Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

First read in June of 2009.
 
Still on my shelf
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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Changes

by Jim Butcher

In this volume of The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher tries to shake things up a bit. On the first page, Harry Dresden finds out he's a father. Of course, the surprise is not as simple as that. He also finds out that his child is six years old and has been kidnapped. This makes the situation more dire than Harry's past adventures. It makes him push harder, suffer more, and cross some lines to try and rescue the kid. In the process, secrets are revealed and some of the familiar elements elements of the series are changed forever. Well, maybe not forever, this being in a fantasy series. But I digress. All in all, it wasn't my favorite Dresden novel, but it did disrupt the status quo and got me wondering what Mr. Butcher is going to do in the next installment.

It was waiting room material, but good waiting room material.
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Monday, February 05, 2018

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Brutal. That's the word that comes to mind when I think about this book. The actions recounted here of the whites towards the Indians were brutal. The attitudes between the same were brutal. And Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz's reporting here is likewise brutal. She offers no sympathy, makes no attempt to rationalize anything that the whites did or failed to do. Or maybe that's just my perception as the cultural descendant of those people.* Either way, I appreciate the honesty.

The title of this book pretty much describes the content. For the indigenous people of North America, the milestones of U.S. history are not our elections or official wars, but rather the multitude of conflicts that drove them off their land and irreparably changed their way of life. Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz starts by sketching the history of the Americas before Columbus arrived. She tells of a place that was hardly a wilderness, but rather as settled as Europe, albeit with significant differences in how farming was managed. She then tells of European culture in regards to aggression and consolidation of power. What follows is the tale of the conquest of a continent, told from the point of view of the conquered. It's not told in a whiny voice, but rather the voice of a people "struck down, but not destroyed". (Despite efforts to do just that.) The indigenous people of North America are still here and they're still resisting attempts to marginalize them.

As a white boy, I found the book uncomfortable to read. There was no silver lining in Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz's tale. It didn't offer a happy ending or even the hope of one. Instead it offered the education and insight to create awareness of the problem. What I can or should do to work against the problem is unclear. But it's not an issue I want to ignore.
___
*What particular sins against the native Americans my immigrant ancestors may have committed in the centuries long conquest of the continent, I don't know.

Check it out.
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Friday, January 26, 2018

Summa of the Summa

by St. Thomas Aquinas, edited and annotated by Peter Kreeft

I think Peter Kreeft is my go-to guy for dumbed down philosophy. I thoroughly enjoyed his condensed version of Blaise Pascal's Pensées and now I relied heavily on his footnotes to make sense of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. (Well, this edited version of the Summa.) It was difficult reading because a) Aquinas is so much smarter than I, and b) the Summa is, in one sense, a reference book. For both of those same reasons, I'm putting this book on my shelf. It provides a myriad of thoughts to ponder.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Commodore Hornblower

by C.S. Forester

Book number 9 in the saga! As the story started out, I thought it definitely read like a sequel. I envisioned Mr. Forester sitting before his typewriter thinking, "Let's see. I've given Hornblower adventures in the English channel, the Mediterranean, the Pacific. Where else can I have him sail? I know! Let's send him to the Baltic!" So Captain Hornblower is made Commodore of a small fleet and spends 1812 attempting to thwart Napoleon's war effort in northern Europe. But the story wasn't just a case of "same adventures, different backdrop". In this novel, Hornblower takes on the role of diplomat, hoping to keep Sweden and Russia from falling to France's armies. There's military action as well, though Hornblower has to face the challenge of fighting opponents on land. All in all it's another entertaining book in the series.

Another one on the shelf
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Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Best of Stuntology

by Sam Bartlett

Is this a reference book? A collection of cartoons? A humor book? Why, yes. This book is a collection of cartoons from the zine The Journal of Stuntology. Each page illustrates, as the subtitle puts it, "...pranks, tricks & challenges to amuse and annoy your friends." If I were a teenager again, I would totally be trying out some of these. Since I'm more mature (and liable to legal action), I'll definitely content myself with reading and chuckling over them. Well, probably content myself. Unless I can find a cheap harmonica.

 Check it out. But be warned, I'm not going to fall for any of the pranks.
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Friday, December 08, 2017

Blizzard of Glass

by Sally M. Walker

This one's a short book about a munition ship explosion that took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 6, 1917. At the time, it was the largest man-made explosion in history, flattening a good portion of the city and killing hundreds of people. Ms. Walker tells the story, in part, by recounting the experiences of a few families who were living in the area. That personal touch brings the sorrow of the tragedy and the following recovery efforts that much closer. It's definitely worth checking out.

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