I finally finished writing up my reads from June! Take a gander:
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
(Part 3: Recessional: 1971-1989) (2005) by Tony Judt
What you need to know:As I said in my April and May Reads posts, this book is advanced (collegiate level), so some base knowledge of World War II and its aftermath is necessary. Junt assumes that the reader knows basic facts of the time. That said, this is the best wide-scope book on contemporary history in existence.
I read Part 3 of the book this month and was just as pleased with it as I was with Parts 1 and 2 (I break up long non-fiction into manageable chunks).
Judt makes sure to cover both political and social history. I learned a great deal about Europe’s economic system that really gives me a better understanding of today’s economic climate (which is an awesome thing about reading recent history).
I also love that Judt continues to give equal page time to Eastern and Western Europe with as little bias as possible. He judges countries based on their effects on the people and their actions rather than on an arbitrary morality associated with political systems, which is essential when discussing the USSR. The only obvious bias that crept in was during the discussion of Margret Thatcher, which is understandable, being that Judt is British.
For the record: I finally disagreed with Judt on a point in this section of the book. Judt treats punk rock as ridiculous (contrasted with the legitimacy he gave the movements of the ’60s) and did little to place the movement in the social context it belongs to. It sounded as if he were thinking solely of the Sex Pistols (who were ridiculous, from a historical perspective) and dangerous East German punk gangs. Being a little obsessed with punk history myself, I know that punk following and the rise of the DIY movement in Europe was a direct response to the economic hardships and threat of nuclear war that made youth feel as if there was no future for them, as well as a feeling of betrayal from the older generation. This oversight makes me wonder if there are other such biases in the work in areas in which I am less knowledgeable. (Even if there are- the work is still AMAZING).
And now for a quote: “Under Socialism it was the state that polluted. But it was society that suffered, and pollution was thus a subject about which everyone cared. It was also implicitly political: the reason that it was so hard to protect the environment was that no one had an interest in taking preventative measures.”
On Nature and Utility of Religion (1874) by John Stuart Mill, part of the Essential Works of John Stuart Mill (1961), ed. Max Lerner
What you need to know: Mill is an atheist, so you might find this work offensive.
Both “On Nature” and “Utility of Religion” are highly logical; I really loved Mill’s stance that the maxim “Follow Nature” is ridiculous, as nature is often terrible, disorderly, paradoxical and unjust (Mill uses hurricanes as a example). Just because something is “natural” does not make it good. “Utility of Religion” works to understand the roll of religion in society.
Mill does not follow any religious beliefs himself; and as this view was not socially acceptable during Mill’s time, his works focusing on religion were published posthumously.
Mill looks at religion from a functionalist perspective; seeing that its moral code is useful to society. Mill believed that the same result could be achieved through a belief in goodness and makes and interesting argument.
P. S. Wooo-hoo! I finished it! I’ve only been working on this since… January?
And now for a quote:“Supposing is true that, contrary to appearances, these horrors when perpetrated by nature promote good ends, still, as no one believes that good ends would be promoted by our following the example, the course of nature cannot be a proper model for us to imitate. Either it is right that we should kill because nature kills, torture because nature tortures, ruin and devastate because nature does the like, or we ought not to consider at all what nature does, but what it is good to do.”
Butt Rot & Bottom Gas (2007) by Eric Groves, Sr.
What you need to know: This is basically a little dictionary (i.e. glossary) of words that sound vulgar, but aren’t.
Impulse buy. I do that a lot in the books on writing section. What can I say? I love words. And knowing these ones seemed to be a way to up my comedy quotient. Puns, here I come.
And, yes, I read it cover to cover. Because I’m a nerd like that.
And now for a quote:“asset stripping: vb. to seek profit by buying a company and selling its assets”
Water for Elephants (2006) by Sara Gruen
What you need to know: How can you go wrong with a big top, a forbidden love, and the knowledge of murder looming?
I didn’t think I’d like this at first. I’m not a romance person, and the movie posters made it clear that this is a romance (and also kind of ruined some of the plot). The language in the prologue was flowery and overworked. Too many adjectives. A metaphor or simile at every turn. You can tell when a prologue is just there in order to try to get a book published, in my opinion.
But it got better (or I got used to it). The book was very well researched; the historical accuracy and plot twists were phenomenal. (I usually have trouble reading historical fiction because I pick up on too many errors… did you know I started as a History major? I could actually get a history degree with about two more classes.) And in case you are expecting something Danielle Steele-like, this work isn’t a traditional romance novel and is (realistically) adult rated sometimes.
P. S. I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know how it compares.
And now for a quote:“Her sequins flashed like liquid diamonds, a shimmering beacon between the multicolored hides. She saw me, too, and held my gaze for what seemed like forever. She was cool, languid. Smiling even. I started pushing my way toward her, but something about her expression stopped me cold.”
And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie
What you need to know: Apparently this is the most famous mystery novel ever. Does most famous mean best? Not sure.
This book is clever. The plot gets cheesy at times (was the game Clue based on this book?) and it is hard to care about any of the characters. The style of writing is only okay.
But the twist at the end makes the whole thing worth it. I’m usually stellar at figuring out “who done it” towards the middle of the book, but I didn’t even get the red herring. My first instinct turned out to be right, but there was an amazing trick hidden in there. So way to go Christie.
P.S. The original title of the novel is super racist.
And now for a quote:“A picture rose clearly before her mind. Cyril’s head, bobbing up and down, swimming to the rock… Up and down–up and down… And herself, swimming in easy, practiced strokes after him–cleaving her way through the water but knowing, only too surely, that she wouldn’t be in time…”
The Three Musketeers (1844) by Alexandre Dumas trans. Richard Pevear
What you need to know:Though this book is famous for all of the dueling, the fighting isn’t really the main focus.
What is? Affairs, revenge, money, and tons and tons of dialogue. Even though it isn’t what I expected, it’s one of the most pleasurable reads I’ve ever had in the classics department. It won’t make you think, but it is exciting.
Oh, I should tell you that it’s really historically inaccurate at times (the novel takes place 259 years before it was written). That’s more forgivable back then than when authors do it today (life before the Internets).
P.S. Make sure to get an up-to-date translation, because the old ones left all of the sexy (read: good) bits out.
And now for a quote:“The blood had risen to d’Artagnan’s head, and at that moment he would have drawn his sword against all the musketeers in the realm as he had just done against Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.”
Sharing Your Story: Recording Life’s Details with Mini Books (2008) by Ali Edwards
What you need to know: Ali Edwards writes the best books on scrapbooking.
Because you’re not just getting project ideas. You’re getting mantras and philosophies that will make your pages not only better looking, but more thoughtful. Ali makes you a better LIFE DOCUMENTER.
I re-read this book before starting on our Summer Book. There are some cool ideas for mini themes and different kinds of minis to make, but what I really take from this book is how to better document our daily lives and focus on scrapping what’s really important to our family.
And now for a quote:“One of my favorite things about minis is that they tend to fit within your own two hands. They feel alive.”
That’s a wrap on my reads this month!
Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading now?