quite a few of these, I remember- White Fang, Moby Dick, Heidi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Call of the Wild. I also read other classics that we had: Anne Frank, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind (I had a thing for horses when I was younger, for a time), the Anne of Green Gables series, the Little House on the Prairie books… I read a lot of classics as a child, although like I said I just considered them books back then.
     I also read all those classic books in school like everyone else- some I absolutely hated (I’m looking at you, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, and The Color Purple). Some I had already read by the time we read them in class, like Anne Frank. And some I had either heard of but never read or had never heard of at all before. I was actually quite lucky as a child because many of the books I had to read from elementary school on I ended up loving, or at least liking. I liked Treasure Island, The Crucible, Great Expectations, and Summer of My German Solider well enough and absolutely loved Farmer Boy, The Outsiders, Twelfth Night, Charlotte’s Web, Catherine Called Birdy, To Kill a Mockingbird, As I Lay Dying, A Streetcar Named Desire, and a whole lot of others. Some of those aren’t really classics, I know, but I read them in school and they made an impression on me; I went on to read all the other Little House books and all the other books S.E. Hinton had written as well.
     I also had a wonderful eight grade English teacher. She was super strict but she also introduced us to a lot of good stuff too; I remember she would some of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories to us when it was Halloween; I specifically remember her reading us ‘The Raven’ and ‘The Cask of the Amontillado’. She was really dramatic and would scream some parts or change her voice and stuff. It was kind of creepy. She also introduced us to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shirley Jackson- I remember her making us students get up and taking turns while we read through ‘The Lottery,’ which I thought was quite shocking but I recall all of us loving it. Also, I had completely forgotten this, but I just remembered that she let me take a book home from her room once and I never returned it. Oops.
      For the past couple of years or so, I haven’t read much- or really any- classics children’s books. This wasn’t on purpose, and I actually have a few classic children’s books on my Classics Club list, some of which are rereads. Now that I’ve given it some thought though, I’m actually quite surprised at how little children’s classics I’ve read in the past couple of years because I’ve always had sort of a soft spot for them. A while ago I actually made a list of children’s classics that I want to read- some of them I’ve read before but a lot of the ones on there I haven’t. I haven’t actually made much progress, or any, really, on this list sine drawing it up but I do have The Little Prince currently checked out from the library so I only need to find a spare hour or so to cross at least one of them off!
     Oh my goodness, I had no idea I would prattle on so much about children’s classics when I started this topic! There’s probably other things that I could say here but I think I’ll stop here for now and end by asking what your favorite children’s classics are?
© Copyright 2011-2014: All posts and content on this blog is property of ahorseandacarrot. Copying content from this blog and posting it elsewhere is stealing; if you would like to share this post with others, please link back here to the full post. Please respect my right to ownership over my original content. If you are seeing this post on a site other than ahorseandacarrot then it has been stolen; alerting me would be much appreciated!
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Wordless Wednesday- 12/10/2014

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The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Title: The Golem and the Jinni
Author: Helene Wecker
Published: 2013
Pages: 496
Rating: ****
the golem and the jinni     Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.  Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.   The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice (from Goodreads).
Thoughts: In 1899, a young woman awakens from a coffin-like box in a boat on the Atlantic on its way to New York City. Chava, as she eventually comes to be called, is a golem, a creature made from clay and twigs that, when brought to life, is at the commend of her ‘master’- whoever the golem was created to serve. Golems appear human-like on the surface but there are important differences; they don’t eat or sleep, they don’t tire, and they are capable of superhuman strength and performing incredible acts of violence and destruction when threatened or in danger, making them very dangerous creatures. Chava was created by an old, poor mystic named Yehuda Schaalman in Poland with the secret knowledge found in the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, on request from Otto Rotfeld, who planes on keeping her as his wife. Schaalman sends Chava off with Otto in a box bound for America, with specific instructions to Otto not to speak the spell to bring her to life until he reaches New York. But when Otto doesn’t listen and brings Chava to life in the belly of the ship they are on and soon dies, she is left alone and adrift, knowing nothing about the world or herself.
     Luckily for Chava, once she lands in New York, she eventually wanders into the Jewish neighborhood on the Lower East Side and her true nature is recognized by a kindhearted, retired rabbi named Avram Meyer. Although he knows the golem is potentially dangerous, he doesn’t have it in himt to speak the spell that would destroy her. Instead, he takes her in, gives her a name, helps her find a job at one of the local bakeries, and helps her to navigate the strange world she has found herself in, a task complicated by the fact that without a master, her instincts are off-center, and she can hear the desires of others as plainly as if they have spoken them aloud.
     Nearby, in the Little Syria neighborhood of Manhattan, another, much older, creature from the Old World tries to adjust to life in turn of the century New York. When Boutros Arbeely, the local tinsmith, sets upon repairing an old family flask for Maryam, the local coffeehouse owner, he accidentally releases a jinni that had been trapped inside for hundreds of years. The jinn are a species of beings made from fire, mostly invisible to humans, who can shape-shift into any form at will. They are flighty creatures, and rarely stay for long in the company of their own kind before leaving to float across the deserts of the Middle East, their native home. The jinni who emerges from Maryam’s flask has no memory of how he got there or how he came to be bound in human form, although he knows that a sorcerer would have had to have been involved. Arbeely agrees to keep the jinni’s secret, gives him the name Ahmad, and takes him on as an apprentice as he learns to adapt in a world thousands of miles and hundreds of years from his own.
     Of course, the golem and the jinni eventually meet and bond. Things happen, both good and bad, and their lives and the lives of their neighbors change and intertwine in unexpected ways as they face a surprising and very real danger.
     I ended up really enjoying this book, even if for the first 30 or 40 pages I was unsure if I would continue with it or not. The Golem and the Jinni is Wecker’s first novel and it does show in some very obvious ways. Firstly, there is quite a lot of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’; this is largely what made me initially unsure if I wanted to continue with it. There is also a lot of information dumps when new characters are introduced and, frankly, some of the characters were not that fleshed out or even that necessary to the story. For example, besides the fact that Maryam and Sayeed Faddoul own a coffeehouse in Little Syria and Moe and Thea Radzin run an Orthodox bakery, they are basically the same people and the same couple. There is really no real difference between them. The rich Sophia Winston I thought served no purpose or added anything to the story and should have been left out. Mahmoud Saleh, the troubled ice cream maker, while an interesting character, was I felt created to fulfill a specific purpose and then fleshed out from there, and not completely or convincingly enough.
    After the telling and not showing, this lackof fully realized characters is probably the book’s biggest weakness. Besides the golem and the jinni, the other characters never felt quite real to me. They weren’t fleshed out or unique enough to come across as real people which is a shame, because in a book were you have so many weaving storylines and so many different narrative points of view, each character needs to be distinct and have a distinct voice, which I didn’t find here. The jinni and especially the golem thought, were great, whole characters, but the rest never left the page and became living, breathing people. This was also kind of frustrating considering the fact that Wecker spent so much of the book going back in time with different characters and tracing their lives up to the present. It felt to me like a good third of the book was just this backstory which I didn’t think was necessary for a lot of the characters, and for the few that it was necessary for I felt like it could have been done or revealed to us in a different, more concise way.
     The climax of the book also felt a little off; it didn’t seem to match what the tone and feeling of the book had been thus far and the revealing of how the jinni’s past was related to the golem’s I felt was a little bit of a let down and just too convenient. It just didn’t fit to what up to that point was mostly a quiet, slower-moving type of book. I almost felt as if the climax, and the Sophia Winston parts as well, were added after the fact on behest of the publisher to add some romance and action into the story.
     All of that being said- I really liked this book! Once I accepted the book for what it was I fell right into it and couldn’t put it down. This is a pretty slow-moving book– the golem and the jinni don’t even meet for the first time til we are about 200 pages in– so the fact that I read it in three or four days speaks to just how interesting a world Wecker has created here. I thought the golem and the jinni were just great and that Wecker did a great job making it clear just how hard it must be to live in a world where you are so different from everyone around you. I thought she did an especially good job on showing just how boring and restless it was for them during those hours when everyone else was sleeping in their beds and they were stuck with nothing to do for the next ten hours or so.
     I also liked how the relationship between the golem and the jinni developed over time. Just because they share the fact that they are nonhuman did not make them instant friends; they are not only different from everyone else in New York, they are different from each other. The golem is steady, somewhat timid and, true to her nature, wanting to please; the jinni is impulsive, easily given to emotion, full of energy and motion. They have to learn to adjust to one another, which they do only over time. The learn from each other as well; the golem learns to take risks, while the jinni learns to not be so impulsive and comes to be more cognizant of how his actions affect those around him. When the golem meets the jinni, she is just over six months old. When the jinni was trapped in the flask and frozen in time for the next few centuries, he was around 200 years old– not very old for a jinni, but strictly young, either. While the golem experiences life for the first time, the jinni comes to live and approach life in a new way. They compliment and challenge each other in many ways.
     While I was reading The Golem and the Jinni, I began to think of what would happen to the two after the book ended. The jinni is not immortal; he has a few hundred years left, if he manages not to be immersed in water long enough to die (he’s a being made of fire, remember). The golem though is, for all intents and purposes, immortal in her life span. She will only die if someone speaks the words that will turn her back  into a lump of lifeless clay and a few stray sticks. If the golem and the jinni decide to continue on with their life together, what will happen to the golem when the jinni inevitable dies, and she is left alone? Whenever I find myself thinking about characters and what their life will entail after the book while I am still reading it, I know I have chosen a good one. The Golem and the Jinni is not a perfect book, but it is a pretty great one, and one that I am very glad that I finally picked up and read. I even recommended it to one of my sisters shortly after finishing it- something I almost never do! I’m keeping my eye out for Wecker’s next book and will definitely make sure to pick it up- this time not so long after it comes out!
   © Copyright 2011-2014: All posts and content on this blog is property of ahorseandacarrot. Copying content from this blog and posting it elsewhere is stealing; if you would like to share this post with others, please link back here to the full post. Please respect my right to ownership over my original content. If you are seeing this post on a site other than ahorseandacarrot then it has been stolen; alerting me would be much appreciated!
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Nonfiction November and the TBR

Nonfiction Novemer is over 😦 Although I’m sad to see it, and the month, go, I had a wonderful time reading some great books. I read a total of six books this month, five of which were nonfiction: The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn, which was one of the group readalong choices for Nonfiction Novembr; Our Farm: Four Seasons with Five Kids on One Family’s Farm by Michael J. Rosen; Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink;  Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson; and Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gaye. I didn’t accomplish everything I said I wanted to do this month, but I did manage a fair few. I read the readalong book, I read one book of nonfiction essays,and I finally got around to reading Five Days at Memorial. I didn’t read Empire of the Summer Moon, but I did start it before getting sidetracked. I also sadly only managed to post on the week 1 topic but I did leave some comments on some blogs, checked out some blogs that were new to me, and read a lot of posts on the topics for all four weeks.
     Besides reading, I also added a ton of nonfiction books to my TBR to eventually track down and read. A lot of them came from the first two weeks of the month with ‘Your year in nonfiction’ and ‘Be/Ask/Become the Expert’ posts. I also used this as an opportunity to explore some people’s blogs and so I found a lot of new books to read that way as well. Sadly, I didn’t keep track of which lovely bloggers recommend or talked about these books so I can’t point you to the discussions of them there. But here’s what I added to my every growing TBR, which I hope to get around to someday:
an african in greenlandAn African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie: Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament both to the wonderful strangeness of the human species and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all (from Goodreads).
Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, andanimal madnessElephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves by Laurel Braitman: Growing up, Laurel had a dog named Oliver who was very unstable. He would eat towels and other things, was extremely anxious, and all around very ill adjusted and unhappy. In college, Laurel studied biology and came to the conclusion that animals can suffer from mental illnesses and other mental conditions just like us humans do; something she realized she had witnessed first hand with Oliver. For three years Braitman delves into the world of animals and mental illness and discovers stories of animal suffering and animal healing and recovery involving all sorts of animals, from polar bears to parrots, and muses on how what we learn from them can in turn help us.
men explain things to meMen Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit: I read Solnit’s essay that the title of this book is based on a few months ago when I somehow came across it online and I loved it. This book contains that famous essay on men, women, and conversations, and how men sometimes have that infuriating assumption that women, no matter their age, occupation, or level of education, need to have some things explained to them because they couldn’t possibly know or have knowledge of something based on their own education and experience. Any women who has had this happen to them knows how frustrating and horrible it is! The book also contains eight other essays by Solnit dealing with gender, sexism, and society. I’m super excited about this one, not least because it is a nonfiction book of essays, something which I recently realized I don’t read near enough of.
edibleEdible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin: This book sounds really cool. Martin explores the world of insect eating and how eating bugs might be a way to help end world hunger. Many cultures the world over traditionally eat insects as part of their diet and they are packed with protein and, supposedly, delicious. She also examines Western culture and food bias and argues that, besides being nutritious, insects are a sustainable food source as well. I’ve never eaten a bug in my life, and I’m actually quite a picky eater, but this sounds just like the type of nonfiction book I love- unique, out-there, and thought provoking.
desperate passageDesperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick: In late October 1846, the last wagon train of that year’s westward migration stopped overnight before resuming its arduous climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, unaware that a fearsome storm was gathering force. After months of grueling travel, the 81 men, women and children would be trapped for a brutal winter with little food and only primitive shelter. The conclusion is known: by spring of the next year, the Donner Party was synonymous with the most harrowing extremes of human survival. Drawing on fresh archeological evidence, recent research on topics ranging from survival rates to snowfall totals, and heartbreaking letters and diaries made public by descendants a century-and-a-half after the tragedy, Ethan Rarick offers an intimate portrait of the Donner party and their unimaginable ordeal(from Goodreads).
Capturing Music: The Story of Notation by Thomas Forrest Kelly: In today s digitalcapturing music landscape, we have the luxury of experiencing music anytime, anywhere. But before this instant accessibility and dizzying array of formats before CDs, the eight-track tape, the radio, and the turntable there was only one recording technology: music notation. It allowed singers and soloists to travel across great distances and perform their work with stunning fidelity, a feat that we now very much take for granted. Thomas Forrest Kelly transports us to the lively and complex world of monks and monasteries, of a dove singing holy chants into the ear of a saint, and of bustling activity in the Cathedral of Notre Dame an era when the only way to share even the simplest song was to learn it by rote, church to church and person to person. With clarity and a sense of wonder, Kelly tells a story that spans five hundred years, leading us on a journey through medieval Europe and showing how we learned to keep track of rhythm, melody, and precise pitch with a degree of accuracy previously unimagined (from Goodreads).
unruly placesUnruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett: A tour of the world’s hidden geographies—from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts—and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains today. At a time when Google Maps Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite’s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, it’s hard to imagine there’s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnett goes to some of the most unexpected, offbeat places in the world to reinspire our geographical imagination.

Bonnett’s remarkable tour includes moving villages, secret cities, no man’s lands, and floating islands. He explores places as disorienting as Sandy Island, an island included on maps until just two years ago despite the fact that it never existed. Or Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and crowning his wife as a princess. An intrepid guide down the road much less traveled, Bonnett reveals that the most extraordinary places on earth might be hidden in plain sight, just around the corner from your apartment or underfoot on a wooded path (from Goodreads).

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow: Written with bracing wit and intelligence, Rachel driftMaddow’s Drift argues that we’ve drifted away from America’s original ideals and become a nation weirdly at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails. To understand how we’ve arrived at such a dangerous place, Maddow takes us from the Vietnam War to today’s war in Afghanistan, along the way exploring the disturbing rise of executive authority, the gradual outsourcing of our war-making capabilities to private companies, the plummeting percentage of American families whose children fight our constant wars for us, and even the changing fortunes of G.I. Joe. She offers up a fresh, unsparing appraisal of Reagan’s radical presidency. Ultimately, she shows us just how much we stand to lose by allowing the priorities of the national security state to overpower our political discourse. Sensible yet provocative, dead serious yet seri­ously funny, Drift will reinvigorate a “loud and jangly” political debate about how, when, and where to apply America’s strength and power–and who gets to make those decisions (from Goodreads).
the underground girlsThe Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg: In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom (from Goodreads).
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler: In the heart of China’s river townSichuan province lies the small city of Fuling. Surrounded by the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, Fuling has long been a place of continuity, far from the bustling political centers of Beijing and Shanghai. But now Fuling is heading down a new path, and gradually, along with scores of other towns in this vast and ever-evolving country, it is becoming a place of change and vitality, tension and reform, disruption and growth. Fuling’s position at the crossroads came into remarkably sharp focus when Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1996, marking the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. As he learns the language and comes to know the people, Hessler begins to see that it is indeed a unique moment for Fuling. Making his way in the city and traveling by boat and train throughout Sichuan province and beyond, Hessler offers vivid descriptions of the people he meets, from priests to prostitutes and peasants to professors, and gives voice to their views. This is both an intimate personal story of his life in Fuling and a colorful, beautifully written account of the surrounding landscape and its history (from Goodreads).
garbage landGarbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte: Out of sight, out of mind … Into our trash cans go dead batteries, dirty diapers, bygone burritos, broken toys, banana peels…. But where do these things go next? In a country that consumes and then casts off more and more, what actually happens to the things we throw away? In Garbage Land, acclaimed science writer Elizabeth Royte leads us on the wild adventure that begins once our trash hits the bottom of the can. Along the way, we meet an odor chemist who explains why trash smells so bad; garbage fairies and recycling gurus; CEOs making fortunes by encouraging waste or encouraging recycling-often both at the same time; fertilizer fanatics and adventurers who kayak amid sewage; paper people, steel people, aluminum people, plastic people, and even a guy who swears by recycling human waste. With a wink and a nod and a tightly clasped nose, Royte takes us on a bizarre cultural tour through slime, stench, and heat-in other words, through the back end of our ever-more supersized lifestyles. By showing us what happens to the things we’ve “disposed of,” Royte reminds us that our decisions about consumption and waste have a very real impact-and that unless we undertake radical change, the garbage we create will always be with us: in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we consume (from Goodreads).
Heroines by Kate Zambreno: On the last day of December, 2009 Kate Zambreno began a blog calledFrances Farmer Is My heroinesSister, arising from her obsession with the female modernists and her recent transplantation to Akron, Ohio, where her husband held a university job. In her blog entries, Zambreno reclaimed the traditionally pathologized biographies of Vivienne Eliot, Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, and Zelda Fitzgerald: writers and artists themselves who served as male writers’ muses only to end their lives silenced, erased, and institutionalized.

In Heroines, Zambreno extends the polemic begun on her blog into a dazzling, original work of literary scholarship. Combing theories that have dictated what literature should be and who is allowed to write it–from T. S. Eliot’s New Criticism to the writings of such mid-century intellectuals as Elizabeth Hardwick and Mary McCarthy to the occasional “girl-on-girl crime” of the Second Wave of feminism–she traces the genesis of a cultural template that consistently exiles female experience to the realm of the “minor,” and diagnoses women for transgressing social bounds. By advancing the Girl-As-Philosopher, Zambreno reinvents feminism for her generation while providing a model for a newly subjectivized criticism (from Goodreads).

the man who touched his own heartThe Man Who Touched His Own Heart: True Tales of Science, Surgery, and Mystery by Robert Dunn: The Man Who Touched His Own Heart tells the raucous, gory, mesmerizing story of the heart, from the first “explorers” who dug up cadavers and plumbed their hearts’ chambers, through the first heart surgeries-which had to be completed in three minutes before death arrived-to heart transplants and the latest medical efforts to prolong our hearts’ lives, almost defying nature in the process.

Thought of as the seat of our soul, then as a mysteriously animated object, the heart is still more a mystery than it is understood. Why do most animals only get one billion beats? Why are sufferers of gingivitis more likely to have heart attacks? Why do we often undergo expensive procedures when cheaper ones are just as effective? And what does it really feel like to touch your own heart, or to have someone else’s beating inside your chest?Rob Dunn’s fascinating history of our hearts brings us deep inside the science, history, and stories of the four chambers we depend on most (from Goodreads).

The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Culture edited by Andrew medieval english cultureGalloway: The cultural life of England over the long period from the Norman Conquest to the Reformation was rich and varied, in ways that scholars are only now beginning to understand in detail. This Companion introduces a wide range of materials that constitute the culture, or cultures, of medieval England, across fields including political and legal history, archaeology, social history, art history, religion and the history of education. Above all it looks at the literature of medieval England in Latin, French and English, plus post-medieval perspectives on the ‘Middle Ages’. In a linked series of essays experts in these areas show the complex relationships between them, building up a broad account of rich patterns of life and literature in this period. The essays are supplemented by a chronology and guide to further reading, helping students build on the unique access this volume provides to what can seem a very foreign culture (from Goodreads).
the annals of londonThe Annals of London: A Year-by-Year Record of a Thousand Years of History by John Richardson: One of the world’s greatest cities, the vast metropolis of twentieth-century London began in ad 43 when Aulius Plautius led the second invasion from Richborough to defeat the local army on the banks of the Thames. The victors then created a Roman settlement and established themselves on the river. The city’s expansion through the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings serves as a background for the first of the almanac entries, 1065, which sees the consecration of Edward the Confessor’s Abbey at Westminster, shortly before the king’s own burial in his new church.

The sweep of this book is vast and its detail magnificent. Disasters, innovations, and everyday events relating to politics, society, pageantry, the arts, religion, and industry are revealed to display the wide spectrum of London life. Year by year, from 1065 to the present day, events that have shaped the London we know are brought vividly to life by John Richardson’s informative text, which is supported by an extraordinary and eclectic collection of historical illustrations (from Goodreads).

severedSevered: A History of Heads Lost and Found by Frances Larson: The human head is exceptional. It accommodates four of our five senses, encases the brain, and boasts the most expressive set of muscles in the body. It is our most distinctive attribute and connects our inner selves to the outer world. Yet there is a dark side to the head s preeminence, one that has, in the course of human history, manifested itself in everything from decapitation to headhunting. So explains anthropologist Frances Larson in this fascinating history of decapitated human heads. From the Western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred massacres to Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of the Japanese home to their girlfriends, from Madame Tussaud modeling the guillotined head of Robespierre to Damien Hirst photographing decapitated heads in city morgues, from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores our macabre fixation with severed heads (from Goodreads).


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