March 14, 2016

Recent Reads

6. The Sixth Extinction
This Pulitzer Prize winner for General Nonfiction (2015) was my book club selection this month, and I listened to the audiobook, which is really well narrated by Anne Twomey.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari was my absolute favorite book last year, so I was primed to read this one. This non-fiction science book briefly covers the major and minor extinction cycles that have occured over the life of the planet, as well as current theories as to what caused them. The book is divided into 13 chapters, and each chapter deals with a specific current extinction, or near extinction, event.

I loved the dots that this book connected for me. I loved that this current extinction cycle (clearly caused by Sapiens) is discussed in the context of the very long history of the planet. I loved learning about things I had no idea about, annual coral reef sex orgies comes to mind, and was saddened to learn about some of the species that have gone the way of the Dodo in my lifetime. I loved the science and learning about some scientists I knew nothing about. There is so much covered here, but all in a very accessible, easy to read manner.

I am surprised that I was left with a feeling of hope at the end of this book. Not because I think that Humans will halt or reverse the processes we have put into play, but rather because after we become extinct, life will continue to find a way. Context is everything. I highly recommend this one. Rating: 5 stars.

7. Evidence: The Art of Candy Jernigan
I am fascinated by how creative people see, experience, and document their encounters with life. Some people write, others draw, or sketch, or take photographs, or write haiku. The author uses the ephemera from her life and travels, and collects them in her journals and art pieces. It seems that nothing misses her attention - receipts, toilet paper, drug vials, tickets, food and drinks, etc. This book is like holding an art installation of the author's work in your hands.

This is the second time I've looked through this book, and her work always inspires me to see, not just look, at all the flotsam of my life. Rating: 4 stars.

8. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days
This volume collects issues #16-19.

Kamala Khan is drowning her sorrows with way too many hot dogs, when she finds out her brother has been kidnapped by the evil, yet incredibly handsome, Kamran. And if that weren't enough, the End of Days are nigh! Good thing she gets a helping hand from Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, herself. What does the future hold in store?

This is my least favorite of the series so far. There is very little plot, though the art is back to being really good again. There are some fun parts, and I loved the scene Kamala has with her mother, but overall, I found this one rather preachy and boring.

The book ends with a couple of issues of Amazing Spiderman, which is pure padding in my opinion. Don't care that Kamala meets up with Spider Man. Different universe, of which I am not a fan, so skimmed that section.

Hopefully, the next run of this comic will get back to the roots of the Kamala story, which is what drew me here in the first place. Rating: 2 stars.

9. Trashed
How many of us think about what happens to the trash we leave out on the curb each week, let alone think about the people who take away said trash?

This graphic novel is part memoir, part fiction, and part non-fiction. The author was a garbage man for a couple of years, and in this book he compiles his "best hits" of stories from that period in his life. He mixes in lots of factual information about garbage statics, much of which is sobering, and way worse than even I had imagined.

This book should be getting higher marks from me. I really liked the art, there are amusing and horrifying vignettes shared, and the facts alone are worth the price of admission, but somehow I found the lack of an overall cohesiveness something that bothered me. The author does state that what started out as a memoir, did not have enough material, so he flushes it out with the data, and therein lies the problem. The books feels like two projects mashed together, with all the seams showing and distracting. Still, I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to understand more about garbage, and that should really be all of us. Rating: 3 stars.

10. Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them
I'm the only one of my siblings without a tattoo, and I'm supposedly the most unconventional one of the lot. Go figure. It's not that I have anything against tats in particular, it's just that I cannot imagine what I'd ink on my body that I would still love a decade from now. I see many people with tats, and I'm always curious as to the story of how they picked that particular design. There are tats I find attractive, and ones I'm horrified by, and when everyone and their mother seems to have one, the notion of tats do not seem that radical, or anti-establishment to me. But, that is just my opinion.

This little book is a collection of artist sketches/paintings of tattoos that people (some famous, some not) have inked on their bodies, and the stories behind them. I liked the art, and it did help me understand and appreciate the reasoning behind the urge to get one. However, this is a collection of images/stories that was compiled from a blog, and I found myself wanting more. Still, it is a fun, quick read for anyone who has a tattoo or two, or anyone interested in reading about the stories behind some of them. Rating: 3 stars.

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