Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley [spoiler alert and language warning]

On a foggy summer night, eleven people — ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter — depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.


I’ve been on a bit of murder kick lately, so when Georgia Hardstock of the super-cool podcast My Favorite Murder recommended Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall, I eagerly grabbed a copy. This review will contain the big spoiler, so consider yourself warned. (more…)

The Catcher in the Rye is Salinger’s Worst Book

I Roll my Eyes at The Catcher in the Rye

Even the horse is unimpressed.

Unfortunately, the first thing I think about these days when I hear The Catcher in the Rye is the film Chasing Amy, that barely post-adolescent flick, created by barely post-adolescent filmmaker Kevin Smith, with Ben Affleck playing the main character – named Holden, of course.  The next thing I think about is a guy I knew in high school who was one of the most socially awkward people I ever met, and carried a small leather bound copy of that book on his person at all times. His obsession with that novel did not appear to improve his social problems.  I guess The Catcher in the Rye is just one of those things that mean so much to a certain type of person, at a certain point in their lives, that it’s almost sacred.  Like ABBA, or Blossom.  Or Pearl Jam.  But I’m certainly not here to mock Pearl Jam.  I’m here to mock The Catcher in the Rye, and all it’s very satisfying and entertaining discontent, swearing, and overall hatred of everybody who is not a maladjusted child of wealthy parents who provide very little emotionally to their kids.  Maybe I just don’t understand because I’m not a boy.  If that’s the case, I feel pretty sorry for boys, especially the ones who are so good at recognizing hypocrisy in others that they just can’t contain themselves, and go out and do all the self destructive things they can find to do. (more…)

“Booked to Die” Revisited

Booked to Die, first edition
Booked to Die, first edition

When I first started working in a used bookstore, the shop keeper assigned me two books to read before starting. The first, ABC for Book Collectors, was a thorough encyclopedia of the terminology of the trade.  It supplied me with a solid foundation on which to build my knowledge of used and rare books. The second book I was given was John Dunning’s Booked to Die.  That little page-turner mystery gave material to construct spires on that original foundation.

For those who haven’t read Dunning’s Bookman series, you should get a copy of Booked to Die as soon as possible. John Dunning managed to draw on his real life experience running a bookshop in Denver to create a detailed portrayal of the strange and sometimes seedy world of used and rare books. Booked to Die introduces police detective and book-collector Cliff Janeway working a murder case revolving around rare books. (more…)

The Book that Burns Women Alive


Malleus Maleficarum- Montague Summers Translation
by Sprenger, Jakob

“All (Witchcraft) comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.”– Malleus Maleficarum

The Hammer of Witches

If forced to choose any book to burn, I would burn Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches). It seems appropriate, since the book caused so many women to burn at the stake.

First published in 1487, Malleus Maleficarum provided justification for the murder of thousands of women in medieval Europe. Spreading like the fire it encouraged, entire towns were left decimated by the witch trials that ensued. No book has been more damaging to the history of women than The Hammer of Witches.

Malleus Maleficarum is divided into three sections that confirms the existence of witchcraft, the evil of witches, and the prosecution of witches that will ensure their eradication. If The Hammer of Witches has a single theme, it is this: Women are naturally susceptible to the Devil’s evil, and that weakness stems from between their legs. (more…)

Review: The Fourth Realm Trilogy by John Twelve Hawks

John Twelve HawksThe anti-political techno-thriler The Traveler (2005) by John Twelve Hawks provides a look through a clouded mirror at our own society.  Twelve Hawks, whose own identity is shrouded in mystery, tells a story of parallel universes using themes of high technology and government secrecy.  While fiction, honest appraisal of this story forces us to take a critical look at our own government. The relationships between the multilayered, complex, and believable characters of Maya, Gabriel, and Gabriel’s brother Michael create a dramatic tension unlike most contemporary novels.  This is a must read for anyone who loves science fiction and wonders about the direction our society seems to be going.  Mysterious travelers, who have often been key figures that have  changed history, are the focus of a desperate struggle.  Secret societies war against each other, with the Tabula struggling for total control and the Harlequins defending the Travelers and hope and freedom against all odds. These issues resonate with our ideals of liberty and foreshadows issues. (more…)

Thou Shall Not Take Orwell’s Name in Vain

1984 by George Orwell
1984 by George Orwell

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.”
–George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

With the telenovela that is currently starring Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency continuing to entertain us with a real life version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, people from all political and social persuasions have been decrying the “Orwellian” nature of the American government and its secretive spy agencies. They shake their heads and speak of Big Brother in low voices in an attempt to sound profound. But here is the hard truth: we are not living in 1984, the NSA is not Big Brother, and there is no Two Minutes of Hate (although the Rush Limbaugh show comes pretty close).


David Swanson: Architect of Peace

Author and activist David Swanson consistently argues against war and the imperial ambitions of the United States.

Swanson, who served as the press secretary for the Dennis Kucinich campaign, also helped to introduce Kucinich’s attempt to impeach and prosecute former President George W. Bush. Swanson argues convincingly against the legality of efficacy of war itself, and the ways in which the US Presidency has reached beyond its original constitutional limitations. In 2009, Swanson published Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, which details the ways in which the executive branch has become more extreme in the last few decades.

The main difference between his arguments and those of some others is his insistence on not only the illegitimacy of war as a tool of politics, but its use as a propaganda tool, and an instrument of fear. His book War is a Lie (2010) breaks down specific ways that reveal the true motives of those that wage war, as well as the immediate and long term consequences of keeping military force as one of the primary tools of American foreign policy.


Book Review: The Color of the Land

The Color of the Land: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Landownership in Oklahoma, 1832-1929, by David Chang David Chang’s book examines land use and ownership in the Creek Nation in Oklahoma. His book details events from before the Trail of Tears in 1830 through the passage of the Dawes Act of 1887, the Curtis Act of 1898, Oklahoma statehood in 1907, and into the early decades of the twentieth century. Chang contends that this history of the issues of … Continued

Asheville Women's Comic Book Club: Promethea, by Alan Moore

This is a special feature from Biblio – a glimpse into the Women’s Comic Book Club that just began in our hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.  Our newest team member, Beth, joined the club and shared her experience in reading and discussing the first book: Promethea, by Alan Moore. I am a member of a local women’s comic book club in Asheville, NC. The group just started in April, and our first reading assignment was Book 1 of Promethea by … Continued

Book Review: Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920

Historian Jim Bissett argues that socialism became a powerful and influential political force in early twentieth century Oklahoma. He contends that the populist legacy of the 1890s left a cadre of trained activists. These individualists demanded a democratic variety of socialism atypical of the Socialist Party in the United States. A synthesis that blended a Marxist critique of capitalism with the American ideal of the yeoman farmer and many teachings of evangelical Christianity helped socialism gain support in rural Oklahoma … Continued