Summer 2017 Books/Films

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters
By Tom Nichols HM851.N54 2017

Very enjoyable book about how younger people are so terrible! Just kidding! This book looks at how faith in experts has eroded with particular emphasis on the academy and, for lack of a better word, “wiki-culture”. I’d really recommend this for anyone who A) works as a teacher or educator and B) anyone who is a student and C) is in anyway tangentially related to education…meaning that everyone at Hudson County Community College should read this.

The Devil is A Part-Timer! By Satoshi Wagahara PN6790.J34H379513 2015 V.1

Used by the Library’s book club in Spring 2017, this is the first in a series of Manga about The Devil (or some ultimate evil, but maybe not the Christian approximation of the Devil) and his adventures in the mortal realms. As the title suggests the Devil gets a part-time job and contends with the day-to-day rigmarole teens/young adults experience. This also exists as a pleasing anime.

Arrival Directed by Denis Villeneuve PN1997.2.A674 2017 (DVD)

Not since E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial have I wept at a movie about aliens (I was also a wee lad when I saw E.T.). It’s not the aliens themselves that made me weep, but rather the humans and some of their shenanigans. The premise of the movie is that aliens arrive on earth and then human governments freak out in different, slightly jingoistic, ways. I would recommend this to anyone, even people who don’t like sci-fi or spaceships or whatsits. //jms//

Some Summer Books

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson PS3568.O2893A14 2013

I really enjoyed the first 200 pages of this book, but got a smidge frustrated around page 201 and read the Wikipedia entry and thus ruined the rest of the book for myself.  The story involves space colonization in the year 2312 and the way the environment of Earth has been altered and made less hospitable to humans.  It’s a long work and I, you know, blew it.  Don’t use Wikipedia is the take away here.(Editors Note: There are 576 pages in this book). /JMS/

God Knows by Joseph Heller PS3558.E476G58 1984

I again read the Wikipedia entry for this book (not pictured, because there’s no dust jacket on our copy) but that wasn’t the problem this time.  Joseph Heller is the best, but the story of David, you know, the David of David and Goliath fame, is well known to anyone from the Abrahamic traditions so I got bored knowing approximately what was going to happen.  Now Heller is a good writer (maybe the best, behind Kurt Vonnegut) and the story is contemporized in a really unique way, but again I got frustrated with the familiarity of the major story points.  I’ve tried reading this book a few times.  Maybe I’ll succeed in the future. /JMS/

MammothHow to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro QL88.S49 2015

I’m interested in mammoth (and mastodon and other megafauna) so I was expecting to breeze through this book.  I got about half-way through and then skipped around to various sections to read about the ethics and scientific basis for cloning.  It’s fascinating to consider the environmental benefits of resurrecting extinct beasts and the moral quandaries that arise therefore, but again, I got bored.  I tried to read the whole thing but really only wanted to consider the elements of the topic I’m interested in.  So, that’s what I did.  I guess I didn’t fail, per se, because I took a lot away from this work.  My suggestion is to read this and then watch any movies from the Jurassic Park franchise.  Maybe Jurassic World, that’s relatively new. /JMS/

Winter 2016 Books

LakhousClash of Civilizations Over An Elevator In Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous PQ4912.A34 S3613 2008

The narrative framework of this book is very interesting and well suited to a filmic adaptation, which has apparently happened!  Not unlike Rashomon it has a number of narrators telling their version of a story with different perspectives (various immigrants living in Rome).  I was excited to read this and couldn’t put it down, though it took me several dozen pages to get my bearings.  The story of globalization writ small and one of two books from the Library Book Club: Fall Season./JMS/

StringerGrand Central Winter by Lee Stringer HV4506.N6S77 1998

I read another book by Lee Stringer in the ‘90’s or 2000’s wherein he and Kurt Vonnegut (who wrote the intro for this book) interviewed each other.  Man was that great, but I wasn’t about to read a book without Vonnegut as the main writer or co-writer.  Have I ever been more wrong?  This book is so interesting and gives the reader a real insight into the lives of the homeless in NYC, as Stringer was (is?).  Become familiar with a disenfranchised part of society, everyone. /JMS/

al-TahawyBrooklyn Heights by Miral al-Tahawy PJ7864.A3568B7613 2014

I thought I was going to like this book more than I did.  It has many of the elements that could make me like it.  An Egyptian woman narrates her experiences in Brooklyn as she walks around neighborhoods and interacts with other immigrants and locals.  Maybe you’ll like it though?  Check it out and tell me what you thought.  The second of two books from the Library Book Club: Fall Season./JMS/

Summer 2015 Books


coatesBetween The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates E185.615.C6335 2015

Ho-boy this book is good.  It’s also the most depressing and insightful indictment of race relations in America.  This work is framed as a letter from Ta-Nehisi Coates to his teenage son and advises him of the perils facing African Americans in the 21st century.  This should be categorized as philosophy, that’s how important a work I think it is.  /JMS/

lispectorThe Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector PQ9697.L585P313 1988I can tell you the entire plot of this book in one sentence, but that would ruin the excitement of discovering it for yourself.  I write that caveat because every review of this book spills the beans  and reveals the plot.  So, I won’t do that, and towards that end, PLEASE don’t read any other reviews of this book.  The plot is really besides the point here and the journey is more of an inward exploration of character and, ummm, depression or regret, I guess.  This has a lot in common, in some ways, with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.  NOT TO GIVE ANYTHING AWAY!    /JMS/

jeffersThe Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers by Robinson Jeffers PS3519.E27A6 2001This is a fascinating collection of poems by Jeffers focusing largely on the natural environment of California.  It’s sort of bleached-bone aesthetic while somehow still remaining lush.  I guess, it’s sort of macho and evocative of a western environment that doesn’t exist anymore.  Not western like with a capital W, like cowboys, but more an intersection between the Pacific and the continent.  The Dark Mountain Project got their name from a Jeffers’ poem, read about that here.  /JMS/


The Fog of War

KafkaKafka by Robert Crumb & David Zane Mairowitz PT2621.A26 Z6374 2007I’ve recently been interested in Franz Kafka, I wish I could remember why, but this oppressive bureaucracy is crushing my spirit (get it!).  This graphic novel paints a picture of Kafka as a depressed, self-hating, tortured artist evidenced through his literary works.  The idea of the tortured artist may originate with Kafka (and Camus), but it’s almost cliche to keep reading about his psyche (and eastern Europe) rather than grapple with his writings.  Nonetheless, this is a fascinating look at Kafka and his works, particularly all the stories I haven’t read (most of them). Also, Robert Crumb’s involvement is always a bonus and his artwork is always top-notch. /JMS/
Why You Should Read KafkaWhy You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life by James Hawes PT2621.A26 Z746214 2008Naturally, I read another book about Kafka that dispelled all the rumors about him as a depressed loner (see above).  This work indicates that Kafka had a pretty privileged upbringing with a rather normal (for the time) relationship to his parents.  This should free us, as readers, to put aside the myth of Kafka and just appreciate his oeuvre.  That said, it’s fun to believe the myth, right?  The tortured artist!  The thinly veiled autobiographical details in his stories!  Etc.!  /JMS/
dispatchesDispatches by Michael Herr DS559.5.H47 1991And speaking of myths, here is an interesting first hand account of the Vietnam War!  The Vietnam War is probably the least well known war that the U.S. has been involved in despite being in the last half of the 20th century.  It’s sort of a near-afar type situation.  I think most middle school social studies programs start at the Roman Empire and end with the JFK administration, thus ignoring a great swath of the war.  Anyway, this is a pretty interesting account, although it takes a while to get used to the 1960s jargon the author uses.  What is particularly interesting is how the soldier’s the author interacted with felt about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Pretty revelatory stuff! /JMS/


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