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51I7PdIYtML._SY120_ I recently finished reading José Saramago's novel Blindness.  From Wikipedia:

Blindness is the story of an unexplained mass epidemic of blindness afflicting nearly everyone in an unnamed city, and the social breakdown that swiftly follows.

I enjoyed it...enough to go ahead and order and start the sequel, Seeing.  I  couldn't help thinking of The Road (another society in extreme crisis).  With an exception or two (one of them big), Blindness didn't explore the potential for evil, for the strong to prey on the weak, to the extent that The Road did.


The Pillars of the Earth


Yesterday I finished listening to The Pillars of the Earth.  Lisa is in a book club, and Pillars is this month's selection.  It's a very long book, so we decided get it from Audible (40 hours unabridged) and listen to it in the van (while the kids watch DVDs) during our road trips over the holidays and for the inauguration.

From Wikipedia:

The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Ken Follett published in 1989 about the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the time known as The Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket.

The book traces the development of Gothic Architecture out of the preceding Romanesque Architecture and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory against the backdrop of actual historical events of the time. Although Kingsbridge is the name of an actual English town, the Kingsbridge in the novel is actually a fictional location representative of a typical market town of the time.

I enjoyed it, but 40 hours of listening is a long book!  I get the impression that we didn't enjoy it as much as others we've talked to about it.  By the end, Lisa and I were both ready for it to be over.  I think we're also both in agreement that the sexual content of the book was one of its weakest aspects.  It's not like we're prudes when it comes to sex in art and movies, but in this book it was...I'm not sure what the right word is...melodramatic, cheesy, overwrought, lame...something like that.  I wonder if we experienced it differently because we listened instead of reading on paper.



PontoonGK I recently finished reading Pontoon by Garrison Keillor, another novel in the Lake Wobegon series.  As usual it was enjoyable light reading.  Since I was often reading it in bits and pieces, I occasionally had a hard time distinguishing between the multiple female protagonists.


The Blind Side

blindside Last week I finished reading Michael Lewis' The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.  From Wikipedia:

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game is a book by Michael Lewis released in 2006 about American football. It features two dominant storylines. The first is an examination of how offensive football strategy has evolved over the past three decades in large part due to Lawrence Taylor's arrival in the 1980s and how this evolution has placed an increased importance on the role of the left tackle. The second storyline features Michael Oher, the current starting left tackle for the Ole Miss football team. Lewis follows Oher from his impoverished upbringings through his years at Briarcrest Christian School and on to his current position as one of the most highly coveted prospects in college football.

It was definitely enjoyable and interesting to read, especially since I'm a big football fan.  Big Mike's is a "heart-warming" story of sorts, and it will be interesting to follow him as he makes the move to the pros next fall.  Here's a link to an article by Lewis about Oher in NY Times magazine (link).


night A few months back I finished reading Night by Elie Wiesel.  From Wikipedia:


Night is a work by Elie Wiesel based on his experience as a young Orthodox Jew of being sent with his family to the German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Second World War.

Wiesel was 16 years old when Buchenwald was liberated in April 1945. Having lost his faith in God and humanity, he vowed not to speak of his experiences for ten years, at the end of which he wrote his story in Yiddish, which was published in Buenos Aires in 1955. In May that year, the French novelist François Mauriac persuaded him to write the story for a wider audience. Fifty years later, the 109-page volume, described as devastating in its simplicity, ranks alongside Primo Levi's If This Is a Man and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl as one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature.

Back in August Wiesel spoke at an event in honor of Rochester College's 50th anniversary (link).  We were hoping to attend, but it turned out we had a previously-scheduled camping trip that conflicted.  It was a rather amazing book to read…so hard to imagine that it could have happened or what it would have been like to endure.  One of the most amazing parts to me was the death march (again from Wikipedia):

In or around August 1944, Eliezer and Shlomo are transferred from Auschwitz II-Birkenau to Auschwitz III, the work camp at Buna-Monowitz, their lives reduced to the avoidance of violence and the constant search for food. "Bread, soup - these were my whole life. I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach." The only time they experience joy is when the Americans bomb the camp. "[W]e were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life."

In January 1945, with the Soviet army approaching, the Germans decide to flee the camp, taking around 60,000 inmates, mostly Jews, to camps in Germany, on what becomes known as the death marches, shooting anyone too weak to continue. Eliezer and Shlomo march to Gleiwitz to be put on a freight train to Buchenwald, near Weimar.

An icy wind blew in violent gusts. But we marched without faltering.
Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. If one of us had stopped for a second, a sharp shot finished off another filthy son of a bitch.
Near me, men were collapsing in the dirty snow. Shots.



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