Monday, July 30, 2001

America A to Z

by various employees of Reader's Digest

I've grown to be very scornful of sound bite information -- the stuff you get on TV, popular magazines and the like. I suppose I could blame my wife, the scholar, for corrupting me, but the seeds had already been planted in high school, when my teachers tried to wean us from the encyclopedia. Imagine my delight, then, when I opened a package from my mom and found amongst the treasures a copy of this book. The cultural history of the United States in 403 pages of words and pictures. I questioned my mother's taste, but figured it might amuse the kids and put it on my shelf anyway. Some days later I was killing time and picked the book up again for some ultra-light reading. Once again I was reminded that my mother has a lot better taste than I do. I found America A to Z to be a delightful coffee table book. It's a collection of sound bites, to be sure, but each one gives a slight little glimpse into something from the culture of the United States. At times it even made the culture come alive in ways that a dry history text never could. I even learned a couple of things as I made my way through it. This will never replace a good, solid history book or even an encyclopedia, but if you ever need a quick, simple cultural literacy reference, I would certainly recommend this book to you. Mom was right again ...

LibraryThing link


Friday, July 20, 2001

Martians, Go Home

by Fredric Brown

It seems like every time I try to make room on my bookshelves by getting rid of a few books I end up pulling out this novel and rereading it. Somehow, it always makes the cut and goes back on the shelf. It's not spectacular, but rather a nice amusing little tale that one can devour in a couple of hours. Simply put, the book is about a Martian invasion of Earth. Unlike The War of the Worlds however, the Martians here aren't out to conquer the Earth. Instead they've come to observe and heckle it. To quote the back cover of the Del Rey October 1981 edition, Brown's Martians were "obnoxious green creatures who could be seen and heard, but not harmed, and who probed private sex lives as shamelessly as they probed government secrets." It makes for an amusing tale, and for something first published in 1954, it reads quite well. Aside from obvious anachronisms like typewriters (remember those?) and the cold war, the story could have been written today. (Or maybe I'm just getting old.) So, I guess I'll just have to find another book to dispose of and put Martians, Go Home back where I found it.

LibraryThing link


Tuesday, July 10, 2001

The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

by Howard Pyle

If you've read a lot of my ramblings here, it probably won't surprise you to hear that I like heroic fiction. (It also marks you as one with way too much free time, but that's another topic.) And as one raised in an culture descended from England, King Arthur is one of my favorite mythical heroes. I've picked up a variety of retellings of the legends of Camelot and this is my latest acquisition. Written for children, it was originally published in 1903 and, according to the scholarly afterward, is a rather American flavored retelling of the legend. I can see that, as the knights are all very individualistic and self sufficient. The book focuses on Arthur: how he became king, how he gained Excalibur and won the hand of Guinevere, among other tales. The stories are rather simplistic and the characters are all stereotypes, but for some reason it's fun and I had quite a good time reading it. (Though I have to admit, towards the end, as yet another joust was being proposed, I was hoping that some lowly squire would break character and say, "you know, there are less painful ways to settle differences.") If you like Arthur at all (the king, not D.W.'s brother), I would suggest you check it out.

LibraryThing link

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]