7. The Princess and the Goblin
by George MacDonald - I actually "read" this as an audiobook. I downloaded the audiobook from LibriVox
, which I will describe further at the end of this post.
But to describe/review this book . . . George MacDonald wrote fairy stories, seasoned but not coated with Christianity. Considered by genre definitions, they are not, strictly speaking, allegories, but they contain much which can easily be read allegorically. They can also be read simply as entertaining adventures/fairy tales. In this one (and I find it interesting that this sort of thing most frequently pops up in fantasy written by Christians
(at least, if you look back that far)) although there is a princess and she is in danger from the goblins, and there is a plucky young hero who opposes them, she does not wait passively for him to save her behind. In fact, at least once (and possibly twice, I don't recall right now) she saves his
A fun story, if you enjoy fairy tales at all. For those who don't know, by the way, George MacDonald was a favorite author and major influence on both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (and is partially responsible for Lewis's return to Christianity.
8. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
by Terry Pratchett - Although it doesn't involve any of the recurring characters (except of course, Death) this book takes place on the Discworld. If you're not familiar with Terry Pratchett's writing, the Discworld is a British humor parody of the fantasy genre as a whole . . . well, it started out just as that; I don't think that summary does it justice any longer . . . anywho.
This is the story of a cat and a group of rats who through a magical accident became intelligent. Along with the help of a young boy who likes to play music, they work together to run a "rat piper" scam in various towns they travel through. At least, that's how things stand until they reach Bad Blintz. Here they find something truly terrible that transforms all of them. (They also meet a girl named Malicia Grim, a grand-daughter of the Grim sisters, writers of some disturbingly gory fairy tales (much like most fairy tales were before Disney got ahold of them) but I don't know if I want to describe characters in depth right now.)
If read attentively, this is a surprisingly deep book. It's an adventure story with talking animals, yes; but it's also a story about how community and morality are formed, what it means to be a leader, and why widdling on someone's grave isn't necessarily a bad thing. While I certainly think this book is worthy of awards, I'm amazed that it got a Carnegie Medal for children's books. Pratchett is almost always funny, but this is also a dark and occasionally disturbing book. . . . All that to say, highly recommended.
Books I didn't finish:The Gone Away World
by Nick Harkaway - As I said, recommended by Sam solely on the basis of a recommendation by a famous librarian lady whose name I'm not sure of right now (but I know she has an action figure. (No, I'm not kidding.)) All I can really say is that I just never got into it. I read about 20 pages, and that was enough. I can't say it's bad
as in poorly done, but just not to my taste.The Book of Snobs
by William Makepeace Thackeray - An odd book of social satire on the various snobs of 19th century British society, including snobs clerical, academic, literary, Irish snobs, club snobs, country snobs. It's kind of an odd experience, because I found this really funny sometimes, but it's a very intellectual humor, because I obviously don't have real experience with the society he's satirizing.
Unfortunately, I lost this book one afternoon while shopping at Wal-Mart when I was nearly done. . . . Ah well.
Books I'm currently reading:Poisons: From Hemlock to Botox and the Killer Bean of Calabar
by Peter Maginnis - I'm reading this as research for a writing project I'm working on. It's both a history and popular science work about poisons of all kinds and various uses people have put them to over the centuries, including medical, cosmetic, and as a food additive. (No, that last part wasn't a mistake: A form of lead was frequently added to various foods as a sweetener.)
This book has a lot of interesting information, but it occasionally seems over-written. The author is sometimes intrusively clever, or goes off on unrelated tangents. One thing I will say, I'm aware the agency is not perfect, but reading this has made me immensely grateful for the Food and Drug Administration.Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville - Another LibriVox audiobook. Tocqueville was an amazingly insightful historian/social scientist of the nineteenth century. Most of what I knew about him before starting this book is that Tocqueville, writing in 1840, predicted that the world would before long be dominated by two major powers: America and Russia. To those lacking a sense of history, this prediction may not seem remarkable, but at the time, people must have looked thought him insane. Both countries were considered insignificant backwaters.
The writing (and translation, to give due credit) is wonderful. Tocqueville takes a very sweeping view of history, almost Marxist in seeing a natural and inevitable progression of all cultures towards equality (not in his economic views as far as I know.) Anywho, very interesting.
And now to clarify something I mentioned some time ago: LibriVox
is a group of people creating free audiobooks of various works in the public domain. Any or all of the LibriVox catalog can be downloaded entirely for free. The really interesting part is this: This work is done entirely by volunteers, and anyone with a microphone and some basic sound editing software is free to join in and record. Being the kind of person who loves to be in the spotlight whenever possible, I immediately jumped in and started recording. For those of you who are interested, my own contributions can be heard here
. If you decide to record something yourself, let me know. I'd like to hear it.