Books Fifty to Fiftytwo: Tintin

King Ottokar's Sceptre , Hergé
The Secret of the Unicorn , Hergé
Red Rackham's Treasure , Hergé

Cheating?! Definitely not! Well... maybe a little.

I remember the day, back when I was a kid who spent far too much time in the library, when I found a Tintin book on the shelf and couldn't believe my luck. I thought I had unearthed a rare treasure that no on else knew about. I mean, the drawings! The crazy stories! Snowy! I honestly don't think I ever read more than a couple of these books after that, but I always thought of Tintin with fondness. When I became an adult I rediscovered my love for Tintin and started reading all the books, and have yet to work my way through all of them (just a few more to go).

I have always thought that the notable qualities of the Tintin stories include their vivid humanism, a realistic feel produced by meticulous and wide ranging research. Or at least, I have always thought that until I just read it on wikipedia. But really, the research is incredible. I highly recommend the lovely Tintin: The Complete Companion, which details the research, both visual and historical, that went into each book. King Ottokar's Sceptre, for example, was written at the very start of WWII and seemed to predict Hitler's takeover of Austria (though with far better results for Austria in the Tintin version).

I seem to envision December as a time of cozying up by the fire in the cold and reading book after book after book. What this--and last--December have proved to me, though, is that I get little to no reading done during this month. I have a variety of other factors to blame as well, some of them quite legitimate and some of them rather embarrassing, but I won't bore you (or me, for that matter) with them. Suffice it to say that I am back on the wagon again come January 1st, 2009, which, as I write this, is just 38 minutes away. And with that, happy new year and happy reading!

Book Fortynine: Infidel

Infidel , Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I think that this book is best read on the level of this one woman's personal story. In this regard, this is a very powerful book. Her life, history, family and struggles (physical, emotional, and spiritual) are truly amazing. However, where I think this book takes a turn into the land of controversy is in her sweeping statements of Islam. I'm not one to say whether or not she's right or wrong, but what I personally connected with in these statements was not in her condemnation of Islam, but in her condemnation of any and all religion. Any American right-winger who thinks that she is the bee's knees ought to take a closer look at what she's really saying about all religions.

We read this for neighborhood bookclub, and it sparked some very interesting discussion. I honestly don't have any hard and fast opinions to share here (other than the above), but one thing I do wish for were more solutions offered in this book to the many problems and issues posed. I mean, what in the world are (Liberal) westerners supposed to do about all the shitty parts of Islam (you know, the systemic suppression of women, female genital mutilation, killing of all infidels, etc.), while still being open to allowing for the free expression of religion for all? Yes, there are some obvious answers, but there are also some super complicated ones that make me glad I'm not in any sort of public office that is responsible for figuring these kinds of things out.

Book Fortyeight: Silence of the Grave

Silence of the Grave, Arnaldur Indriðason

Not bad, not great, pretty good, that's all.