Review: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (2005)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2005
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: Cannibalism, racism, starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, descriptions of whale butchering

This is the story that inspired Moby Dick. The whaleship Essex attempts to take down a sperm whale, but the sperm whale has other ideas and sinks the ship. What then goes down is a grisly tale of survival and survival cannibalism as the crew members float along the Pacific hoping for rescue. What also features in this narrative is a lot of contextualization of whaling as an international enterprise, the lives of the crew before the tragedy, and what became of them after.

With incredible pacing and thorough research, I found myself glued to this narrative from start to finish.

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Duo Review: DEVIANT (1985) and PSYCHO USA (2012) by Harold Schechter

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.

Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original “Psycho” (1985) on the left and Psycho USA: Famous American Killers You’ve Never Heard of (2012) on the right, both by Harold Schechter

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.

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Review: TRUE NORTH: Peary, Cook, and the Race to the Pole by Bruce Henderson (2005)

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.

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Review: EREBUS: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time by Michael Palin (2021)

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.

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Review: EMPIRE OF PAIN: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (2021)

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.

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May 2021 Reading Recap

May came at me like a freight train. Specifically, Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk, passed and that has been a sledgehammer to my heart and creative spirit. To get completely too personal, I’ve had to do an inventory of all my things and file them under “survival” and “creativity.” The blog is here to stay, don’t worry about that.

For yet another month, the mind is still a mess, but the reads have been fantastic.

I am so excited to have talked to Rivers Solomon about faer’s latest release, Sorrowland.

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ARC Review: THE NEXT EVEREST: Surviving the Mountain’s Deadliest Day and Finding the Resilience to Climb Again by Jim Davidson (2021)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: May 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: frostbite, crevasses, heights, death, cancer, heart attack

Climbing Mount Everest, know as Chomolungma in Nepal, is considered a great achievement for any climber. After training for years, author Jim Davidson finally has his chance at the peak. But in 2015, an earthquake hits, making an already tenuous climb that much dangerous.

Two years pass and Davidson resolves to make one more run for the summit. This autobiographical account of both climbs covers much territory, from the personal experiences of the climbs themselves, to the state of Nepal before, during, and after, and personal anecdotes about the people who touched Davidson’s life throughout his climbing career.

Moving, harrowing, but told with much reverence and humility, a great entry into the canon of Mount Everest climbing stories..

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Review: RASPUTIN: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (2016)

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.

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Review: GOD’S PLAYGROUND: A History of Poland Volume 1: Origins to 1795 by Norman Davies (1982)

Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 1982
Source: Library Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.

April 2021 Reading Recap

Excuse me, but where did April go? This month went by so quickly, I cannot wrap my head around it. And what a roller coaster of a ride it was.

The big thing that happened to me was that my beloved Eclectus parrot, Investor, had to be put to sleep due to poor health. He was in our family for 20 years. I try to smile through the happy memories, but mostly it’s just tears.

In addition, the situation in India hit a close friend of mine in her immediate family, so I wanted to link to this thread of resources and places to donate to.

Honestly, my mind’s been a mess and the fact that I can focus on anything is a miracle.

Nino Cipri stopped by the blog this month to celebrate the release of Defekt, the unexpected sequel to Finna, which came out this month.

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