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February books

 1. Service Included, Pheobe Damrosch
Yet another inside look at food service, this time from a server's POV. It does provide an interesting look into the workings of a 4 star resturant, but compared to some of the other similar books I've read, it seemed to fall flat. There was a bit too much about the author's personal life, for one thing. That's not to say it's a bad book. It's just not as good as some.

 2. Emma, Jane Austen
I shouldn't have taken the time to reread this, but I was watching the Masterpiece Theater version and wanted a refresher. (Also I just wanted to read it again, because I like it.)
3. The Soul of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Gene Veith
If you recognize Gene Veith's name, it's likely for his work for World Magazine or his association with Patrick Henry College. I picked this up because I'm always interested to see what Christians have to say about fantasy books (I often don't agree), and the second half of this one compares and contrasts Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. This was fairly light-weight and didn't tell me anything I hadn't heard before. 
4. Need, Carrie Jones
Twilight-wannabe FAIL. And not only because the writing includes such gems as "His voice frustrates out..."
5. What Einstein Told His Barber, Robert Wolke
Quick, fun answers to science questions. But the drawings are GOOFY.
6. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
7. Ayn Rand, James T. Baker
I finally worked up the nerve to read Atlas Shrugged. I went into it knowing only that it was very, very long, and controversal, and being talked about. I wanted to be able to talk about it too, so I read it. What surprised me most is that ... I was engrossed by it. I got so interested in the characters. I was expecting to have to struggle through the 1000+ pages, and instead I dreaded getting to the end.  
(I listened to the audio book, which was somewhat abridged. I've ordered an actual book copy which I'm eager to read as soon as it arrives.)
After finishing it I read a quick biography of Ayn Rand (her life, works, and philosophy). What I quote from below is taken from that book by James Baker, my comments in parentheses.
After the Bolshevik victory her father's business [in Russia] was nationalized, and the family's comfortable life abruptly ended. She would never forget or forgive this reversal of fortune, and she would argue that the most repugnant of Marxist doctrines was the secular altruism that called for the sacrifice of the individual to the common good.
(What I do like about her philosophy is her stirring defense of capitalism, and reading about her background makes it that much more clear why she felt so strongly about it.)

In describing the different types of people who were attracted to Rand's fiction: They [...] were attracted by the strength and resolution of her heroes and heroines, those men and women motivated and directed by rational self-interest. They like the clear eyes and smoke-filled hair and absolute certainty of egoists like Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart. It may have been a task at first to adjust to seeing such figures in modern rather than the usual midieval settings, as titans of industry rather than knights on horseback [...] but once they came to recognize her characters as modern guardians of romance, they delighted in her certainty and adventure. These fans never go deeper than the story line. They read Rand's novels but not her philosophy.
(This pretty much sums up where I am. I like the fiction. Not the philosophy.)

...Rand once again tends to limit rather than expand the human spirit. What was reasonable to her should not be taken as the standard for all men. As a workaholic, she assumed that being a workaholic was rational; and perhaps it is, despite medical evidence to the contrary; but it should not be the only path men of reason are told to take.

(As a philosopher Rand seems to have - not surprisingly - blind spots. Everything is based on her experience, without accounting for different temperments. She also seems to have a conveniently selective memory - she repeatedly stated that when she came to America, a stranger in a strange land, she asked for and expected no help - never mentioning the many people who did help her, and especially those who were instrumental in getting her jobs. )

In short: I love the story of Atlas Shrugged. I love the defense of capitalism (even though I don't agree with all her methods.) I do not love her rejection of religion, I strongly question her portrayal of romantic relationships, am confused by her portrayal of Dagney as both strong independant woman and submissive female, and I roundly ignore the rest of her philosphy as being unimportant to my chief aim in reading Atlas Shrugged: to enjoy the story. 

 8. No Wind of Blame, Georgette Heyer

A lovely little mystery in the spirit of Agatha Christie (now with more quirky humor!)

9. At the Corner of East and Now, Frederica Mathewes-Green
I love love love Mathewes-Green's writing. She is wise and humble and funny and most of all real. I would read anything she wrote, even if it was about paperclips or the color orange.
10. The Illumined Heart, Frederica Mathewes-Green
A very tiny book (perfect for carrying in one's pocket) full of very big wisdom.
11. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
12. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett
Classic twenties noir! And one of the original hard-boiled detectives (Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon) and the most famous of inebriated literary couples (Nick and Nora in The Thin Man.) I had so much fun with these two books. They are witty and clever and keep the reader on his toes.
13. The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain
This is a collection of various pieces Bourdain wrote for other publications (mostly some years ago, it appears). He appears arrogant and brash and way too often foul-mouthed, but I can't help liking Tony; it didn't hurt that he mentioned in the afterward that he knew, reading the pieces again, that he was arrogant and brash and a punk.) All the same, it's not nearly as strong as his other books and lacks cohesion, what with being  a collection of "Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones".
In January I said:
One of my goals this year is to make my To Read Stack* smaller. To that end I have purposed to eschew library books and focus on my own books. Um ... I didn't do so well so far. Only three this month were from the Stack. Better luck in February.
I did NOT do better in February. Only Service Included and The Nasty Bits came from the stack. Sigh.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
I didn't know The Thin Man movies were based on a book! How delightful! G and I are quite a fan of Nick and Nora. :-)
Mar. 1st, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
And now *I* need to see the movies!
Mar. 2nd, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
Oh, you must! They're delightful.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
William Powell is my movie boyfriend.
Mar. 1st, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
I didn't know, either, that they were a book.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 1st, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
I would choose Facing East. Maybe it's just because it's the first one *I* read, but so far it's still my favorite. And I read it, of course, from a non-Orthodox perspective, and found it very beautiful, very moving, and very accessible.
Mar. 1st, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
I wish I read like you! There's no way I'd listen to an audio book and then go ahead and find the paper copy to read as a follow-up. Respect: you have mine.
Mar. 1st, 2010 11:31 pm (UTC)
It's no virtue of mine: the story was just that enthralling to me. :)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
I agree. I have been tempted to listen to Atlas Shrugged again a few times. I absolutely loved and loathed the way the characters would give speeches for HOURS without so much as needing anybody else's response or feedback. :)
Mar. 3rd, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
So true!
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Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
Yes! The Soviets basically took everything her family had worked for. =\

Let me know how Anna Karenina goes. Maybe I'll tackle it next. *grin*
Mar. 2nd, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)
I've yet to read Atlas Shrugged but I have read her Anthem and it's also *excellent.* Her writing style is so stark and strong, and so many of her political views are ones politicians today should consider.

Anyway. I think you'd like Anthem too. It's about 1/10 the length of AS. ;)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
The biography talked some about Anthem and made it sound quite good. I found it interesting to see how her circumstances influenced the fiction she wrote.

Her style really grabbed me. I'm often annoyed by the stark sort of writing, but Rand's was excellent.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
Have you read "What Einstein told his Cook"? If so, how does it compare?
Mar. 3rd, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
I haven't read that one, but in looking at it online they look pretty similar. Except that What Einstein Told His Barber is just general science stuff, not food-related.
Mar. 4th, 2010 07:13 am (UTC)
Ok. Thanks. I figured it was probably something like that.
Mar. 4th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
I've been wanting to read the cooking one for years and have never run across it. =\
Mar. 5th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
I saw it in NYC and got curious. Thankfully the local library had it :) You can't get it via inter-library loan?
(no subject) - eattheolives - Mar. 5th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 2nd, 2010 10:44 am (UTC)
I've tried to read "Atlas Shrugged" twice...but I just can't get into it.
Guess I should try again.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
If you have access to an audio version, you might try listening instead of reading. I wonder if I would have liked it so well if I had read it first...
Mar. 2nd, 2010 10:51 am (UTC)
My eyes almost fell out from rolling them so much at Need. It could have been a decent story, but the writing was SO BAD and the obvious Twilight rip-offs didn't help.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
The best thing I can say for it is that the sparkly gold lips on the cover were sort of cool.
Mar. 2nd, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
The amount you read every month astonishes me! THIRTEEN books and one of them was Atlas Shrugged? Good grief! I struggled to get four in for February. Though, I have this problem where I start getting sleepy after reading a book. Being pregnant (and thus very fatigued) has not helped the situation. :) Perhaps March will be better.

Out of curiosity, how abridged was Atlas Shrugged? It is the only book I have ever read where I honestly felt it would be better abridged (though I would hate the task of cutting it down). I absolutely loved it and found myself engrossed with it as well, but it was just so loooong. I listened to it, rather than read it, which probably just added to the length. It was upwards of 72 hours.
Mar. 3rd, 2010 12:36 am (UTC)
I listened to Atlas Shrugged in the car going to and from work, so that didn't really count. ;) It was fairly drastically abridged: probably 30 hours at the most, maybe quite less than that. I don't have it here to check to the time. I grabbed a print copy from the library to glance through and see what was being left out - I think a lot of the speechifying was removed, and most of James Taggert's personal life, just from what I saw. I just got my print copy in the mail today and I'm excited about discovering everything I missed. :)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
PS Have you read any Father Brown stories? I can't remember if you mentioned it either way. If not, you should!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
A very, very long time ago ... I should rediscover them!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )