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May 11, 2014

Sunday Morning Book Thread 05-11-2014: America Reads [OregonMuse]


Harvard Club Library.jpg
Libary Annex at Casa de Muse*


*no, not really. This is the library of the Harvard Club of New York City, in midtown Manhattan. You have to be a member if you want read one of the 30,000 available books. (From the article Secret Libraries of New York City.)

Good morning morons and moronettes and welcome to AoSHQ's stately and prestigious Sunday Morning Book Thread.


America's Favorite Books

The Harris polling company asked 2,300 people to name their all-time favorite book. Here is the top ten:

1. The Bible
2. "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
3. "Harry Potter" (series) by J.K. Rowling
4. "The Lord of the Rings" (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
5. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
6. "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville
7. "The Catcher" in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
8. "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott
9. "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck
10. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Also:

Dropped off the list in 2014:

The Stand by Stephen King (was No. 5), The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (was No. 6) Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (was No. 8) and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (was No. 9)


What Our Kids Are Reading These Days

I thought this study was interesting. You can download the pdf document that breaks it down by grade. There's a mixture of contemporary (The Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and classic (The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird). Depending on the grade-level of course.


In Honor of Mothers' Day

Mrs. Muse is out of town visiting relatives for the next week, so we didn't plan anything and it kind of crept up on me. So all I'll do is point you at a list of 10 of Literature’s Most Horrifying Mothers. Grendel's mom, Emma Bovary, and Scarlett O'Hara are here, among others.

I think that Mrs. Bates from Robert Bloch's novel Psycho would be a worthy addition to the list.



riure6hyuergter2.jpg
I Can't Get Enough of These Classic Finned Rockets


Classic Science Fiction Books?

So Buzzfreed asks, How Many Of These Classic Science Fiction Novels Have You Read? and they provide a list of 100 books. The word 'classic' is admittedly a bit open-ended, but even so, some of their choices are question. Like A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Seriously? A forgotten book that was made into a movie nobody went to see, and this is supposed to be a 'classic' science-fiction novel? One thing I will say about AHT, though, is that its underlying world view is very left of center. So you can see the appeal: progressive lit-crit types, who may not necessarily read a lot of the science fiction genre, would be very comfortable with Atwood's novel, as it affirms so many of their political and cultural prejudices.

Being a fan, I would think that I would know most, if not all, of any list of 100 classic science fiction books that could be compiled. But a large number of the titles on the Buzzfeed list I've never heard of, much less read. It could be that I'm now completely out of the loop. On the other hand, maybe many of the books are like AHT, i.e. they say all the right things and affirm all of the prejudices of progressive lit-crit circles, but they don't have much appeal anywhere else.

Or, maybe I've got this all wrong. I'd be curious if any of you morons can look at this list and tell me, "yep, those are 100 classic science-fiction books, all right."

And on another note, has "Hunger Games" really been around long enough to be considered a classic?


More Weird Books

Some of these you've already seen before, but you're getting them again, because I'm hard up for content this week.

One author (Lorraine Peterson) managed to make the list twice. Congrats!


In North Korea, Bookstore Finds YOU

So what's it like in a bookstore in Pyongyang? What can you find there to read?

About what you'd expect:

The store that the writer visited, which was located in Pyongyang, was called the Foreign Language Bookshop and the majority of what was for sale were works by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, available in a number of languages, or books of which they were the subject.

Zzzzzz....

According to Peixoto, the fiction section was small enough that he purchased a copy of every title they had, which included an epic poem in English titled “Mount Paektu” and a novella titled “The People of the Fighting Village,” which was penned by the director of the prose sub-committee of the Central Committee of the Korean Writers' Union.

Who says communism stifles the arts?


Are You Reading a Gothic Novel?

If you don't know, this helpful article in the Guardian helps you identify all of the necessary elements. With pictures.


Books of Note

Via BookBub, all of you military history buffs can get The Drive on Moscow, 1941 by Frankson and Zetterling for only $2.99, until 5/31/14. The fighting was absolutely brutal and the Germans came this close: -><- to taking Moscow.

___________

At first this subjects of this book, Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written about the Game, may seem like an odd combination, but baseball has always been immensely popular in Japan, so why shouldn't the two go together?

Here are some examples:

spring breeze this grassy field makes me want to play catch

Doesn't follow the 5-7-5 syllable pattern, but I like it, anyway. The love of baseball can be very great indeed:

until raised to Heaven I'll go to fields of green carrying my glove

And there's nothing quite like listening to a ballgame on the radio:

radio static somewhere in the muggy night a ballgame

Baseball and radio sort of grew up alongside each other, so they also fit very well together. Now all that remains is to figure out how to combine all three, baseball, radio, and haiku, into one perfect art form.

The intro to the book mentions that baseball-inspired haiku and tanka poetry date back to as early as 1898(!)

Here's mine:

it's in the bag routine roller to Buckner aarrggh, the curse lives on
___________

Now here's an oddity: there's a new book out on the history of atheism. A further oddity is that written by a Christian. And on top of all of that, it received a generally favorable review in The Guardian.

Cats and dogs living together. Inconceivable.

___________

I guess I've been remiss in not mentioning the economics book that currently has progressives swelling with pride that's lasting way more than 4 hours. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. The central argument of the book is that economy is dying because return on capital is greater than economic growth, which means that "the rich" are going to eat up most of the pie. In other words, the economy is producing income inequality, whch is a bad thing. And this at the same time as the Democrats are amping up "income inequality" as an issue, so this is the "book of the hour". It has sold > 200,000 copies, which is absolutely phenomenal for an economics book.

Hyper-partisan Paul Krugman, more tumescent about this book than most on the progressive side, crows how devastating it is for conservatives, but in reality, Piketty isn't really all that.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as I keep saying, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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