Saturday, August 22, 2009

What I Just Read: The Grapes of Wrath

My pledge to avoid all things trendy and hip has brought me to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath is the foremost novel cataloging and illustrating the effects of The Depression of the early 20th century. Don't worry, I'm a step ahead of you, I realize what could be more trendy than a book about The Depression when the American economy is in the worst recession since the early 20th century. My answer is, probably nothing. If anyone were to see me reading this book they would probably think "he must be worried about the economy". Blast! Foiled again!

No I am not in fact reading this because I might be heading Californy way because my crops failed and my Political Science degree holds no value (though with recent headlines California may not be a viable option). In fact I read (or was supposed to read) The Grapes of Wrath in my AP English class. It being a large book as well as my mothers favorite book, and wtih me being a rebellious teenager and there being something called SparkNotes, I took a pass. Being a little older, and a little geekier (or maybe its embracing my geekyness) I have decided to revisit books that I passed on in High School, this being the first one.

I really enjoyed reading it this time, took me a bit to get into it, but once I got past the part where I stopped last time I started to get into it. I particularly enjoyed how with every other chapter Steinbeck takes a different approach to the story. By that I mean every odd chapter is a sort of short story, mirroring the way he writes in The Pearl, except when he does so it is setting up the scene for the next chapter where the story of the Joads continues. A story of poverty and what that poverty does to those in it and those outside of it.

It's actually a very pertinent book in respect to my situation right now, granted I have a roof over my head, food to eat and if it came to it I always have my parents. That being said, the past few months have been like the Joads heading to California, thinking about working, thinking about what I'm going to do when I graduate. Tom Joad's parole is like my Logic grade, I'm just waiting to get caught, and the Joads finally reaching California is like me taking my last final, now I really need a job.

It may have been that weak connection with the book I just mentioned or it might be that I realized Steinbeck isn't that wordy after all. Regardless I think I like the man.


This is the most common copy of the book in bookstores today. It is a paperback, not a hardcover, so therefore it does not have nor does it need a dust jacket (I hate dust jackets). For some odd reason Penguin Books got it into their heads that they should sully some of their books by making it appear as if it does in fact have a dust jacket on it. They do this by elongating the front and back covers of the book (so the covers are double the size of the book) and then folding the outer half of the cover in upon it self, making it resemble a dust jacket. The reason for this is twofold; one is to add more information about the book to the inside cover, and the second reason is to infuriate me.

I would remiss if I did not tell you that I have contemplated removing the inside portions of all these books with a razor blade. Not just my books (for which I have and never will have any such monstrosities) but all books such as this, a crusade of sorts, a crusade to purify the ranks of books.

And so this is why I purchased a Penguin Classic version of The Grapes of Wrath. Now Penguin Classics are not the most desirable versions of a book to buy, mostly because the format is the same for every book (black background, white trim complete with orange and white font, only the upper two thirds of the front cover differing from book to book) and the quality of paper is only a step above Bible paper (Bible paper is incredibly thin in order to make the thickness of the book as small as possible, the offset is easily tear-able and partially see through paper). I only buy them when every other copy of the book is undesirable to me.

That being said, I do like this cover (upper 2/3) for the artwork. Not being an art critic, I cannot tell you why I like it (if I was to tell you I would say it is for the burnt tones of the piece), I just do. Though I think it might have something to do with the simplicity.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I Just Read: Guns, Germs and Steel

I started reading this about two years ago, I got to the part about domesticating plants and animals, after that it's all just a blur. Well actually it seemed quite boring to me, I think I was on my first Co-Op, maybe not. Regardless the point is I finished reading it, finally. I had not thought about finishing until I came to the realization that out of all the books I had read this is the book that I reference the most, so I should probably finish it before recommending it to others.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond is an explanation for why the world is the way it is. Now I'm sure some historians and other people who are more intelligent than myself may not see it that way but Mr. Diamond explained why white people seemingly rule the modern world and why we ride horses instead of llamas. It was helpful, I learned quite a bit and would recommend it to anyone who wants to get an understanding of how the current world came to be.

As for the book itself, I have done no research but my guess is that the cover is a artistic depiction of the abduction of Montezuma by Cortes and his men. Which if it is true is an apt picture for the cover of a book that goes onto explain how a hundred or so Spaniards took down the strongest Empire in North America. By explain I mean go back to the days of Mesopotamia and give a step by step set of directions on how best to develop a dominant society. (Hint: It involves thousands of years, a few plagues, and a lot of wars). I like the cover, the book is a bit on the tall side, but if you made it smaller it would also be bigger, if that makes any sense.

I plan on reading Jared Diamond's other books (Collapse, The Third Chimpanzee and Why is Sex Fun?) some time in the future but not for some time. For now I'm still reading The Grapes of Wrath and then after that Katy requires that I read Crime and Punishment, or else.

And we end this rather short yet never ending post with a book I really want to read but can't bring myself to buy because of how many books I already own that I have not read yet; it's called Sum by David Eagleman and it's all theories about what happens to you when you die. I blame you Radio Lab.