Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Week at the Library (23/6)

From the past two weeks....

  • Memories of Old Cahaba dates to the start of the 20th century, and is the recollections of a woman who lived in Alabama's first state capital (now a ghost town) as a teenager. I checked out the book to guide me as I toured the few remains of the town, once one of the grander towns in pre-industrial Alabama. Fry's memoir depicts a heavily romanticized view of the town, but was useful during my visits there.
  • I also finished a collection of essays by Isaac Asimov titled The Roving Mind. Most of the essays were scientific in nature, with a few on skepticism and the future. There's also some satire, which is unusual for Asimov. Enjoyable, of course, and worth any Asimov reader's while. 
  • Next, I re-read The Other Side of Selma, a collection of anecdotes about my hometown (Selma, Alabama) during the fifties and sixties. Most of the anecdotes are pitched as humorous, although a few recount the kindness of people long dead. Its appeal is limited, naturally, but as a Selma native I enjoyed it. The stories are very informal.
  • Lev Grossman's The Magicians is a coming of age story set against a fantasy background.  Quentin Coldwater is an isolated and lonely young man who frequently escapes from the boredom and meaninglessness of the real world into the fantasy world of Fillory. When he discovers that the world of magic is real -- and is invited to join the ranks of magic-users by abandoning dreams of college for a private magic academy --  Coldwater finds meaning and adventure, but realizes too late that a life of excitement comes with a price.  Grossman starts off charming and funny, but grows darker as Coldwater matures into a angsty twenty-something.
  • Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire collects Twain's various works criticizing American imperialism, specficially the war against the Phillipines. Twain sees expansionistic war as dooming the the Republic to authoritarianism, and mourns the perversion of patriotism into merely "supporting the troops".  Enjoyable and applicable for today, I'd reccommend this most of all the books I've read this week.
  • Tales of the Dominion War collects stories by various Trek luminaries set during the Dominion War. The stories' characters come not only from the television and movie canon, but from the expanded universe of Trek literature. The stories are not just about ship-to-ship combat: a few are set on planets being attacked and concentrate on civilians or on low-ranking Starfleet members, while others go outside the Federation and tackle Romulan politics and Klingon honor. Great read for Trekkies.
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur tells the tale of Commander Horatio Hornblower, recently appointed the peacetime captain of the Hotspur, assigned to survey France's coast and keep a wary eye out for antagonistic activity. Such activity is assured given the rise of Napoleon, and Hornblower is soon busy blockading ports and sacking convoys. Although this book has many great Hornblower moments, I struggled through it.
  • Most recently I read The World Through Maps: A History of Cartography, a brief summary of map-making history replete with gorgeous illustrations of maps. Short's narrative provides many tidbits and a little context for understanding the maps, but it's far from comprehensive and focuses a bit much on the United States. 

Pick of the Week: Weapons of Satire, Mark Twain.

Selected Quotations:

"Patriotism is merely a religion -- love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country’s flag and honor and welfare. In absolute monarchies it is furnished from the throne, cut and dried, to the subject; in England and America it is furnished, cut and dried, to the citizen by the politician and the newspaper." - Mark Twain

"He was either going to punch someone or start a blog. Personally, I'm glad he clocked you." - Paraphrase from The Magicians.

Upcoming Reads:

  • The Adventures of Robin Hood, Paul Creswick. I'm not sure about this one: the first four times I tried reading the opening chapter, my eyes glazed over. On the fifth try, it clicked. We'll see what happens.
  • The Man with the Iron Heart, Harry Turtledove. What if hardline Nazis refused to stop fighting after Hitler's defeat? 
  • Chainbreaker's War: A Seneca Chief Remembers the American Revolution, ed. Jeane Winston Adler. 
  • I may finish a Grisham re-read, and I've got some Star Trek books I could read as well...


  1. sc said: What if hardline Nazis refused to stop fighting after Hitler's defeat?

    Actually many did - they were known as werewolves I believe. They operated inside occupied Germany until at least 1947.

  2. This book is about that very movement, although they're much stronger and led by Reinhard Heydrich, who survived an assassination attempt when the Czech shooting at him had a misfire. "Werewolves" was just mentioned for the first time as a Soviet agent "questioned" a few German prisoners.


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