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Chinese Footbinding: The History of a Curious Erotic Custom by Howard S. Levy

Now, this was quite a strange book. I bought this from the used bookstore for $100 NT because it was about Asian culture, and history – two of my favourite things! The reviews on GoodReads for this book are also quite solid as this seems to be the 'bible' of footbinding.

There are many aspects to this book. There are sections on: the history of footbinding and the the movement to abolish it, how to footbind, essays on sexual positions that 'lotus lovers' loved, essays on a dissection of a bound foot, and interviews from women who grew up with bound feet.

Now, I did learn a lot here, but this book is a bit all over the place. In parts it feels very scholarly, and in other parts it feels like Levy is recounting stories he's heard from people. The whole problem with research on footbinding seems to be that: (a) nobody knows exactly when it started (b) nobody knows exactly why it was done. This leaves a huge vacuum for academics to interpret the scant evidence to answer these questions.

Some parts of this book felt to me like they had an Orientalist vibe. I'm not sure that was the intention, but this book certainly could use an update, as this was published in 1967. There is great research in here, but there certainly isn't a very clear narrative in the book once you get past the first chapter. This fragmentation does work in its favour because there are big sections you can easily just skip if you aren't too interested in them, say the 18 'lotus lovers' kama sutra descriptions for example.

I see there are some more current books about this topic that look worth checking out. I am interested in reading this more current book, Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding, so see how she treats this delicate topic.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #37 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #HowardSLevy #history #china #footbinding #women

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon & Nathan Hale

(Rapunzel's Revenge #1)

I've been a fan of Hale's for sometime now. My readers will know I am rather fond of Mr. Hale's graphic novel series, Hazardous Tales series. So when I heard he and his wife had a fresh take on Rapunzel, well I was immediately sold. I was actually very lucky to find this at the used bookstore for only $84 NT.

This retelling of Rapunzel puts the long-haired maiden in control of her destiny. She has a lot of spunk. She also has a side-kick, Jack, who she bumps into after her escape from her 'tower' but speaking of that, she didn't need any prince or hero to rescue her. She figured out how to get out all by herself. Then she bumps into someone else and that becomes the main plot of the book.

I liked the world building they did in this series. I know there is another book in the series, Calamity Jack, but I'm not sure it is in the same world. It would be a shame to lose that.

I can't wait to read this to my daughter. I love exposing her to things I like, that I think (and hope) she likes too. I think I hear Calamity Jack calling me now...gotta go!

Rating: ★★★★ Book #36 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #NathanHale #ShannonHale #Rapunzel #FairyTale #GraphicNovel

Economics in the Age of Covid-19, Updated Edition by Joshua Gans

2019 and 2020 has been quite a mess politically, economically, and for the health and safety of almost everyone on this Earth. This book aims to look at the economic factors that come into play during a pandemic. Also, to explain how different actions taken during this pandemic can have long term consequences.

Though this book is clearly aimed at the misinformation, and craziness happening in America, it does talk about examples of pandemic responses that were done well like in Denmark, and Taiwan.

This book is very short, and the postmortem of the COVID-19 pandemic is still on-going, sadly, because the pandemic hasn't stopped in many parts of the world.

These are the two problems that plague (!)* this book. The topic he is writing about is not even finished, so it's hard to write an accurate, and comprehensive book about the economics of COVID-19. The other problem is that this book is too US-centric in my opinion.

I appreciate the scholarship of the book, and look forward to more detailed accounts balancing the response to pandemic, with the economy yet to be written. The human race certainly has a lot to learn from this if we are going to survive the next pandemic, and the climate disaster that is looming.

  • Mr. Gans put a few puns in the book and marked them with an exclamation mark. I enjoyed the puns. Thank you!

Rating: ★★★ Book #35 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #JoshuaGans #covid19 #virus #economics #pandemic

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The pirate genre is flooded with movies, books, and TV shows. According to Wikipedia, “There have been over 50 film and TV adaptations of Treasure Island.” I wanted to go back to the source of these pirate stories and see where many of these pirate conventions came from: the treasure map with an X on it, the black spot, and one-legged pirates with parrots on their shoulders.

This was much more kid friendly than I thought it would be. There is lots of action, but not the blood and guts type. There is intrigue, and plotting but not too much shooting. Despite watching many pirate shows, I was not that familiar with the plot of the Treasure Island, though I was familiar with many elements of the story.

I read this as an ePub I got from Project Gutenberg. It has beautiful images from the book in it too. I love books with illustrations!

I encourage you to visit Project Gutenberg and discover a classic novel you've heard about, but never read. It's free so you have nothing to lose.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #34 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #RobertLouisStevenson #pirate #treasure #classic

Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation by Roderick Beaton

I picked up this book because this year, 2021, is the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution. I was going to dive into a book solely based on the revolution, but I realized I need to first learn about the whole history of the Greek state. I know of ancient Greece and their myths, and ruins, but I don't know much of the modern Greek nation. As the title tells us, this book is not about the civilization of Ancient Greece (because who could fit that in one tiny book?) but rather a look at the history of Greece, the nation, from 1821 to present.

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Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk

“Below the mill the rivers merge. First they flow close beside each other, undecided, overawed by their longed-for intimacy, and then they fall into each other and get lost in one another. The river that flows out of this melting pot by the mill is no longer either the White or the Black, but it is powerful and effortlessly drives the mill wheel that grinds the grain for bread.

Primeval lies on both the White and Black rivers and also on the third one, formed out of their mutual desire. The river arising from their confluence below the mill is called The River, and it flows on calm and contented.”

Contained herein are tales from the inhabitants of a magical little village called Primeval. There are stories of love, despair, regret, and war. This is a very spiritual book. The stories all touch upon what it means to be human – to live, and to die. It is told in a series of stories, that flow from one to the next – but that's not to say it's entirely linear. Some of the timelines overlap, or go back, but the whole book keeps going forward, through World War II and some of the barbaric things humans do, on all sides, and beyond to the end.

“It’s not about whether God exists or not. It’s not like that. To believe, or not to believe, that is the question.”

For me, this book was better than Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead. This feels like a book of fables, or even like a Bible. Some of the stories read like parables, but the meaning or correct answer isn't shown fully. This book requires more from the reader in tracking all the characters, and teasing out the meaning, whatever you think it may be, from each story...but if you put in that effort you will be rewarded. I can't wait for Ms. Tokarczuk's massive book, The Books of Jacob, to be released. I hope it can take me on a spiritual journey just like this one.

“God sees. Time escapes. Death pursues. Eternity waits,”

Rating: ★★★★★

Book #31 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #OlgaTokarczuk #shortstory #spiritual #fable #poland

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

I've been thinking about this book since I finished it last week. I've wanted to write a review of it but this book was pretty intense I needed to let it settle in my brain.

February “DISGRACE” “You and your ancestors treated the world like a fucking great toilet bowl. You shat in it and boasted about the mess you’d made. And now it’s full and overflowing, and you’re fat and happy and black kids are going crazy to keep you rich. Goodbye!”

This book is about a dystopian climate future, that may have been science fiction in 1972, when this was written, but is starting to look like our likely future if humans don't make changes like yesterday!

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Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

I happened upon this interesting book while browsing the Melville House Press website. I came upon their store which had a cool bag with the phrase 'I would prefer not to'. In the description it says ...

Black, all-cotton totes sporting, on the front, the phrase that made Bartleby the Scrivener famous, and, on the back, the Melville House logo. Roomy, with a sturdy and slightly-longer-than-usual white cotton strap that will allow you to wear it comfortably over your shoulder.

I got interested, who is Bartleby the Scrivener? What would he prefer not do? After figuring out it was a short story I read it.

This is one of those simple stories, that sort of reads like a parable. You can interpret it in different ways. The heart of this story is a worker who works really hard but one day tells his employer “I would rather not” when asked to do something. The story is told by the employer. He is perplexed by this employee's polite refusal to do work.

I enjoyed this story and am still thinking about it. It's simplicity and bizareness are points in its favor. Who has never felt like saying “I would prefer not to”, to their boss? What if we all just told our bosses we'd rather not?

Oh, and yes, I did buy the bag...and the coffee cup and book because I wanted to.

Rating: ★★★★

Book #28 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #HermanMelville #ShortStory #funny #fiction

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale

This is one exciting adventure with an assortment of odd characters all headed to Van Dieman's Island. Now, to properly enjoy this tale of exploration, you should have a some grasp of the history of Deportation, and the geography of Tasmania.

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Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

I don't know what it is about these zany comic strips I like the most, but this Beaton gal is sure funny. These comics are a mixture of riffing on classic literature, history, and pop culture. Be warned this is nerdy, bookish, intelligent humour. There is the occasional fart joke, but mostly is sort of high brow stuff. If you don't read many books, especially classic literature or history, you may not get all the references. There is often a short comment and or description describing the comic at the bottom of the page for the historical comic strips.

Most (maybe all?) of these comics can be browsed on her website, but it's not as nice 'reading' them on the couch with a hot cup of tea.

I am already eyeing her follow-up comic book, “Step Aside, Pops”. I hope it's as laugh-out-loud funny as this one. For many of the strips, I read them – laughed, and re-read them and laughed again. Then, I tried to explain it to my wife, but she couldn't understand what was so funny about it. This book certainly appeals to a certain type of humor. Make sure you browse her website and confirm if this is your type of humour.

Rating: ★★★★★

Book #26 in my #ReadingChallenge2021 #Books #BookReview #KateBeaton #comic #funny #history #literature