Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Old Favorites

Currently Reading: While Mortals Sleep

Hooray for new stuff from Kurt Vonnegut!! Well not exactly new since, alas, he is no longer with us, but this is a previously unpublished collection of short stories by the master of fiction himself. In addition to containing my favorite word, lugubrious, this set of tales is wonderfully rich in engaging characters and points for pondering. One of the things I like the most about Vonnegut's work is that he is so real. All of his characters are people one could relate to. They are often flawed, lamentable creatures, but that makes me love them all the more. Who wants to spend all their time reading about people who have it better then them? There is a really good foreword to this collection by Dave Eggers. Usually I don't read the forewords and endnotes, but in this case I did since I had read things by Eggers and enjoyed them in the past. He is very poignant in pointing out the themes and common threads throughout Vonnegut's stories and really does an excellent job summing things up and sharing why he is also a lover of the late writer. One thing he mentions is that there is always a small take away from each of Vonnegut's tales. He is like the modern day Aesop in a way and totally unafraid to wrap things up, a trait oh so common in contemporary writers today. Vonnegut doesn't preach exactly, but does share some of the many life lessons he has learned himself. He coined an idea that I feel very strongly about which is "Humanism". Not a religion or cult, but rather the idea that one's main purpose on Earth or goal in life should be to care about others regardless of any eternal reward. Kurt Vonnegut remains one of my favorite authors and people. I am sad to never have had the opportunity to meet him as I'm sure it would have been an interesting discussion. We'll miss you Mr. Vonnegut.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

To Read or Not to Read

Currently Reading: Conviction

This short, but sweet post is not actually about the current book (it is one of my Star Wars tales, fantastic, but very audience specific). It is rather about bad books. One of the pitfalls of enjoying the library more and more is that I am picking up what are, quite frankly, terrible books. I have stopped reading three books in the past two weeks simply because they stunk. I didn't care about the characters or their sob stories. When I was only buying books, I was far more discriminant about what I was selecting and therefore didn't run into this issue very often. I guess I was also more reluctant to give up on something I paid for rather than a free loaner. Is this good or bad? On one hand, I am sick to death about getting into something I think will be awesome and then feeling let down. On the other hand, I am finding myself reading things that are in fact awesome that I may never had picked up if I were paying cover price. I guess the ultimate decision rests with my doing better research and taking advantage of the hold system. Still, you sometimes wonder why a publisher decided to print the book in the first place. Well that's all I have for today. Must get back to work on my own "book" that I am writing entitled "Examining the Effects of Goal Setting on Ninth Grade Algebra 1 Students". Sound like a page turner, eh??

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why Can't We All Just Get Along??

Currently Reading: Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

So as promised, here is the conclusion of In the Garden of Beasts (by Erik not Eric Larson, oops!). It seems that Ambassador Dobb was really the only one involved in all the shenanigans who actual viewed the situation for what it was. Everyone poo pooed his warnings and failed to understand the direness of the situation. No one listened and look at what happened!! Not that he could have prevented the war, but America would have been better prepared and taken steps sooner to avoid a lot of unnecessary bloodshed. It's just another case of those who think they know everything (and yet are really just diluted, ignorant, pompous.....you get the point) being the ones in charge, making all the bad decisions. Sigh...it was a sad, but necessary read since I now feel far more informed on the days and years leading up to Hitler's reign of terror. He simply swooped in one night, took out his enemies, and the next morning was declared ruler of all. And no one but Dodd questioned the situation.

The book I have started now is also about the horrors occurring for Americans during WWII, but this time from the perspective of a Chinese American boy whose best friend, an American Japanese girl, is taken from her home and sent to one of the internment camps popping up in our "enlightened" country at the time. How sick to read the same words again, only this time instead of the Nazis rounding up Jews, it is the Americans rounding up the Japanese. It is actually quite fortuitous that I read these two in a row. This one is fiction, but the underlying facts remain the same. People are afraid of difference and the only way they can come up with to calm their fears is to get rid of those who are different. What ever happened to working in harmony and learning from each other? (Ironic as the camp is called Camp Harmony). Yet another case of failing to learn from history, or in this case, what is happening across the pond. More sighs....

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Omens of Things to Come

Currently Reading: In the Garden of Beasts

What does the layman really know about the rise and fall of the Third Reich? Now by layman, I mean anyone who hasn't delved through the pages of the epic tome "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". We are overwhelmed with literature about the Holocaust and the evils brought throughout the second World War, but what about before? What about the people in Germany who witnessed and allowed such craziness to prevail? This book is the latest Eric Larson history and focuses on the American Ambassador to Germany prior to WWII. Ambassador Dodd is not your typical political official. He is a historian, teacher, and writer. He is granted the post and accepts at first because he wants more time to work on his writing, a book about the old south. Of course, this is not what he ends up with. The story also follows his daughter through the various social circles present in Berlin. She is face to face with many prominent Nazis, but of course can't help but meet with other too such as the hidden communists and those opposed to the regime. They care about lavish parties and extravagant displays, whereas Ambassador Dodd is a miser and seeks to actually discuss serious themes. She tries her darnedest to see good in the Nazi party, but is all too often faced with the realities of the situation. I am not even half way through the book, but there is one main thing that keeps popping out at me with each turn of the page. We are experiencing the same political shift today.

Maybe it is just in my particular community, but there is a rising group of people who remind me all too much of the Nazis and hold many of their same ideals. Controlling the minorities, declaring themselves to be superior, stifling the press, calling for more armaments, taking back our individual rights, intruding on personal decisions, hmm...who does this remind you of? Oh look at the time, its time for a cup o' tea! Now I'm not going to actually say it, but I am afraid. Mr. Dodd's daughter, unlike the ambassador himself, is not as learned and worldly as her father and is therefore more apt to fall for the lies, parades, and smoke and mirror games of the fanatics in Berlin. She reminds me of many of the people who are influencing our policies today due to ill-informed voting and religious beliefs. Just pages ago, her communist beau laughed at her reverence for a particularly brutal crucifix. He just doesn't understand the worship of suffering. Now I am getting back on my typical tirade and so will stop, but be forewarned, I will be back when the book is done with more thoughts and ponderings. Or should I say, ruminations.