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Summer reading thread

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If you're reading this summer, tell us about it here. Currently open on my chair: 'The Killing of Crazy Horse' by Thomas Powers, which I was inspired to read by watching Gary Cole lead the 7th Cavalry into a very big mess indeed. I read Stephen Ambrose's 'Crqazy Horse and Custer' years ago and was not impressed, so am looking forward to finishing this one.

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I am currently reading a book about Robert Drinan,S.J. by Raymond Schroth. He was the first Catholic priest elected to Congress (from Massachusetts) It has been said he deserves either condemnation or canonization, depending on one's point of view.

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In my beach bag pack..."Pravda" by Edward Docx, a compulsevsively readable novel on the subject of loss and loyalty that takes place in the complicated, multilayered society of today's Russia...

At home, my battered down Turgueniev "Sketches of a hunter's album"...which I'm revisiting for the zillion time..! :wub:

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atm711, I remember Drinan as a liberal Jesuit in Congress. (Until the Pope said no.) I hope you'll tell us what you think about the book when you're done.

I'm starting The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why it Endures, by Nicholas Wade of the NY Times. The first couple of chapters have that kind of earnest, intelligent, clearly-written, diligently-researched, non-flashy style that makes reading the Times so comforting.

This is not one of those polemics from the Faith-versus-Atheism Wars. Wade maintains scholarly distance and, so far, has taken no position on the truth, or lack of it, of any particular religious tradition.

I'm looking forward to a chapter that sounds relevant to our shared interests on Ballet Alert: "Music, Dance, and Trance."

For relaxation (and a wackier kind of insight) I'm returning once again to the comic strips of Calvin and Hobbes, a few episodes a day. That's the little kid and the imaginary tiger. Nothing to do with Calvin the theologian or Hobbes the arch-pessimist political philosopher.

Today's episode:

Calvin's mother: "C'mon Calvin, We're going to the store."

Calvin: "Can Hobbes come?

Mother: "No, just leave him here.

Calvin: "BUT I WANT HIM TO COME WITH US !!!!!!"

Calvin (walking out the door, carrying Hobbes): "If you can't win by reason, go for volume."

I'll have to remember that advice. It's strangely reminiscent of current fashions in political discourse.

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Today's episode:

Calvin's mother: "C'mon Calvin, We're going to the store."

Calvin: "Can Hobbes come?

Mother: "No, just leave him here.

Calvin: "BUT I WANT HIM TO COME WITH US !!!!!!"

Calvin (walking out the door, carrying Hobbes): "If you can't win by reason, go for volume."

I'll have to remember that advice. It's strangely reminiscent of current fashions in political discourse.

Oh, yes! Love it! Thanks. :)

-d-

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I am currently reading a book about Robert Drinan,S.J. by Raymond Schroth. He was the first Catholic priest elected to Congress (from Massachusetts) It has been said he deserves either condemnation or canonization, depending on one's point of view.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the latter.:) Interesting figure.

Thanks, everyone. Keep the titles coming!

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I just finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Written by a physician and set in a Mission hospital in Ethiopia, it is full of complex relationships and you are drawn into a world of characters who are passionate about the practice of medicine. The descriptions of medical procedures aren't for the squeamish, but I found them fascinating.

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LiLing, I really enjoyed Cutting for Stone also. Verghese writes like a poet, and I found myself repeating some phrases and sentences simply for the joy of hearing them over and over again. This book was such a delightful mix of medical and spiritual.

I'm reading Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. I'd bought it a few years ago after my doctor recommended it to me. Best doctor ever: We started every visit out with a "What are you reading right now? I think you might like this book." Some of my favorite books were those she recommended. Sigh, then she left her practice to become a hospitalist. On a good note, I haven't had the "opportunity" to see her in her new practice.

Mistry's book takes place in India in 1975. I'm only about 30 pages into it, but the book jacket says it's about a young student, two tailors and the woman who hires them, all from disparate Indian backgrounds who will live and/or work together. My only complaint is that the book font is too small for me. Although it goes against my aesthetic sensibilities, I might break down and buy the digital form.

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During two beach sessions-(yesterday and today)-I started/finished Robert Musil's "Der junge Törless". I almost didn't finish it, since I have strong feelings about school bullying-(something I profoundly despise, even belonging to a national association that aims for bullying perpetrators to be promptly detected, expelled from school and taking to court of law, along with strong sanctions to school staff and parents who allows it). Anyway..at some points the author goes on and on in extended reflections about weird moral concepts and strange philosophical thoughts, and here's where I have a problem with the lecture. At the end, and despite all this obsession with "superiority"-(one of the most subjectives concepts on earth)-, we just see that the story "hero" shows no basic mercy, being completely and boldly dispassionate about real human suffering. The book was written in 1906, but this sad situation of double morality and mercilessness is just around many of our own neighborhood corners...sometimes in our own homes.

http://images3.cinema.de/imedia/1283/2131283,rWZx7p8vVzQUGr8rLFjDdWAv+jhDWfARkJc7p9xGumYxB8p7Zw50lHXINS4aMZjiGVpvAqIDYMYV5UgFGC08XQ==.jpg

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I'm off my founding fathers jag of a couple of years ago, and have moved on to genre fiction.

Audiobook on the ipod: George R. R. Martins' "A Dance with Dragons, " which is the fifth book in his "A Song of Ice and Fire" fantasy series. It's nothing like Tolkien or most sword-and-sorcery concoctions -- it's got way more noxious bodily fluids, and in copious amounts.

On the Kindle: Just finished China Mieville's "Embassytown." Meh. Not his best. Potentially intriguing concepts about language dumped into what reads like a first draft rather than a fully-developed piece of fiction. Craft has never been his strong suit, alas.

In the Kindle on-deck circle: Sarah Bakewell's "How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne" (not genre fiction) and Jon Courtenay Grimwood's "The Fallen Blade" (most definitely genre fiction).

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Skipping back and forth between two books: -- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: a History of the Papacy -- and Judith Chazin-Bennahum, Rene Blum & the Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life.

The Blum book I first heard about here on BA. (Thank you for that. :flowers:) Chazin-Bennahum knows about dance. She also understands and cares about the larger historical context. I knew very little about Rene Blum (just the name, really), so discovering this brilliant, admirable, and tragic figure has been a revelation. The rise of right-wing anti-Semitism in France, and what happened during the German occupation and Vichy collaboration, remind me of what Cristian wrote about Musil's book:

At the end, and despite all this obsession with "superiority"-(one of the most subjectives concepts on earth)-, we just see that the story "hero" shows no basic mercy, being completely and boldly dispassionate about real human suffering. The book was written in 1906, but this sad situation of double morality and mercilessness is just around many of our own neighborhood corners...sometimes in our own homes.
Young Torless is pre-WW One. But the pathology is similar.

Most of the photos of colleagues, dancers, and productions were new to me -- not the frequently re-cycled stuff. (It was fun to see Henri Matisse squatting down to make an adjustment to the leg of Alicia Markova's costume for Rouge et Noir. Markova looks delighted.)

Norwich manages to fit 2000-plus years of Papal history into only 468 pages. He's a brilliant summarizer, synthesizer, and analyst. And, as the Washington Post says in a blurb on the back cover, he's "an enchanting and satisfying raconteur."

Let me protest once again what I have protested on countless occasions before: I am no scholar, and my books are not works of scholarship. This one probably contains no significant information that any self-respecting church historian will not be perfectly well aware of already, but it is not designed for church historians. It is intended, like everything else I have written, for the average intelligent reader, be he believer or unbeliever, who would simply like to know a little more about the background of what is, by any account, an astonishing story.

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I've been reading or rereading a number of classic novels this summer: James Baldwin's Go Tell It On The Mountain, Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Also a slim new collection of poems by Richard Wilbur, Anterooms. Also a memoir by the bebop pianist Hampton Hawes, Raise Up Off Me (a very quick read) and, on the Kindle, Notes and Tones, a collection of interviews of jazz musicians by the drummer Arthur Taylor. On the Kindle but not yet dipped into I have Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Oh, and I read and thoroughly enjoyed David Brook's The Social Animal. And I forgot to mention Mimi Sheraton's delightful chronicle of her worldwide search for authentic versions of the Polish bagel variation, the bialy, The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World.

Has anyone read Roger Lundin's Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief?

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*Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

*Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

*Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

*A Chance to Die: the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot

*The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

*Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot

*Snow Angel by Jamie Carie

*The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

*Miss Marple: the Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

*The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge.

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Wow, Rosa, you've been busy!

I've had a slow summer of reading, but I'm nearing the end of Manning Marable's recent biography, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention".

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I've had a slow summer of reading, but I'm nearing the end of Manning Marable's recent biography, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention".

What do you think of it, Helene? I've read the first chapter and considered reading the rest, but it's awfully long.

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The film of Sarah's Key has opened. If you plan to see it, I recommend reading the book first.

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I'm reading it on a Kindle. Malcolm X was just shot, and the Kindle reads that I'm at the 63% mark. I've been afraid to see how much of the rest is book, and how much of the rest is index and sources.

Rather than just try to shatter the myths, Marable has taken the myth-making and character-making as a main subject. I read the "Autobiography" over two decades ago. I'm reading this from a much different place, and it's pretty easy to read this now and to understand his point of view. A lot of the detail seemed to me to be repetitive and a bit tedious -- it could have been written with a lot more tension -- but I think Marable gives a good feel for what it's like to go down rat holes, hit dead ends, make the similar decisions again and again, and be lauded in new places and to return to the mundane.

The man had extraordinary energy to have accomplished what he did. I'm glad to be reminded.

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Thanks, Helene. I admire Malcolm X tremendously and I know the Autobiography is significantly fictionalized and that he was a more complex figure than he's presented as there. You may remember The New Yorker an article some years ago that suggested he even had a hand in firebombing his own house. I also admire Marable for his decades of labor on the book . . . and then to die just before it came out! I think I'm going to read it.

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I'm reading Michael Palin's diaries--watching as he writes Monty Python and Ripping Yarns--wonderful fun!

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Skipping back and forth between two books: -- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: a History of the Papacy -- and Judith Chazin-Bennahum, Rene Blum & the Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life.

Thanks for the tip on "Absolute Monarchs," Bart! Midway into the Kindle sample of Grimwood's "The Fallen Blade" I realized that it was going to be just another vampire confection, and I am done with vampires. And while I'm enjoying Sarah Bakewell's "How to Live"-- it's impossible not to love Bakewell's Montaigne -- I find I need to put it aside after a chapter or two. (Montaigne's particular concerns hit home in my 50s in a way they didn't in my 20s, especially when they're put in the context of his life.) So I took "Absolute Monarchs" for a test drive and so far it's been perfect late-summer non-fiction. In fact, I think I'll go polish off another chapter right now ...

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I've just finished reading VIC'S BIG WALK by Vic Heaney. I found out about this book because he is the brother of an ex-colleague. He spent the 70 days leading up to his 70th birthday walking from his home in the French Pyrenees to the house where he was born in Blackpool (NW England). It is a light but interesting read and all proceeds are being donated to research into Pancreatic Cancer.

This book is available in e-book format.

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Thanks, JMcN. Sounds like an offbeat read.

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I finished Mistry's A Fine Balance which I strongly recommend. Simply on its merits as an engaging novel, it's a great read. There's certainly terrible sadness and atrocities (what novel about India's lower castes wouldn't include that?), but human kindness is also in great abundance. Anyone who would like to learn about India's caste system and Indira Gandhi's government - appalling stuff - will find it well worth the effort, despite the book's length.

I then did some light beach reading: Another Alice McDermott novel (Why do I return to her writings summer after summer even though I say I won't?) Also read Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House about a boy with gigantism and the older librarian who loved him. Very touching book. I'd read McCracken's book of short stories, Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry and was impressed. The title story in that book is a page turner. I wish she wrote more novels.

In August, I launched into Karen Armstrong's writings, starting with her autobiography, The Spiral Staircase. Armstrong is a former Catholic nun who has written extensively about spirituality and the history of religion. Having grown up in parochial schools, I've always been fascinated with convent life. Her time inside those walls occurred during the period when Pope Paul VI was beginning to overturn some of the modern changes made by the Second Vatican Council under Pope John XXIII. Fascinating account of the clash between the older veteran nuns and the new. Armstrong suffered a nervous breakdown, left the convent, attended college and has written extensively on religion. I'm currently also reading one of her books on religious fundamentalism called The Battle for God. It lays out the historical background of fundamentalist Islam, Christianity and Judaism. I also have her A History of God sitting on my night table.

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The update is appreciated, vagansmom. Thank you!

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These past few weeks I've read "Sarah's Key", about which I have mixed feelings. I mostly liked it, even the bizarre ending, but I found the part with the father-in-law a bit too pat.

I just finished Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin", the story of the newly appointed American ambassador to Germany in 1933, William Dodd, an academic from the University of Chicago, and his wife and children, both young adults. It's a fascinating account of the period in which Hitler completed his consolidation of power.

Erik Larson's style is strong and engaging, with an occasional glimpse of his particular combination of directness and snark. A dense subject, the book just flew by. Some examples:

He called her Motsie and pledge himself to her in letters composed of stupendously long run-on sentences, in one case, seventy-four lines of single-spaced typewriting.

From his acknowledgements and footnotes:

Above all, I thank my loyal early readers... and, as always, my wife and secret weapon, Christine Gleason, whose margin notes--complete with crying faces and trailing lines of zzzzzzz's--once again proved indispensable. Thanks to my daughters also for their increasingly astute critiques of my manner of dress.

He began this letter with the greeting: "Dearest of women." For a return address, he wrote: "The Bank."

Honestly, we men can be so tone deaf.

Dodd took a dim view of golf and golfers, especially those members of his Berlin staff who were continually skipping work to play a few rounds at their Wannsee club. It is a good thing Martha moved his body, because his ghost surely would have proved a daunting hazard, blocking putts and hurling balls far off into the adjacent swales and roughs.

A short and lovely walk away, in the library of the University of Wisconsin, I found as well a supply of materials on the only UW alumna to be guillotined at Hitler's command, Mildred Fish Harnack.

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