The consensus in the scientific community is that we are in an age where human activity has had a defining impact on our environment. This is being taken seriously by many sectors of our society, such as the insurance industry, the intelligence community and the military. Welcome to the “Anthropocene.” This somewhat ungainly term has been adopted by many to define our current geologic age, the time period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Naming this period is an attempt to reframe our way of seeing the natural world, to bring to light our impact on it and our responsibility towards it.
Earth Day was originally proposed by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in reaction to a devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California — a very concrete example of human impact on the environment. So for this Earth Day, April 22, it would be fitting to read some books about our impact on the natural world and what we can change about it.
For about as long as society has existed, so has incarceration. From Socrates to Boethius to Oscar Wilde and beyond, philosophers and writers have often found themselves on the punitive end of a criminal justice system. Even behind bars, though, many managed to produce compelling and inspirational works.
Social activists are often imprisoned for their efforts. During his 27 year incarceration, Nelson Mandela wrote letters to family, fellow activists, government officials, and prison authorities. 255 of these letters are published, and offer an inspiring glimpse into Mandela’s altruism and powerful optimism. Mahatma Ghandi, the pioneer of non-violent protest himself, wrote his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments With Truth,” at the urging of a fellow prisoner at Yerwada Central Jail. Martin Luther King, Jr., an activist heavily inspired by Ghandi’s example, spent eleven days behind bars. During that time, he penned “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Both Ghandi and King cited Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On Civil Disobedience” as an influence. Thoreau wrote the essay while imprisoned for refusing to pay taxes that would fund a war he considered unjust.Continue reading “Read Harder 2019: A Book Written in Prison”
Czechoslovakia, 1935. Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane houses six of the most depraved murderers in the country, known as the Devil’s Six. Newly arrived from Prague, where a Jack the Ripper copycat known as Leather Apron is terrorizing the city, psychiatrist Viktor Kosárek delves into the inner-workings of the criminal mind. Kosárek is searching for the motivation that drives a person to commit atrocious acts of violence, a quality he calls the devil aspect. Meanwhile Prague police captain Luk Smolk finds a tiny piece of evidence at the most recent Leather Apron crime scene which he hopes will lead him to the serial killer, but first it leads him to the asylum and the Devil’s Six.
A murder in space. Mahit Dzmare is summoned to court as the new ambassador to the imperializing Teixcalaanli Empire from her small, but independent, mining station after her predecessor, Yskandr, dies. No one will admit the previous ambassador was murdered, and Mahit must carefully navigate the alien culture of the Teixcalaanli, aided by her fluency in their language and Yskadr’s implanted memories. However, she soon learns that those memories are out of date, possibly even sabotaged, and she is forced to rely on her wits to protect her station, uncover the truth, and resist the seductive nature of the imperial court. Continue reading “Debut Author Spotlight: March/April 2019”
In 1942, the Allies were losing, Germany seemed unstoppable, and every able man in England was fighting. Churchill believed Britain was locked in an existential battle and created a secret agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whose spies were trained in everything from demolition to sharp-shooting. Their job, he declared, was “to set Europe ablaze!” But with most men on the frontlines, the SOE did something unprecedented: it recruited women. Thirty-nine women answered the call, leaving their lives and families to become saboteurs in France. Half were caught, and a third did not make it home alive. In “D-Day Girls,” Sarah Rose draws on recently declassified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the story of three of these women: Odette Sansom, Lise de Baissac, and Andrée Borrel. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: April 2019”
Posted on Monday, March 25, 2019 by Reading Addict
I hope you are humming right along with the Read Harder Challenge. Don’t worry if you’re not or if you are just now deciding to join: there’s still plenty of time. I still haven’t decided what to read for this seventh task, but I think I have found a few contenders.
“The Distance Between Us” by Reyna Grande is a memoir about the author’s trek across the border as an undocumented immigrant at the age of nine to meet up with her long absent father who has been in the U.S. trying to become established. She has to leave her grandmother, who has been her caretaker, to enter a life that is not what she had expected. This is a young reader’s edition which lands it in our teen section but it still promises to be very hard hitting. We also carry the full memoir. Continue reading “Read Harder 2019: An #Ownvoices Book Set in Mexico or Central America”
On December 23, 1944, World War II was in its final months. Off the coast of Scotland the “Mad Monk” Gregor Rasputin and some Nazis embarked on a project intended to turn the direction of the war in their favor. A creature was summoned from Hell, a child. The child was deep red and in possession of some impressive horns on his head. Instead of becoming a pawn of the Nazis, as had been intended, he fell into the hands of United States Armed Forces. A paranormal researcher working for the government decided to adopt him. He named the child Hellboy.
In reality, on March 23, 1994, that story was introduced to readers by writer and artist Mike Mignola in “Hellboy: Seed of Destruction,” the debut issue for a comic book series that would go from cult favorite to cultural phenomenon. From that “seed of destruction” grew a fictional extended universe, referred to by some as the “Mignolaverse.” It spans a number of titles, both ongoing, one-shots and miniseries: BPRD, Lobster Johnson, Sir Edward Grey, Abe Sapien and more. Mignola and a slew of other talented artists and writers working with him have filled out backstories and propelled numerous story lines to their conclusions to create a rich world you can spend a lot of time inhabiting. Continue reading “Hellboy Day 2019”
I like my reading material like I like my nachos: with several delicious layers. “The Infinite Future” meets this criteria. In Tim Wirkus’s novel a character named Tim Wirkus runs into an old college classmate. Intriguing! What has the classmate been up to? How is it going? Do they remember the eccentric professor? There is so much to discuss when you see an acquaintance for the first time in years, but rather than mine their lives for stimulating conversation, the classmate urges Wirkus to run a manuscript by his agent. Wirkus has to spend time in an airport, so with his other reading material, laptop, tablet, phone, and e-reader lost or damaged (I assume), Wirkus settles on reading the unsolicited manuscript.
The manuscript begins with a translator’s note by Danny Laszlo (Wirkus’s former classmate). It’s the story of how Danny came to acquire the manuscript he translates. Danny goes to Brazil on a grant from an organization that wants him to write about Mormon missionary work there. Instead, with significant prodding from an obsessed librarian, he joins a hunt for a missing manuscript from an obscure science fiction author. Danny scatters summaries of the obscure author’s work throughout his translator’s note, and these are treats for anyone who has or would enjoy the work of Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout. The librarian shows Danny a book proposal for a missing manuscript called “The Infinite Future.” The proposal sells it as a “prophetic text on par with the Holy Bible or I Ching.” Danny and the librarian buy the hype.
Change is inevitable. But change does not have to be random; it can be strongly influenced by people who speak up and take action. Activists are a key component of change, shining a light on the issues at hand, ensuring they are not forgotten until they are resolved. During this Women’s History Month, let us reflect on the role women have played as activists both in this country and around the world. As Margaret Mead is thought to have said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Julia Ward Howe is probably most well-known for writing the anthem “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1861. She was also an abolitionist and active in the women’s suffrage movement. Her activism was inspired by her marriage to Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. Despite being an activist himself, Howe’s husband did not approve of married women working outside the house and he tried to stifle his wife’s ambitions of being a writer. In “The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe” author Elaine Showalter explores Howe’s unhappy marriage and how it helped shape her into an important early voice for women’s rights both in and outside of the home. Continue reading “Literary Links: Activism in Women’s History”
As a chronic overthinker, I spend a lot of time and mental energy asking, “What if?” Therefore, it is surprising that I haven’t really ventured into what is basically a What If genre. That’s the point of Read Harder though – branching out. Alternate history novels describe a re-imagined world in which an element of history is changed. DBRL’s catalog has a long list of alternate history novels to satisfy this Read Harder task, and I would like to highlight a few.
“The Only Harmless Great Thing” is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It imagines a combination between “The Radium Girls” and Topsy the Elephant, and I have to concur with my colleague The Gentleman that it can be hard to avoid the allure of a glowing elephant. The language in this book is remarkable. The prose reads so much like poetry in the sense that it is rhythmic and loaded with unexpected but shrewd imagery. In only 92 pages, Bolander sent me to a dictionary (okay, Google) four times. Though short, the books delves into the matriarchal social workings of the elephants and their clash with human greed and class struggles in a way that is compelling and heartbreaking.Continue reading “Read Harder 2019: An Alternate History Novel”
In the comic book series “Lazarus” by Greg Rucka, the world is divided into swaths of land each ruled by a different family. The nation states we currently know have been swallowed up by these families. Each territory is a feudal system with three distinct social classes — family, serfs and wastes. We do not see how the world became this way or, for example, how the Carlyle family came to control Duluth Minnesota. What we do see is a stark world of haves and have-nots where the haves use their ample resources to fight each other for more.
The central character is Forever Carlyle, the “Lazarus” of the Carlyle family. The lazarus for each family is a member chosen to represent them in combat. They have been trained their entire lives and artificially enhanced to be outstanding fighters. As Forever learns more about her family, her place in it and the way this world works she begins to question it. Continue reading “Know Your Dystopias: Lazarus”