Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August - This Month in Reading

At the end of July, my goals were:

-Clear up the NetGalley books I need to read/review
-Do 1 foreign language book
-Do 1 reread

Did I manage this? If you consider 1.5 out of 3 a success, I did - but I am not happy with my progress. I still have 1 review book that needs reading, and I never managed the foreign language book (sigh). On the plus side, I managed a re-read and a review book and got some other books from the TBR pile read.

OK, playtime is over. For September, I need to clear up my review book ASAP. So that's my goal. I will also try to work on challenge reading but the review book must get read. I should do an end-of-summer challenge recap but frankly I am feeling tired and lazy right now so I'll do a quarterly wrap-up at the end of September instead.

What are your goals for Fall/Autumn reading?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube - Trav. S.D.

Finally managed to read this wonderful book, a history of silent comedy perfectly described in its subtitle. I was always interested in silent movies, since they were made during the late 19th/early 20th century and I love the entertainment of that era, but to be honest, they are difficult to appreciate fully on a smaller (TV) screen at times. In the last few years have I been able to experience silent films on local "big screens" with live musical accompaniment, which is fabulous. The artistry of the best of these silent comedians is timeless and I have found myself captivated by such greats as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle, etc. etc. If you are at all a fan of slapstick/silent comedy in general and these comedians in particular, this book is a wonderful resource as a history of their filmmaking and a history of slapstick comedy. Having seen many Keaton, Lloyd, and Chaplin films relatively recently, I was able to picture many of the specific scenes the author describes and that really added to my enjoyment.

Trav S.D. also wrote the terrific vaudeville overview No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book that Made Vaudeville Famous (which I thought I had reread and reviewed on this blog, but I haven't [yet]; to sum up, it's a great book and you should read it immediately). He knows his stuff and is a great researcher, as well as an engaging writer. Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets - Luke Dittrich

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free, time-limited electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been otherwise compensated for this review in any way and my opinion is my own. 

This non-fiction book reminded me of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, in that both books examine the life of a person who became a source of medical knowledge in a way that may or may not have happened with their consent. Both books also explore what it means to be someone who can give consent, and the role of medical personnel who want to advance science and how that affects the way they approach patient care. One big difference is that the author of this book has a personal connection to the titular patient - his grandfather was a pioneer in surgical lobotomies, which were fairly commonly done at the beginning of the 20th century, mainly to people who had been committed to a mental hospital. 

I won't get into the more disturbing aspects of how many people were committed and subsequently lobotomized for things we generally consider to be normal today. I will say that the author does a nice job of discussing the history of neuroscience/neurology/psychiatry and detailing how these operations helped us to understand the workings of the brain in general. Much of our current knowledge of how memory works comes from the author's grandfather's work in general and the subsequent studies of Patient H.M. in particular. 

Ultimately though, like most stories about humans, many problems were created due to childish infighting and territorial behavior on the part of scientists. What a shame. Imagine how much we could learn and advance if we weren't always operating on an "Animal Farm" level. All in all, however, this was a fascinating book. If you liked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or the books of Oliver Sacks, this should be right up your street as well. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

August Reread - Rule No. 5: No Sex on the Bus - Brian Thacker

Rediscovered this book on my shelves when I was doing the minor shelf maintenance I mentioned in an earlier post. It's a Library Sale find of a paperback from Australia describing the misadventures of the author, who used to be a tour guide in Europe. I haven't been in the mood to read anything too "heavy" or "weighty" this summer for some reason, so I figured I'd have this as my latest reread.

The book is amusing and the writing is good. The stories are funny and I suspect the writer would be fun to have a nice cold adult beverage or three with. All in all this is a fun, fast, lighthearted read and I'm glad it made its way to me from the other side of the globe.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My Mother's Secret - J.L. Witterick

As this book's subtitle helpfully explains, this book is A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story, the story of Franciszka Halamajowa and her daughter, Helena, who were able to save 15 Jewish people (and a defecting German soldier) by hiding them in and around their home in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. The writing is clear and easy to read, and the story is told Rashomon-style, so we see the events from differing points of view. This was a deceptively simple read that told an amazing story. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Tree House Mystery - Carol Beach York

The bookshelves I use for the books I have read and want to keep had become sort of unruly, so I did some maintenance - removing books I realized I'm unlikely to ever read again and finding places for newer books. One of my shelves is mainly children's books that I like, including this one that I found on the library sale shelves. However, I realized that I had simply put the book on the shelf without reading it, so I decided to fix that.

Sexism - yikes. Why would a little girl tear a dress playing in the woods - shouldn't she be wearing jeans or other play clothes and not dresses? The mother is sooooo happy to have time to herself - to get her kitchen in order. Sigh. It's amazing how ingrained these things are in children's books, even from the early 1970s.

I shouldn't complain too much though, overall the book is a light, quick read. I do think I will redonate it to the library sale however.