12.29.2010

2010 Top Discoveries: Podcasts

Most of these actually were new in 2010. I'm a bit more up to date on the podcast scene than in other areas. Also, podcasts are a much newer concept (which you may read more about in my podcast sidebar if you are not familiar with them).

As you can see, it has been a very good year for podcasts and there is something here for practically everyone. Some of these have been featured on Forgotten Classics. Others will be featured in the future. 

The description comes from the podcasters themselves for the most part ... enjoy!

Spilled Milk - Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg combine food and comedy in a bowl and stir it up until it explodes. Join your jovial (possibly too jovial) hosts, Molly and Matthew, for recipes, cooking tips, winning lotto numbers, and catfights.

The Sporkful - The Sporkful is an award-winning podcast and blog about food, but not so much about cooking or recipes or restaurants. We discuss, debate, and obsess over the most ridiculous food-related minutiae, always seeking new and better ways to eat. Hosted by Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison, former co-workers at NPR, The Sporkful is where sacred cows get grilled.

Guys Can Read - A weekly podcast book discussion from a guy's perspective (two guys actually and the book talk is great).

The China History Podcast - Five millennia of Chinese history brought to you each week for your podcast listening pleasure.

A History of the World in 100 Objects - from the BBC (and unusually available in podcast form for all to enjoy).

History of Philosophy - Peter Adamson hosts a podcast covering the entire history of philosophy... without any gaps!

My Merry Christmas Podcast - The Merry Podcast is our audio edition of the best of MMC featuring one-of-a-kind programs exploring everything about Christmas with the help of the team from Merry Christmas Radio, our online radio station broadcasting Christmas year-round.

Chop Bard - The podcast dedicated to picking apart the works of William Shakespeare, scene by scene, offering a fresh and entertaining look at some old goods- it is the cure for boring Shakespeare.

Freakonomics Radio - Just like the books, Freakonomics Radio will explore “the hidden side of everything.” It will tell you things you always thought you knew but didn’t, and things you never thought you wanted to know, but do.

Movie Date from The Takeaway - Each week, Newsday film critic Rafer Guzman and Takeaway producer Kristen Meinzer get in a heated, but friendly debate about the movies.

99% Invisible - Trying to comprehend the 99% invisible activity that shapes the design of our world. (In the design category ...)

A Short History of Japan - A quick tour through the cool bits of Japanese history.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know - modeled after the popular podcast Stuff You Should Know, this podcast explains a wide range of topics ... everything from Stylites (standing on pillars in style) to Ethiopian Christianity to Bishop's Wear and beyond.

12.28.2010

2010 Top Discoveries: Books - Nonfiction

Again, these may not have been new this year, but they were new to me. Today more hold-em-in-your-hand books (including Kindle ... but NOT audiobooks).

(Any short summaries are from my GoodReads list where you may see everything I read in 2010, which I may have shared here earlier in the year ...)

Paul Among the People - Sarah Ruden
My review is here (loosely written but you get the idea).

Confections of a Closet Master Baker - Gesine Bullock-Prado
Sandra Bullock's sister finally couldn't take Hollywood any more after running her famous sister's production company for years. She turned to her true passion, baking, and has a wonderful voice in this book about her life as a baker. A thoroughly enjoyable book that holds up standards without judging everyone around her by them, which these days is increasingly rare in the food writing world. Also, this is one of the few baking books that I have read recently to excite my imagination and interest me in trying some of the recipes. I have baked for long enough and read so many baking books that such an achievement is rare indeed.

Finding Martha's Place -Martha Hawkins
My review is here and an early, personal reaction may be read here.

You Are What You See - Scott Nehring
 I was privileged to read the galley for this book by Scott Nehring. He opens people's eyes to the power of film as a cultural force and unlocks the "key" of story so that you really understand what you are watching (well, ok, I already watched that way ... but I still was riveted by this book). It is simply fantastic. You will never watch movies the same way again. Scott lays out movie structure in a way that helps any movie viewer understand and enjoy movies better.

The Habit of Being - Flannery O'Connor
I grew to love Flannery more and more while I read this compilation of her letters to friends. As well as the little bits of daily life that she shared, there was a steady revelation of the underlying thoughts behind her stories and the underlying Catholic worldview that she wrote from (and lived from).

I read more and more slowly as I grew close to the end of the book. Her early death seemed so tragic and I dreaded it. Yes, this seems melodramatic but it is how I felt. She was pragmatic, straight forward, brave, and funny. In her letters to her friends I learned a lot about writing, the Catholic faith, and living a full life under difficult circumstances. And when I read that her last letter was found scribbled by hand after her death, I cried. Not a lot, but there were real tears and emotion there. I must say that now, when I get to Heaven (fingers crossed), one of the people I hope to meet is Flannery O'Connor.

The Roots of the Faith - Mike Aquilina
My review is here.

Full of Grace - Judith Dupre
My review on Patheos is here.

Oh Holy Night - Mark C. Snow
My review is here.

12.27.2010

On Books and "Event Horizon"

Now I have wondered if there is a technical term for the time it takes a book to suck you into the story. Sometimes a book gets you going from the first pages and sometimes much more is required to be setup before you really enter the story. I wouldn’t say that a good book always grabs you from the beginning, but often this is true. I have also found enjoyable stories that took much more to setup, especially in Science Fiction where sometimes a lot of history in this universe must be explained first.

Now whether there is a technical term or not for this – I call it a books “Event Horizon”, this is where the escape velocity exceeds you’re wanting to leave the book. Once you have entered the Event Horizon you are sucked into the book and can not leave it. ...
The Curt Jester (known around here as Jeff Miller) shares some thoughts on reading which I enjoyed. Go see for yourself.

2010 Discoveries: Books - Fiction

These may not have been new this year, in fact I can practically guarantee many of them were not, but they were new to me. Naturally I had to share them with you! Today we'll look at fiction in actual, hold-em-in-your-hand books (including Kindle ... but NOT audiobooks).

(All summaries are from my GoodReads list where you may see everything I read in 2010,)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
How did this author do it? A story about an 11-year-old detective that  is a unique blend of Sherlock Holmes, eccentric English country house  murder mystery, and Nancy Drew. And it works. Fascinating and wonderful.  I say that even though I pegged the murderer the first time there was  an appearance. The discovery of why and how and who was entirely  enjoyable despite that.

High Spirits - Robertson Davies
Can't remember where I saw this recommended but these are extremely  enjoyable humorous takes on the classic English "Christmas Eve" tellings  of subsequent experiences by the first Master of Massey College. Every  year he experiences either a ghostly visitation or some other  supernatural adventure which luckily happens in time for him to tell it  on Christmas Eve. Funny without being over the top. I will probably have  to investigate this author's other works after this.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simenson
My review is here.

The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Honestly, if I’d really known what it was about I’d never have been  interested but once I was engrossed in it I was glad to have read this  excellent book. Told by two different servants and one young woman who  doesn’t fit into the Jackson, Mississippi society because she didn’t  immediately get married and begin a family, this is a story of their  unexpected collaboration on a secret project that results in all of them  crossing lines that are not acknowledged aloud but which must be  crossed in order to truly know themselves. I raced through the last  fourth of it. Highly recommended. HIGHLY!

Vampire$ - John Steakley
My review is here.

Through the Wall - Cleveland Moffett
A noted detective is getting ready to go to Brazil for an important job.  He drops by Notre Dame where a young woman he never met says a few  sentences to him that leave him pale and canceling his trip. A young  woman, deeply in love, spurns her lover's marriage proposal because she  loves him too much. A international celebrity is found mysteriously  killed in a variation of the locked room mystery. All these events are  connected and are set in 1909 Paris, where the atmosphere is romantic  and mysterious and the art of detective investigation is very much to  the fore in the story. This was on a list from Michael Grost's list for Mystery Scene magazine of classic mysteries that you should read but probably haven't. Here is a piece  about this book which I believe was written in 1907. It is a locked  room mystery, which I normally do not like, but the way the author  slowly uncovers layers truth behind the mysterious situations is already  very apparent. It has the effect of a book of one cliff-hanger after  another and I am hooked. Final word: what a splendid plot and story  telling. Truly this is the story of a master detective pitted against a  master criminal, all wound around a tale of love and friendship. I got  this from the library but I'd bet it is available free at Project Gutenberg. I plan on  reading this on Forgotten Classics.

Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder - William Hope Hodgson
Whenever Carnacki finishes a tough case of tracking down the  supernatural he calls together his three friends to have dinner at their  London club and tells them the story. Sometimes he discovers the  supernatural, sometimes a hoax, and occasionally an intriguing mix of  the two. Thus we get seven fine ghost tales from William Hope Hodgson  who is better known for The House on the Border Land, which I have never  read, but surely shall someday. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I  picked up from Amazon for free and read on the Kindle. I would look at Project Gutenberg for it as a free public-domain book if you can't find it anywhere.

Trouble is My Business - Raymond Chandler
Having suffered through City of Dragons, I realized I'd never really  read any of the prototypical genre she was attempting to emulate. My  random selections of Raymond Chandler from the library yielded a book of  short stories and a novel. Beginning with this book of short stories, I  discovered that Chandler is an author I am enjoying. These pithy  stories are exactly what you would expect from the creator of Philip  Marlowe, except that they show the quintessential hard-boiled detective  from a developmental stage through many different stories. The last four  stories, so I'm told from the book blurb, have Philip Marlowe in them,  though I am not sure how he differs from the 'tecs I've read about thus  far (except in name). Great fun.

Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett
Yep.  I couldn't just try Chandler without also sampling the other great  master of hard-boiled mystery fiction, Dashiell Hammett. Again, my  random library selections yielded a novel and this short story  selection. It also has an interesting overview of Hammett's life in the  introduction. These stories contain hard boiled detectives but also,  surprisingly, twist ending stories from different points of view as  well. Hammett is a more varied writer than Chandler and I am always  amused whenever the main detective describes himself as short and stout  (which seems to happen frequently).

Till We Have Faces - C. S. Lewis
This is an intriguing retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche written in a way that puts me in mind of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy. It was gripping in a way I didn't expect and which I find difficult to explain. This story works as plain storytelling, as myth, as truth underlying myth, as character study, as unbelievably delicately written prose, and as fantasy. In short, this book is not nearly as difficult to read as I'd heard, while on the other hand containing rich layers that lend to repeated readings. I definitely enjoyed seeing Lewis's echoes of what is familiar in myth but which also is a bit of truth about Christianity.

12.23.2010

Episode 145: Two Christmas Ghost Stories

In which we encounter spirits in the tradition of English Christmas ghost stories.
(Note: these are just as good at any time of year.) 
High Spirits
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is under copyright. Samples are read under the Fair Use Act.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy High Spirits. You will enjoy the book much more than these mere samples.
  • Story rating: G for general ghostliness and good humor.
My Huffduffer Feed
(where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

    12.20.2010

    Lagniappe 39: A Star Over Bethlehem

    A Star Over Bethlehem
    (listen or download from link above)
    In which we hear a profound Christmas story from an unexpected source -- Agatha Christie!

    Get the book here: A Star Over Bethlehem


    According to Webster
    la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
    Function:
    noun
    Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
    Date: 1844
    : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
    broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure

    12.16.2010

    Episode 144: The Epic of Gilgamesh

    The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Deluge

    In which we hear a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh
    and also consider myth and literature.
    Epic of Gilgamesh
    (download or listen via this link)
    Thanks to Rose for her retelling of this epic tale.
    Podcast Highlight
    Other Links
    My Huffduffer Feed
    (where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

      For Everyone Who, Like Me, Wished Connie Willis's Editor Had Been More Diligent

      As the dedication in All Clear makes apparent, Willis' intent when writing these books was to celebrate and pay tribute to the ordinary people who sacrificed everything -- including their lives -- to help England endure through the harrowing war years. And she rises to the demands of honoring this history. One can only wish that she had given equal attention to the demands of fiction.
      SF Site's review of Blackout and All Clear makes me positive I was wise to not read All Clear after dragging myself through Blackout ... my comments about Blackout may be read here.

      To be fair, Amy H. Sturgis confirmed my decision much earlier.

      I guess I just appreciate a nice turn of phrase. And these two books are very frustrating because Willis has long been a favorite author of mine.

      12.07.2010

      Episode 143: Genesis, chapters 8-9


      In which Noah and family leave the ark and God promises rainbows.
      Genesis, chapters 8-9
      (download or listen via this link)
      Book Information
      • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
      • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
      • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
      • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
      Podcast Highlight
      Other Links
      My Huffduffer Feed
      (where you can easily download sample episodes of the podcast highlight or other various podcasts I want to share)

        12.06.2010

        Lagniappe 38: Velveeta

        Velveeta
        (listen or download from link above)
        In which we discover more than anyone ever wanted to know about Velveeta.
        Except me. I wanted to know.
        Get the book here: Better Than Homemade

        Want to try Salsa Mac 'N' Cheese? Here you go!

        According to Webster
        la·gniappe \ˈlan-ˌyap, lan-ˈ\
        Function:
        noun
        Etymology: American French, from American Spanish la ñapa the lagniappe, from la + ñapa, yapa, from Quechua yapa something added
        Date: 1844
        : a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase;
        broadly : something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure