Monday, June 4, 2012

Books of 2012 - May

1. All the Kaiser's Men. Non-fiction by Ian Passingham. Thoroughly engrossing read about the German soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War. My only complaint about this book is that the size made it awkward to hold. The edition I had was paperback but oversize, though not too thick.

2. Game of Thrones. Fiction by George R. R. Martin. You may have heard of this as a series on TV. I was interested to see what had caused all the buzz. This fantasy series is brutal, crude, dismal, and worse and yet, compelling. I can't say I recommend it (and from what I've heard and read I certainly will not be watching the series) but it is a fascinating world Martin has created.

3. Crooked Adam. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson. WW2 era fiction. I suppose this was Stevenson's attempt at a spy novel but it doesn't quite work. It feels like the author "cheats" a few times and the ending is abrupt.

4. The Great War and Modern Memory. Non-fiction by Paul Fussell.This is part literary criticism and part history and at times I didn't know what to make of it. (As I told my husband, "I think it must be sort of tragic to be a literary critic and never able to simply read a poem again.") Towards the end he discusses some truly reprehensible books, the very descriptions of which made me feel a bit ill. In one of those strange convergences, this author passed away eleven days after I finished this book. One of the National Review authors wrote a post about Fussell and linked to his obituary.

5. Writing Down the Bones. Non-fiction by Natalie Goldberg. Some helpful advice here but a dependence on mysticism (based on the Buddhism of the author) causes me to caution you against this one. (If you want an inspiring writing book, I recommend If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spiritby Brenda Ueland.)

6. The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. Non-fiction by Jonah Goldberg. (Yes, I realize both #5 and #6 on this list were written by authors with the last name Goldberg. As Babs and Buster Bunny used to say, "No relation.")This book is not as scholarly as the author's previous work Liberal Fascism (which is a book I highly recommend). This book deals with those phrases and ideas that, at first glance, seem to make sense but on further inspection just do not add up. (Things like "violence never solved anything.") No sacred cow is safe from Goldberg. (My apologies for the cliche!)

7. The Attenbury Emeralds. Fiction by Jill Paton Walsh. Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane series mystery. This one made me kind of sad. Our hero (and heroine) is getting older. In post-war England, life is changing. The Wimsey's are changing. I'd rather they didn't. (But, alas, that is not how life, nor book series, works.)

8. To Marry an English Lord. Non-fiction by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. This book is almost encyclopedic in its information (and I mean that as a compliment). If you are interested in finding out why American heiresses became sought after wives after the US Civil War this book will explain it. Great pictures, great sidebars and lots of documentation. Fascinating stuff.

9. The Idle Parent. Non-fiction by Tom Hodgkinson. I'm a fan of the basic philosophy behind this book (relax, stop feeling guilty about not spending a boatload of money, don't be a helicopter parent) but I am not a fan of this author. He is anti-capitalist and anti-religion. (One of his bugbears is "The Puritans" and, to quote a favorite movie, "You keeping using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") His goal of letting his children run free range so he can nurse his hangover is not, to my mind, admirable. I think we need an antidote to the current trend of overparenting and we certainly need to stop underestimating what our children are capable of doing for themselves but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this author or his manifesto as that antidote.

10. Witch Wood. Fiction by John Buchan. I don't think I've ever read another book like this one. Set in 17th century Scotland, it was an amazing journey to a time and place which I knew very little about. The Scots dialect style that the author uses is sometimes difficult but I eventually got into a good rhythm and could hardly put this down. Excellent examination of "Grace vs. Works" that I did not expect in a secular book. (This book was originally published in the 1920s) If you've read it, I'd love to know what you thought about it.

11. A Clash of Kings. Fiction by George R. R. Martin. Once again, can't really say I recommend this series. (See #2 above for why. This book is more of the same, possibly worse.)

Totals for May:
Fiction: 5

Read anything good in May? Do share in the comments!
Book covers in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. Actions taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own.

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