Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ex Libris - Anne Fadiman

Sub-title: Confessions of a Common Reader

What a delightful little read!  This is a collection of essays on reading, owning books, loving books, sharing books.  The author has thousand of books along with her husband's.  Her parents had thousands of books and both of them were writers.  It was a pleasure to share her love of reading, book ownership and her experiences of growing up and growing old with books.

She has an essay on merging her and her husband's libraries after they were married that's funny.  There's also a tongue in cheek piece on plagiarism that's quite clever.  A little gem that all readers should seek out and enjoy.

I particularly liked the essay where a used bookseller told the story of getting the entire collection of a big reader who had died.  When they brought the collection to the store, they divided it up by topic and the bookseller says:

"...and somehow, all of a sudden they weren't John Clive anymore.  Dispersing his library was like cremating a body and scattering it to the winds.  ...I realized that books get their value from the way they coexist with the other books a person owns, and that when they lose their context, they lose their meaning."
Published:  1998  Read:  October 2015  Genre: Essay

ISBN: 0-374-52722-9

Friday, October 9, 2015

Secondhand Souls - Christopher Moore

I finished my contract for work and I've been binge reading, a not so bad experience!  I finished this book in one day, how heavenly to read and read and read for as long as I wanted!

Moore writes strange, darkly humorous tales with fast, wise-cracking dialogue.  I've read most of his previous books so I snatched this one when I saw it at the library.

How to describe a Christopher Moore story?  In this one, his hero, Chris, is trapped in a 14 inch high cobbled together body made of spam and mechanical parts wrapped in a shiny robe, the result of almost being killed in a previous book by the forces of evil, three harpies from hell.  The hero's daughter is the queen of death, though only 7 years old.  She's being cared for by a lesbian couple and watched over by neighboring Chinese and Russian? grandmothers.  Chris's girlfriend has an army of meat puppets under her Victorian style home that she makes outfits for.  They are all riled up when the forces of evil return and start stealing souls instead of allowing them to pass on to heaven.  Weird?  That's just the start of it.

I always laugh out loud at Moore's books and the absurd, fantastical, irreverent characters and story line.  Not for the faint of heart.

Published:  2015  Read:  October 2015  Genre: Fiction, humor

The Anchoress - Robyn Cadwallader

I love learning about obscure pieces of history that reveal so much about the times and lives of the people who lived in the times portrayed.  This is the story of a young girl who chooses to live in a cell, called an anchorhold, that is attached to the outside of a church.  She is nailed in, never to leave the cell again, to practice a life of devotion and servitude.  She has a narrow angled window in the church wall, called a squint where she can see the altar in the church to view the sacraments being shared.  There is another window draped in a heavy curtain through which a maid servant cares for her needs.

This was a common practice in medieval times.  The story is set in 1255.  Sarah is deeply sadden by the death of her sister and chooses the life of the anchoress to shield herself from the world.  She finds however that the world still penetrates her isolated existence.

The author is a scholar of medieval history and her knowledge is woven into the life of Sarah and her reactions to her choices.  Highly recommended.

Published:  2015   Read: October 2015  Genre: Historical fiction

ISBN:  9780374104252

Shadow Divers - Robert Kurson

Subtitle: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of WWII

I waited too long to read this book.  My BFF recommended it ages ago and I finally got it off my TBR list and got a copy from the library.  It was a great read.

It's the story of two men looking for shipwrecks in the sport of "deep wreck diving". Dangerous to the extreme as well as competitive, they find a sunken submarine off the coast of New Jersey and seek to identify it.  

I really enjoyed the relationship of these fiercely independent, risk-taking men.  Their dedication to the search and their persistence despite dead ends and roadblocks and tragedy made for a good read.

Published:  May 2005  Read: September 2015  Genre: Adventure, Non-fiction

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gorge - Kara Richardson Whitley

Sub-title: My journey up Kilimanjaro at 300 pounds

The library near my home has shelves of books right inside the entry that are "new and notable" releases.  I picked up this one in the non-fiction area as I'd heard of the title.

Kara is a large (she's honest, she says "fat") woman, 6 ft. tall and has been as heavy as 360 lbs. She's not a proportionately large woman; she has  "three feet wide hips" as she describes them when trying to put on her hiking pants.  Her story is about climbing Mt Kilimanjaro three times to raise money for AIDS orphans in Africa.  It's truly about her experience being an athlete despite her size and her struggle with food addiction.  It's brutally honest and revealing and made me want to shout, "hurray!" for her courage in telling what it is like to live being overweight.

More than anything her story made me see that how a person looks, especially overweight people, colors all our thoughts and beliefs about them.  I realize how my thinking has been colored by mass media to see overweight people only from one dimension - they're fat. We don't see them as a person or even expect them to have a personality, skills, knowledge, talent or capabilities of a normal weight person.  And if we ourselves are overweight, those beliefs are projected to ourselves.

Kara describes soothing herself with food, getting food for others and then eating it all herself, sneaking the evidence.  And she also talks about working with a trainer, doing a half-marathon, and lifting weights to get ready for the treks.

At one point during the hike, she overhears the guides and porters joking about her.  She confronts them the next morning, smiling but determined not to accept the ridicule of others and letting them know their joking was hurting her.  Her struggle to stand up for herself without being mean or angry was inspiring.

Kara is a motivational speaker and journalist and lives in NJ with her two daughters and husband,
Read this book, it will make you think.

Published: 2015    Read: October  2015  Genre: Memoir

ISBN: 9 781580055598