Travels with Charley is a non-fiction book by John Steinbeck about his travels across America. Indeed it is titled “In search of America”.
He is not a man who messes around. When he decided to go travelling he wrote to the truck company and design him a special truck. They did. When his boat was in danger he jumped into the stormy water and swam out to it. It was a time when men were real men, women were real women, and everyone suffered because of gender inequality.
He does not go alone however. He takes his dog, Charley, who is as much a part of the story as Steinbeck himself. He begins by driving across the northern states (Steinbeck, not Charley, who does none of the driving) and then comes down the west coast and back across.
It is an interesting story. Steinbeck writes about his experiences in the colourful and descriptive way you would expect.
It is not, however, a description of Americana. Probably because, as Steinbeck points out, summing it up would be impossible. However, it is more a collection of anecdotes in sequence than a description of the areas he passes through.
It also all gets a bit horrible near the end when he visits the southern states and runs into a lot of racists. He quickly falls out with them. Thankfully he is then on the road again heading back to New York.
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The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel Margaret Atwood. It describes a near-future dystopian world in which democracy has been replaced by a fundamentalist Christian military government and re-structured society.
In said society women are divided into functions for men. The protagonist, Offred, is a handmaid. She is used for breeding purposes only. Still, better than being a Martha, or shipped off to the colonies…
The final piece of the puzzle of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series (a trilogy in seven parts). Forward the Foundation follows Hari Seldon from the the time he decides to work on psychohistory (at the end of Prelude to Foundation) and the founding of the First Foundation on Terminus.
Once you have read all the other books, you pretty much know what is going to happen. However, it is still an entertaining read. Everything slots in and completes the story.
Food For Free is a book by Richard Mabey on foraging. I got the pocket-sized edition which is great for travelling around with.
It contains descriptions of loads of different plants you will find it Britain and each one comes with an illustration and a photo. It describes what it looks like and what you can do with it. All good stuff.
On the negative side, it is very insistent that you use a real identification guide, which it claims this is not. I felt that distracted a lot from the purpose of the book. Why make it pocket-sized for example if you’re not taking it into the field?
It is also arranged alphabetically whereas I felt grouping similar plants together would be more useful. If I see a plant I want to be able to find that section and work out which one it is. That way also has difficulties – how do you find the section you want if you already know what it is, and how do you judge what is similar? However, on balance I think the trade off would have been worth it.
It does however address any concerns you might have that you could accidentally pick something poisonous by telling you it will probably be fine. I feel much better after that…
I almost gave up on The Rosie Effect. Sure, I enjoyed The Rosie Project. But it did not make me feel like I had to read the sequel. So I mulled over striking it off my reading list. However, just before I did I went back to Bill Gates’ blog to re-read his post about it. It raved about it, so I kept it on the list.
I’m glad I did. As Gates points out, life through the prism of autism provides a surprisingly identifiable view of the human condition.
It picks up a while after The Rosie Project finishes and tells the story of Don and Rosie as they prepare to start a family.
I also found out that “cross nursing”, the practice of swapping babies to feed, can be beneficial for the immune system of the child. However, a little research suggests there are serious risks and other complications. Anyway, something to discuss with Elina later…
I mean, I don’t know what I was expecting when I decided to read a novel that was essentially a love story between a 12 year old girl and a pedophile, but it was definitely worse than I had anticipated. Though at least the details of their carnal acts were glossed over.
I have sometimes seen Lolita costumes on eBay. Who could possibly think that was a good idea? Only, I vainly hope, someone who had not read the book.