Debby: I spent this past weekend up in Portland, Oregon, both to celebrate the 4th of July and to put as much distance between myself and work as generally acceptable. It was a delicious four days: I enjoyed the fresh air almost as much as all the ice cream. I also neglected to read my book for this week. So Tim is having to put up with me, once again, and my procrastination. But, I believe this is a perfect time to discuss other, fun reading material. We aren’t stuck with our “65 Books…”
Tim: What with the World Cup semifinals going on, I think I got scarcely farther than you, but I’ll take it. Yeah, I’ve had time to sneak in a book or two in between the ones on our list. Within the last few weeks, I finished World War Z, which was honestly a bit of a weird choice for me. I am NOT a zombie person. I just don’t find them that interesting. At the same time, I’ve always had a bent for history, and what proper sci-fi lover doesn’t like a good apocalypse story? I ended up really enjoying the book, and it was precisely because it almost never was about individuals surviving zombie attacks, like you see in most zombie horror movies. (I haven’t seen the film version of World War Z, by the way, and have next to no inclination to.) Instead, the book leveraged the zombies as a stressor to put humans in unique situations and introduce new societal stressors. This history of how people often ingeniously reacted to the epidemic was compelling, and that’s really how I addressed the book: a look at history and epidemiology. I actually thought it was a little short. It never quite hit the tone of desperation that it seems to try to convey in the middle, so the eventual slow victory is less a climax than it ought to have been. Still exciting, though, and I’d recommend the book.
Debby: Speaking of the World Cup, there are a strange number of people from Brazil reading our blog as of late. Are these actual Brazilians? Or just a bunch of people bored at the Brazil/Germany game who decided to bust out their phones and ended up stumbling across our endlessly thrilling blog? A mystery….
Needless to say, I read two books this past week that were mildly entertaining. One was a current bestseller called The Golem and the Ginni, by Helene Wecker. While the concept was rather engaging (give me Middle Eastern magic anyday!), the plot was a rather slow burn. I read to the bitter end, but it was overwhelmingly predictable. The second book was called Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It was given to me by my roommate, along with the description: “This was my favorite book growing up. I always read it during finals week in college or, like, whenever I was stressing out.” Since I have been eternally obsessed with Ancient Egypt, I plowed through it on the airplane home without a problem. It was silly and fun and mildly engaging. I won’t be reading it regularly, but I would’ve adored it as a twelve-year-old.
Anything else fun you want to read this summer, Tim?
Tim: Every so often, I sneak in an Ernest Hemingway short story or two. My brother was actually just telling me about a Hemingway novella he read, so I’ll probably read that when I see him in a couple weeks for vacation. I guess I should pick out some material for that trip, as there will be ample reading time. I know I was looking for my copy of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian right before I read World War Z and couldn’t find it. Perhaps I’ll hit up a used books store and see if I can find anything. I actually really want to read Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son series, which is a little older, so maybe I’ll be able to find the 2nd book cheap somewhere (I’ve read the first in the series). Glancing at my shelf, I haven’t read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so maybe I’ll snag that, too.
Debby: You haven’t read that, yet?? Well. Maybe you shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon. The movie portrays all the really engaging aspects of the book (possibly better than the book itself). But, I would love to hear your thoughts on the language (spec. the translation) and plot development.
I’ve got a few other “fun reads” on my list this summer. I borrowed a copy of the graphic novel, V for Vendetta, and am looking forward to diving into that. I’m still new to the graphic world, so I might need a little help analyzing the work as a whole. I had the chance to stop by Powell’s bookstore in Portland and pick up a number of books, including Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and Melissa Banks’ Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing. Both have been bestsellers in recent years. Oh! And I made an impulse-buy on Amazon after hearing that my favorite college professor recently published a book entitled, Prophets of the Posthuman: American Fiction, Biotechnology, and the Ethics of Personhood (Dr. Christina Bieber-Lake). Umm… does that not sound amazing?
Tim: Sounds pretty cool. What is Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing? Is that a novel? Non-fiction?
Debby: Don’t worry, Tim, I don’t think it’s actually about hunting OR fishing. Why would I want to read about those things? I believe it is simply a witty, anecdotal book about a young woman growing up in modern America and encountering love, relationships, and the dreaded workplace. Maybe it should have been on our “65” list!
Tim: “Don’t worry?” I was hoping it was about hunting and fishing! Maybe we should add a Robert Ruark book to our list instead.
Debby: It’s a good thing Google knows who Ruark is, because I certainly didn’t until exactly 30 seconds ago. My first thought was “Roark” from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and I got a little excited. But, umm… this Ruark guy. He looks a little… outdoorsy.
Tim: Yup! And I can’t claim to have read much of his stuff, but my Granddaddy gave me a copy of The Old Man and the Boy a while back. Good stuff. And incidentally, I haven’t read any Ayn Rand.
Debby: Oh, you poor dear. You have sooooo much reading to do. Because, we all know Atlas Shrugged is just a “classic.” To be honest, I really did enjoy it. It just took me a period of months to do so.
Tim: To read it or to enjoy it afterwards?
Debby: Ah. Good question. Probably a little of both. It is the very definition of a “tome.” But, it also influences your thought-patterns for months afterward. Ayn Rand weaves all of her political, economic, and social ideology into a captivating story and, to a degree, it all makes such perfect sense. I was vocalizing my extreme capitalist/humanist views for months afterward, before finally reining it all in. She just gets to you!
Tim: Hmmm well perhaps another vacation. But now I’ve just ordered The Tales of Alvin Maker: Volume One from Amazon. Alternate history colonial America (that’s deathly afraid of magic), here I come!