Novel Review

I don’t read a lot of novels, except historical ones occasionally. Over two days earlier this month I read a really good one based on the recommendation of several friends. The genre is listed variously as Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Coming of Age, Family Life, and Survival! Probably all of those apply to “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.

I was a little puzzled by the title since I’m familiar with crawdads and I’ve never heard them sing. On Crooked Creek, we called them crawfish, but they are the same thing and they don’t sing. Nevertheless, it was a great read. I immediately wondered why the book had not become a movie, but I learned that one is in the works to be produced by Reese Witherspoon. 

The book follows a small girl growing up alone after being abandoned by her entire family. She grew up in the marshlands in North Carolina learning to take care of herself. She only attended school one day because she was laughed at by the other students when she could not spell. Her only friend, a young boy, took the time to teach her the alphabet and she taught herself to read. 

I’ll stop here before I tell you too much, but the story goes on until this little girl dies in her sixties. It has a very surprising ending. I recommend this award winning book if you like novels. 

What’s Your Enneagram Type?

Are you familiar with the Enneagram Personality Test? I was not until I read a book by Richard Rohr. He referred to the Enneagram in his book “Falling Upward” and it raised my curiosity so I researched it further. https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/01/falling-upward/

The Enneagram presents nine personality types with some overlapping. The book I just read, “What’s Your ENNEATYPE?”, talks about “triads” and “wings” and other combinations of the major types. I was disappointed that the book did not have a test where one could determine one’s type. As I read I decided that I was a number One type and yet I wanted to be sure so I found an Enneagram test Online. It confirmed that I was a number One as I had thought.

Most of you have probably taken the Meyer-Briggs Personality test either in school or on the job. I’ve taken it at least three times and have found the results consistent over the years. The Enneagram is similar and if you take both tests I think you will see obvious similarities.

The Enneagram book was interesting and I recommend it to those who like the Meyer-Briggs test although I am partial to it over the Enneagram. The book gives much information about making the most of life with your personality type. You can find out about your Enneagram personalty by taking the test at https://www.truity.com/test/enneagram-personality-test

SOLITARY

Albert Woodfox was a teenager when he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The Louisiana prison was called Angola and those incarcerated there were treated like animals. They were strip-searched sometimes multiple times a day and were made to work for two cents per hour. Woodfox tells the story of his more than forty years in solitary confinement fighting for his freedom. This is a heartbreaking true story and it should surprise no one that Albert Woodfox is a black man.

I recommend this book particularly if you are interested in the correctional system in this country.

“East of Eden”

“East of Eden” by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck is a journal about several families and two in particular that become close in a dark way. One of the families, the Trasks, is similar to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck’s characters are fascinating in many realms, such as love, mystery and murder. 

Most people have read this book. If you haven’t I recommend that you do. It has entertained readers for over half a century.   

Books

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero

I believe this quote is true. I cannot imagine life without books or a room without books. As you’ve noticed I have blogged a lot of book reviews over the past several months. I cannot imagine a pandemic without books! This past year of being locked-down would have been unbearable without books to read.

What books have been especially important to you over this year of inactivity? Please share with us how books have helped you get through the COVID months since March of 2020.

Photo by Pixabay

Here are some other book quotes to think about.

“Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.” Susan Sontag

“Every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty . . . like a dry shell on the beach waiting for the tide to come in again.” Daphne DuMaurier

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” Jessamyn West

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” Katherine Mansfield

“Good books like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” Louisa May Alcott

“Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful and permanently personal.” Lenore Hershey

“Truly each new book is as ship that bears us away from the fixity of our limitations into the movement and splendor of life’s infinite ocean.” Helen Keller

Photo by Pixabay

“A Promised Land”

“A Promised Land” is an autobiography by Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. It is a long, thorough account of the former President’s administration. Obama is honest and forthcoming about the trials, triumphs and failures of his time in office. He is very good at giving credit to those who worked with him. I found the interworking of the White House and all that is involved in leading this country fascinating.

I recommend this memoir.

Book Review

“A Pledge of Silence” by Flora J. Solomon

This novel is not my usual read, but it has much to recommend it. The story is about a nurse who joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1941. She was happy to be assigned to a base in Manila and for a while all went well there. When the Japanese later invade the Philippines she is taken prisoner for three years. The tale of horror includes abuse and near starvation. Although there is some romance, actually quite a bit, it is still a realistic story of what those in the military endured in World War II and how it affected their lives forever.

“Unbroken” Book Review

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

This true story follows the life of Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) from his grade school years until his death at the age of ninety-seven. His was a life well worth the effort of reading this riveting, best selling book. In fact I have read it twice in seven years as well as seeing one of the two movies made of his life based upon this book.

Louie, as he was called, was a precocious young boy with a knack for getting into trouble. Somehow his family was always able to correct him without breaking his spirit for adventure. In high school he funneled his energies into running and while in college at the University of California he broke speed records which led him to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where he met Adolph Hitler and set a new lap record.

Leaving college to join the Army Air Forces he became a bombardier during WWII. He, the pilot and one other man were the only survivors after his plane went down in the ocean during a search and rescue mission. They survived Japanese attacks, sharks and near starvation aboard an inflatable raft for forty-seven days. Only he and the pilot remained alive when they finally landed on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands where they were captured.

The account of inhumane treatment in two different Japanese prison camps was difficult to read. The beatings and humiliations endured by Zamperini and his fellow prisoners of war are beyond my imagination. In spite of being singled out for the worst treatment because of his Olympic fame, he managed to survive. After discharge from the military Zamperini suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder leading to alcohol abuse and a tormented life. He was, however, unbroken and through a spiritual encounter he recovered and found forgiveness in his heart for his transgressors. He then devoted the rest of his life to working with at-risk youth.

I recommend this book and would award it five stars out of five.

“Dead Wake”by Erik Larsen

A Book Review by Dianne Bynum

“Dead Wake The Last Crossing of the Lusitania”

Erik Larsen has become one of my favorite writers of historical novels. I really enjoyed, and learned a lot, from “The Devil in the White City.” Both novels are about events I knew very little about. I knew that the sinking of the Lusitania was a reason for the US to enter WWI but I didn’t know much else. Larsen personalizes this tragedy by introducing us to the passengers of the Lusitania during the voyage. The reader can’t help but wonder who survives and who doesn’t. It was also interesting learning about our president and his personal challenges during the days leading up to the First World War. I would recommend this novel to history buffs and to those that love a good story. 

“White Fragility”by Robin DiAngelo

Robin DiAngelo is an antiracist educator with years of experience. Her book, “White Fragility,” is thought-provoking on many levels but her main thesis is that all white people are racist. That is an explosive statement but throughout her writing, she gives examples of how the white race has maintained a culture of supporting racism as a structure of the social order.

Michael Eric Dyson, who wrote the book’s forward, states that it is a “ vital, necessary, and beautiful book.” DiAngelo not only points out how we, as whites, get things so wrong, but why and what we can do to overcome our fragility.

I highly recommend this New York Times bestseller.

“The Longest Ride”

“The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks is sweet, tear-jerking, and readily forgotten. If you have read even one book by this author you know what you are in for. For this reason, I can only blame myself for recently listening to the audible version of “The Longest Ride.” I have a trove of books on my Kindle that I have not listened to and so I’m going through them now in no particular order. 

This Sparks book is about a sorority senior named Sophia and her new boyfriend, a rodeo bull rider named Luke. It is also about Ira who is ninety-one years old and his wife Ruth who has been dead for nine years. The book goes on and on with a sweet tale about each separate couple and you know they will somehow become connected in the end. They do, in a slightly unexpected way and the young couple lives happily ever after. 

If this is your genre you will love it. I think you can tell that it isn’t mine, but then I’ve been told I read a lot of “dark” material. 

“White Rage”

From the Civil War to today, “White Rage” by Carol Anderson Ph.D. defines the powerful forces opposed to black progress in the United States. Anderson wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in response to talk of black rage. She proposed that the problem was instead white rage that brought about the unrest in this country at that time, 2014. Her book, “White Rage” followed. 

Our cursory study of the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment would have us believe the struggles of African Americans ended in 1865. The author details how Blacks were met at every crossroads to be turned back by powerful Whites. 

Every American should read this award winning book, no, should study it, to finally understand what Black Americans have faced and why the struggle continues to this day. 

“12 Years a Slave”

Solomon Northup, a black man, was born free in 1808. He lived in New York State with his wife and three children. He worked and supported his family and loved playing the violin. One day he was kidnapped and following being sold multiple times he ended up spending twelve years as a slave on a Louisiana plantation. During this time he was brutally beaten and existed working on little to eat and sleeping on a dirt floor. He had no idea whether his family was still alive when he was finally freed.

Published in 1853 this detailed and true description of life as a slave became a best seller. This true story is spellbinding and heartrending. It was eventually made into a popular motion picture. I recommend this book.

Assisted Death

We all know, or at least have heard of, individuals who spent the last part of their lives in long-term facilities without any quality of life while eating up all of one’s lifetime savings. Medical costs at the end of life are a huge portion of one’s lifetime medical expenses. There are others who have a terminal and debilitating disease such as Parkinson’s who do not want to live helplessly until natural death occurs. Such people are likely to desire the end of life, but unless they live in certain areas of this country this is not an opportunity for them, at least not legally. In areas that do allow one to end their life, cancer is the number two diagnosis for self-deliverance, behind ALS. 

There is much controversy regarding the act of ending one’s life. The American Medical Association is against physicians being involved in such acts because the physician is to be seen as a healer instead. Others, particularly religious groups, see this self determination of the end of life as suicide and therefore a sin. Advocates see it as death with dignity. 

In 1990 the Patient Self-Determination Act was passed when the Supreme Court ruled that a person had the right to refuse nutrition and hydration to end life. This quickly lead to the Living Will with which most of us are familiar.   https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ At about the same time the Supreme Court ruled that assisted death would be up to the states. Since then, nine states and the District of Columbia granted that right to its citizens. One in five Americans live in those states and fewer than 4,500 have died utilizing this right. 

Interestingly, assisted death by injection is forbidden. The person choosing to die must be able to ingest oral medication. One-third of those who obtain the medication for this purpose do not take it, even though it is on hand.  

Maine, one of the nine states, named their law Medical Aid in Dying and the current medical protocol, called D-DMA: contains #1 powdered digoxin, which is normally used to treat irregular heartbeat but causes the heart to stop at extreme doses. And #2 a mixture of Diazepam (Valium), which suppresses the respiratory system in high doses; Morphine, a narcotic that also suppresses the respiratory system; and Amitriptyline, an antidepressant that stops the heart at high doses. This cocktail is said to produce peaceful sleep followed by death. It is not easy to obtain this method of dying. Maine requires an oral request followed by a second oral request. A written request is then required at least fifteen days later. 

Final Exit”, by the founder of the modern American right-to-die movement, Derek Humphry, was published in 1991 and offers information on ending one’s life where it is not legally permitted.This book offers various ways to end one’s life listing each by lethality, minutes to death, pain level and other factors. Some methods, e.g., the use of a plastic bag and helium or nitrous gases require that someone remove the apparatus prior to a coroner’s visit if the deceased doesn’t want it known that they ended their own life. The book even includes information regarding life insurance. The fact that this book has sold 2 million copies seems to indicate great interest in the subject and the many methods of suicide/euthanasia described within. 

“To Kill A Mockingbird”

Like most of you, I have read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee more than once. And, of course, I’ve seen the movie based upon this extraordinary book multiple times. I decided to listen to the audio version while riding my Beast. I’m sure you remember this contraption but in case you do not please check it out: https://crookedcreek.live/2021/02/25/the-beast/

I am so glad that I made this decision. The book is narrated by Sissy Spacek and she does Scout’s Alabamian accent perfectly. As I listened to Scout tell the story of her life with her brother Jim, I forgot completely that it was Spacek speaking. She was an eight year old girl full of curiosity and full of spunk.

Unfortunately, the court scenes with Atticus Finch were what I had remembered most clearly. After listening to the audio book, however, I will always remember Scout and her adventures in a small southern town.

I recommend this wonderful book, but also suggest you hear its narrated version if you have not.

“The Call of the Wild”

Like most of you, I imagine, I read “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London years ago. I remembered the short book to be about a sweet dog who returned to the wild and lived happily ever after. This week, while riding the Beast, a.k.a. my Cardio Strider, I decided to listen to the audible version of the book. How could I have forgotten the cruel abuse this dog endured?

Buck was a one hundred and forty-pound St. Bernard and Scotch Collie mix who lived on a nice estate in California. A worker there stole the dog away from his owners who loved him and sold him to be used as a dog to pull sleighs in Alaska. Buck knew nothing about what was expected of him but he finally learned through many beatings by multiple owners. He eventually ended up in the Yukon area of Canada where the Klondike gold rush was taking place.

Again Buck learned cruel lessons from both the dogs he was forced to work with and from various men who owned him for a time. Finally, mercifully, he was rescued by John Thornton, an experienced frontiersman, who had a heart and a fierce love for Buck. They traveled the frozen country-side for a few years until Thornton was murdered by Native Americans. Buck was furious and savagely attacked the people until many of the Yeehat tribe were dead. Buck then followed his primordial instinct which had been calling him for some time, and he joined a wolf pack to live out his life in the wilderness and his wolf heritage.

The author, Jack London, published this animal fiction tale in 1903. He realistically gave this magnificent dog human traits and thoughts that were easy to accept as authentic. “The Call of the Wild” has been adapted into over one dozen films and remains an all-time favorite.

“Falling Upward”

“Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr

This book attempts to explain the spiritual life during two halves. The author sees this as young adulthood where life’s priorities are strict, organized and goal driven, but a time of making many mistakes. He sees the second half of life, beginning at approximately the fifties, as being more stable, peaceful and enlightened. These stages he relates to organized religion.

The author is a Catholic priest and explains his theory based on spirituality but not necessarily from the Christian point of view. He includes other religions such as Islam, Judaism and the Buddhist faith in his examples and references. This book and Rohr’s theory would probably be of little interest to those without any spiritual or religious background.

As a person well into the “second half” I could identify with some of his points but still found the book a bit confounding. I believe his main point was that we grow upward by falling down, i.e., making mistakes and being hurt. There is wisdom to be had in this book, but a plethora of analogies made it a bit hard for me to stick with it until the end.

PBS has called Richard Rohr “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.”

“The Good Earth”

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck, published in 1931, is a story of hardship, love, riches and death set in China in the early Twentieth Century. Buck grew up in China, the daughter of US missionaries and then moved back there after college. She knew the culture of that era and after reading this book you will too. I found some parts hard to read because of the lack of worth and respect ascribed to female children and women, but it was enlightening.

Being a well known classic I thought that I had read this long ago. Recently, I picked the book up off my shelf and upon review saw nothing familiar. I always write the date I purchase a cook inside the cover and I saw that I had owned this book for sixteen years. It is dogeared and had a boarding pass inside which I often used as a book mark while traveling. It remains a mystery as to whether I had read it before and forgotten the whole story! Regardless, I am very glad that I have read it now and if you have not, I recommend that you do.

Pearl S. Buck has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. By the time of her death in 1973 she had published more than seventy books. It is available in audio and also graphic adaptation editions.

What is your opinion of “The Good Earth?” I am sure that most of you have read this story of a family that depended upon the earth for sustaining their life and lifestyle.

Land of the Lost Souls

“Land of the Lost Souls, My Life on the Streets” by Cadillac Man

This book was originally written by Cadillac Man in spiral notebooks over a period of sixteen years. He covers the perils, freedoms and uncertainties of a man living on the streets of New York City. No matter how many homeless people you’ve seen, perhaps even known, I am sure that you know little about what their day-to-day life is like. I know that I did not. This book gives an intimate and frightening view of what that existence is like.

Cadillac Man got his street name from being hit by a Cadillac and afterwards bearing the imprint of the car’s logo. He has a way of telling much of his story humorously, but there is also fear, fighting, death and even romance in his life. If you are offended by foul language then perhaps this isn’t a book for you. I found the gritty verbiage more believable than if it had been sanitized.

This book is illuminating and probably should be read by most of us who have a safe environment and place to call home. There are many reasons why there are folks living on the streets and we should be more aware of them.

“The Second Grave”

“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind

Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.

The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:

  1. Executions will deter murder by others in the future
  2. Society’s sense of justice demands executions
  3. Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
  4. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
  5. Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible

The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.

Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.

The Sun Does Shine

“The Sun Does Shine, How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row” by Anthony Ray Hinton – with Lara Love Hardin

In 1985 “Ray” Hinton was a twenty-nine year old man living with his beloved Mother and working a full time job within the community. He wasn’t perfect. He had written a few bad checks and had once stolen a car, but he was not a murderer. That did not keep him from being arrested, tried and convicted to be put to death in Holman Prison in his home state of Alabama. Hinton was innocent and for three years he could only think of that and of getting even with those who put him in prison. During this time he did not speak except to his Mother and his best friend who visited him. After those years he realized that anger and hatred were not helping his cause and he began to make a life where he was even though he never gave up believing that one day he would be proven innocent.

For thirty years he lived, ate and slept in a cell that was 5X7 feet and during these years he had only one hour per day of exercise in an outdoor chainlink pen. Somehow he made his life worth living. He knew he was innocent and he had hope. He started a book club on the cell block and for the first time prisoners had something more than the Bible to read. They were only allowed two books and they had to share them up and down the rows of cells, but after everyone had a chance to read, there would be a discussion of the book. The men now had something to think about other than their approaching executions.

His incompetent trial attorney half-heartedly appealed his case without any success. Justice was hard to come by as a poor black man but year after year he continued to hope. During the time he spent on death row he knew each time there was an execution because his cell was only feet away from the room where this took place. As the generator kicked on for the electric chair the lights in the cell block would dim. Then he smelled the burned flesh of his fellow prisoners, men he got to know over the years they were contained in close proximity. Fifty-four men were killed during the years Hinton remained on Death Row.

When the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) learned of his case an attorney was sent in to seek a re-trial. After a few years there was another attorney and further attempts were made to fight the legal system and to obtain justice for Hinton but to no avail. Finally a miracle occurred in the form of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the EJI, (and author of “Just Mercy” https://crookedcreek.live/2020/11/23/just-mercy/ ) who made a surprise visit to Holman Prison. He informed Hinton that he was taking over his case. More years of legal proceedings took place until Stevenson finally took Ray Holman’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2015 he finally walked out of prison a free man.

This story of courage and forgiveness is well worth your read. I highly recommend it for better understanding humankind as well as the Justice System or what stands for justice in the United States.

See “Decades Behind Bars” by Gay Holman at https://crookedcreek.live/2019/05/27/decades-behind-bars-book-review/

Monday Book Review: “Separated”

This New York Times bestseller, “Separated – Inside an American Tragedy,” was published in July of this year. The author, Jacob Soboroff, is a TV journalist who won the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for Individual Achievement by a National Journalist and the HIllman Prize for Broadcast Journalism that same year. Soboroff witnessed firsthand in Texas, Arizona and California what the United States of American did to thousands of families seeking asylum in the US. In short, families were separated and often placed in chainlink cages similar to dog kennels. Parents were held having no idea where their children were and usually that was thousands of miles away.

Much of this separation was done in secret before it was known to be a US plan to deter those seeking asylum from coming across the southern border. Soboroff went the shelters and tent cities and interacted with both Border Patrol and particularly one father son family from Guatemala. The author’s observations and his sharing of his own horror are memorable.

If this is a subject that interests you, and it should interest all of us, I recommend this book for a better understanding of what was done and to some degree is still being done to families who seek safety in this country. Of necessity, this book contains the names of numerous government agencies and their acronyms and this can impede what would otherwise be a fast read.

Just Mercy

MONDAY BOOK REVIEW

“Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), has been called America’s Mandela and after reading this book I think that is fitting. The book has been awarded many honors and is a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Stevenson, a lawyer, has spent his entire professional career representing those who had no one else to defend them. He and staff at the EJI took on the cases of individuals who had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as children. He defended the innocent on death row. Many of his clients were people of color, all were in poverty and could not afford legal fees.

The book is chocked full of individual cases, but one is followed in detail, that of Walter McMillian. McMillian was arrested for a murder that he was in no way connected to and spent years on death row before Stevenson managed to win his release. All the court proceedings along with the obvious prejudices against this black man are very enlightening.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a just Justice System for all citizens of this country.

Please read about the Equal Justice Initiative at https://eji.org You will find it very interesting.

Paradise

MONDAY BOOK REVIEW

“Paradise” by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer winning author and “Paradise” is one of her many bestselling books. That being said, it is not an easy book to read, especially at first. Each chapter is named for a different woman who is a pivotal character in this convoluted tale. 

The book starts out with violent murders and the reader has no idea where it is taking place or why.  Eventually the story winds around to a town settled by black Americans who hope they are building their paradise. It turns out to be anything but that.

Many of the names are difficult and characters blend together in a stew that eventually goes from simmer to boil. This book has racial tension, social issues and sexual intrigue.

Overall all I give it a 4.5 score out of 5. I believe that a writer as talented as Morrison could have told this fascinating story with less frustration for the reader. D5709C90-C5A2-4E8D-A4DD-DC53B57BF123_4_5005_c

Lab Girl

Book Review Monday

“Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren is a book that covers it all and does it brilliantly. Jahren is a serious scientist whose excitement about her work is infectious. She studies soil, seeds, plants, and especially trees and it is hard for the reader to not become involved in her work in the lab and in the field.

The author has many challenges including being raised without affection or the assurance that she was loved. This, as well as her bipolar disorder, made her relationships complex. She honestly shares her life’s story professionally and personally.

I recommend this true story which is a national best seller.

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Across That Bridge

BOOK REVIEW MONDAY

“Across That Bridge” by John Lewis

John Lewis was a United States Congressman and Civil Rights leader. While peacefully demonstrating he was beaten and arrested forty times and this books draws on these experiences. Throughout this autobiography Lewis, who died earlier this year, stresses how the US protests and demonstrations of the 1960s were peaceful. The demonstrators never fought back and never pressed charges for the violence that they experienced. He uses the lessons of that era to inspire changes to America today. His insights have never been more relevant.

I recommend this inspiring and uplifting read.

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The Jane Austen Book Club

Monday Book Review

“The Jane Austen Book Club” by Karen Joy Fowler

Another older book that won the New York Times bestseller prize. Another book made into a movie, this one by Sony Pictures. The author has written five other books, none that I had heard of before picking up this one.

This review will be quick. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you are not a fan, don’t bother. Two stars at the most in my opinion.

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Late Migrations

Monday Book Review

“Late Migrations” by Margaret Renkl

This is another book borrowed from a friend, that I would not have chosen to buy, but which I thoroughly enjoyed. I keep wanting to call this a “feel good” book, but then I recall that it contained some painful stories of disappointment and loss.  Somehow the author manages to make these comforting along with all her accounts of kids, birds, and butterflies.

“Late Migrations” is a compilation of short stories and that makes it easy to pick up and put down at leisure. I recommend this book which is filled with love.

Margaret Renkl is an opinion writer for The New York Times where her essays appear weekly.

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The Accidental Tourist

Monday Book Review

“The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler

This is an old book that I borrowed from a friend. It was published in 1985 and made into a movie with A List actors. It’s a New York Times bestseller, so it has to be good, right? Actually it was a pretty good read.

It is about a quirky family that sticks together a little too closely after they reach adulthood. That dynamic affects their relationships with others, especially their spouses. I would have preferred a different outcome for one particular couple, but then it would not have had the surprise ending.

Anne Tyler is a prolific and entertaining writer. I’ll give her 3.5 stars for “The Accidental Tourist.”

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RAGE

Another Book Review

There are many books out about the current President of the United States. One, written by President Trump’s niece, was reviewed a couple of days ago and it seems this is a good time to follow up with another bestseller.

“Rage” is written by the well-known and respected writer, Bob Woodard, who has forty-nine years of experience. Woodward, of Watergate fame along with Carl Bernstein, is a respected journalist who has written or co-authored twenty books. His style is clear and the content is well documented with source notes for each chapter.

I knew this book would have actual quotes of the President, taken from recordings of interviews but I did not expect all the additional behind-the-scenes reporting. If you are interested in learning more about the chaotic history of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and his nearly four years of governing I recommend you read this book.

This Pulitzer Prize winning author gets five stars for holding my attention and providing inside information about the current president.

Too Much and Never Enough

Book Review Monday

“Too Much and Never Enough – How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” by Mary Trump, PhD

Mary Trump is the niece of the President of the United States. In this book she writes about her family in detail and claims to know what makes Donald J. Trump the kind of leader that he is. She doesn’t hold back while sharing her recollections and opinions of this well known and powerful family. Her account of the toxic dynamics involved is hard to discount based on her training and work as a clinical psychologist.

If you are interested in the subject I recommend this book. I found it well written and easy to read.

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Reforesting Faith

Book Review Monday

“Reforesting Faith” by Matthew Sleeth, MD

This book was a gift from my sister-in-law. When I first saw it I wondered if it was about religion or about saving the trees. It turns out that it is about both. I have read the Bible my whole life, but I never read it thinking specifically about trees. As it turns out trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any other living creation except for humans.

The author is a medial doctor who used to be a carpenter. He has become a minister and now lives in Lexington, KY. His book makes the case that trees are essential to everyone’s understanding of God. Sleeth points out trees from Genesis to Revelation in a very conversational way. After finishing this book I will never look at trees or read the Bible in the same way.

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“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.” John Muir

 

The Daughter’s Tale

Book Review Monday

“The Daughter’s Tale” by Armando Lucas Correa

An eighty year-old woman in New York City in 2015 receives a box of letters from long ago and seven decades of secrets spill forth. The shock of learning about her past was devastating both physically and emotionally.

At this point the story switches to her childhood in Germany in 1939 and the way her Jewish parents had saved her and her sister from the Nazis. The amazing journey takes the mother and her two daughters to the South of France where they become separated. One daughter ends up in Cuba and the other in the United States.

This story is based on true events and is an unforgettable account of love, sacrifice and survival. I recommend it.

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“The Internet has been this miraculous conduit to the undeniable truth to the Holocaust.” Steven Spielberg

 

How To Be An Antiracist

Book Review Monday

“How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi

I’ve wanted to read this New York Times bestseller since I first heard Kendi interviewed on TV. I have now read it and I am disappointed. I had hoped to learn specific actions that I could take as an antiracist in more than name only. I did not clearly find those actions. To me the book was confusing. It is full of definitions that used the words antiracist and racist in them. It did get more readable in the last few chapters when the author became more personal.

I don’t want to turn anyone off regarding this book. It was worth the read albeit a struggling one. It may be me and you may have a different experience with it. If any of you have read the book, I’d love to hear your opinion.

Kendi is a professor at the American University in Washington, D. C. He has written two other books which won various awards. He is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center.

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When Breath Becomes Air

“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

If you have questions about life and/or death this book is a must-read. Paul Kalanithi, MD was a brilliant neurosurgeon and scientist who strove to meet his patients’ needs emotionally as well as physically. He had many questions about death while he held the life of his patients in his skilled hands.

At the zenith of Paul’s career while in his fourth decade of life, he learned that he had terminal cancer. During his final months, he wrote this book about facing and accepting that reality. He honestly tells us his fears, doubts, and hopes in the most sensitive way. It is a beautiful story about an extraordinary yet humble life.

His wife, Lucy, completes the book via an epilogue about his final days.

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This book is a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

 

 

 

Book Review by Dianne Bynum

Dianne Bynum is the most prolific reader I know currently. I like to include some of her book reviews to give you a look at different genres. She reads a wide variety of books and I think you will enjoy hearing from her from time to time. Here’s the latest:

“Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold

Only 480 pages? I could have sworn it was a least 700 pages. So many characters and subplots! When I was about half way through Carter Beats The Devil by Glen David Gold, I remember scanning through to the end to see if I could make It. I wasn’t bored as much as overwhelmed. I felt like this book would have made a wonderful series of books. There are so many good stories revolving around Carter the Great. Charles Carter was a real magician in the early 1900’s but this story has little to do with the real man. President Harding is an important character in the book as well as the creator of the first BMW and the creator of the first electronic television. All of the characters are extraordinary. You won’t find any “everyday people” in this book. This book had a larger than life feel to it, it’s almost like the author was winking at us saying, “I know these characters are over the top, but isn’t it fun?” – there’s a damsel in distress that doesn’t need our help, a villain with a black cloak and a blood thirsty dog and our magician that truly can get out of any scrape with the tools up his sleeves. It’s fun but very involved. I’ll remember the characters long after I remember what they did.

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A Woman of No Importance

“A Woman of No Importance” by Sonia Purnell

This book is about Virginia Hall, a woman of great importance who rarely received recognition for her accomplishments as an American Spy. She was born of privilege but spent her entire adult life fighting for peace during World War II and the years that followed. In 1942 a transmission from the Gestapo termed her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies” saying that they “must find and destroy her.”

Details of Hall’s exploits are riveting and I found this book hard to put down. She fought in France for the Resistance and then in many other countries for the Allied forces. Her assignments were as dangerous and physically demanding as those of any male’s and she carried them out with precision despite having an artificial leg. Many of those she worked with were not even aware of her disability.

I have read extensively about WWII but I had not heard of Virginia Hall and had no idea that women were used as spies on the frontlines of armed conflict. In fact, few did, but Hall fought bravely and saved many lives by her efforts. She should be a hero to us all. I recommend this thrilling true story.

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A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London.

 

 

The Body

“THE BODY – A Guide for Occupants” by Bill Bryson

The size of this big book might be off-putting but if you are interested in how your body works I suggest you read it. Being a Registered Nurse I wondered if this would be of interest to me since I expected it to be just anatomy and physiology with which I’m familiar. But, when I realized that the author was the same witty Bill Bryson who I had read before, I wanted to give it a try.  Read more about this prolific author here:      https://crookedcreek.live/2019/07/04/bill-bryson-book-review/

This fascinating book is twenty-three chapters long, beginning with the skin and hair and ending with the end, i.e., death. Each system of the body is described along with its functions. There is much history included regarding discoveries and photos of those who made them. Anecdotes included are purely Bill Bryson showing off his dry humor from time to time. Borrow or invest in this operator’s manual for your body!

This book has won much acclaim including The New York Times bestseller and The Washington Post book of the year.

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On Tyranny

Here’s a book that I recommend for all citizens of a democracy. It’s cheap, it’s small but it is loaded with information that we need.

“On Tyranny” by Timothy Snyder

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In the twentieth century, many Europeans saw their democracies yield to fascism, communism, or Nazism. Twenty years into the twenty-first century we have the advantage of this knowledge but we must be aware and mindful. Timothy Snyder, an Oxford graduate, presents twenty lessons we can learn from the last century.

We need to be prepared for the uncertain years to come and this little book can help us in that effort. I recommend that you read “On Tyranny” soon.

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“Mr. Snyder is a rising public intellectual unafraid to make bold connections between past and present.” —The New York Times

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

“The Travelling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa

When I borrowed this book I was expecting a silly cat story. Boy was I wrong! This is truly a chronicle of a cat who traveled. In fact he traveled all over Japan. The cat is the narrator and he is very funny and wise. His relationship with his master was one that made me smile page after page. This small book is packed full of interconnections of small boys as they grew into adulthood and the emotions run the gamut. I recommend this book for anyone who is an animal lover, especially a lover of cats.

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A book that “speak[s] volumes about our need for connection—human, feline or otherwise” (The San Francisco Chronicle), 

The Last Lecture

“The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

I just read this book for the second time and still found it very interesting and uplifting. Professors often give a “last lecture” at the end of their illustrious careers. Randy Pausch, a tenured professor at Carnegie-Mellon, gave his when he was in his late forties and dying with pancreatic cancer. He had many reasons to give this lecture to an overflow crowd of over 400, but his real audience was his three young children. His talk covered things he wanted his children to know one day because they were too young to remember him and all the love he had for them.

It is a beautiful true story that I think any of us can learn important lessons from, but if you aren’t inclined to read the book you can hear and see Pausch give his Last Lecture on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7zzQpvoYcQ

 

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Wee Free Men

A Book Review by Dianne Bynum

So much fun, a great escape…It’s April of 2020 and the world is in the throes of a pandemic. I’ve been sick for a month with a virus that no one fully understands. I needed a book like The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. When my fever broke and I began to feel like reading but I was too feeble to walk about, I’d pick up this book and I’d be transported. Transported back to the time when I was a little girl that looked for evidence of fairies. A little girl that was intrigued by witches and wouldn’t have minded it at all if one crossed my path. It was a beautiful book of rolling Celtic hills, herds of sheep and farmhouses where fine butter is produced. But don’t think that this story is a mere fairytale. I found some First Sight while reading this book. I’ll let the Kelda, queen of the Wee Men explain, “First sight is when you can see what is really there, not what your head tells you ought to be there.” There was a lot to think about in this book. I love this line from Granny Aching, “Them as can do has to do for them as can’t. And someone has to speak up for them as has no voice.” I found strength in those words in a time of such unknown. I’ll have to warn you, there’s lots of “it’s a dream in a dream” stuff that may turn some readers off. You really need to enjoy fantasy before you can earn that Second Thought I spoke of earlier. Also if you’re a fan of Discworld, a series written by Pratchett, you won’t recognize this author. It has some of the same silly humor but this book is deeper and more traditional than the other books that I’ve read by him. I’m lucky to have found this book and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for an escape.

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Book Review

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I cannot explain why this book has such a hold on me, but I have read it four times. It was copyrighted in 1962. I was introduced to it by my psychiatric nursing instructor in the early 70s. I saw the movie and re-read the book a few years later. Finally I read it in 2010 and again in 2020. Seeing the movie influenced me because in subsequent readings I always pictured the main character, Randall McMurphy, as Jack Nicholson.

If you like a good story, if you are interested in psychiatry or if you are just curious and haven’t yet read “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” I recommend that you try it. The psychiatric ward is running smoothly under the direction of Nurse Ratched until McMurphy lands there. Nothing is ever the same. The wards are full of competition, gambling and testing the boundaries for a time. Then it comes to a stop and you need to read it to see who wins, Nurse Ratched or Randall McMurphy.

I recommend this book for FB00F524-F085-48F4-906C-63BBC3F4C766 an inside look into psychiatric care in the sixties and before.

 

 

“The personal ego already has a strong element of dysfunction, but the collective ego is, frequently, even more dysfunctional, to the point of absolute insanity.” Eckhart Tolle

 

The Bright Hour

A Book Review: “The Bright Hour” by Nina Riggs

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People tease me about being too interested in death and I do see the subject as something to be explored. After all, it is the last and greatest mystery of all time. We won’t know what it’s like until it’s our death and then we won’t be able to share details. Therefore, I wonder about the subject.

While “The Bright Hour” subtitle is “A Memoir of Living and Dying” I saw it as much more about living. Nina Riggs faces death from terminal breast cancer while she is witnessing the death of her Mother from a blood cancer. Riggs is in her late thirties with two children. She and her husband face cancer with strength and even humor.

The author manages to find beauty and truth because she looks for it. She is brave and she shares her most personal hopes, fear, and treatments. I recommend this book. It will make you smile and maybe shed a tear.

“It’s mostly just normal human drama, negotiating life with your kids, your parents, your partner, your friends, you job, your home, your pets, etc. It’s life.” Nina Riggs

 

The Dante Club

A Book Review by Dianne Bynum

I’m struggling with the rating for this book. It was fun and I enjoyed the characters but the writing really got it the way. I’ve read the expression, “This book could have used a good editor.” and I’ve never understood it until now. The plot was imaginative and interesting, the characters – quirky and fun, but I caught myself wishing that the book had ended long before it did. So many elements of the plot were spelled out so literally that I wanted to scream, “I get it!” Dante is the important but never present character in the book and it is obvious he’s revered by the author, Matthew Pearl. He didn’t miss a chance to glorify the man and his writing until the reader begins to tire of hearing his name. There are too many incidental characters that aren’t important to the story and they muddle the fun. I’ve been curious about Dante ever since reading Dan Brown’s Inferno but they’re both 3-star books. So “Abandon hope” if you enter this book, it’s not worth the trip.

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Gutsy Women

I’ve just finished reading a book that was very informative and inspiring. The title is “The book of Gutsy Women” by mother and daughter Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. When I first heard of the book I wondered how they would mesh their writing but it worked very well. Each take turns discussing the women they had researched, admired or known.

The Clintons review the lives of well over one hundred individual women plus groups such as the Suffragists. The women profiled are both current and historical figures and each is worthy of the spotlight put on their life. The women are grouped in chapter categories such as Explorers and Inventors, Healers, Athletes, Storytellers and Groundbreakers.

This big book (450 pages) is well worth your time and I recommend it to everyone who wants to be better informed about the contributions made by women. I promise you will learn about lives you were not aware of as well as new details about the more well-known women. These are stories that every girl, in particular, needs to learn.

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One of the things I might change about this book is the title. I was a little put off by the word “gutsy” which to me was a little too earthy, but when I looked up the word, it was me that was wrong. It means “showing courage, determination, and spirit” and the women covered in this book met that definition. The photo on the jacket is not particularly appealing to me either, but once I got past these personal opinions, I was so glad that I took the time to read and learn about the remarkable women profiled on the pages.

Dianne Bynum’s Book Review

“The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek”

This book was a fun surprise. My friend got me interested in this book when she asked me if I’d ever heard about the Blue people of Kentucky. I had, of course, I’ve lived in Kentucky my whole life. We’re known for moonshine, young brides and horse racing. The Blue people were another odd piece of our crazy quilt history. I knew that they had existed but they were just another cringe causing claim to fame for my home state.

I live in Kentucky and have spent some hot summers in the Appalachian Mountains. My family helped with several church ministries in the mountains. I’ve driven on narrow roads created by heavy trucks burdened with dirty coal. I’ve seen tiny houses tucked in dark hollers. I know the suspicious eyes of people that didn’t trust anyone but Mountain people. Those summers taught me a respect for these proud people that lived difficult isolated lives. It was my first experience with real poverty, but it was a financial poverty, not a poverty of spirit. Their beautiful voices, meticulous gardens, and pride in their beautiful mountains were things I never forgot. I was curious to learn more.

The author tells a beautiful story of a strong woman sprinkled with some interesting facts about the Blues. She is respectful of the subject with reliable documentation and photos. I’d never heard of the Book Women and I was touched to know that was a part of our Kentucky heritage. I’m glad I was curious enough to give this book a try.

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Book Recommendation

“A Gentleman In Moscow” by Amor Towles

I recently read this book and found it very interesting. I will remember this as one of my favorite historical novels.

Here is an excellent review from Goodreads by Dianne Bynum: 

There is value in examining a life well led. The hero of our story leads a full and important life although he is punished by his government to live his life exiled in an hotel. On the surface this plot doesn’t seem to be very interesting but there is a lot to learn from this gentleman. I couldn’t help but think of this book as a very sophisticated Seinfeld episode. Nothing happens, but it’s funny and it’s meaningful and it’s entirely worth reading. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov was exiled by a tribunal in modern day Russia. He’s well read, he knows exactly what wine to drink with dinner and he has secrets. Secrets that are tragic, romantic and funny. That’s a lot of life to fill the walls of a small hotel room.

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“Mobituaries”

Book Review

My close friends, family and regular readers know I have a fascination with death which includes careful reading of obituaries. I don’t see it as morbid. I see it as a window into life, but be that as it may, it is no surprise that I received the book “Mobituaries” for Christmas this year. The book by Mo Rocca was just published and it is a delight to read. It really is not about obituaries, but about people and things that Rocca believes did not receive the sendoff they had coming. Some examples are dragons, Medieval science, Lawrence Welk and the station wagon.

I recommend this book for easy, fun reading. It is over three hundred pages of humor and history. I learned new information and was guided to look at old information in a different light. The book is well researched with all consulted works documented.

Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and host of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. He is a frequent panelist on NPR and has done acting on Broadway and writing for TV including The Daily Show.

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Book Review

“One Hundred Years Of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This is a difficult book for me to review. As so many of my favorites I’ve read it twice and still cannot say that I fully understand it. In 417 pages Garcia Marquez has presented one hundred years in the life of a prolific family living in a mythical town. His fiction is beautifully written and mixed with supernatural events and magical happenings that catch one off guard. The characters are on the other hand, all too real.

Garcia Marquez is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born in Columbia and spent most of his life in Mexico. His writing beautifully portrays life in the tropics. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” has been called “The great novel of the Americas.”

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“The Bluest Eye” – A Book Review

Toni Morrison wrote her first book, “The Bluest Eye” in 1970. It was controversial and poorly accepted at first but later became a National Bestseller. Morrison was an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, and professor emeritus at Princeton University. In 1988, she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her book “Beloved.”

“The Bluest Eye” is an honest, but painful account of various African American families. The protagonist is an unattractive, abused little black girl who longed to have blue eyes like the dolls available for play and like the beautiful girls at school. If only she had blue eyes her world would be different. No doubt she believed her parents would love her and her friends would treat her kindly. Her attempt to have her dream come true is really only a tiny part of the book, but points out the pain of being an innocent child in an incomprehensible world.

I recommend this well known book by an accomplished author, Toni Morrison who died this year at age eighty-eight.

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“A room without books is like a body without a soul” Cicero

Alice Walker Book Review

“You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down”

This book by Alice Walker is made up of fifteen short stories. The stories vary in content from pornography to the civil rights movement in the sixties. Her stories are about the poor as well as the successful, such as artists and academics. The main focus of each, however, is the struggle of black women. Those struggles are surprising, in that they often come from within or from other African Americans.

Some of the stories I did not enjoy, but others I found very interesting. Probably my favorite was the last and the longest story entitled “Source.”

Walker is fierce in her willingness to tackle any subject. I recommend this book to anyone who is not easily offended. In my opinion, its purpose is certainly not to offend, but to inform.

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Book Review

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

Written in 1937 by Hurston, an anthropologist, this book has become an enduring part of American literature. I have read it twice and enjoyed it each time. The novel is about a beautiful young fair-skinned black woman and follows her life through three marriages, each unique. She was strong and refuses to let the mores of the times dictate her life. Written in the dialect of post-slavery African Americans it can be slow reading, but this in no way takes away from the story.

I recommend this book as both thought-provoking and entertaining.

It was made into a movie starring Halle Berry.

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Book Review: Our Crime Was Being Jewish

“OUR CRIME WAS BEING JEWISH” BY Anthony S. Pitch

Followers of this blog have probably figured out I read a lot of books about the Holocaust and World War II. This book which I have read twice is among the most impactful for me. The author, Anthony S. Pitch has assembled the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and published them for the world to read.  These are testimonies that comprise the film “Testimony” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

What I found so compelling in reading the accounts of these survivors is each tells their own story as only they can. They speak for no one else. These testimonies are not grouped in any specific way by age, gender, chronology or geography. Pitch states he has not used an index in his book because “many who should have been included were silenced by murder.” These are the stories of those who survived and the thing they have in common is being Jewish.

I highly recommend this book. It is heart-breaking, but so enlightening. I wish each citizen of the world could read it and remember, lest it is repeated.

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“Yet, nearly 6 decades after the Holocaust concluded, Anti-Semitism still exists as the scourge of the world.” Eliot Engel

Nearly a century later not only anti-semitism still exists, but also genocide. Think of Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia.   

Book Review – Thumbs Down

“Amelia’s Story: A Childhood Lost” by D. G. Torrens

This book is a true story about a child brought up in the welfare system in Great Britain. It covers the little girl’s life for sixteen years in and out of foster homes and abusive situations. While the story is heartbreaking and is told fairly well by the author it was hard for me to stay connected to this character because of the many problems with writing. Frankly, I am amazed the book went to print with so many grammatical and punctuation errors. I thought there were editors for that! These shortcomings ruined what could have been an interesting read. 

Surprisingly for me, this is the first in a book series by this writer. That makes me think the problem was me, but I’m not convinced and I’m still trying to understand how average writing, multiple repetitions, and terrible editing resulted in selling books! This is not a book I can recommend for those reasons.   

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Someone asked me, if I were stranded on a desert island what book would I bring… ‘How to Build a Boat.’ Steven Wright

Holocaust Novel

“All My Love, Detrick” by Roberta Kagan

Most of my reading about the Holocaust is factual but I decided to try this best-selling novel and I’m glad I did. As the title indicates it is a love story. Detrick, an Aryan, falls in love with Leah, a Jewish girl, and their struggles to be together are very realistic. There are parallel love stories of other couples that unfold smoothly throughout the book. There is plenty of love-making but also tragedies among the characters of all ages.

I enjoyed the book and would rank it four stars out of five. I know I’m a hard critic for a book must be great literature for me to give it five stars. “Sunflower” and “Night Trilogy” come to mind in that category.

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“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.” Helen Keller

Lord of the Flies Book Review

This is not so much a book review as a book discussion. I am unqualified to interpret the intricacies of “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. Published in 1954 this book has been compared to the works of Orwell, Salinger, Shakespeare, and others. It has been explained as portraying psychology, religion, politics, and morality. One thing is clear, “Lord of the Flies” is not the novel it might appear on the surface. 

I first read this book many years ago and remembered it had a profound effect on me but I did not remember all the details which is what brought me to reread it recently. I am glad I did. At any point in life, we are likely to see things differently due to our more recent personal experiences. 

Briefly, the story is about a group of young boys stranded on an idyllic island. They begin to organize by choosing a leader and setting down rules, but all structure falls rapidly apart. What the boys experience and the atrocities they commit are shocking and thought-provoking. Childhood innocence becomes a debatable virtue. 

I imagine most of you have read this classic and I am interested in what you made of it. Does it demonstrate the innocence of humankind or our innate evil? Is it about democracy and totalitarianism? What does it tell us about society today, if anything? Is there a moral to this story about children?

If by chance you have not read this cult classic I recommend you do so.

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“When I wrote ‘Lord of the Flies’ – I had no idea it would even get published.” William Golding

 

Book Review re’ Einstein’s Brain

“DRIVING MR. ALBERT – A trip across America with Einstein’s Brain”

By Michael Paterniti

If you wonder what this book could possibly be about, read the title again. The author tells his tale of driving coast to coast with Albert Einstein’s brain in the trunk. I first read this book in 2000 and thought surely it was fiction, but upon researching the subject I learned that it is a true story of what happened to Einstein’s brain in the forty or so years following his autopsy. The brain was stolen and kept all that time in a cookie jar by the pathologist on duty at Princeton University Hospital when the world celebrated genius died there in 1955.

Re-reading the book recently was just as much fun as the first time. Both the author and his passenger, Dr. Thomas S. Harvey, are multifaceted characters and their relationship evolves in a complex manner during their time together in the car. As for their cargo, it really is the main character and it brings this pair together with a variety of interesting scientists and others along the way.

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Albert Einstein          Courtesy of Bing

This book told me many things that I did not know about Albert Einstein, his life, his struggles, and his accomplishments. I now also know much more about his brain than I ever could, had I not read “Driving Mr. Albert.” It is a quick and easy read in spite of being about a physicist who changed the world of science. 

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“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”                Albert Einstein

Bill Bryson Book Review

Bill Bryson, a native Iowan, is a proliferative and award-winning writer of travel books. In “The Road to Little Dribbling” he writes of his travels from the south end of Great Britain to the north end along a route he calls The Bryson Line. There is no real place called Little Dribbling, but it is Bryson’s way of making fun at the various names of British locations. 

This book follows another by Bryson twenty years earlier where he visits many of the same places. As he reminisces about these favorite towns and villages it seems many have lost some of their appeal, but it is difficult to tell if this is so or if Mr. Bryson has just become older and crankier. 

Bill Bryson became a British citizen and it is clear that he loves his adopted country. He does a good job describing both the beauty and history of Great Britain. He does a fairly balanced job of ranting and raving about those things he approves and disapproves. 

I enjoyed the sense of humor in this book. Bryson is acerbically funny and he is an equal opportunity offender. I’m sure that British citizens appreciate that he does not hold back his negative thoughts when it comes to the USA. 

I especially enjoyed this gift book having traveled in some of the areas described by Bryson and hoping to return to Great Britain to visit more of England, Wales, and Scotland. 

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“I think Canadians are great satirists because we sit in the middle of these two giants: Great Britain and the U.S.” Martin Short

 

Book Review – The Sunflower

“The Sunflower – On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness”

by Simon Wiesenthal

Mr. Wiesenthal, a Jew, was a prisoner in concentration camps during WWII. He was treated inhumanely and saw this family killed or starved to death. One day a dying SS soldier who had murdered Jewish families asked him for forgiveness.  

It seems that Wiesenthal was haunted by his response. He wrote this story in “The Sunflower” asking “what would you have done?” He searches for answers from people of many faiths and backgrounds. He is answered by over fifty individuals including Desmond Tutu, Harold Kushner, and the Dalai Lama. 

The answers given vary from emotional, heartfelt, to very intellectual.  The discussion is enlightening on many levels. I recommend Wiesenthal’s book and the responses by those he sought out – theologians, jurists, psychiatrists, human rights activists, political leaders, former prisioners of war, writers and others – to answer his unrelenting question on forgiveness. You will never forget it. 

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“The Sunflower” was originally written in France in 1969. It has been translated, revised and had the symposium added at later dates. Wiesenthal died in 2005 at the age of 96.

 

Sunflower photo by Pixabay

Decades Behind Bars – Book Review

“Decades Behind Bars – A 20 Year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons”  by Gaye D. Holman

This book is written by a professor of Sociology who spent decades teaching college-level courses to prisoners in Kentucky. She also teaches a “Corrections” course at Bellarmine College through the Veritas program. This is where I met Holman, a bright and warm individual who has a passion for criminal justice.

(See “Corrections” 1-3 earlier in this blog)

Her book is excellent on two levels. First, she follows fifty prisoners for twenty years who had been convicted of felonies. Her study of these fifty men began in 1994 when they were her students in college degree programs which she coordinated for a local college. When she followed up on these men seventeen were still imprisoned after twenty years. Her interviews with most of the original fifty and excerpts from their letters are very enlightening and sometimes heartbreaking. Holman helps the reader to see this population as humans rather than just prisoners.

Secondly, the author includes interviews with many who are involved in the criminal justice system so there is much more than just her opinions and the prisoners’ side of things. She quotes correction officers, wardens, Parole Board members, chaplains, and others.

Gaye Holman, now retired, remains involved with ex-offenders helping them to successfully re-enter freedom.

The book includes a very helpful glossary of prison terms along with chapter notes and bibliography. I recommend this book if you are interested in the subject of criminal justice.

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“A duty to the public must be to stop prisoners reoffending through successful rehabilitation.” Sadiq Khan

Book Review – All The Light We Cannot See

“All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

This book has it all. It is filled with science and technology, mystery and poetry. It is a story of survival and love. “All the Light We Cannot See” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and the author has received other awards too numerous to list. 

The setting is WWII in Germany and France. There are two main characters, a blind young girl in Paris and a small boy in an orphanage in Germany. The way their lives are entwined is brilliant and endearing. Both young people bravely face near impossible odds against surviving and one of them wins. 

This story was riveting for me and I rank it as one of the best books I have read.  

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Book Review – The Night Trilogy

Elie Wiesel

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) authored 57 books. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and recipient of numerous other awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

After his time in concentration camps, he received asylum in France where he completed his education. His career included being a journalist and later a professor of Humanities at Boston University. His most important work, however, was as an activist and defender of human rights.  

The Night Trilogy Contains:

  • “Night” – a memoir of Wiesel’s year as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald 
  • Dawn” – a novel about the Jewish resistance in Palestine during English rule
  • “Day” – a novel about a Holocaust survivor’s obsession with death

The novels, “Dawn” and “Day” were captivating. They each reflected the permanent pain and disability from being a prisoner during the Holocaust. There are fragments which one knows are true to Wiesel’s personal anguish. 

“Night” was heartbreaking as the young Elie tells of the horrors of daily life in the concentration camps. His mother and younger sister were killed. His father died of starvation while in captivity during a brutal winter.

Originally a 900-page book entitled “And The World Remained Silent,” it was written in Yiddish then translated in this abridged version to English and thirty other languages. 

The inhumanities suffered by Wiesel and other prisoners are difficult to accept but should be read by everyone lucky enough to live free. 

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“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel

Staying Alive 6 of 6

Over the past five posts, we have reviewed some ways to achieve longevity. I have had some fun with the topic of “Staying Alive.” It seemed fitting that since I discuss death so frequently I owed you these tips on survival. Some of the content has been tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t mean the advice isn’t sound. It should be obvious that there are many other measures we can take to increase our chances of living longer. A few that come to mind immediately are not smoking, regular medical checkups, good nutrition, safe driving habits, and a multitude of others. 

If this series has helped you to be a little more mindful of a few ways to live a longer, healthier life, then I am happy.  All together now! Hit this link with your sound turned up:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNFzfwLM72c

 

A special thanks to the Bee Gees for helping us to wrap up “Staying Alive!”

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Theme graphic by Pixabay

Book Review – The Book Thief

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

A few years ago someone told me about a movie entitled “The Book Thief” (released 2013). At the time I pictured a professional thief stealing valuable books from museums and universities. This Christmas I was given the book by the same name (published 2005). 

I was so surprised to learn that the thief is a nine-year-old girl in Nazi Germany. Having books unapproved by the party was a crime and put the girl and her foster family in danger. 

At first, I found the writing style a little disconcerting, but I quickly fell into the rhythm of this prolific award-winning  Australian author. Interestingly, the book’s narrator is death. Death is very busy during WWII as he comes for people of all ages. 

This fiction novel is listed as “Young adult literature” but I am glad I did know that or I may have missed a very good read. I loved the book and look forward to seeing the movie. 

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Book Review – Born A Crime

Book Review

If you love comedian Trevor Noah you will like his autobiography. Noah, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, was born in 1984 in Johannesburg. In his book, “Born A Crime” he tells what it was like to grow up in South Africa during and immediately following Apartheid. It was particularly difficult for him as neither a white child nor a black one. 

His father was white and his mother who raised him was black. His devotion to his strong-willed mother is evident throughout the book, but his maternal grandmother, who is still living at 92, was very influential, too. 

“Born A Crime” is enlightening about life in South Africa as well as about Trevor Noah. It is a quick read and I recommend it. 

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“The color of my skin is beautiful, like the soil of Mother Africa.”Nelson Mandela

 

Book Review – The Half Has Never Been Told

The Half Has Never Been Told 

Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism

by Edward E. Baptist 

This is not a book to be undertaken lightly. It is a hard read, or at least it was for me. It covers not only slavery, which I thought I knew a lot about but war, politics, economics and as the title says, “The Making of American Capitalism.” In his emphasis on the development of capitalism on the backs of slaves, the author does not leave out the inhumanity of slavery and the cruelty with which this population was controlled. 

One of the facts that I never fully appreciated was the sheer number of the enslaved. Millions of people, mostly from Africa, but also from other countries were sold and resold throughout the United States from the beginning of the settlement of this country. These human beings were a commodity like any crop or manufactured tool and depending upon the prevailing economy, their selling price, i.e., their “worth,” might fluctuate from several hundred dollars to well over one thousand. 

It is easy to think of slaves on idyllic southern plantations, but this is the exception as Baptist’s historical account covering 1783 through 1937 makes clear. His research is thorough and well documented in around 700 footnotes and references.

I recommend this book for a more accurate understanding of United States history. I promise it will dispel some of your long-held assumptions and provide a fresh view of today’s race challenges in this country. Actually, I finished this book with a whole new view of how the entire world, not just the U.S. benefited from the ownership of other human beings here in our country. 

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“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Abraham Lincoln

Book Reviews – Under Fire & Becoming

I always have a wish list for Christmas which includes books. This past Christmas I received four. I just finished the second.

“Under Fire”

April Ryan is a White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network. She is also a political analyst on CNN. Ryan has spent two decades in this correspondent position under three presidents. I’ve always admired her tenaciousness in getting her questions answered during White House press conferences. She is an intelligent source of information on cable news. Knowing these things about her I looked forward to reading her new book, “Under Fire.

The book was interesting as an inside, behind the scenes account of the past two years under the current POTUS. Two things about the book were disappointing, however. First, as a reporter, I expected Ryan to be an outstanding writer. In my opinion, she was not in this book, often repeating parts of her story. And, her story was truly HER STORY. Perhaps I should have expected that from the title and pre-publishing discussions. The message was a bit “poor me” but on the other hand, it seems she has legitimate grievances that result from being a black woman seeking answers for the African American community. 

The book is a quick read and worth the time to get a better view of the obstacles before people of color working in or around a very white government. 

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“Becoming”

Another book written by a well-known black woman, Michelle Obama, former FLOTUS, I would highly recommend. “Becoming” is a well written and very thorough autobiography of Obama’s life from early childhood in the South Side of Chicago through eight years of living in the White House as First Lady. Her life is impressive and the journey is thoroughly and honestly documented in this book. 

This is the first such thorough account I’ve read of what it is like to live in what the author calls the “bubble” of the Secret Service. Raising two young girls in this highly protected environment was very challenging and Obama is quite forthcoming about her concerns that her children grow up normally under such non-normal circumstances. 

This inside view of life in the White House includes accounts of foreign and domestic travel, campaigning, press coverage, pressures both small and colossal. The sheer size of the operation and number of staff to keep it operating was astonishing to me.

Michelle Obama is an intelligent and highly accomplished woman and I enjoyed reading about her life both as a professional and First Lady. 

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“Historically, black women have suffered tremendously, but today’s black women are the triumph. We have choices, and that’s what freedom is all about: having the power to choose.” Susan L. Taylor

Book Review – The Little Professor of Piney Woods

Inspiring Story

Over this past weekend, I read a book recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Christine Goodnough. You might want to check out her blog. https://christinegoodnough.com We’ve never met, but I enjoy the posts of this prolific writer in Canada. 

The book, written by Beth Day, was published in 1955 and is entitled “The Little Professor of Piney Woods.” It is about a young black man right out of college who opens a school in the deep woods of Mississippi in the early twentieth century. Laurence Jones’ obstacles were many, but he persevered and that school is still in operation today.

The story is folksy, happy, sad and at times maddening, but well worth the read if you like history and happy endings. I recommend it.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_C._Jones

http://www.pineywoods.org

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Book Review – Medicine Men

A Good Read

Would you like an entertaining, easy-reading book? If you have an interest in medicine and if you love the Smokey Mountains, you’ll definitely enjoy “Medicine Men” by Carolyn Jourdan. Ms. Jourdan is a sophisticated Wall Street Journal bestselling author, who apparently never forgot her mountain roots. Her father was an “extreme Appalachian” doctor and she tells his stories as well as those of many other such physicians who she interviews. It is a fun read which made me want to return to the Smokies for a visit. 

I heartily recommend this book which can easily be read in a day. As simple and funny as the stories are they stimulate thought regarding profound subjects and questions. 

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“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.” John Ruskin

 

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Book Reviews – Stiff, Smoke Get In Your Eyes, & Confessions of a Funeral Director

So much has been written about the subject of death since Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work was published in 1969. Kubler-Ross was a Swiss psychiatrist who worked with the terminally ill at the University of Chicago. She wrote “On Death and Dying” which presented the “five stages of death,” more accurately the five stages of grief. Thus began an open dialogue on the subject of death in medical schools and other clinical settings and to some extent in social conversation. Nearly fifty years later we are much less reluctant to discuss the subject of death and dying.

That does not mean that everyone is terribly comfortable with all that has been written over this time span or even with the general discussion of the subject of death. I devour the subject as my modest library demonstrates. I have learned from each author, but my favorites to date are Mary Roach, Caitlin Doughty, and Caleb Wilde. fullsizeoutput_138b

“Stiff”

First I would like to recommend “Stiff” by Mary Roach. Published in 2003 it is far more interesting than “Spook” released two years later. “Stiff” is full of history as well as contemporary subjects surrounding death. Want to know a little about cannibalism? How about cannibalism in the name of medicine? Have any idea what can happen to the human body donated to science? Most people think anatomy lab for medical students, few think of crash dummy. 

Roach’s macabre sense of humor has resulted in “Stiff” chapters with names like “A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste, The Cadaver Who Joined the Army, How to Know if You are Dead and Eat me,” just to name a few. Don’t let her way with words fool you, she does serious research and travels the world to gather information. 

 

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”Other Lessons from the Crematory

 If you like both the subject of death and memoirs, this book is for you. Caitlin Doughty shares her experiences in the funeral business, but particularly in her job at a crematorium. Her gallows humor not only made me laugh frequently, it kept me grounded while I read about situations that were sometimes heartbreaking and disturbing.

Before we take that last journey into our own death shouldn’t we be as informed as possible about our options? Doughty will guide you through so much that you didn’t know you needed to know and she will do it with wit, charm, and compassion. Read it. Allow her to help you develop the “Art of Dying” which is appropriately the name of her last chapter. 

After reading this book you may want to check out her blog and other things this busy author is doing.  http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com

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“Confessions of a Funeral Director” How the Business of Death Saved My Life

Caleb Wilde is a very sensitive and honest writer whose blog I have followed for several years. His book like his blog contains humor, but the purpose of his writing is much more on the serious side. Published last year this book covers Wilde’s life growing up in the family business and the adjustments he had to make in his life to remain a funeral director. 

The book is true to its title and contains confessions especially regarding Wilde’s battle against chronic depression. His journey is instructive, interesting and enlightening.

I recommend both this book and the blog by the same name. https://www.calebwilde.com

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“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”    Edvard Munch

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

 

Soul 7

I Believe

I believe my Mother’s essence is in many objects that I have in my home. Not so much in the antique dishes or her personal jewelry, but in the things she infused with her love. I believe that her soul speaks to me through the stitches she loving put into place over the years of her life. I feel her love in the baby quilt she embroidered for her children, the ring pillow she made for my wedding, in the yarn she transformed into beautiful pieces of art and the scraps of material from the clothes she made for her granddaughters and their dolls, later quilted together.

I believe that my Aunt Thelma’s essence is strong in items she left behind and that she must be happy we find both uses and joy in them today. They are things that were dear to her and I have the privilege now of calling them mine. I love them not for themselves but because I loved her so much and I feel her presence when I see them.

She was taught by her church that it was a duty to bear children and it was probably her greatest disappointment in life that she did not conceive. She loved me and other nieces and nephews, she loved my daughters, too. How sweet her smile must be as she watches my granddaughter, who Aunt Thelma never met, sew pieces of lace from her 91 year old wedding dress into the wedding dress that Kate will wear next month. I know her soul is happy today. 

I believe my husband’s essence is the flowers that grow in our courtyard where he planted them. In caring for them, I continue to learn from him about the effort it takes to give beauty its fullest potential. His soul lives on nourishing the plants, keeping me company and giving me purpose. 

I believe that my maternal Grandparents’ essences are present when I pick up one of their Bibles. I know how important these books were to them and not just as a place to record family records of births, marriages, and deaths. They also recorded other important information such as their Social Security Numbers and the date of their last tetanus shots!

Seriously, the Bible was holy to them. They each read from it daily and they carried it with them to their little country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, twice each Sunday and usually at least once in the middle of the week. Their souls are close by those worn and precious books. 

 

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” Evard Munch

Part 7 of 7

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Soul 2

Soul Discussion

Not surprisingly this subject struck a chord with readers. We will not answer the questions posed in the last post. That is not the purpose of this series, but regardless it would be impossible. There is no way that we can know what the soul is or where it resides if it does exist. We can believe, but like the experience of death, there is no proof. We will surely die and if there is a soul, then we will know. This fact does not dissuade us from our beliefs or our interest in the opinion of others. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/27/what-i-know-for-sure/

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Oprah Winfrey – Photo from Google

Even our friend Oprah wonders, asks questions and broadcasts about this subject. In 2012 on her series “Super Soul Sunday” she discussed this very question with over a dozen of her guests. HuffPost published this information and you may read the responses or watch excerpts from the interviews in a short video at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/25/what-is-the-soul-eckhart-tolle-wayne-dyer_n_2333335.html

Soul Opinions

The group Oprah assembled is made up of individuals from interesting and varied backgrounds. A few were religious but more perhaps were spiritual. Some work as life coaches, do public speaking and/or found institutions offering self-improvement programs. One, a medical professor with extensive name recognition in the US is Deepak Chopra who is known for his New Age and alternative medicine beliefs. Of the baker’s dozen personalities, at least twelve are authors. 

We’ll look at their comments and opinions in the next posts, but Chopra’s soul description is a good start for today.  He calls the soul an “internal reference point” and I wonder how that differs from having a conscious. He also refers to the “core” of an individual that is “eternal”. Two others in the group also intimated that the soul is eternal without using that word. 

 

What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light a room. Ray Charles

Part 2 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Beauty 4

Beauty Four       

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 Fairy tales can come true? 

           It could happen to you. . .music-2570451_1280

Please don’t let it be true!

 

Beauty and the Beast

In spite of learning so much more about Beauty and the Beast, I still suspect that Beauty and many other females in fairy tales suffer from Stockholm syndrome.  I would prefer this story: 

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Fairy Tales

A close review of old stories for children, even nursery rhymes, and songs, contain thinly veiled topics that few would find healthy for young children. Some subject matter that comes to mind includes poverty, patriarchy, arranged marriages, cannibalism, incest, and beastiality. (I sure wish I had not used Google to find the correct spelling of that last word!)

The country of origin seems to have little influence on whether the tale is age appropriate. Beauty and the Beast was written in France as we learned in the last post, Aesop’s Fables are from Greece, Hans Christian Andersen was Danish and the Brothers Grimm were German.

Nursery Rhymes

Again I am guilty of jumping to conclusions without complete information because when I started reading full versions of many nursery rhymes I found that I was only familiar with part of the story. For instance, I had only heard the first verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep. Did you know that the last verse is about a zebra? There are workable theories that this rhyme is based on slavery or unfair taxing, but we won’t go there today. 

Again I had not read or heard all of Little Bow Peep. Did you know that when she found her sheep it “made her heart bleed” because of the loss of their tails? I’m not sure what it is about tails but The Three Blind Mice had theirs surgically removed by the farmer’s wife! 

Poor Humpty Dumpty is mortally crushed in a fall. Everyone knows I suppose that Peter held his wife captive in a pumpkin shell and Jack sustained a skull fracture which Jill tried to replicate as she came tumbling after.

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Courtesy of DLTK

Maybe it is the nurse in me, but I see emergency departments filled with these casualties. Perhaps you’re seeing it reported on cable news or from the viewpoint of law enforcement. 

Songs

I would be willing to bet that you have either sung “Rock-a-bye Baby” or had it sung to you. Did you, like me, picture that sweet fragile baby crashing to the ground when the windstorm breaks the limb upon which its cradle was hung? Could it be that the words really do not matter at all? Is it conceivable that the only thing that matters is that someone is lovingly singing a lullaby?

Final Thoughts

You may wonder what these four posts entitled Beauty are about and if so my job here is done. I want you to wonder, to question. I am interested in thoughts this series might have prompted. I would like to know your opinions, your favorite or least favorite children’s story, whether you reached any conclusions. Please share in the comments. Thank you.

My Favorite?

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes is brilliant. It seems much more like an adult tale than a child’s, but regardless there is such a valuable lesson contained in this story. It isn’t sing-song verse nor does it rhyme. It does not frighten but manages to carry a profound message. 

 

Part 4 of 4

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Beauty 3

Food for Thought from “Beauty 2” Quotes

 https://wordpress.com/post/crookedcreek.live/3480

I have thought about those quotes from well-known men and my thoughts follow each in red:

“A beautiful woman with a brain is like a beautiful woman with a club foot.” Bernard Cornfeld    This crook millionaire is dead now.

“The highest prize in the world of men is the most beautiful woman available on your arm and living there in her heart loyal to you.” Norman Mailer  And besides all the women he had relationships with, he married six others, one whom he stabbed twice in the abdomen.

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.” Tom Wolfe He has a Ph.D. from Yale and has had an outstanding career as a writer. Since he has only had one wife one would assume she must be a really good cook.

“It’s the combination of marrying a beautiful woman three decades younger and my iPad that keeps me young.” Bruce Forsyth    He was married three times and lived to be eighty-nine so apparently, his last young wife, a beauty queen, did keep him young. Or perhaps it was just the iPad?

“Surrounding myself with beautiful women keeps me young.” Hugh Hefner
This old fart finally died in spite of all his beautiful Playboy Bunnies.

“My addiction has always been to beautiful women, being surrounded by them.” Corey Feldman   Yeah, well okay, but you are no prize and you are also only 5’5” tall so it is doubtful they surround you for the reason that you believe.

BEAUTYMaybe only skin deep, but so very essential for the female it seems. 

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BEAST –   Was he really?

As I said earlier I often come to my conclusions and hold steadfastly to them without knowing the whole story. All I knew was that Beauty fell in love with a big hairy animal. I saw that as unacceptable on every level. Why must a female be so needy as to accept this as her fate? One reader pointed out that Beauty was good-natured and kind and that her virtues were rewarded. I had not gotten close enough to give much consideration to anything except what I saw as inequality.  

My Granddaughter (the same one who insisted I watch Frozen) knowing my strong feelings about the lack of egalitarianism in fairy tales as well as life, in general, asked me recently if I knew the backstory of Beauty and the Beast. I did not, but I do now. She explained that he was not really a beast, but a young prince who had been cursed by a wicked fairy. Only the love of a beautiful young girl could break the curse, but he was not allowed to tell Beauty that. She referred me to a group of podcasts that tell an earlier “non-Disneyfied” version of the tale. As I listened to the podcasts I learned that this was a complex story involving multiple cultures, families, communities, and fairies both good and bad.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tales/id1345709834?mt=2

It was shocking to learn how long this story has been around and how much it has and yet has not changed over the centuries. My interest being kindled I began to research more about the origins and found that the original was written in France in 1740. The original author was Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve but in an interview with the BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487  Dr. Jamie Tehrani stated: “Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than Classical mythology – some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts – but our findings suggest they are much older than that.” If this researcher is correct then such stories began as oral tales perhaps as long as 4,000 years ago. 

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Photo Courtesy of Google

Another interesting theory is that the Beast was based on a true story. There are paintings from 1580 of a man named Petrus Gonsalvus who had long hair on his entire body and face, a condition called “hypertrichosis”  or “Ambras Syndrome.” Gonsalvus as a child was abducted to the court of King Henry II who was reportedly interested in peculiarities. He was kept on as a court jester until the death of the King. After a marriage was arranged by the late King’s wife through trickery he was allowed to leave with his surprised (horrified?) wife.  They had seven children, three of whom had the same genetic syndrome and who were removed from the home to please other wealthy royalty.  

The original tome by Barbot de Villeneuve was first abridged in 1756 and then again in 1889. Since that time it has evolved through books, on stage as an opera and ballet and in movies. It has even been on television including The Hallmark Hall of Fame. When I’ve considered The Beauty and the Beast up until the past couple of weeks I had no idea that its history went back perhaps to the Bronze Age. Does that make its story better? Does it make it more acceptable? Apparently, it does for it to have endured so long and to have been enjoyed by so many. 

Number 3 of 4

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Books 5

“So many books, so little time.” Frank Zappa 

Do you have a book inside yourself?

Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult. 

Do you journal?

If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears. 

Poetry               

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/07/29/challenge/  

We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.

Waves of Time

Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware. 

The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.    

A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.                                                         

Good Reads 

https://www.goodreads.com

Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews.  If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”                          Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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Confessions:

  1. When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
  2. I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind. 
  3. One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.

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Reader Feedback

Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.” 

Part 5 of 5

Books 4

Reader Feedback

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First Book Memories, Favorite Books and Authors

So many of us remember our reader, Dick and Jane from first grade! Nancy Drew mysteries are another favorite among Crooked Creek readers. This chart lists your first memories and your favorites according to comments made regarding the past three posts: 

1st Book Memory

“A Tree for Peter”  by Kate Seredy

Dick & Jane (elementary school book)

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Favorite Books

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Scriptures from the “Good Book”

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross

Favorite Authors

Mary Higgins Clark

Harland Coban

Shakespeare

Nickolas Sparks

Jodi Picoult

James Patterson

Francine Rivers

Dean Koontz

Stephen King

Lisa Gardner

Access, Storage and Disposal

Most of you indicated that you love books today even though many of you did not have books readily available in your family growing up. Some obtained books from the library or a “Bookmobile” operated in rural areas. I, too, remember those visiting libraries, but I do not if they still exist. An interesting concept today for urban readers, according to one of you is the placement of small repositories where books may be borrowed or added.

You are a generous group, mostly passing your books on to others or donating them. Some of you resale at Half-Price Bookstores. And, it seems that there are always books with which we cannot part. Only one person shared how their books are arranged and that was by alphabetical order. Readers were about 50 to 50% in preference of paper books versus electronic or audio books.

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Pixabay Photo

Genre

Whether you are reading for self-improvement, to learn new skills, to broaden your mind with history or poetry or simply to be entertained or thrilled you are engaging in an activity that will forever be a part of your life. Even if, like one reader, we need to keep a list of the books read so that we don’t buy them a second time, there are passages that affect us in ways of which we are unaware. 

Thank You Pat, Lula, Rose, Kay, Sylvia and Others

I am honored that this blog is one of the things that you read!  

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“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”  Louisa May Alcott

Part 4 of 5

Books 3

Favorite Book and Favorite Author

For the avid reader, this can be a difficult question to answer. This asks one to consider everything from the classics to beach reading, fiction, and non-fiction, history, poetry, and prose. Rather than doing a detailed evaluation of your reading over the past, let’s make this easy. Which author comes to mind at this moment? Which book?

Fine. That is asking too much, so please share with us your top three favorite books. Likewise, your three favorite authors. That should be easier and the books and authors should coincide, right?

My Favorites

You know I would never ask you to do something that I am unwilling to do, right? You also know I love sharing with you, the readers, so here goes in no particular order.

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The first book that comes to my mind is A Prayer for Owen Meany. I read this book by John Irving many years ago and it has remained a favorite of mine to this day. In fact, after a few years, I simply remembered that it was a fun read and recalled only a few parts of the storyline, so I read it again and then later again. Naturally, the author became a favorite and I have read many of his books and now that I write this wonder why I have not read all of them.

It may be that I especially enjoy Irving’s writing because he is my contemporary. If you are not familiar with his work, you may recall some of the movies based on his writings. The first is The World According to Garp (1982) and another very popular one is Cider House Rules (1999). Do either of these ring a bell?

Irving’s mind and imagination are astounding. They might also be described as bizarre. In my opinion, he is more imaginative than Stephen King another favorite of mine. Warning, if you are offended by sexual content, Irving is not the writer for you.

“Imagining something is better than remembering something.” John Irving in The World According to Garp.


 

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Another writer that I have great admiration for is William Styron who died in 2006 at the age of 81. Styron wrote many award-winning novels and essays. Most are familiar with the movie Sophie’s Choice which is based on Styron’s book of the same name. Being born during WWII, I have always been interested in reading about that era and particularly the Holocaust. Styron received a fair amount of criticism because the main character in his book was not Jewish, but Catholic. I can understand some being sensitive to that since over 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, however, there were others who were targeted, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Romas (then referred to as Gypsies) and the handicapped to name a few. That controversy aside, Sophie’s Choice is a spellbinding and at the same time heart-rending book.

The Confessions of Nat Turner, which won the author a Pulitzer Prize is another of Styron’s that I particularly liked. This historical novel tells in first person the narrative Turner’s leadership of a slave revolt in VA in 1831. 

Styron was a prolific writer and his works included accounts of his own challenges living with depression.

“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.”  William Clark Styron


 

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John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, CA in 1902 and was known for both humor and a strong social conscious. Four years before his death at age 66 he won a Nobel Prize in Literature. Two of my favorite Steinbeck books are described briefly below. 

East of Eden, my favorite book by Steinbeck, was published in1952 and set in his homeland, the Salinas Valley of Central California. It was originally written for his two young sons so that they might know the valley he loved in detail. The writer tells about the entangled lives of two families one of which is believed to have been his maternal ancestors. Steinbeck is reported to have considered East of Eden to have been his masterpiece stating “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.” 

The Grapes of Wrath published in 1939 won Steinbeck both a Pulitzer for fiction and the National Book Award. It is about a family of tenant farmers living in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Because of both their financial distress and the years of drought hundreds of families fled their homes to look for a future in California. 

One year after this historical novel was published a movie was made by the same name, starring Henry Fonda.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”  John Ernst Steinbeck


It was not until I started writing this post, that I realized all these favorites are all American writers. There are others who I love to read, but they are predominately American, too. As mentioned earlier I enjoy Stephen King, but also Tony Morrison, Maya Angelo, Rebecca Wells, and poet Niki Giovanni. 

Before wrapping this post up I must add Gabriel Jose’ Garcia Marquez, a Columbian journalist who became a prolific novelist. He too has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. There is so much more I want to say about Garcia Marquez but will stop by recommending these two books, Life in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. 


 

Part 3 of 5

 

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Reader Feedback to Follow in Next Post!

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Books 2

First Book Memory? 

What is the first book that you remember? For this exercise, the Holy Books such as the Bible or Qur’an do not count. Many children are read these sacred books at home and/or in religious classes. Such books contain many stories suitable for young children and they may actually be the first memories of a storybook. Let’s think outside that genre looking at books that are a few centuries more current.

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It was a long, long time ago when living on Crooked Creek that I remember https://crookedcreek.live/2016/08/30/first-blog-is-coming-soon/ my Mother reading a book to my older brother, Norman, and me. The book that I can see her holding had a soft cover and was very worn. It looked nothing like the copy I bought a few years ago (pictured above). I wish that as an adult I had discussed Toby Tyler with Mom or my brother, but I don’t recall that I did and it is now too late. I vaguely remembered that Toby was a little boy who ran away with the circus, but that is all that I could recall.

Buying and reading the new copy in 2003 was upsetting in so many ways. First of all, it is one of the saddest books I have read. I just cried again today re-reading it all the way through in a few hours. It seems cruel if it was intended as a children’s book, which it seems to be. Funny, though that I do not remember being traumatized hearing it read as a child. Perhaps my Mom didn’t finish it or made up happy parts to cover the cruel events in Toby’s life. Minnie was fully capable of doing that.  https://crookedcreek.live/2016/12/10/minnie-ii/  

Regardless, I have a feeling that many times memories are simply better than the event itself. Perhaps it was that time of closeness, hearing my Mother read that made it so special.  

Do You Have a Bookshelf?

Where do you keep the books you’ve read or plan to read? Do you have bookshelves and if so how do you organize them? I often see books organized by similar color, especially in magazines and home furnishing stores. It does look nice, but unless I remembered the color of a particular book, I might have trouble finding it easily. I think that arrangement is more for decor than utility. I hang my clothes in the closet by color, but my books are organized by genre, more or less. This works for me, a person often accused of being obsessively organized. 

My bookshelves (above) are very traditional but apparently there are more creative ways to store your books. By coincidence our local newspaper advertised bookshelves the day after this was written. Here are some other options.

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How do you feel about Coffee Table Books?

I have to admit that is not a question I would have thought of presenting, except that I heard someone say recently that they were not that into coffee table books. I won’t say who it was (my firstborn), but it caused me to pause. After some thought, I realized that I might love the book and appreciate its wonderful photography and still not want it to live on my coffee table for long. You? 

Confession

  1. I feel it necessary to tell you that my therapist daughter says my organizational skill is all an “illusion” but what does she know? 

Coming Up: Your Favorite Book/Author

Part 2 of 5

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Reader Feedback

After the first post on February 19, I was amazed by the immediate feedback from two book lovers! They shared many of their family memories, favorite books, and reading habits. I was especially touched by one sharing that she was reading to two separate family members when their lives came to an end.

Please read the comments of Pat and Lula in the last post. (Note: the only two at the time of this writing, certainly more may be added later.)

Books

Do You Still Read Books?

Do you have books or do you use a Kindle or other eReader? Do you read or listen to electronic books? Since all the information in the world is available on the Internet, do we even need books anymore?

 

 

If you still have real paper books where do you store them? What do you do with a book when you’ve finished reading it? Do you loan it to a friend? Do you donate it or sell it for a fraction of the price you paid for it? Or can you not part with it at all?

Exploring Books

Over the next few blog posts let’s talk about books and what they mean to us in today’s world.  Let’s discuss how and what we read and how that has changed over time. I look forward our discussion and will start out with a brief confession about my reading.

Confession  

I have always been a very slow reader. I cannot scan. I cannot rush and still comprehend written material. For some reason, I seem to mentally pronounce each little preposition and I often must go back and reread a sentence or paragraph because my mind has wandered onto some earth shattering issue or maybe my grocery list. 

Coming Up: Your First Book Memory and Your Bookshelf

Part 1 of 5