Monday, November 9, 2009

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

I never thought I would enjoy a book about Puritans but Sarah Vowell does such a great job with the history of Massachusetts Bay Colony that I read The Wordy Shipmates faster than I have ever read nonfiction before. She is witty and fun to read. The way that she relates the history of these early settlers to more modern history is both interesting and insightful.
For instance, I loved when she explained John Winthrop's famous speech "A Model of Christian Charity" and how odd it was that Ronald Reagan used part of that speech so often. Now, I am not a big fan of Ronald Reagan, so I really enjoyed all of the terrible things he did being pointed out in the book as proof that he didn't really understand "Christian Charity" at all. He regularly was comparing America to the "shining city on a hill." Without thinking about what that meant. In the rest of John Winthrop's speech he talks about togetherness and taking care of one another; while Reagan preached individualism and greed. Ok, I will stop myself before I get on a soapbox about why Reagan was terrible for America.
Vowell also did a wonderful job of illustrating the Puritans' love for learning. Namely reading and writing. She points out that while the United States gets called a Puritan nation often, this is one way it is not. She says that "Puritan lives were overwhelmingly, fanatically literary." This is something that I wish that we, as a nation were known for, but that is a different discussion for a different day.
The Wordy Shipmates also shed some light on the way Indians were related with and treated during that time period. I think it is common knowledge that European settlers were never a good thing for Indians, but it was interesting to learn more about how things were at the beginning of the colony. She explains about alliances that were made and about how the small pox made settling in American that much easier for the Puritans. I guess part of me was hoping to find some story in here where the settlers weren't totally using the Indians and then destroying them after, but that is really not available here. This book just really made me realize how little I knew about the beginnings of America and how wanting our education on it is. It has really inspired me to learn more about the people of that time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

American Gods By Neil Gaiman

I really love Neil Gaiman. I have read most of his books and after finishing American Gods I only wish there were more to read. As usual Neil Gaiman did a wonderful job of creating likable, realistic characters in a not so likely situation. American Gods opens with Shadow, the leading man, in jail. He has served three years and is about to be paroled. He is looking forward to going back to his wife and living a quiet life. It is not so simple though. Shadow feels a storm coming. Right before he leaves his quiet plans are turned upside down when he finds out that his wife has died in a car crash. On his plane ride to her funeral he meets Mr. Wednesday, a mysterious man with a proposition that will change his life.
Throughout the book you go on an adventure with Shadow into an America that most people don't think about. It is the world where gods are everywhere. Gods who were brought to America and then forgotten, along with new Gods, like Media and Technology, who have replaced them. What I love about this is the way that Gaiman has of making old ideas, like gods and dreams, and makes them new.
The gods who are now stuck in America spend their time trying to be worshiped in any way they can. Mr. Wednesday seems to be the ring leader of all the old gods. He feels a storm coming and he enlists Shadow to be a body guard of sorts as he goes around the country convincing the old gods to join him in a war against the new gods of America. While I found myself caring for Shadow and his well being, he is not perfect. None of the characters are and that is part of what I love about the way Gaiman creates characters. I found myself even having some sympathy for the "bad guys" of the novel. Gaiman always seems to take his main characters on a journey, both physically and emotionally. And like in all of his books the ending is bitter sweet. I am afraid to give away too much more, but I would definitely recommend this book(and all of his others) to anyone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scary but true...

I never thought this day would come, but here it is. I am starting a blog. I know you might be wondering what I could possibly have to say and really I was wondering the same thing. That is until, my favorite website, started the Cannonball Read. Last year some fine people at Pajiba decided to challenge themselves to read 100 books in a year and review them. That was a little to much for me. This year it is 52 books, 52 reviews and I decided that there are no excuses this year. So now I am going to read and write about a book a week. I am nervous, but I think it could be fun. Or horrible. We shall see...