Monday, 12 March 2018

Reading Challenge Week 10 - A book published in the 20th Century

Special treat this week! For our Reading Challenge round-up, we've got four stellar reviews of 20th Century Books (as opposed to 20th Century Blues, which is a Noel Coward song), and one was provided by none other than Jennifer Nicholls, who has been doing work experience with us in our Cairns branch.


Jennifer Nicholls read Pigeon Poo, The Universe & Car Paint, and Other Awesome Science Moments, by Dr. Karl Kruszelnick.

Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, or Dr Karl as most people know him, is a quirky and popular Australian science communicator. Many would have tuned in to Dr Karl answering the pressing science questions of avid Triple J listeners on a Thursday morning (which, incidentally, he has been doing in some form on Triple J since 1981) or one of the other many radio and television programs he frequents. His first book, Great Moments in Science, was published back in 1985 and since then he has written more than 40 books including titles such as 50 Shades of Grey Matter, Headless Chickens, Bathroom Queues and Belly Button Blues and more recently Karl, The Universe and Everything

Pigeon Poo, The Universe & Car Paint, and Other Awesome Science Moments (500 KRU), first published in 1996, is Dr Karl’s 13th book. In typical Dr Karl form, science is interwoven with energetic storytelling and interesting trivia – did you know that Elvis’ jumpsuits could weigh up to 14 Kilograms? – to create an engaging collection  of stories on a wide variety of topics. 

In this book Dr Karl tackles topics such as traffic jams in the middle of nowhere, the origin of the word ‘hello’ and why men have nipples. Although somewhat dated in sections there is enough of interest that, even after over 20 years since being published, many will have an u-huh moment when reading.

Although not for everyone, Dr Karl does have a way of bringing science to the masses in a way that is engaging and informative. There is enough of interest to keep you reading or at least flicking through to brush up on your trivia. Who knew pigeons make milk to feed their babies?

You can find 6 different Dr Karl titles in the JCU library catalogue.


Brenda Carter read Animal Farm, by George Orwell.

So many great books were written in the 20th century – it’s hard to choose just one to read and recommend. If you are short of time, George Orwell’s Animal Farm (820 ORW 1C ANI) frequently appears on ‘Best books of the 20th century” lists and packs a punch at only 120 pages. 

Animal Farm is Orwell’s satirical attack on the Stalinist regime, shaped by his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. Although it tells a fairly simple story of barnyard animals trying to manage themselves after rebelling against their masters, the novel demonstrates the power of totalitarian propaganda and how easily good intentions (socialism) can be corrupted.   "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".

Animals, history, politics, allegory…there’s something for everyone here. If you didn’t read Animal farm at school, now’s your chance.


Nathan Miller read For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway is considered an essential man’s man of writing. He worked as a journalist, war correspondent and had an adventurous life traveling, hunting and going on safaris, deep sea fishing, attending bullfights and living a bohemian lifestyle with the artistic and intellectual class of his time. I get tired just reading about things he did in life.

For Whom the Bell Tolls (810 HEM 1C FOR) is set during the 1930s in the midst of the Spanish Civil war between the Nationalist, Royalist, Catholic, Conservative and Fascist forces on one side facing the Republican, Communist, Socialist, Unionist and Anarchist forces on the other. We follow Robert Jordan - one of many international fighters on both sides - who joined the war in Spain. Robert has joined a left wing guerrilla force of peasants and has to blow up a bridge. 

The main point of the novel for me is the famed Ernest Hemingway writing style: short and to the point without losing any interest for the reader. Hemingway wrote other war novels and drew on his personal experiences in World War One and his active hobbies to provide the detail for his writing, but he writes in a noticeably direct style. I came to Hemingway via his large number of public accolades and via Wilbur Smith novels, which share the outdoorsy, war and 19th and 20th century male adventurer themes. Other writers who cover similar genres and style would be Robert Louis Stevenson, Cormac McCarthy and, interestingly, the author Robert Jordan - who took his pseudonym (Robert Jordan) from the character in this novel.


Samantha Baxter read Danse Macabre by Stephen King.

I actually intended to read this book for the non-fiction challenge, but ran out of time. I am a big fan of Stephen King’s style and I enjoy his fiction and non-fiction equally. 

According to Wikipedia (Shock, horror, gasp!):
Danse Macabre is a 1981 non-fiction book by Stephen King, about horror fiction in print, radio, film and comics, and the influence of contemporary societal fears and anxieties on the genre. It was republished on February 23, 2010 with an additional new essay entitled "What's Scary". 
Danse Macabre examines the various influences on King's own writing, and important genre texts of the 19th and 20th centuries. Danse Macabre explores the history of the genre as far back as the Victorian era, but primarily focuses on the 1950s to the 1970s (roughly the era covering King's own life at the time of publication). King peppers his book with informal academic insight, discussing archetypes, important authors, common narrative devices, "the psychology of terror", and his key theory of "Dionysian horror".
For a fan of the horror genre in general and King in particular this book (which can be found at 791.436164 KIN) is interesting and insightful to read the thoughts of the master himself on horror and why so many are drawn to it. 

It is a fairly dated tome, with many of the references being from the 30s to 50s creeping into the 80s. It would be interesting I think to read an analysis of modern horror by King, but for now this is what we have. It is particularly interesting to hear his analysis of radio horror, something that is somewhat making a comeback with podcasts.

This is a must read for anyone interested in horror as a genre in its many and varied depictions from books, to films to radio.


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