Sept/Oct 2020 ~ What non-fiction books are you harvesting?

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Sept/Oct 2020 ~ What non-fiction books are you harvesting?

Redigerat: sep 8, 2020, 7:46pm

The final two months of an historic countdown are upon us!

I'm looking forward to reading Disloyal by Cohen (knows where
the bodies are buried because he buried them!), Melania and
by Wolkoff, Rage by Woodward and Donald Trump
v. The United States
by Michael Schmidt.

The LT catalogue is not up-to-date and/or the Touchstones are
not working properly for two of the four books

Redigerat: sep 1, 2020, 12:25am


sep 1, 2020, 1:18am

Looks like they're working fine.

sep 3, 2020, 8:14am

Started Black and British by David Olusoga. I saw a bit of the TV series and it was fascinating and very moving.

sep 3, 2020, 8:29am

I finished The Century Girls by Tessa Dunlop. It takes 6 women born in or before 1918, when the franchise was extended to (some) women. It then proceeds to tell their life story and put it into a wider context. The women were such a varied bunch.

Redigerat: sep 4, 2020, 3:47pm

I'm still reading The Kingdom and the Glory, which I started last month and is likely to take me another month to finish. It is very chewy, but I'm feeling well rewarded for the work I'm putting in.

In addition, I'm reading The Populist's Guide to 2020, a digest of the texts of video monologues by Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, the hosts of Rising. This book was published before the resolution of the Democratic presidential primary this year, so it holds out some hopes that have since been dashed. On the evidence of the first half (what I've read so far) it is still full of sound critiques of the current political and media establishment.

Redigerat: sep 19, 2020, 11:23am

I finished the searing and insightful memoir, Know My Name. It was a raw, honest, and perceptive telling of the impact of rape and the judicial system on a victim.

sep 19, 2020, 2:31pm

Finished Black and British. A powerful and thorough examination of Black people in British history. It's taken me a long time to get through this book, partly because of the wealth of detail but also because the story of so much racism and abuse becomes overwhelming at times and I had to stop and control my outrage. Highly recommended.

sep 19, 2020, 5:08pm

I started reading Yes, Chef the autobiography of the world famous chef Marcus Samuelsson. I enjoy reading about food and those who create food when I am troubled and last nights news troubled me. I had just finished reading a novel I had been reading and saw this one laying in a stack of books in my office. I picked it up and started it. At the library this morning I found the recorded version of it. To my delight is narrated by Samuelsson. I love his TV show "No Passport Required" and think this will be a good book to get lost in. At least it will help me to think about things other than what is going on in the wider world.

sep 20, 2020, 7:03pm

I finished Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery by Leon F. Litwack. About two months ago, my friend Kim Nalley, who is both an internationally know jazz and blues singer and a Ph.D. candidate in history at UC Berkeley, sent around a list of suggested reading about the African American experience and the history of racism in America. I will be going back to that list perhaps every third or fourth book I read until I've worked my way through it.

Checking in at 556 pages, Been in the Storm So Long constitutes a commitment of time and energy, but an extremely worthwhile commitment. I was under the impression that the book would provide an overview of the Reconstruction Era, but in fact Litwack stops right as Radical Reconstruction get going. Instead, the book starts with a description of the conditions endured by the prisoners of slavery as the Civil War neared, continues on to describe conditions and events during the war years, and then covers the first few years after Emancipation. Litwack makes detailed use of letters, diaries, newspaper articles and interviews. He lays on example after example after example of each condition and development he describes. At times it seems like perhaps he's still doing that even after the points been effectively made. However, at all times I felt like the effect created with this tactic was an important one. Because it made each element not just something to be told and then to be moved on from, but instead something to consider over and over again until something like knowledge perhaps had seeped in.

sep 26, 2020, 11:45am

How the World Thinks by Julian Baggini, ****

I've not read a great deal of philosophy (if any), so this was a really great introduction to the world's philosophies. It it titled a history, but it isn't a chronological history, instead it is themed. It starts with how the world knows, then proceeds to examine different schools of thought in how the world is, who we are and how the world lives. I found the thematic approach really interesting, rather than tracing the evolution of each of the major schools of thought. I like that he also atempted to include the oral traditions, this wasn't exclusively limited to the aritten tradition.

I will be honest, the first few chapters were hard going. But they set a foundation and I found that the remaining secitons were much more readable and understandable, maybe as a result of having put some building blocks in place. I felt that I learnt a lot, recognising the aspects of philosophical thinking that I have unconciously embraced without even knowing it. It might not be meant as an introduction to philosophy, but for me it functioned reallly well as exacltly that.

I won this from the #Al-Rhodan prize, which aims to enhance cultural understanding - in which case it's an excellent winner.

okt 2, 2020, 4:09pm

Educated: A Memoir
by Tara Westover
5/5 stars
This is the true, fascinating story of Tara Westover. Born to Mormon survivalists, she and her family were isolated except for the other families in their small community. Her mother was a healer and herbalist and her father owned a junk yard. Education consisted of home schooling. Life was not easy, one of her brothers was extremely violent and she tried to stay clear of him. With the help of another brother who had gone away to the University, she decided that she needed to open herself up and become educated. On her own, she changes her life by exploring her options, leaving her family and going away to college to experiences she would never have had by staying home. This was one of the best books I have read this year!

okt 3, 2020, 7:51pm

I'm reading The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris by Mark Honigsbaum, written in 2019 (just before the current pandemic).

okt 3, 2020, 8:50pm

I finished Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance. Vance's first-person description of the distressed working class (and below) "Hillbilly" communities of the Appalachian Mountains he grew up in. The first half to two-thirds of the book are more interesting than the final chapters, to put it mildly. Vance is a good writer, and his narratives of his early family troubles, his mother's addictions, his grandparents' taking over of his and his sister's raising and the ways in which these events are indicative of the conditions and problems of their rural Kentucky community are absorbing. The points Vance has to make in retrospect about these matters ring true enough.

But I found the final 60 pages or so of Vance's memoir to be excruciating, unfortunately. Vance is, of course, a success story. That success was hard earned and, as Vance certainly allows, against the odds, a product, to a large extent, of the support of his grandparents, a type of familial help that many young people of his world don't receive. As admirable as Vance's "against the odds" success is, though, his attempts to jam the square peg of his upper mobility into the round peg of his community's problems don't ring true.

Overall, I felt that this memoir was worth reading, even with its flaws.

okt 4, 2020, 2:13pm

I managed to wade through Life as a Unicorn. It's one hell of a story let down by mediocre writing, some really irritating stylistic quirks and a feeling immaturity. Don't bother.

okt 4, 2020, 3:49pm

>16 Helenliz: "some really irritating stylistic quirks"

Where, oh where, are the editors of yesteryear?

okt 4, 2020, 11:42pm

A New History of the American South
Edward L. Ayers
4/5 stars
This is part of the Great Courses series and covers the history of the American South. This comes with a Course Guidebook and DVD lectures covering the 100 years of the struggles of African Americans that they undergo while living and working in the United States. Very informative, eye opening and interesting. Ayers narrates the DVDs and does a great job of it.

okt 7, 2020, 11:16am

Reading Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, an examination of what we now know of our cousins the Neanderthals and their lives and culture. It's beautifully written with clear explanations of the more technical areas and delightful short evocations of neanderthal life at the beginning of each chapter.

okt 9, 2020, 3:59pm

Ready for a Brand New Beat: How Dancing in the Street Became the Anthem for a Changing America
Mark Kurlansky
4/5 stars
In this book, Kurlansky explores the phenomenon of how Motown and the song “Dancing in the Street” changed music in a turbulent time in the US in the 1960’s. Kurlansky also explores the events of the time period including the rise of the Beatles, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Act and changes in politics. Kurlansky is never boring to me and I enjoy his unusual book topics!

okt 11, 2020, 6:46pm

I finished Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams. Williams was prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 1961 until his death in 1981. Before that, he was a professor of political and social science at Howard University. His book, Capitalism and Slavery was published in 1944 and, as per Colin Palmer's introduction to the 1994 UNC Press edition I read, met with mixed reactions due to the new perspective it provided. As a West Indian, Williams' focus was slavery in the British Empire, and especially in the West Indies sugar colonies. General belief had it that the abolition of slavery in the Empire had been driven primarily by humanitarian movements in England. Williams' thesis was that the proliferation of slavery was driven by the mercantile system, in which British colonies could only trade with the mother country, and protective tariffs made it prohibitively expensive for British companies to buy raw materials from anyone but those colonies. However, the capital accumulated in England via this system became substantial enough to fund inventions like the steam engine that eventually rendered this protective system obsolete, creating a clamor for free trade instead. Once this happened, the West Indian sugar plantations, were doomed. Sources of raw material, such as India, where slavery was not in widespread, or at least universal, practice, made it impossible for the slave colonies to compete. The industrialists in England no longer wanted to pay high tariffs to protect the trade of slave colonies. It's not that Williams didn't think the abolitionists were important. He devotes an entire chapter to their work. But the theme of his book was that they were not the primary drivers of slavery's end in the British Empire. Slavery ended, said Williams, when it was no longer economically viable. Members of Parliament who were supporters of slavery in one decade attacked the slave trade in the next. But when it came to the economic prosperity of the Empire, most British lawmakers and influential citizens, were willing and able to shrug off slavery's injustices and horrors. Humanitarianism simply wasn't their brief.

okt 14, 2020, 5:04pm

I finished Complexity. The book is basically a history of the formation of the Santa Fe Institute, the scientist who were involved and their research. In describing their research, an understandable, not too detailed, description of the science of complexity: thought provoking stuff. It was published in 1992 and makes me wonder what's gone on since then.

okt 14, 2020, 5:38pm

I finished Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic, which I found to be very powerful. There's nothing dated about it now, and it's easy to see why it gained such attention then. The memoir begins with the moment Kovic is wounded during a firefight and immediately loses all feeling from the middle of his chest downward. The horrors of life in a VA hospital and the darkness that descends on Kovic as he grapples with the realization that his condition is permanent are graphically and powerfully rendered. Kovic also flashes back to his (in the telling) idyllic Long Island middle-class upbringing that led him to the patriotic "God and Country" perspective that drew him to the Marines and to enthusiasm for the war in the first place. He details his life for the first decade after his wound, including his evolution into a strong anti-Vietnam War activist, in often compelling fashion as well. As an anti-war statement and a chronicle of personal darkness and perseverance, this memoir stands up very well.

okt 17, 2020, 6:03am

>22 snash: Complexity: A Very Short Introduction is from 2014 and comes with a decent bibliography.

Thanks for reminding me to bump some of those books on my TBR list. Fascinating stuff

Redigerat: okt 17, 2020, 12:44pm

I just started The Smaller Majority featuring the wonderful photography of Piotr Naskrecki. So many of us love the big, sexy animals, but forget that most of the life forms on this planet could fit in the palm of your hand. This is a celebration of those varied and often maligned creatures and how important they are to make the habitat for the elephants and eagles we use to symbolize our love for the environment.

okt 17, 2020, 5:05pm

>24 SandraArdnas: Thanks for the suggestion. I'll give it a try before too long.

okt 20, 2020, 10:20pm

I finished The Norton Book of Women's Lives, edited by Phyllis Rose. This is a wonderful anthology of excerpts from memoirs written by women from a wide range of eras and nationalities. There are 61 entries in all, from around 8 to 20 pages in length. A few are excerpts from books I'd already read, such as Beryl Markhan's West with the Night and Anne Frank's diary. Others were from memoirs I feel like I should have already read, like Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Anne Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi. Others were memoirs by women I'd never heard of and who lived lives sometimes privileged, sometimes horrifying and depressing, but always fascinating. Cultural Revolution China, both Revolutionary Era and Soviet Era Russia, India and Pakistan are just a few examples. Kate Millet, Vita Sackville-West and Zora Neale Hurston and M.F.K. Fisher are just three of the famous women who are represented. The collection is a very fertile resource for further reading and is just downright enjoyable in the extreme.

It took me three years to gradually read through this anthology, and I am considering simply starting at the beginning and reading through it again.

okt 21, 2020, 3:08pm

>25 Bookmarque: Very interesting, will look into it. However, there's something very wrong with the description of that book.

okt 21, 2020, 3:40pm

It was a treat to read and the photos are phenomenal- I’ll put a better description up later.

okt 25, 2020, 3:43pm

I finished the dense, The Invention of the White Race: Vol 1 which focuses on the forces which foster the formation of a slave class, in the Caribbean, the Americas, and most thoroughly in Ireland. This is presented as background to be used as analogy in exploring the invention of the white race in Volume 2.

okt 29, 2020, 11:59am

Reading Ladies Can't Climb Ladders by Jane Robinson - essays on the lives of early women pioneers in the professions. I watched her talk on the Sheffield "Off the Shelf" event last week; she was very witty and a fluent speaker.

okt 31, 2020, 6:47pm

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, And Fun In The Sandbox
Carol Burnett
3.5/5 stars
Carol Burnett talks about her show The Carol Burnett Show, highlights some of the famous guests who appeared on it, her fabulous cast and some of her favorite episodes during the eleven years of the show’s run. Definitely for fans of her show! I enjoyed it.

Redigerat: okt 31, 2020, 10:25pm

The final thread for this year is here ~