The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood

Review by Bill Svoboda
This book contains 2 full length biographies (Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman), a corporate history (MCA), and a host of minor biographies. The research done is heroic: 200+ bibliography of books alone, plus movies, court hearings, magazine articles, and some 350 interviews. There simply is too much information for any author to deal with in a graceful and insightful manner- This is almost more of a reference book. It is awesome and super well informed, but far too ambitious even for a 532 page book.-it should have been a non-fiction trilogy instead.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Camellias

Review by Bill Svoboda
This is eye candy in the best way. Lots of pictures-but a fair amount of words as well. When I think "Camellias" I definitely DON'T think "Australia"- but that is where this book is from. A few varieties may go by different names in the US, but most of this seemed fairly "current" and accurate. Note-this book is indexed in our system under "subject" (Camellias) but not under the author's name or the actual book title-searches using either author or title will come up blank in our current system.

Sleepwalk and Other Stories

Review by Erika Millage
This was my second Adrian Tomine novel. Similar to my other experience, this book contains many different vignettes that examine the complexities of human behavior and interactions with one another. There were a few times I was left upset that the story didn’t have as much of a conclusive end as I would have preferred. That said, I did very much enjoy the novel and would recommend it for its honest look at human lives.

Koviashuvik: Making a Home in the Brooks Range

Review by Bill Svoboda
"All Eskimo words are in effect forms of the verb to be which itself is lacking in Eskimo....the words for snow or anything else are unlimited because snow never exists in itself but takes form from the action in which it participates. Snow is either falling, blowing, drifting, mixed with water, on clothes, being snowshoed upon, hard or soft, with distinctions only experienced in a meaningful context....Everything is in context. Including the individual, everything is in context. There is nothing passive in relationship with the world because it is the person who reveals form. With an individual person creation becomes." I found the last part of Koviashuvik to be especially good-as well as the Introduction. I was less impressed by the "Kurt Vonnegut Jr. style"-something closer to Eskimo (mostly verbs & adverbs) would have been much more poetic. Still it's a very good book. Sam Wright has written a number of other books on a variety of topics-perhaps we should own more of them?

Summer Blonde

Review by Erika Millage
An enjoyable read with lovely minimalist imagery. Adrian Tomine portrays awkwardness, loneliness and disconnection in a very real, and sometimes uncomfortably vivid manner. This is a compilation of 4 stories, maybe one of which ended in a manner that was fully satisfying to my rainy day reading self. The art is lovely and I enjoyed the realism of the subjects.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel

Review by Madeline Moulton
Take a 19th century classic English novel (intricate, subtle, long-winded, but somehow worthy) and combine it with a far-out, epically imagined, highly dramatic fantasy story. That's what's up with this. SIDE NOTE: One of Neil Gaiman's absolute faves ;)

Dictionary of the Khazars (Female Edition)

Review by Bill Svoboda
There is good deal of real history as the foundation to this book. There really were Khazars, living in the area around/between the Black & Caspian sea. They really did convert to Judaism. There are numerous other details which are historical. Milorad Pavic builds on/with these factualities, distorting and adding fantastic, magical and bizzare elements. The structure/ "plot" is unusual enough-but there are additional weird details on every page-in fact almost every sentence.A room 'smelled like a rancid keyhole". The capture of a fortress "on a hill where it never rained" in announced by burning pigeons falling from the sky. A dictionary is printed "with poisonous printers dye" which one of the owners of the dictionary defeats by never reading more than 4 pages at a time. Travellers leave behind "decaying gazes, iron rings with keys in the ear,paths strewn with straw knotted by the beaks of birds, wooden spoons that smoke, and forks made of spoons." The copy of Dictionary Of The Khazars the Alt. Library owns is the "female edition".. there is also a male edition which is largely identical. Milorad Pavic specified that there should NOT be both male and female editions in the same collection because "it would be too much like incest". There was something very "European" about this book-and one of the themes running throughout is the relationship/rivalry between the Islamic, Christianity, and Judaism. A very strange and fantastical book.

Utopian Legacies - A History of Conquest and Oppression in the Western World

Review by Bill Svoboda
First, thank you Alexander Chadsey for an accurate, professional review of this book. Utopian Legacies is about as good a concise history as I have ever read. I found this book troubling- in the best way- and would love to read a follow up by the same author- or anyone exploring this same theme. One of the main questions I had was: What is "non utopian" thinking like? What are specific examples of "utopian" and "non utopian" thought processes? A book which "resonates" (for me) with this one is Clyde W. Ford's The HERO with an AFRICAN FACE. It seems that every culture has it's myths- and what could be called "ideals" within the myths but (according to the premise of Utopian Legacies) "Western Civilization" is peculiar in that "utopia" and "the ideal" are central myths -and are deeply embodied in philosophy and belief in our culture. I find this believable, but still want more evidence that this is what particularly distinguishes "Western Civilization" . Again, I would like examples of ways of thinking that are NOT this way-and if possible, ways to adopt this type of thought process/belief system. Also, this book is not in great shape physically, it should be replaced if a newer (and perhaps more complete) edition is available.

2666: A Novel

Review by Madeline Moulton
Five mini novels combine to form this 900 page tome, with seemingly disparate characters and stories twining and dancing around one another. Each story is connected to a fictional Mexican town near the US border, where over the span of ~10 years hundreds of women and girls are assaulted and murdered. Bolano's centralization of these crimes makes for a difficult reading experience, so DO NOT read this if you are triggered by sexual violence. However, if you decide to embark on this literary journey, expect an author with encyclopedic knowledge and a poetic sensibility. Bolano explores insanity, masculinity, and mass violence through a dream-like, mirage inducing approach where nothing is ever what it seems.

Winter Soldier - Iraq and Afghanistan : Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations

Review by Bill Svoboda
This is oral history in the greatest sense of the word. Any or all of the "Winter Soldier" series is highly recommended for anyone who wants to really understand the USA & it's foreign policy. Warning: this is shocking, infuriating and depressing- especially considering that American warmongering & imperialism continues and worsens.

Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

Review by Bill Svoboda
A very readable science book about an extremely relevant topic. There is a good deal of information here, some of which surprised me. Highly recommended.

Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of The 1960s: The Man in the High Castle / The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Ubik

Review by Cody Harder
This collection of four novels by Philip K. Dick is an exceptional selection of his work; I have lovingly dubbed it "the Dick Bible" (because of it's remarkably thin pages...nearly 800!). If you love mind-bending, imaginative, and at times wildly paranoid science fiction, you will absolutely gobble this up! I find Dick's style very easy to read, making his stories real page-turners. Couple that with fast-moving plots and unexpected twists around many corners, and they're winners in my book.

The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You

Review by Kryssanne Adams
I would've devoured this comic in a day if it weren't for the wait to get the next one. I avoided reading Sandman for years because I thought that surely it couldn't be as amazing as the hype. I was wrong! Number five is where the series really picks up, and Gaiman ties together several characters from past issues that seemed entirely unrelated. So satisfying!

The Lathe Of Heaven

Review by Kryssanne Adams
A quick read with lots between the lines to unpack--this is a story I know I'll be reading at least one more time. Thoughtful, disorienting, and reality-warping, it's got as much entertainment value as it does insight into human nature.

The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess

Review by Bill Svoboda
For the longest time I resisted reading anything by someone with the name "Starhawk"-it screamed "New Age" -i.e. fuzzy,sloppy thinking that rejected both politics and science and embraced consumerism. But I was wrong- you don't need to be a Goddess worshipper to appreciate the intelligence/wisdom in this book. I found that a good place to begin reading this book was actually starting near the ending.

What are People For?

Review by Bill Svoboda
Good book (as if I would think anything by Wendell Barry is bad!). Given it's philosophical bent, it has aged well (some of these essays are now over 30 years old). As good an essayist as Barry is, it is as a poet that he truly shines.

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse

Review by Cody Harder
"Stories Of The Apocalypse"? How can you lose (ha ha) with a subtitle like THAT? But aside from the bar getting raised by so much dystopian water under the (ruined) bridge- this just isn't very original or eye opening even by the standards of say, 30 years ago. George Martin , Octavia Butler and Gene Wolfe-to name a few-have all done better-and bleaker-than this.

Prisoners of the American Dream

Review by Cody Harder
I like Mike Davis's writing, but this book is very dated-not in the sense that what's in it is inaccurate, but simply because it is over 30 years old- and is looking backwards from that perspective. It is of most value as "history" rather than contemporary political science`

The Handmaid's Tale

Review by Kathleen Cross
This book reads like a war memoir, it's told from perspective of a woman telling her life story before and after a terrifying patriarchial takeover of society. Even though the rules of the new society are really strange and bizarre, it feels really lived in and real. It shows you how fast society can collapse and the way women can help eachother or hurt eachother for their own gain under patriarchy.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

Review by N8R Witham
A disturbing account of Nazi war crimes from a time before the Holocaust had crystallized into neat narratives. The primary focus of the book is the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the only Nazi to be tried by a Jewish court. Hannah Arendt digs deep into Eichmann's psychology, asking questions that flesh out the cardboard concept we have today of what it was like in Nazi Europe, and the inhuman flaws intrinsic to the functioning of any State. Definitely a read worth pondering in these cyclical times.

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