December Updates

So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:


  • Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
  • Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.


  • The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
  • Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
  • Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.

Series continuation:

  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
  • The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Squelched by Terry Beard.

If there is time:

  • Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.

Riot Days

Alyokhina, Maria. Riot Days. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017.

Reason read: This is the August book for the Early Review program for LibraryThing. Riot Days is to be published on September 26th, according to Amazon’s website.

A word of caution before reading this blog or Alyokhina’s Riot Days: we both use strong language. Case in point: Alyokhina uses the see-you-next-Tuesday word not even ten words into Riot Days. Forgive me, but I draw the line at the c-word. No clue why.

Riot Days is sharp, choppy and biting. Words fly off the page like the staccato of machine gun fire. Even the illustrations are crude and unpolished; but all are perfect for the message Alyokhina wants to relay. The facts are such – in February of 2012 members of an all-girl punk band smuggled an electric guitar into an Orthodox church in Moscow to perform a “Punk Prayer” in protest to Putin’s regime. Alyokhina and another member of the band were finally arrested and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. Alyokhina’s side of the story is interspersed with the court proceedings as if to say,  “look how reality can get twisted; this is what happens when you have convictions; you get convicted.” This is a quick but extremely worthwhile read. I don’t know how it will look when it is published, but my copy ends abruptly…with her freedom.

As an aside, I had a chance to check out Pussy Riot’s videos on YouTube. All I can say is wow.

Quote I hope stays in the book, “Right after our ‘Punk Prayer’ performance, I took the metro to my son’s kindergarten – it was noon” (p 29).

Feb ’11 was…

February was a strange, strange month. On the one hand, my birthday (which was good), yet on the other hand, many different family dramas (not so good). Other oddities include getting robbed, the roof leaking, a mysterious flat tire, and lots of great PT (what’s different?). My list of books for the month included some behemoths – two over 700 pages long. It took me longer than expected to get through my list because I also got an Early Review book from LibraryThing and I decided to read a few “off-list” titles. February was also a month of personal challenges (yay for physical therapy and the return to running for real). I can’t forget to mention that!

  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter ~ in honor of National Civil Rights month. This was a nice blend of didactic and personal.
  • Big Year: a Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik ~ in honor of February being a bird feeding month (as apposed to watching). Funny, funny, funny.
  • Night Soldiers by Alan Furst ~ in honor of Furst’s birth month. This was really heavy, but I actually got into it.
  • Belly of Paris by Emile Zola ~ in honor of Charles Dickens (writing style is similar). Word to the wise – don’t read this when you are hungry. The food descriptions are amazing!

For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing I finally received and read My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. I’m still waiting for a second Early Review book from LibraryThing.

  • Runner’s World The Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need To Run For Weight Loss, Fitness and Competition by Amby Burfoot. I picked this up because someone had given me a gift certificate for B&N and I wanted to get something I would keep for a very long time.
  • It Must Be..(a Grand Canyon Trip : Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter’s Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011).. by Scott P. Barnes ~ this was such a surreal read for me! I’ve always wanted to see this author’s name in print.

Carry Me Home

McWhorter, Diane. Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: the Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

There is no doubt Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution is testimony to McWhorter’s nineteen year mission. Her conviction to expose the truth is on every page. What makes Carry Me Home so compelling in the unflinching examination of McWhorter’s own family’s beliefs and involvements in the tumultuous time of civil unrest. Interjecting personal biography give the book a unique drama. The detail with which McWhorter writes allows readers to not just walk in the footsteps of history but experience as if they are walking side by side in real time.

Interesting lines: “One did not need to know what was wrong in order to know something was wrong” (p 27), and “Over the two decades of solitary toil, my driving aim had been to “solve” the church bombing, to bring the murderers if not to justice then at least to truth” (p 589).

I have to point out that a friend didn’t like the title of this book. He felt that the use of the word “climatic” was incorrect. Climatic for the era, maybe, but certainly not climatic for all time.

Book Trivia: Carry Me Home was compared to Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch by author David Herbert Donald, and by writers for the Boston Globe and The Nation. Also, Carry Me Home won a Pulitzer.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Civil Rights and Wrongs” (p 49).

Feb 2011 is…

February is a month of renewal for me. I haven’t put too many books on the list because I plan to do a lot more running and socializing this month. 🙂
Anyhoo, here are the books:

  • Carry Me Home, Alabama by Kathryn Stern ~ in honor of February being National Civil Rights Month
  • Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes ~ in honor of February being a National Bird Feeding month. I guess our feathered friends have a hard time finding food in February so someone made a month for feeding them.
  • Aint Nobody’s Business if I Do by Valarie Wilson Welsey ~ in honor of Black History Month
  • Belly of Paris by Emile Zola ~ in honor of February being the month of Dicken’s birth.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll get the EarlyReview books from LibraryThing as well. Who knows?

February ’10 was…

Where in hell do I begin? February was a month of answers. Can I leave it at that? I know why I haven’t been feeling well. I know what I now need to do. I know who I am and how far I’ve come. And – taking a deep breath – I know how far I need to go. I know. Here’s the list of books, for better or worse:

  • A Certain World by W.H. Auden ~ in honor of Auden’s birth month
  • Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner ~ an interesting book on the pitfalls of technology (in honor of science month).
  • Company of Three by Varley O’Connor ~ in honor of February being theater month.
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin ~ in honor of Black History month.
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba P. Beals ~ in honor of February being civil rights month
  • The Hiding Place by Tezza Azzopardi ~ in honor of immigrant recognition
  • Wall of the Sky, Wall of the Eye by Jonathan Lethem ~ in honor of Lethem’s birth month
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder ~ in honor of Haiti
  • Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin ~ in honor of Franklin’s birth month

Sadly enough, I forgot all about my Early Review book for LibraryThing. I promise I will review that next month!

Warriors Don’t Cry

Beals, Melba Pattillo. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High. New York: Pocket Books, 1994.

If you stop and think about it, 1957 was not that long ago. Think about the span of a lifetime, on average. Think about the course of history and how slowly it moves. 1957, given all that, was yesterday. While we do not have clear lines of segregation that we did back then (water fountains, bathrooms and backs of buses to name a few) we still have the invisible lines that separate white from black. If that were not the case we wouldn’t have the rash of “firsts” that we have had recently: first black coach to win the Superbowl, first black President of the United States…These firsts would have happened years ago if the invisible line didn’t still exist to a certain degree.

I cannot imagine Melba Patillo Beals’s life. One of the scariest scenes for me was when she first tried to go to Central High after desegregation was declared. The hatred and violence she described seemed subhuman, barbaric even. Could we really live in a society that contained so much hatred? The obvious answer is yes, and we still do.

True to Beals’s title, Warriors Don’t Cry is a “searing memoir of the battle to integrate.” Every day was a struggle. Civil rights were hardly observed in a civil manner. Utter hatred spawned uncontrolled violence. For Melba Beals this hatred was not something she read about or glanced at on the television. She live it in every step she took. She experienced it first hand simply because of the color of her skin. How brave of her to write it all down! How lucky for us she decided to remember it all! Warriors Don’t Cry is not an eye-opener. We have seen these things all along. Her memoir keeps it all in view.

While I didn’t find any quotes that struck me one way or another I was moved by Melba’s experience with her “own” people. In addition to whites who were having an extremely hard time accepting integration, there were a fair number of blacks who didn’t want it either. Melba was making enemies on both sides of the color divide.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Civil Rights and Wrongs” (p 49).