Monday, November 30, 2009

Call It Courage

I have been lax in my posting, so you are just now hearing about this Newberry-award winning novella by Armstrong Sperry. The bildungsroman is about Mafatu, a boy who is terrified of the sea among an island people who worship courage. Obviously, Mafatu does not thrive in this society.

In a moment of foolhardy courage, Mafatu sails alone into the sea and is almost killed in a storm before finally landing on a solitary island. Here, he has to fight for his survival and livelihood against sharks and octopi before returning home with enough courage to be elected mayor of the island.

This book is spectacular, and at less than 100 pages, one could churn it out in an evening. Definitely read this if you like adventure on the high seas or if you want to learn how to whittle a knife out of some spare whale bones.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have fallen behind a bit in posting, but this book by Robert Newton Peck definitely merits a post. The book is a collection of short stories about Rob Peck's adventurous youth with his best friend, Soup (a person, not a meal). I recollect reading several books in this series in my youth, and they are all pretty similarly adventurous.

A couple of examples: Soup convinces Rob to roll down the town hill in barrel that lacks structural integrity, which disintigrates just after crashing into a chicken coop. Rob ties his aunt to a tree just before a thunderstorm, and suffers some painful repercussions as a result. Rob and Soup fling apples from the end of sticks, and Soup breaks a window at the local Baptist church, but Rob unluckily takes the blame.

Andy read this book first and introduced it to me when he taught me to fling apples on a stick. He really enjoyed that activity and, since we had four apple trees in the front yard, it was a pretty easy hobby to pursue. Andy also rigged up a (more sturdy) barrel for us to roll around in down in the basement. I can still feel the thrill of tumbling head over heels in the barrel after letting out a wild "Tally-ho!" I don't think I every tied anybody to a tree, though...although Peter would have been a prime candidate.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty

This adventure on the high seas (what is a high sea, anyway?) by Nordhoff and Hall recounts the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty. The book follows the experiences of Byam, a lowly midshipman: how he joins the boat, gets stuck with the mutineers, and eventually is falsely arrested as a mutineer. Oh, he also lives for four or five years in Tahiti.

I really like old school adventure stories (Treasure Island is among my top 3 favorite books), so I had pretty high hopes for this one. However, this book started out a little slow; I was all set to grant the book two and a half stars and move on, but then mutiny actually happened (almost a third of the way into the novel) and I really became engrossed. I don't think this is just because "Duh! A mutiny must be exciting..." because the mutiny itself is pretty brief. Perhaps Byam just really stood out as a compelling character during that one chapter, and I suddenly cared a lot about his future welfare. Watching Byam meet his Tahitian native wife and their subsequent courtship, and then following Byam as he is torn away from her to be clapped in irons for about two years, was quite moving.

Learning about the details of life at sea is always interesting because it sounds so bloody miserable that I can't believe anyone would want to become a sailor. Perhaps it is like joining the army today, but the mortality rate must have been way higher then, and the living conditions had to be worse. The sailors ate nothing but salted beef and yams for about two years. And then, when their main ship sank and they were castoff in small launches, they all had to survive on about six ounces of water and a bit of bread each day for two weeks. Yikes. Also, it took over a year and a half to sail from Tahiti back to England!

I ended up consuming Mutiny on the Bounty in a rather roundabout way. I always like going to the library to browse for about an hour, and come away with 13 books, only one of which I will actually consume. But being stymied on Library Day, I had to pick something from our personal library. This is probably a good thing because I have now decided to consume a bunch of books from our personal library before going back to the public library, since I am so proud of our collection. You'll hear more about those soon!

Monday, November 02, 2009


Books I have not finished lately:

Eldest: The sequel to Eragon is, I think, pretty highly regarded in the fantasy realm, at least by not-fantasy-obsessed people I know. But this book just annoyed me for some reason I can't quite pin down. It took forever for any action actually to develop, but that's not the only problem. I think that the conversations all got on my nerves too much. The characters would engage in what I suppose was meant to be witty banter, but it did not appeal to me.

God Created the Integers: This book, by Stephen Hawking, looked really interesting based on the cover's inside flap. Hawking, the famous physicist and perhaps longest-surviving person with ALS, presented a brief biography of a groundbreaking mathematician, and then explained each mathlete's work. The main problem for me was that the book was quite technical, and I was in search of something lighter. It is probably a good book, and perhaps I will pick it up again later.

The Highwayman: R. A. Salvatore wrote the books about Drizzt Do'Urden, a spectacularly skilled sword-fighting dark elf. The Drizzt books have been consistently excellent and action-packed, so I had high hopes for this one, although it takes place with different characters in a different world. Unfortunately, it also started out too slowly for me really to get into it.

I think the reason that I quit two of these books because they started slowly is that I don't spend as much time reading as I used to or would like. Since I go through books more slowly, there is much more time for me to lose interest before getting hooked, so a book has to start out quite well. I wonder if this is mostly because of my commuting hours, or if this will be a new equilibrium state for me. Since I have become so interested in so many blogs and internet reading, have books permanently become my second-favorite source for entertainment? I don't really think so, but I will say that I haven't brought a book on my overnight stays in KC in about 3 months, while I use my laptop for a couple of hours on each of these trips. Hrm.