2009 Book List

Since we are spending a quiet new year’s eve at home and away from all the masses of people, I thought I’d take a moment and post a blog. And since it’s the end of the year, I thought I’d look back at my literary progress. Here are the books I read (or re-read) in 2009 (in no particular order):

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (A very fun take on the original P & P– and I hear Natalie Portman is associated with bringing this to the big screen – should be exciting!)

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I found this book to be okay. Not great, but okay. Not something I’d recommend necessarily. Some moments with the characters are touching, but overall, I did not like the characters and found it hard to connect with the book.)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson (Started out slow, but a great page turner after that. However, there are very adult situations and scenes of violence against women in the book – I would not recommend if you are offended by that.)

The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan (Okay, this is a kids book – but it was pretty good – kind of Harry Potter-ish, but instead of wizards, the Greek gods are alive and well and wreaking havoc.)

Night – Elie Wiesel (The author’s account of his survival in WWII concentration camps.)

March – Geraldine Brooks (The author writes the story of Mr. March from Little Women. We find out what happened to him during the Civil War and through flashbacks we see how his relationship with Marmee developed. The author touches on SO many themes in this book – family, marriage, war, religion, right/wrong, human nature. The themes are very deep – not a kids book at all – but a good read.)

Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks (This book recounts what happens in a small English town when the plague strikes and the townspeople make the courageous decision to seal themselves off from the rest of society for a year to prevent the spread of the disease.)

People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks (Mystery detailing the history of a religous book, set in Sarejevo in 1996 with flashbacks that take you back through time and all over Europe.)

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (I wrote about this book here.)

What Dreams May Come – Richard Matheson (Oh, the afterlife! I saw the movie based on the book first, but of course, the book is much better. This is the tale of soulmates separated by death and then separated by heaven/hell. Very moving.)

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (Famous account of the author’s slide into mental illness. I can’t believe I haven’t read this sooner.)

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – J. K. Rowling (A re-read in anticipation of the movie, which released in July. The book is much better!)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J. K. Rowling (Another re-read: I had to follow up HBP with Deathly Hallows – of course – I couldn’t leave Ron, Harry and Hermione hanging!)

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand (This book has found renewed attention because of people’s fear of socialism. It’s quite a tough (and long) read. I found it to be a good story, but a little bit too optimistic that the powerful capitalists will have everybody’s best intentions in mind and save the country and put food on people’s tables. I think we can look at Wall Street this past year and decide that unbridled capitalism isn’t always what’s best for the country. However, the author grew up in Russia as communism was taking over, so I can understand her point of view. In her world view, capitalists = hero, socialists = evil. I don’t think the issue is that black and white.)

Twilight series – Stephenie Meyer (Yes, a re-read. I’m not ashamed to own up to reading Twilight!)

Currently Reading:

The Case for God – Karen Armstrong (A very tough read due to the subject matter and the author’s extensive vocabulary. I’m only getting through a few paragraphs at a time, which is really unusual for me, but I’m not used to reading heavily philosophic/religious literature. I think I’m going to have to go back and re-read this one a second time to get the most out of it, but I am enjoying seeing the development of our idea of God through the ages. I would not recommend this if you are looking for an easy read.)

The Alchemyst – Michael Scott (Just a few chapters into this one, but Chris stole it from me and I’ve only now gotten it back . . . Chris liked it – he’s already picked up the second book in the series!)

On Deck:

The Bible – Karen Armstrong

Magyk – Angie Sage

I’ve left some books out, but this list encompasses the bulk of what I’ve read this year. I also have a list of “to-read” waiting . . . 2010 should be a very busy reading year for me!

Hope everybody has a happy and healthy 2010!

Self Portrait

Chris bought me a new camera for Christmas (yes, I know it’s early, but he can never wait to give me presents) and I finally – finally! – have a camera that can take some close up shots! I’m excited and hope to learn how to use all of its functions.

In the meantime . . . here are some goofy kids:

We Will Miss You, Bink

Our family has been sad this week after Binki passed away on Tuesday. She had been our faithful family companion for almost 17 years! She was relatively healthy for a dog of her age until this past weekend. We are missing her very much. Chris found her as a furry little puppy in 1993 after a huge rainstorm and we of course had to take her home. Or maybe she actually belonged to someone and we ended up stealing her, but nonetheless, we loved her from the first day.

Binki and me in ’93:

Binki being framed for eating all the White Castle, 2007:

Binki was a great dog – we’re still not sure what, exactly, she was. One vet said Australian shepherd, one vet said collie, another said cocker spaniel. She had the thick fur of a collie, the markings of a Rottweiler and the attitude of a sullen teenager. She spent most of her later years brooding in a corner of the bathroom, which was her most favorite place in the world. But in her younger days she had been known to run in a crazy loop around the house, which we lovingly referred to as a “wild streak.” She was not very destructive as a puppy, other than eating my college trigonometry book. I still got an A in the class, though, and carried that chewed up book to class for the rest of the semester. She was the easiest dog in the world to own. It took about two days to housetrain her, she didn’t destroy much in her puppy years and she was extremely low maintenance. She was also famously attacked by mockingbirds.

She was an important part of our family as we allowed her to “communicate” from time to time. (i.e., “Binki says it’s about time you mowed the back yard. She’s going to need a machete to get through the grass soon.” Or “Binki thinks she needs a chili-cheese coney from Sonic for dinner tonight.” Or “Binki says we don’t really need to eat that birthday cake; she’ll finish it off for us.”) I know, that’s bad. But Binki was highly opinionated and often needed to vent. 🙂  We have a lot of fond memories of her and will miss her very much!

Finally: Some Common Sense

Rush Limbaugh Dropped from Bid for STL Rams:

I really don’t care anything about the NFL, but since I lived in STL for a few years I was really dismayed that Rush Limbaugh might possibly be associated with them. I don’t respect the guy especially since he makes a ton of money as an entertainer that millions of people take seriously. He’s making millions of dollars off of being hateful and divisive and that is just wrong. Anyway, he blames the Democrats and the liberal media for his failed attempt to purchase part ownership of an NFL team. Newsflash Rush: the owners of the other teams weren’t behind you, and they are made up of mostly rich white guys – who are probably conservative and probably voted for McCain, too. Maybe that ought to send you message that you’re a wee bit too hateful? Too polarizing? Too crazy? Perhaps?

Birther Attorney Fined $20,000 for Filing Frivolous Lawsuits:

Attorney Orly Taitz was fined $20,000 for filing litigation alleging that her client, an Army captain, could not be deployed because Obama was not born in the US, and therefore not legally the President. The judge (appointed by George W. Bush) had already dismissed the lawsuit as having no legitimate legal argument, but the attorney continued to file litigation. Way to go Judge! This birther controversy has reached the crazy limit, now it just needs to go away.

Unfortunately, people are starting to prey on those who are buying into this garbage: now  there’s a birther infomerical that will send a fax to the White House with your name on it, demanding that the President release his ‘true’ birth information. AND you get a birther bumper sticker, too. For the low, low price of $30! According to news reports, this infomerical is airing in 7 Southern states – which is marketing genius because that’s where they can make the most money – the conservative Republican South. Why aren’t they airing it in California or New York? Because air time on local southern stations is cheap and the South is a nice block of red states.  These birther infomerical people are taking advantage of the South – and likely making a nice profit. People — save your money — this is ridiculous.

BONUS:  Health care reform is actually moving along . . . we’ll see where it goes . . .

Laura Bush: Very Classy

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former first lady Laura Bush is defending President Obama’s decision to address the nation’s school children, telling CNN Monday that it is “really important for everyone to respect the President of the United States.”

“I think that there is a place for the President of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same,” she told CNN’s Zain Verjee, in an interview set to air Monday on The Situation Room. “And that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have.”

The former first lady said she believed criticism of the speech had arisen because of the accompanying lesson plans. If parents are opposed to the address, said Bush, “That’s their right. You know that certainly is the right of parents to choose what they want their children to hear in school… (But) I think it’s also really important for everyone to respect the President of the United States.”

Does she think it’s fair to criticize Obama, as some have, by labeling him a socialist? “I’d have no idea whether it’s fair, do you think I thought it was fair when President Bush was criticized — not really. So, I guess not,” she responded.

Bush said that she thought “really safe congressional districts” had contributed to political polarization. “That’s just a fact of life in American politics and …I’m sure President Obama didn’t expect it to be that way. But you know — it is that way, and I think all of us need to do what we can to come together on issues.”

The former first lady added that she thought both Obama and her successor, Michelle Obama, had done good jobs since moving into the White House.

But she also said former Vice President Cheney, who has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s security policy, “has every right to speak out, and I appreciate that he is defending the Bush administration and his administration.”

“But George as a former president chose not to speak out,” she added. “He thinks the president deserves the respect and the no second-guessing on the part of the former president… he didn’t like it when he was criticized by former presidents and that’s what he has chosen to do.”

She said her husband and his former vice president still speak “occasionally.”

Both Bushes have been working on their memoirs. Bush said her husband has also spent a lot of time mountain biking.

About The Last Post . . .

Let me make this perfectly clear: my last post was not meant to bash those people who are anti-Obama or who are Republican or who have opinions that are different from mine. Maybe my rhetoric was a little harsh, but don’t misunderstand me: This is a wonderful country and part of that wonderfulness is the fact that we can have many points of view and co-exist. There are intelligent people on both sides of all of these political arguments which make for lively and interesting debates. Keep in mind, “intelligent” is the key.

The whole point of the last post is this: some people have stopped thinking for themselves and spout off the most noxious, stupid dribble and I hear it/read it daily. Let me emphasize: If you don’t support Obama, that’s fine with me. As long as you have researched the issues, you’ve thought it through, used objective, rational information and still decide that Obama’s view point is not for you, then that’s wonderful – that’s the whole point of living in this country. It’s the people who are too lazy to think things through that I have problems with. For example – the birther controversy. I believe that was the biggest waste of time and the biggest show of stupidity this summer. I blame some of the media for that jewel – I can’t believe they had nothing else to report on – it was sensationalism and dribble at the same time. And some Americans bought into it, because they heard it on TV.

The thing that set me off yesterday was a post about a school distict previewing Obama’s speech to make sure there is nothing “offensive” in it. Again – what could possibly be offensive in a inspirational speech? That is one of the most unpatriotic, un-American things I have ever heard. Obama is not going to start shoving policy down the throats of your elementary students nor is he going to curse or tell kids things they ought not hear. That’s crazy. All he wants to do is tell kids to have a good year, stay in school, set some goals and do a good job. I think that’s a wonderful idea for this – or any – president to do. A pep talk at the beginning of the school year? Maybe a short lesson on civics, too? Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Green Party, I think it’s a good idea to introduce kids to the leader of our country – even if you don’t agree with the politics – because that’s a lesson people need to learn: We can work together in spite of our differences and respect each other’s point of view.

Just as much as people are concerned about the direction Obama may be leading this country, I am concerned about the direction this country is headed  if we stop thinking, become over-reactionary and oppose our leadership just because we are scared of change. I will never forget a wooden plaque that we found on a hike with Grandaddy one year in the north Georgia mountains. It said: Educaton Creates Change. I think about that phrase often and I have tried my best to become educated about things that concern me. While education creates change, change often creates fear, and we must do our best to not become frightened as we move though this life. Change is scary for many people, but we must continue to educate ourselves in order to move boldly forward as a society.

So post your political leanings on Facebook; vote in the polls and support whatever point of view you have truly researched and understand. I encourage it. But don’t jump on bandwagons because of fear or lack of knowledge. Research. Study. Try your best to understand. Then draw your conclusions. Whatever your viewpoint, education is key. And I think that is the whole point of Obama’s desire to speak to school children on Tuesday.