It took me ten days to listen to the interview between Last Podcast on the Left, Harold Schechter, and Eric Powell discussing their new graphic novel project because I kept getting distracted by reading Schechter’s work. I thought it would make more sense to combine the reviews.
I spend more time than is probably recommended listening to Last Podcast on the Left. Which is why it surprised me that it took me days to get through an interview that’s just under an hour long. Infected with Marcus Parks’ enthusiasm for Schechter’s work, I wanted to dive in and do some of my own reading. Wow, the hype is definitely well-earned. The discussion of mental health in both works seem somewhat progressive for their time, especially given the subject matter. The structure of both novels also kept me engaged and is worth studying from a story-telling perspective.
Genre: Adult Nonfiction Year Release: 2005 Source: Library Physical Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Content warning: starvation, frostbite, medical procedures, microaggressions
Taking a break from Northwest Passage research, I wanted to venture a few decades later to read other tales of exploration. This book, in that regards, is a treasure. Almost told in dual-POV between Americans Peary and Cook, we watch the way these two men’s lives intersected. They both wanted to reach true north, not magnetic north as had been established on prior voyages.
Epic in its telling and scope, True North depicts what should have been a friendship turned into a bitter rivalry in expeditions taking place in the most remote places on Earth.
Genre: Adult Nonfiction Year Release: 2018 Source: Libro.fm
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Content warning: freezing to death, starvation, light cannibalism, frostbite, hunting
HMS Erebus is one of the ships that went missing during the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845. What this book does, however, is tell the whole story of the ship, from her initial build to her Antarctic voyage to the last departure for the Northwest Passage. Author Michael Palin follows this ship’s intrepid voyage while also talking about the litany of captains at her helm and passengers in her hull.
Regardless my fascination with the Franklin Expedition and maritime Arctic exploration disasters, this audiobook is one of the best times I’ve had. There’s music and sound at the top of every chapter and Palin clearly has much enthusiasm for the topic at hand.
Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction Year Release: 2021 Source: Library Audiobook
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Content warnings: antisemitism, suicide, drug abuse, drug dependence, overdose, homophobia
One of my hyperfixations is the opioid abuse epidemic. My other is marketing (in fact, I have a degree and it’s my current profession). Patrick Radden Keefe’s history of the Sackler family, which brought to market Valium and OxyContin, covers the full spectrum of rich people nonsense, aggressive marketing which still informs the industry today, and one of the tragedies that has taken million lives over the past several decades.
Fascinating and induced many screams and clutching-the-side-of-my-face, this is a must-read for anyone who wants a more biographical account of how one of the most addictive painkillers became so widely (ab)used and the motions trying to bring the family to task.
Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction Year Release: 2018 Source: Audible
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Listened to the audiobook Content warning: Alcoholism, rape allegations, religious persecution, murder, slander, propaganda, rural poverty
Once again, this nonfiction read comes from being thoroughly entertained by Last Podcast on the Left’s breakdown of the Russian mystic’s biography. Dear reader, there is even more to it than can be covered in a 4-part podcast series.
Douglas Smith’s account of the self-proclaimed holy man not only covers the isolated facts of his life, but also goes into contextualizing both Russian culture at the time and the myths and attitudes that contributed to his notoriety.
Told through letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and other primary sources, this very long, captivating read ultimately leaving it up to the reader to piece together the truth about this absolutely ridiculous man. It’d be foolish to say that Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin did nothing wrong, but the antichrist, he was not.
Sometimes you want to write an epic fantasy steeped in its own history. But you’re not interested in British history and nobility, and the only framing you have for the history of your own land is that “it is so boring.” So, you find the most thorough volume you can, and wow, does it deliver.
I got so much out of this volume. From the organization of the social classes (which have nothing to do with economics) and the structure of cities and villages (which also have nothing to do with economics), this book covers so much ground. There are maps, there are charts, and the anecdotes and famous-to-Poland historical figures help create a complete image of this land without national borders as it expands, contracts, and disappears off the map altogether.
What really drew me was the humility Davies shows from the very beginning. He admits that he cannot possibly know as much as someone whose lived experience is Poland. It’s an energy we can all stand to embrace a bit. As such, he also fully recognizes that the lens through which most of his readers will understand European history is through the crown, family lineages, and colonialism of western Europe. There are charts, there are some anti-parallels drawn, with enough repetition to make international relations salient and easy-(enough)-to-follow. What fascinated me the most was how much was considered international in terms of what’s encompassed by the shield-shaped borders seen on contemporary maps. I found it interesting, but that’s probably because I sought this information out myself as opposed to having to learn it for school exams.
Highly recommending this tome if you want a quick overview of the structure of Polish society and culture up through the 18th Century.
Touraine returns to the country of her birth with the colonizing force who took her in the first place and made her a conscript. After saving the royal Luca from an assassination attempt, she finds herself fighting more diplomatic battles, especially as the rebel forces want to use her as a mediator between them and the colonists. Riveting and multi-faceted, The Unbroken truly has everything: espionage, a ball, flirty language tutoring, a queernorm world, a nuanced depiction of a rebellion against an empire, and an exploration of identity and its complexities in the context of colonialism.
I’m so excited to have author C.L. Clark on the blog to talk about what inspired the world-building, their road to publishing, and even an entire list of books to read next.