Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson
(DC Comics, 2014, 168 pages)
I was prompted to read this one after hearing it mentioned in a great Geek Week lecture by one of our librarians. There’s a cool motion comic that goes along with it [here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG0UUdGI01o].
This comic imagines a world where Superman grew up in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. We all know that Superman has a bit of a messiah complex, and in this alternate universe, that impulse turns him into a full-fledged totalitarian dictator. As his control tightens, he is challenged by Batman, who fights the expansion of the state’s power under Superman. Under Superman’s control, the Soviet Union brings order to the world, with the exception of America and its president, Lex Luthor.
The idea behind this comic is really clever. On a visual level, seeing Superman’s red “S” transformed into a hammer and sickle is striking, and it really embodies the tension of placing this all-American hero in a communist state. The artwork and the story are both excellent, and this collection of three comics stands on its own as a story. I enjoyed it as much or more than any superhero comic I’ve read.
Bear is Broken by Lachlan Smith
(Mysterious Press, 2013, 256 pages)
Bear is Broken by Lachlan Smith has a dramatic beginning. Leo Maxwell and his superstar criminal defense lawyer brother, Teddy, are having lunch in a restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant is crowded, but a lone gunman manages to walk in, shoot Teddy in the head, and leave without being caught. Teddy is in a coma with a small chance for survival. Teddy is not well-liked by the police dept. Leo who is a newly minted lawyer decides that he needs to search for the person who shot his brother. Leo’s suspect list includes Teddy’s ex-wife, Teddy’s secretary, Teddy’s investigator, Teddy and Leo’s father who is in prison for murdering their mother, an ex-girlfriend or two, and some criminal types.
Bear is Broken is the first novel by Lachlan Smith. Smith describes himself as “a lawyer who writes novels.” There are currently 4 novels in the Leo Maxwell Mystery series.
A few reviews mention a comparison between John Grisham and Lachlan Smith. There is some courtroom drama in Bear is Broken, but I consider this book more of a “whodunit”. The plot in this novel does get resolved, but questions linger as to what will happen to certain characters. If you read this book, be prepared to want to read the next one, too.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
(Riverhead Books, 2015, 290 pages)
In So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed Jon Ronson investigates people who have been subjected to public shamings and how this affects them and reflects on our society. A lot of shaming today takes place online and it has added a completely different dynamic to things. Ronson highlights a few different high profile cases of public shaming and interviews those who were shamed.
In the midst of things we, as a society, don’t really think about the people who are on the receiving end of public shamings. People like Justine Sacco and Lindsey Stone were subjected to so much hate and ridicule that they effectively shut down and tried as hard as possible to go off the grid. It’s incredibly easy to judge people from afar – we don’t think about how our snappy tweets and Facebook posts actually impact the lives of real people. Ronson calls this out and talks about the logic behind this group mentality that takes over when a shaming is in progress.
Ronson’s approach to this topic is interesting – it’s something I had never really taken the time to think about. This was an entertaining book that reads fairly quickly. If you’re looking for accessible non-fiction with a little humor this would be up your alley.
The State We’re In: Maine Stories by Ann Beattie
(Scribner, 2015, 206 pages)
Maine is one of the states I haven’t been to yet, but I’m dying to go. That was part of what drew me to this book. It’s a collection of loosely connected short stories that are either set in or tied to Maine in some way. The book was good, but I didn’t find myself immersed in the stories. If you’re already a Beattie fan this is a book you’ll want to pick up.
“A magnificent new collection of linked stories from a multiple prize-winning master of the short form. The State We’re In, Ann Beattie’s first collection of new stories in a decade, is about how we live in the places we have chosen—or have been chosen by. It is about the stories we tell our families, our friends, and ourselves; the truths we may or may not see; how our affinities unite or repel us; and where we look for love.
Told through the voices of vivid and engaging women of all ages, The State We’re In explores their doubts and desires and reveals the unexpected moments and glancing epiphanies of daily life. Some of Beattie’s idiosyncratic and compelling characters have arrived in the coastal state by accident, while others are trying to escape. The collection is woven around Jocelyn, a wry, disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle for the summer, forging new friendships, avoiding her mother’s calls, taking writing classes, and encountering mortality for the first time. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn’s, sometimes challenging and sometimes embellishing her view.” – Amazon.com
Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners by Sara Moulton
(Simon & Schuster, 2010, 400 pages)
Oh, how I’ve missed reading about food! I discovered Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners when I realized I was in something of a food rut at home and wanted to find a cookbook that could help guide me out of it. I just don’t have the time to play around in the kitchen like I used to now that I’m constantly keeping an eye on a toddler who has to explore everything.
This cookbook is one I definitely plan on buying and adding to my collection. I really liked Moulton’s writing style. Each recipe had a short introduction and then the recipes themselves were clearly written and easy to follow. There are also tips and tricks interspersed throughout. The nature of the cookbook is to make it easy to put together a good, quality family meal on a weeknight when time is always at a premium. There were a lot of recipes I wanted to try, some with ingredients I might not otherwise gravitate towards.
Lest you doubt, I did read this whole cookbook 🙂 If you’re looking for ways to change up your family’s food repertoire this would be a good place to start – even if you’re something of a cooking novice.
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
(A.A. Knopf, 1995, 223 pages)
This memoir offers a glimpse into what it’s like to live as a manic-depressive (also known as bipolar disorder). As a psychiatrist Jamison was able to approach her illness with considerably more background knowledge than the average individual who battles this disease. Jamison recounts times in her life when she experienced highs you wouldn’t believe and then lows it was hard to picture ever rising above. Thanks to psychotherapy and taking lithium Jamison was able to finally get a handle on her illness while not feeling like she was losing herself in the process. An Unquiet Mind is an insightful read into the experience of life with this intense and devastating illness.
Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson
(Putnam, 2003, 375 pages)
A chemistry professor and a chemist wrote this great book. They selected 17 molecules and told fascinating stories about them. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular molecule, its discovery, how it was used, and its impact on humans, good and bad. If you like to cook, you’ll enjoy the first three chapters. They are all food related: Peppers, Nutmeg, Cloves, Ascorbic Acid and Glucose. After you learn about how sugar plantations were established to satisfy Europe’s huge sweet tooth, you can jump to Chapter Seven: Silk and Nylon. In this chapter, you’ll learn how Nylon became the synthetic replacement for silk and how Nylon stimulated the fashion industry.
The book also discussed the negative impact some molecules had on humans such as the use of poison gas in war and the environmental consequences of the use of DDT. I found the book enjoyable and engaging. It would make excellent supplemental reading for high school and college chemistry courses, especially organic chemistry. You can totally ignore the chemical formulas and molecular structures if chemistry is not your cup of tea. Highly recommend for history and science readers.