Joining the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge

Thanks to Joining the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge, a post by my friend, Angel aka The Itinerant Librarian, I learned about the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

I believe I will join.

Traditional Chesterfield armchair

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rules: The Challenge: Read any non-fiction book(s), adult or young adult. That’s it. You can choose anything. Memoirs? Yes. History? Yes. Travel? Yes. You get the idea? Absolutely anything that is classified as non-fiction counts for this challenge.

This challenge will last from January 1 to December 31, 2015. You can sign up anytime throughout the year.

I am not limiting the challenge to bloggers. You can also link to a review you wrote on another site, such as GoodReads or LibraryThing.

Crossovers with other challenges are acceptable, and feel free to read your books in any format you like.

Levels:

  • Dilettante–Read 1-5 non-fiction books
  • Explorer–Read 6-10
  • Seeker–Read 11-15
  • Master–Read 16-20

All the above from the sign-up post at The Introverted Reader.

I am signing up at the Seeker level. A) I like that level title best, although Explorer could be cool; B) I have already finished one nonfiction book this year and am currently reading six, four seriously, one I may stop soon, one maybe I’m still reading; and C) I may have already finished 24 graphic novels but take a look at this Reading goals for 2015: there are only four works of fiction.

Morton – Tortillas: A Cultural History

Morton, Paula E. 2014. Tortillas: a Cultural History. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Date read: 16-31 December 2014

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cover of Paula Morton's Tortillas: a Cultural History

Cover of Paula Morton’s Tortillas: a Cultural History

Paperback, xxiii, 157 p

Published 2014 by University of New Mexico Press.

Overall I enjoyed this book. Throughout it kept me exceedingly hungry for “proper” nixtamilized corn tortillas made completely from hand. Of course, the horrifically gendered work that went into them is a non-starter. The work that went into them—no matter who’s doing it—is a non-starter.

Despite being on an academic press this is definitely a general audience book. There is a notes section in the back with a couple of paragraphs per chapter but not proper notes. There were one or two claims made that I wanted to look into but could find no references to them.

I chose a lot of categories for this post as the author does cover issues of gender, language and word issues, pop culture, technology, and so on.

The book is an easy read but I really wanted more out of it. A bit more scholarly, perhaps, but not enough to throw most people off. The author is a journalist so it has some of that feel. My biggest gripe is the easy nonchalance in which the author reported on wholesale cultural genocide. “Aw, shucks. It happens eventually to everyone [paraphrase].” The sheer bloodiness of European expansion into Central America and Mexico is enough to make us sit up and reconsider our own cultural heritage. At the least. And as European expansion was pretty much bloody everywhere, it simply cannot be “Aw, gee shucks” awayed.

Near the end as she’s wrapping up loose ends (somewhat) and bringing us fully up-to-date, the author provides some statistics. I believe they are completely and utterly incorrect and highlight an utter fail of editing (on everyone’s part):

“In 2002 in Mexico the average daily consumption of corn tortillas per person was 548 pounds. In 2010 the daily consumption was 346 pounds, according to the Mexican National Household Income Expenditure Survey (ENIGH in Spanish)” (124).

Um, No one, I say no single person, is (or was) eating either 346 or 548 pounds of tortillas per day! Not even once on one day. That figure could be the annual total per person perhaps or it could be the weight eaten by all Mexicans in a day but for that it seems way low. Either way, that last cock-up sealed the feeling I’d had about the book all along. I wanted—I expected—more. So I only gave it 3 stars.

Still I learned a fair bit and will be on the lookout for much better tortillas on occasion.

Mori – A Bride’s Story 6

A Bride’s Story 6 by Kaoru Mori. Translated by William Flanagan. First Yen Press ed.

Date read: 15 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Kaoru Mori's A Bride's Story 6

Hardback, 196 pages

Published 2014 by Yen Press. First published in Japan in 2014.

It appears that only six volumes are out so far. Mori said in the afterword that the next book would check in with Mr. Smith and Ali progress towards Ankara.

This volume wraps up the story of Amir’s family trying to forcefully take her back. And you just have to love Karluk’s bad-ass, ram-riding grandmother. She did it in the previous volume (I believe it was) too. That time was for a rescue; this was not.

I truly did enjoy these books and they certainly help bump up number of translations read and also manga, although I have never counted the last before. But then total before this year (2015) would have been a handful perhaps. I’m pretty certain that between these and the Ōoku volumes I have doubled my lifetime total of mangas read.

This is the 23rd book in my GN2015

Vehlmann and Kerascoët – Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoët and Marie Pommepuy. Translated by Helge Dascher.

Date read: 14-15 January 2015

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cover of Vehlmann and Kerascoët's Beautiful Darkness

Hardback, 94 pages

Published 2014 by Drawn & Quarterly

Dark. Very dark.

Very dark, which I liked. But a bit “skittish” or something that bothered me while reading.

Not for children; young adults if they can handle grim. Not for anyone who can’t do grim.

This is the 22nd book in my GN2015

Foglio, et al. – Girl Genius 8

Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones (Girl Genius v. 8), Electronic ed. by Phil Foglio (story, pencils), Kaja Foglio (story), & Cheyenne Wright (colors)

Date read: 13-14 January 2015

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Foglio, et al. Girl Genius 8

Ebook (PDF), 140 pages

Originally published 2008 by Airship Entertainment & Girl Genius

“This material originally appeared from February 2008-November 2008 at www.girlgnius.net”

I love it! Lots of Jaegers. The Castle. Lots of cross purposes. Zeetha! Mamma Gkika’s. Mamma Gkika! Airman Third Class Axel Higgs. The Chapel of Bones. Torchmen. Agatha’s face coming out of the Chapel of Bones; well, the entire panel. Violetta, the Smoke Knight, rocks! Gilgamesh’s hat. An arrival.

This is the 21st book in my GN2015

Yoshinaga – Ōoku 2

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 2, VIZ Signature ed. by Fumi Yoshinaga. Akemi Wegmüller (Translator)

Date read: 12-13 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Ooku volume 2 by Yoshinaga

Paperback, 239 pages

First published in Japan 2006 by HAKUSENSHA; English language translation rights arranged. VIZ Media, 2009.

I marked this down a star because it confused me from the start and kept it up for a while. It did settle down though and I was able to follow, and enjoy, it. It is backstory, a prequel, whatever. Takes place prior to volume 1.

The story is often brutal and is rated Mature. There are attempted rapes, rapes, killing for causing displeasure, ….

This is the 20th book in my GN2015

Mori – A Bride’s Story 5

A Bride’s Story 5 by Kaoru Mori. Translated by William Flanagan. First Yen Press ed.

Date read: 12 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Mori's A Bride's Story 5

Hardback, 208 pages

Published 2013 by Yen Press. First published in Japan in 2013.

With Book 5 we get the wedding of Laila and Leily, the twins of the Aral Sea. Russian incursions into the region are causing tensions. Far less shouting, or a bit so anyway, from the twins as they grow some themselves. I think the young couples are going to be OK.

This is the 19th book in my GN2015

Mori – A Bride’s Story 4

A Bride’s Story 4 by Kaoru Mori. Translated by William Flanagan. First Yen Press ed.

Date read: 11 January 2015

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cover of Mori's A Bride's Story 4

Hardback, 192 pages

Published 2013 by Yen Press. First published in Japan in 2012.

While ostensibly following Mr. Smith to Ankara still, we meet the twins of the Aral Sea, Laila and Leily, who are busy wondering why their father hasn’t found them husbands yet. Their story is interesting over the long-term (includes all of Book 5 also) but they are always shouting. Definite high energy.

Amir and Karluk make appearances throughout this book and the next, but will supposedly return as the focus in book 6.

This book has a little nudity in it, as did one or two earlier ones. Mori loves to draw Amir bathing and/or in her skivvies. But it is extremely rare and not inappropriate in any way.

This is the 18th book in my GN2015

Hubert and Kerascoët – Beauty

Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët. Translation by Joe Johnson.

Date read: 10-11 January 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët

Cover of Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoët

Hardback, 150 pages

Published 2014 by Comics Lit / NBM. Originally published in French as Beautë

Our public library puts on a Second Sunday event on the 2nd Sunday of each month which mostly focuses on poetry and local/regional authors. We go frequently. In December it was fairy tales and myths:

“What if Gretel stayed in the forest? What does Death do on vacation? Come to the dark and delicious side of the folk stories you know and love, with Bend poets Suzanne Burns and Judith Montgomery.”

After the author’s talk there is always an open mic so I brought my slightly twisted take on beauty that I wrote on 9 January 2012 (Hmm. Almost exactly 3 years ago). I was taking a Grimm’s Fairy Tales course during January term at Briar Cliff with our friend Jeanne Emmons and we had just read Snow-White and Rose-Red. Jeanne thought it was a bit too much of a mashup of multiple tales but I am quite pleased with drawing on more. These tales should be cautionary but were turned into further means of repression.

“Beauty”

‘And none is so fair as she.’

Beauty for its own sake, enticement.
Or is it really entrapment?

“White as snow, red as blood,
black as the wood of the window-frame.”

The hunter spares her …
The wicked queen poisons her …
The dwarves domesticate her …
The prince wants her …
            lifeless and mute.

Little Snow-White,
A maiden on the edge
Of womanhood.

Lost in the forest.
House full of men.
“Pretty things to sell,
very cheap, very cheap.”
Silk stay-laces, loss of breath.
Noisome comb, senselessness.
Poisoned apple, death lodged in the throat.

Inaminate, features softened.
On display, in a glass coffin.
She is bartered cheaply, for a
princeling’s honor.

Gentleness, purity, innocence
Retained. As are the ability
To inspire desirous want and envy.
These are the steps to
Make oneself a woman.
Chaste, yet chargedly erotic.

Beauty.

==  ==

What am I supposed to say about this book? It speaks to those once cautionary tales while being one itself. There is far less eroticism than I expected. The blind enslavement by beauty is pretty much the opposite of erotic. While not for children it may be good for perceptive teens (My children have not been teens for almost half their life now so take my suggestion for what it’s worth).

I marked it down one star as it seemed to drag on somehow. I was enjoying the story but as many pages as I was turning I was progressing far slower than I thought I was. That seems odd.

This is the 17th book in my GN2015

This book meets the “A book with a love triangle” and “A book with magic” criteria for Another Reading Challenge 2015. The New Deadwardians may have met the magic criteria but it is questionable as to whether it is magic in that sense or in the sleight-of-hand and its relatives way so I didn’t count it. This has fairies and spells.

Foglio, et al. – Girl Genius 7

Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle (Girl Genius v. 7), Electronic ed. by Phil Foglio (story, pencils), Kaja Foglio (story), & Cheyenne Wright (colors)

Date read: 10 January 2015

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Foglio, et al.'s Girl Genius 7

Ebook, 132 pages

Published 2007 by Airship Entertainment & Girl Genius

“This material originally appeared from February 2007-December 2007 at www.girlgenius.net”

“The short story Personal Trainer first appeared in May 2006 on www.girlgenius.net”

By the way, I should mention some Girl Genius resources I had forgotten about in case anyone is interested: Girl Genius wiki and for new readers who want spoiler free there’s the (Spoiler Free) Guide for New Girl Genius Readers.

The story opens with Mechanicsburg itself and its inhabitants. We soon meet Carson Von Mekkhan, former seneschal and keeper of the keys to Castle Heterodyne, as his daughter gives him the news regarding the new, female, so-called Heterodyne heir who should soon be arriving.

With Agatha’s arrival the priority is getting into the castle: we end this volume with that event occurring. An awful lot happens in between.

Some of my favorite moments:

  • Sign at entrance to Mechanicsburg: Questionable Content, a philosophical journal
  • Zeetha to her pupil: “Do try to face the new era with some dignity.”
  • Agatha’s coffee
  • Klaus & Gil’s little tete-a-tete re Klaus & female Sparks [Klaus is humanized for just a panel or two as he considers the possibility]

Includes the short story “Personal Trainer.”

This is the 16th book in my GN2015