Monday, July 14, 2014

Books Read: March and April 2014

March 3rd: For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, Alice Miller. Interesting book detailing how childhood trauma or abuse might create self-destructive and/or violent individuals (most notoriously, Hitler, which I found to be the most compelling part of the book). Well written and convincing, but completely speculative: despite her authoritative tone, the author has almost no evidence for anything. I found this a bit misleading. Grade: B-
March 5th: Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian. First in the 20-book series about a ship's captain and his best friend, a naval surgeon (and spy), during the Napoleonic Wars. The best series of historical fiction I have ever come across and a must-read for anyone who enjoys this genre. Grade: A.
March 10th: Post Captain, Patrick O'Brian. Even better than the first in the series, thanks to the inclusion of female characters and showing the characters in more diverse situations. Grade: A+.
March 14th: H.M.S. Surprise, Patrick O'Brian. The third in the Aubrey-Maturin series, and another wonderful entry. Highlights include Stephen's time in India and the battle scenes, which O'Brian does incredibly well. Grade: A+.
March 20th: The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, Robert Lacey. I love books about daily life in the past, and this one is a good one, including all kinds of minutiae (like how monks communicated despite vows of silence, what people ate, and how they dealt with not having buttons). It's short, easy to read and highly informative. Grade: A.


April 16th: The Mauritius Command, Patrick O'Brian. Fourth in the Aubrey-Maturin series, with some interesting psychological studies, particularly that of Lord Clonfert. Grade: A.
April 18th: Desolation Island, Patrick O'Brian. Spying, adventure on the high seas, shipwrecks...the fifth in the series is exciting as always. Grade: A.
April 18th: The Fortune of War, Patrick O'Brian. Another wonderful entry in the Aubrey-Maturin series: the middle part does lag slightly (but only slightly). Grade: A-.
April 20th: Tigers in Red Weather, Liza Klaussmann. Two WASP cousins and their families experience various travails from the 1940s-1960s. A typical book club read (and in fact read for that purpose), it was OK. Grade: C.
April 21st: Heat and Dust, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Very short novel about two Englishwomen in India, one in the 1920s who has an affair with an Indian prince, one in the 1980s who, while doing research on the first, has affairs with first an English Hindu convert, then her married Indian landlord. Sounds kind of sordid but is actually evocative and well written, with interesting, unconventional female characters. Grade: A-.
April 24th: The Surgeon's Mate, Patrick O'Brian. Excellent as always: the scenes in a French prison are particularly humorous. Grade: A.
April 28th: The Ionian Mission, Patrick O'Brian. A bit slow compared to some of the others, though the ending section redeems itself. Grade: A-.

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