Friday, August 15, 2008

On My "To Be Read" Pile

I've finished the excellent Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, which were recommended to me by John Sherck (thanks, John). I've finally started Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which had sat on my "to be read" pile of books for an extended period of time after I'd read a positive review of it on John's blog. I have to say that this one is more of a slow read, largely because of the old fashioned writing style. I'm only a short ways into the book, however, and I'm willing to give it a chance to pick up.

I've not posted any booklists in quite some time, so what follows is a list of books on my current "to be read" list.

The first two books, unsurprisingly, come from reviews on John Sherck's blog. I've done well with books he's recommended to me in the past, so I consider him a good source of reading ideas.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Click on the links to go to John's blog to read more about these books.

Another source of reading ideas for me is Alternet. The books below were featured in articles on that site. The descriptions of each book come from Good Reads

Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politicsby Dagmar Herzog

There is a war on sex in America—and conservative evangelicals are winning. Only three decades after the legalization of abortion, the broad gains of the feminist movement, and the emergence of the gay rights movement, America has gone frigid.

Republicans—and even many Democrats—insist that abstinence is the only acceptable form of birth control, and fully 50 percent of American high schools teach a “sex education” curriculum that includes deceptive information about the prevalence of STDs and the failure rate of condoms. Students are taught that homosexuality is curable, and that pornography is addictive.

Americans are not anti-sex, but they’re increasingly anxious about sex—largely due to the tactics of the Religious Right. Afraid of sounding unelectable, American liberals have failed to challenge its retrograde orthodoxy. We are all evangelicals now.

How has the Religious Right achieved this ascendancy? Surprisingly, argues Dagmar Herzog in Sex in Crisis, Evangelicals have appropriated the lessons of the first sexual revolution far more effectively than liberals. With the support of a billion-dollar Christian sex industry, evangelicals have crafted an astonishingly graphic and effective pitch for the pleasures of “hot monogamy”—for married, heterosexual couples only, of course. This potent message has enabled them to win elections and seduce souls, with disastrous political consequences.

Fierce, witty, and brilliant, Sex in Crisis will force America to confront its national sexual dysfunction—and rally all but the most pious hot monogamists to demand a more sophisticated national conversation about the facts of life.

Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio: America's Ten Worst Hate Talkers and the Progressive Alternatives
by Rory O'Connor

The highly politicized and often factually challenged world of talk radio dominates a sizable portion of America’s airwaves. But the dirty secret of talk radio’s success is the use of hate speech masquerading as free speech. In this book, Rory O’Connor tackles the “hate talk establishment” and shows how huge media conglomerates not only make hate talk possible but make it enormously profitable.

He profiles the country’s ten worst shock jocks, including Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage, and describes how they use the guise of “not being politically correct” to ratchet up their anti-gay, anti-woman, and overtly racist language. He then shows how their celebrity leads to a climate that not only tolerates but actually perpetuates racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic attitudes — making America a coarser, more dangerous place. A survey of the small but growing universe of progressive talk radio offers a respite from the verbal violence.

Considering how much I monitor right-wing talk show host, Neal Boortz, I thought this book might be interesting.

I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage by Susan Squire

A provocative survey of marriage and what it has meant for society, politics, religion, and the home.

For ten thousand years, marriage—and the idea of marriage—has been at the very foundation of human society. In this provocative and ambitious book, Susan Squire unravels the turbulent history and many implications of our most basic institution. Starting with the discovery, long before recorded time, that sex leads to paternity (and hence to couplehood), and leading up to the dawn of the modern “love marriage,” Squire delves into the many ways men and women have come together and what the state of their unions has meant for history, society, and politics – especially the politics of the home.

This book is the product of thirteen years of intense research, but even more than the intellectual scope, what sets it apart is Squire’s voice and contrarian boldness. Learned, acerbic, opinionated, and funny, she draws on everything from Sumerian mythology to Renaissance theater to Victorian housewives’ manuals (sometimes all at the same time) to create a vivid, kaleidoscopic view of the many things marriage has been and meant. The result is a book to provoke and fascinate readers of all ideological stripes: feminists, traditionalists, conservatives, and progressives alike.

I didn't find the last book on Alternet, but rather on Amazon when I lookd up the previous book on marriage:

The Samaritan's Dilemma: Should Government Help Your Neighbor?
by Deborah Stone

For at least a generation, experts have warned us not to reach out to others. Too much help makes people passive and dependent, we are told, and self interest is the only motive that spurs people to work and contribute to society. Liberals and conservatives alike have endorsed this new moral code for government. The Samaritan’s Dilemma challenges this conventional wisdom. We are born needing help, we die needing help, and we live out our days getting and giving help. We live by everyday altruism. So when leaders define the ideal citizen as someone who pursues his self interest and withholds help from others, good people are repelled by politics.

1 comment:

KingOfAnkh said...

I've been reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 'on and off' for a while now, like you said, the archaic way it has been written does put me off although it does anchor the book in its era. I must say that the more you endure the less you seem to notice the way it's written because the tale itself ignites when Jonathan Strange enters the story.

Although I'm only about halfway, I recommend it so far.