Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February Reading List

February is the month we think of love...but let's not.  Not this time.  My favorite picks for this month take a darker tone, in fact they're not about love at all unless you love zombies and gunslingers.  If you do, then you're in exactly the right place.'

Read Alones:

Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T.J. Stiles
This is not the kind of book I normally read, but a friend bought the book for a college history course and never read it.  In one of those rare moments of days gone by when I was in desperate need of
something to read during one my one quiet hour of the day while both my babies were sleeping, I asked if I could have this book and I'm so glad my friend agree.  It turned out to be informative and fascinating and opened up a world of links between Jesse's story and other events of that ear in American History.

"Raised in a fiercely pro-slavery household in bitterly divided Misssouri, at age sixteen James became a bushwhacker, one of the savage Confederate guerrillas that terrorized the border states. After the end of the war, James continued his campaign of robbery and murder into the brutal era of reconstruction, when his reckless daring, his partisan pronouncements, and his alliance with the sympathetic editor John Newman Edwards placed him squarely at the forefront of the former Confederates’ bid to recapture political power. With meticulous research and vivid accounts of the dramatic adventures of the famous gunman, T. J. Stiles shows how he resembles not the apolitical hero of legend, but rather a figure ready to use violence to command attention for a political cause—in many ways, a forerunner of the modern terrorist."

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War Z by Max Brooks
Back before Warm Bodies and iZombie, when people just wanted to kill zombies instead of try to turn them or help them lead normal lives, this book took a different approach to the zombie narrative.  The story begins long after the plague and the ensuing war against the zombies.  It recounts the stories of the survivors from the outbreak to the retaking and rebuilding of civilization.  If you were unfortunate enough to have watched the Brad Pitt movie---then, apologize and hope you can forget everything
you saw.  That movie was a boring piece of garbage and the book was brilliant.

"The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years."

This book was written before the word "zombie" had worked its way into our vernacular and the creatures in this book are no zombies even though two of the three movie adaptations depict them as such.  If you need to see the movie, I strongly suggest you pass over Will Smith's 2007 version of the same name and Charleton Heston's 1971 Omega Man and go straight to the beginning with Vincent Price's 1964 version titled Last Man on Earth.  None of them come close to the brilliance of the book, but we don't always have time for a read.  Actually, I have to admit that I didn't read this book.  I listened to it on audio book during my long nights with wakeful babies.  This book is a must read for any Sci-Fi or monster genre enthusiast.

"Robert Neville may well be the last living man on Earth . . . but he is not alone.
An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him.
By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn...."

Read Alouds:
Turning away from blood and gore, read-alouds should be sweet, memorable and chalked full of quality time.  The Year of Miss Agnes got me pretty choked up at the end and I loved the first person narrative as this story is told through the eyes of a child.

"Ten-year-old Frederika (Fred for short) doesn't have much faith that the new teacher in town will last very long. After all, they never do. Most teachers who come to their one-room schoolhouse in remote, Alaska leave at the first smell of fish, claiming that life there is just too hard. 
But Miss Agnes is different -- she doesn't get frustrated with her students, and she throws away old textbooks and reads Robin Hood instead! For the first time, Fred and her classmates begin to enjoy their lessons and learn to read and write -- but will Miss Agnes be like all the rest and leave as quickly as she came?"

Tragedy comes and sometimes it comes again, and when it does one can give in to the despair or one
can muster her courage and give of herself to others.  The story of Mary Breckinridge has inspired me for many years and even more so now.  This haunting tale of real life people and events is brief but unforgettable.
"Mary Breckinridge, trained as a nurse during World War I, rode on horseback into the isolated mountains of Appalachia and never looked back. Instead, she spent her life fording icy streams and climbing untracked mountains to bring medical help to those in need. More nurses on horseback joined Mary . . . and the Frontier Nursing Service was born. Mary’s story is amazing. And it is true."

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