gkur 75 Books Challenge 2015

Converses75 Books Challenge for 2015

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gkur 75 Books Challenge 2015

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1gkur
Editat: jul. 19, 2015, 1:36pm

Book 1: Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck

Move over cars! Pedestrians should always have the right of way!

2drneutron
març 19, 2015, 9:46am

Welcome! Looks like an interesting one to start.

3qebo
març 22, 2015, 9:32am

>1 gkur: I have this on hand to read soon, since the author recently completed a walkability study for my city (he's an engaging speaker too).

4scaifea
març 23, 2015, 3:30pm

Hi, and welcome to the group!

5gkur
Editat: març 26, 2015, 8:03pm

it's a good book. qebo What city are you in?

6qebo
març 26, 2015, 8:40pm

>5 gkur: Lancaster PA
A video of his presentation is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7YwlBhlqco . Unfortunately w/o a view of the slideshow, which is supposed to be posted eventually.

7gkur
Editat: jul. 19, 2015, 1:36pm

Book 2: Louise Lawler (October Files)

This book consists of multiple articles and interviews about and in one case with Lawler.



Louise Lawler, Does Andy Warhol Make You Cry?, 1988 - this work is talked about multiple times in the book. The first time it stuck with me was when it was mentioned in an interview between Douglas Crimp and Lawler (p. 39).

Crimp: "The word poignant means 'pointed,' 'sharp,' 'focused,' and 'affecting,' 'moving.' So the word captures dimensions of your work comprising not only its pointedness, its criticality, but also something much more difficult to speak about, its emotional effect. I find this particularly interesting with regard to this work, because we so easily think of Marilyn Monroe as a heartbreaking figure, but then what about Warhol? Does he affect us in the same way? How are we affected by what is so often called his affectlessness?"

Lawler: "Even the fact that we call these people 'Marilyn' and 'Andy' has a certain poignancy, indicating that we want somehow to be closer to them, while what we really have an intimacy with is those pictures. And the poignancy also extends to the painting itself. It's been removed from the intimacy of someone's bedroom, and here it is on the wall of an auction house.

While I'm working, I take lots of pictures. It's a way of working that's fairly flat-footed in that I have a sense that something is worthwhile documenting, but the pictures that work are those that are affecting in some other way."

8gkur
Editat: jul. 19, 2015, 1:36pm

Book 3: The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America by Leo Marx



Through close readings of Thomas Jefferson, Hawthorne, Emerson, Mark Twain, Melville, and even a Charles Sheeler painting (above) Marx explores the theme of the pastoral butting heads with the industrialization of America.

9gkur
Editat: abr. 9, 2015, 6:36am

Book 4: In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by James Deetz

This book made me think a lot about a facet of material culture I hadn't given much thought to before - gravestones!

"The arrangement of gravestones in a cemetery and the designs on their tops create a Gestalt not of our making but of the community whose dead lie beneath the ground. If we bring to this world, so reflective of the past, a sensitivity to the meaning of the patterns we see in it, the artifact becomes a primary source of great objectivity and subtlety." p. 259



"It is terribly important that the 'small things forgotten' be remembered. For in the seemingly little and insignificant things that accumulate to create a lifetime, the essence of our existence is captured. We must remember these bits and pieces, and we must use them in new and imaginative ways so that a different appreciation for what life is today, and was in the past, can be achieved." p. 259-260

10gkur
Editat: abr. 26, 2015, 10:10am

Book 5: The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South by Dylan C. Penningroth

"Drawing on the insights of African Studies, this book argues that if social ties helped 'make' property, property was one of the things that 'made' social ties. Combining concepts advanced in recent scholarship on the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa, this book proposes a new framework for analyzing the connection between people's social relationships and their interests in property."

What I found interesting was a quote about art, leading me to another book I'd like to read or at least look at: "Slaves on one Louisiana plantation put 'pictures on the walls' of their cabins, pictures they bought from itinerant 'picture men (who) come thru the country.'" - Economy and Material Culture of Slaves: Goods and Chattels on the Sugar Plantations of Jamaica and Louisiana by Roderick A. McDonald

11gkur
Editat: abr. 29, 2015, 4:05pm

Book 6: Charm City: A Walk Through Baltimore by Madison Smartt Bell

I'm currently reading a couple of books about Baltimore that have little to do with current events there, it is just a coincidence. Really what I want to do is research the Baltimore of the late 1700s to early 1800s as a way to place the artist Joshua Johnson, but I'm circling the topic a bit by starting with this book written by a Goucher professor about his meanderings around the city with some historical anecdotes thrown in.

12gkur
maig 1, 2015, 3:54pm

Book 7: The Baltimore Atrocities by John Dermot Woods

My first fiction book! I generally am excited to start a book of fiction but then quickly get bored with it as the story starts to solidify into a predictable set of circumstances and plot, but this book never quite gets into the groove that most novels do. Instead there is a constant shift between a primary narrative that moves slowly and with little direction, and multiple interruptions in the form of very short stories. So having too predictable a plot wasn't really an issue. In the plot we find two men, maybe in their mid 20s, who have traveled to Baltimore to house-sit for a year. Both men are looking for lost siblings. Apparently Baltimore is a place where children disappear frequently and they may or may not be taken to warehouses hidden in woods, or a certain floor of a hospital. The book ends without the main character finding his lost sister. But as one of the characters points out, even if he did find her, she wouldn't be the person who was taken when they were younger. In general this book is perfect for someone with a "vigorous appetite for schadenfreude," similar to the narrator. There are many drawings throughout the book that I especially enjoyed.

13gkur
maig 17, 2015, 12:30pm

Book 8: Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore

Another book of fiction, but this one heavily based in facts from the time period of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in Paris. Actually the parsing of fact and fiction is one of the funnest parts of this book. The plot tells the story of the original Colorman's death. Apparently the Colorman and his blue lady friend need each other and a very special blue paint to survive, so they seduce painters and make them paint with the blue and then the painters usually die. It's a fun read, probably more so if you are really into art history. I loved the Afterword as it went into some detail about what inspired the author and how he chose his subject (apparently Degas was a complete asshole, so he did not get a part in the novel). There is also a website - sacrebleu.me that has wonderful context for each chapter, including loads of pictures of the art and places mentioned in the book.

As I was reading I kept thinking about teaching a class on the Impressionists and using this book as a segue into how historical fiction can provide insights into history that one can't get with just straight non-fiction.

14scaifea
maig 18, 2015, 6:33am

I'm a big fan of Moore, but haven't read this one yet - have you read any of his other stuff? He's a hoot.

15gkur
maig 25, 2015, 1:14pm

no, that's the only one I've read. I enjoyed it, but mostly for the historical content, so I'm not sure if I'd like his other books, but possibly. Def. a name I'll keep in mind.

16gkur
maig 25, 2015, 1:16pm

Book 9: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Finally a book that tells the truth about libraries. They can be scary places.

17gkur
maig 29, 2015, 9:19am

Book 10: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Such a good book!! I wish there were images in the book, like this one of people walking with the Ferris wheel in the background.


Image from - https://chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/photo-chicago-columbia...

18scaifea
maig 30, 2015, 7:47am

I loved The Devil in the White City - I'm glad that you did, too!

19gkur
Editat: jul. 4, 2015, 9:54am

Book 11: Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

I think this book was recommended as further reading in the Sacre Bleu book by Christopher Moore. It is part travelogue, part history of color tidbits and facts. The author travels the world to track down the truth about stories she has read or heard about different colors. Each chapter is a color.

There were a couple close readings and information about works of art that I especially enjoyed, and wished there were more of. For example:

"One of the most popular works at Washington's National Gallery of Art is a van Gogh painting that for years has been titled White Roses. It was only in the late 1990s that it was realized that it contained traces of what was probably madder red, and that the roses had originally been pink." (location 398 in Kindle)

and this lengthy look at the Arnolfini portrait:

"One of the most extraordinary examples of this is the bright green skirt in van Eyck's The Arnolfini Marriage, painted in 1434. It is one of the most debated skirts in art history - mainly because of its shape, or rather because of the shape of the young woman inside it, who looks very pregnant (even though some critics have argued that she is not). But why is it green at all? Newlyweds wanting to parade their wealth in 15th century Bruges would be more likely to boast their social position through their ample use of expensive kermes red.

The painting, which hangs in the National Gallery in London, is one of the most controversial pieces of 15th century art: few people can agree on what it means, or indeed whether it is even a marriage portrait. It shows a couple standing inside a richly furnished room; they are holding hands but to me they do not look as if they are in love. If fact, quite the opposite: the man looks old and cold in his fur cloak and huge hat; the woman is looking away from him, and both of them seem to exude a deep sadness. For years the painting was believed to be a portrait of the marriage of a wealthy merchant called Giovanni Arnolfini and his young bride Giovanna. But why should they have commissioned such an unhappy picture? And why are they surrounded by objects that might be read as symbolizing corruption?

On a wooden chair is a tiny carving of St. Margaret of Antioch, a virgin martyr, who became the patron saint of childbirth - reinforcing the suggestion that this lady is pregnant. The very large and very red bed in the room rather suggests the same. More disturbing, however, is the mirror. It is decorated with scenes from the Passion of Christ (a cycle of suffering), and it also has ten 'teeth' around it, reminiscent of the ten-spiked wheel under which another virgin martyr, St. Catherine, was tortured to death. St. Catherine's story, like St. Margaret's, is one of brutality - and the room in van Eyck's painting is full of objects that could signal a brutal relationship. There is a gargoyle hovering above the couple's clasped hands, and a brush that looks like a parody of male and female private parts, hung up like a trophy. As I looked at it one day, I wondered whether this object may possibly have been intended to symbolize sexual abuse, and whether this painting might actually be an allegory rather than a wedding picture. The couple have always seemed to me to look like Adam and Eve (transposed to van Eyck's own time in terms of costume) just after the Fall, and that idea is reinforced by fruit tumbling over the windowsill. And if this was the artist's intention, it perhaps solves the mystery of the woman's ermine-lined dress. It is green - and therefore symbolic of fertility and gardens. And it is also made of verdigris, a manufactured substance that is born from the corruption of pure metal. Although today it is almost as bright as when van Eyck painted it, the artist cannot have known for sure that his new technique would last the centuries and be named after him as a result. For him verdigris would have been a seductive green paint that sometimes turned black: a perfect pigment, perhaps, to represent the fall of humanity." (location 4186 Kindle)

20gkur
Editat: jul. 4, 2015, 1:17pm

Book 12: Displacement by Lucy Knisley

The only way I'm going to get close to 75 books is if I start reading a lot more graphic novels. I really enjoyed this one about a 27 year-old accompanying her grandparents on a cruise to the Caribbean. This is the first Lucy Knisley book I've read and I'm looking forward to reading more.

21charl08
jul. 4, 2015, 3:42pm

Hello! Just come across your thread. Your review of The claims of kinsfolk intrigued me as I've read a little about (west) African attitudes to property and land, nice to see scholars reading across geographical boundaries.

I've become a big fan of Knisley this year, hoping to read more of her travelogues in the near future. From her website, she also has one due out about getting married despite being someone not particularly interested in the wedding industry, which looked interesting.

22gkur
Editat: jul. 13, 2015, 9:29am

Book 13: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.

So I read two Lucy Knisley books in a row, and I have An Age of License ready to go, but I think I'll wait on that so I can stretch out reading her stuff. Which I am enjoying a lot. I read Displacement on my iPad, but Relish and An Age of License I'm borrowing from the library in paperback form. I like that her books are on the small side as they make for easy commute reading, but that does mean that the panels are bigger and easier to look at in the panel mode of reading on a device.

Thanks for the comment charl08, that's awesome that she's doing a book on getting married.

In Displacement there was a point where she complains about the cruise ship food, reading Relish explains why she felt that way. She grew up with a gourmet cook and ate mostly home grown / farmer's market fruit and veggies. But she doesn't come off as an annoying food snob, and she does point out that one of the most enjoyable parts of eating is who you eat with, emphasizing the warmth and joy that comes from a shared meal. There are some recipes throughout the book, some of which I'd like to try that makes the book for me probably worth buying in the future and adding to my cookbook shelf.

23gkur
jul. 15, 2015, 3:50pm

Book 14: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

I was inspired to pick this up after seeing it on a list of top book picks for recent graduates. Even though I'm not a recent graduate, there were a couple of books on the list that seemed interesting. This book written by a man who had only months to live due to pancreatic cancer appealed to me because the man was a scientist, and I'm trying to read more science-y things that are also easy to read and are actually not terribly science-y. So this book fits that bill.

The book presents, in short chapters, a handful of life lessons and stories that the author is passing on to anyone that cares to read. A last lecture if you will. The stories are a little grating. The author has an amazingly optimistic attitude about life, and he loves cliches, giant stuffed animals, football, and Disney World, and is a self confessed "recovering jerk". So he's not really the type of person I would normally gravitate towards.

Ultimately there is some good advice I guess, and it is a quick and easy read, but there wasn't enough talk about science and academia to really make it worth my while. The fact that it isn't the type of book I would normally read and is about a person I normally wouldn't have much in common with is maybe a little helpful if I'm going to understand the science community and scientists - though I understand they all are not alike. It is nice to get instead of a science history type read (which can be dry), to get one written by and about a scientist's mindset and general outlook on life.

24gkur
jul. 19, 2015, 1:07pm

Book 15: The Hidden Curriculum by Benson Snyder

Gets to the meat of school work and dealing with campus rules, unstated and formal, looks at MIT in particular. From 1971, during a time of social unrest at many colleges.

25gkur
jul. 19, 2015, 1:17pm

Book 16: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

I heard about this book from a general summer reading blog post. I was looking forward to reading it as it got great reviews and is about a cat and quiet moments, and times of change. It was a nice read, and I'm interested in reading more by Hiraide. I love Japanese fiction but haven't read much recently. Sort of reminded me of the Hiroyuki Morita film "The Cat Returns" because Chibi, the cat in The Guest Cat, is seen as sort of magical and special.

26gkur
jul. 21, 2015, 7:44pm

Book 17: The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives by Frank Moss

The title pretty much sums up this book. It is a very positive, enthusiastic, salesmanshippy, look at the MIT Media Lab. The book focuses on different projects the lab has done and emphasizes the physical and intellectual environment that fosters innovation and creativity. It's a nice intro to the Media Lab, but is not at all critical, more like a greatest hits compilation.

27gkur
jul. 24, 2015, 9:14am

Book 18: An Age of License by Lucy Knisley

I think this is the last Lucy Knisley book available at this time. Which is sad. I enjoy her artwork, lots of watercolor sketches throughout the book. I also enjoy the travelogue - through Europe. Her attention to food is apparent and makes a lot of sense after reading Relish. It is nice that she is so optimistic and easy going - rarely a rant or complaint can be found in the book.

28gkur
ag. 3, 2015, 8:48am

Book 19: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I love reading Lahiri's books. I always get emotionally invested in the characters. These characters were no different. I saw the book as sort of an investigation of how violence affects people long after the violent incident is over.

29gkur
ag. 7, 2015, 11:00am

Book 20: Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

30gkur
ag. 7, 2015, 11:02am

Book 21: On Writing by Stephen King

Excellent!! So much good advice - limit adverbs, use active voice, you need to write and read a lot to write well, and even then you may not ever be a good writer, but it's something you should do for yourself.

31gkur
ag. 7, 2015, 11:05am

Book 22: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A short book, an essay more of, but I'm still counting it!

I enjoyed her take on Lagos and compared it to Teju Cole's - he points out a lot about corruption, but nothing on how women are treated compared to men (that I can remember). Both make me want to read more Nigerian authors / books about Lagos.

32gkur
ag. 13, 2015, 12:35pm

Book 23: Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits by Pill Porter

Loved this book and picturing myself in seclusion in the mountains of China.

33charl08
set. 1, 2015, 3:45pm

>31 gkur: Have you read Graceland by Chris Abani? It's not one of my favourites but it is probably the most centred on the Lagos streets I've read. I love Waiting for an Angel on the other hand (but it's Lagos in the grip of dictatorship). I try to list my books by the country they're set in, and with Nigeria try to include the town or city too, in case you want to search tags.

34gkur
set. 14, 2015, 1:29pm

Thanks charl08! I haven't read either of those books. I will look into those. Also I'm inspired by your 50 African Women Writers collection.

35gkur
set. 14, 2015, 1:32pm

At this rate I'm def. not making it to 75, but I figure I will start again in January and see if I can do better next year.

Book 24: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

A lovely book composed of vignettes from summer experiences of a 6-year-old girl and her aging grandmother who live on an island during the summer. The stories are endearing and at times funny, and a little heart-breaking. I wish there were illustrations to go along with it.

36gkur
set. 16, 2015, 12:54pm

Book 25: Negotiating Culture: Heritage, Ownership, and Intellectual Property by Laetitia La Follette and others

This is an interesting book because it takes an interdisciplinary look at cultural heritage. Looted antiquities, DNA, a Navajo language textbook, and oral histories are all looked at by experts from different fields with questions of best practices (or as one author points out, improving practices) of collecting, providing access to, or using sensitive cultural materials for learning or research.

37gkur
oct. 4, 2015, 2:11pm

Book 26: The Madame Paul Affair by Julie Doucet

I love Julie Doucet's illustrations and caricatures! The story is a tale of living in Montreal around 2000, but I felt like it could also easily be NYC in the 90s. The story revolves around the main character's living situation which includes a mysterious landlady (Madame Paul), Paul's male relatives, and the main character's pissy boyfriend. It's a short, fun read, and the drawings are great.

38gkur
oct. 4, 2015, 2:29pm

Book 27: Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

The author comes from a super privileged background outside of Boston and the book chronicles her increasing awareness of her privilege as she takes classes about, and witnesses first hand, the effects of systemic racism. It's a weird book in that many of the things she says are so basic and she is so surprised that her actions have a negative impact on others. But she is very candid with her storytelling and is actively trying to better her understanding of white privilege and why it is so problematic. A good reminder about what a learning process acknowledging white privilege can be.

I read this for a work related book group. We haven't met yet to discuss it, but I think it will spark some good dialogue. After each chapter there are questions the author encourages the reader to ask themselves, making it a good choice for a book group.

39gkur
oct. 8, 2015, 7:56pm

Book 28: The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-Line Pioneers by Tom Standage

The telegraph was just like the internet but a long time ago!

40gkur
oct. 8, 2015, 8:05pm

Book 29: Alone Forever by Liz Prince

hahaha, i laughed out loud a bunch reading this. Loved the Wayne's World references.

41gkur
nov. 8, 2015, 11:38am

Book 30: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

42gkur
Editat: nov. 17, 2015, 4:17pm

Book 31: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I read book 30, Between the World and Me, very quickly as it was amazingly written and very moving, then I stumbled around reading about 4 books at once, and was barely making any progress with any of them. I decided to break the cycle and get the new Miranda July book which was a perfect distraction. It is hard to put this book down once you start. It is a weird book, reminded me of some Japanese fiction, but it actually doesn't go too far in that it is easy to keep the characters and places in mind since there aren't many of either, which is nice.

43gkur
nov. 17, 2015, 4:22pm

Book 32: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Could not help but indulge in this memoir written by Sleater-Kinney / Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein. I've been a fan since I was a teenager and I love reading about her teenage and band years. I listened to each album of Sleater-Kinney as she talked about it, and that added a lot. She def. downplays and hides her amazing-ness - I'd say a little too much. There were multiple times I wanted to yell at her, "You're great Carrie, and you were in an amazing band, and your clothes are cool - own it!"

44gkur
des. 6, 2015, 8:08pm

Book 33: Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy by Maggie Anderson

At first I thought this would be a light read about a family buying only from Black owned businesses, like buying local, or buying organic, but it quickly became clear that doing all one's business - bank and investing, lawn care, clothes, groceries, etc. from Black owned businesses is near impossible. I did not imagine that that would be the case. It was sobering to find out how poorly Black owned businesses do. It was also interesting to read an honest portrayal of the frustrations with the Black community in trying to help Black businesses succeed. What I thought might be a fluff pseudo social experiment (to write a "a year doing whatever" book) was actually a thoughtfully written analysis of the state of Black businesses in the US and why they usually don't succeed or even start in many cases.

45gkur
des. 18, 2015, 6:52pm

Book 34: Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google by John Palfrey

Yeah! Libraries matter! I'm really looking forward to the library of the future - where digital and physical content coexist seamlessly and libraries still provide spaces for communities to gather and students to study in quiet.

46gkur
des. 28, 2015, 2:36pm

Book 35: M Train by Patti Smith

The last book read in 2015! What a good one, and finished while riding the Amtrak, took me to my own mental train of thought.