Once upon a time I knew a young man who was semi-literate. He read books by Alexander Solzhenisten, John Fowles, Norman Mailer and James Baldwin among others. He loved the Marx Brothers and read about George S Kauffman, Alexander Woolcott and the rest of the members of the Algonquin Wits, including Dorothy Parker. But through the years as that young man aged, he found escape from the drudgery of work not in great literature, but in mysteries and thrillers, not that they aren’t good reads, but hey, saving the world from serial killers and nuclear annihilation isn’t the same as questioning the meaning of life!
As I browsed the library shelves a couple of weeks ago, i couldn’t pass up a book titled Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, and I’m so glad I didn’t! Brian Leaf’s wonderful book, subtitled My Humble Quest to heal my Colitis, Calm my ADD and Find the Key to Happiness has become Book 19 for 2013. As I read the back cover of the book a quote from Kathryn Buid, author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga pretty much sums it up!
Brian Leaf is like the Bill Cosby of Yoga – recounting common emotions and situations on a yogi’s path in a way that makes you laugh with acknowledgment. His story is so graphic I felt like I was practically holding his hand!
This morning is was thinking about reading and books that “Rocked your world”, well maybe not rock your world, but those that opens your eyes, maybe make you see the world in a new light. Books that touch you! One of the first books of mine that came to mind was, Jonathan Kozol’s Death at an Early Age. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read but I remember at the time, this book revealed conditions that I really didn’t know existed and I remember being so touched by Kozol’s actions! Just recently that’s what Stones into Schools did for me. It smacked me in the face with the conditions that people live under in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and their need for and their thirst for education particularly for their daughters! The Imperial Cruise did it, too, by opening my eyes to US actions both in Hawaii and the Philippines!
In 1905 Theodore Roosevelt sent the largest diplomatic mission in US across the Pacific to Asia. The mission was led by his Secretary of War William Howard Taft and the group included his daughter Alice. James Bradley’s book about this mission The Imperial Cruise is Book 17 of 2013. During the trip Taft on Roosevelt’s behalf negotiated a series of secret agreements – which were unconstitutional – that laid the groundwork for future Japanese actions over the next 30-40 years. The details of these agreements remained secret until after Roosevelt’s death and really have been absent from history books.
There are several mystery characters in mystery series that make me laugh, but two stand out first there’s Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and secondly there’s Parnell Hall’s Stanley Hastings. Stanley’s latest caper Stakeout is Book 16 of 2013.. Stakeout is the 18th book in the series that I started reading in 1991! Like all the others this one is a fine caper, which had me out laughing out loud on more than one occasion! The Washington Post Book World says this about the series:
When I was thinking this morning about last Thursday night’s visit to the library, where the spring book sale was in progress, my thoughts went to the old Dorothy Parker quote. When asked by Franklin P Adams to use horticulture in a sentence, she responded “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think!”. Now my thought was slightly different, it went something like, you can lead a book junkie to a book sale but you can’t expect him to come home empty-handed! Alas, Edward did not, but I did limit myself to spending only $5.00! Here’s what I brought home! Amazing Grace – Jonathan Kozol – I really enjoyed Fire in the Ashes, which told the story of many of these children 25 years after the events in this book. I thought I’d like to visit with them back then! Three Cups of Tea Greg Mortenson and David Liver Relin likewise I thought I would like to go back and read the book that started Mortenson’s mission and all the controversy!! Kidnapped in Yemen One Woman’s Amazing Escape from Captivity – Mary Quin – this one just looked very interesting …From the back cover: Mary Quin has written a harrowing account of surviving one of the most serious kidnappings of the past years. Showing her native grit, Quin bested her kidnappers and lived to write this fine book’ Peter Bergen, CNN Terrorism analyst author of the Holy War, Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden Altar of Eden – James Rollins – since this is not a Sigma Force novel I skipped over it but have always wanted to go back and read it, maybe now I will!! In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam Robert S. McNamara – one short paragraph told me that this is a book told by the ultimate insider that I want to read! Unlike a certain President who shall remain nameless, McNamara admits his mistakes as he writes:
I have feeling that if I were an English major or at least more literature literate, I would love the great novels of James Lee Burke even more than I do presently! Creole Belle is the 19th Burke novel featuring Dave Robicheaux and is Book 14 for 2013 this one took a while to read, mainly because it is rather long (528 pages) and I got distracted by a couple of other books, but when I came back and picked it up about midway through, I zipped right through it, especially over the last two hundred or so pages. Like all the other books it’s a whopping good read!!
Archaeologist Dr. Erin Granger is working on a dig in Caesarea, Israel when an explosion rocks the Masada. The explosion splits Masada and emits a gas that kills all the visitors The explosion reveals an unknown underground chamber. Soon Sergent Jordan Stone is sent to bring Erin to the site to help and try to discover what happened!
While a crew of soldiers and Dr. Granger are exploring the chamber where they find a young child impaled on the wall using silver spikes and an open sarcophagus. A priest Rhun Korza mysteriously appears by their side in the chamber. The group is attacked by monsters of some kind and many on both sides are killed. But Father Korza saves Erin and Jordon. As the pair watch Father Korza’s actions, it becomes obvious this is no ordinary Priest!! What was buried in the chamber was a Gospel of the Bible written by Christ in his own blood – The Blood Gospel. After another attack this by a grimwwolf minion of the Belial in charge of recovering the book, Bathory, Rhun revels that while he is a priest, he is of the Order of the Sanguines a secret order within the Catholic Church composed of vampire like beings that do not feed on the blood of humans but are fortified and blessed through the drinking of consecrated wine, aka, The Blood of Christ. The attacks at Masada came from the Belial an order of vampires that the Sanguines battle. They unlike the Sanguines are not blessed and are a mean bunch! Erin and Jordon soon learn that they are to be paired with Father Korza to fulfill a prophesy to find and open the book before it falls into the hands of the Belial.
The race to find the Blood Gospel takes them to Germany and then Russia (where they meet, no I’m not telling) along the way Erin and Jordon find out more about both the Order of the Sanguines and the Belial. Throughout the book Father Korza must face not only the Belial but his own sinful past!
Book 12 of 2013 – Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy
First a comment on my March reading. I started the month reading James Lee Burke’s Creole Belle and three non-fiction books. Impeached by David O. Stewart, The Armistad Rebellion by Marcus Rediker and Kofi Anann’s Interventions. I had also gotten out of the library The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell. By the middle of the month, I had made the most progress on the David Stewart book and minimal progress on the others. About the day before Blood Gospel was due back at the library, I started reading it. No wait, it was actually overdue when I started it! Anyway I was enjoying it, so Creole Belle got set aside! I continued to read Impeached along with The Blood Gospel and managed to finish Impeached at the beginning of this month. It is Book 12 for 2013. I was pleased that I finished the book because it’s the kind of book that I usually start and enjoy and then ,move on to something else, so to finish it is a good thing!
Ok so which of the four people pictured above can you identify? Before I read Book Number 9 for 2013, I could have maybe identified two! The first two are the key players in the book, while persons three and four helped nudge number two along! The first two are William McKinley and Leon Czolgosz, who are The President and the Assassin, respectively, from Scott Miller’s terrific book titled – The President and the Assassin:McKinley, Terror, and the Empire at the Dawn of the American Century. Persons three and four are anarchist Emma Goldman and Albert Parsons. both of whom provided a push to Leon to do the deed!