Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This Week at the Library (3/12)

Books this Update:

This past week encompassed Thanksgiving, and so during the holiday I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I love the story, and enjoy a tradition of watching the movie adaption with Patrick Stewart every Christmas -- or whenever I feel like watching it. Everyone in the west knows the story -- a selfish old miser who retorts "Bah, humbug!" at every "Merry Christmas!" who is visited by spirits and experiences a change of heart. That's a simplistic rendition of an extraordinarily well-written story -- a story that never fails to move me when I read it or watch the Stewart movie. Dickens' reputation is well-deserved. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come force Scrooge to realize the effects his actions have had on him and others. The story is a triumphant story of human redemption.

Next I continued in the Colonization series with Down to Earth. Down to Earth continues showing the effects long-term Lizard occupation has had on the Earth, as well as showing the effects of the colonization fleet's recent arrival. The fleet brings with it animals from Home, which interact with Earth's environment and native species. Meanwhile, political strife between the humans and the Lizards -- particularly in regard to Nazi Germany -- increases. This book is heavy on characterization, something I sometimes fail to comment on while focused on the story. I thought it excellent.

Next up was a series of writings by Kurt Vonnegut -- a speech, a letter, an essay, and a number of short stories. All had something to do with war and peace after war. Many of the stories were directly tied to World War 2, in which Vonnegut fought. I enjoyed most of the stories, with a couple of exceptions. As it usual with Vonnegut, I'm at a loss as to how to summarize the book.

Following this I read Almost Everyone's Guide to Science, a science book that provides the reader with a basic understanding of everything from atoms to evolution to the universe. The author begins with the atom and then moves up -- atoms to the molecules of life, the Sun to the solar system, the solar system to the universe -- and ties chapters neatly together at the end with a brief summary that doubles as a lead-in to the next chapter. I think the book is well-done.

Lastly, I read Women in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies. The book is typical of the Gies in that it is a short, well-written historical narrative that quotes generous from primary sources and employs medieval art to illustrate its points. The book is divided into background chapters -- which examine women in the context of feudalism and theology -- and case-study chapters that focus on individual women to show what life was like for other women in their position. The case-study women range from working-class to nuns to noblewomen. I think Women in the Middle Ages may be one of the Gies' better works.

Pick of the Week: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Quotation of the Week
: "Reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that things have to be the way they are, that you are alone, that no one has ever felt the way you have. What occurs to people when they read Kurt is that things are much more up for grabs than they thought they were. The world is a slightly difference place just because they read a damn book. Imagine that." - Mark Vonnegut, Armageddon in Retrospect

Next Week:
  • The Knight in History, Frances and Joseph Gies
  • The Russian Revolution, Richard Pipes
  • Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer

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