Book Reviews

Locusts--did they shape our gov't policy?

nbruce writes "There's a review of a fascinating book Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier at Books & Culture. The reviewer commented:

Perhaps what most weighed upon my mind as I read Lockwood's book was his diagnosis of religious responses to the locust plagues. On the American frontier, farmers who faced the oncoming cloud of ruin were forced to ask for aid. At first, they asked the church, and the church responded with prayers. But when it came time to ask for more than prayer, the church shut its doors. As Lockwood states, "Offering up prayers was one thing—giving up wages was quite another."

In the end, the destitute turned to the federal government for their subsistence, eventually raising a series of fundamental political questions that would set precedents for agricultural policy, natural disaster, and federal relief into the present time. Today, we wait for the government to pronounce a "natural disaster"—where "natural" means precisely that.

The reviewer's enthusiasm fades near the end of the book where he thinks the author gets a bit flighty. I haven't read the book, but wondered if it had been 1975 instead of 1875 that locusts devastated the U.S., would the environmental movement have tried to save them?"


Anna Karenina on Oprah

nbruce writes "The newest selection (the 5th) for Oprah's classic book club choice is Anna Karenina, the first on her long list that she admits she's never read.

"I cannot imagine a world where the great works of literature are not read. My hope is The Oprah Winfrey Show will make classic works of literature accessible to every woman and man who reads. ... I hope to invite readers throughout the world to visit or revisit a universe of books of enduring usefulness, because I believe that the sublimity of this experience, this gift to ourselves, is something that we owe to ourselves." — Oprah Winfrey"


Largest book reviewed in detail

nbruce writes "Finding a copy and then reviewing it, was no small task for Laurence Wieder of Books and Culture, who reviewed Bhutan:

“My appointment to look at Bhutan also gave the [LC] Prints and Photography Division staff their first opportunity to go through the book. They pushed several library tables together against an outside wall of the reading room to make a raised platform for turning the pages. The book was cradled by foam bolsters to ease pressure on the spine when it lay open. A step-stool helped elevate me above the viewing surface, although probably not far enough to attain the right aesthetic distance from the page. The custom easel hadn't been unpacked yet. The blinds were drawn to cut down glare. I borrowed a loupe, to inspect the prints' dot structure.�"


Summer reading recommendations from Nancy Pearl

Librarian, author and action figure model Nancy Pearl offers a summer reading list to her hometown Seattle Post Intelligencer. I've heard of three of the titles she mentions, but I haven't read any of them.


Dershowitz's Book Gets a Second Book Review in PW

Unhappy with the original negative review of his lengthily-titled book "America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles that Transformed Our Nation -- From the Salem Witches to the Guantanamo Detainees", author/professor/lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz expressed his dissatisfaction loudly to Publishers Weekly Editor-in-Chief Nora Rawlinson.

Her response concurred that the original review "did not comply with our reviewing standards," more or less admitting that the review was a reflection of the {unspecified} reviewer's personal feelings about the author rather than a critique of the book. Here's the story from


Books and the single girl

An Anonymous Patron sends "this piece about the publishing phenomenon of Chick Lit.

"'The last time single women were celebrated in fiction, they were called New Women, says Elaine Showalter, the recently retired chairwoman of Princeton's English department. That was when the 19th century became the 20th.

Now the 20th has turned into the 21st century, and a genre concentrating on the lives, loves, adventures and misadventures of unwed females is once again booming. This time around, it's called Chick Lit.'"


Liberty, Technology, Duty: Where Peace Overlaps War

Info Whale writes "Here is one of the best pieces I have read recently on the link between freedom and libraries. Rothstein discusses several new books on the subject including "Free Culture: How Bad Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity" Penguin, $24.95),
"The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System" (Basic Books, $26) by Siva Vaidhyanathan and "The Success of Open Source" (Harvard, $29.95)by Steven Weber."


Everyone knew her as Nancy

Book Lust author, former Tulsan, action figure model, and increasingly visible library poster person Nancy Pearl was featured on NPR's Morning Edition today, giving book recommendations to Steve Inskeep. The topic, briefly, was "political books for people who are sick of hearing about politics". She spoke about several political novels, including Henry Adams' Democracy from 1876, and the classic All the King's Men.


A Book About the Other New Yorkers

Robert Sullivan's new book may make some readers a bit queasy, but NYT book reviewer Michiko Kakutani calls it ""Engaging ... a lively, informative compendium of facts, theories and musings."

The subject is...rats.

This article relates how the author studied the habits of rodents each evening over the period of a year in New York's Chinatown aided by a pair of infra-red goggles. He found that social connections within the rat community are amazingly similar to the city's predominant species. Happily, he tells us that the long-believed formula that there is one rat per New Yorker is, as of the moment, fictitious.


Library lectures become book series

nbruce writes "The opening paragraph of a detailed review of a series of seven books that started out as a lecture series in a library states:

“Recently, prominent writers from a wide variety of fields took the stage at the New York Public Library to expound upon the Seven Deadly Sins. Four of the lectures have now been published in book form, with three additional volumes forthcoming. An editor's note explains that these books are intended "to chart the ways we have approached and understood evil, one deadly sin at a time." The problem, however, is that the series lifts seven names from an old and closely detailed map in order to draw a new and rather vague one, occasionally replacing what once was a warning with a blessing.�

And so, lust, envy and gluttony are all reworked and misapplied and even become virtues at the hands of these authors. Even greed, although closer to the traditional teachings on the subject, is weak, according to reviewer Abram Van Engen. Read the Books & Culture review here."



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