The Life of Graham

Review by Bill Svoboda
"A bit lumpy" (as I can imagine one of The Pythons saying)-as in, there's a great big lump of all one thing, followed eventually by a great big lump of something else. But it does seem to be pretty honest- and the very beginning of the book is great. If you're a much bigger Monty Python fan than me (meaning seriously fanatical) you might want to give this 4 stars. If you don't like Monty Python, you'd probably give it 2.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Review by Bill Svoboda
In the Author's Note at the beginning of the book, Humphrey Carpenter mentions that the first published biography of a subject is not necessarily the best place to make literary judgements- fair enough. He also avoids spending much time analyzing or criticizing the whole phenomena that LOTR has become (in 1977 this was already huge, but had hardly reached it's peak-both in terms of popularity and in over-all cultural influence). Respectful and well researched, this is a "must read" for Tolkien fans and/or those simply curious about J.R.R.

The Frank Book

Review by Cody Harder
Reading "Frank" regularly keeps me regular.

Buddha Vol. 1: Kapilavastu

Review by Kryssanne Adams
So yeah, as Alex said, this story is not focused on Buddha himself; Siddhartha isn't even born until the very end of the story. BUT, there's a reason for that, and it makes itself apparent as you read through the series. Yes, this series is a dramatized biography of Siddhartha, but it's also very (fictitious and real-life) character driven way that takes time to pay off; it's not JUST about the Buddha, it's about the people the Buddha loves too. Tatta is the his first disciple, and this is the story of his painful and traumatic childhood. It takes the whole series to come around and become fully relevant, but it does! Slow pacing on this story, but I promise it's worth it and if you keep reading, you'll learn how everyone's fate is entangled. Tezuka is brilliant.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Review by Alexander Chadsey
This book changed my life in the most profound of ways. After finishing a degree in environmental science and becoming increasingly disenchanted with the seeming futility of “environmental activism,” I found the insights of this story incredibly timely and relevant. It’s told in the form of a Socratic dialogue between a telepathic gorilla (just get past that) and a cynical, but well-intentioned, man who discuss the hubris of human dominance, and how the stories we tell about our superiority are destroying ourselves and the biosphere we depend upon. Daniel Quinn could be regarded as more of a philosopher than a fiction writer (though he has a few non-fiction books ‘Providence’ and ‘Beyond Cicilization’ which detail his journey and more succinctly lay down his core beliefs). While none of his writings will give you plain, easy answers to our problems of civilization (I wouldn’t trust him if he did), it does provide one with the tools and foundation of thought to create something that works for us wherever and however we might live. If you have never read about post-civilization theory, but have thought about the seeming hopelessness of saving the biosphere that we are (not so) slowly killing, then this book is for you.

The Pugilist at Rest: Stories

Review by Bill Svoboda
Two things about this book really stood out to me. The first, is that while this covers ground similar to many other authors (particularly American and male), and has so many influences (Thom Jones said he'd read at least 10,000 books-and I'd bet good money some of them were by Stephen Crane, Charles Bukowski, and Nelson Algren ) this book comes off as fresh and deeply personal. The second standout is while these stories may be bleak and/or violent, the overwhelming emotion I felt after reading them was compassion. Jones's "outsider" sensibility permeates every story.There's also some humor. One of the stories ("The Wipeout") is kind of a sly homage to Nelson Algren (and his affair with Simone de Beauvoir). Jones died in 2016- RIP.

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

Review by Bill Svoboda
A thoroughly researched, well written, thoroughly depressing book. I read this when it was so smokey outside even my dog didn't want to leave the apartment-which I'm sure influenced my view. It seems plain to me that the response of "our" oligarchy to this is to ramp up "defense spending" even more. Christian Parenti comes across here as a more careful, less ideologically driven writer than his father Michael-for better or worse.

Thomas S. Szasz

Review by Bill Svoboda
Not exactly easy reading (I think a change in the type and/or size of font would have helped) and not the most "efficient" (for want of a better word) way to learn about Szasz & his ideas. But there is gold here for those who can dig it out. And also, this book was/is a labor of love on the part of the authors. I especially liked chapter 5 "What Follows from the Nonexistence of Mental Illness?" Changing the wording from "Mental Illness" to "Problems with Living" was, for me, much more than a matter of semantics- it completely changes a label ("Mental Illness") seemingly designed to stop further thought/inquiry (much like the term "homeless") into something which tends to compel further (and original) thinking.

Rat Girl

Review by Bill Svoboda
Even if this book were somehow NOT about Kristin Hersh and the Throwing Muses, it would still be good. This is skillfully written, enjoyable, surprisingly(?)fun and yes, it really goes into detail about the music/songs. If you're a Throwing Muses fan this book is especially for you.

Gods Without Men

Review by Bill Svoboda
This book had me from the very beginning (aka "Trickster Coyote and his mythical meth lab"). Weirdly (?)"Gods Without Men" somehow reminded me of "Look Homeward Angel' -even though it's a completely different sort of book. Perhaps because I had to stop reading every so often because it was sooo good.

The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

Review by Bill Svoboda
Often I find myself wanting to give "half star" ratings-for example, a three and one half star rating for "In The Night Garden". Having so many stories within stories within stories creates "logistical" problems for the reader-for example: Is it better to read the entire book straight through? or in little bits and pieces? Having more illustrations-especially in color-would elevate this to a solid 4 star.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Review by Meg Duke
Klein reveals the true violent history of current geopolitical economics, starting with Pinochet's bloody coup in Chile and following Friedman's neoliberal policies (as implemented by the IMF and World Bank) through Argentina, Poland, Russia, South Africa, China, Sri Lanka, Iraq and the US (and more). WHY DRINK COFFEE WHEN YOU CAN GET MAD ABOUT GEOPOLITICAL ECONOMIC IMPERIALISM

Asthma

Review by Bill Svoboda
I thought this was unusual, strange, distinctive and very good. The whole was definitely more than the sum of all the parts.

Stonewall

Review by Bill Svoboda
Martin Duberman is a Great Historian. He manages to put everything in context while preserving much of the "real life" messiness. And it is all grounded and highlighted by his belief in Individuality (in the best sense!) and the importance of day-to -day life. Even people who don't identify as "Gay" - or "don't like history" will probably like this book.

Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community

Review by Bill Svoboda
I literally read this book to pieces (it was already on the verge of falling apart). Since the 1970's I have been hearing about Black Mountain- in (at least) 3 very different circles (Academia, Art and Intentional Communities)-usually with a note of awe in the speaker's voice. Martin Duberman wrote this early in his career-which is why I give it 4 stars rather than 5- he was still "getting started"-that, and the physical condition of the book was wretched. Hopefully alt.lib will get a new (hardbacked?) copy soon.

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss

Review by Bill Svoboda
This is "Secret" in the sense of "Unknown" rather than "Concealed". Most is not that different than Theodore Geisel's (aka Dr. Seuss's) more familiar illustrations- although more abstract. My only beef is that most of the paintings- which were usually not very large to begin with- have been further reduced in size to the point of losing much of their impact (If the original was 12"x17.75"-the reproduction needs to be bigger than approx. 6"x4" - even if that means fold outs or having to turn the book sideways for viewing). Fans of Dr. Seuss and /or "cat people" will surely like this book .

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

Review by Bill Svoboda
I have to give anything with the title "The Dream-Quest Of...." at least 2 stars to begin with. And Kij Johnson has written some pretty decent stuff ("At the Mouth of the River of Bees" might be a good starting point). But compared to it's inspiration (H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath") this is slower, less horrific, generally less "dreamy"-interesting in it's own way, but not as good.

Kafka on the Shore

Review by Kryssanne Adams
I flew through Kafka on the Shore in less than a week, pulled along by dreamy imagery and poetic language. It's very character driven, and most of the characters have depth and interesting background stories; however, this story lacks substance toward the end, and I thought it just kinda ran out of steam. It's beautiful, but hollow. It's entertaining for a quick read though--definitely beats scrolling on yer phone screen. ;)

Guerrilla Warfare: Third Edition

Review by Meg Duke
In addition to Guevara's 3 classic essays, this copy contains detailed case studies of guerrilla movements in 7 particular Latin American countries, contextualizing Guevara's work. These case studies use Guevara's own criteria (as outlined in his essays) to examine each movement's decision to use (and sequential propagation of) guerrilla warfare as the means to liberation given the specific socioeconomic context.

Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History

Review by Meg Duke
Bursting at the seams with vivid examples and stories, this book's a dynamic dialogue between Balkan anarchist Grubajic and American IWW organizer/Marxist professor Lynd. Grubajic synthesizes broad, relevant questions for Lynd, whose answers expand upon specific (anarcho/marxist/wobbly/zapatista/sncc) histories and illuminate the necessary cooperation and synthesis of anarchist and marxist tradition/theory/action.

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