Thursday, June 2, 2011

Books of 2011 - May

May turned out to be a good reading month. In addition to the following books, I was also working my way through a huge book for research. I didn't finish that one until June first so it isn't on this list.
Operation Last Chance: One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice1. Operation Last Chance: One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice. Non-fiction by Efraim Zuroff. This book is part memoir, part advertisement for this push to bring remaining war criminals to justice before they die of natural causes. (This has been in the news just recently, with the head line grabbing case of John Demjanjuk) Bringing these now elderly men (and, in a few instances, women) is not without controversy. (See this news story for more about these issues and how Zuroff responds).

Stop Throwing Money Away: Turn Clutter to Cash, Trash to Treasure--And Save the Planet While You're at It2. Stop Throwing Money Away. Non-fiction by Jamie Novak. An interesting look at what clutter (or disorganization) can cost. Suggests several ways to simplify life (and make some money) without ever telling the reader you have to go buy a bunch of organizing tools or get rid of your entire collection of cool whip tubs.

William Pitt the Younger3. William Pitt the Younger: A Biography. Non-fiction by William Hague. (Note: the version pictured is the paperback and I read the hardback from our local library. I'm assuming the editions are similar, if not identical.) William Pitt is one of the most amazing statesmen in history. This book never manages to do him justice. It is huge (seriously. I think I deserve a medal for finishing. It took at least a month of reading on and off and that's crazy for me), it deals with the minutiae of English parliamentary procedure, and quotes a great many letters and diaries. But, with a few passages that are notable exceptions, it never manages to capture the spirit of William Pitt. I don't feel like I'm acquainted with the subject any more for having slogged through this biography than I was beforehand. (Which just goes to show that not every biographer can be Eric Metaxas.) So, my history crush will go unrequited for now.

Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese4. Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese. Non-fiction by Michael Nelson. If you're familiar with MST3K, then you know why I wanted to read this book. If you're not then...move along to the next entry. This book is dated now but it still managed to make me (and also Philip, who read it too) laugh out loud. (We've also been on a MST3K kick lately. There's nothing like an hour and a half of Mike and the Bots right before bedtime.)

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History5. Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. Non-fiction by David Aaronovitch. This book was very even handed in dealing with conspiracies from many different sources. This is a tricky subject because people tend to be skeptical of theories from the opposite side of the political aisle or point of view. This book deals with several well known conspiracies, from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to "Who Shot JFK?" to what's the deal with the Da Vinci Code?

Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal6. Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. Non-fiction by T. David Gordon. I read this primarily to give Pastor Dad a book report. I hope I've managed to do that in person because I'm having trouble remembering all my clever points now that it has come time to write them down. One thing I liked: the differentiation between music specifically for corporate worship and music for personal enjoyment. One thing I didn't like: the dependence on catholic (and yes, I used the little c on purpose) tradition for one of the reasons churches should use hymns instead of other forms of music. At one point it seemed the author would consider the church I attend a cult because we do not hold to the concept of the universal church catholic. This book makes very important points that American churches (or Western, first world, churches) need to consider but another weakness of the book is the lack of attention to churches that are not in the U.S, i.e.: Does a worship service in Kenya have to sound just like a worship service in Ohio?  Anyway, it's an interesting discussion and I do recommend the book for churches considering "the music issue".

The Book Tree: A Christian Reference for Children's Literature, 2nd Edition7. The Book Tree: A Christian Reference for Children's Literature. Non-fiction by Elizabeth McCallum & Jane Scott. A book about books - the best kind! Lots of great recommended reading for children here, including some of the newer Christian fiction available.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel8. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Part. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. The latest in the "Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency" mystery series. For me, reading these books is the literary equivalent of eating comfort food.

Vampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero9. The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero. Non-fiction by Susannah Clements. This book is written from a Christian perspective, although the subject matter decrees that this is not comfortable reading. I have been studying these issues since I became aware of how "big" the Twilight series had become with the teenagers (and some adults!) I know.

Love Letters: A Novel10. Love Letters. Fiction by Katie Fforde. Fforde writes what could be called Brit Chick Lit, although I don't find the label particularly useful. This is not one of my favorite books by this author.

You'll Lose the Baby Weight: (And Other Lies about Pregnancy and Childbirth)11. You'll Lose the Baby Weight (And Other Lies About Pregnancy and Childbirth). Non-fiction by Dawn Meehan. A book by a blogger! (Thereby bringing hope and despair in equal measure to other bloggers who would love a book deal, ahem) I am not currently pregnant or preparing to give birth - just thought we'd clear that up right now - but I'm both close enough and removed enough from the last round to find this book hysterically funny.

The Hunger Games12. The Hunger Games. Fiction by Suzanne Collins. OK, I'm not sure what cave I've been living in but I've heard of these books and just assumed they were not for me. This book grabbed me from the first chapter and I couldn't put it down. I have some concerns about the use of first person present tense, but the author makes it work. These books are violent but not in a gratuitous, "glorification of violence" way (the original audience was YA).

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie13. The Wilder Life. Non-fiction by Wendy McClure. This book is mostly personal memoir so any criticism I have seems unnecessarily pointed. Suffice it to say: I didn't love it but that's not because the book is poorly written. It boils down to this: I don't think Ms McClure knows the same Laura I know. And that's the thing about the Little House books: they are so intimate. You grow up thinking you know these people, that you are practically related to them. It can be a shock to find out that other people read the books and have the same reaction, only they didn't make the same connections or conclusions you did. I also wonder if the author's relationship to the books would have been different if her parents had read them to her (as my parents read them to us) instead of just reading them on her own as a child. These books are part of our family lore, not something that isolated me. (I have to say: for better or worse, Farmer Boy and my dad are inextricably intertwined in my mind.) The author does make very valid points about the TV show and Rose Wilder Lane (always a tricky subject for Laura fans). Anyway, that's just my $0.02.

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)14. Catching Fire. Fiction by Suzanne Collins. The second book in the series. I read it in an afternoon. (Don't ask how much my house or children suffered because of this!) Now I'm waiting anxiously for third book to come in. I feel like Rex (the dinosaur) in the first Toy Story movie: "What?! What is it?!" I feel like calling my friends at the library and making them pull a few strings. I have no idea how people managed if they started reading the series back in 2008 and had to wait a year for the next book.

Totals for May:
Fiction: 4
Non-fiction: 10

So, what about you? Have you read anything that I need to add to my stack?
This post contains Amazon Associate links. Any action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own and I encourage you to check your library or Paperback Swap first - these books are worth it!

1 comment:

Karin said...

You blow me away with your book list! In my younger years I used to be a voracious reader - nowadays, I can't seem to focus. Have 4 books here - and only finished 1. Good for you!!

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