Six degrees of separation: from typos to Russia

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from typos to Russia

Glad to be back – my last participation was in April! Life seems always so busy at the turn of each month. This time, I have read only three of the books I feature here. The others are on my TBR.

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month).

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title (or in the subtitle) offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

eats shoots and leaves Let's Eat France

  Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls The Men Who United the States  

  Men Without Women  The Man Without a Face  

Links will send you to my review or to the relevant Goodreads page

1.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss

And for once, I have read the book we are supposed to start this chain with. I reviewed it here eleven years ago!
I loved it, this is totally my type of books, focusing on language, spelling, and punctuation.

2. Let’s Eat France!: 1,250 specialty foods, 375 iconic recipes, 350 topics, 260 personalities, plus hundreds of maps, charts, tricks, tips, and anecdotes and everything else you want to know about the food of France

If you are familiar with my blog, you can easily understand why this title would be on my TBR. It’s puzzling though to know it’s already been there for two years! I definitely need to get to it soon.

“There’s never been a book about food like Let’s Eat France! A book that feels literally larger than life, it is a feast for food lovers and Francophiles, combining the completist virtues of an encyclopedia and the obsessive visual pleasures of infographics with an enthusiast’s unbridled joy.
Here are classic recipes, including how to make a pot-au-feu, eight essential composed salads, pâté en croûteblanquette de veau, choucroute, and the best ratatouille. Profiles of French food icons like Colette and Curnonsky, Brillat-Savarin and Bocuse, the Troigros dynasty and Victor Hugo. A region-by-region index of each area’s famed cheeses, charcuterie, and recipes. Poster-size guides to the breads of France, the wines of France, the oysters of France—even the frites of France. You’ll meet endive, the belle of the north; discover the croissant timeline; understand the art of tartare; find a chart of wine bottle sizes, from the tiny split to the Nebuchadnezzar (the equivalent of 20 standard bottles); and follow the family tree of French sauces.
Adding to the overall delight of the book is the random arrangement of its content (a tutorial on mayonnaise is next to a list of places where Balzac ate), making each page a found treasure. It’s a book you’ll open anywhere—and never want to close.”

3. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

I have totally enjoyed this book, as most by Sedaris. This one is typical of this author.
Excerpt from my review:
On the French medical system, French doctors and dentists. So hilarious and so true, foi de Française!
In this book, you will travel all over the world, not only to France, but also to Australia, to China and Japan, etc. I really enjoy his style, his views always right on target, with love and humor, and the way he knows how to suddenly give a final twist you were not expecting at all.

4.  The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible

I haven’t read this one, but am planning to, as I have thoroughly enjoyed a couple of books by this author, especially Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories

“For more than two centuries, E pluribus unum-Out of many, one-has been featured on America’s official government seals and stamped on its currency. But how did America become “one nation, indivisible”? What unified a growing number of disparate states into the modern country we recognize today? In this monumental history, Simon Winchester addresses these questions, bringing together the breathtaking achievements that helped forge and unify America and the pioneers who have toiled fearlessly to discover, connect, and bond the citizens and geography of the U.S.A. from its beginnings.
Winchester follows in the footsteps of America’s most essential explorers, thinkers, and innovators, including Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery Expedition to the Pacific Coast, the builders of the first transcontinental telegraph, and the powerful civil engineer behind the Interstate Highway System. He treks vast swaths of territory, from Pittsburgh to Portland; Rochester to San Francisco; Truckee to Laramie; Seattle to Anchorage, introducing these fascinating men and others-some familiar, some forgotten, some hardly known-who played a pivotal role in creating today’s United States. Throughout, he ponders whether the historic work of uniting the States has succeeded, and to what degree.
Featuring 32 illustrations throughout the text, The Men Who United the States is a fresh, lively, and erudite look at the way in which the most powerful nation on earth came together, from one of our most entertaining, probing, and insightful observers.”

5.  Men Without Women

VERDICT:  Very enjoyable collection of short stories, where you can easily recognize the hand of the master. My favorite Japanese author.

6.  The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

I’m curious both about Russia and about this smart author. I have actually watched a video where she presented this book. Brilliant mind. Another one far too long on my TBR (four years).

The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low- level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to her own people and to the world.
Handpicked as a successor by the “family” surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country’s fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.
As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her account of how a “faceless” man maneuvered his way into absolute-and absolutely corrupt-power has the makings of a classic of narrative nonfiction.”

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Six degrees of separation: from Glasgow to fire

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from Glasgow to fire

Sometimes, the book we have to use to start the chain is challenging for my own rules. So to start this one, I decided to go with another author whose first name is Douglas.
So I started in Glasgow, and ended up with  a French philosopher!

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month).

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title (or in the subtitle) offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

Shuggie Bain  Shadows Walking

  The Black Lizard  Lady Agnes Mystery 1  

  fire season The Psychoanalysis of Fire  

Links will send you to my review or to the relevant Goodreads page

1.  Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart

So this is the book we have to start with. I haven’t read it, and am not planning to, this is not a theme I’m interested in.

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings. Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs. Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie.
A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell.
 ”

2.  Shadows Walking, by Douglas R. Skopp

So as explained above, I went with another Douglas.

Here are excepts from my review:
Let me tell you right away that if you are interested in German history, in the Nazi era, and in what happened then, you need absolutely to read this novel. Fruit of 20 years of study and work, it is extremely rich and multi-layered.
Skopp translates extremely well how the characters evolved and let themselves slowly but surely get trapped in foolish and evil ideas, ideas that appeared good at first. The whole Nazi system is presented in its scary logical cold reasoning, leaving no room for empathy or humanistic thoughts.
It is unfortunately not too difficult to do some transposition, and think about the consequences some political logical decisions could have…
The whole theme of dreams, delusions, and fantasy is omnipresent. There’s also a lot on the themes of religion and violence.
The ending is very clever, like a sword of Damocles you may have expected for a while…

3. The Black Lizard / Beast in the Shadows

I just read this book last week, but unfortunately, haven’t reviewed it yet. These were my first two stories by Edogawa Rampo, a brilliant Japanese author of classic mysteries. So so clever!!

“Two Golden Age classics from Japan’s grand master of mystery. Edogawa Rampo (pseudonym of Hirai Taro, 1894-1965) is the acknowledged grand master of Japan’s golden age of crime and mystery fiction. In the early part of his career, he created the Japanese gothic mystery, developing the work of Edgar Allan Poe and related nineteenth century writers in a distinctly Japanese form. This part of his career coincided with a great flowering in Japanese literature and culture, a relatively free and uninhibited popular press being a defining feature of the times. In this context, Rampo’s dark vision and extravagant grotesquery found an avid readership, and had a profound influence on other writers.
The Black Lizard, a master criminal as deadly as she is beautiful, wagers all in an epic battle with a master detective.
A mystery writer vows to protect the woman he secretly loves from the Beast in the Shadows, but disaster strikes when he turns detective himself.”

4.  The Lady Agnès Mystery vol 1: Book 1. The Season of the Beast

VERDICT: Suspenseful saga set in France in the 14th century, at the time of the dreadful Inquisition. Rich in historical details and ripe with secrets powerful enough to kill or to die for.
5. Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout

Excerpts from my review:
I read this book because of my love for nature and hiking, and also solitary life. I found all this in the book, but much more! I learned a lot about fire management.
I enjoyed the author’s beautiful prose as he contemplates and scrutinizes the horizon at the top of his tower, for several months every year, in New Mexico.

This book was a big revelation for me, I loved it to pieces. I was 17 at the time (so that’s a long time ago!!). Indeed, during the last year of high school. all French students had to study philosophy.

“[Bachelard] is neither a self-confessed and tortured atheist like Sartre, nor, like Chardin, a heretic combining a belief in God with a proficiency in modern science. But, within the French context, he is almost as important as they are because he has a pseudo-religious force, without taking a stand on religion. To define him as briefly as possible – he is a philosopher, with a professional training in the sciences, who devoted most of the second phase of his career to promoting that aspect of human nature which often seems most inimical to science: the poetic imagination …” – J.G. Weightman, The New York Times Review of Books”
– that’s the synopsis featured on Goodreads.

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Six degrees of separation: from phos to light

#6Degrees

Six degrees of separation:
from phos to light

When I saw we had to start with a one word title, I was tempted to start my chain with the author’s first name.
But then I thought I could actually use the Greek part of the title I love. In fact, the theme of light (phos) is my favorite in Christian spirituality.
I usually feature Christian books on my other site (I haven’t posted there for months, but I will restart mid March: Myrtle Skete), but I am who I am, and am very committed in my faith and practice, so for once, most of my chain will be featuring Christian books.
If it’s not your thing, feel free to leave and not read further.

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month).

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title (or in the subtitle) offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

Phosphorescence Metamorphosis

  The Transfiguration of Christ  If you love me

if on a winter's night   Light to Enlighten My Darkness

 

Links will send you to my review or to the relevant Goodreads page

1. Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark

So this is the book we have to start with. I haven’t read it, and am not planning to, as it seems light weight to me.

“A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.
Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them?
And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?”

2. Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography

Two notes here:
I played with the syllable phos, meaning light in Greek, but I am aware that in the word “metamorphosis”, the Greek word is morphosis, which means form.

It’s interesting though, that metamorphosis is the Greek word for Transfiguration, which is an event of LIGHT, where the Apostles were finally able to open their eyes and really see Christ’s Divine Light.
This is my favorite Christian Feast, and I have read a lot of books on it. But as I wrote in my review, I can say, “This is one of the best books I have read on the Transfiguration”.

3. The Transfiguration Of Christ In Scripture And Tradition

I read this many many years ago, before my blogging years, so I have no review and no excerpts, but this is definitely my favorite book on the Transfiguration.
John Anthony McGuckin is an amazing scholar (currently professor of early Christianity in the Theological Faculty of Oxford University, and Romanian Orthodox priest).
In this book, he combines Biblical and Patristic data. And it’s very accessible – incidentally, that’s for me the sign of real scholars: they can explain complex things in ways everyone can understand.

4.  If You Love Me: Serving Christ and the Church in Spirit and Truth

Another book I didn’t review. Matthew the Poor was also a scholar and this time, a Coptic monk and abbot. I have read several books by him. They are deeply steeped in Scripture and very profound. The type of books you would enjoy reading in Lent, for meditation.
NB: all Christians are serving Christ one way or another, including in your service of your neighbor, so this is not a book just for special ministers.

““The lesson of love can never be taught simply by words . . . Rather, it is taught by truly giving yourself and communicating the love and longing for Christ to those you serve. . . . How awesome and dignified is Christian service! And how good is the trustworthy and loyal servant who can say along with Christ, ‘Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart’ (Matt. 11:29).” (from the Introduction) This book is essential and inspiring reading for all who would devote their lives to the service of Christ and His Church.”

 

5. If on a Winter‘s Night a Traveler
And this one is my favorite novel pertaining to the Oulipo, that is, a group of authors who try to write following unusual structures, patterns, or even constrained techniques (a famous book in that group was written in French, without ever using the letter e!)

After literary fiction, I am back to Christian nonfiction, and with my own book, though this is an anthology I put together, so I only really wrote the introduction.
The texts have been chosen from Medieval Cistercian authors, so this is not easy modern meditation reading.
I mentioned above how light was my favorite theme, so no surprise I decided to [put this anthology together.

And so it is fun here to start with phos and end up with light.

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