It often happens that I have discussions about books and writers with friends and family. I have had two such conversations recently. One has to do with the idea that a reader can learn much about other areas and cultures by reading, even if they are unable to travel. Neither Emily Dickinson nor Jane Austen traveled much in their lifetimes, and yet many readers have appreciated their work for years.
If one has the ability to read, it can open up the world in ways that most other activities cannot. The more you read, the more free you become, and the more you learn about yourself and others. Malcolm X was semi-literate, so he started copying out the dictionary when he was in prison. Once he started learning words, he was able to read and understand books. He read all the time, and even said that up until that time of his life he had never been so free.
Books are powerful. Words are powerful. The more we read, the more we can understand and grow. And, really, it’s fun!
There haven’t seemed to be many new interesting movies recently, so I’ve been watching some classics that have been recommended. One that I watched last week was the 1966 version of A Man for all Seasons, starring Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More.
A Man for all Seasons is the story of More and King Henry VIII, who were friends. However, the story ends with More’s execution because he wouldn’t go against his conscience and agree with the King’s divorce, remarriage, and creation of a new church.
Scofield does a good job of showing the influence that More had in his day, and why it was so important to King Henry that he had More’s “blessing.” More’s silence spoke louder than the words of agreement or disagreement from many others.
It is refreshing, in our age of political pay-offs, to see an official who was truly honest. In fact, More was so honest he couldn’t go against his conscience, and it cost him his life.
A Man for all Seasons may not be as action-packed as most modern movies, but it is a good story. It has the benefit of being a true story, and it is one that we can learn from today.
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, is a sequel of sorts to Wein’s Code Name Verity, although one does not have to read one to understand the other. The style is similar, since both are told predominately through the eyes of a girl (or girls) writing a journal. The form might sound tedious, but it is well done and engaging.
I enjoyed Code Name Verity, but I think Rose Under Fire is better. It is more believable, yet more horrible in subject matter. It is the story of Rose Justice, an American civilian pilot, who is captured by the Germans and sent to Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp.
Rose Under Fire is Rose’s story of her time in Ravensbrück, who she met there, and how she survived. It is similar to many other stories, but it is geared toward a younger audience. As such, it is not as graphic as some books in descriptions of what happened, but still doesn’t shy away from depicting what went on.
I would recommend that young people, especially, read this book, so that they never forget what happened during World War II.
There are a lot of books written about WWII, but not that many for young adults, especially not with girls as the protagonists. Elizabeth Wein, however, has written an excellent book called Code Name Verity. The story is mainly about two girls who become friends and help out in the war effort, in different ways. They have different backgrounds and personalities, but they work together and form a lasting friendship.
Code Name Verity is written most in journal-type form, but done well so the story moves along and holds the reader’s interest. It is well-written and definitely worth checking out.
I am not always a fan of animated movies, especially Disney animated movies. I went to Frozen anyway, and it turned out to be much better than I was anticipating. In fact, it almost seems that they listened to some of the complaints that many people have voiced over the years, and changed how the heroine is saved in the climax of the movie.
Another thing that is enjoyable about Frozen is that it takes place in Norway, which is not the usual setting for a Disney movie. How do I know it was Norway, and not a different Scandinavian country? Well, it is full of Fjord horses, the main city is built next to a fjord, and they mention lutefisk.
The story is better than many animations, as well. It deals with family issues and with the subject that Disney often ruins or makes absurd–falling in love. Of course, there is also a lot of comic relief, available in the form of a silly reindeer, a talking snowman, and, of course, trolls.
Frozen is a movie that a whole family could enjoy, especially at this time of year. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack is quite excellent, too!
It’s official–I’ve become a Whovian. But, really, what’s not to like about an alien who can regenerate and (in one form) thinks bow ties are cool?
In a world gone a little mad–many people becoming more and more self-serving and narcissitic, or obsessed with narcissistic celebrities, it is refreshing to have a character who tries to live honorably and help others. The Doctor is an egotistical and flawed character, but he is still motivated by a desire to help people and show them the beauty of the universe.
It certainly helps that the show has a lot of wit, intelligence, and humor. I think, however, that one thing I like most about the character of the Doctor is his willingness to be an extreme individual–he stands out because he doesn’t mind standing out. He’s unique, and he attracts unique people who work with him. In a world obsessed with fitting in, it’s nice to have a hero who doesn’t care about such ridiculous things. After all, you never know when you’ll meet someone named Alonso, so you can say “Allons-y, Alonso!” And bow ties are cool.
I have been bad at updating regularly. I started teaching a class that I had to develop, so that took up a lot of time. However, things seem to be getting a little more “normal” now, so I hope to update more.
A random thought did occur to me, and I thought I’d get some input. I am currently reading three books at one time. Okay, not exactly simultaneously, but I am in various stages of three different books. How many of you read that way? How many of you are strictly a “one book at a time” person?
Perhaps the real question is this–Is one way of reading (several books or only one) better than the other? I don’t have an answer, other than to say that I’ve always been able to read several books and keep them straight in my head. This was useful in college when it often seemed that I had a mountain of books to read every semester. Please, weigh in with your opinions. I’d be glad to see them!
In case you’re interested, the three books I’m reading are Maigret and the Lazy Burglar by Georges Simenon, A Chain of Thunder by Jeff Shaara, and What W.H. Auden Can do for You by Alexander McCall Smith.
Marissa Moss published a young adult novel last fall, and it lands in the genre of historical fiction. The title is A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, A Civil War Hero.
The book, obviously, is about the Civil War era, and particularly Sarah Edmonds, who pretended to be a man and joined the Union army. The book does take some liberty with facts–as any dramatization does–but bases most of the information on journals of soldiers who fought with Edmonds.
It is an intriguing story, and one that parents and children might both enjoy. It is a refreshing break from all of the YA books about monsters and vampires and other paranormal entities. It is fast-paced and easy to read, and incorporates real American history.
I would recommend Moss’s A Soldier’s Secret. It deals with an fascinating aspect of American history in an engaging manner.
1. “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”
2. “The last time I underestimated a puppy, I wound up in the pokey!”
3. “No, crazy is walking down the street with half a cantaloupe on your head, muttering ‘I’m a hamster, I’m a hamster.’”
4. “Of course I’m not crying, I’m British!”
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat was published in 1951 and is called “The classic novel of the North Atlantic in World War II.” Monsarrat served in the Royal Navy during WWII, so I’m sure a lot of the book is based on his experiences.
The Cruel Sea is about the British Navy in WWII and how they tried, and in the beginning mostly failed, to protect convoys of merchant ships from German U-boats. It can be pretty horrifying at times, especially the descriptions of how many soldiers and merchant sailors drowned when their ships were torpedoed.
It is a slow-starting book, since a fair amount deals with new ships being fitted and sailors learning new jobs. However, it is quite fascinating in the depiction of sea life during WWII, and how low the survival rate was for any of the sailors. It is not quite as compelling of a read as, say Unbroken, but in that book the focus is on one man, whereas in The Cruel Sea there are many more characters.
The Cruel Sea is a book well worth reading, especially for anyone who enjoys history, topics of WWII, and naval issues.