Books Finished March 2012

Have you every been so annoyed by a book you wanted to start reading it all again and so you could write your comments all over it?  This was one of those.  I just can't figure out what its purpose it.  The writers are supposedly well educated and linguistically savvy, but what's the point of pointing out "errors" when there is no analysis?  We all know sports commentators make slips of the tongue - they are in pressured situations - and are not known, generally, for their erudition anyway.  So that's an easy target.  Then there is the weary and predictable tilt against jargon.  Sometimes that comment is fair enough - but is it always out of place?  In passing there is a mention that people use jargon as a way of belonging to the a group - bingo!!  Finally a glimmer of light that language goes beyond the literal to encompass the psychological and social and cultural.  There are lists and lists of words and expressions that the authors believe can be improved on, but some of the "translations" just do not mean the same as the original.  Plus, what would our language (or any language) be like without choice.  We need options to cover different circumstances and often simply to maintain interest.  There is no real help for anyone who may be looking for ideas on how to improve their language -which brings me back to the book's purpose.  Is it simply a list of the crazy ways people use language?  If so, I think there are plenty of other ones out there.    It certainly doesn't work as a help or guide to improving language, and anyway it's unlikely to be read by people who are currently mangling the language.
So why did I buy the book?  I thought it was about language spoke by men (as opposed to women) I thought there may be some insights along those lines - I should have scanned it a lot more thoroughly before buying.

This book came to me.  It was quite literally put into my hands by a friend who thought I would enjoy it - and she then said that it wasn't the one she had in mind at all, and took it away again.  By then I'd dipped into it and thought it WAS my kind of book, so I borrowed it from the library.  It's an easy read, but quite powerful.  Based on a lot of research about Japanese "picture brides" or mail order brides who travelled to the US about a century ago, the book condenses the history - one sentence per woman, one sentence per experience until the sentences build and resonate and you feel the reality of what it must have been like for the women.  Each chapter has a different theme, starting with the voyage on the boat.  A wonderful book that isn't quite a novel, isn't quite poetry, and isn't quite history, but captures all those elements and allows the reader an insight into the time and lives of the women.

Stephen Clarke is a funny man.  Even though this is a guide book to the city he now calls home (he is English by birth), it's fun and interesting and humorous.  He had great success with a book called A Year in the Merde - initially self-published - and has since gone on to lots of other books.  I like that this moves beyond the obvious touristy view of Paris, but not so deeply that you can't relate - after all, he is still a foreigner.  I need to read it all again and take thorough notes!

These are my favourite guidebooks - especially when you are new to a place.  There is a huge amount of information in both written and visual form.  The visual consists of high quality glossy colour photos - excellent to figure out what you want to see.  I've dipped into it, read it from back to front and front to back, and will probably pore over it some more to fine tune what I want to visit.

The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin - a journalist and pop music critic discovers Bach and uncovers some of the mystery behind the suites.  A very readable book, but I skimmed a lot as I didn't need to read all the details of him attending a Bach Festival or learning the cello.  I also found the structure around the movements of the suites a bit forced - not the writing, but the link between the story being told and the movement.  Overall though, very very good.

Remote Control - Cheryl Kaye Tardiff
Be careful what you wish for!  A very lazy and unhappy man discovers that he holds unusual power in his hands.  His unhappy wife discovers his secret and gets what she wishes for too!

A Real Mom's Travel Guide: Paris with Kids - Christina Monk
Although I won't be travelling with children, I still found some interesting tid bits here.

Julius Katz Mysteries - Dave Zeltserman
Julius is urbanity personified, and takes cases only when he absolutely needs to (ie he's had a losing streak at the track and wants to buy a case of rare wine).  His offsider Archie is an assistant par excellence, an intelligent electronic device in effect.  Archie has a real personality, and we see everything from his perspective.   The story references other classic PIs.  A very amusing and entertaining mystery series.

Inspector Zhang Gets Wish - Stephen Leather
This short story is in the Agatha Christie vein - step by step Zhang works through the intriguing "locked room" puzzle.  Very well written

Renaissance History 101- a Text Vook
An overview of the Renaissance and its place in history. 

Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload - Mark Hurst
Some good tips on getting technology to work for you