Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Project 50 Restart: April

"I, Claudius" by Robert Graves
I got this book to take with me on my holiday to Mallorca, where Graves wrote the book. It's a retelling of Roman history from the point of view of crippled, stuttering Claudius. While I love a good unreliable narrator--historian Claudius presents "only the facts"--I wish I'd had another book to read. If I wasn't so bored on my vaction, I probably wouldn't have finished it, as it is very repetitive. C

"The Surgeon of Crowthorne: a tale of murder, mystery, and the Oxford English Dictionary" by Simon Winchester
I think all English majors have a nerdy affection for the OED. When we were set loose on OED Online, we often forgot our projects and spent nights pouring over the origins of our favorite words. Simon Winchester is a bit of a sensationalist historian (I couldn't get through his book on Krakatoa) but the tale of a criminally insane man and his contribution to the most prestigious work on the English language wrapped me up. I think we all have a little fascination with madness and insane asylums... As well as a history of the OED, this piece of Victorian history shows the ways that the world was changing regarding treatment of mental illness during the years that Dr. Minor was at Crowthorne. A-

"A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village" by Lemony Snickett
This episode has the Baudelaire siblings chasing a vague clue in search of their friends, the Quagmire triplets. With no willing relatives to be their guardians, a number of towns have signed on to the axiom, "It takes a village to raise a child" and the Baudelairs chose the custody of the village of V.F.D. The clues in this book are particularly clever and even as an adult, I really enjoyed playing detective along with the children. Of course, the ending isn't perfect, and the Baudelaires flee to... A-

"A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital" by Lemony Snickett
Thsi book takes an unexpected turn from the mystery of the Quagmires to the mystery of the fire that killed the Baudelaire parents and just what the name "Snickett" has to do with it. He's becoming my favorite unreliable narrator. The hospital houses the worlds most counterintuitive filing system and is frequented by Volunteers Fighting Disease, who force heart shaped balloons on patients and ignore their actual diseases. Dark humor at its best. A-

"The Frugal Life" by Piper Terrett
Faced with the prospect of living as a poor college student like I never have before, I got this book in hopes of discovering some cheapskate tips that I didn't know before. I didn't, really. Some things didn't apply to my college life because it's a UK author. Some things didn't apply because I'm a vegetarian. It did bring up some ideas that I hadn't really thought of before, like foraging in the woods for food (proceed with caution: ONLY IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING) and it does have some good tips for eating well on the cheap. However, I'm used to living without extravagance, so not a lot of things in this book were new to me. B-

"Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by JK Rowling
I told myself that I would reread these while I was in England, and with 3 months to go, I'd better get started. Starting with the first book again puts me back in that state of 11 year old wonder like Harry experiences when Hagrid tells him that he is a wizard. I forget about those iconic details from the first book, like the flying keys and potions test guarding the Philosopher's Stone. It still makes me wonder how powerful the teachers must be if even 11 year old first years can pass the tests... A