Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 79-84

79) Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift Part 2 by Gene Luen Yang

The latest graphic novel showcasing the further adventures of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, and Zuko (though Zuko has so far been absent from this trilogy). Deeply interesting if you're a fan of Avatar and The Legend of Korra, but would undoubtably be baffling if you aren't.

80) Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel

A harrowing, heartbreaking book following several soldiers who served multiple deployments in Iraq as they struggle to reintegrate into society and cope with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and their impacts on their families and futures. I'm glad I read it, though a big part of me hated it.

81) The Improbable Primate by Clive Finlayson

A quick read, though I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't read anything else on the current state of the science with respect to human evolution since it assumes a certain familiarity with major fossil finds and the various theories about humanity's spread across Africa, Eurasia, and Australia. Finlayson's main focus is on our species' preference for environments combining access to fresh water, some trees and/or rocks/caves, and some open space, and how the most successful early humans were those who developed lighter builds and longer limbs for covering longer distances between water sources. I'm not sure I agree with all his theories, but he raises some interesting points. He takes what I believe is the unusual view of seeing every hominid from Homo erectus on as the same species. I'll admit my gut reaction is, "But we can't be the same species as H. erectus. They had TINY LITTLE BRAINS."

82) The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt

A history of Rome from its legendary foundations to the fall of the Republic. I think it would be good for a reader unfamiliar with the history in question (though it would help to have a broad sense of the course of ancient history). I found it a useful refresher on what I learned from listening to the early sections of Mike Duncan's wonderful History of Rome podcast.

83) The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression by John F. Kasson

This one is more interesting than I expected, really. It's a blend of celebrity biography and social history of the Depression and Shirley Temple's impact as the biggest child celebrity of the age by far. To me the most interesting chapter was the one about Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and the complex racial issues of his career and his dances with blonde little Shirley.

84) Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

If I had to describe this book in one word, I'd choose "rambly." If you've been following the series, enjoy Gabaldon's voice, and are interested in the doings of the extended and often interwoven Fraser, Mackenzie, and Grey families, you will happily plow through this book (as I did). If not...give the first book a try and see if you want to keep going from there. This is NOT a series you'd want to start in the middle. In some ways I wish these books had more focus...OTOH, there's something to be said for a good chatty ramble through characters' lives.

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