Title: The Real History of the End of the World
Author: Sharan Newman
Number of Pages: 313 pages
Book Number/Goal: 17/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Jacket Summary: Ever since people realized that things have a beginning and an end, they have wondered if the world was fated to end. In entertaining and sharp prose, historian Sharan Newman explores the various theories of world destruction from ancient times to the present day--theories that reveal as much about human nature as they do about the predominant historical, scientific, and religious beliefs of the times.

Review: Does what it says on the tin. This was an easy read, and it was interesting seeing how so many people throughout history have felt that they were living in the end times.
Title: Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo" and "Laura"
Author: Leonora Sansay
Number of pages: 320
Genre: history, romance
Book Number/Goal: 21/50
My Rating: 3/5, 1/5

This book contains 2 unrelated stories. The first is an epistolary novel which takes place during the Haitian Revolution. The protagonist (a white French woman) describes the mayhem and atrocities she had witnessed or heard of during her travels, periodically focusing on the issues of her sister who belongs to society's elite but is unhappy in marriage and suffers from her abusive husband. She also recalls various episodes from the "peaceful" period of St. Domingue's colonial past.

The book was written in the beginning of 19th century (it's partly autobiographical) so the writing style is old-fashioned and somewhat hard to follow. As a work of fiction, it's rather unexciting, and the characters are neither interesting nor memorable. But the informal way of describing events and details helps to imagine the time period more vividly.

The second story is a simple, boring romance, practically unreadable and good only as a sample of literary fiction of that period. I browsed it anyway because it was bundled together with the 1st story, and rated it separately because it was so inferior.
Title: Haiti, History, and the Gods
Author: Joan Dayan
Number of pages: 362
Genre: non-fiction (history)
Book Number/Goal: 16/50
My Rating: 4/5

This book describes the history of Haiti during its colonial period (Saint-Domingue) and the 1791-1804 revolution. The author combines historical references, literary fiction and religion to create a picture of the society and culture of that time, viewed from different angles. The result is somewhat chaotic - it seems like the author constantly jumps from one subject to another, and the writing style changes between dry/scientific, philosophical and poetic. But overall, the book is informative and engaging, and useful to get the more "informal" general feeling of the period.
Title: The History of White People
Author: Nell Irvin Painter
Number of Pages: 496 pages
Book Number/Goal: 2/50 for 2011
My Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon Summary: Who are white people and where did they come from? Elementary questions with elusive, contradictory, and complicated answers set historian Painter's inquiry into motion. From notions of whiteness in Greek literature to the changing nature of white identity in direct response to Malcolm X and his black power successors, Painter's wide-ranging response is a who's who of racial thinkers and a synoptic guide to their work. Her commodious history of an idea accommodates Caesar; Saint Patrick, history's most famous British slave of the early medieval period; Madame de Staël; and Emerson, the philosopher king of American white race theory. Painter reviews the diverse cast in their intellectual milieus, linking them to one another across time and language barriers. Conceptions of beauty (ideals of white beauty firmly embedded in the science of race), social science research, and persistent North/South stereotypes prove relevant to defining whiteness. What we can see, the author observes, depends heavily on what our culture has trained us to look for. For the variable, changing, and often capricious definition of whiteness, Painter offers a kaleidoscopic lens.

Review: This was an interesting book, but I often felt like I was slogging through a textbook trying to read it (especially the early chapters), so I kept setting it down and it actually took me several months to finally finish. I just didn't find the writing style engaging at all, otherwise I would probably have given if five stars.

But it was interesting, and I learned a lot of things about famous people of the past (none of them good) that I didn't know before. It was also interesting to see how little anti-immigrant rhetoric has changed. A lot of things people were saying about Irish, Italian, Eastern European, Jewish, etc. immigrants is pretty much word for word what people say about Latin@ immigrants today. A lot of "oh noes, the right people aren't having enough babies and the wrong people are having too many!" and that sort of thing. Except it wasn't Those Brown People who were going to destroy the White Race, is was Those Other Inferior White People.

Also, while this book is called The History of White People, it's very US-centric. She traces things from Europe to the US, but once she gets to the US, she really never talks about whiteness elsewhere for the rest of the book.
torachan: (Default)
([personal profile] torachan Nov. 6th, 2010 02:54 am)
S, so apparently I forgot to crosspost anything here since the beginning of May...? D: I haven't read a ton of books this year, but it says here my last post was books 6-8 and I just posted book 34 on my journal, so it's more than I want to crosspost in whole here. Instead, here's a list of links to the reviews in my journal (along with some basic info) for those interested, and I will try to be good about crossposting in future.

Books 9-34 behind the cut! )
Title: Transgender History
Author: Susan Stryker
Number of Pages: 190 pages
Book Number/Goal: 59/75 for 2009
My Rating: 3.5/5

A better title for the book would be Transgender History in the US, as there's barely any acknowledgement that other countries exist, much less that there might be trans people living there. It's also really short. The last forty pages are notes and such, and the first thirty are defining terms, so only 120 pages are actually devoted to the topic at hand. But for what it is, it's a pretty good read. While focusing primarily on white trans people, it does include PoC fairly often and acknowledges their contributions (which is frankly better than I expected when I saw it was published by the now infamous Seal Press).
Title: Rage
Author: Jonathan Kellerman
Number of Pages: 384 pages
Book Number/Goal: 37/75
My Rating: 3/5

Read more... )

Title: Lincoln – A Very Short Introduction
Author: Alan Guelzo
Number of Pages: 160 pages
Book Number/Goal: 38/75
My Rating: 4.5/5

Read more... )
taelle: (Default)
([personal profile] taelle Jul. 30th, 2009 02:54 am)

Title: Прогулки по Парижу [Parisian Walks], read in Russian
Борис Носик [Boris Nosik]
Genre: travel
Book Number/Goal: 64/175

The author is a Russian travel writer living in Paris. He obviously knows the city well and has a lot of interesting details to tell, but I disliked his bias for Orthodox Christianity and against any revolutions and his propensity for self-aggrandizement.

Title: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: thriller
Book Number/Goal: 65/175

The protagonist of this book had a number of strange things happening around her when she was a child, and when she grew up she finally had to find what it all meant. I love the type of thrillers which deals with someone dealing with family mysteries, and this is quite well done, with an engaging heroine.

Title: Everyday Life in Florence in Dante’s Times
Author:  Pierre Antonetti
Genre: History
Book Number/Goal: 66/175

The Everyday Life series include books of varying quality, but this one is well organized and clearly written.

Title: MAN, OH, MAN! Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h
Author:  Josh Lanyon
Genre: writing
Book Number/Goal: 67/175


Not many new writing advices for me, but an interesting look at the genre/

Title: Dead in the Morning
Author:  Margaret Yorke
Genre: mystery
Book Number/Goal: 68/175

A nosy college don deals with a murder in a family mansion; a typical cozy mystery, which was just what I wanted.

Title: In Search of London
Author:  Henry Morton
Genre: travel
Book Number/Goal: 69/175

Travels around London in early 1950s — both a travel guide and a journey back in time told by a man with a lively interest in people and an eye for description. I liked this book a lot.

Title: A Night in the Lonesome October/Doorways in the Sand
Author:  Roger Zelazny
Genre: fantasy, SF
Book Number/Goal: 70/175

Two novels in one book; the first is a fantasy of a kind, a story of some Halloween ritual told by a dog. The second is a SF mystery and the protagonist, though human, seems intriguing and entertaining. Liked both books

Title: Шик, блеск, красота [Chic and Beauty], read in Russian
Марина Серова [Marina Serova]
Genre: mystery
Book Number/Goal: 71/175

A female PI investigates a murder at a fashion show. The writing is flat, and the protagonist seems incompetent.

Title: Convergence Culture
Author:  Henry Jenkins
Genre: cultural history
Book Number/Goal: 72/175

This book shows how today’s culture works across many types of media and how the audience participates in all this. Lots of things to think about.

Title: The Partner
Author:  John Grisham
Genre: thriller
Book Number/Goal: 73/175

A lawyer who embezzled 90 million dollars from his firm is found and brought home for trial, but things aren’t what they seem to be. Clever and entertaining; I read this in 3 hours in a train. Interesting how the author found necessary to give at least _some_ punishment to the protagonist.

Title: Murder on the Menu
Author:  Beverly Byrne
Genre: mystery
Book Number/Goal: 74/175

Not a cozy mystery I expected, but a man’s journey into his memories with a murder as more or less a pretext/starting point.

Title: Calahari Typing School for Men
Author:  Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: mystery
Book Number/Goal: 75/175

Mma Ramotswe has competition in business, mma Makutsi starts a new venture and meets a man. Everything ends well, of course, and keeps getting me into a good mood.

potted_music: (bookz)
([personal profile] potted_music Jun. 3rd, 2009 06:11 pm)
Title: La Vie en Rose [English translation, 1 volume]
Author: Yamada Sakurako
Genre: yaoi manga
Book Number/Goal: 44/150

insta-reaction )

Title: Letters by Thomas Mann [Russian translation]
Author: Thomas Mann
Book Number/Goal: 45/150

insta-reaction )

Title: Cryptonomicon
Author: Neal Stephenson
Genre: historical thriller/sci-fi
Book Number/Goal: 46/150

insta-reaction )
Title: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Author: James W. Loewen
Number of Pages: 383 pages
Book Number/Goal: 26/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

This is an excellent book. The author examines twelve popular American history textbooks (all high school level, I believe) and discusses what they leave out or even flat-out lie about, and the way they end up with a history that is extremely bland, where no one ever causes anything, things just magically happen (because to discuss causes might put America or Americans in a bad light, and we can't have that!), and how they present a picture of uninterrupted progress, where things have never got worse and people before us were always unenlightened.

One of the results of this type of teaching is that it's so boring, kids learn to hate history. Certainly that was my experience. Most of my classes were rote memorisation of battles and little else. He also discusses how near-past history is lost because teachers rarely get to the end of the book. That, too, reflects my own experience, as we never got past World War II.

A lot of the stuff discussed in this book was stuff I knew vaguely, but didn't know the details. Other things, I was totally unaware of. For example, the book starts off discussing Woodrow Wilson and how he has been whitewashed and made into a hero when in fact he was extremely racist and sexist, and interfered in the politics of other countries (especially South America) pretty much non-stop. To be honest, I could not have told you a single thing Woodrow Wilson did, or even when he was president (not even approximately!), so I don't know whether my textbooks whitewashed him or simply didn't discuss him much (certainly they did not present him flaws intact).

Much of the book deals with how textbooks whitewash US history in regards to Native Americans and blacks, but I would have also liked some discussion on other minorities, especially Asian-Americans and Latin@s. But other than that, I really enjoyed it a lot. It was an easy read, too, not at all boring. If I hadn't had other stuff to do and forced myself to read just a chapter at a time, I probably could have read it all in one sitting.

This book has actually got me interested in history, which I never have been. American history was especially boring to me, and I never understood why we had essentially the exact same class in 8th and 11th grades (I did enjoy my 9th grade world history class more, especially the section on the French revolution, where for two weeks we played what I now realise was essentially a LARP about the revolution).
Title: The Twelve Caesars (De Vita Caesarum)
Author: Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquilius), translated by Robert Graves, intro by Michael Grant
Number of Pages: 321
Genre: non-fiction, history
Book Number/Goal: 26 of 100 to be read in a year
Rating: 4/5

Title: The Annals of Imperial Rome (Ab excessu divi Augusti)
Author: Tacitus (Publius [or Gaius] Cornelius Tacitus), translated and intro by Michael Grant.
Number of Pages: 415
Genre: non-fiction, history
Book Number/Goal: 27 of 100 to be read in a year
Rating: 3/5

Title: 69 A.D.
Author: Gwyn Morgan
Number of Pages: 313
Genre: non-fiction, history
Book Number/Goal: 28 of 100 to be read in a year
Rating: 3/5

short reviews through here )
Title: Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Fall of Prussia 1600-1947
Author: Christopher Clark
Number of Pages: 800 pages
Book Number/Goal: 21/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4.5/5

Christopher Clark's book offers a very in-depth look into the history of a state that is mostly known as being reactionary and militaristic. What is often forgotten is that Prussia was the most progressive of the German states – e. g. religious tolerance and freedom of press already existed during the reign of Frederick the Great (later followed such reforms as a nationalized health insurance program and a state pension system).

The structure of the book is thematic rather than linear and it can sometimes be a bit difficult to follow. The author's writing style is fluid, though, and very detailed. At 800 pages it might be a bit too long for readers who only want an overview of the Prussian history. For everyone interested in history, this is a must read. Very much recommended.
Title: Rome and Italy (Ab Urbe Condita VI-X)
Author: Livy (Titus Livius), translated by Betty Radice with an Introduction by R. M. Olgivie
Number of Pages: 356
Genre: non-fiction, history
Book Number/Goal: 25 of 100 to be read in a year
My rating: 2/5

Review: First off, the title is weird because Penguin Classics, in their wisdom, slapped titles onto books untitled by Livy. His entire history of Rome was called Ab Urbe Condita which translates to "from the city having been founded." He originally wrote 142 books, but only thirty-five survive, along with summaries of some of the missing books. The volume I'm reviewing is made up of Books Six through Ten.

Are things bad enough to hammer in a nail? )
Title: The Jugurthine War (Bellum Iugurthinum)/The Conspiracy of Catiline (Bellum Catilinae)
Author: Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust)/ Translated and with an Introduction by S. A. Hanford
Number of Pages: (optional) 233
Genre: non-fiction, history
Book Number/Goal: 24 of 100 to be read in a year
My rating: 3/5

Review: I started reading history back in grade school because I'd read a couple of historical novels and wanted to know what really happened. These days, I still read it for that reason, but also because I find it fascinating in and of itself. Oh, and I often read it for research purposes, usually connected with the never ending Blood Histories vampire saga.

an absurdly long review of a very short book )


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