Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Salon: To Challenge Or Not

Samantha over at Bookworms and tea lovers is abandoning her book challenges:

I'm chucking my challenges out of the window. Yes, you heard me right, all challenges that have a time limit have been discarded. Which means I can read without guilt! No more thinking 'I really should read a book for my challenges'.

Reading Samantha's "cry of freedom" made me consider if I too should quit my book challenges. Like Samantha, I chafe under the constraints of the challenges in which I am participating. The constant pressure to ignore all the new and interesting books that I find each week in order to read books to which I am already committed.

However, I think that my reading benefits from the challenges. I find there is a certain amount of inertia in reading. It is easy to read books that are like all the other books I have read, to read only books that are entertaining or easy, or those in a particular genre that I find appealing. This is the first year in which I have participated in challenges. During this year I have read many books that I would never have read without the challenges. Literary fiction, literature in translation, novels in unfamiliar genres. So, while I can certainly see why Samantha chose the freedom of reading as she pleases, I think I am going to persevere with my challenges.

What about you, do you participate in challenges or not? How have they affected your reading?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

In Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage the vicar, Mr. Clement, returns from visiting a parishioner to find a dead body in his study. The dead man is Col. Protheroe, a judge in St. Mary Mead, and not well liked at all. But who could of have killed him? His wife? Her lover? Or perhaps someone else in the village with a grudge? When the police can make no headway toward solving the case, a village spinster, Miss Marple, steps up to solve the crime.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I did not find it as easy to read as The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I kept losing track of who was who during the course of my reading. Also, Murder at the Vicarage marks the debut of Miss Marple. So, I was surprised to find that she is not the narrator, nor seemingly even a main character, despite being the one to solve the case. Still, I look forward to the next Miss Marple book, in part to see if she takes a more prominent role in it.


Health Care for Undocumented Aliens

I thought long and hard about whether to introduce politics here. I don't think many people, if any really, will actually read this, but there is always a certain element of risk when one takes a public stand on an issue. However, I strongly believe in public discourse and would like to add my voice to the clamor.

You were probably just as surprised as everyone else when you heard Rep. Joe Wilson interrupt the President's speech with his outburst. You have also probably viewed and read enough coverage on how rude he was (or wasn't) or how mistaken (or right) he is on the issue. However, I would like this opportunity to bring up something which I think is being largely ignored, something about which I have been thinking since Wilson's outburst.

I believe there is a strong economic case for insuring those that currently lack health insurance. Health care is already provided for them, the extremely expensive kind that they receive in the emergency room. And, when the uninsured are unable to pay for that care, we, those of us that can pay because we are insured, pay for that care when the the costs are passed on. So, it appears that we would save money by providing health care coverage for all, a savings produced when the formerly uninsured receive preventative or less expensive care from regular doctors.

By the same argument, shouldn't we provide health care coverage to undocumented aliens too? I know that this is a heretical view, but please, hear me out. If the argument made above in favor of providing coverage for the uninsured is accurate, and I believe there is strong evidence that this is so, wouldn't the same argument apply to undocumented aliens as well? Health care for undocumented aliens is the same emergency care relied upon by the uninsured. And when the undocumented alien is unable to pay, or is detained and deported like many want, who do you think will pay for that emergency care? That's right, you and I. So why not opt for the less expensive option by providing universal health care coverage, for every man, woman, and child who lives in our great country?

If you are truly interested, Andrew Romano has written an article for Newsweek that does a much better job of covering this issue than I could ever do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

Ex Libris is a wonderful little collection of essays about books, reading, and words written by Anne Fadiman. In my favorite, The Joy of Sesquipedalians, Fadiman writes about archaic or not often used words and the delight one can have when discovering them. In another essay, Secondhand Prose, Fadiman writes about the joy of finding bibliographic gems in used bookstores, a favorite of mine as well. Broad in range, the collection includes essays on joining libraries upon marriage, political correctness, food and literature, plagiarism, and much more.

If you are bookish in any way, I highly recommend you read a copy of Ex Libris. You won't regret it, I promise.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

When Green's family leaves her behind to weed the garden while they go to the city, Green is angry. Her anger turns into intense grief when a fiery disaster destroys the city, killing Green's sister, mother, and father, leaving Green to survive alone. What follows is a magical tale of how Green overcomes her grief to learn to live and love again.

Green Angel is not the kind of book that I would normally read. First, it is a YA novel, which I tend to avoid since I am an adult. (I know ... I am a little snobbish when it comes to reading.) Second, Alice Hoffman really isn't the type of author that usually catches my attention. However, when I couldn't find my first choice for a Green book for the The Colorful Reading Challenge, I saw that Mardel at Rabid Reader had read Green Angel as her Green book. Since I had just finished Blue Angel as my Blue book for the Colorful Reading Challenge, I thought I would give Green Angel a go.

I have to say that I am pretty happy I did. The story is sparsely told, but touching. The prose is wonderful. At 116 pages, it is a great short read, so go ahead, give it a try.