Year 8, Book 68

68. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III

I picked up an advanced reader’s copy of this book at the American Library Association conference. Had I at all realized before reading it that the book was really a book of short stories I would not have read it. I just don’t care for short stories. I always want the story to be developed more. The stories are sort of linked, but only in the most tenuous of ways in that each of the stories contains at least one mention of a character from another story, but really it’s a throwaway linkage because it usually is just a one sentence mention that has no bearing on what is happening in any particular story. They are really completely separate and it kind of bugged me that the author even tried to pretend that the stories were linked.

As one may guess from the title of the book all the stories are about flawed love. Dubus is a gifted writer and he does write this book well, but given the nature of the book who just wasn’t for me. People who are more inclined to like short stories would probably like this book quite a bit. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 67

67. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store was a delightful little book. I know I’m going to do a horrible job of trying to explain what it was about, so don’t let that deter you from reading it. The protagonist Clay has recently lost his job designing web sites and finds himself working the overnight shift at the titular book store. He comes to realize that aside from a few shelves of popular books the store is stocked with mysterious tomes that strange people come and check out like they’re in a library rather than a book store. Clay begins to wonder what the secret is behind these books and begins investigating them and the secret society he finds behind them along with some old friends and a new girlfriend who works at Google. They bring the world of technology and ancient books together to try and solve the great mysteries of life. It sounds like a strange little book, but I was totally engrossed in it while I was reading it. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 66

66. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

This book obviously got a lot of press recently based on the crazy interview on Fox News with the author. I actually read the book before all that happened as I had an advanced reader’s copy of it. I actually took a course in college on the historical Jesus, so I was curious to see what this book had to say based on what I had already learned. This book is definitely less of a scholarly book and more a book meant for non-academics to read. Aslan provides lengthy notes in the back of the book, but they aren’t footnoted in the text. It definitely makes it a more reader friendly book, but also makes it less scholarly. I did look through the notes though and many of the sources he was citing were the same ones I studies during my course.

I can see why highly conservative Christians could get offended by this book, but they would likely also be offended by Aslan’s source material if they bothered to read it as well. I didn’t find that he presented any horribly radical ideas that differed from what I had read in the past. He did go step beyond looking at the historical Jesus and continued looking at the development of Christianity after Jesus’ death. I actually found the stuff he had to say about Peter and Paul much more controversial than anything he had to say about Jesus himself as this book was the first I had read about any of those theories.

It’s an ok book on the subject. Definitely a decent choice if you want to read something on the historical Jesus that is presented in an easy to read manner. If I could steer you towards a book though, I would recommend A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier. It’s a more scholarly and thus more difficult read, but it’s still the best book I’ve read on the subject.

I give this book a 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 65

65. The Atlas of New Librarianship by David R. Lankes

The author of this book recently taught a massive open online course with this book as the central textbook. I started the MOOC, but only made it about halfway through before busyness with life and work caused me to drop out since finishing it was at the bottom of my priority list. I did stay in the course long enough to complete the reading assignments in this book though. The book centers around Lankes idea that librarians need to evolve from dealing with many of the things that have been historically envisioned as librarianship to adopt a new mission statement “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities”.

It’s a very theoretical book, but it does have a lot of food for thought. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has to say, but I definitely think the book can be the basis for some great conversations and encouragement to really think about what our mission should be. I do like that he comes at the issue in reference to librarians and not libraries. Though library buildings are still important I think it’s good to note that the building is not necessarily what makes the library what it is. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 64

64. Copyright Questions and Answers for Information Professionals: From the Columns of Against the Grain by Laura N. Gasaway

I received a free copy of this book at this year’s American Libraries Association conference from the Copyright Clearance Center. The book is a compilation of columns previously published in the journal Against the Grain. They are presented in simple question and answer format so there is no through narrative in the book though the columns are grouped in chapters according to subject. Obviously this book is aimed at a very narrow audience. Since copyright is part of my job and I’m a little bit of a copyright nerd I found it to be a useful read, but I’m guessing there are very few people out there who would be interested in this particular book.

Year 8, Book 63

63. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

The title really does give a good indication of what this book is about. Each chapter focuses on a particular poison talking about why it is poisonous, how it is detected, and telling stories of cases where people were poisoned by it specifically during the 1920s and 1930s in New York. There is also a much larger overarching story involving the change from the coroner’s position being an appointed official usually a crony of whatever mayor was in office to a position actually requiring a medical degree and qualifications to obtain. Because of the time period there is also a lot of focus on prohibition and the poisons that people were drinking in the absence of legal alcohol. I read it for one of my book clubs and we had a really interesting and engaging discussion surrounding the book. I really enjoyed it and found it to be both educational and an entertaining read. I would recommend it. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 62

62. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

My bible study used this book along with the available DVD and workbook to do a 14 week study. The workbook had a lot of questions in it so it usually took us 2 weeks to cover one chapter. It led to a lot of good discussion in our group about why we don’t focus on the Holy Spirit, what we’re afraid of, and how we can allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Chan provides lots of good examples. I’m not sure the DVD was necessary, and I get kind of annoyed at these books that want to sell you all kinds of accompanying material for a steep price. I thought the workbook was a good addition though and think we got a lot more out of the book because of it. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 8, Books 60 and 61

60. Divergent by Veronica Roth

61. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Divergent and Insurgent are the first two books in a trilogy that seems to be the newest craze for fans of the Hunger Games trilogy. Sadly, the Divergent series is nowhere near as good as the Hunger Games. I’m going to review the two books I’ve read in the series (the third is due out in October I believe) together since I read them back to back and it will be hard to separate my reviews out to the individual books.

Divergent is yet another dystopian future book that seems to be all the rage in young adult books these days. It takes place in Chicago at some point after some horrible world wide atrocities left society broken down into five factions (Candor, Abegnation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite). I made a joke on Twitter saying that I suspected this series is what came out of someone betting the author she couldn’t write a series based on SAT words. Seriously these kids are going to be set if any of these words show up on their SATs. At the age of sixteen each teenager is required to take a test that will demonstrate their aptitude towards one of these factions and then decide based on the results whether they wish to remain in the faction they were born into with their families or transfer to a different faction and essentially be cut off from their families forever. The whole testing thing never made sense to me because as far as I could tell the kids could choose whatever faction they wanted regardless of test results or what faction they were born into. The testing simulations play a big part in the rest of the plot so I get why the author needed them, but the way they are introduced really makes no sense.

Enter into this world our plucky heroine Tris (short for Beatrice) who finds during her testing that she is Divergent, meaning she shows aptitude for more than one faction, which shouldn’t happen. All she knows when she chooses to leave her birth faction of Abegnation and transfer to Dauntless is that being Divergent is considered a bad thing and that she needs to keep it a secret, but she doesn’t really know what it means or why it’s such a big deal. The first book is essentially about her trials in becoming part of the Dauntless faction and at the end finding out why being Divergent is a big deal. The plot behind that is essentially what happens during Insurgent.

This series really didn’t do a whole lot for me. I kind of forced my way through them because of all the talk about them, but they don’t even come anywhere close to compelling read that the Hunger Games was. I’m not sure that I’ll even bother reading the third book in the series when it comes out. I give them a 5 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 59

59. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Written by the same author who wrote the much acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire continues the story of female pilots in WWII. Some of the characters from Code Name Verity appear in this book tangentially to the main story so it provides a nice little through plot and update on those characters lives for people who read the previous book. Mostly though this book centers around Rose, whose plane goes down and who is subsequently captured by the Nazis and sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The book, which is written as journal entries, mostly focuses on Rose’s time in the concentration camp. I have read many books both fiction and non-fiction about concentration camps, and I didn’t feel like this book really offered anything new or special to the field. As it’s a young adult book, many of the readers it’s aimed at probably will have much less knowledge about concentration camps going in than I did, so they will probably get more out of it. However, I think there are many other superior books out there on the topic that would be better for them to read than this one. It’s not a bad book, but all the same I don’t think it’s anywhere near the best book on this subject. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 8, Book 58

58. Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron

Lori Duron is the mother to two little boys. Her older son Chase is a stereotypical boy, but her younger son C.J. from a young age starting expressing an interest for activities, toys, clothes, and colors typically more associated with girls. In this book she shares the joys and struggles of raising her gender non-conforming son. She writes a blog of the same name, which I have never read. I’m guessing there is a lot of content overlap though.

I thought it was a wonderful book that did a good job of answering the questions people might have while asserting that they are raising their son to be happy and loved for who he is while trying to make sure that they are not just pigeon-holing him based on his preferences as a young child. Duron does explores how the whole family is affected including the difficulties faced by their older son because of his little brother. I’m sure it will be a great resource for other parents with kids who are gender non-conforming. I give it a 7 out of 10.