75 Books 51-55: Ronson, Hines, Heimlich, Beal, and Pilkington

deesillustration of bohemian grove
Bohemian Grove

51. The Rise and Fall of the Bible – Timothy K. Beal

I didn’t enjoy this book. I only finished reading it because it was short and I’m trying to read a lot of books, otherwise I just would have stopped. It’s subtitle is “the unexpected history of an accidental book”. That sounded pretty intriguing. I thought it would be a lot more like a Bart Ehrman book, and it was not that scholarly and was pretty milquetoast on putting out opinions. Beal is a Christian despite thinking that Biblical literalism is silly, and he spends too much of the book reminding you that he is NOT an atheist.

It feels really unfocused, and what I was expecting (a concise history of the Bible) was really more a sort of meandering story that occasionally focused on moments in time, and occasionally on metaphors about grapefruit trees, and occasionally on how to make paper. Learning about the current bible business was interesting, but it felt all over the map. I think it would have been better if it was at all chronological. C+

52. The Stepsister Scheme – Jim C. Hines

In a bold move, I decided to read something by Hines that wasn’t a goblin book. It’s a weird premise — the heroines of fairy tales, after their tales have taken place, team up in the face of adversity. There have been lots of comparisons to Charlie’s Angels, though I would argue it’s slightly deeper than that. Hines’ humor is there, but it is not nearly as bouyant as in the first Jig book. I enjoyed it, his books are very easy to picture, very visual without being overly descriptive. And his characters have quirks that are not actually endearing, which I love, most authors won’t have characters that are not all that likable. B+

53. Breaking their Will – Janet Heimlich

This is a book about religious child abuse, and it’s very well-written. I hesitate to say it’s an easy read, because it’s very disturbing, but it was a quick read nonetheless. Religious (or cult, if you prefer) child abuse is particularly scary to me because it happens on the part of parents who are convinced that they are doing the best for their children. These people think, I cannot treat my child’s cancer, that would be against my religion; I must beat the devil out of my child, even if it kills them; I must have sex with this underage girl (Warren Jeffs)/I must let my underage children have sex with this priest; I must not complain to legal authorities about child rape; I must not go to the authorities about abuse within my closed community. It is disturbing and I agree very much with her premise that children have rights that aren’t enumerated or particularly respected by adults — you see this particularly in the public school system. Anyway, I highly recommend this book to anyone concerned with the way religions treat children. A

54. Them, Adventures with Extremists – Jon Ronson

I don’t find conspiracy theories that interesting, so I started reading this book with a little reluctance. But it ended up being fascinating to see him fall down this rabbit hole of conspiracy, to the point that he became a little paranoid. What I found interesting was that most Christian, Domestic, Muslim, and International Terrorism has its roots in the same basic Conspiracy Theory mindset. Namely that the Western World has a small group of capitalists (this often means Jews) who are trying to control the world. Of course, the world is controlled by capitalists, just not very well.

What I found most disturbing was the story of Ruby Ridge, something I’d never heard of, that happened right before Waco. Basically, the FBI murdered a little boy (who was armed) and an unarmed woman who was holding a baby because they were kooks who lived in the woods and maybe were associated with white supremacists. Like the attack on Waco, it was just not the way to go about solving the problem they thought they had. It’s sort of mind-boggling.

And I learned about the Bilderberg group and this ritual that they do in Bohemian Grove every year, which convinces me more than ever that the political elite are a bunch of immature frat boys obsessed with being cool. So embarassing to be a human sometimes. A

55. Rabbit-Proof Fence – Doris Pilkington

I saw the movie version of this sometime earlier this year — Kenneth Branagh plays the bad guy, so that always is interesting because I have an irrational extreme dislike of Kenneth Branagh that makes him a very effective person if I’m supposed to hate him. (See: Gilderoy Lockhart)

The story is the true story of three half-caste girls in Australia who were basically abducted from their aborigine families to be put in “schools” to be educated on how to be servants. The school was basically not much better than a prison. It reminds me of the school in Jane Eyre. The eldest girl immediately decides that they are going home, and they walk through the wilderness for 1500 miles, eventually finding the rabbit-proof fence which runs the entire height of Western Australia and following it to their home. It’s amazing because it’s so horrifically racist and the girls are so resourceful. A

75 Books 51-55: Ronson, Hines, Heimlich, Beal, and Pilkington

75 Books: 46-50 Hines, Ronson, George, and Bronte

46. Goblin Tales – Jim C. Hines
This is a collection of short stories based on the character Jig from the other Goblin books by Hines.  I’m not sure where in the series you’re “supposed” to read it, but I really enjoyed it.  A lot more than I thought I would, because I am not usually that big a fan of short stories.  But this was really fun.  Even the sort of ridiculous story about the bibliomancer was clever.  I’ve been surprised by the Hines books, because while I like a lot of fantasy, I really hate most fantasy, so I’m always really reticent to start a new series. A-
47. The Men Who Stare at Goats – Jon Ronson
What a creepy and weird book.  I guess, knowing the average skepticism and intelligence of Americans, it’s not really that surprising that the military would put resources behind paranormal crap, it’s just really embarrassing.  I haven’t seen the movie and I can’t imagine how you make a movie from this.  Ronson is sort of a gonzo journalist, but instead of taking drugs he just hangs out with people who are so completely insane that you feel like you’re taking drugs when you read it. B
48. Princess of Glass – Jessica Day George
This is the sequel to the dancing princesses book, and I was pleasantly surprised.  She does something clever here and has almost nothing from the first book in the second, except for as background to character development.  Admittedly, having 12 princesses with futures to explore, it is very easy to have a completely unconnected storyline.  It was a very clever spin on Cinderella, in that it had a lot of similar elements, but they were totally twisted around.  Evil Godmother, Cinderella isn’t the main character, etc. A
49. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I know it is shocking that I’ve never read this book.  I hadn’t even seen a movie version of the story until this year, despite the fact that it is apparently the most adapted novel ever.  Like my aversion to Austen, I felt like I should just avoid the Bronte’s because I think they’re all going to be sappy romances.  And they are romances, but they aren’t *that* sappy.  I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would — I liked the movies, but I just thought the writing style would be overwrought.  And it wasn’t, it was very easy to read.  I still have a hard time imagining I will ever willingly read Wuthering Heights. A
50. Goblin War – Jim C. Hines
This is the final book in the Jig trilogy, and it is the one that is most epic in scope.  It was a good close to the story, but I really liked the first one best.  This one lost a lot of the humor of previous installments in favor of a more complex plot, but I think it was well-done, I just didn’t like the tone as much.  B
75 Books: 46-50 Hines, Ronson, George, and Bronte