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review 2017-03-11 08:40
More Baths, Less Talking
More Baths, Less Talking - Nick Hornby

The final (so far) collection of Nick Hornby's columns from The Believer magazine and another excellent collection of commentary on books he's read.  I think this is the first of the four collections where he's read a book I have (Yay!), and there are only a few of the books he's read that I'll ultimately track down myself, but it doesn't matter; I love his writing style.  He's witty, irreverent, and often thought-provoking and insightful.

 

I'd highly recommend any of these collections to anyone who likes hearing about what somebody is reading, even if it's not something you'd read yourself.  If you do share reading interests, look out: these books will devastate your TBR piles.

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url 2017-03-08 16:39
50 Great Books about 50 Inspiring Women (from Flavorwire)

From the Flavorwire archives, in honor of International Women's Day.

Image result for rosie the riveter

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text 2017-03-03 05:12
Why I Read - DNF (for now, at least)
Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books - Wendy Lesser

I was off to the hair salon today and all the books I'm currently reading are bricks, so I grabbed this one off the pile to take with me.  Fortunately, I had my iPhone and some ebooks for backup, because this isn't quite the book I expected it to be.

 

Instead of an essay-type of read that, as the pull quote on the cover says is, "as if Lesser were writing to a friend about the most fabulous literary party of all time", what I got was more of an in-depth literary dissection.  A break-down of what's under the hood.

 

Discussing literature on this level is, to me, akin to revealing how magic tricks are done.  Interesting but ultimately it dulls the shine a bit.  Lesser's writing seems skilled; I only got about half-way through chapter 1 and then skimmed the first couple of pages of chapters 2 and 3 before putting it away and reaching for my iBooks app.  

 

It's not going into the big black box of disappointment yet, though.  I might come back to it at a future date, when I'm feeling more academic.

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review 2017-02-25 09:07
Cats in Books
Cats in Books: A Celebration of Cat Illustration through the Ages - Rodney Dale

Another library sale find; one I'd never seen before, but really it's a book about cats.  In books.  How bad could it possibly be?

 

It's a gem!  The only reason I didn't rate it a bit higher is because it's a rather too concise overview of cats in literary history.  It's a slim volume; easy to read in one sitting.  Rather than looking at cats as subjects in literature, it sticks to an illustrative perspective: cats in illuminated manuscripts, fables, short stories and, of course, children's literature.  It's fully illustrated itself, of course, with examples for each entry.  A nice edition from the British Library.

 

As I said, a gem of a find; one of those karmic gifts that make library sales even better. 

 

 

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review 2017-02-13 09:13
A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup

This one is for all the Agatha Christie fans out there who also love science.

 

Harkup devotes a chapter to each of the 14 poisons Christie used to eliminate so many of her victims over the course of 56 years writing mysteries.  In each chapter she discusses the history of each poison's discovery, its use in real crimes throughout history, its antidotes (if any), how its tested for, and how Christie used each poison in her books (as well as how accurate her knowledge was - hint: very).

 

I found the writing compelling and incredibly interesting, but this is not a book for people bored by, or disinterested in, chemistry and anatomy.  Harkup knows her stuff both as a chemist and as a Christie fan.  She gets into the nitty gritty details about how each poison wreaks its havoc in the human body; this might cause some eyes to glaze over.  In almost every chapter, she manages to discuss Christie's books and plots without revealing the killer, and when she can't avoid it, she clearly warns the reader upfront that there are spoilers ahead, offering "go to page xx" to readers wanting to avoid knowing whodunnit.  Some might still find her discussions too revealing, so be warned; if you want to know as little as possible about the books, save this one for later.

 

At the end, she offers a fascinating appendix of every book and short story Christie wrote, with each US/UK title and a list of all the ways people die, a more esoteric appendix illustrating most of the chemical structures discussed in the text (the rest are on her website), a select bibliography and a comprehensive index.

 

I came away from this book having learned a lot, but possibly the two most important things:  strychnine is just about the last way I'd want to go, and that Christie would have been the last person I'd ever want to piss off.

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