August 24, 2015

Recent Reads

97. Seabiscuit: An American Legend
I have seen, and loved, the movie based on this book several times, and as I tend to enjoy non-fiction reads during the summer, decided to dive in. I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by George Newbern.

This is narrative non-fiction at its best. I loved everything about this story. The characters, both human and horse, are broken but not out. The pacing of the story is excellent, and there were moments that I was on tenterhooks waiting to see what would happen next. Given that I already knew the outlines of the story and how it would end, that is some dang great writing. The book is so much better than the movie, in that it fleshes out the story of the characters, and captures a sense of place and time in America really well. I even learned that The Biscuit and I have some things in common: we both like to eat and take long naps.

The one thing I did miss out on with the audio, are the photos in the book. Well, Google to the rescue. And if you have yet to see it, go now and and watch the video of the matched race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral and see if you don't get choked up.

I listened to this story on long walks, and found my pace picking up each time Seabiscuit was racing. Even if you are not interested in horses, or horse racing, I would highly recommend this one. Rating: 5 stars.

98. The Dovekeepers
How could I not pick up this book based on this blurb: Blends mythology, magic, archaeology and women. Traces four women, their path to the Masada massacre. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. 

This is exactly my sweet spot. I visited Masada many years ago, and was moved by the history and significance of the place. And here was a book recounting that story through the eyes of four women. How could I not love it?

And yet I did not. Yes, there were portions that entranced me. The writing is often poetic and lyrical, but the voices of the four women were indistinguishable, and I often had to remind myself which narrator was telling the story. The author has clearly done her research, and I loved the sense of time and place she captured, but there was too much repetition, and this book would have been a better read if the editor has snipped away anything that did not add to the story line. While the women were all strong and very progressive for their time, they were not well fleshed out, and blurred one into the other. There are huge coincidences in this story that boggle the mind, and yet I quickly read on to the end, snacking on Medjool dates to help soothe me for what I knew would not end well.

Still, it is always interesting to read about historical events told through the eyes of women, and this is a quick, if upsetting, read. Rating: 3 stars.

99. China Days: A Visual Journal from China's Wild West
I'm a fan of illustrated journals, and enjoyed this one. This is a visual journal complied from the author's sketchbooks and annotated photos, and is an interesting look at life in rural China. The photo of a dog transport system stopped me in my tracks. I have seen cows, pigs, chickens transported, and have never had quite the same reaction. A quick and colorful read. Rating: 3 stars.

No comments: