Showing posts from September, 2010

Week 40: Red Odyssey and more dystopia

Red Odyssey , by Marat Akchurin In 1990, the USSR was staring to fall apart. Perestroika wasn't going all that well. And there wasn't a lot of news coming out of Central Asian countries, so writer Marat Akchurin, a Tartar, decided to take a road trip to see how conditions were. He visited every Central Asian country--Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and so on--talking to friends and strangers in every place he went. Like most Americans, I know next to nothing about the Central Asian republics, so I learned a lot from this book. I had no idea of the devastation and misery the Soviets brought to these countries--economic, environmental, and cultural. Though the book was by no means all depressing--there was lots of good stuff too, don't be turned off by that. My online friend Amira, who is about to take her family to Uzbekistan to live, recommended Red Odyssey on her blog. Thanks Amira! I'm really glad I could read Akchurin. Incarceron , by Catherine Fish

Week 39: It's Dystopian YA Novel Week!

Everyone likes a good dystopian novel, right? The Maze Runner , by James Dashner Thomas is dumped into the Maze with a wiped memory. He joins a crowd of boys who spend every day trying to find a way to escape their prison, which changes every night and has killer monsters as well. They've been trapped there for a couple of years, but just after Thomas' arrival, everything changes. I really enjoyed this one, it was exciting and fast-moving, with a substantial plot. The sequel comes out in October! Unwind , by Neal Shusterman The Second Civil War was fought over the issue of abortion. In order to end the fighting, everyone compromises with the Bill of Life, which makes life inviolable from conception to age 13. However, from 13 to 18, a teenager may be sentenced to Unwinding--which isn't death, because every part of the body is preserved and transplanted. Connor's parents have signed the order to have him Unwound because he's always in trouble, Lev's parents rais

Week 38: The Sari

The Sari , by Mukulika Banerjee and Daniel Miller I'm always interested in anything from India, and I've been wanting to read this study of the cultural meaning of the sari for quite some time. When I started working at Butte College, I was happy to find it in their collection. It's a great book, really interesting. It addresses the difficulties and pleasures of mastering the art of sari-wearing (and it really is not easy), the different ways it can be used, and the meaning of the sari as a somewhat political garment which has come to represent an ideal of Indian unity. Wearing a sari well is difficult enough that being able to do it well lends you an image of dignity and power. So women in business wear what you could call 'power saris' which project their authority. At the same time, saris are standardized into uniforms all over the country; hostesses at hotels, policewomen, and even soldiers wear them. And again, most poor women wear saris to work as cleaners and

Week 36: Cousin Kate and The Machine's Child

Cousin Kate , by Georgette Heyer This is one of Heyer's famed Regency novels, and it's one I enjoyed. Kate is, of course, a poor and independent orphan of gentle birth. She is trying to earn her living as a governess, but her old nurse writes off to an estranged aunt, who sweeps Kate off to a country manor for a reluctant life of luxury. But the aunt has a sinister plan... The Machine's Child , by Kage Baker Another installment in the Company series, which is still going strong.

Catching up a bit...

Spenser's Images of Life, by C. S. Lewis and Alastair Fowler Near the end of his life, C. S. Lewis moved to Cambridge University. There he planned to produce a book based on his lectures about Edmund Spenser, but it was never written. He left lecture notes, which Alastair Fowler turned into this book--you can tell that it wasn't really written by Lewis, but that the ideas and certain turns of phrase were his. I always like to read Lewis' literary criticism, and while I don't know if this happens to everyone, he always makes me want to read the works he writes about. Every time I read Lewis on The Faerie Queene , I want to read it myself--and then I look at the actual poem and wilt. It's too hard! I can barely understand what Spenser is even saying, much less what message he's trying to convey! You want me to read how many cantos of this?? Anyway, even if I can't quite read Elizabethan epic poetry, I can enjoy this book that explains a lot about what Spenser