Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Powder Burn

Powder Burn chronicles the intentionally set fires on Vail Mountain in 1998. Vail was expanding into new areas. Those areas had previously been wilderness. Lodges in the expansion area were torched just before they opened.

There was a great deal
of controversy, some environmentally related, some not, surrounding the Vail expansion. Consequently, the arson suspect list is quite long. Powder Burn reads like a great thriller or mystery. It's an edge of your seat sort of read. You are kept guessing about the true identity of the arsonist. At the time of the book's publication, the mystery had not been solved, which is presumably some of the whodunit of the story. However, since the book's publication, the case has been solved. (Google it once you've read the book.)

I don't think the lack of an answer in the book hurts it. Instead, I think it probably helped it because all sides of the issue are thoroughly explained and explored. If the mystery had been solved prior to the book's publication, I feel like it would have been very easy to gloss over the groups and people who weren't responsible for the arson. Even though they weren't the ones burning down Vail's buildings, they still had plenty of reasons why they might like to see the new lodges gone.

The quote on the top of the cover is from Outside Magazine. They call Powder Burn "an alpine Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." I think this is an accurate description. Powder Burn gives a great feel for Vail as well as diving into the tension surrounding the ski resort and the fires. It only has a handful of reviews on goodreads, which to me is disappointing because it's a great read.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Packing for Mars

I really enjoy Mary Roach's books, so when I was looking for some new audio books, I picked up Packing for Mars. I was not disappointed; it was great.

I have read her other three books, Stiff, Bonk, and Spook, already. I thought Stiff (about cadavers) and Bonk (about sex) were so interesting and funny. I learned a lot. Spook (about the afterlife) was still a good read, but not near as good as the others.

Packing for Mars is about space travel, both in the past and potential for the future. I think one of the best things I can say about this book is that it left me more interested in space and space travel than when I started it. I have always thought that NASA was kind of useless. Now, it makes more sense and I can see its purpose. I read Packing for Mars because it was by Roach, not because I was interested in the topic. However, it really was a fascinating read.

Roach touches on all kind of issues related to space. She covers peeing, sex, and eating. While these issues seem mundane, in space they become very complex. Then there are the complex issues: the effect of g-force on the human body, the feasibility of a human travel to Mars, and even creating space suits to fit a wide range of astronaut body sizes.

If you liked Roach's other books, then definitely pick this up. If you haven't read any of her books, then don't be scared away because this is a non-fiction science book. Her books are very accessible and funny.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some Recent 1001 Books Reads

A Modest Proposal

I read this in high school and thought it was great. Upon my recent reread, I love it even more. Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal in 1729 about poor Irish children. It's perfect satire and very funny. It's very short-- more of a short story than a novel--so it's a quick well-worth-it read.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I read Alice in Wonderland in fourth grade for a book report. I dressed up as Alice. I really don't remember more than that though. I just love when Alice wakes up and reflects on it all.

A Christmas Carol

If you don't know the story of A Christmas Carol, you need to put it next on your to be read list. I don't think I'd ever read A Christmas Carol, but had, of course, seen the Scrooge McDuck version as well as other movie adaptations. Even knowing exactly what was going to happen, I still cried at the end of it. Get yourself in the holiday spirit. It won't be too long til Christmas!

I like using the 1001 books you should read list to pick classics because it covers a wide time range. The must-read label certainly applies to all three of these books. You can see the progress I've made here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Film and Lit class

I'm teaching another Film and Lit in Politics class this spring. It is a 2000 level course. The list:

Size and scope of government

The Lord of Flies, Golding


Funny in Farsi, Dumas

Foreign Relations/War

The Quiet American, Greene

In the Time of the Butterflies, Alvarez

Maus, Spiegelman (I am expecting and prepared for some skepticism about a graphic novel.)


A Modest Proposal, Swift

There Are No Children Here, Kotlowitz


The Help, Stockett

To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee

The Media

All the President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein (I know some people will watch the movie instead of reading the book, but the movie is good and has Robert Redford.)

What do you think? There's a lot, but A Modest Proposal is short and Maus is quick. I think all of them are fairly easy to read. (They aren't Faulkner!) Since I finally got the books nailed down, I'm getting excited about teaching the class.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Book Lust

I lust after books and book lists, so when I stumbled across Nancy Pearl's Book Lust I snapped it up.

Book Lust has suggestions for books in lots of different categories. A few of the 170ish categories: Irish fiction, King Arthur, I love a mystery, Cat crazy, What a (natural) disaster, and Czech it out.

I enjoyed reading it for Pearl's wit and all the great book suggestions. I got excited when she suggested a book I'd already read. I added several books to my already too long TBR list. I'll surely be referring to it again for ideas.

Alison over at Alison Can Read is doing a giveaway for Book Crush, another of Pearl's books. This one has lists for kid and teen books. Head over to Alison's blog to read about hearing Pearl speak and to enter the Book Crush giveaway.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Flashback: Sweet Valley High

Oh, how I loved Sweet Valley books, both the Sweet Valley High series as well as the Sweet Valley Twins one. I also loved the Wakefields of Sweet Valley and Patmans of Sweet Valley books.

A few months ago, I found Brokenhearted in the free box at the library. It's been years since I read a Sweet Valley book, so I picked it up.

From Goodreads: "Suddenly she is faced with a very difficult choice -- a choice between the only two boys she has ever loved. What will Elizabeth do?"

The entire book was as dramatic as that line. O.M.G. So. Very. Very. Dramatic. But when you are 16 it all feels so dramatic. Elizabeth, the good twin, has two guys, Jeffrey French and Todd Wilkins, who want to date her. If you remember anything about Liz, she winds up with Todd. Poor Jeffrey.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later is coming out in March. I am SO (ridiculously) excited. Here's an excerpt if you are interested.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegan Virgin Valentine

This book was challenged at a high school in Florida because of inappropriate language. I'm not sure what language because nothing in the story stuck out as potentially offensive or different than any other YA book I've read. (Of course, in most of the banned book lists I wonder the same thing: What in the world are these people objecting to?!)

I'm guessing some of it had to do with the title. Because, OMG, reading the word "virgin" makes me want to run out and have sex. Because nobody knows that taboo word. Because it's not a very important part of Jesus's birth. Because we're not teaching abstinence-only sex ed. (Well, we were.)

In fact, the book has some really great messages about sex. The main character had been pressured by an ex-boyfriend to have sex, but she didn't. Her niece (only a year younger) has sexual escapades that she later regrets.

Or maybe people are just touchy about the word "vegan."

I've also read Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, which I really enjoyed. Both of these books are really good. I loved both of the main characters and their journeys. I will defnitely read another book by her.

In Vegan Virgin Valentine, the main character, Mara, is an overachieving high school senior. Her neice (who is just a year younger) moves in with the Valentine family becuase her mother has, in a sense, abandoned her. The niece is wild and all around bothersome to Mara. The book explores issues of love, sex, friendship, and family.

Another banned book = another ridiculous person out there.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Essential Classics

Last year, Penguin Books came out with an Essential Classics collection. The list included:
  • Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • The Odyssey, Homer
  • Hamlet, Shakespeare
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  • Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
  • Oedipus, Sophocles
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau
  • The Inferno, Dante Alighieri

Since any such list is going to draw lots of opinions, they are asking for votes for a new list.

Here's my list (not limited to the options on their survey):

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  • 1984, George Orwell
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • Hard Times, Charles Dickens
These aren't necessarily my favorite classics, but ones I think should be at the top of your list to read in part to know what they are about and part that they cover a mix of issues and time periods.

If I were talking favorite classics I'd have to list as my top 10:
  • Burmese Days, George Orwell
  • A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy
  • Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cool Covers

I have to admit it. Books with cool covers will definitely get a second look from me.

Here are some I like:

The mountains really do look like that!

Jesus horses! Do you remember that Weekend Update on SNL?

I haven't read this one, or even gotten it, but I added it to my TBR list after being attracted to the cover. (I liked the blurb of the story too.)

What a cool looking building.

More accurate depictions of mountains.


Using famous paintings.

Do you have any favorite book covers?