Monday, August 13, 2007

This Week At the Library (13/8)

Smellincoffee003: I read my first Harry Potter book today.
Potterhead: excellent
Potterhead: and?
Smellincoffee003: I kinda liked it.

Potterhead: muhuhahahaha

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They're out to get me! This is the library I have gone to all of my life, by the way. I literally grew up with this library, as it added a new wing when I was in seventh grade. If you look at the second chimney, you can see where the library used to end. Everything to the right of that chimney is new, as is the courtyard below. The nonfiction and reference sections are in the upstairs of the older part, and the adult fiction is downstairs. The children's section is in the upstairs of the new wing, and the downstairs is mainly offices and conference areas. The inside hall facing the courtyard serves as an art gallery.

My first read last week was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which is first in the seven-book series. The majority of my online friends have been insisting (with varying degrees of intensity) that I read the the first book. Annoying as this was, it did prompt me to investigate. The Sorcerer's Stone is an enjoyable book. I enjoyed the storytelling, although I didn't really like "Lord Voldemort's" backstory. Too much supernatural weirdness for me, what with the "talking out of the back of other people's heads" thing. He'd better get his own body pretty quick-like.

There's little point in writing about the plot of the book, seeing as everyone who reads this has probably already read the Potter novels…but I will anyway. This is the story about a young boy named Harry Potter who is orphaned and sent to live with his relatives. His relatives don't like him and they mistreat him as he grows up. When Harry is very scared or angry or whatever, strange things happen -- like a large snake being released from its cage. Harry is magical, you see.

In this, the book reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl's Matilda. Matilda is about a young girl who is raised by obnoxious relatives who mistreat her as she grows up. When they are making her life miserable, however, strange things the television blowing up. Matilda has telekinesis, you see. Both Harry and Matilda get to escape to school. Despite having trouble there with other students and teachers, Harry and Matilda are both enormously helped by school. Matilda is adopted by her teacher, Miss Honey, and Harry gets six more books.

The Sorcerer's Stone also reminded me of The Sims: Makin' Magic, which I never bought for a number of reasons. I have read numerous reviews and Sim-stories, so I know what the game is like. Magic is treated the both way in both the novel and the game expansion. Overall, I enjoyed the book. My favorite part was the interplay between Ron Weasely and Hermione and Wizards' Chess. Much better than three-dimensional chess from Star Trek.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Turtles and Tortoises was wholly devoted to the subject of turtles as pets. I have given thought to how my life will be after university and such, and I figure I'll have a few pets -- a cat if I can, plus a smaller pet like a hamster or turtle. After reading the book, I am now certain that turtles deserve more care than I may be able to give them. I had already come to this decision a few weeks ago. Of course, if I move to a place where cats are prohibited (and that will factor in, as I want one), I may rethink this issue. The book is informative, but doesn't get into the behavior of wild turtles so its appeal is limited.

The Rising Tide is a novel of the Second World War, written by Jeff Shaara. I've read everything else Shaara has written, and had high expectations for this book. Those expectations were met; I think this is one of his better works. Shaara writes about the war through the eyes of the men who fought it. He writes in the same style as his father -- a style that attempts to convey the character's thoughts as they would think them. It's a curious style, but effective. I was pleased to learn that The Rising Tide is in fact first in a three-part series about the second world war. This one concentrated on North Africa, moved to the invasion of Sicily, and ended with the deposition of Mussolini and the invasion of Italy. The principal characters were General Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and two enlisted men named Logan and Adams. Logan was a tank gunner in Africa, and Adams was a paratrooper. I don't recall their first names. I found this book, like all the others written by the Shaaras, to be both informing and entertaining, and I look forward to the second and third books of the series. Both are as yet unwritten, but the first is supposedly centered around Operation Overlord -- the invasion of Normandy.

I checked out Blood and Iron thinking it was a novel of German history, focusing on one particular family. It turns out that this is a novel of genealogical history, focusing on one particular family, with German history providing the setting. I'm not all that interested in familial histories; I wouldn't even read a book on the Roosevelts.

The last book I finished was Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-5", a work of fiction inspired by his experiences as a POW in Dresden when it was firebombed. It is a rather curious book. It was very interesting and entertaining, but it was such a peculiar read that I'm really not sure what to say about it. Vonnegut tells his story through the character of a man named Billy Pilgrim. Pilgrim isn't Vonnegut, but he is supposed to have been one of Vonnegut's fellow POWs. The book tells about Pilgrim's war experiences, but it also tells about what happens after the war, even covering his death. The book doesn't do this in a chronological fashion, though. Pilgrim thinks he has been abducted by aliens and they allow him to experience all of life all at once, so that he can be in 1964 in one minute and in 1934 in another. While Vonnegut is telling this story, he's also commenting on greed and war. However peculiar a read this was, I think I may read more of Vonnegut's fiction in the future.

Pick of the Week: The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara.

This week, I didn't really make a reading list. I had two books I knew I would get, but I hadn't gone beyond that. First, I was planning to check out Shelters of Stone to finish the Earth's Children series (as it is written so far; Auel hasn't finished the sixth book yet). Secondly, I decided to read the second Harry Potter novel.

Last week, I visited the children's section first to covertly check out the first Harry Potter book. I was more than a tad uncomfortable being present in the children's section, seeing as I haven't fit that label for quite some time. I felt the same way when I sneaked in there to check out a Redwall book, but not as embarrassed as I felt to be walking around with Left Behind novels. After I checked out the book, I placed it my car and re-entered the library through the main doors. That way, no one saw me walking about with a "kiddy" book. This week I decided to check out my adult books first, then exit the library through the children's section and pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on my way out. After I picked up Shelters of Stone, I had no real idea what to get upstairs. I thought I should get another book on Germany, so I picked out The Germans. Then I saw a book called Storms from the Sun that looked interesting. After that, I decided to dart inside the children's section.

As it turns out, the librarians were having a meeting right beside the shelf where the Harry Potter books were. I'd be spotted by two of the main librarians! I stood there dumbly for a minute, then realized they could see my head over the short shelves and went to get the book. It wasn't there. I kneeled there listening to them speak, but the book wasn't there. I thought maybe they had isolated some of the books and put them in a special display. I went to get the movies -- I was checking out the first two movies as well -- but still couldn't find the books. Eventually one of the librarians noticed me wandering about (looking uncomfortable) and asked me if I needed help.

It turns out the web catalog was showing the book as "in" when it was really "out" and due in tomorrow. She gave me a "hold request" to sign, so they're going to call me tomorrow to come fetch the book. I chatted a bit with one of the librarians, and she says lots of adults check out books in the children's section. It was really a moot issue by then; I had been wandering about the children's books for so long by this point that whatever "adult dignity" I had was gone. I felt as comfortable as I felt when I was little and one of the founding members of the Goosebumps Fan Club.

So, the reading for this week:

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (if it's returned on time)
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I'll pick it up when I pick up the second.)
  3. Shelters of Stone, Jean M. Auel
  4. The Germans, by Gordon Alexander Craig
  5. Storms from the Sun by Michael J. Carlowicz

I'll also be watching the first two movies. I actually already watched the first movie today, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Special thanks to Mikado, for spotting the errors that I miss. I've gone a lifetime thinking Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written by "Ronald" Dahl!

Monday, August 6, 2007

This Week at the Library (6/8)

It didn't take me long to zip through this week's reading for whatever reason; the gods directed me to a select some very readable books, I suppose. The first book I read was Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. I had wanted to read something by Franken, but the main reason I picked this one up was because it featured Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter on the front cover. Bill is pointing his finger and shouting, presumably "SHUT UP!". I used to listen to W-MRK, this local AM station that plays fifties/sixties rock and features a lot of conservative talk radio hosts. I sometimes listened to O'Reilly, but I thought he was an abusive ass and only listened when I wanted to be amused by his antics. I can't even laugh about Ann Coulter, though; listening to her is like walking in a graveyard and seeing the grave of a child who died in a fire. It's sad, you know?

When I picked up the book, I wanted to read about those two being taken to task, and Franken does it quite well. Franken and I are both liberal idealists, so I don't think we'd have much to argue about. The book does put President Clinton a bit of a pedestal, though. I generally like Clinton, but I'm wary of a book that doesn't mention any failings of his. Then again, Clinton wasn't the subject of this book and he's mentioned only when Franken is addressing lies about him. This book was written before the '04 election, and so references Bush's "Not Really Elected" status more than a few times. I found the book to be informative and hilarious. One similar book I want to read is Soulless. You can probably guess who that one is about.

After the book on Franken, I read Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country. The initial few chapters don't seem to have a common theme, but the latter half of the book drifts toward idealism and sticks there. I have to say that the hour I spend reading this book was one of the most enjoyable hours I ever spent alive. The title of the book comes from Vonnegut's conviction that the America he loves has started to pass away in recent years. He does say this, though:

"While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, their powerful political connections or great wealth, who have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desk of our public libraries."

You might notice in that quoted section that Vonnegut uses commas a lot. I don't know if that's his literary style or if it's common of writers in his generation, but I noticed it throughout the book. He never uses semicolons as a matter of principle, which I find to be an interesting quirk. I enjoyed reading Vonnegut's words so much that I copied down a number of his quotations into my journal. You can browse his WikiQuote page to see others. I also have some of my favorites in my blog for those of you in the know. Vonnegut has been described this century's Mark Twain, which is funny considering that he asks where this century's Mark Twains and Abraham Lincolns are. I like reading this book, will look for other nonfiction works by him, and may even give his fiction another try.

Rickles' Book was the third I read this week. I said last week that the most memorable part of Don Rickles' appearance on Letterman was the fact that he kept insulting Dave throughout the course of the interview. As I read the book, I learned that insult humor is Rickles' shtick. That's how he makes a living; people pay him to come to their hotel or show, and he insults the audience and host. The main reason I checked this book out was to read anecdotes about Frank Sinatra. They were there as promised; in fact, Rickles opens and closes with stories about Frank. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a passionate fan of Frank Sinatra; his music, his movies, the man himself. There are plenty of stories about Frank in this book, and I hadn't heard any of them. Rickles describes Frank's voice as "the best voice in the history of music", which of course I agree with. I had personally never heard of Rickles before I saw him on Letterman, but I found this book to be enjoyable because the stories about the Ratpack and Johnny Carson alone.

Next up, I read President Carter's Our Endangered Values. In it, Carson addresses contemporary issues and explains his stance on them as it is informed by his faith and such. I've been meaning to read some of his books, and when he mentioned this one in an interview I decided to go with this one. President Carter explores issues like science (evolution, Big Bang), fundamentalism, the death penalty, abortion, environmentalism, and nuclear disarmament. I must admit that I used to harbor sort of a grudge against Carter for beating President Ford in the '76 election. It was a rather silly reason. I am a fan of Carter because of his activities in his post-presidential years; for a while my computer wallpaper included a picture of him working with Habitat for Humanity. Some of Carter's stances, as explained in the book:

  • Evolution & Big Bang, science in general: No problem. He says biblical authors didn't know what we know. He doesn't explain how Original Sin factors in to this. I think maybe he doesn't believe in Original Sin. I googled around to see if I could find out, but I didn't turn up anything conclusive.
  • Homosexuality: Considers it a sin based on Paul's writings, but also supports civil unions.
  • Death Penalty: Inhuman. He doesn't even argue against it, really; he quotes some statistics, mentions that the penalty is still on the book and still used, and expresses the thought that there needs to be a better effort to get rid of it. He discusses it in the same tone as you or I would anti-miscegenation laws.
  • Abortion: Against it; he said he supported Roe v. Wade because it was his duty as the chief executive, and he couldn't allow his religious convictions to interfere with his job as a secular leader. He believes that all babies should be wanted babies. Because of this…
  • Birth Control: Very supportive.
  • Stem Cell Research: Supportive; based on Carter's seemingly contradictory stances on abortion and stem cell research, It would seem that he doesn't believe fertilized eggs are really human yet. That would also make sense given his stance on birth control, as some methods of that are abortive anyway. Stem cell research may not be an issue in the future; I heard that we may have found a way of using skin cells to supply the same benefits as stem cells.
  • Fundamentalism: Opposed; claims it's against Christian ideals.
  • Church/State Separation: Very supportive.
  • Left Behind: Bizarre.
  • Pretty much policy decision made by George W. Bush: Wrong.
Carter's tone throughout the book is perfectly civil, even when talking about people who are past civility. That's one of the things I like about him; he's unfailingly polite. The closest he comes to making fun of or insulting anyone is when he comments that Left Behind's influence on American politics in Israel is "bizarre". On a similar note, I am again recommending Slacktivist's running commentary on Left Behind. I read it religiously, and the author never fails to amuse me. An example of Carter's genteelness:

"Although we often had discussions about the meaning of weekly lesson texts (divided equally between the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures), there was no thought of questioning the standard theology that characterized our devotion."

Notice what he does there? It's subtle; he refers to the Hebrew scriptures -- the Torah and Prophets and such -- as the Hebrew scriptures. He doesn't call them "The Old Testament". Why? Because oddly enough, Jews are mildly insulted when Christians refer to their Torah as "old", like it's "outdated" or "defunct". I discovered this a year or so ago when I began to research Judaism out of curiosity, although it should have been common sense. Another example: in a chapter on subservience of women in Christianity, President Carter uses a translation of the Bible that says "humankind" instead of "mankind". That's less subtle given the context, but still nice. He did amuse me when he mentioned "The War Between the States". I can almost hear him saying "Well, you know, there was nothing really civil about it."

The last book I read was The Plains of Passage. This describes Ayla and Jondolar's journey from the summer camp of the Mamutoi to the camps of the Zelandonii, who are Jondolar's people. It reminded me a lot of The Valley of Horses. Ayla spent most of Valley sitting in her cave learning to be self-sufficient, but Jondolar went on a journey with his brother and half the book was devoted to exploring his and his brother's travels as they walked across the landscape and met various people. That's what this book is about; Ayla and Jondolar walking from Asia Minor to France, meeting various people along the way. (The books my local library has feature maps that allow the reader to track what's going on.)

This book actually introduces the closest thing I've seen to villains since Broud. The first and most interesting is a psychotic feminazi named Attaroa. She murders the leader of the camp she lives in (her husband) and shoves all of the males into a caveman concentration camp. She's doing this because she thinks if only female spirits "mix", then only females will be born. She manages to capture Jondolar and tie him to a wooden stake used for target practice. Ayla shows up just in time, although to my disappointment she hails from the Jean-Luc Picard school of confrontation. (That is, talk the villain to death until their own character flaws do them in. It's poetic justice and that makes for nice literature, but in real life Ayla probably would've greeted Attaroa by killing her.)

The author, Jean M. Auel, often takes time while writing the books to describe what the landscape is like, what the animals are like, and how exactly humans are altering their environment to suit their needs. Sometimes this approach is interesting; sometimes it isn't. I enjoy learning about the mammoths and aurochs and onagers, but I couldn't stay interested in flint knapping. (Although I did pick up the word "knapping".) I think this is the reason some people (judging by reviews on Amazon and iRead) lose interest in this book. We're already familiar with most of the people Ayla and Jondolar encounter, so things can get a little bit tedious.

The most interesting part of the book for me came near the very end, when Jondolar and Ayla rescue a man and woman of the Clan who are being attacked by a band of thugs. I was very glad to see the Clan again; I like them. The Others aren't all that interesting, because there's no real difference between Cro-Magnons and modern humanity except that Cro-Magnons were a bit bigger. That makes sense considering that they live during the Ice Age and needed to be made of sterner stuff. I suppose we've atrophied since.

What I didn’t like about the book (and the series) is that things fit together too well. Ayla is almost a Mary Sue character; she's too perfect. She was raised by two people who were considered the best in the fields; one of them is a legendary figure who people across the continent know about. Her moral integrity is beyond reproach. She's wonder woman: she's the Ice Age version of Benjamin Franklin. Horseback riding, dogs, sewing name it, Ayla of the Mamutoi invented it.

Plains of Passage ended my reading for this week. I'm going to guess in the next book that her new family throws a fuss over her being raised by the Clan, and Jondolar will have to choose between the Family He Returned For and the Woman He Loves.

Pick of the Week: I'm going to go with Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country.

So that ends last week. This week, I wanted to get a book on turtles, as I've always liked turtles and frogs. Turtle biology in particular has always intrigued me. What's with the shells? I did some background reading in case whatever book I pick up is technical, and it seems that the shell is essentially the turtle's ribcage, but has been fused together. The book I want (which covers turtles, frogs, and lizards) is checked out, so I go with Turtles and Tortoises For Dummies. It's focused more at people who want to keep turtles as pets (something I've considered in the past), but I think I will learn from it anyway. I trust the for Dummies books.

In fiction, I plan to read Jeff Shaara's The Rising Tide. Back 2002 or 2003, my folks and I went to Kentucky. At my behest, we went to a Abraham Lincoln museum there. I thought ol' Abe was overrated (and still do, as far as civil rights is concerned*), but was nonetheless interested. While there, I saw a book called The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and a movie called Gettysburg. I realized while watching the movie that the movie was based largely on the book, and follows it almost word for word. Gettysburg is one of my favorite movies, and I can still quote large portions of it from memory -- especially scenes with General Pickett. While Gettysburg was being filmed, someone told Jeff Shaara -- Michael's son -- that he should write a sequel to his father's book. So he did; he wrote Gods and Generals, which is a prequel. He then wrote The Last Full Measure, which is a sequel. He must've found this line of work to be most interesting, because he continued writing books that take place during American wars. I've read all of them but his last one, which was based on World War 2. It's called The Rising Tide.

On a similar note -- the second World War -- I plan on reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-5". I say "on a similar note" because Vonnegut says it is an account of his experiences as a POW held by the Germans during the Dresden bombing. Brief history lesson: the British had to bomb cities at night because the RAF was so small and Nazi Germany's air defenses so stellar. Since precision bombing at night was impossible back then, the British adopted the strategy of carpet-bombing whole cities to ensure that damage was done. Fire-bombing was introduced to make even more of an impact, and Dresden was one city targeted in that fashion. The United States also indulged in firebombing. The USAAF's most well known experience with that is the Tokyo firebombing. I'm looking forward to encountering more of Mr. Vonnegut's personality. I share some of my favorite quotations from the book here.

In keeping with my studies, I plan to check out another book on German history -- Blood & Iron. The secondary title is "From Bismarck to Hitler, the von Moltke Family's Impact on German History". That makes three books this week that are somehow tied to Nazis, so I think next week I'll check out something cheery and light.

Against my better judgment and good taste -- and solely at the behest of numerous friends -- I am planning to read the first Harry Potter novel. I'm not into magic and fantasy, but my friends keep asking me to read these. One of those friends is likewise disinterested in magic, and he described the first book as "charming". We'll see. I'll read the book with an open mind and a straight face; if I could read all sixteen Left Behind books, I can surely read one Harry Potter novel. This way, if I read the first book and don't like it, I'll have a legitimate reason to not have read the series. I think I'll probably like it, but not enough to become a "Potterhead". (I have another friend who refuses to read the Potter books, and that's the way he referred to Potter fans when he threatened my life in the event I became a fan. )

That gives me five books, and I check them out with no problems. While in the library, I see a book written against James Dobson. I'm very much interested in reading, but I don't know how long it will take me to read the Shaara novel. I'll save it for next week. I'm also saving the final Earth's Children novel for next week. I'll miss Wonder Woman, but Auel is working on a sixth and final book.

So, this week:
  1. Turtles and Tortoises for Dummies by Liz Palika.
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
  3. Blood & Iron by Otto Friedrich.
  4. The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara.
  5. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut.

[*] I've read a lot of Lincoln's own words, and firmly believe Lincoln's "civil rights" achievements were inspired by political strategy. He was firmly in the "necessary evil" camp until the Civil War, then realized he could use slavery against the South as a strategic advantage. That doesn't detract from what he accomplished, but I tire of people making him out to be a saint.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

This Week at the Library (2/8)

Last week's reading was primarily nonfiction, as half my reading pertained to the classes I'm going to be taking. The other two books -- Theories for Everything and The Mammoth Hunters -- were unrelated to my classes. The first book I read was The Mammoth Hunters, which is third in the Earth's Children series. The author, Jean M. Auel, continues to tell the story of Ayla to us. This book concentrates on character development primarily because there's little else to concentrate on; the first book had to explain the culture of the Clan to the readers, and the second had to introduce and explain the "Others" by way of telling Jondolar's backstory. Jondolar's people -- the Zelandonii -- are not that different from the people Ayla and Jondolar live with in this book, the Mamutoi. Because of this, the book focuses on how Ayla fits in with the Mamutoi. Their camp is quite different from the camp of the Clan, as they are a completely foreign culture to her. Throughout the book she adapts and picks up an additional love interest. The conflict between her and her two suitors builds throughout the book. The effect for me was ruined because I accidentally read the first page of this book's sequel and knew how the conflict was resolved. This book series has more romance than I am accustomed to reading through, but given that most of my reading is nonfiction and science fiction, that's not all together suprising. I thought the book's ending was rushed, though -- and very anticlimactic. I was expecting a bit more drama, but…nothing. The book just ends in a sort of a "bythewaythisistheend" fashion. I knew what was coming, though, and I suppose it was wise of the author to not bother dragging the conclusion out out.

Theories for Everything would constitute the bulk of my reading for last week, and would be the reason I didn't finish The German Empire on time. Theories is an overview and history of science. It isn't dull, but there is a lot of material to be covered and it took me a while. Theoriesis one of those books I wish I had in my private library, because it's a handy resource that I'd like to return to again. It's a bit like a popular science book and a bit like a science textbook. The book has multiple authors, experts in their respective fields. I found the book to be most enlightening, especially the chapter on medicine. I didn't know much about medicinal history, and had no idea that there were competing theories in that field as well that caused contention throughout the course of history. The book increased my appreciation for Hippocrates, which is saying something since I already liked him a good deal. The book does a good job of informing the reader, and no technical knowledge in any of these fields is required. The only chapter that didn't hold my attention was the one on brains, which is interesting given how much I loved reading Phantoms in the Brain a month or so ago.

The Middle Ages by Dorothy Mills is a splendid little history of the medieval era in Europe. Mills tells the story of history as if she's telling a story, and I enjoyed it considerably. The use of "Mohammedan" caught my eye; like "coloureds", it's one of those words that betrays the time in which the book was written. I checked out the book's copyright, and it was written in 1935. That makes it the oldest first-print edition book I've ever read; before this it was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. "Mohammedan" is used to describe members of the Islamic faith, and they don't like it because it implies they worship Mohammed. Considering how some Muslims acted last year during the Danish cartoon controversy, I'd say the implication is justified -- but I would only use it to describe those Muslims who go apeshit when their prophet's image is depicted. Mills doesn't use the word pejoratively.

The last book I read this week -- and the one I didn't finish until this week -- was Michael Stürmer's The German Empire. It's not a long book; in fact it's small, short, and thin. It took me longer than expected to finish Theories, though, so I didn't finish the book until early this week. I need more background in German history to really appreciate this book; that the reader would have some knowledge about Germany's history is implied. I do have some background into German history (through The Complete Idiot's Guide to Nazi Germany, which had to establish how Nazism managed to take hold in an "enlightened" country), and the parts of this book that I was able to understand built upon that background. There were some parts of this little book that I didn't quite understand, but I'll keep reading on German history and one day return to this book and it will be old stuff.

Pick of the Week: Theories for Everything

That ends last week. This week I came to the library with a short list of promising titles. I like it when I can come with a list, because wandering around the library waiting for books to catch my eye is fairly hit-and-miss. Generally, books arrive on my list through shows like This American Life and friends' recommendations. This week's list:

[*]Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter. I heard an interview with President Carter and when he was asked a few difficult questions, he deferred to the book. I can understand that, because the questions he was asked were the kind that need explanations; explanations you don't want to leave at the mercy of an audio engineer who to produce an hour-long show. I decided to pick the book up; I've been meaning to read some of Carter's books for a while now.

[*]The Plains of Passage. This is fourth in the Earth's Children series.

[*]A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is a name I heard a bit about after he died, and apparently he was this century's Mark Twain. I checked out one of his books a few weeks back -- Cat's Cradle -- but didn't really get into it because it was a bad week for reading and I wanted to be reading about history and science anyway. A Man Without a Country is one of his nonfictional works.

[*]The Truth (with Jokes) by Al Franken. I've forgotten how I came to want to read this book. I've never watched his show, as I grew up in a home without television. When I went to the library, I was able to find all of these except for The Truth (with Jokes). The library's webcat said that the book was there and checked in, but I searched and couldn't find it. I suppose it was on the reshelve cart or that some patron had it and was walking around with it. I wanted to read something by Franken, though, and so found myself looking for Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them. The book's cover featured Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, George Bush, and Dick Cheney. I knew then that it was promising. I didn't like Coulter and O'Reilly when I was a conservative back in high school and I don't like `em now.

While at a computer terminal accessing the library's webcat, I noticed a familiar face in the Featured Books section. The Featured Books section of the library in my hometown is near the main desk, and they put books there every two weeks (I think that's the schedule) that relate to a particular theme. One week the theme is local history, another week it's the paranormal (kudos to my library for including Carl Sagan's A Demon-Haunted World among the books about alien abductions and such; gotta keep the voice of reason in there); the theme varies. I don't know what the theme was this week, but I saw a face I recognized from The Late Show with David Letterman. It was this guy named Don Rickles, and I remember him because he has a unique face and insulted Letterman throughout the course of the interview. I remember that he was supposed to have palled around with Frank Sinatra and that he included some stories in the book -- so I check it out. My reading for this week, therefore, is as follows.

  1. A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
  2. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken
  3. The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
  4. Rickles' Book by Don Rickles.
  5. Our Endangered Values by President Jimmy Carter.