Thursday, December 1, 2016

Queer

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker, illustrated by Julia Scheele, 175 pages

In this beautifully illustrated primer, Barker presents an excellent introduction to queer theory, covering everything from its roots and its seminal thinkers to its criticisms of other humanities-based theories and the criticism that have been lobbed at queer theory. This is a big topic to take on, and a confusing one (even for those who are quite familiar with it). Through this book Barker and Scheele want the readers to think more queerly; that is, be more open-minded about definitions of people (by gender, sexual orientation, and a myriad of other "identities" discussed in the book) and stop using arbitrary binaries!

I'll admit that this is a topic of which I was aware before reading, though by no means could I define exactly what "queer" meant. After reading the book, I still can't, but as I learned through reading, the definition is constantly evolving and may mean something different to many different people. What this book has done, however, is create a great, visually stimulating jumping-off point, should I be interested in further research on this subject, and that, I think was the point. Excellently done.

November totals!

Christa  15/4311
Kara  13/3660
Karen  10/3572
Kathleen  4/1631
Linda  2/749
Patrick  10/2792

Total  54/16,715

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Known and Strange Things: Essays

Known and Strange Things: Essays by Teju Cole, 393 pages.
A truly excellent collection of essays from the Photography columnist of the New York Times magazine. Cole writes incredibly insightful pieces on photography and photographs, on literature and about the interactions of people around the world.
Okay, so the photographic essays were a little beyond me, but his essays on poets and writers were fascinating. I have started one Tomas Transtromer book, and am hunting down a second. I have dug out a collection of Derek Walcott poems for winter reading, and I have put Sebald on my list of authors to try one more time.

Born to Run

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, 510 pages.
Bruce Springsteen has written a very readable and enjoyable account of his life, from childhood to his rock and roll beginnings and on through super-stardom. He tells the strange story of his grandmother's sort of obsessive love for him when he was very young, recalling that at age three and four he could do whatever he pleased, staying up until 3am and the sleeping all day. His mother was able to remedy this situation after a while, but not before Bruce felt the lasting effect of being the center of the world. Springsteen's relationship with his father was also fairly trauma-filled, and the dysfunction there also formed him. Who is not a sum of all their parts, though. Springsteen acknowledges the mental unwellness of some of his forbears, but then moves on to the music. He was part of a local band called the Castiles which had a local following. He and fellow Jersey natives also made it big locally with Child (renamed Steel Mill when they discovered another band already using the name Child). Several members of that band joined Bruce on his first album and eventually became the E-Street band. Lots of interesting stories written in a readable, introspective style. Great for fans of Springsteen and his music.

The trainable cat

The trainable cat / John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis, 332 pgs.

Cats are unlike dogs in that they aren't out to please us but they are still trainable.  The authors have described nine key skills that lead to a well trained cat.  By well trained, you can encourage good behavior and discourage bad behavior.  The authors have documented a lot of information about cat behavior and why they do the things they do.  Their suggestions about how to give you cat meaningful experiences by playing with them and giving them options to enjoy a variety of activities seem logical.  Also included are some photos of their cats participating in suggested activities.  Good info. for the cat obsessed (not that I know anyone like that!)

The Titan's Curse

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan, 312 pages

Book Three of the Percy Jackson series finds Percy and friends teaming up with the hunters of Artemis on a cross-country trip to save the goddess (and, with any luck, Percy's friend Annabeth). This book doesn't have nearly as many wink-wink situations with barely-disguised mythological monsters as previous books in the series, which I kinda liked; it made the plot much more cohesive. But there was still plenty of humor: my 8-year-old son cackled madly every time I had to moo like the cow-serpent (guess you had to be there). Can't wait to start in on Battle of the Labyrinth!

The Girls of Atomic City

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan   373 pp.

During World War II the government managed to pull off the biggest secret ever in the history of the world. Thousands of people divided up in sites all over the U.S. helped to create what was to become the atomic bomb. But only a handful of people working on it even knew what it was they were working on. They only knew it top secret. This book focuses on the work of the women at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Oak Ridge did not exist before WWII began. Is was created to house the workers and plants that were refining the Uranium aka "tube alloy" that would ultimately be used as fuel for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While some of the women were support staff, working as secretaries, nurses, and cleaners, others worked in the actually processing plants. Most in processing only how to do the small tasks given to them without knowing why or what they were doing. Oak Ridge became the town of temporary housing, roads, and processing plants that rose from the mud of eastern Tennessee. The people there were all sworn to secrecy and constantly watched to prevent the Axis powers from learning what went on there. In spite of the hardships and confinement there was socializing, family life, romances that came and went, marriages, and children born. It's a fascinating story about an important era in U.S. history.

Breaking Cat News

Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News That Matters to Cats by Georgia Dunn, 128 pages

Ever wonder what TV news reports might look like if cats ran the show? Even if you didn't, Dunn's comics are well worth reading, as they'll have every cat owner falling out of their chair laughing. Dunn based these comics on her own cats, and their personalities come to life in their tie-wearing, microphone-holding Cat News correspondent alter egos. It's hard for me to pick favorite moments -- Is it the cats reporting on that weird red dot that keeps appearing? Is it the severe weather take on the vacuum? The treatment of the impostor (house guest) sleeping on the couch? -- but the fact that it took only 30 minutes to read makes it so I don't have to choose. Yay!

(One caveat: this is only available through the library on Hoopla, so get yourself a free Hoopla account and check it out here.)

The Young Widower's Handbook

The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister, 282 pages (advanced reading copy)


Hunter Cady and his wife, Kait, were incredibly happy in their young marriage, always planning for (but never taking) elaborate trips to exotic locations around the world. But then Kait died suddenly, leaving Hunter adrift, wondering who he is supposed to be without Kait, who was the planner, the worrier, the financial manager of their partnership. After the immediate mourning period (the part filled with neighborly casseroles and awkward hugs), with anger and stress issues pouring in from his parents and in-laws, Hunter embarks on a road trip with Kait's ashes, heading west to see where life takes them.

This is a wonderful book, filled with bittersweet love, quirky situations and characters, and the perfect amount of wry humor. I was afraid when I picked it up that this would be one of those books that makes me weep constantly; thankfully, it wasn't, and instead I found myself ruminating on life and love. In his debut novel, McAllister creates wonderfully flawed and lovable characters and a story that is, if not totally believable throughout, is true to those characters and the process of grief. Definitely read this one when it's released in February 2017.

Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, 430 pages

In May 1915, the Lusitania, the most majestic ocean liner in the seas, was torpedoed by a German U-boat, killing nearly 1,200 of the ship's 1,900 passengers and crew members. Dead Wake is a detailed reconstruction of Lusitania's final voyage, told from the perspective of not only various passengers and crew members, but also the captain of the U-boat, a top-secret British intelligence team, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and various others. While I knew exactly how this would end when I started the book, I was impressed with how Larson constructed the book to keep the tension high and the "plot" moving. An excellent book for those interested in WWI history, though not recommended for fans of cruises.