Most of us here at Rambling Ever On enjoy reading. Most of us read a few books a month. Some read a few a year, and some read a few a week. Some of us prefer non-fiction and some fiction. Some read in order to be a better husband, father, employee, Christian, etc. Some read to learn. Some read just for the sheer enjoyment of a good story.
Here are the books we have read this past month and what we thought of them…
Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim
In my attempts to read more about Harry Potter as a book series, I came across this on Amazon as highly recommended. It is very much what the title communicates and there is no doubt in my mind that Severus Snape is worthy of an entire book dedicated to him. There really is no one quite like him in my fantasy reading experience and I quoted him in my wedding vows. He’s enigmatic in a the most marvelous way possible and the plot twist ending to his character arc is head-spinning and heart-wrenching.
So there is much to write about. This young author, Kim, found a chord that has been struck for many years in this book and says what a lot of us feel about this enchanting character that highlights the best of Rowling’s character developing and creative story telling ability. Kim makes some acute observations to be sure, but much of it is just talking about what happened in the seven books with Snape as the eyehole to see how the magnificent plots unfurled. It is like being the silent part of a one-sided conversation. And this time I loved being the silent part. It’s a tad too long (300 pages) and repetitive, but overall I would put it as a near must-read for Potter fanatics.
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
I was/am a big fan of the show so this book was right up my alley. I had read quite a bit about the show before, but this book provided a lot of new information for me. I learned more about the history and the way the Seinfeld writing process worked. The main premise of the book is to explain how Seinfeld continues to be a force in pop culture nearly 20 years after it went off the air, unlike virtually any other show before or since. Long time fans will get the most out of Keishin’s work, but it would also be a good place to start for someone new to the show.
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Calamity is the final book in The Reckoners trilogy. Sanderson writes fantasy and sci-fi so he is not a household name at this point. Hopefully that will change soon. This trilogy is his attempt at writing a superhero story and he succeeds in spectacular fashion. It’s also a series he wrote specifically for younger readers to be able to enjoy. So, if you have young teenagers in your home, particularly boys, introduce them to The Reckoners. The series starts off with a bang with Steelheart and concludes with excitement, adventure and heart with Calamity.
Thermopylae: The Battle for the West by Ernle Bradford
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I made the exception for this story because the battle of 300 Spartans versus the greatest army in the world has fascinated me for years. This book did not disappoint. Bradford provides plenty of context, research and page-turning excitement in this brief, yet thorough glimpse of a decisive moment in world history.
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
This book is a narrative account of the history of the video game console history focusing mainly on the tail end of the third generation (dominated by Nintendo NES) through the fourth generation (Nintendo vs Sega) and into the beginning of the fifth generation (the dismal Sega Saturn, the incredible Nintendo 64, and the almighty Sony PlayStation). It is told mostly through the perspective of those in charge of the American divisions of Nintendo, Sega, and Sony.
I was absolutely enthralled by this book, which is quite unusual for me and nonfiction; but, admittedly, much of that is probably due to how closely this relates to my experiences, both as a child consumed by video games (my personal path through this conflict was Nintendo NES to Sega Game Gear and Genesis to Nintendo 64 to Sony PlayStation and eventually back to the NES Classic Edition) and as an adult who has spent his career in the software industry.
The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone
The author shares the stories and evidence for and against the health secrets of 25 people who have lived long lives and rarely, if ever, getting sick. Some of these “secrets” are things that are not within our control (such as where we’re from and inheriting good genes). Many are dietary related: some complimentary, some conflicting. Several are exercise related. A lot of them are common sense, and a few seem silly or absurd. All were interesting to read about.
I’m going to go give secret #15 a shot. Napping.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
This is my second time reading this insanely popular (and often polarizing) book, though I’ve yet to completely implement the tidying program promoted within its pages. The author recommends tidying one category of possessions at a time, and I’ve managed to get through clothes and books since my first read, and I have found it to be effective and lasting. I’m nearly finished with the “papers” category and hope to tackle miscellany and sentimental items before the end of Spring. There are a few things I don’t agree with. I’ll probably never fold clothes the way she recommends, for example. Over all, though, I found it to be refreshing and liberating to begin this tidying process, and I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Roverandom by J. R .R. Tolkien
Being a near rabid fan of J. R. R. Tolkien, I purchased and read this novella when it was first published in the late nineties. I enjoyed it but only read it the once and sold the book (among hundreds of others) before moving to New York eight years ago. Last month I saw that the kindle version was available for $0.99 (which it still is at the time of this writing), so I picked it up and read it for the second time, nearly twenty years after the first.
This story was first told by Tolkien to his young children in 1925 after his son Michael lost his favorite toy, a lead dog. It tells the tale of a young dog named Rover who gets on the wrong side of a wizard, is turned into a toy, and has many adventures on his quest to become a normal dog again. He goes to the moon and to the depths of the sea and many places in between.
I enjoyed this second reading immensely, more than the first if memory serves correctly. I have but two regrets. First, I should have read this aloud to my children, but I will remedy that soon enough. Second, I should have read the footnotes during the course of reading rather than all at the end, for the mythology contained within is deep.
Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection by Brandon Sanderson
Arcanum Unbounded is a collection of short stories and novellas by master world builder Brandon Sanderson. Each short story also includes a preface explaining its place in the “Cosmere”, Sanderson’s universe that connects most of the worlds he has created, and a postscript describing the real world inspiration for that story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, but it should not be one’s first introduction to Sanderson’s works. It is intended for those who have read many of his stories and are interested in learning about the Cosmere connections and/or those who have read the first two books of the Stormlight series and want to read the related Edgedancer novella (the only story in this collection that has not previously been published elsewhere).
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson taught me a valuable lesson when I read his book A Walk in the Woods: it is okay to take more than one sitting to read a book. I find a small, occasional dose of Bryson’s writing to be humorous and captivating and a large, continual dose to be annoying and approaching boring. I usually read a book in its entirety within a few days, often within a single day, but I started this book last February and have read a chapter here and there until I finally finished this month, nearly a year later. I tackled it much like he tackled the Appalachian Trail; except, of course, I didn’t skip any bits along the way.
Bryson is an American who lived in England for many years; and, before moving back to the States, he made a farewell tour of England, Wales, and Scotland mostly by rail, bus, and walking. This book is an account of that journey along with whatever thoughts happened to pop into his head along the way.
Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by BikeSnobNYC
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross
This book gave me confirmation and encouragement that we are doing some things well as parents (or at least attempting to) as well as giving me quite a few additional ideas for us to attempt to implement in order to improve our family life through simplification. Overall, it is an excellent book.
Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It by Larry Olmsted
There are many books about the dangers of processed food or fast food. This book is not one of those but is rather about the good stuff, the high-end, supposedly pure and healthy, often expensive food and ingredients. It is also about how you may not be getting what you think you’re getting when you order them at a restaurant, even the nicest restaurants here in New York, or purchase them at the store, even the expensive specialty grocery stores.
The author gives a captivating history of each food or ingredient, explains how it should appear and taste from his own experiences visiting the source, describes how it is often faked with evidence from detailed independent research, and informs how, if possible, we here in America can obtain the real thing with helpful shopping tips.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
This is the first young adult book by Brandon Sanderson that I have read, and I honestly expected to find something lacking in comparison with his books for adults. My only disappointment, however, was discovering that the sequel has not yet been written.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Fortunately, the Milk is another fun, silly (not quite as short) story by Neil Gaiman about a father who nipped out to the corner store for some milk for his children’s breakfast and had all sorts of adventures in time and space on the way back. I read this one with my children, and we all enjoyed it.
Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto by Michael Ruhlman
Michael Ruhlman describes 20 fundamental cooking techniques that, once mastered, should enable anyone to be able to cook almost anything. It was an interesting read. We’ll see in the coming months if it is effective.
(Editor’s note: You can click on the image for each book and it will take you to Amazon.com where you can order your own copy. If you order it through that link, a small percentage of your purchase price will go to Rambling Ever On.)