Reading Update

I’ve been reading all kinds of things since the last time I posted an update.  It’s true that I haven’t finished them all… but it’s also true that I’m not actually going to, in most cases.  Shrug.  My grandma claims she’s never started a book that she hasn’t finished.  Personally I don’t understand why I’d want to waste my time finishing things I don’t care about when there are so many other options just waiting for me to discover them.

Haven, by Ruth Gruber

I read this mostly while I was visiting family for Christmas, which… this is not a cheerful book.  It ought to be required reading for any human being alive right now, though; it feels entirely too relevant to current events for my peace of mind.  If you are someone I know, you can expect to be given this book at an upcoming holiday.

See, during WWII, the extent of the US’s willingness to take in refugees outside of its regular immigration quotas was to bring in 982 refugees as “guests” of the president, and keep them more or less confined to Fort Ontario.  (They were allowed out into the city of Oswego as long as they were back at night, but that seems to have been about it.)

Ruth Gruber accompanied the refugees on the troop transport ship that brought them to the US, and then stayed on at the camp once they arrived.  She recounts brief histories of some of the refugees, which–they’re Holocaust survival stories.  If they don’t make you cry, I’m not sure you’re actually a person.  Haven also gets into some of the politics and problems around the Emergency Refugee Shelter at Fort Ontario, all of which could just as easily be happening today.  For instance, the refugees’ legal status in the US was a mess, leading to all kinds of issues like how they couldn’t even apply to immigrate legally.  And the sheer bigotry surrounding how the US dealt with these people… yeah.

I had never heard of any of this until I moved about half a mile from Fort Ontario.  Why had I never heard of any of this until I moved here?  Why has no one I talk to heard of this until either they move to Oswego or I tell them about it?  The moral of the story is, read Haven.

The Nibelungenlied, translated by A.T. Hatto.

Yep, The Nibelungenlied.  Like, the thing Wagner apparently butchered for The Ring Cycle. (I’ve not actually seen that, so I’m taking Wikipedia’s word for it that it’s a butchering of the story.)  I’ve read parts of a version of The Nibelungenlied story before, because I read The Saga of the Volsungs a year or two ago.  I don’t remember hating Siegfried/Sigurd quite so much during that, though, probably because 1) I wasn’t as invested in Brunhild, and 2) I’m pretty sure he was less awful to Brunhild in that one.

I remember, like, Sigurd (who I guess is the same is Siegfried?  So maybe ye olde listeners to this story were as confused by all the Sig-something-or-other names as I was) riding through some fire his friend couldn’t get through, to prove his fearlessness so the friend could marry Brunhild.  And then he slept beside her with a sword between them, because stories this old are weird.

Anyway, in The Nibelungenlied it’s a much more involved deception, and then after Brunhild is tricked into marrying Gunther she refuses to have sex with him until he explains what’s up with Siegfried.  When Gunther tries to insist (aka rape her), she’s like, “Nope!” and ties him up with her girdle and hangs him on the wall.  F*** yes, Brunhild.  F*** yes.  Rock on.

But then Gunther goes and whines to Siegfried, and Siegfried is like, “Yeah I’ve got this; I’ll make it so you can rape her,” and Siegfried uses his super strength to beat Brunhild at wrestling while she thinks he’s Gunther.  After that she’s not so strong anymore and Gunther gets to rape her after all.  You see why I’m not loving this?  I’m having trouble continuing with the rest of the story to find out why exactly the Nibelungs are important enough to it to get the whole thing named after them.

Also I have this problem where I keep wanting to pronounce the name of this story as The Nibbling Iliad, which… I mean, who doesn’t want to nibble on The Iliad?  But still.

Anyway, if you’re curious, my vote is to stick with the Brunhild story in The Saga of the Volsungs, even if that one does get a bit weird with Brunhild predicting stuff and then getting mad at people because they do what she predicts.

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

I loved the movie, so I wasn’t about to pass up my chance when a friend moving out of town offered me her copy of the book.  The book, too, is awesome.

I admit to having some trouble keeping track of people’s names, possibly because I mostly was reading it a few paragraphs at a time right before bed.  Still, I think this book is both great and important.  The book gives a better picture of just how much time and effort went into these women’s careers.  The movie made it feel like they won their battles quickly; the book gives a better sense of just how much crap they fought through.  Hats off to Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden.  If I can be 1/4 as awesome as they are, I will feel fortunate.

Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, by Albert-laszlo Barabasi

This is one that I’m not sure I’m going to finish.  It’s interesting reading about the differences between random and scale-free networks, and how that impacts things like the internet… but for some reason this book just isn’t cutting it for me.  I can’t sustain my interest, is maybe the better way to put it.  I read this one night and I’m like, “Oooh, interesting!”  Then I try to continue the next night, and I’m more like, “Ugh, I need to find something else to read.”

I bet if the author had a TED Talk it would be worth watching, but he doesn’t seem to.  So that’s that, as far as I’m concerned.

Design for the Real World, by Victor Papanek

I don’t remember why I pulled this one off the shelf at work.  Possibly I mistook it for a title published more recently than 1972?  At any rate I imagine I might have quite enjoyed this if I were reading it in the 1970s, but reading it in 2017 was an entirely different matter.

One thing I will say for this book: Papanek’s hatred of automobiles is hilarious.  He keeps coming back to it, over and over.  Here’s an example:

Is an automobile, for instance, a piece of sports equipment, transportation, a living-room-cum-bordello on wheels, or a chrome-plated marshmallow predesigned to turn itself into a do-it-yourself coffin?

I really wish I’d kept track of all his car-hating quotes, because… wow.  I mean, I dislike cars, but I’m practically the hosts of Top Gear compared to this guy.

And More

Definitely more.  A lot more.  Did I ever write a blog post about Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times?  If not, go read that now.  Maybe I’ll write about it if/when I reread it.  Going by memory months after the fact isn’t going to let me do it any justice whatsoever.

I started reading Between the World and Me, and holy crap, Ta-Nehisi Coates can write.  I picked a bad couple weeks to have that book out from the library, though, so I didn’t manage to finish it in time.   Someone had a hold on it after me, so renewing wasn’t a choice.  I need to get back to this one.  I REALLY need to get back to this one.

Plus, of course, fiction.  Most recently some nice, fluffy, cosy mysteries set in 1920s England.  But also some snarky fantasy capers, borderline trashy (but entirely too much fun) werewolf novels, and Rebel of the Sands and its sequel.  That one I’ll actually name because I quite like it.  I picked it up on a whim at the mysterious Daunt Books store that appeared at the end of a rainbow when I was lost in London.  True story–my friend and I were lost, there was a rainbow, and BOOM there was this bookstore.  It took us at least an hour of wandering to find it again the next day, and I still don’t know where it actually is.

What else?  I’d have to go hunting through my computer and apartment to find out the other things I’ve been reading.  There’s been a lot.  My crafting has been taking second place to books for a while now; it might be time to shift that focus again, at least for a few months.