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30Dec/08Off

Books I Read in 2008: A Review

As I did last year, I thought I'd go over the books I've read over the last 12 months. Of course, this time around I also did the whole "52 books in 52 weeks" challenge where I aimed to read an average of a book a week during the year. I passed that goal by quite a bit, it turns out, so I think I can say I completed that challenge. Also congrats to Jeremy and Heliologue for hitting (or passing) their goals as well, as well as Nick who got a late start but participated every week once he got going.

All in all, I ended up reading 65 books in 2008, which you can see here. Here's some fun stats:

  • Total books: 65
  • Total pages: 18,759*
  • Average book length: 354 pages**
  • Paper books: 22
  • Audio books: 43
  • Fiction books: 39
    • Fantasy: 14
    • Horror: 4
    • Science fiction: 7
    • Other fiction: 14
  • Nonfiction books:26
    • Business: 4
    • Humor: 4
    • Biography: 5
    • History: 1
    • Science: 7
    • Other nonfiction: 5

*If you convert the length of the audiobooks to page counts by looking at their paper counterparts

**Ibid

If I were to pick a theme for 2008, I'd say that it's definitely the year that I discovered some great new authors. I fell in love with the Diskworld books Terry Pratchett, as well as the self depricating but brutally honest humor of David Sedaris. I also liked the mixture of humor and science writing that Mary Roach brings to her books, and I could even mention Naomi Novik since I liked her 5 Temeraire books well enough to read them all.

And of course, this annual post wouldn't be complete without a discussion of the best and worst books I read this year.

Best Book I Read in 2008

Like last year, this was kind of a tough call since there weren't any books that just completely blew me away. There were several good books, though. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon was an intruiging look at the mind of an autistic boy and I appreciated how the author used the narrator's disability to bring a unique dramatic tension to what should be an emotionally charged story. And Cormac McCarthy's The Road is far from an uplifting story, but this tale of a man and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world is really powerful and really hard to put down. Both those books are runner-ups.

Predictably Irrational

My favorite book from 2008, though, is Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational. This nonfiction book about "behavioral economics" discussed the various kinks in the human psyche that compel us to behave in ways that are odd and downright indefensible in everyday situations. Why are you likely to pay more for something if you are shown a large number completely unrelated to the price? Why do people who read words like "elderly," "decrepit," or "senior" tend to walk more slowly when they get up and leave the room? Why does losing a dollar cause us more pain than gaining a dollar gives us pleasure? Why are we more likely to buy a product we're not even shopping for or don't even need if we're given a free sample? And, perhaps most importantly, how do people in the know --people like advertisers, politicians, and psychology graduate students-- use these idiosyncrasies to subtly manipulate us?

What I like about Ariely's approach is that he keeps everything relevant and grounded in situations we encounter every day, but at the same time he didn't stray from the science of psychology. Along with every little vignette and story he includes concise explanations of the studies that support his point, including the methodologies and theories behind them. It's great science writing and incredibly interesting.

Worst Book I Read in 2008

Hoo, boy, this was a tough one, as there were a few really strong contenders for this title. I hated Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver because it was a meandering, overly verbose, plotless mess that was torture to get through. And I very nearly gave the award to Jim Collins's Good to Great because this business book that's supposedly about how to build a good company into a bastion of greatness proved to be little more than vaguely mumbled platatudes born of research methodologies so flawed they'd get you expelled from most community colleges.

How Starbucks Saved My Life

In the end, however, I had to go with Michael Gates Gill's How Starbucks Saved My Life not on ly because of how badly it was written, but how blatant and ham-fisted it was in its sermonizing. The author's pedigree as an advertising man infringes on his ability to take what is a decent premise (i.e., an out of work executive is forced to take an hourly job at Starbucks to survive) and completely ruin it by not only making it sappy and saccharine, but slapping you with the story's moral with all the subtlety of a deodorant commercial. Really, just awful.

So, that's it for 2008. All in all a pretty good year. I'm going to continue on with some of the new authors I've discovered next year, particularly Terry Pratchett and David Sedaris. I'm going to keep writing the reviews on Fridays and I'll probably hit the 52 book mark again since my commute isn't getting any shorter and I'll hopefully spend at least an equal amount of time in the gym. But I don't think I'll formalize the challenge again in 2009. Instead, I have a different 52-in-52 goal in mind, which I'll be posting about soon.

But what about you guys? What were your best and worst books of the year?

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29Dec/08Off

Week 257: Christmas

If it was Mandy's birthday last week, that means it's Christmas time this week and I've got the pictures to prove it. With my sister and mother in town to visit this year things have gotten a little off schedule, and of course they went completely overboard with the gifts. By volume, our house is now 37% mold-injected plastic.

Of course all the gift giving failed to prevent Sister Amanda Francesca from remembering the real religious underpinnings of the holiday. She could periodically be seen walking around with her little first communion book, muttering "Jesus, Bethlehem, wise men" to herself. She's the most pious of us all. Also, when Geralyn offhandedly mentioned that the cat hadn't received any Christmas presents, Mandy grabbed the nearest gift --a pair of kid-sized winter gloves-- and marched upstairs to present them to the slumbering feline. This would have been a much more generous act if they had actually been her gloves instead of her sister's, but she got it mostly right.

One other lesson we learned this Christmas: don't let the kids eat all of the holiday chocolate that they want. This turns out VERY BADLY.

Also, I think my mom is slightly regretting one of the gifts she gave. As I type this, Sam is marching around playing these little bath flutes that you're supposed to fill with different levels of water so that they produce different notes. By "playing" I actually mean "blowing on it as hard and loudly as she can until her face turns red and she passes out, but just for a second and then she starts over again." I'm thinking that those are going to have to be limited to use in the bathtub. While underwater.

After a day of gift unwrapping, chocolate binging, and playing with our various new toys, we headed out on Christmas evening for our annual dinner at this fancy-pants place that Ger's godmother always takes us. It's the kind of place where they punch you in the dignity if you don't come wearing a coat and tie, but this standard seemed to be largely lost on Mandy, who just wanted to run around getting tangled up in old people's walkers and giving the salad on the appetizer table another toss. By hand. It was somewhat less than relaxing.

By the day after Christmas we were all ready to get out of the house, so of course we went to the largest shopping mall we could find to poke around in the after-Christmas sales. The kids got to run around and try to get lost, so they enjoyed it.

While we were in the mall, though, a huge storm front rolled through and it started pouring rain. Faced with the prospect of her youngest granddaughter getting soaked during the dash to the car, my mom helpfully suggested that we keep Mandy's head dry by fitting a plastic bag over it, which seemed to me to be a fairly extreme way to solve the problem. All in all, I'm pretty sure Mandy would prefer a little dampness to suffocation. Since only one of them is really a short-term problem.

But, all that aside, merry Christmas!

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26Dec/08Off

Book Review: Just After Sunset

Note: This is #65, the LAST BOOK in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008. I'm done.

Pyramids

Just After Sunset is Stephen King's latest collection of short stories, containing a hodge podge of different tales that with one exception had been previously published in various magazines or anthologies. I've liked Stephen King's similar works in the past, despite the fact that some of his so-called short stories have clocked in at novella or even full novel length. This collection, however, contains relatively short works that can all be easily read in one sitting. Unfortunately I didn't care for hardly any of them.

What we have here seems to be more like a collection of literary doodles or proof of concepts that just kind of fell out of King's brain. Most of them seem like either short little vignettes that don't seem to have much point or outlines for larger works that King never quite got around to fleshing out. You know, the kind of thing that you might find in the last 50 pages of a full-length novel after he'd spent hundreds of pages building character, place, backstory, and tension.

Only one of the stories, N., really did anything for me. It's King's homage-slash-fanfiction for H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos where he links obsessive-compulsive disorder with rituals that in reality keep otherworldly horrors at bay for the select few that are unlucky enough to be chosen as guardians for the "thin places" between worlds. It's a really neat concept, and he executes it well.

On the other hand, one of the other stories, Stationary Bike is one of the dumbest things I've ever seen put down on paper. Really, it's incredibly stupid.

So, it's going to be hard for me to recommend this one unless you're a Stephen King completionist like myself.

Others doing the 52-in-52 thing this week:

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23Dec/08Off

Book Review: Pyramids

Pyramids

Note: This is #64 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008.

Terry Pratchett's Pyramids is part of this Diskworld series, which means that pretty much by definition it's an amusing parody of the fantasy genre. But this one differs from the other Diskworld books I've read in a couple of ways. First, from what I can tell it's essentially a stand-alone tale, featuring a cast of characters who never make any repeat appearances later in the series. And second, it seems to mark the point in the books where Pratchett starts to step away from simple parody of fantasy tropes and move into more social satire in general. For sure, we've seen social satire before, practically from the beginning. Equal Rites tackled gender inequality head-on, for example, but Pyramids seems to be the first book that handles multiple threads of social satire at once and make them the entire point of the exercise.

The book tells the story of Teppic (or "Pteppic," if you prefer), the heir to an river kingdom based on ancient Egypt. Teppic is sent to the city of Ank-Morpork to be trained as a professional assassin, more out of just something to do and to get him out of the palace than anything. When Teppic's father the god-king dies, the son returns home to take over the kingdom, which is just as well since in the course of his final exam he decides that assassination doesn't square quite right with his moral fiber. Unfortunately spending his formative years in the big city has given Teppic some ideas for social progress (such as plumbing or mattresses) that clash wildly with the attitudes of his tradition-bound subjects. Furthermore, the river kingdom's ancient High Priest, Dios, does everything to block the new king's flights of fancy since he is a stickler for tradition himself and thinks that actually ruling is quite beneath any king's dignity. And also, there is an enormous pryamid that, through its pyramid-edness, ends up warping reality to a truly uncomfortable degree.

Even though Pyramids is a stand-alone book, it's probably one of the more enjoyable ones I've read --perhaps because it's a one-off that Pratchett can wind up as he sees fit. The theme of tradition versus progress and blind dogma versus actually thinking things through are ones that the author has a lot of fun with, noting through one of his characters that "Mere animals couldn't possibly manage to act like this. You need to be a human being to be really stupid."

In fact, Pyramids is one of the more quotable Diskworld books that I've read, and Pratchett's wit and ability to turn a phrase are fully on display once again. I particularly like his knack for amusing similes, like this one:

All a camel has got is a pair of industrial-strength lungs and a voice like a herd of donkeys being chainsawed.

Or this one:

I knew the two of you would get along like a house on fire. Screams, flames, people running for safety...

And, of course, there's self-depracating lines like this one, which lie sprinkled throughout every one of his works:

There was not a lot that could be done to make Morpork a worse place. A direct hit by a meteorite, for example, would count as gentrification.

So, big thumbs up from me. I enjoyed this one a lot, and if you want a good sample of the taste of the whole Diskworld series you could do a lot worse than Pyramids.

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22Dec/08Off

Week 256: Birthday, Sharing, and Revenge

The big event his week was that Mandy turned 2. On the one hand, I'm kind of shocked by this, since it seems we just brought her home the other day. On the other hand I'm not shocked, because she's been acting like a 2 year old for almost 6 months now, for better or worse. I actually kind of feel bad for her, since we had a big party for Sam's second birthday, but for Mandy we just kind of had her grandpa and Geralyn's godmother over. Curse of the second child, I guess. But I do like this picture and would like to dedicate it to her birthday.

There were presents and cake, though. Mandy caught on quickly and started tearing stuff open, but one of us would constantly have to run interference with Samantha to keep her from "helping" Mandy unwrap her presents. And this picture where Sam takes things to the next level by also helping Mandy play with her new toys encapsulates a lot about their relationship.

And as Mandy ages more and more, it does really seem like they are two different people, which I guess is convenient since they are. But here's a story by way of example of what I mean: The other day when it was like 15 degrees out I took both kids to the mall so that they could play on the big indoor playground they have there. You may question the judgment or sanity of a father who would willingly go to the mall on the weekend before Christmas just so his kids could climb all over some big plastic turtles, but I'm telling you, WE NEEDED TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.

Anyway, on our way out I told the girls that I'd get them a ridiculously enormous and overpriced cookie from one of those kiosks they have there --located, slyly enough, adjacent to the playground. I told them they could split one, so Sam started demanding that she get to pick the cookie. She. Nobody else. I let her choose some sugary confection covered in pink icing and sprinkles. This demand met, she moved on to her next: That she would get the bigger half. Again, she was adamant.

Once I had them strapped into the car, I split the cookie and despite my best efforts there was indeed a slightly larger half for Sam to snatch up. Mandy got the remainder while Sam began wolfing hers down as fast as she could in a spray of crumbs, sprinkles, and icing.

A moment after I pulled the car out into the congested traffic, I heard Mandy say "Here, Daddy." I looked over my shoulder to see that, unprompted, she had broken off a piece of her smaller half and was offering it to me. I love both my daughters dearly and equally (no smaller half there), but this is the kind of thing that Mandy does that just makes me melt. She has always been very generous and sharing, even given every opportunity to be the contrary.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that later that afternoon Mandy balanced out this Hallmark moment by taking the West Virginia piece from Sam's beloved 50 U.S. States puzzle and cramming it down an air conditioning vent like a giant continental sinkhole from which it could not be retrieved. But so what if it might very well have been petty revenge? She shared her cookie with me.

At any rate, happy birthday, Mandy!

Filed under: Parenting 4 Comments
22Dec/08Off

Book Review: Darkness at Noon

Darkness at Noon

Note: This is #63 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008.

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler is another attempt to balance out my literary diet with something from the classics buffet, and while I think it fits that bill I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more. Set in the late 1930s it's Yet Another Book About How Communism Sucks, featuring a retired (mostly by virtue of being jailed) revolutionary named Rubashov who is imprisoned and questioned about his activities as they relate to revolting against the rvolution that revolted from the revolting totalitarian regime of the turn of the century Russia. Well, presumably. Neither Russia nor communism are ever overtly mentioned, but the implications are pretty strong.

During his imprisonment Rubashov ponders his past life as a revolutionary, recalling how he betrayed and sentenced people to death in the service of his ideals and how he had to make so many hard choices for the greater good. He's also questioned about these decisions and moral quandries directly by his tormenters during scenes of interrogation and psychological manipulation --with which Ruboshov has personal experience on both sides. The book worked best for me as an examination of these kinds of sticky and morally vague intersections of big ideas and little people. If you have an ideal, what kinds of tragedies are acceptable in its defense and pursuit? There's also a lot of stuff in there about communism, democracy, individual versus group needs, and a lot of other similar themes.

Where the book didn't work so well for me was when it got bogged down in philosophical exploration of these topics through the literary technique of two talking heads. There would be long passages where Rubashov and his interrogators would engage in protracted philosophical sparring, each one making points and counter-points and it was easy to lose track of what was actually being discussed among all the abstractions and debate tactics. I suppose this was largely the point Koestler was trying to make in some ways, but the end result was that I got bored a lot. I much prefer the approach that some other authors have taken when dealing with largely the same topic: tell a story and illustrate the gist of your philosophy rather than delivering it in monologues and dialogues.

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19Dec/08Off

Book Review: More Information Than You Require

More Information Than You May Require

You may remember that comedian and minor TV personality John Hodgman recently wrote a parody of reference books called The Areas of My Expertise, which I reviewed. Hodgman's dry wit and ability to generate random and sublimely absurd claims made that book funny enough, so when he released his follow-up More Information Than You Require I grabbed it.

In just about every way, More Information is more of the same. Indeed, Hodgman even continues the page numbering from his prior book and claims that more volumes will follow, so that some day you will be able to combine them into some kind of Voltron-like omnibus full of jokes about hobos, mole men, and U.S. presidents with hooks for hands. The problem is, I feel like I've seen a lot of this before, and the freshness and absurdity of the first book is pretty worn off. As any carnival freak show owner who has spent too much time in one town will tell you, things get less absurd with repeat viewings. Hodgman even seems to be going back to the exact same well that he used to water his previous books. For example, instead of a list of 700 hobo names like in the first book, in More Information the author uses pretty much the same shtick to provide an exhaustive list of mole men names. And, like with the hobo names, that section is skim-worthy at best.

That's not to say that the book isn't funny in places. Hodgman's dry wit still hits hard on occasion, and I did laugh out loud more than a few times. Most of the jokes are hidden in the footnotes of the text, as well as 365 little dated inserts that he includes so that when you're done with the book you can use it as a "fact a day" daily calendar.

The problem is that this is all starting to feel a little worn thin at the elbows. I also grew to hate Hodgman's habit of switching to all capital letters SEEMINGLY AT RANDOM throughout the BOOK, which was funny once or twice, but generally JUST BROKE UP THE FLOW and was ANNOYING. I'd like to see him tackle something in a little different style rather than than what seems to me to be stream of consciousness and joke making that just throws everything against the walls to see what sticks.

Others doing the 52-in-52 thing this week:

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16Dec/08Off

Week 255: Ceiling Cat, Ninjas, and Numbers

It's funny how lies to your children can spin out of control. Most often for me it stems from making some kind of joke that I thought was funny, and when Sam ends up believing I just can't seem to stop. For example, I now have Sam solidly convinced that there is a cat who lives in our ceilings and watches over her constantly through little trap doors and knows when she's misbehaving. But he's quick and would disappear before you could see him if you glanced up looking for him. Ceiling Cat travels between houses and around the world through a series of "ceiling tubes" and reports back to both Santa AND Jesus on Sam's (mis)behavior. Now, whenever I see her glancing up at the ceiling I know to put my hands on my hips and start demanding to know what she's done.

This was born, of course, out of a popular Internet meme. Here's a picture:

I can only hope that nobody EVER holds this against me, and that it just makes me a fun-loving parent. That's going to be my excuse, anyway.

Mandy continues to speed along her road to development like a runaway truck with its brake lines cut. She has recently been perfecting her toddler ninja disappearing act, as we discovered when we took her to a chaotic "Breakfast with Santa" event at church the other day. Geralyn went to wait in line for tickets while I took Sam and Mandy into the crowded festivities. I had barely set Mandy down on the ground when she just literally disappeared right before my eyes. I'm not kidding. She could have made the illusion more complete only by throwing down a smoke bomb and dropping some caltrops. After some frantic searching I eventually found her standing over by Santa Clause and giving him a highly skeptical look. Perhaps she was contemplating putting a shuriken between his glue-on eyebrows, but I distracted her with a donut with red and green sprinkles. It's the traditional way to combat a ninja.

Sam is also developing along nicely. She wants to know all about letters and words, plus she's been counting and doing some basic addition and subtraction (though if she claims that three plus one is five, she will stick to her beliefs, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO so just give up). Ger says that the other day Sam asked her what the biggest number was. Predictably, the answer of "there is none" failed to satisfy Sam, who practically became belligerent in her demands to know the digit in question. Is it a thousand? A million? A bajillion? JUST TELL ME, MOMMY!

The funny thing is that I remember having this same exact conversation with MY mom when I was a kid. She told me that there are an infinite number of numbers, and that you could just keep counting forever. I remember thinking that if that was so that there MUST have been a point where people in white lab coats had dropped dead of exhaustion in their efforts to name all the numbers, and I wanted to know THAT point so that I could come up with the next number so that I would be famous and maybe they'd put me in the encyclopedia. Unfortunately the concept of scientific notation was beyond my ken, and not fully understanding my question (thanks in no small part to my inability to ask it clearly), my mom eventually just gave up and told me to go play with my Legos.

So in a way, it's kind of sweet that Sam gets to repeat my own, bitter disappointments and pin them on the ignorance of adults rather than her own limited understanding. Makes you all fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

Filed under: Parenting 2 Comments
12Dec/08Off

Book Review: The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury

Note: This is #61 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008.

After frolicking around in a fanciful series about the Napoleonic Wars with Dragons, I decided I needed to balance things out with something from the "classics" section. So I picked up William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, which is supposed to be well written or something. Spanning about 1900 to 1928, it tells the story of the Compsons, a family with deep Southern roots, but which is falling on hard times and whose pride is now suffering from self-inflicted wounds. The family patriarch is an alcoholic. One of the Compton brothers, Benjy, is severely mentally retarded while another, Quinten, is mentally unstable. The third brother Jason is mentally healthy, but a real jerk. And finally sister Caddy is sweet and loving, but sexually promiscuous to the point of scandal and unwanted pregnancy.

One of the things that makes The Sound and the Fury remarkable outside of being a period piece that allows the Compsons to stand in for many other fading families in the U.S. South during that time is its avant-garde structure. Each of the book's four sections follows one member of the story, and two of them are told in a dizzying stream of consciousness style. The fact that these two sections stream along with the abnormal minds of the mentally retarded and mentally ill brothers makes the book all the more challenging and impenetrable at times, since things bounce around in time and place to the point where you really have to study passages hard to keep track of what's going on.

In the end, I'd have to say I appreciated The Sound and the Fury but I didn't enjoy it at all. This is obviously the work of a master, and you can see the skill and effort that went into constructing this elaborate work. There's also a lot of symbolism, allegory, and commentary going on in the work, and that stuff is hard to do subtly. But in the end the story told by the book is both too uninteresting and too difficult to pull out to make it actually enjoyable, and the rest of the rewards are too difficult to separate from the style to appreciate. For me The Sound and the Fury mattered most as an experience and a visit to a historic sign post on the literary landscape --a suffocating plunge into the stream of consciousness, unreliable narrator, and multiple narrative styles that became all the rage in the early to mid 20th century.

Finally, I'll address a post script to anyone who has ever told me that reading audiobooks is a poor substitute for reading print: this is one of the few works where I think you're right. The printed version of The Sound and the Fury would be challenging enough, but the audiobook version I listened to was often an impenetrable literary block upon which I couldn't find any purchase. This is the kind of book where you NEED to be able to re-read sections and flip back and forth to appreciate how the different points of view fit together or, more importantly, how they don't. This just isn't something you can do with audio.

Others doing the 52-in-52 thing this week:

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9Dec/08Off

Week 254

Another busy week, so mostly just pictures this time around. This last weekend we all went to this Christmas tree decoration exhibit set up to benefit some sick kids or something. Here's a parenting pro tip: taking two young children where you have to constantly shout "NO TOUCHING! NO TOUCHING!" isn't really a whole lot of fun for anyone. Still, some nice photo ops. Also included are some pictures of Sam singing some Christmas songs with her Sunday school group. Unfortunately, she was much more subdued than she was the last time I saw her in such a performance.

Filed under: Parenting 1 Comment
7Dec/08Off

Making cookies with Aunt Shawn

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my sister Shawn came in town and spent some quality time with her neices. This included making a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which the kids loved and of which I took a ton of pictures. Here's some.















Also, the cookies were delicious.

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5Dec/08Off

Book Review: Brave New World

Brave New World

Note: This is #60 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge for 2008.

As far as future utopia-slash-dystopia novels, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is probably one of the better known, as well as the template upon which subsequent entries into that genre were built. The idea is that there is one world government that literally custom builds all its citizens through a combination of genetic engineering, cloning, and psychological conditioning. You've got your Alpha class at the top of the chain, comprised of people who were allowed to develop fully and normally during their artificial gestation. Then you've got Betas, Gammas, and Epsilons, all of whom represent increasing degrees of retardation in that developmental process, such that those at the bottom are essentially simpletons. But everybody, even the Epsilons, is happy to be who they are, thanks to liberal applications of modern psychology. Society is built around a combination of recreation and extreme consumerism, such that when you're not working you're supposed to be (indeed compelled to be) out socializing, shopping, or popping a few pills of a drug called "soma" which will take you on a guilt-free holiday. Solitary activities are abhorrent, and in a curious inversion of values sexual promiscuity is the norm and monogamy is considered lurid and vile.

For a book published in 1932, Brave New World contains a lot of impressive foresight, especially around themes like specialization in the workplace, sacrificing individuality for the common good, and consumerism as a way of life. Supposedly the book was written in response to what Huxley saw in a visit to America during that time frame, and it's not hard to see why. He paints a pretty interesting world here, and later on in the story when he brings another outsider into it things get all the more bizarre. I liked seeing where things went when some of these themes were taken to their logical extremes, and it was a fun ride.

The only thing that really kind of annoyed me were a few absurdities that were just a bit too much to swallow. The biggest example of this would probably be how Henry Ford, who popularized assembly line mass production, is turned into a deity in this society, basically taking the place of Christ as the savior of mankind. Everyone uses "Ford!" as a exclamation, uses honorifics like "His Fordship" and even takes things so far as to conflate Ford with Freud when discussing matters of the psyche. It's a bit much, and was the part of the entire concept that really stuck out and didn't work for me.

Otherwise, Brave New World is a quick and thought-provoking read. If you weren't forced to read it back in high school, give it a try.

Others doing the 52-in-52 thing this week:

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3Dec/08Off

Week 253: Religion, Illness, and Wishes

Mandy seems to like books as much as her big sister ever did, but while Sam's interests always ran to dinosours, princesses, and the 50 US states (no, I'm not kidding), Mandy's three favorite books seem to be, in order, the following:

  1. Geralyn's old first communion book
  2. A Gideon's Bible featuring the New Testament
  3. An illustrated book of Bible stories

Indeed, Mandy seems to cling to these collections of good Words whenever she is distressed. The other night after we all got home from the restaurant, Mandy positioned herself in the middle of the kitchen and announced that she just might have contracted some kind of slight illness by vomiting copiously all over the hardwood floors. Things went downhill from there, and soon she was bawling her eyes out, clinging to Geralyn's arm, and screaming "I WANT MY JESUS BOOK! I WANT MY JESUS BOOK!" as if it were the only thing that could bring her succor in her time of tribulation.

(Personally, I think the reasons for her preferences have more to do with how the shape and size of the books make them easy for her to hold and less to do with theology, but who knows --maybe she'll be the first female Pope and I'll finally get my revenge on that jerk who wouldn't let us into the Sistene Chapel while we were wearing shorts.)

So, what else? Thanksgiving was last week, wasn't it? My mom and sister both came in town to spend it here with us, which was great. This meant that they got to read that 50 States book to Sam about a billion times and I didn't, so that's also great. I took a few days off work to spend at home with the family, but by Sunday afternoon I was seriously ready to get back to work so I could get some rest.

Instead, we put up Christmas decorations. Sam has been busily perusing the many catalogues that come to us in the mail, and has compiled the following holiday wish list:

  • A Barbie (I'm pretty sure my mother suggested this, just to annoy me, since Sam couldn't even explain what a Barbie was when I asked her)
  • Something with Play Dough
  • A Pretty pink pony on a motorcycle (your guess is as good as mine)

So there you go.

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