Bookshelf Archives – December 11th, 2022

Books I’m Reading, Have Read, Or Want You To Think I’m Reading Or Have Read.

My Latest Bibliothoughts

So, it’s obviously been a while. As in more than two years.

I assure you, I’ve read a book since October 2020. At least two and a half. And skimmed the newspaper every day. At least the comics. Except Blondie. I’m allergic to Dagwood Bumstead. I find myself rooting for Mr. Dithers.

Sorry. Off topic there for a minute.

The thing with muddling through a pandemic while grappling with depression is you kind of lose interest in writing about the books you’ve read, especially when you write for work but not about books. It feels like you only have so many words per day in you, like a pitcher on a pitch count.

But reading is so central to my life that I was bound to come back. And it’s actually good timing, because one of the last books I finished reading and was preparing to review was by Trevor Noah, who just this week stepped down from The Daily Show.

I totally planned that.

Born A Crime

by Trevor Noah

I think Trevor Noah himself might argue that his mother Patricia is the real protagonist of this memoir. He places her at the center of the narrative as much as himself.

I think that helps the book escape a common problem of memoirs: the tendency to solipsism. 

I mean, I get it, someone offers you big money to write a memoir; that kind of implies you have something important to say. 

Fortunately, Trevor does, with wit and a unique perspective that made him such a success at the Daily Show.

There’s a jarring moment or two, especially the strange popularity among schoolchildren in South Africa of the name of a certain monstrous figure from history (western history, at least?) who seems to be posthumously garnering sympathy again amongst some hateful people of today. 

But it’s all worth it, and it makes sense, and the whole story is a fascinating examination of a biracial life growing up under apartheid. 

A Woman Of No Importance
by Sonia Purnell

People who complain that non-fiction is boring need to read this story of Virginia Hall, an American debutante who lost a leg in a hunting accident and went on to be a driving force of resistance behind enemy lines in occupied France during WWII. 

Overcoming being overlooked early in a diplomatic career, she became “The Limping Lady of Lyon”, considered by the Nazis to be one of the most dangerous of Allied spies. 

Talk about leaning in. And not because of the prosthetic leg she named Cuthbert.

Starting with the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) and then with the American OSS, Virginia’s story was ultimately one of triumph and perseverance. And causing a lot of pain to Nazis. You can never go wrong with causing pain to Nazis. 

The journalistic style the author chooses is perfect for this story, a detached view compatible with the ice-cold decisions Virginia had to make. In fact, it made the story even more compelling than it might have been. By comparison, a fictionalized version of Virginia’s story – which I also read but will not name here – paled, seeming a bit less exciting, and with some elements giving the impression of having been written with a screenplay in mind. 

You don’t have to Hollywoodify a story such as A Woman Of No Importance. It commands your attention on its own merits. 

Read, To Be Reviewed

  • Foundation and Foundation And Empire by Isaac Asimov (a re-reading after decades)
  • I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, by Michelle McNamara

Currently Reading

  • The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper
  • The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

In Limbo/Progress Made Here and There Between Other Books

  • The Answer Is …, by Alex Trebek
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