Sunday, March 18, 2018

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void  by Mary Roach
Weight: 9 oz
Method of Disposal: Returning to rightful owner (borrowed 4-5 years ago or so....I know...I am terrible)

I love all things space and thought this book was a lot of fun.  I have often dreamed about what it would be like to have the opportunity to board a space shuttle and leave Earth behind.  I have thought that I would do it even if I knew I would not make it back.  I have thought about how I would be pleased for my ashes after death to be shot up there, which is only a little weird because, otherwise, I do not care at all what happens to my dead body.  I've dreamed many many dreams about it and none of them included the oddities in this little book.

It was fun and disturbing to think about all the tiny details of astronaut life.  Roach covers bodily fluids, eating, human nature, fungal growth, relationships, sickness, and all the little things you likely do not want to experience in space, but you endure for the ultimate exploration experience.  There were times where she had me laughing out loud and times where she was just flat out uncouth, but the overall book was insightful and fun. 

I did not love hearing about animals in space, as it breaks my heart every time, but I am always glad to know all I can know about the history of space travel and that includes the poor dogs and chimps that were sent without their consent into the unknown. 

I know that not everyone is impressed with Mary Roach and her popular science books, but I think they are a great way to dip into worlds a lot of us do not know much about.  I like her upbeat writing and chipper personality.  I may not laugh at all her jokes, but she always gets me with a few of them.  Also, space is exciting whether you like the author or not so why not?  I think it is worth the read!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Real Thing

The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
Weight: 3 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating

I was delighted to find another play by Stoppard while unpacking.  I am not as impressed with it as I am with his others, though I know I would have loved it in college and, from reading other reviews, I am the only one who isn't.  At that time I was fascinated by infidelity, love or the lack thereof, the other woman, sexual prowess, and divorce statistics.  I would have been underlining everything and making notes--like the reader before me.  This time, I just left feeling a little sad, a little unimpressed, and wondering if there are many male author's that can write about women in a way that feels honest to me.  I remember my creative writing teacher telling us not to piss on our own characters but, so often, when I read some of the "best" books ever written it feels like all the women are drenched in a non-consensual golden shower.  Stoppard's women are,at least, smart.  At moments, it just seems like they are only there so that men can bounce words off them and pontificate about their own life.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Max and Helen

Max and Helen: A Remarkable True Love Story
Weight: 12.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating

I guess it will be no surprise that this is a challenging and painful telling of the experiences of a couple and those around them in the concentration camps of WWII, as well as a glimpse of their lives before the war and even more of their lives after the war ended.  You can never know what you or would or would not do in situations like these without having lived them, but it absolutely broke my heart into a thousand pieces to hear that Max could not ever see Helen again after he found her, miraculously alive, twenty years after the WWII ended.  He went to her once and realized she had a son whose father was the SS guard that tormented them throughout their time in the camp.  She had been repeatedly raped, and she had somehow showed the courage, strength, and love to raise her son alone to be a kind, compassionate, and passionate young man.  Max, on the other hand, could not look at the boy and so decided to leave them both.  He loved her quietly, from afar, and was never willing to see her again.  I could not imagine her pain.  She carried so much alone and the one man that loved her for her entire life was not able and willing to accept her son and live out the remainder of their lives together.  It just seemed an unnecessary blow after all the terrible cruelty she had experienced in this life. 

Then, there was the agony of the author and "nazi-hunter," Simon Wiesenthal, not being able to pursue and seek justice with the SS guard because it would expose Helen's son to an unthinkable truth and Helen to public scrutiny.  On top of that was the mental prison that Max lived in long after he escaped the confines of the Nazis.  It would seem all unbearable, except that somehow Helen and Max and so many others found a way to bear it, heavily.

Small Sacrifices

Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating

I was working at Waldenbooks in early 2000 when a woman came in to the store proclaiming desperately that this book was her life and that I had to read it to understand her.  I had never met her before, but she pressed a copy of the book into my hands and then bought a copy for her attorney.  She was incredibly emotional and high-strung. 

I bought the book without paying much attention to it.  I was curious, but I was uncomfortable because I knew that Ann Rule was THE true crime author of the time.  I got home and saw the book was about a woman who tried to murder her children, successfully killing one.  I was a teenager.  I was not so sure I should have bought the book.  I hoped that the woman was just a little insane and mostly just a liar.  I put the book away and every time I picked it up I would just put it right back away.  I wondered who the woman thought she was.  The murderer, the child, the prosecution--couldn't be--she said she had an attorney.  Was she just attention-seeking?  I will never know. 

I finally read it this year.  We just moved into a new house, and we have less space even though we like this house better than the last.  We are purging a lot.  I am, of course, still trying to read and let go of all of these books.  There are still SO many.  I knew I wanted to let this one go because of my feelings about true crime and because of all the thoughts it brought up every time I came across it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Bipolar #1

Bipolar #1 by Tomar Hanuka, Asaf Hanuka, Etgar Keret
Weight: 5 oz
Method of Disposal: Donating

Three very short comics.  They were interesting and sad.  This is the second book I have re-read today that somehow included Kurt Cobain, quite by coincidence.  I would be interested in experiencing books 2, 3, and 4.