Late Night Open Thread: What Are You Reading?

TattooSydney suggested that it’s been a while since the last BJ Virtual Book Club…

The older I get, the slower I read — don’t know how much of this is natural attrition, and how much is the increasing influence of the intertoobz on my attention span. But I’m having a great time gradually working my way through Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello, which deserves all the accolades it’s collected. Professor Gordon-Reed is even making me slightly more sympathetic towards Thomas Jefferson, which is no easy feat, since I’ve been pro-Adams ever since I read my first Abigail biography when I was 6 or 7. Looking at “America’s Greatest Genius” from the underside — focusing on the lives of the people who made Jefferson’s brilliant lifestyle possible, at the cost of their own — is fascinating, in that shake-the-kaleidescope way that is history at its best. For instance, there’s the description of how Thom’s need to literally put himself above the abomination of the slave-driven plantations that fueled his comfortable life while violating his stated political philosophy further burdened his subordinates:

Situating a house at Monticello presented not only unique problems but also familiar ones on a far greater order of magnitude than was typical.
__
First, building the house required shaving the top off the mountain, a huge earth-moving enterprise in an era that had neither earth movers nor bulldozers, at least not mechanical ones. Human beings, slaves Jefferson hired from a nearby planter, engaged in this massive effort, digging with shovels in Virginia’s hard red clay to level the ground and then digging a foundation and cellars for the house. This was backbreaking work carried out over twelve-hour days. On one occasion Jefferson observed as “a team of four men, a boy, and two sixteen-year-old girls” worked. It was winter. There was snow on the ground, it was extremely cold, and the laborers periodically stopped their digging to warm their hands over a fire before they returned to their arduous task.
__
There was no ready water supply on top of the mountain. A well had to be dug, an especially difficult undertaking, because the workers were required to dig deeper to find water than they would have had to if they had been digging on level ground. It took them forty-six days to excavate sixty-five feet of mountain rock before they hit water, almost twice the depth of a normal well in Virginia. Even with that, at times when not enough rain fell to provide a constant and ready supply, water had to hauled up the mountain. Jefferson did not consider these issues a serious problem. From his perspective, as from that of any man of his class, his tasks were to imagine the design for his life on the mountain, engineer ways to execute the design, and then find people — slaves and hired workmen — to complete his projects. As long as labor was available, the job would be done.

Who else has got a good book to recommend?






124 replies
  1. 1
    Yutsano says:

    A Calvin & Hobbes collection. I’ve read it several times. Still a classic and timeless insight.

  2. 2

    We play hell understanding cultures well divorced from our own. Ancient Rome doesn’t connect with us anymore than the slave holding aristocracy of the South. We are outside looking in with our cultural constructs.

  3. 3
    freelancer says:

    The older I get, the slower I read—don’t know how much of this is natural attrition, and how much is the increasing influence of the intertoobz on my attention span.

    AL, I used to read a book every week or two, but keeping up with my RSS feed has KILLED that. The book I’m currently reading/listening to the audiobook is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars.

    Beyond that, I have a slate of books I’ve purchased but need to catch up on but everyday web reading just kills it. Do not falsely attribute it to age, I’m 27.

  4. 4
    russell says:

    For some reason I’m reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut lately.

    Also, while I appreciate Jefferson’s basic ideals, and especially appreciate his rhetoric, I find myself increasingly unable to overlook the freaking enormous blind spot he had about blacks and slavery.

    Lovely words, shitty praxis. Not my favorite founder. FWIW.

  5. 5
    mehro says:

    Reading the Gulag Archipelago

  6. 6

    I’m currently reading the modern classic, Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure, by some guy from Microsoft.

    With occasional brief glances at Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane.

  7. 7
    MikeTheZ says:

    @russell: Then boy, does the Texas School Board wanna talk to you :-P

  8. 8

    I’ve recently been using Audible.com to buy all my books and listen to them. There are two I can highly recommend.

    The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & The Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan

    Daemon by Daniel Suarez

    The first is a historical narrative on Teddy and the creation of the National Parks and the second is a techno-thriller. Pick your poison, both are excellent.

  9. 9
    Mnemosyne says:

    I mentioned it in another open thread, but I just finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It runs on two threads: the story of the cancer cells that were taken from Lacks in 1951 that are still alive today and making millions of dollars for the companies that culture and sell them, and the story of her family, who can’t even afford health insurance.

    I’m sure the movie rights have already been sold and it’s going to be turned into yet another Nice White Lady Saves Black Family movie, but the book is more, “nice white lady convinces a family to trust her with their story even though they’ve been burned more than once before.”

    I’m about halfway through a book I found used called Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood. It’s a good history of the days before Joseph Breen was able to force Hollywood to follow the ridiculous Motion Picture Production Code that basically castrated American films for the next 30 years.

  10. 10
    Genine says:

    I am a huge bibliophile. I can usually go through two to three books a week, unless I have work reading to do. But I still read the books I want, I just have less time for it.

  11. 11

    @freelancer: Man, what a terrific series that is, the Mars books, I mean. Everything is just so plausible, even the far-left politics, when you consider how insular the little group of settlers is, and the sort of demographic that one might reasonably expect to be on the first colonies of another planet. I’ve been meaning to crack those open again, but I think it needs another year or two.

  12. 12
    Hann1bal says:

    “What are you NOT reading?” might be a better question for me. But to choose just one, I’ve currently got the eBook of Trading in Danger, by Elizabeth Moon, open, and I’m enjoying it. Certainly it hasn’t made me hack up chunks of lung, unlike some other military SF authors I could name (hem-hem, John Ringo, hem-hem).

    Aside from that, I have the blockbuster book Afghanistan by Louis Dupree on tap, which is Extremely Important for anyone interested in Afghanistan. Also hard-to-find.

    Nighty-night, y’all.

  13. 13

    It’s old, but it’s a classic, Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. I’ve had a copy for years and finally uncovered it last month during some cleaning and sat down and read it and once I started I couldn’t put it down.

    It’s one of the best books written about Vietnam and in my top ten on the subject which also includes David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, Gustav Hasford’s The Short Timers (the basis for the movie Full Metal Jacket), Hal Moore’s We Were Soldiers Once and Young, Paul Hendrickson’s The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War and Joe Haldeman’s science fiction meditation on Vietnam The Forever War.

  14. 14
    YellowJournalism says:

    I started rereading Austen. Again. I’m just too busy and too tired to pay attention to anything new. I go too long between times when I allow myself to read (other than the Internet) to hold a new storyline together in my brain. Plus, every time I hear about a book I want to read, I forget the name or the author as soon as I’m in a bookstore.

    I’m also rereading LM Montogmery. Someone made an Anne of Green Gables joke a while back in regard to Megan McCain, which makes me wonder if they’d ever Anne of Green Gables with a more open mind, if at all. It’s amazing that beyond the sweetness and lyricism of the her writing, the woman was actually writing about serious issues with a progressive slant. There are themes of feminism, education reform, and the drastic lifestyle and social changes of the early twentieth century. It’s also neat to read it from a Canadian prospective. I’m catching things now that I never caught as a preteen or young adult. I’m actually living in what was considered at the time to be “out West,” which is funny because I originally lived in what authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder considered “out West.”

    I think I’m going to pick up a LM Montgomery biography the next time I’m out. If I remember.

  15. 15
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’m about halfway through a book I found used called Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood.

    See, now I have to write that down or else I’ll forget the next time I head to the library. I’m a big film history buff, so anything anyone can suggest would be greatly appreciated, especially in the silent era.

  16. 16
    Mnemosyne says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    I think I’m going to pick up a LM Montgomery biography the next time I’m out. If I remember.

    Her life is a little depressing — basically, Anne did everything that Montgomery wasn’t able to do.

    Now that I’m an adult, Anne’s House of Dreams is probably my favorite of the series because it has the most adult story, especially her friend Leslie.

  17. 17
    Batocchio says:

    I’m reading Sense and Sensibility, actually. I used to read more fiction before Bush got re-elected – then non-fiction took over. So more fiction… I used to like to alternate some famous classic I hadn’t read with sci-fi (pulpy or otherwise).

    Wile, The Forever War is fantastic. I used a quotation from an intro Haldeman wrote for an anthology in an old post of mine.

    A friend of mine in Vietnam took a sniper’s bullet in the back but his life was saved, at least for the time being, by his inability to spell: the bullet lodged in the dictionary he kept in his rucksack to help with letters home. The incident was written up in the Pacific Stars and Stripes, but somehow the dictionary had become a Bible; it was over his heart, not his spine; and the bullet had stopped on the world “peace.”

  18. 18
    Suzan says:

    Jason, I’m a huge Lehane fan, I’ve read them all except The Given Day. Has anyone read it? As good as his others?

    Thanks for the hat tip on The Big Burn. I’ll put it on my audible list. If you like it, you might also like River of Doubt about Teddy’s trip down the Amazon. Great read (listen).

    I agree (worry) that I’ve lost the ability to actually read books. I only read on vacation when I don’t have the intertoobes. I do listen to 2-3 audiobooks a week thought so I’m always looking for a great “read”.

    I love these book threads. Maybe we could post them someplace we can always get them.

  19. 19
    Mnemosyne says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    Ooh, I have one! Behind the Mask of Innocence: Sex, Violence, Crime: Films of Social Conscience in the Silent Era by Kenneth Brownlow, who’s probably the foremost scholar of silent film. It would make a great companion read with Complicated Women, because it really shows the direction that American film was going before the Code was enforced. I ended up getting it by accident — I don’t even remember how — but it’s a really terrific book.

  20. 20
    PeakVT says:

    The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & The Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan

    That’s probably an interesting book, but I am really getting tired of the formulaic “Blah that saved Blahblah” titles.

  21. 21
    HE Pennypacker, Wealthy Industrialist says:

    I just recently read “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution”. It’s really a tour-de-force argument for why evolution is unassailable, and you’ll learn really interesting things in the process.

  22. 22
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Mnemosyne: That is the one I’ve never read. I had the entire series, except for that one. I also got the the new one, The Blythes are Quoted, for Christmas from the hubby. I want to read the entire series up to this new one.

    Too bad about her actual life. Perhaps she was more Anne pre-Green Gables.

    @Batocchio: You’re reading my third favorite Austen. The best one, in my opinion, is Persuasion, followed by Pride and Prejudice. I’m rereading P&P, thanks to having read The Jane Austen Book Club a while back. The movie version of that book sucked, BTW. Whoever wrote the scripted missed the boat on the themes in the book and the importance of the characters.

    Okay, I need to stop being on here and go to bed. Must sleep when children are sleeping…Good night all! (Unless there’s a good reply when I post this.)

  23. 23
    freelancer says:

    @Suzan:

    I’ve read them all except The Given Day. Has anyone read it? As good as his others?

    The Given Day is great prose, and a decent story, it’s shortcoming is that for a 600 page book, it wraps up way too quickly only in the last 20 pages.

  24. 24
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Mnemosyne: See? I can never get to bed, thanks to this blog. Gotta see if I can find that one.

  25. 25
    Yutsano says:

    In honour of the gracious man who inspired this thread, I present the man who first made me fall in love with Australian culture:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo_Paterson

    I had gotten a chance to read a collected works of AB Paterson when an RA on exchange at my university lent me a copy. I unfortunately have not been able to get a hold of a copy in the US. He treasured that book. Oh and he was a handsome lad too.

  26. 26
    OriGuy says:

    The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 by Jay Winik. It focuses on America, France, and Russia; I’m currently to the place where he describes the rivalry between Jefferson and Hamilton.
    I don’t remember much of this era being discussed in high school history; it seems like we went right from Yorktown to the Louisiana Purchase. It’s also interesting how the French Revolution was viewed in the USA. Naturally everyone was enthusiastic at first. However, when Louis XVI was executed, things started to change. Because of his support for the Revolution, Louis was so popular that his birthday was a national holiday. Jefferson continued to support the French even through the Reign of Terror.
    Catherine the Great is also thoroughly covered. She’s an impressive figure, and would have been no matter where she lived.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    That is the one I’ve never read. I had the entire series, except for that one.

    Geez, I’m glad I didn’t post any spoilers! :-) Like I said, it’s very true to the series and the characters but it’s about adults, not children, so she was able to bring in some more serious themes.

    Of course, it has a happy ending, but there’s some pretty startling stuff in it for a “kid” book.

  28. 28
    Batocchio says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    Yeah, I read Persuasion in college and liked it. (We traveled to Lyme Regis and also read French Lieutenant’s Woman.) I’ve seen the various film adaptations, but now I’m doing Sense and Sensibility, then Emma, then Pride and Prejudice. Mansfield Park and Northanger Abby don’t seem to be as well regarded.

  29. 29
    jacy says:

    I’m reading Winter House by Carol O’Connell — excellent book, one of my favorite authors. If you like really elegent procedurals with memorable characters, her Mallory series is great. She also has some stand alone books The Judas Goat and Stone Angel.

    Very under-appreciated writer. Everytime I pick one up I become totally engrossed until I can steal away time to finish it. (mostly in the carpool lane at school, or the 15 minutes in the bathtub before somebody knocks on the door.)

  30. 30
    BethanyAnne says:

    I’m about to re-read “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt, and then a compilation he edited: “Flourishing: positive psychology and the life well-lived”. I saw the video of him speaking at TED, and it’s got me really interested in psychology again. I was doing lots of reading about that in 2008, but then I got poor and depressed in 09, and didn’t read anything. Still poor, but not as depressed, so I ordered the books from the library, and I’m pretty ready to dive back in.

  31. 31
    BethanyAnne says:

    oh, forgot to add, it’s positive psychology that has me so fascinated. Using the tools of psychology to improve our lives instead of fixing anything or pathologizing us seems pretty nifty.

  32. 32
    Cain says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I mentioned it in another open thread, but I just finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It runs on two threads: the story of the cancer cells that were taken from Lacks in 1951 that are still alive today and making millions of dollars for the companies that culture and sell them, and the story of her family, who can’t even afford health insurance.

    Couldn’t the DNA of this lady also help or her descendants?

    cain

  33. 33

    No recommendations, Anne, but I have to commend your choice on The Hemingses of Monticello. Professor Gordon-Reed has been a lecturer and a professor to me and other small groups of friends of mine at New York Law School over the past 3 years. She is a national treasure and one of the finest writers and historians of her generation. It has been a pleasure learning from her and listening to her.

    NYLS has always been proud to claim her as our own. Accolades from the President are beautiful things, but it’s even better to see other people in various different social circles appreciate and commend her.

  34. 34
    Calliope Jane says:

    @YellowJournalism: Did someone actually mock Anne of Green Gables? Or compare her to Megan McCain? Blasphemy. The whole series is wonderful; it’s hard to pick a favorite. I may have to reread them, because I’ve always loved Anne of the Island but Anne of Green Gables and Anne’s House of Dreams are just indelibly etched in my brain, even after all these years.

    I always go back to You’ve Got Mail for the line “When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way no other book can.” So, so true.

    @YellowJournalism: Funny — I also think Persuasion is her best book (and, not coincidentally, it’s my favorite, too). You can tell she wrote it when she was older; it’s more, well, delicate, is the best way I can think to describe it.

    Perhaps rereading old favorites will help me get back into the habit of reading again. Lot’s of great recommendations here.

  35. 35

    I have three good books going right now: Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

  36. 36
    annamissed says:

    A must read for anyone interested in an empirical unified theory of how societies and civilizations evolve, and yes, decay. Carroll Quigley’s “The Evolution of Civilization” published in 1961 and took him 20 years to write. Should be a paradigm changer, for those looking at ourselves from the big picture perspective. Here’s an abstract I wrote, along with several posts on content.

  37. 37
    hamletta says:

    Gosh, you guys, I passed over Anne of Green Gables back in the day. I may have to go back and read those books. Was more of a Little House gal, myself.

    Last book I really dug was The Reformation, by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I saw Anne of the Thousand Days when I was 7, and have been obsessed ever since. And going back to the Lutheran church entailed some historical education, and it was all happening at the same time!

    If you want to know why Jefferson and his brethren thought separation of church and state was important, it’s helpful to understand something about the Reformation: It was 200 years of unrelenting slaughter. And it was relatively recent history at the time.

    Lately I’m reading Adventures In the Screen Trade, by William Goldman, because I so enjoyed The Princess Bride, I thought it would be fun to crawl around in that man’s head for a while, but so far, it’s rather tedious. I prefer his Florinese persona.

  38. 38
    Anne Laurie says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    Someone made an Anne of Green Gables joke a while back in regard to Megan McCain, which makes me wonder if they’d ever Anne of Green Gables with a more open mind, if at all. It’s amazing that beyond the sweetness and lyricism of the her writing, the woman was actually writing about serious issues with a progressive slant. There are themes of feminism, education reform, and the drastic lifestyle and social changes of the early twentieth century.

    You probably know that many modern Japanese women have a serious “pash” for Anne of the Red Hair, as the title is translated, for these very reasons… she’s a dutiful young lady in a conservative society who nevertheless follows her own path to autonomy. As a red-headed Anne (with an E!), I resented the whole idea of spunky Miss Shirley, and refused to enjoy the book when it was ‘age-appropriate’… but I think I’m going to have to put the latest biography of Lucy Maud on my reading list, because she does seem like a fascinating individual.

  39. 39
    Warren Terra says:

    I’ll recommend 3 authors on the state of modern Africa: Michaela Wrong, Aidan Hartley, and Jim Butcher.
    They’re all middle-class white folks, so I’ll add the great Chinua Achebe for a little balance.

  40. 40
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    Read The Caine Mutiny. You will recognize all of the characters. Unless you went to Harvard over the past ten years.

  41. 41
    Warren Terra says:

    The idea of this thread reminds me of the quite funny “Show Me Ur Books” post on Crooked Timber.

  42. 42
    Mum says:

    @Pigs & Spiders:

    Egan’s an excellent writer. His book on Roosevelt is on my “to read” list. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend his last book: “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.”

  43. 43
    Mum says:

    @Wile E. Quixote:

    Have you read Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”? It will make you weep, but I’ve been told by several Vietnam vets that it is “truth, hard and strong.”

  44. 44
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    Not heavy duty reading, but am enjoying my current book club selection: Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

    For all you audio books folks out there, last year I discovered the downloadable books section at my county library. A surprisingly diverse collection; I downloaded several on my laptop to enjoy on my cross-country train trip. Oh yes, did I mention it’s free? Check it out at your local.

  45. 45
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Batocchio:

    Mansfield Park and Northanger Abby don’t seem to be as well regarded.

    MP is the novel about which Miss Austen famously said “Nobody will care for its characters, except myself”. It’s not the Austen to start with, but if you’re willing to be sympathetic to the reasons why a young woman of that particular place & period would choose to use “Poor Pitiful Me” as a personality template, it has its rewards. On the other hand, Northanger Abbey was the novel that started me on a lifelong Austen crush, when I first read it at the age of 12 or so. It’s a fairly straightforward satire of the High-Gothicke bodice-ripper which had already become a literary cliche in the early 1800s, tongue very much in cheek, starting with the opening paragraph and ending with a sarcastic crack (“I do not know if the tenor of this novel is to encourage parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience”). I think it would actually be a great one-step-up novel for young Twilight readers, because Catherine is an Isabella-in-the-making who learns that mundane daily life in a British village can be quite as romantic & heart-stopping as fantasies about mustachio-twirling villians and dark conspiracies.

  46. 46
    Mum says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    You can’t go wrong with Austen. I read “Persuasion” and “Pride and Prejudice” nearly every year. I recently reread “Sense and Sensibility” and that will probably find its way into my anniversary reading.

    I’ve read most of what are considered children’s or young adult classics, but for some reason I’ve never read “Anne of Green Gables.” I’ll put it on my “to read” along along with the Pippi Longstocking books. (One of the characters in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” made Astrid Lindgren’s books sound a lot more appealing than when I was younger.)

  47. 47
    Comrade Kevin says:

    I am reading a book called “Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail”, which is a fascinating combination of a description of the ways the “forty niners” made their way to California, with a description of the geology of the West.

  48. 48
    JackieBinAZ says:

    I’m reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer. You know who else manipulated the masses by turning their sense of powerlessness into a rabid nationalism and hyper-identification with victorious figures from the country’s history and folklore? I’m just sayin’.

    I’m going to have to leave Hitler figuring out how to get across the Channel to re-read the infinitely depressing “The Road” for a book analysis for class. And maybe one of these days soon I’ll finally finish “Catch 22” and get to the Flannery O’Connor biography that I’ve had hanging around for about a year.

  49. 49
    Mum says:

    @Batocchio:

    “Northanger Abbey” is a great read. Austen was having a good time poking fun at the Gothic novel. And I’ve always liked “Mansfield Park.” If you’ve seen the film adaption, you’re in for a bit of a surprise when you read the book.

  50. 50
    :Libertini says:

    The older I get, the slower I read

    I have the same problem that has come with aging, but I’m pretty sure mine is due to the hormonal changes that come with aging. It’s been a couple of years since what I like to call “the crash” and almost everything has returned to something approaching normal. The notable exception is my attention span, which I fear is gone for good.

    I can manage a fun mystery novel every so often. Harlan Coben is a favorite right now, but even that “fun” reading takes days or weeks instead of hours. I’ll have to leave the heavy lifting to you younger (or simply more focused) folks. I can enjoy your discoveries vicariously.

    @Mnemosyne: Both of these sound amazing.

    @Anne Laurie – Thanks for the thread topic. I can at least get pleasure out of reading about what others are reading.

  51. 51
    Mum says:

    I’m a voracious and eclectic reader, so I’m usually reading at least half a dozen books at a time.

    I just finished “Cults, Conspiracies & Secret Societies: The Strange Scoop on Freemasons, the Illuminati, Skull & Bones, Black Helicopters, the New World Order and many, many more” by Arthur Goldwag. Fascinating and great fun.

    I’m nearly done with “Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust Happened in Germany” by John Weiss. Very well written and as engaging as any book on the topic can be. I’m also reading “Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West” by Hampton Sides – a real page-turner. For a great deal of fun (it has some great jokes) with a side-helping of philosophy-lite, I recommend “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar . . . : Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes.”

    For fiction, I loved Jonathan Lethem’s newest, “Chronic City. If you’re a classic British mystery fan, Josephine Tey’s “Man in the Queue” is quite brilliant. And I’m savoring every word of Vikram Chandra’s “Sacred Games,” an amazing 950-page Dickensian novel set in contemporary Mumbai. If you enjoy the complexity and variety and richness of Indian food, you’ll love this book.

  52. 52
    Batocchio says:

    @Anne Laurie:
    @Mum:

    Thanks for the perspectives!

    @Mum:

    The Things They Carried is phenomenal. (I actually quoted that, too, in the old post I linked above!) I really like the “interrelated short stories” format. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, which is also excellent, uses the same format.

  53. 53
    JGabriel says:

    Hi, Anne!

    OT: I don’t know if anyone will pick up on this, but I have a new suggested definition for the lexicon:

    Unicorn – Bipartisan/Bipartisanship and assorted variants. Whenever David Broder or any political figure or pundit uses the word “bipartisan (or variant)”, just substitute “unicorn” they way people end Chinese fortunes with “in bed”. For instance:

    Jon Kyl, on possible recess appoints to the NLRB:

    If they were to do that, it would make it very difficult to have bipartisan unicorn cooperation.

    OH NOEZ! THE UNICORNS ARE NOT COOPERATING!

    .

  54. 54
    BR says:

    The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler is a must read about the energy (and related) challenges we face in the near future.

  55. 55
    Pip's Squeak says:

    I recommend Ruth Jhabvala’s first novel To Whom She Will (1955), set in New Delhi. Her style is enchanting: Maugham without the occasional bitchiness.

  56. 56
    electricgrendel says:

    The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Fantasy Russian surrealist novel that answers the burning question of what would happen if Satan showed up in atheist Russia and put on an undeniable display of black magic. Oh- and there’s a vampire assassin and a giant gun wielding cat, too.

    Yeah- and Pontius Pilate and Jesus show up, too. Excellent, excellent novel.

  57. 57
    apptarheel says:

    I’m currently making my way through the Oxford History of the US – I’m now reading What Hath God Wrought by Howe. It’s a good read (though not as good as Wood’s Empire of Liberty). In reference to some of the first few comments above, before reading the Oxford series, I was a big “fan” of Jefferson, mostly because of his intellect and political talents. However, having read through this series (among other books), I’m becoming more of a pro-Adams guy (and John Quincy was pretty damn impressive as well). Howe basically draws a straight line from Jefferson to John C. Calhoun. We can then draw a line from Calhoun through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, and the “southern strategy”. Right up to the present with the racism bubbling up amongst the tea partiers and the pseudo-seccesionism and the bluster about HCR “nullification”. There’s also a lot of interesting parallels between smaller “flare-ups” in the early 1800’s and today’s political climate – Anti-masons, the rise of nativism, the anti-rent movement in New York state, and on and on…good read…

  58. 58
    bob h says:

    In fiction, “Union Atlantic” and “The Privileges” are well worth it.

  59. 59
    meh says:

    The Family by Jeff Sharlet

  60. 60

    @Anne Laurie:

    Thanks!

    @Yutsano:

    In honour of the gracious man who inspired this thread…

    Aww. Thanks. I love Paterson, and will try to find my favourite.

    In the mean time, quite probably the most famous Australian short story – The Loaded Dog, by Henry Lawson – as a child this made me howl with laughter. Don’t mix canines and dynamite, kiddies.

  61. 61
    2th&nayle says:

    Am currently reading Stupid History. The title sez it all. The book copyrighted in 2007, so I suspect there is a sequel in the works as we speak.

  62. 62
    aimai says:

    I’m in between a bunch of books right now. I started a book on Crashes and Panics a while ago and pretty much got the gist and moved on. Now I’m treading my way through three books by Anthony Damasio on the brain and emotion (Descartes’ Error and Looking for Spinoza and a third one I can’t see from where I’m sitting). These are books about his argument that without tapping into the lower/emotional part of the brain you can’t have working rationality. You can be rational in theory–work out a problem in the abstract–but you can’t manage to act on your thinking in a timely or effective manner. The first one, which I’m midway through, is just a fascinating exploration of things that can go wrong with the brain and neuroscientific and medical ways of approaching understanding the brain.

    My daughter is impersonating Rita Levi Montalicini, an Italian Nobel Prize winner who worked on neurons and chick embryos so in her honor I recently read her autobiography, and then to explain the whole field I read Neil Shurkin (Shurbin?)’s “Your Inner Fish” which I highly recommend for its exploration of the relationships between paleozoology, embryology, DNA, and evolution.

    aimai

  63. 63
    barbara says:

    T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America — came out fairly recently. I really love it because it is chock full of information about how a variety of other countries design their healthcare/health insurance systems, but there’s nothing dry about it because the narrative is held together by the personal journey the author took to get his shoulder fixed. It’s so informative and fascinating and in the process it makes a compelling argument for fixing our own system in our own way. Reading this is a great way to celebrate passing the damn bill.

  64. 64
    debbie says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    Not quite silents-era, but you might like “Fast Talking Dames” by Maria DiBattista:

    http://books.google.com/books?.....navlinks_s

  65. 65
    Warren Terra says:

    @aimai:
    I remember Levi-Montalcini from the mid-90s documentary Death By Design. I thought she was still alive but hadn’t realized she’s the oldest living Nobelist ever.

  66. 66
    xaneroxane says:

    If you’re looking for new material on Adams, see Woody Holton’s 2009 _Abigail Adams_. It’s a winner!

  67. 67
    debbie says:

    I read Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel which was about Thomas Cromwell, which led me to realize how little I knew about the Tudor Era (aside from movies and Masterpiece Theater), which led me to read a bunch of histories by people like Guy, Brigden, Weir, etc. Talk about a bitter populace! And of course, there’s the Catholic Church, right in the middle of it all.

    Right now, I’m reading The Infinities by John Banville, which I am liking. My favorite book from last year was Homer and Langley by EL Doctorow. Other recent books I’ve liked are Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich and The Children’s Book by AS Byatt (a long slog, though).

  68. 68
    rob! says:

    The Complete Terry and the Pirates Volume 1 by Milton Caniff.

  69. 69
    HL_guy says:

    Here’s a good one for fans of personal essays or literary nonfiction, concerning a period in the Civil Rights movement that we don’t generally think about (the Tallahassee Bus Boycott, 1956-1957):

    Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: a Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey by Ana Maria Spagna. It won the River Teeth prize for literary nonfiction from the U. of Nebraska press.

  70. 70
    Josie says:

    It is interesting to find so many Jane Austen fans on the thread. It’s another area, like politics, babies and pets, that I can relate to in this group. I have reread Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma (the computer illiterate can’t figure out how to do italics) so many times that they are like old friends. In fact, my son has a pug named Emma, in honor of that heroine. I somehow find it hard to get interested in modern fiction and read mostly how-to books. The one I am working on now is Backyard Homesteading – really fun and full of good stuff.

  71. 71
    Greg says:

    I’m reading Zorro by Isabel Allende

    @ Anne Laurie: You are so right about the Japanese women and Anne of Green Gables. I ran an exchange program for Japanese students and all of those college age girls wanted to go to Prince Edward Island so they could see where Anne lived. One had actually changed her name to Anne and had an all consuming desire to shed herself of all things Japanese and go live in Canada or the US. Anne was their hero.

  72. 72
    soonergrunt says:

    The Unforgiving Minute A Soldier’s Education by Craig Mullaney.
    Autobiography of a an Infantry Officer who served in Afghanistan. Craig Mullaney now works for the Obama Administration in the Pentagon.
    Also, Kaboom by Matt Gallagher. A chronicle of the year in combat that he and his men spent.

  73. 73
    mai naem says:

    @Mnemosyne: I heard the author interviewed on NPR. She’s set up some kind of foundation to help in the education of the younger Lacks’ . It sounded like a really interesting read.

  74. 74
    soonergrunt says:

    @Brick Oven Bill: You would be Queeg, then, right?

  75. 75
    The Raven says:

    Greer Gilman, Cloud and Ashes. A thoroughly obscure collection of long fantasy stories, 2009 Tiptree award winner, written in an obscure (Border?) dialect that demands a dictionary. I’ve renewed it twice so far.

    Avram Davidson, The Other 19th Century. A collection of stories set in alternate 19th centuries. Steampunk before the term had been coined, as it were. Davidson was a great and obscure 20th century author who never found his audience, which was an absolute shame–the man may have deserved a Nobel.

  76. 76
    scav says:

    Working on The Number Sense: How The Mind Creates Mathematics by Stanislas Dehaene in my good moments. I wanted to immediately jump to his Reading in the Brain but I enjoyed One to Zero back back back and now I’m glad I forced myself. For a shorthand idea, think Oliver Sacks-ish only with how our brains seem to juggle (and lose) numbers. On my so-called bad moment, I’m reading whatever is immediately adjacent. Jane Austen would be a strongish contender and that would include Northanger and Mansfield and her letters because her solid bites at things are far more obvious there.

  77. 77
    scav says:

    Fink, forgot to ask / suggest this to the early film people. Anyone read Silent Comedy by Paul Merton? I know I like his early comedy or at least how his mind works, I’ve no idea how his writing is.

  78. 78

    @YellowJournalism: I’m with you. Persuasion is my favorite, followed by P & P. I’ve got both on my iPhone, and am rereading Persuasion right now.

    As for books I’m reading now beyond such perennial companions — I’m just about to the end of Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, about great Russian literature and graduate school, which is a lot of fun and sometimes more than that. I’m also well stuck in now to Tim Ferris’s Science and Liberty, which, for all that Tim misstates certain modern political dichotomies IMHO, is a wonderful account of the intimate relationship between the development of modern science and the creation of the classically liberal idea of how to live together.

    For pure escape/airplane reading, I’m mostly through one of the Bernard Cornwall Sharpe series — Sharpe’s Triumph. Formulaic, and a prequel to the best part of that series IMHO, those centered on the Peninsular War, but still a bucket of fun. And for the reading aloud to the kid, I’ve been given the pleasure from a sister in law of finding The Children of the Lamp series — we’re on the second one.

  79. 79
    jeffreyw says:

    Startide Rising byDavid Brin, halfway through Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, Emprise by Michael Kube-McDowell-a 25 year old alien first contact novel that has some worrying parallels with the present day rejection of science in some quarters. In queue are Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series, Lush Life by Richard Price and I think about a dozen more from recommendations culled from the last book thread. I’m way the fuck behind.

  80. 80
    aimai says:

    Thomas Levenson,
    Hi Tom, it occurs to me that we have children of a muchly same age. Has your son read Gregor the Overlander? Or listened to it on tape? The whole series is absolutely wonderful–it is based on a kind of flash of intuition by the author. She began thinking about Alice in Wonderland for a modern child in New York. Her hero falls/leaps into an underworld from his apartment laundry room in NY. He’s an utterly real boy, struggling with a missing father, a working mother, and caretaking for an elderly grandmother and a baby sister. In the underworld he finds a lost civilization of rather difficult descendants of an english seventeenth century mystic, transparent of flesh, fighting a battle of not perfectly good against not perfectly evil giant rats, giant cockroaches, and flying giant bats. Its morally complex and very engaging. The taped version is absolutely brilliantly read (one of the rats sounds just like George Sanderson in All About Eve).

    aimai

    Also, Warren Terra, yes, Rita is an amazing person, and still ticking at 100. My eleven year old will impersonate her at a “living museum” and I believe she’s planning to carry a baby doll representing the dead babies Rita had to carry on the tram when she was being given them at hospitals for her research.

  81. 81
    Michael D. says:

    I am actually about a third of the way through Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Fascinating book. I can completely understand why it’s viewed as a catalyst to the civil war. And I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to get to it. I’ve owned it for about 8 years!

    Harriet Beecher Stowe captures the humanity of slaves and the inhumanity of slavery in a wonderfully authentic way. We view slavery as a concept. And while we all know people suffered horribly, Stowe puts faces on the suffering. you really get caught up in their lives. Again, we all know children were ripped from ther mothers and fathers and sold. In this book, you live through that and feel it.

    I’m also particularly taken with the way that slave owners are portrayed – how even those who are sympathetic to the plight of slaves don’t really do much to stop it. It was as dehumanizing to slave owners and traders.

    I don’t know much about Harriet Beecher Stowe, but this book must have taken a lot out of her – both to write and to release.

  82. 82
    Emma says:

    Pigs and Spiders: Me too! Audible is fantastic. I have several books currently loaded to by Zen, and that has made a great difference in my “reading”. I just finished No One Would Listen, by Harry Markopolos, about the Madoff debacle (he was the guy who kept naggind the SEC); and just loaded How to Win a Cosmic War, by Reza Aslan, which came highly recommended. And I just found the fantasy of Thomas E. Sniegoski, and I can highly recommend that!

    Audible is your friend when traveling. I have to go on a two-week trip next month and have four books ready to go into the Zen.

  83. 83

    @thomas Levenson:

    I’m mostly through one of the Bernard Cornwall Sharpe series

    Ever read the Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell? It’s a soldier’s eye view retelling of the Arthurian legend, and my favorite of all the many versions of that story I have read.

  84. 84
    Svensker says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    I think I’m going to pick up a LM Montgomery biography the next time I’m out. If I remember.

    I just finished reading one (can’t remember the name, unfortunately) but it was actually a recent one from a university press — Toronto, I think — that looked at all the things you mentioned in her writing. Very interesting.

    Love the Anne books. They never get old.

  85. 85
    Svensker says:

    @Mum:

    I’ll put it on my “to read” along along with the Pippi Longstocking books. (One of the characters in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” made Astrid Lindgren’s books sound a lot more appealing than when I was younger.)

    Pippi is wonderful! Laugh out loud funny. Plutification!

  86. 86
    rachel says:

    Currently re-reading The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. The last time I read it was before I had any serious Internet connection, so I’m enjoying being able to go online and see what Kaiser Wilhelm’s or Albert I of Belgium’s ultimate fates were.

  87. 87
    Phoebe says:

    @BethanyAnne: I got on a kick like that too. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a nice, almost too obvious, example of something that does help people tangibly. Right now I’m reading “Radical Honesty” by Brad Blanton and it is fun fun fun, if much scarier.

  88. 88
    Jim Once says:

    @thomas Levenson:
    Bernard Cornwall is, as you put it, “a bucket of fun.” I just finished the first three books of his Anglo-Saxon series – formulaic, yes, but I couldn’t stop reading. Mantell’s Wolf Hall was one of my favorites of the last few months, as was Population: 485 and Let the Great World Spin. I’m deciding what to read next, so this thread comes at the perfect time for me.

  89. 89
    Jim Once says:

    @rachel:
    Tuchman, absolutely. Can’t get enough of her – the best ever is A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. I think I’s due to reread that.

  90. 90
    debg says:

    Okay, people–you’ve finally driven me to jump in after lurking on BJ for several months. It took me about half an hour to get through these comments because I kept stopping to check out titles on Amazon, iTunes, and so on. Audible is great, but it’s also worth checking out a site called emusic.com that has audiobook plans starting at $10 per month–yes, it’s a whole audiobook for $10!!!! I prefer audiobooks for non-fiction because they really keep me engaged while driving, sewing, knitting, etc. I won’t necessarily pick up non-fiction for just-before-bed reading.

    L M Montgomery’s non-Anne books are worth checking out. The Emily of New Moon books have spooky occultish touches, and some of her one-offs are REALLY subversive, like The Blue Castle, which features an unwed mother and a woman who asks a man to marry her.

    BoingBoing pointed me to Steven Johnson’s work lately. I can’t say enough about The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map. They’re lovely combinations of history, science, and all the interdisciplinary insights that are hard to come by in the academic history I usually read. (Yes, I’m a history professor.) Lately I’ve been telling everybody I meet about these two books.

  91. 91
    maye says:

    @Jim Once: If you like the 14th century, you’d like The Percy Saga by Carol Wensby-Scott. It’s a trilogy, and the first one is The Lion of Alnwick.

  92. 92
    Jim Once says:

    @debg:

    Yes, I’m a history professor.)

    Lucky you (seriously). I taught English Lit and Composition for 25 years, but the most fun I had in the classroom was teaching European History (I have degrees in both History and English). Scheduling exigencies meant I had to give it up after three or four years, but it was wonderful while it lasted. And thanks for the Steven Johnson reference!

  93. 93
    rachel says:

    @Jim Once: That was the first Tuchman book I read and it’s still a favorite of mine. Other favorites are The First Salute and The March of Folly. ( I can never bring myself re-read the section on the Vietnam War, though; that war fucked my uncle up for the rest of his considerably shortened life and it infuriates me that we got into it with so little consideration.)

  94. 94
    Jim Once says:

    @maye:

    Thanks! I’m writing it down this minute.

  95. 95
    Jim Once says:

    @rachel:
    The March of Folly – yes! I didn’t even know about The First Salute. Checking it out . . .

  96. 96
    maye says:

    @Jim Once: I’m an English history freak, and my fav period is 1066-1485. Historical fiction is just about all I read. I just finished Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett. Might be too “chick lit” for you, but it is a slightly different take on Richard III.

    My fav historical fictions writers are Bernard Cornwell, Cecelia Holland, Sharon Kay Penman, Edith Pargeter, Nigel Tranter, etc. The usual suspects.

    If you like medieval, I highly recomment The Heaven Tree trilogy by Pargeter. The writing is beautiful, and she creates one of the most interesting villains I’ve ever encountered.

  97. 97
    rachel says:

    @Jim Once: You may also want to check out Stilwell and the American Experience in China. Like him or not, Vinegar Joe had a way of expressing himself that would fit right in on this blog.

  98. 98
    Jim Once says:

    @maye:

    I’m an English history freak, and my fav period is 1066-1485.

    Yeah, me too. Tudor era also, and have become thoroughly immersed in the Anglo-Saxon era – a time period that held no interest at all for me until five or six years ago.

    Thanks for the history references, esp. Pargeter. I’ve only just learned about her, and was wondering where to start.

  99. 99
    Jim Once says:

    @rachel:
    I read this when it was first published – didn’t really expect it to be a big favorite, but I loved it. You’re so right about Vinegar Joe. Which reminds me: have you read The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang? Deeply, deeply disturbing (but uplifting, also) – I had to keep putting it down, but always came back to it.

  100. 100
    maye says:

    @Jim Once: For Anglo Saxon/Norman Conquest fiction, try Valerie Anand (Guildenford) and Parke Godwin (Lord of Sunset).

  101. 101

    @Suzan: The Given Day was my first Lehane and I fell in love. Currently working my way through all his books and just finished the first 3 Kenzie/Gennaro novels. I intend to read anything Lehane writes. Then I skipped over to Robert Crais’ Chasing Darkness (also on a mission to read all of his stuff) and currently reading King, Kaiser Tsar.

  102. 102
    maye says:

    More 14th century England: Within the Fetterlock by Brian Wainwright.

  103. 103
    mmolleur19 says:

    I just finished The Big Short by Michael Lewis. It’s a page turner that clearly depicts the monstrous edifice that Wall St. created atop sub-prime mortgages and the resulting melt-down.

    Also, for the lovers of Tudor history above, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

  104. 104
    rachel says:

    @Jim Once: Not yet, but I’m planning to.

  105. 105
    Jim Once says:

    @maye:

    Wow, Maye – you’re a gold mine.

  106. 106
    maye says:

    @Jim Once: I’ve been at it for a while. If you’re ever in So. Calif., stop by and haul some of these books away. I could use some new shelf space.

  107. 107
    Jim Once says:

    @maye:
    Well, I didn’t have a trip planned for SoCA, but you’re tempting me.

  108. 108
    dj spellchecka says:

    just finished two great war books: “the forever war” by dexter filkins and “the good soldiers” by david finkel [a brutal book about the surge]….. just started “they fought for each other” by kelly kennedy. no thoughts yet, but she did a riveting interview about the book with terry gross recently. ……on a lighter note, just finished up ed brubaker’s run of daredevil graphic novels…intense and satisfying.

  109. 109
    maye says:

    @Jim Once: LOL. Actually I do make regular donations to the local library.

  110. 110
    burnspbesq says:

    The Big Short, Michael Lewis’ book “about” the financial meltdown. I put “about” in quotes because it’s not really a history of the crisis; it’s more a study about some of the more, ahhh, colorful characters, guys with borderline dysfunctional personalities who somehow were among the first to see it coming and made tons of money betting on it. Fascinating.

    Waiting with increasing impatience for the sequel to Presumed Innocent to come out in May.

  111. 111
    carolatl says:

    Reading Nixonland by Rick Perlstein, which is interesting but VERY long. Hope I’ll have the patience to get through the whole thing. Also recently read The Worst Hard Times, which was mentioned upthread. Excellent book – a real page-turner. I haven’t been reading much fiction lately, so I’ll be checking out some of the recommendations here, especially the Dennis LeHane novels.

  112. 112
    Phyllis says:

    Taking The Blind Side by Michael Lewis and The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter J. Gomes of the Harvard Divinity School with me for reading on my train trip to DC tomorrow. It’s all I can do not to start dipping into one or the other of them right now, but I still need to pack and get some other chores done, and if I start reading, that’ll be the end of things.

    So many good recommendations on this thread, I don’t know where to start. Once I finish these though, I plan to treat myself to With The Old Breed and Helmet For My Pillow for my Spring break reading.

  113. 113
    Suzan says:

    @apptarheel: Checked out the Oxford series at your suggestion. Looks wonderful. What is the absolute best?

    @debg: The Ghost Map remains one of my all time fav reads. The reviews on Amazon of Invention of Air mean it’s prolly my next read. Thanks for the recommend.

    As for my reads: when I started this thread I was almost done with Caught by Coben (as good as all of his). Now I’m on Daemon (as a result of this thread). Recently finished Reluctant Fundamentalist (perfect for audible and a great, short, thought provoking read). And The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag (great, different) Ordinary Thunderstorms (great but not as good as Restless). Also loved the new Mankell, The Man from Beijing which is a stand alone and I love the Wallander books by Mankell the best. But I’d call in sick at work to read any of them.

    Thank you, thank you for this thread! It’s keep me going for a few months I’m sure.

  114. 114
    Brachiator says:

    Even though this is a heavy work season for me, I am juggling two large, but extremely interesting biographies, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, by TJ Stiles; and The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith, by Joan Schenkar. Highsmith was the author of such works as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, both adapted into creepily enjoyable films. But the talented and tormented Highsmith was easily more creepy than any of her fictional characters.

    I also recommend the short memoir by English writer Diana Athill, Somewhere Towards the End. Beautiful writing, acute observations of others, and brave and honest self-reflection.

    Chuck Butcher — We play hell understanding cultures well divorced from our own. Ancient Rome doesn’t connect with us anymore than the slave holding aristocracy of the South. We are outside looking in with our cultural constructs.

    Human motivations and actions are much the same, whether we are talking about ancient or contemporary times. Another book that I’m having fun with (though just barely starting, having read an excellent article about the subject in History Today) is The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, by Adrienne Mayor.

  115. 115
    Mum says:

    @BR:

    I’ll have to put that on my “to read” list. I really enjoyed his “The Geography of Nowhere.”

  116. 116
    Mum says:

    @dj spellchecka:

    I thought that Filkin’s “The Forever War” was an absolutely amazing piece of writing, and I’ve recommended it to everyone I know.

  117. 117
    lonelypedestrian says:

    I am reading Mannahatta: the Natural History of New York City by Eric Sanderson.

    Fascinating.

  118. 118
    YellowJournalism says:

    Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to bed last night. I missed a good conversation or two!

    @debg: Magic for Marigoild is quite excellent. I actually read it before I read any Anne books, and I admit to liking it better than some of the Anne sequels. I also had the Emily series, but I never got around to reading them. I’ll have to dig them out of storage when I visit my family in the states this summer.

    So happy to see there are other Persuasion fans out there. The movie is wonderful, for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Also, I enjoyed Mansfield Park and its movie adaptation, even though they’re both very different. I probably am one of the few Austen fans who actually likes the adaptation more than the novel.

    Going to write down a ton of titles to keep on me when I head out to the bookstore or library! You guys are great.

  119. 119
    YellowJournalism says:

    @hamletta:

    I saw Anne of the Thousand Days when I was 7, and have been obsessed ever since

    That movie is a true treasure. The best movie rendering of Anne Boleyn’s story, historical inaccuracies aside. I read The Other Boleyn Girl not long before the movie came out. The novel started off great but went downhill for me, mostly because of the one-dimensional aspect of the Anne Boleyn character and the fact that (spoiler) the author decided to go down the incest route. I didn’t care about the fact that she made up a ton of stuff about Mary Boleyn. That’s always something I’m willing to overlook in historical fiction if the story and characterization are good.

    I couldn’t believe it, but the movie version was even worse than the novel. I thought for sure that the group of actors they had would trump a crappy storyline. Nope. And the ending was too ridiculous to accept on top of an already crappy flick.

  120. 120
    Anne Laurie says:

    @xaneroxane:

    If you’re looking for new material on Adams, see Woody Holton’s 2009 Abigail Adams. It’s a winner!

    Just got my copy — I’m looking forward to reading it!

  121. 121
    markodane says:

    The Road-Cormac McCarthy..I could not stop reading it, a friend of mine read it, and gave it to her Dad..He said it was too nihlistic. I read No Country for Old men, also a great read by McCarthy. Now reading David Sedaris.very funny! I have the Calvin and Hobbes Complete 3 Book Series from my wife, and it is awesome!

  122. 122
    ZaftigAmazon says:

    The book God is Red by Vine Deloria is an excellent introduction to American Indian Studies, and an excellent critique of the weaknesses of Christianity and its effects on Western Culture. This book was first published nearly 40 years ago, and still has insights that remain valid today, especially in regards to the American Taliban (Nazis for Jesus) and the Tea Baggers.

  123. 123
    debg says:

    Ground control folks at Balloon Juice, is it possible that someday the site could include book forums? It sounds as though a lot of us have shared interests in, say, historical fiction or mysteries or historical non-fiction or whatever. Book forums devoted to different genres could maybe help bibliophiles quickly target their searches for good books.

    BTW, if there are people looking for history reads (non-fiction) on various aspects of Mediterranean and European history, you’re welcome to check out my school webpage: http://www.emporia.edu/socsci/faculty/dgerish.htm

    It lists what courses I teach, and I keep bibliographies of “starter” titles and more in-depth stuff for these courses. My e-mail is on the page.

  124. 124
    mclaren says:

    Just re-read Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire, the best science ficiton novel of the last 25 years. Ordered a hardback version because the paperback is falling apart.

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