July Reads

Coming a little late, it’s my July Reads! For those of you just tuning in, I’m going through all of my book stacks (which are organized by color) and reading everything I own that I haven’t read yet. This month the orange stack is through (though I got a bunch of new books last month, so the August post will be a back track on the colors) and I’m finishing up the red stack! I try to mix it up by reading a little non-fiction, a variety of fiction, and a book about words or writing every month. This month has a cookbook thrown in too!

July Reads

Here’s what I thought:

Post War

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (Part 4: After the Fall: 1989-2005 and Epilouge) (2005) by Tony Judt

What you need to know: I’ve said it three other times and I’ll say it again, this is the best wide-scope book on contemporary history in existence.

If you can’t see yourself plugging through over 800 pages of teeny tiny textbook writing to gain insight on contemporary European history, then skip right to Part 4 of this book. You might not get the amazing background information and recent history detailed in the rest of the book, but you will have gained, through the last 200 pages, a deep understanding of why Europe stands where it does now. It is strange to me that we don’t focus on current world affairs in school. Many Americans don’t even recognize the names of countries that were re-named or created after World War II. But you have to understand the most recent world history to understand the current state of world affairs. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the why of Europe’s current state of affairs (especially the European Union).

As I’ve said before, the strength in Judt’s work lies in his serious attempt to remove as much bias as possible, focusing on Eastern and Central Europe instead of just Western Europe.

I just wish Judt had a contemporary history version for every other continent.

*I finished the book with Part 4 this month. If you want to read about the first three parts, you can:Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

And now for a quote: “Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida… argued that America’s new and dangerous path [under George W. Bush] was an urgent wake-up call for Europe: an occasion for Europeans to rethink their common identity, draw upon their shared Enlightenment values and forge a distinctive European stance in world affairs.”

First MealsFirst Meals: The Complete Cookbook and Nutrition Guide (2004) by Annabel Karmel

What you need to know: This isn’t simply a cookbook; it’s a nutritional guide as well. Recipes and feeding guides from 6 months to 7 years.

We’re making our own baby food, so Beth (my aunt) let me borrow this book to give me some ideas as Jonas gets bigger. I read it cover to cover! Who reads cookbooks? It’s that good. I’m buying my own stat.

The book goes over the difference in nutritional needs for kids and adults, information on common allergies, equipment you’ll need, advice for freezing and reheating, ideas for encouraging healthy eating in kids, recipes and meal plans for different stages, and the social aspects of eating.

Bonus: I read the book to learn how to better feed Jonas, but ended up learning a few things for Eliza too! There are great lunchbox ideas, which I am in dire need of right now.

And now for a quote:“It is not a good idea to offer smooth purees for too long because your baby may become lazy about chewing and have difficulty developing the tongue movements needed to deal with real solids.”

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) by Stieg Larsson

What you need to know: Definitely the best contemporary mystery novel I’ve yet read.

I never expect massively popular fiction to be very good, but this was impossible to put down. The characters were deep and interestingly flawed, the plot twisted and turned unexpectedly, the narration voice was interesting and honest, the tone never became cheesy, the ending was unpredictable, and the storyline (though fantastic) was completely believable.

My only criticism is that the denouement dragged on for a little longer than necessary. It’s best not to keep your readers going for that many pages after the climax.

I can’t wait to get a hold of the other two books. But that won’t be in the budget for awhile, so maybe someone should buy them for me for Christmas? (Are you reading this, Mom?)

Note: This book contains some pretty explicit sexual violence, so you might want to steer clear if you can’t stomach such topics.

And now for a quote: “However, it was not Lisbeth Salander’s astonishing lack of emotional involvement that most upset him. Milton’s image was one of conservative stability. Salender fitted into this picture about as well as a buffalo at a boat show. Armansky’s star researcher was a pale, anorexic young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows.”

The Confidential Agent

The Confidential Agent: An Entertainment (1939) by Graham Greene

What you need to know: I found this book mostly forgettable. Seriously. I’ve pretty much forgotten what it’s about already.

The political inspirations behind the book are interesting (though the book never states that the main character is a product of the Spanish Civil War; you have to know that already). But the action? I barely remember what happened (though I know that coal played a central role???). Greene wrote it in 6 weeks. You can tell.

One of the funny things about reading these old mystery novels is how often I now recognize them alluded to in other works. I read Eat, Pray, Love recently (coming in the August Reads post) and the author compared a character to a Graham Greene character. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (see above) alluded to And Then There Were None, which I read in June. So I’m glad to build on my literary knowledge base even if I’m not 100% in love with all of these mystery novels.

And now for a quote: “If he had had a gun he would have used it; he would have been prepared to answer any charge to escape the physical contact. He shut his eyes and leant back against the mirror: he was defenseless. He didn’t know the first thing about using his fists.”

The Little Red Book of Very Dirty Words

The Little Red Book of Very Dirty Words (2009) by Alexis Munier

What you need to know: This is a perfect to put next to a Playboy on the back of a toilet in a bachelor pad. That’s about all.

I bought this book thinking it would have a lot of interesting slang I’d never heard before (so that I could improve my fiction writing). Not so much. It’s more of a joke book. The few words in here that aren’t sex related are used in a sexual way in the extremely vulgar example sentences. Not exactly my cup of tea, but it still might be useful for reference.

It took me forever to find a quote in there that was safe to put on the blog.

And now for a quote: “tramp stamp, n. a tattoo placed on a woman’s lower back; American One woman’s tramp stamp is another woman’s declaration of undying love — until she dumps the lying SOB and is stuck with his name forever.”

The Koran: Selected Suras

The Koran: Selected Suras (Dover Thrift Editions) (2000) ed. Arthur Jeffery

What you need to know: This isn’t the Koran in its entirety, but is a compilation of suras meant to be representative of the Koran as a whole. Excellent way for students to familiarize themselves with Islam.

This is left over from one of my college courses (Peace and Conflict in Religion?). I like reading religious primary sources because I feel like it gives me a deeper understanding of the religion than just a description of the beliefs and rituals practiced.

I really loved the footnotes in this translation. It cleared up possible duel meanings in the text, explained translation choices, and discussed errors and controversies.

And now for a quote: “By the star when it falls, Your companion has not gone astray, nor has he been misled, Nor is he speaking out of his own inclination. It is naught but a revelation that has been revealed to him.”

Those are my July Reads! What have you been reading lately?


P.S. I usually get a little fancy for monthly reads photos, but this is more realistic. Typically I’m reading (or, let’s face it, spending my day) in p.j.s with my hair in a messy bun. Though I don’t usually read on the kitchen table. Hah!