Archive for the 'Books' Category


Banned books – Slaughterhouse Five

Apparently, when Slaughterhouse Five was stricken from the public schools of Oakland County, Michigan in 1972, the circuit judge called it

“depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.”

Yes, it is great. I think that same sentence could be used to describe war, which is what this book is about.

This is the story of Billy Pilgram – he has come unstuck. In the book this manifests as time travel but what I understand is a man broken by war from the moment he arrives, unarmed, and having to retreat from the Battle of the Bulge. After being dragged unwillingly by former school-yard bully made soldier, Roland Weary, for an indeterminate amount of time, the two are captured by German soldiers and become prisoners of war. Roland doesn’t survive the journey back into Germany. As a POW Billy is in Dresden when it gets bombed by the allied forces. So it goes.

Billy was never born to be a soldier. At one point the Germans look at the rag-tag collection of American soldiers they’ve captured and wonder at the group. All the good soldiers have been killed and this lot is all that’s left. Billy is a particularly pathetic specimen. Due to lack of supplies he wraps himself in a blue sheet to keep warm and wears some silver boots. Everyone laughs at Billy; some seem to think he is trying to make some unfunny commentary with his clothing.

slaughterhouse five red.jpg

It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; and it works.

Slaughterhouse Five is one of those books that people frequently seek to get banned. Unlike the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I can see why some people would want to ban this book. It paints a picture of war that is not heroic or patriotic or any of those positive tints we try to give to the killing of others in the name of some cause or other. Its much more Catch-22 than Band of Brothers. But, like Hunchback of Notre Dame, this is a great book that should be available to all.


Happy Birthday VH – banned author #1

Today happens to be Victor Hugo’s birthday. I wouldn’t normally pay any attention to this but since I just finished reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame it seemed like a good day to blog about how much I liked the book – a lot! This was the first of at least six banned books which I plan to read this year. It is absolutely crazy that someone(s) somewhere tried to have this book banned. How dare they!!

(Picture source: Life and Legends)

Sometimes you need to be wary of classics. In my mind they fall into one of two categories: 1. great stories that are amazingly well told, or 2. commentaries on an era which are often depressing and can make little sense unless you understand more about that time period.  Fortunately THND is in the first category (although some chapter did drag out a little).

For the next banned book I’m now reading Brideshead Revisited. This wasn’t on the long list of banned books presented earlier on this blog site but it has been banned, it was on sale and I’ve always wanted to read it.


Books – 2015 and plans for 2016

I read 40 books this year, 32 fiction and 8 non-fiction. I might try to get a better balance between fiction and non-fiction in 2016. My favourite 5 for the year (first link is to the book, link on the author is to a review):

  1. The English MonsterLloyd Shepherd
  2. Strange Weather in TokyoHiromi Kawakami
  3. The State of Africa: A history of fifty years of independenceMartin Meredith
  4. Parrot and Olivier in AmericaPeter Carey
  5. Yellow, Blue, TibiaAdam Roberts

2016’s book theme will be banned books. I’ve got a long list from which I will read a minimum of 6. Turns out there are LOADS of banned or challenged books so there was lots to choose from:

  1. Brave New World
  2. Grapes of Wrath
  3. Slaughter-house five
  4. Cat’s Cradle
  5. Metamorphisis
  6. Lolita
  7. Ulysses
  8. All Quiet on the Western Front
  9. American Pyscho
  10. Catch 22 (already read it but might read it again because its so great)
  11. Gone with the Wind
  12. The Call of the Wild
  13. Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  14. Clockwork Organe
  15. Of Mice and Men
  16. Lord of the Flies
  17. Hunchback of Notre Dame (already got a copy ready to read as my first book for 2016)
  18. Farewell to Arms
  19. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  20. Grimm’s Fairytales

Currently reading

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke


Currently reading

The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca De Queiros

Front Cover

Currently reading

“The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V” by Hugh Thomas

The Golden Age (eBook): The Spanish Empire of Charles V
(Image Source: Waterstones)


Currently Reading: Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire

Currently reading: Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire by Hugh Thomas. This is the first of a trilogy.

C-Span shows the author giving a talk about the book.

July 2018
« Apr