The Numbers

DATE: 4/29/16

Titles Finished Totals:

  • Books: 964
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 36

Total for 2016 so far: 53 titles (including Early Review and fun books).

All titles left to go: 4,648

Next count: 5/31/2016

Arab and Jew

Shipler, David K. Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land. Read by Robert Blumenfeld. New York: Blackstone Audio, 2003.

Reason read: May is the most beautiful time of the year to visit the middle east…or so I have heard.

This is the history of the relationship between Arab and Jew. Shipler painstakingly traces the prejudice back to its origin and examines the cultural, religious, and socioeconomic divide that has existed ever since. Shipler’s reporting is exemplary. He is unbiased but obviously very concerned about the everyday ordinary people just trying to survive in this land of unrest. Shipler’s voice is at once delicate and forthright in his descriptions and details involving terrorism, nationalism, and political conflict. He refers frequently to information he has collected from textbooks of various grade levels to demonstrate the education & “miseducation” of middle eastern children.

Probably the most disturbing section (for me) was about sexual attitudes, especially those surrounding rape.

Quotes that caught my attention, “Battle has its thrills as well as its regrets” and “Too much hope seems doused in blood.” Because I am listening to this on (22!) CDs I have no idea what actual page these quotes are on.

Book trivia: I listened to an unabridged and revised edition of Arab and Jew. This was also made into a movie in 1989.

Author fact: Shipler won a Pulitzer for Arab and Jew in 1987.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the vague chapter called “The Middle East” (p 154).

Brilliant Orange

Winner, David. Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. New York: Overlook Press,2002.

Reason read: Holland celebrates its tulips in May with a big festival.

I didn’t know anything about dutch football (soccer) before reading this book. I have to admit I was a little worried I would be bored because, to be honest, I didn’t know anything about soccer period. It’s a sport I never played as a kid or watched as an adult.*

*As an aside, I just watched a documentary on Serbia soccer. Call me crazy but I don’t think the Dutch have anything on the Serbs when it comes to fanaticism.

ESPN had it right when they said on the back cover of Brilliant Orange, “you like soccer, you don’t like soccer, it doesn’t matter.” It’s true. Hate, indifference, like or love. No matter which way, this is an enjoyable read. Winner definitely knows his material and isn’t dry in his delivery. He could write about the science of flies on fly paper and I would probably browse it. Be prepared to learn a lot about soccer/football. Be pleasantly surprised by everything else you learn. Among other things, Winner compares soccer to ballet in its artistry. He makes comparisons to politics. He sees similarities with architecture, society, humanity.
Interesting points to mention – a paranormal expert thought the Dutch football team always lost because there was a problem with the team color of orange. Another “expert” blamed it on a deep seeded mistrust of authority so they couldn’t obey the refs.

Quotes to quote, “To play in a beautiful attacking way has become the Eleventh Commandment for the Dutch” (p 145),

Author fact: Winner likes soccer. He also wrote about the history of English soccer.

Book trivia: It would have been really cool to have pictures of the football teams or at least one of the sport’s hero, Johan Cruyff.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the cheesy chapter called “Hollandays” (p 96).

Perks of Being a Wallflower

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Gallery Books, 1999.

Reason read: May is considered “Birds and Bees Month” and oddly enough (or coincidentally?), some schools chose to teach their sex ed at this time. Spring is the time for renewal!

This is one of those books you can read cover to cover on a rainy afternoon but be forewarned, once you hit the last page you will flip back to page one and start all over again. At least I wanted to…Even though this was, “best for teens” as Nancy Pearl says, I loved it.
Charlie is a typical shy teenager on the eve of his first day as a freshman in high school. With a strong desire to unburden his life he’s writing letters, diary style, to an unknown person he has chosen out of the phone book. Why he writes these letters we’ll never know, but what emerges is a portrait of a sensitive kid just trying to make it in the world. Like a diary we are privy to his coming of age, his intellectual growth, his emerging personality. As I got to know Charlie better and better I found myself constantly sucking in my breath, willing him to not get hurt. I came to care about him that much. Even though the ending is a clear as an oncoming rain storm I didn’t want to believe in its terrible beauty.

Lines to mention, “Then, I turned and walked to my room and closed the door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be” (p 26), “So I guess Zen is a day like this when you are part of the air and remember things” (p 43), and the sentence that sums up Charlie the best, “I was just quiet and I watched him” (p 60). Typical wallflower behavior.

As an aside: Every book that Bill asks Charlie to read is a favorite of mine and when Charlie makes Patrick the mixed tape I knew every song (except I though he could have added more. Who ever heard of a mixed tape with only 13 songs?)

Author fact: Chbosky also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of rent.

Book trivia: Perks was made into a movie which I haven’t seen…yet.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23)

Two Towns in Provence

Fisher, MFK. Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

Reason read: to finish the collection started in April in honor of Paris.

Two Towns in Provence contains two shorter geographical portraits, Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town. Confessional: I read them backwards: I thought Considerable Town was first until I received Two Towns in Provence.
There is no doubt a love-hate story within the pages of Two Towns. Fisher’s connection to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille couldn’t be clearer. In Map of Another Town Fisher focuses on Aix-en-Provence, France’s capital. Her stories weave around her time bringing up two small daughters, renting an apartment, and observing people and their culture. She spends a fair amount of time having imaginary exchanges with the locals. Most striking were the lessons on society and class: no matter the level of distress a person should not accept help from someone of a lower class and getting a child vaccinated was a process.

Quotes I’d like to quote, “It pressed upon my skin like the cold body of someone unloved” (p 17), “I wrapped myself in my innocence” (p 125), and “He was a man of the same indescribably malnourished twisted non-age of all such physical jetsam being helped by government benevolence…” (p 200).

Author fact: Once I am attuned to a language I seem to latch onto it. Words like evil, dangerous, hell, shabby, grotesque, dirty, desolate…Fisher complains for a lot of Map of another Town. I don’t know what it was about her tone, but she came across as bitchy to me. Fisher seems uncomfortable with the sick or elderly, always hurrying away from the dying. She seems easily annoyed by those around her.

Book trivia: Map of Another Town has wonderful illustrations by Barbara Westman. In the midst of this coloring craze, I could see someone filling in the black and white drawings with a little color.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 187).

All the Rage

Moran, Martin. All the Rage: a Quest. New York: Beacon Press, 2016

Reason read: Early Review for LibraryThing

Wow. Am I glad I requested this book and actually received it. Wow. I’m glad I read it, too. There are layers and layers to All the Rage. You could call them onion-like because some layers will make you cry but there is more than just sadness: humor, beauty, sarcasm, wit, and yes, rage. Moran finds his mad. I read this from the perspective of not knowing Martin’s story. I didn’t read his 2005 memoir, knew nothing of the play and missed the headlines concerning him entirely.

It is one thing to come to terms with being a victim of any kind of abuse but it’s another to sort out the myriad of feelings connected to and as a result of that abuse during and more so, afterwards. If your abuse is a secret, you live in constant fear of being found out. If you are “out” you are constantly bombarded with doubts that you are dealing with it appropriately. That is exactly what Moran addresses in All the Rage. When people learn of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of an adult they all want to know why he isn’t more angry. Where is his outrage? Where is his fury? Moving back and forth from memory to present day Moran is able to piece together his coping mechanisms and to see how every emotion is part of the process.

Beautiful lines, “The vague smell of medical sadness hung in the air, the business of staying alive a little longer” (p 125).

Author fact: Broadway doesn’t comes to Western Massachusetts very often (unless you consider Tanglewood an equivalent), so I was unaware of Moran’s talent as an actor. I think I liked it better that way because I wasn’t distracted by celebrity status and could just concentrate on the writing.

Book trivia: Read the praise for All the Rage on the back cover and you still won’t know what the book is about. The only thing you will know is that you want to read it. Now.


Bold Spirit

Hunt, Linda Lawrence. Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America. Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 2003.

Reason read: I think it’s ironic that I am reading my first book in honor of Just ‘Cause the same year I chose not to participate. But, there you have it. Another irony is that this year Just ‘Cause is not doing their walk in May. It’s in June.

On May 5th 1896 Helga Estby and her daughter, Clara, embark on a cross country journey on foot to raise money for their impoverished family. Everything about this journey is fraught with risk. Consider the facts. First, her home life: Helga has nine children she must leave in the care of her out-of work-husband. As a Norwegian, this is a scandalous decision simply because women do not leave their families for anything. Second, the “scheme”: a wealthy yet unknown sponsor with ties to the fashion industry is offering a reward of $10,000 if Helga can walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City in seven months. Helga knows very little about this benefactor and the trip will be extremely dangerous. In addition, although this unknown sponsor wants to prove the physical endurance of women, she has a few rules.

  1. Helga and her daughter may only start out with $5 a piece. All other income must be earned along the way. [They end of selling photographs of themselves and doing odd chores.]
  2. They must visit each state’s capital.
  3. They must acquire the signature of prominent politicians
  4. Once arriving in Salt Lake City, must don a “reform costume” otherwise known as a bicycle skirt. This was an effort to display the latest fashion – a dress that was several inches shorter to give women “leg freedom” and was considered quite scandalous.
  5. They could not beg for anything – rides, food, or shelter.
  6. They could not pay for rides.
  7. They had to arrive in New York by early December.

This sets the stage for Hunt’s Bold Spirit but what emerges is a story about courage and commitment. Unfortunately, because Helga Estby and her family were so ashamed of her venture when it was all said and done, very little evidence of her walk was properly preserved. Most everything was willfully destroyed. As a result Hunt has to rely on speculation to fill in the gaps. Language like “they were likely”, “perhaps”, “it is possible”, probably”, and “they might have” pepper the entire book.

Book trivia: I like the design of this book a great deal. The photography is wonderful, too.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Walk Right In” (p 250).


Borgia, E. <Jordan: Past & Present: Petra, Jerash, Amman. Italy: Tipolitografica CS, 2001.

Reason read:

“We reconstruct lost memories to guide you into the past.”

Jordan: Past & Present is made up of three chapters, “Petra”, “Jerash” and “Amman – Philadelphia”. Each chapter outlines the plan of the city, historical data and an architectural  structure of interest (for my favorite, Petra, it was the theater and famous tombs). What makes this book so unique are the transparencies that cover current day photographs. The transparencies show what each city must have looked like, overlaying the current day photograph. It’s a unique blend of old and new that works very well.

Book trivia: I already mentioned the uniqueness of the transparencies.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Jordan” (p 119).


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