Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review Blog Carnival Number Five

Welcome to the Book Review Blog Carnival. Every other Sunday the carnival appears, like Brigadoon, on some blog somewhere, with links to book reviews all around the world. If you write book reviews on your blog we would love to have you participate. Submissions can be made at Carnival Dot Com for the next carnival, which will be published on December 7th at Imaginary Lands.

We have a large group of book reviews for you today.

In Fiction:

Marina, of Momma Writes About Books reviews The Blessing Way the first in Tony Hillerman's Navajo Police mysteries.

Marina has also reviewed The Pearl Diver, by Jeff Talarigo. This is the story of a Japanese woman who is sent to a leper colony, where she loses her identity and becomes a caregiver for the other patients.

Coralie writes about Stephen King's The Stand in her blog Happily Oblivious. It's a post apocalyptic story in which the cause of the mass die-off of humanity is an accidental release of a biological warfare germ by the U.S. government. Oops!

Ruth Schaller at Books Books and more Books read The Family Bones by Kimberly Raiser. If you inherit a property in a small town with a name like Astral, just call a realtor. It will save you trouble.

Charli was unimpressed by Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Find out why at

Alessandra, of Out of the Blue, has found the winner of the best title award with her review of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler.

Serena Trowbridge reviews Susannah Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu on her blog, Culture and Anarchy. Culture I get, but anarchy?

Serena Trowbridge also read The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, which is a story of the Queen (yes, that one) discovering the wonders of literature at the bookmobike.

NathanKP of Inkweaver Review writes about Things Hoped For, by Andrew Clements., a science fantasy mystery novel.

NathanKP also reviewed Un Lun Dun by China MiƩville. This book is a through the looking glass journey from London to it's opposite - Un Lun Dun. Get it?

Heather J. of Age 30+ ... A Lifetime of Books has a review of the classic Jules Verne novel The Mysterious Island! Verne, or the translator, or Heather seems to have used a lot of exclamation points!

Tanya, of Children's Books: What, When & How to Read Them predicts that Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson will win the National Book Award for young people's literature. That happened Wednesday, so now we know, but, really, she predicted it before.

Jason Isbell, writing in Tired Garden, reviews Shade by John Olson, which is not a gardening book.

switch2life thinks that The 3 Mistakes of My Life. is so similar to author Chetan Bhagat's other books that Bhagat must use some kind of software to grind out books like sausage, although sausage may not be the kind of image an Indian novelist would want to be associated with.

Jeanne, from Necromancy Never Pays read Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin', which is not about bicycle racing. It is the story of a girl, Jill who becomes a boy, inevitably Jack, for a few days each month. How inconvenient.

Alyce reviews My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes on At Home With Books. It's the story of Henry VIIIths wife number four. Henry could learn a lot from Larry King.

Kindlelicious would like to recommend Chris Moriarty's Spin Control. That is if you have a Kindle to read it on.

Keira writes, in Love Romance Passion, about her favorite book, Sleepless at Midnight by Jacquie D’Alessandro. I lie awake at night sometimes, too, but nobody writes romance novels about me. (With good reason)

In Non- Fiction:

Marina, of Momma Writes About Books has a short review of The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. I took the self-test on Elaine's website. Not surprisingly, I scored "insensitive boor."

Barry Wright III has submitted a review of an ebook, The Life Uncommon by Nacie Carson, on his blog 3style life. No word on what has happened to Barry Wrights I and II at this time.

Woman Tribune reviewed The Wilde Women by Paula Wall. Even during the depression, Wilde women don't get the blues.

Nigel Beale, of Nigel Beale Nota Bene Books has discovered The Idler's Glossary a book about creative idleness. It could be a manual for bloggers, at least according to my wife, who wishes I would get up and do something useful.

Christina M. Rau reviews Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno on her blog Livin' The Dream (One Loser At A Time) . Are the MSP (mainstream publishers) missing out on a good thing?

Mike Bergin has written a review of The LBJ: Avian Life, Literary Arts, which I thought at first must have something to do with President Johnson but, as it turns out, is a literary journal with a birding bent. LBJ = "Little Brown Job" which is an oblique refrence to what I have heard of as LGBs or "little gray birds," a term of art in the Audubon set. OK, so it's not really a book. You can find the review on Mike's blog 10,000 Birds.

Corey Finger, also writing at 10,000 Birds, has reviewed Birds: The Art of Ornithology by Jonathan Elphick, which contains 300 color illustrations from the Natural History Museum in London. They're pictures of birds, Hon.

Laurie Bartels reviews Neuroplasticity and the Brain That Changes Itself on SharpBrains: Your Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution by Norman Doidge. I need to get me some of that.

GrrlScientist of Living the Scientific Life has read Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood by Taras Grescoe. Oy, life wasn't complicated enough?

Dolfin from Lionden Landing submitted a review of Yoga Planet: 50 Fun Activities for a Greener World by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish,
Illustrated by Sophie Fatus, formerly known as My Daddy Is a Pretzel. I think I would have stuck with the first title.

Jim Murdoch reviews The Paris Review Interviews Vol. III , in which Martin Amis is quoted as saying All writers are Martians. Does that include bloggers?

Tim Gebhart, of A Progressive on the Prairie has a review of I Hate New Music by Dave Thompson. Thompson posits that rock music died in 1978 from an overdose of technology. I always thought it had something to do with a Chevy and a levy, oh well.

LAL wrote a review ofBook Review: Investing for Dummies for the blog LivingAlmostLarge. I wouldn't be caught dead reading a"For Dummies" book. I don't want to make to obvious.

Manoj reviews The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil on Unreal Blog. Could a computer like "Hal" be built some day, that possesses consciousness? Do we really have consciousness? Can I have a ham sandwich?

Callista has discovered a book about book bloggers, The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs by Rebecca Gillieron & Catheryn Kilgarriff. She completes the circle by blogging about the book about bloggrs who blog about books at her blog SMS Book Reviews.

Liz Fetter reviews Art History For Your Children, a series of 48 titles, on many many different artists from every period in art history, on her blog Power In Art . There must be a mail in certificate for a PHD diploma in the back of the last volume.

Coralie writes in Happily Oblivious writes about Ten Men Dead by David Beresford, which deals with the 1981 hunger strike by IRA prisoners at Long Kesh prison in Northern Ireland.

Douglas Karr of The Marketing Technology Blog writes about The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t" by Robert Sutton.

A last minute entry, Barry Wright III, of 3stylelife just finished reading The Sociology of Taste by Jukka Gronow. Is taste innate, he asks? Tell it to my plaid pants, I say. Still no word from Barry Wright I and II.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Curses, Memed Again!

Book Calendar has hit me with the dread Bookworm Awards meme. I have been asked to like him for it.

Here are the rules:

Open the book closest to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56.Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following there.

I happen to have a copy of Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire on the shelf behind me. It's the 1990 trade paperback edition, of the book, originally published in 1968. The fifth sentence is:

In addition to this sort of practical guide service the ranger will also be a bit of a naturalist, able to edify the party in his charge with the natural and human history of the area, in detail and in broad outline.

Abbey goes on to say:

Critics of my program will argue that it is too late for such a radical reformation of a people's approach to the out-of-doors, that the pattern is too deeply set, and that the majority of Americans would not be willing to emerge from the familiar luxury of their automobiles, even if briefly, to try the little-known and problematic advantages of the bicycle, the saddle horse, and the footpath. This might be so; but how can we be sure unless we dare the experiment? I, for one suspect that millions of our citizens, especially the young, are yearning for adventure, difficulty, challenge - they will respond with enthusiasm. What we must do, prodding the Park Service into the forefront of the demonstration, is provide these young people with the opportunity, the assistance, and the necessary encouragement.

Abbey is proposing, here, to close the national parks to vehicular traffic, in order to make room for the onslaught of tourists and to give those tourists a chance to get out and stub their toes on the natural world. Some parks, like Yosemite, have since closed some areas, except for the buses they run to keep people from having to walk. Later Abbey would propose other things, like blowing up the Glen Canyon dam. His novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, became a kind of manifesto for eco-terrorism, such as it is and inspired the formation of Earth First. It's a good thing he never met Barack Obama - at least as far as I know.

I'm supposed to pass on the meme infection to five other bloggers. I just happen to know several people who regularly read ACTUAL BOOKS and sometimes review them; contributors to the Book Review Blog Carnival. Here are my chosen victims:

A Progressive on the Prairie

Cromley's World

Linus's Blanket

Living the Scientific Life


I hope that each of them will accept this meme with good humor, or at least without threatening bodily harm.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book Review Blog Carnival the Fourth Edition

This week's edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival has been published at The Symposium. There are 33 book reviews in this edition which range from children's books to books on Constitutional Law. Drop by and do a little light reading.

If you submitted a post to the carnival in the last month and did not receive an email from me this morning, please email me at cbjorke at gmail dot com, so I can get you and your blog on the contributor list.

I will be hosting the next edition, here, on November 23rd. Please submit your book reviews at the usual location

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Invisible Constitution

Laurence H. Tribe

There is a great deal more in constitutional law than is contained in the spare, sparse language of the U.S. Constitution. Or at lease Laurence Tribe believes so. Mr. Tribe is a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School. Other than the justices on the supreme court, there is really no better authority on what constitutional law contains. Yet there is disagreement about this. Justice Antonin Scalia is well known for his strict adherence to the written words of the Constitution.

Consider, however, the words of article IX of the Bill of Rights:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Professor Tribe argues that the words of this clause are a huge gap through which truckloads of rights, unknown to James Madison or John Marshall, can be driven. How, then can we decide what is a right retained by the people and what is a kooky, left wing idea, best left in the dust bin of history?

Tribe offers six methods that jurists have used to think about, and argue for, these invisible constitutional rights. First the geometric construction, connecting the dots between different articles of the constitution. This is how the much argued right to privacy has been derived. Nowhere does the constitution mention the word "privacy." It does say, though "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. " and "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." When you put them together you get a more general concept that the government should leave people alone, especially in their own homes, but also in their possessions and their bodies, in short - privacy.

Another method of constructing constitutional rights described by Tribe are the geodesic - building a dome, like Buckminster Fuller, again out of already existing rights, to protect the freedoms of the individual. The global is another, reinforcing ones argument by reference to laws and practices in other countries. Justice Scalia has been guilty of this practice himself, according to professor Tribe. The geological, unearthing evidence of the intent of the founding fathers in historical sources is the fourth method. The gravitational, where he makes an argument based on Einstein's relativity theory and argues that laws create distortions of the social space time continuum is another. (did I mention that some of this is kind of hard to follow?) And finally the gyroscopic, in which the force of previously made decisions in the court help to stabilize the interpretation of the constitution by weight of their precedent, even when they are wrong.

Professor Tribe is obviously a really smart person and he has had the help of some other really smart people over the years, including a young research assistant who has gone on to bigger things, a fellow named Barry Obama. I tended to go all glassy eyed reading some of Tribe's explanations. Me and Sarah Palin are probably not destined to sit on the Supreme Court, I would guess. He has almost made me a strict constructionist, but then he did convince me that strict constructionists are most strict when construction arguments against things that the personally don't care for and are a lot looser when they argue for something that suits them.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Studs Terkel 1912-2008

I didn't intend this to be the literary obituary blog, but another writer who had a big impact on me has left us. Studs Terkel died yesterday, Oct 31st. He was 96 years old.

Studs Terkel went to work as a radio voice actor, news reader and sportscaster during the great depression. He began his own daily interview show on Chicago's WFMT in 1952 and continued until 1997 to interview people for an hour show, five days a week.

Using his interviewing skills, hone by his radio experience Suds began to write books, starting with Giants of Jazz in 1956. Studs' books are "oral histories," stories told to him by people from all walks of life. The ones I recommend reading are:

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970)

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974).

The Good War (1984)

My American Century (1997)

Studs wrote 18 books in all. The latest, a memoir, P.S. Further Thoughts From a Lifetime of Listening has just been published.