Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm Alive, I Swear!

Okay, so things have gotten sort of hectic lately, but I'm still reading, I just haven't been blogging. I'm hoping things will die down by next week and by that time I'll have several more books read that I can review.

I finished Everything Is Illuminated and then started Love Always, but I just wasn't feeling it. I might go back to it, but I read Fight Club instead and then moved on to a reread of The Princess Bride. I decided that I was going to try to knock out a bunch of books for the Books to Movies Challenge all in one go.

I'll be back soon, I promise. :)


Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Last week I read one book. And it was a short one. And I was disgusted with myself. In the hopes that this week I'll be much more successful, I've made myself draw up a reading list for the week, which means, of course, that I have full authority to participate in It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, which is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Every week, Sheila posts this meme, which invites bloggers to divulge what they delved into the previous week, what they're reading at the moment, and what they plan to read in the week ahead. I haven't been as good about joining in on IMWAYR lately, mostly because I haven't been as diligent about creating a reading list. I've just kind of been plopping myself down with whatever I felt like...which has led to me not reading much of anything. So, here's my list for this week.

What I Read Last Week:
-Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

What I'm Currently Reading:
-Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

What I'm Reading This Week:
-Love Always by Ann Beattie*
-Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos*
-Looking for Alaska by John Green*
-The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom*
-False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear by Marc Siegel

NOTE: Books marked with an (*) are books that a friend loaned me that I promised I would read and give back to her before the end of the year. I had no choice in what she gave me, but she's promised me that they're all good reads, so we'll see.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Bookish TV: Babies and Bees - Reviews of Grimm and Once Upon a Time

Title: Grimm
Airs: Fridays at 9 on NBC
Stars: David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Silas Weir Mitchell

"Beeware" (first aired November 11, 2011)

Plot: After a flash mob results in the gruesome death of a Portland lawyer, Nick and Hank find themselves engaged in an investigation involving bees, corporate intrigue, and an old enemy. Soon, Nick discovers that he may be in more danger than he realized.

Review: I'm not quite sure how NBC decides on which scenes to show in the previews for the next episode of Grimm, but there were several scenes in Friday's episode that had been used as previews for episode two, which makes me insanely confused. But this is supposed to be a review of an episode, not of NBC's practices, so whatever.

"Beeware," the latest episode of NBC's new series, is loosely inspired by "The Queen Bee," a Brothers Grimm tale that I had no idea existed until I was writing this review and was trying to figure out what was up with all the bees. I have an irrational fear of bugs in general, but bees are up at the top of the list of bugs that make me cringe. Anyway, a woman ends up dead after a flash mob does the "YMCA" on a city bus and the cause of death is an overdose of bee venom. Nick and Hank are sent to investigate and find a connection between the woman's law firm and an abandoned paper mill. Nick also discovers that two members of the flash mob aren't what they seem to be; they are, in fact, melafers, or bee-people. I won't give the rest of the episode away, but basically they're involved in a plot that Nick uncovers and that involves the hexenbeast that tried to kill his aunt in the first episode.

All in all, I'd say that this wasn't a bad episode. It was suspenseful and had some great Eddie Monroe moments (I'm not ashamed to admit that he's one of the main reasons why I watch the show) and the hints at a dark and dangerous future for Nick had me dying to see the next episode. There was some great tension between Nick and his boss, the nefarious Captain Renard (which means "fox" in French and will probably have some significance later on in the series), that made me wonder how Nick can't see that his boss is part of some sort of shadowy organization, but Nick's still kind of wet behind the ears in the Grimm-ing department, so I'll forgive him for that.

One thing that I'm still finding hard to believe is that three episodes in there still hasn't been much character development where Nick is concerned. I think that it's great that they've combined fantasy with a cop drama and created something new, but I want to care about the main character. His thinly-veiled anger at the hexenbeast was a good step in the right direction, but he could use more of a personality. I also hope that the show starts giving Hank and Eddie more to do than just whatever Nick asks of them. It's like he has two sidekicks (both of whom are more interesting than he is) and he just interchanges them when he has need of their skills.

I feel like the first two episodes were better, but "Beeware" wasn't terrible and it helped to introduce whatever's lurking around the corner for Nick in the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to more of this show, but I'm hoping that eventually I come to see Nick as more than just a pretty-boy cop.

Title: Once Upon a Time
Airs: Sundays at 8 on ABC
Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla

"The Price of Gold" (first aired November 13, 2011)

Plot: When a young pregnant girl assaults Mr. Gold and tries to flee town, he comes to Emma for help in locating her in order to make sure that she keeps up her end of a deal the two of them made. But when Emma discovers the truth about their deal, she cares more about finding and helping the girl than about anything else. In fairy land, Cinderella makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that she'll come to regret and we find out just how he ended up in that prison in the first place.

Review: I wanted to like Grimm more than Once Upon a Time (although I have no idea why), but this show has far surpassed it in my mind. The characters are multi-faceted and interesting, the plots are well-paced and relevant, and the structure of the show (the switching between stories and the playing around with time) is unique and fun. This has quickly become my new favorite show and "The Price of Gold" is a good example of why.

Introducing the new character of Cinderella, "The Price of Gold" also delves more deeply into Rumpelstiltskin's past and Mr. Gold's present. I've gushed about Robert Carlyle on here enough that it won't come as a surprise that these two have become my favorite characters on the show, but even without them, this would have been a great episode.

Changing the story of the girl who wore glass slippers and modernizing it to deal with the difficult and often controversial issues of teen pregnancy and single motherhood, Once Upon a Time has given new life to a tale that I always felt taught the regrettable lesson that all a girl needs to be happy is be pretty and find a man to marry. It builds on the show's already strong female cast and allows Emma's character a chance to grow (something Grimm hasn't yet managed to do with it's main character).

The show is visually beautiful and "The Price of Gold" was no exception. The costumes, sets, and scenery are so well-chosen and they're used to enhance an already great show. All the pretty sets and fun lighting in the world couldn't save a bad show, but Once Upon a Time has a great writing staff and a great cast that has really grown into their characters over the last few episodes. Gone is the poor acting from the first episode as well as the poor dialogue. Everything about the show has improved tenfold in the last few weeks and I can only assume it will get better as time goes on.

I loved how they combined the stories of Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin and I also really liked her friendship with Snow White. In the real world (Storybrooke), Cinderella becomes just another statistic, a marked difference from her life as a princess and a stark reminder of the dangers of glamorizing the life of privilege portrayed in the stories of our youth. Emma's strength, which is derived from her past as an orphan and a teen mother, as well as from her life as a bail-bondsperson, makes her reaction to Ashley's predicament more genuine and poignant and, ultimately, more satisfying to watch.

This was such a good episode, perhaps their best yet, and it has given me even more incentive to continue watching.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Which I Preview What's Coming in 2012

In a month and a half it'll be 2012, which can only mean one thing: another year for me to completely fail at completing the 7 bajillion reading challenges I've signed up for. It also, of course, means another year of books and blogging. As we get closer and closer to the new year, I keep telling myself that I'm not going to reveal what I have planned for this blog in 2012...but I have nothing else to blog about today so what the heck, right? 

Books, Books, and More Books
This year my goal was to read 100 books between March (when I started blogging) and December 31st. While that's not going to happen, that's no reason for me not to dream big for next year. My goal for 2012 is 120 books, which averages out to 10 books per month. 

Because There Are Never Enough Challenges In Life
In addition to challenging myself to read 120 books, I have a few personal challenges that I'd like to do next year. I'll be continuing to work on my 1 Million Pages challenge, but I'm also challenging myself to read more non-fiction (I know it seems like I read a lot of that already, but I really would like to read even more), as well as more books written in the 1960s and 1970s. I have a huge obsession with books from those two decades, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Breakfast of Champions, and would love to get through a huge stack of them in the coming year.

Now, for the rest of you, I have a challenge in the works that everyone can get in on. I'm tweaking the details at the moment, but here's the basic gist: 

This challenge will require participants to pick one country they've never visited and read books throughout the year that have to do with that country. They can be any type of book--travel, history, novel, culture, play, etc.--and can be from any time period in that country's history. I'll be posting the actual challenge details next month once they've been finalized, but for now I leave you all to start considering which country you'd like to spend the year exploring. 

Everyone Loves a Read-Along
Frank Herbert's Dune is one of my favorite novels of all time. Yet, even though I own the entire (original) series, I've only ever read the first book. Next year I'll be reading one book from the series every month in January, March, May, July, September, and November and I'm inviting everyone to join in. Maybe you've always been curious about the series, maybe you've seen one of the movies based on the first book and thought "The novel has got to be better than this crap," or maybe you've got a sci-fi challenge going on and you need books to add to your reading list. Whatever your reasoning, the Dune read-along is for you.

"But, Gabe," I hear you saying, "what about the other six months?" Have no fear, dear reader, I have a plan. 

For the months of February, April, June, August, October, and December, I'm doing a read-along of a different color. I'm (tentatively) calling it "Gabe's Big Ol' Book Club" and it's exactly what it sounds like. Each month I'll be picking a massive book (you know, the really intimidating ones that we keep saying we'll read and never do) for participants to read and discuss. I've already got the books picked out but there would be no fun if it weren't a surprise.

Look for more details on both of these read-alongs in December. 

Busy Work
To make sure that I've always got something to blog about even when I'm behind on reading, I've got a few things that I'm planning to do on a regular basis next year. Assuming that Grimm and/or Once Upon a Time stay on the air, I'll be reviewing those shows on a weekly basis (my reviews of last week's episodes are coming, I promise). I'm also going to make up for my dismal participation in the Books to Movies Challenge by reviewing as many of the films as I can that have been made from books that I read in 2012. 

Other than that, it'll be pretty much the same as it has been. I'm thinking of doing a redesign of my blog but I haven't made a final decision on that. 

I have a few more reviews to do for books that I read months ago and I'm going to finish my current read (which I've been stuck on for a week for various and sundry reasons) so that I can move on to other books. I probably won't meet all of my goals this year but, hey, there's always next year, right?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Human Face for a Global Problem: A Review of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert

Title: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2009)
Pages: 225
Challenges: GoodReads 2011 Reading Challenge
How I Came By This Book: This was just one of many books on global warming that I got from the library as research for that book I keep talking about.

About the Author: Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1999. Prior to that, she was a political reporter for the New York Times. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and three sons.

Synopsis: Long known for her insightful and thought-provoking political journalism, Elizabeth Kolbert now tackles the controversial and increasingly urgent subject of global warming. In what began as a groundbreaking three-part series in the New Yorker, for which she won a National Magazine Award, Kolbert cuts through the competing rhetoric and poltical agendas to elucidate what is really going on with the global movement and asks what, if anything, can be done to save our planet. With a new afterword by the author, Field Notes from a Catastrophe is the book to read on the greatest challenge facing the world today.

Review: I've now read four books on the subject of climate change (and I still have several more waiting to be read), but Field Notes from a Catastrophe was the one that had the greatest impact on me. Whereas Under a Green Sky and The Discovery of Global Warming focused more on the scientific aspects of climate change and The End of Nature focused more on the personal aspects of the topic, Field Notes strikes a concise and well-written balance between the two. Not simply a book on the causes of climate change or the steps that we can take to halt its progress, Kolbert writes about the people who are affected by global warming and how they are dealing with its disastrous consequences.

At only a little over 200 pages, Kolbert's book leaves an indelible mark on the reader by doing two things: one, she visits impacted areas and interviews people who are dealing with the visible (and the sometimes even more dangerous invisible) environmental changes predicted by climate scientists; two, she weaves these accounts together with comprehensive research on climate change that not only goes back to the 1800's when carbon's affects on the environment were first posited, but further back through history to look at possible other societies damaged by climate change. The resulting narrative is compelling and it shows Kolbert's skill as a writer and as an investigative journalist.

Whereas other books may be filled with difficult jargon or poorly-explained diagrams, Kolbert's intended audience is the scientific layperson and she strives to be as clear and as readable as possible. She succeeds with flying colors and manages to do what other authors cannot--make a strong connection with the reader. Instead of over-saturating her pages with lingo, Kolbert uses personal narratives to show rather than to tell, which allows her to spend less time on technical exposition and more time on what's really important--the historical, political, and cultural story of how we ended up where we are and what can be done about it.

Informative and insightful, Field Notes from a Catastrophe really is one of the best books to read on the subject of climate change, especially if you are intimidated by too much scientific language. Kolbert is a phenomenal writer and I'd like to see her write more books on the subject. Actually, she could write a book about dryer lint and I'd probably read it.

I'm giving Field Notes from a Catastrophe 5 out of 5 Gabriels.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

In Which I Am a Very Happy Boy

This was supposed to be a review of Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert, but I didn't have time to write it on Thursday (which is when I'm currently typing this) and I'm supposed to go on a date on Friday, so I didn't really want to write it then. So, instead, I'm just going to brag about the fact that I'm finally going out for the first time in about three years and tell you that hopefully that review will be up on Sunday.

Oh, and wish me luck retroactively that Friday night goes well. It took me long enough to get up the nerve to even ask so I think I deserve a little luck.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Worlds Apart: Reviews of Once Upon a Time ("Pilot," "The Thing You Love Most," "Snow Falls")

Title: Once Upon a Time
Airs: Sundays at 8 on ABC
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla

The other day I reviewed the new NBC show Grimm. I had mentioned that the reason I watched it in the first place was because I had heard that Robert Carlyle was going to be in a show about fairy tales and that I had thought it was that one. When I finally got around to looking it up on IMDb, I realized that it was the wrong show, but by that time, I was already addicted to it. I've just now gotten around to watching the show he's actually on, ABC's Once Upon a Time, and, despite an initial reaction of "'s not that great," I've come to like this show as well.

Here's my thoughts on the first three episodes of Once Upon a Time.

Warning: Possible spoilers ahead.

"Pilot" (first aired October 23, 2011)

Plot: Emma Swan gets a surprise visitor on her 28th birthday--the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago.  He convinces her to drive him from Boston to his home in Storybrooke, Maine, which he swears is under a curse that has left the town frozen in time. The culprit? His adoptive mother, the mayor. The curse has supposedly wiped clean the memories of everyone in town, who once lived in a magical land as characters we know from fairy tales. Now they are stuck in our world as punishment for what the evil queen feels was done to her by Snow White. Emma is, understandably, confused, but feels somehow drawn to the town and so decides to stay. But only for a week.

Review: The episode begins with a flashback to the fairy land that the characters used to live in and the first thing I thought was "My god, the acting is horrible." When things went into the "real world," however, I couldn't help but notice that the actors were actually pretty good. I got sucked into the plot fairly early on and began to enjoy myself. Still, the writing seemed somewhat..."iffy," I guess is the word I'm looking for.

The idea behind the show is interesting and Jennifer Morrison really brings everything together. She's a strong character, a good actress, and, unlike Nick Burkhardt in Grimm, she's someone that you're instantly drawn to. Maybe it's because she proves herself to be a pretty kick-ass woman within the first few minutes of being on-screen. Or maybe she's just a better-written character. Either way, she's one of the main reasons why I decided to continue watching the other episodes.

There are other reasons, though. Her son, Henry (played by Jared Gilmore), is a precocious kid who's fun to watch and both Goodwin and Parilla are much better actresses when they're in the "real world" than when they're in fairy land. The costumes are gorgeous and the special effects are decidedly better than those on Grimm, although they're still not on the cutting edge or anything (which I actually don't mind). I also found that these characters are really fleshed out and I was glad to see that even in the first episode we get a taste of who many of them are.

My reason for watching the show in the first place, Carlyle's Rumpelstiltskin, only shows up briefly in this episode, but it's a side of him that I've never seen before (and I've watched a lot of his work). He's creepy, cackle-ly, and vile--and absolutely amazing. It took me a few moments to get used to seeing him in all that make-up but I soon almost forgot that it was him. He becomes Rumpelstiltskin so well that you stop seeing the actor and just start seeing the character, which is what an actor is supposed to do, really.

All-in-all, I really liked this show, even if the first episode was a The second one, however, was what really got me into Once Upon a Time.

"The Thing You Love Most" (first aired October 30, 2011)

Plot: Emma has decided to stay in Storybrooke, which angers Henry's mother, Regina, enough to threaten her. Soon the threats turn to action and both women find themselves locked in a battle of wits that may hurt Henry more than it could hurt either of them. In fairy land, the evil Queen must make a difficult choice: lose the thing she loves most or lose her chance at getting back at Snow White and, perhaps, at being happy? Plus, Regina discovers that someone else in town may know about the curse...and that this information could cost her.

Review: "The Thing You Love Most" was scores better than the pilot episode, especially when it came to the acting in fairy land. The actors seem to have settled in to their characters more and there's less melodramatic (crappy) acting all around.

The plot was fast-paced and it helped to move both the story and the characters forward. I love serialized shows, especially when they allow their characters to grow right from the start. Some shows start out kind of slow and then pick up later, but I found that, while that was true of the first episode, the second basically exploded out into a paradoxically vibrant and shadowy future.

I'm looking forward to seeing where all of this leads, especially where it takes Emma and Regina. They are both really great characters and aren't your typical female heroine/villain duo. It's so nice to see a fantasy show where none of the women are constantly bursting out of their costumes and where they spend more time doing things than sitting around whining. You know what I'm talking about, so don't deny it. Where Grimm seems to have stronger secondary characters than it has a strong main character, Once Upon a Time has strong characters to go around.

At this point, I can't say that I like either show over the other. There's a lot to like about both, although I think that Grimm has a stronger writing staff. Some of the writing in Once Upon a Time is still a little weak, but the plots seem to be pretty good and the switching between both worlds creates a unique dynamic that allows for more character development.

"Snow Falls" (first aired November 6, 2011)

Plot: Henry is convinced that the John Doe lying in the hospital that Mary Margaret volunteers at is Prince Charming and that she is his Snow White. He also thinks that hearing their story will wake the John Doe up. Emma, hoping to dissuade Henry from believing something so outlandish, convinces Mary Margaret to read the story of Snow White and Prince Charming to him, thereby proving to Henry that the curse isn't real. works. John Doe wakes up and goes missing, leaving Emma, Mary Margaret, and Sheriff Graham to go look for him. In fairy land, we discover how Snow White first met her prince...and it isn't what you'd think.

Review: With each passing episode this show gets better. I've now seen all three of them and I am very impressed with Once Upon a Time. The writing and the acting has gotten progressively better since the first episode and I've already come to really care about these characters. As unreal as the world they live in is, they themselves are very deep and realistic characters with hopes, dreams, and fears.

One thing that I have to wonder about, however, is what happened to Mary Margaret? In fairy land as Snow White she was a very strong woman who could take care of herself. She was feisty and fun and it seems that she's become a shadow of the person she used to be. Obviously, that's part of the curse that was put on Storybrooke, but I can't help thinking that perhaps it has to do with the fact that she doesn't have her prince in her life. I'd hate to think that her personality changed simply because of a man, even if it was the one she loved. I tend to be fairly critical of female characters, mostly because they're usually written as bland and obsessed with finding a man. None of the women in this show have given me that vibe yet, but Mary Margaret is inching towards it, which would be regrettable.

A big highlight of this episode was guest star David Anders as Dr. Whale (what the hell is up with that name, by the way?). I enjoyed his work in Alias and Heroes and I hope that his character isn't a one time thing. It's always weird, however, for me to hear him with his normal American accent because he plays British characters so well.

I like the fact that this show is playing around with time. While the Storybrooke narrative takes place in the current day and age, everything that happened in fairy land occurred in the past and the writers are using that to their advantage. They build the characters on multiple levels, which gives them greater depth and makes them far more interesting.

I've decided that I really like this show and will continue to watch it. Which brings me to a grand total of two shows that I'll sit myself in front of a TV for.

Expect a weekly review of both Once Upon a Time and Grimm, probably in the same post. I'll have some sort of rating system put together in the next few weeks, so I'll eventually be able to give the episodes grades. Regardless, both shows come highly recommended from me.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?: A Review of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Barry Glassner

Title: The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things (Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More)
Author: Barry Glassner
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Basic Books (1999)
Pages: 276
Challenges: 2011 GoodReads Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: As with most of the non-fiction titles I've been reading the last few months, this book was borrowed from my library as part of my research for a book that I'm working on.

About the Author: Barry Glassner is currently the President of Lewis and Clark College. A sociologist and the author of seven books, Glassner is probably best known for his best-selling book The Culture of Fear.

Synopsis: In this eye-opening examination of a pathology that has swept the country, the noted sociologist Barry Glassner reveals why Americans are burdened with overblown fears. He exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our anxieties: politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime and drug use even as both are declining; advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases; TV news-magazines that monger a new scare every week to garner ratings.

Review: In the years following 9/11, Americans were kept in a constant state of fear by politicians and news anchors who disseminated information on everything from anthrax attacks to attempted hijackings to possible suicide bombings. Even now, ten years after the attacks, we still live in a society where we are reminded of just how dangerous the world can be...even if most of us will never be personally affected by many, if not most, of its potential hazards. Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear came out two years before any of this happened, but his message is still highly relevant today.

The Culture of Fear touches upon many of the subjects that Bernard Goldberg's Bias did, but it is everything that Goldberg's book could never be. Well-researched, superbly-argued, and highly-critical of all news outlets (not just the liberal ones), The Culture of Fear is a deft assessment of American fears in the 1990s...and a skillfully-written and scathing criticism of the individuals and organizations who fanned the flames of those fears.

As the sub-sub-title of the book says, this is the story of the things that Americans were urged to fear by the mainstream media and by politicians desperate for approval ratings and election results--crime, drugs, disease, the breakdown of society as we know it. Each chapter is an exploration of one aspect of society that has been scapegoated by those in power and Glassner not only proves how small of a threat these things really are, he also argues that what's really to blame is society itself.

Let me give an example. For those of us who were kids in the nineties, I'm sure we can all remember Columbine, D.A.R.E., dangerous Halloween candy, and the "Stranger Danger"-type campaigns. As the over-protected child of an over-protective mother, I remember all too well how she reacted to each school shooting, how she would carefully check all of my candy after trick-or-treating to find anything that could have  been tampered with, and how I was constantly reminded by her of the best ways not to get kidnapped. I also remember George Bush the 1st coming onto my TV screen to inform me of the dangers of drug use and the countless hours of advertisements I watched that warned me that my brain on drugs would be like an egg being bashed by a big-ass frying pan.

Glassner points to each of these things as being endemic of the cultural atmosphere in the 1990s and he swiftly counters each of these dangers with solid facts that disprove how prevalent these dangers were thought to be. He then proposes an explanation as to why parents and children were subjected to years of fear-mongering--our nation's children are at risk, but not because of tainted candy (which was a hoax perpetuated by cases where family members poisoned their own children's candy) or from strangers. No, the real issues were much simpler and much more pervasive: child poverty, inequality, bad family environments, etc. His point being, of course, that the problems children faced were not outside threats but, rather, they were much closer to home and were caused by society's inability to accept culpability for what was happening to them.

I accept this, although I'm a dirty-hippy-bleeding-heart-liberal, so I guess that's to be expected. But, Glassner's argument is based on well-documented evidence and carefully-researched statistics. It isn't just gut feeling or opinion. The mainstream media, he says, was often unwilling or unable to report the real problems due to interference by network executives, politicians, or corporate sponsors who would never have allowed them to point the finger in the right direction. So, instead, they had to raise awareness of the real problems in society by creating problems where there were none. It makes sense, especially considering the fact that as crime rates were going down, the networks were constantly barraging families with news about just how bad the crime "really" was in this country.

There are other culprits of course. Politicians, interest groups and advocates (touched upon in a much less respectful way in Goldberg's book), and others who had a stake in creating a culture of fear. Just looking at the media today, I don't think that anyone can deny that this culture is still being created, still being shaped by those who use the media to gain power and influence. Even though the world of Glassner's book had yet to be marred by the scar of September 11, 2001, there was quite enough to be unnecessarily scared of at that point that The Culture of Fear never seems dated or out of touch with the times.

The book is fascinating, well-written, often-funny, and all-around a great read. I don't think that I could recommend this book enough. His societal and cultural analysis and commentary are right on the nose and hold significance even to this day. The dangers and the enemies that we're told to be afraid of may change, but the overarching principle remains the same: keep them afraid so that they don't pay attention to what's really going on; keep them on edge about things that aren't really a threat so that they don't try to fix the real, systemic problems that face this country.

I'm giving The Culture of Fear 5 out of 5 Gabriels.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks Walk into a Bar: Reviews of Grimm ("Pilot" and "Bears Will Be Bears")

Title: Grimm
Airs: Fridays at 9 on NBC
Starring: David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Silas Weir Mitchell

Contrary to what you might believe given the post I wrote back in March about some of my favorite shows, I don't actually watch television much. Or, really, at all. There are some shows that I got into while they were on television (the now-gone Alias, Jericho, and Stargate Universe and the still-running Big Bang Theory), but normally the shows that I get into are already cancelled and I just watch them on DVD (Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, The 4400). It saves me the trouble of having to wait a full week to see the next episode and, more importantly, it ensures that I don't have to be bombarded by mind-numbing and increasingly idiotic advertisements. I'm really picky when it comes to which shows I'll even give half a chance to and, as you can probably tell, the ones I end up liking tend to be sci-fi related.

When I heard that Robert Carlyle (The Fully Monty, Trainspotting, Stargate Universe) was going to be in a new television show I was curious to see what it would be like. I'm a huge fan of his work and I had heard that it was a fairy-tale related show, which piqued my interest. So, when someone mentioned that the show Grimm was going to be debuting the Friday before Halloween, I thought, "Hey, that must be the show, right?" It wasn't. Turns out that he's on ABC's Once Upon A Time, which I didn't realize until after I watched the second episode of Grimm. While I haven't seen the ABC take on fairy tales yet, I got hooked on NBC's within the first half of Grimm's pilot episode.

Given that this is a book blog and Grimm is a bookish television show, I've decided that I'll be reviewing the show on a weekly basis. It may not get posted the next day but it'll generally be sometime before the next episode airs. Today, you get a two-for-one deal because I didn't think about it until I was rewatching the episodes on Sunday night (thank you,!).

Without further ado, here's my thoughts on the first two episodes of Grimm.

Warning: possible spoilers ahead.

"Pilot" (first aired October 28, 2011)

Plot: On the same day that his Aunt Marie (Kate Burton) comes for an unexpected visit, Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) starts seeing people in a whole new light--literally. He's one of the last of the Grimm family and it's his gift (or curse) to see the creatures that haunt the folk tales and fairy stories of old. The brutal murder of a college student and the disappearance of a little girl (both wearing red hoodies) lead him to Eddie Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a big bad wolf who's not so big and bad. Nick and Eddie work together to try and find the killer before he claims his next victim.

Review: I had gotten sick of police shows a long time ago. It doesn't matter if they get dressed up with fancy lighting or glitzy locales, they're all basically the same show rehashed over and over again. Grimm is nothing like these shows. It's not just that the criminals are supernatural beings; Grimm is a serial rather than a procedural and it has interesting characters and a good sense of humor in addition to its creepy atmosphere and fun twists on old stories.

This retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" used its material well while still doing something new and fun. The juxtaposition of an age-old tale in a modern world reminds me a lot of The 10th Kingdom (a mini-series that was on NBC over a decade ago) but it's a lot scarier and a lot grittier. The episode started with a murder and continued to get more intense from there. The pace was good, with no real lulls in the action, and with an interesting way of using exposition. In the scene where Marie first starts to tell Nick about his family they get attacked by a creature called a Reaper. Definitely preferable to people just sitting around talking.

The characters, though, were what brought me back in front of the TV the next week, especially Mitchell's character, Eddie. Afterward, I had a short discussion on Twitter with someone who had said that the humor was a bit much for a show like Grimm and could be toned down, but I disagree. I think the humor, especially Eddie's, is what really sets this show apart from other cop shows, where everyone's so depressed and no one smiles. The partnership between Nick and Hank (Hornsby) is also fun to watch, although it's pretty similar to other cop partnerships out there. I much prefer the begrudging friendship that develops between Nick and Eddie. Eddie's reluctance to help Nick stems from the fact that his parents used to tell him stories about the Grimms and they "scared the hell" out of him and because (as we find out in the second episode) his family has a history of run-ins with the Grimms that never ended well. They're both fish out of water, really, and I like the idea of watching these characters develop as the season goes on.

I can't really find anything major to complain about for this episode. While the special effects aren't spectacular, they aren't horribly bad either, and everything else worked really well. The writing was good, the acting was good, and the story was engaging. I don't have a rating system for films or television shows worked out just yet, but the pilot episode of Grimm would most likely get the top grade.


"Bears Will Be Bears" (first aired November 4, 2011)

Plot: A young couple, Gilda and Rocky, break into the home of an affluent family only to get more than they bargained for when Rocky gets attacked and Gilda barely gets away. Nick and Hank search for him while Eddie gets stuck standing guard over Nick's dying aunt--a woman whose family has a history of killing Eddie's  ancestors.

Review: Each episode of Grimm starts out with a quote that helps the audience guess which story will be incorporated into the plot that evening. This time it was "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and it was just as interesting a retelling as the first episode's version of "Red Riding Hood" had been. The regular characters from last week were back but they were joined by not only Gilda and Rocky but by the Rabe family...who aren't all that they seem.

This episode was great but I liked it better the second time around than I did the first. A lot of people who were talking about it on Twitter afterwards said that it was even better than the pilot, but I needed a rewatch to fully appreciate it, I think. There was a lot that went into "Bears Will Be Bears," which continued the thread of last week's episode while introducing a new case into the mix. Much like a lot of the other shows that I've loved, Grimm isn't episodic, which I like because I feel serialized shows are able to get more in-depth and are more likely to draw you in the following week because of a cliff-hanger or some other hook. This episode ended with one just like the first did and I'm already anxious to see Friday's episode.

I like Nick's character, but he's sort of a blank slate. We don't know a whole lot about him just yet (or his, to me, suspicious girlfriend), so I'm looking forward to being able to fill in the gaps. We find out a little more about Eddie and a little more about Hank, both of whom have become my two favorite characters (in that order). If they'd just build Nick up a bit more than these two he could be a really strong character but so far I think he pales in comparison to them...even though the show is about him.

Again, the special effects aren't fantastic, but I'm okay with that. I don't need the best CGI to enjoy something. If you compare, say, the original Star Wars trilogy to the crappy new Star Wars films, the originals were so much better because they focused more on creating amazing characters and exciting plots than they did creating a bunch of awe-inspiring special effects. I would take compelling show over technologically-advanced show any day.

And Grimm is compelling. You're always wondering what will happen next and very often you're surprised by what you find. Even though I swore I would never get addicted to a TV show again, Grimm has become my once-a-week fix. All it really needs is to develop the main character more and to keep Eddie's humor at its current level. I could tell that the second episode had toned him down a bit and, while I'm okay with that, any more toned down and he won't be the character I've already grown attached to.

Again, I don't have a rating system figured out yet (it's coming), but if I did, "Bears Will Be Bears" would be pretty high up the scale.

For those who haven't watched the show but are curious about it, you can watch the first two episodes on NBC's Grimm site. It's enough of a miracle that I'm watching a television show, but that I'm this enthralled with it means they've gotta be doing something right.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A New New Deal: A Review of Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal

Title: The Conscience of a Liberal
Author: Paul Krugman
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. (2007)
Pages: 273
Challenges: 2011 GoodReads Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: I borrowed this from the library the same day that I borrowed Barry Goldwater's  The Conscience of a Conservative. I figured it would be interesting to see how the two were similar and different.

About the Author: Paul Krugman, who was named Columnist of the Year by Editor and Publisher magazine, writes a twice-weekly column for the op-ed page of the New York Times. A winner of the John Bates Clark Medal, the most prized award given to American economists, he also teaches economics and international affairs at Princeton University.

Synopsis: America emerged from Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal with strong democratic values and broadly shared prosperity. But for the past thirty years American politics has been dominated by a conservative movement determined to undermine the New Deal's achievements--a movement whose founding manifesto was Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative. That movement has been highly successful in turning the clock back: both the inequality of today's America and the corruption of its political life hark back to the age of the robber barons.

Now, the tide may be turning--and in The Conscience of a Liberal Paul Krugman, the world's most widely read economist and one of its most influential political commentators, charts the way to reform.

Krugman ranges over a century of history, from the political economy of the Gilded Age--which seems all too familiar these days--to the calamities of the Bush years, which he argues where inevitable once movement conservatives gained full control of the U.S. government. he shows that neither the middle-class America the baby boomers grew up in nor the increasingly oligarchic nation we have become over the past generation evolved naturally: both were created, to a large extent, by government policies guided by organized political movements. He explains how defenders of inequality have exploited cultural and racial divisions to their advantage, while reformers have found ways to bridge those divisions. And he argues that the time is ripe for another great era of reform.

Last by not least, The Conscience of a Liberal outlines a program for change. It shows how universal health care can be the centerpiece of a New Deal, just as Social Security was the core of the original. It explains what can be done to narrow the wealth and income gap. And it shows how a new political coalition can both support and be supported by reform, making our society not just more equal but more democratic.

The Conscience of a Liberal promises to reshape public debate about American social policy and become a touchstone work for an entire generation.

Review: This review and the review I did yesterday can be seen as a sort of yin and yang type of thing. Goldwater wrote The Conscience of a Conservative as a way of shaping Conservative politics in order to move away from New Deal-type policies; Krugman wrote The Conscience of a Liberal several decades later in order to bring people back to the New Deal way of thinking. While I'm politically, fiscally, and socially liberal (and therefore agree far more with Krugman than with Goldwater), I felt that this book was much better than Goldwater's not because of what it said, but because of how it was said.

I've mentioned several times on this blog that I got my BA in history. I was taught the importance of using primary and secondary sources, of citing those sources correctly, and of using those sources in order to enhance your argument. I was also taught the value of being able to identify an author's bias. Obviously these skills benefit me both as a reader and as a writer, but they've also helped me as an individual. Being able to see the flaws in someone's argument or having the ability to understand why someone is saying something just make life a whole lot easier. So, of course, I can see the bias inherent in both this book and in Goldwater's treatise as well. Yet, I'm a lot more prone to support writers who provide evidence rather than simply relying on their opinions to write an argument.

Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal is a well-researched, well-cited book that takes a historical as well as a contemporary perspective on the issue of politics, economics, and society. He is highly critical of Conservative politicians (and engages in just as much blame as Goldwater does), but he gives a solid reasoning based on an exploration of the detrimental policies of the Gilded Age rather than just railing against Conservatives because he doesn't like them (even though it's obvious that he doesn't).

This book is a reaction to The Conscience of a Conservative as much as it is a reaction to the Bush presidency. Published prior to the 2008 election, Krugman can focus on criticism of one president without speculating on the next (simply because he hadn't been elected yet). He derives his solutions to contemporary problems both from an analysis of historical events as well as from an exploration of the (then) current socio-political climate. Goldwater, on the other hand, spent much of his book suggesting solutions based on little more than (what seemed like) gut feeling and deeply-held prejudices about everyone from poor people to Russians. Whereas Goldwater advocated for an economy basically based on social Darwinism, Krugman is more conscious of inequality and the systematic racism that has pervaded American society for far too long.

The only real issue I'd like to raise about this book was, despite being mostly straightforward in terms of writing style, Krugman is an economist, a subject in which I am no expert. Occasionally I had difficulty understanding some of what he was saying and I'm not really a graph/chart person so their presence was a bit distracting. They were, however, necessary to his point and almost everything was explained in easy-to-understand terms. There were only a few passages that were hard to get through, which is to be expected when the reader (i.e., me) has only a rudimentary understanding of how economics works.

Much like Goldwater's book was interesting to read in terms of the current goings-on in this country, so, too, is Krugman's. I honestly recommend reading the two of them together just to get an idea of the vast differences between parties. Too often I hear people saying that there's not a lot of difference between Democrats and Republicans or Conservatives and Liberals. Not only does Krugman blow that theory out of the water (at one point the parties were fairly similar but within the last thirty years they've grown so far apart that it's hard not to believe that the expanding universe theory might not apply to politics as well), but reading these books together shows just how different they truly are.

I'm giving The Conscience of a Liberal 4 out of 5 Gabriels.


Monday, November 7, 2011

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Book Challenge 2012

2012 is almost upon us and that means a new year of reading challenges. Considering I've been pretty lax on completing the ones that I had signed up for this year, I was trying to be a good boy and not join as many next year. And then I saw this challenge on Sarah Says Read.

Hosted by Hanna at Booking in Heels, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Book Challenge is a year-long challenge that asks participants to read the books that each of the main characters in this film came from. Some I've already read and some I haven't, but I love a good reread so I don't mind.

I'm adding my own twist to the challenge and reading the original graphic novel by Alan Moore that the movie is (loosely) based on. I haven't read many (read: any) graphic novels other than Maus and I'd like to start.

I'll also be reviewing the film once I've finished all of the books. Here's what the challenge requires me to read:

1) King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (Allan Quartermaine)
2) Dracula by Bram Stoker (Mina Harker) [reread]
3) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (Captain Nemo)
4) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Tom Sawyer) [reread]
5) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Dorian Gray) [1/2 reread--I couldn't finish it the first time I read it.]
6) The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) [reread]
7) The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (Rodney Skinner) [sort of]*
8) The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (The Phantom) [reread]
9) The Final Problem by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (James Moriarty) 

And with my one addition:

10) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore

I'm more than a little excited about this challenge, which begins on January 1, 2012. If you're interested in signing up, head over to Booking in Heels!


*See Hanna's post for the reason for the "sort of."

Mommy, Where Do Republicans Come From?: A Review of Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative

Title: The Conscience of a Conservative
Author: Barry Goldwater
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Manor Books (1974)
Pages: 127
Challenges: 2011 GoodReads Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: As part of the research I'm doing for my book, I've been trying to find and read books by Conservative authors. Picking this book up was a no-brainer considering that many of the policies that Conservatives and Libertarians argue in favor of to this day come directly from or are derived from Goldwater's treatise. I borrowed this book from my library.

About the Author: Barry Goldwater was a prominent Conservative theorist who helped to shape the Republican party. He was an Arizona State Senator for five terms and was also the 1964 Republican presidential nominee, losing to Lyndon B. Johnson. His stance on nuclear weapons led Johnson's campaign to run the famous "Daisy" ad (see below), which may have helped to seal the incumbent president's win in '64.

Synopsis: Senator Goldwater of Arizona has become the most influential exponent in this country of the theory  that those least governed are best governed. Here he presents his alternatives to federal regulation in a wide variety of fields including:
                                 -aid to education
                                 -labor unions and labor policies
                                 -individual income, as determined by tax policies
                                 -civil rights
                                 -care of the aged, the sick, the unemployed

Review: I don't think it would come as a shock to anyone who reads my blog regularly if I were to say unequivocally that I am and have always been a Liberal. With a capital L. Yet, I'm also a proponent of political debate, of listening to the other side, of compromising (only when it's for the best), and of learning all that you can about other viewpoints. So, while I went into this book knowing that I most likely would disagree with, um, everything in it, I still kept an open mind...for as long as I could.

I'm not here to extol the virtues of being a Liberal, nor am I here to convince you of why I find what Goldwater discusses in this book to be reprehensible. This is, after a book blog and not a political soapbox. So, I am hereby setting down my political junkie hat and putting on my book critic hat. This review is not about the content of Goldwater's book, but the book itself.

A slim and passionate volume, The Conscience of a Conservative, although ghostwritten, is attributed to Goldwater and is brimming with his own political ideas. Therefore, to make it easier for me to write about I'm just going to say that this is his book. From his views on education to his disdain for labor unions, Goldwater lays down his agenda, one which has inspired both political discourse and political discord for the last several decades. Although usually to the point, occasionally the book takes on a more flowery, grandiose tone which I think detracts from his message of staunch Conservatism. This isn't to say that Conservatives aren't allowed to be flowery or grandiose; they're just as welcome to have moments of pomposity as Liberals are. What I mean is that occasionally his arguments were a little hard to follow because of the way in which they were written. Other than that, this was an easy-to-read book, especially for those who are knowledgeable enough about the world of the the '60s and '70s (either by living through them or learning about them) to understand where Goldwater is coming from.

Like many political writers of either party, Goldwater throws a lot of blame around. Liberals, Communists, the UN, labor unions--all are seen by Goldwater as being culpable. For me, this is a good thing because my book is about the use of blame in society and politics, but for the casual reader this may get a bit tedious after a while. In the same vein, Goldwater states some things as being true (such as his idea that no country has ever survived being a "welfare state," which basically means providing education, health care, etc. through the government) without actually giving proof. He also doesn't cite anything so the whole book is basically his opinion and it's taken as a given that the reader will agree with him without any corroborating information.

The book is interesting, especially given what's taking place in politics today. Anyone looking for the origins of the Tea Party movement, Libertarianism, or other Conservative movements will find it here. As a political treatise it is pretty well-argued, but as a basis for government, I personally think that it falls short.

One of the most telling things about Conscience of a Conservative is Goldwater's stance on the Soviet Union and it's alleged manipulation of the U.N. For those who are following the United States' current involvement in the United Nations (especially its refusal to help fund UNESCO after the induction of Palestine into the organization), the parallels between what Goldwater rails against the USSR doing and what the U.S. is currently doing are striking.

I'm giving The Conscience of a Conservative 4 out of 5 Gabriels. While I don't agree with what this book espouses, nor do I appreciate the book's "this-is-the-only-way" attitude, it isn't a poorly-written book. I highly recommend reading it in order to get an idea of what helped to shape the current political climate.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Which I Cannot Properly Review a Book: A "Review" of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature

Title: The End of Nature
Author: Bill McKibben
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Anchor Books (1989)
Pages: 226
Challenges: GoodReads 2011 Reading Challenge
How I Came by This Book: This was one of several books that I checked out of my library in order to research global warming.

About the Author: Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him 'the planet's best green journalist' and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was 'probably the country's most important environmentalist.' Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (truncated from this bio on his website).

Synopsis: More than simply a handbook for survival or a doomsday catalog of scientific prediction, The End Of Nature is a groundbreaking plea for radical and life-renewing change. The author argues that for the world to survive, we must make a fundamental philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature. (from GoodReads)

Review: One of the reasons why I hate being behind on my reviews is that I'm reviewing books weeks (and, sometimes, months) after I've read them. Until the death of my internet connection, I had read a book, immediately written a review, and moved on to the next one. Until I get caught up, I won't be able to do that for a while. Why am I bringing this up in a book review? Because, for the life of me, I can't seem to remember much about this book. 

Bill McKibben is a well-known name for many people who have been following the climate change debate. His books are included in the reading list at and he has written numerous articles, opinion pieces, and editorials over the years since The End of Nature came out in 1989. Despite all of this, however, I had yet to read anything that he had written. When I found this book in my library, I added it to my growing pile of books on climate change. Now I wish I had written a review of it (even if I'd had to do it on a giant rock with a hammer a chisel) immediately after I had set it down.

From what I can remember, I really enjoyed this book. Like the other books on global warming that I read around the same time, McKibenn's book was readable and it provided compelling evidence for his argument. I would have loved a bibliography or at least some citations, but it was a highly intelligent book that I remember reading fairly quickly. 

As I'm flipping through the pages now, I'm remembering that the book seemed a little muted. Rather than a ranting, raving treatise, McKibben's book is a softer approach to the topic. The writing was often lyrical and the pages were brimming with calls to go back to the days where nature was revered, respected, loved. He talks about DDT and other chemicals, yes. He talks about changing weather patterns and other consequences of climate change, yes. But he does it in a way that evokes something primeval. He talks of the Appalachian Trail, of taking a hike. He raises images in the reader's head of places in the great outdoors that they've visited before. For me, it was Letchworth State Park and this little trail in a small town near Rochester. For other people, it will no doubt be their own local natural treasures. 

This is a book of muted anger, of great sadness, and of deep trepidation. It's a book that was designed for the everyday reader, so it isn't bogged down by scientific mumbo-jumbo, although you do run into the occasional multiple-syllable word (but, really, who doesn't know what a chlorofluorocarbon is?). While apparently not as memorable as Under a Green Sky, The Discovery of Global Warming, or the soon-to-be-reviewed Field Notes from a Catastrophe, McKibben's book does touch on something deep. Perhaps it is not meant to be a book that sticks with you in terms of what he says; maybe it's a book meant to stick with you in terms of how it made you feel. 

I'm not going to rate this book right now, mostly because I feel that if I had reviewed it right away, I would have had a lot more to say about it and would have been able to rate it fairly. I'm going to have to reread it sometime next year (I devoured the global warming books without taking notes, which is why I was reading them in the first place--doh!), so when I do, you can expect a much better review. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The "Books I Should Have Read By Now" November Link-Up

Hello challenge participants!

There's only two more months left in the "Books I Should Have Read By Now" challenge...and you are all doing way better than I am. My current challenge count stands at 2 books. Which means that I'm going to have to either recuse myself from the challenge or read 12 classic novels by the end of the year (which may or may not be feasible). Either way, the challenge is still going on so don't forget to use this link-up to post links to your reviews.

Here's the October link-up for anyone who still needs to post reviews for last month. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Month in Review: October

It's been an age and a half since I've done a monthly review, but I'm going to get back into the habit if I have to glue myself to a chair at the end of every month.

After a dismal August and a non-existent September, Gabriel Reads is back up and blogging. With a backlog of reviews (some of which I still haven't written), I had no shortage of material this month. There are still 2 months left in the year and I've read 67 books out of my goal of 100. That means in November and December you should expect (and by "expect," I mean "demand) at least 33 more reviews.

So what did I do this month?

Reviews Written in October:
-Love at Absolute Zero by Christopher Meeks (my first blog tour review, complete with an interview with the author)
-The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway
-Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catharine Arnold
-Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base by Annie Jacobsen
-Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future by Peter D. Ward
-Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
-Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
-The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer R. Weart
-The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser
-The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
-Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy by Noam Chomsky
-Bossypants by Tina Fey
-The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn
-Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg
-2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks
-Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg
-House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Favorite Book: The Haunting of Hill House
Least Favorite Book: Bossypants