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.

The Parasite

Review by Bill Svoboda
Michel Serres might well be called "a French Philosopher for those who don't like French Philosophers", except , to really appreciate him, you need to read him in French. I get the feeling this book was a donation-and that there really is no good way to translate it into English. If we have this book, we should have it in French. For English speakers, it would be much better to have a discussion/debate/summary of Serres' work in English-not necessarily by Michel Serres himself. Again, Wikipedia has some very interesting things to say about the author.

The Mystery Of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

Review by Bill Svoboda
Good thing I didn't judge this book by it's cover. Positive quotes from Bill Clinton and George Bush (Sr) aren't usually the way to my good side. Plus, De Soto is certifiably "neo-liberal". But I enjoyed this book and pretty much agree with what the author has to say-amazingly! Of course, then there's the matter of what De Soto DOESN'T say-it would be interesting to read critiques and or debates by others- Marxist and otherwise. But this is a well written book with some great insights. Check out what Wikipedia has to say about Hernando De Soto as well.

What Nerve!: Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present

Review by Katharine Gring
Lots of good color pictures of the art ( but hard to tell how accurate the colors are without the originals for comparison).

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-if this was longer and more comprehensive it would be five stars.

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