Thursday, April 15, 2010

This Week at the Library (15/4)

Recent reading:

  • The Infernova is a modern retelling of Dante's inferno written to amuse skeptics by making religious hypocrites, cult leaders, and other enemies of reason the subject of poetic justice.
  • Strength to Love was a collection of sermons by Martin Luther King Jr. that displays his belief in radical love, nonviolence, the importance of reason in discerning the truth, and the necessity of religious institutions acting as progressive forces in society.
  • In the mood for an adventure, I read Captain Horatio Hornblower, a collection of three sea adventures set in the Napoleonic era and starring the titular character as captain of a frigate. Happily, the books were not just sea stories but contained political intriuge and land-based adventure. I'll be reading more of the Hornblower series.
  • In the same mood, I read Millennium Falcon, a novel that tells the story of Han Solo's attempt to discover the full history of his ship. Although set  far in the extended universe, Luceno uses a character's backstory to cleverly update readers like myself, who aren't familiar with the decades' worth of history that the Extended Universe has created past Return of the Jed
  • Next up I read Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, not to be confused with 1421: the Year China Discovered America. (I spoonerized the years several times in mentioning the books, to my uncomfortable amusement.) Mann's work reminds me of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel in his scope and approach. His central thesis is that the Americas were not dominated by a lack of progress as we might suppose.
  • Max Schulman's Rally Round the Flag Boys! was next. This light comedy set during the early Cold War begins by introducing the readers to a half-dozen eccentric characters and then begins bouncing them off one another relentlessly off of one another. Fifties stereotypes abound.
  • I then read a biography of India's first prime minster, Jahwahrlal Nehru, and one that focused on how his passions and princples informed the the path India took in its first decades of independence from Britain. The biography is sympathetic, but not protective, and Nehru emerges as a fascinating character.
  • Lastly, I finished the Bhagavad Gita, a poem considered sacred by Hindus for its role in explaining parts of Hindu theology and philosophy. Mitchell's translation is indeed readable, although not having read another translation, I can offer no comparisons.

Pick of the Week(s):  1491, Charles C. Mann.

Quotation of the Week:
"What are we do?" he asked feebly.
"Do?" she replied. "We are lovers, and the world is ours. We do as we will." (Beat to Quarters, C.S. Forester)

Upcoming Reads:

  • Young Hornblower, collecting three more Hornblower novels that are set at the beginning of his naval career as a young officer during the French Revolution. 
  • The Secret Life of Plants, Sir David Attenborough
  • Tatooine Ghost, another Star Wars read. 
  • In addition, I'm working on a paper about the development of Anglo-German submarine warfare strategy (1914-1945), but I doubt I'll have time to read anything through properly. 

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