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Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – The Devil in the White City

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One of my favorite things about being part of this community is joining with other bloggers to participate in a challenge or read-along or some other sort of bookish project. I especially love read-alongs because they often expand my reading horizons and I get to answer discussion questions. I love discussion questions! This month over at Doing Dewey, we’re reading Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

Have you read this or anything else by Erik Larson before? If so, how does this read compare to your first read through/his other books?

This is actually my first Erik Larson. I’ve heard a ton of great stuff about his other books, but I just haven’t gotten around to actually reading one, I suppose!

How do you feel about authors of narrative nonfiction filling in the blanks left by sources and/or speculating about emotions?

I think I’m okay with it. There are going to be gaps throughout history, but I think an author can look at the historical context and use psychology and common sense and research to speculate and fill in some of the gaps. I think that filling in those gaps presents a more complete picture and a more enjoyable narrative. I’m especially okay with it if the author addresses it up front and lets the reader know that some speculation will be involved. I also just think it’s a very human thing to do – we’re naturally empathetic and we often project or deduce emotions regarding others around us.

If there was another World Fair in Chicago next year, would you go?

Ah, maybe. I’m not as far along in the book as I should be (I’m doing audio!), but so far they’re only talking about the structural integrity of buildings and so forth, so I still don’t know what was actually there. But the premise is very cool, so yeah, I’d probably go.

Is it appropriate to treat reading about a real serial killer as entertainment? Is it any different than if this story were fictional?

Hard question. I think narrative nonfiction serves a purpose, in that it educates without being condescending or dry or irritating. As long as the narrative is appropriately sober, in that it doesn’t make light of the historical event, narrative nonfiction can be a great and appropriate teaching tool. And yes, I think it is different than if the story were fictional. You have a lot more leeway to insert humor and make light of a fictional narrative than a true one.

Have you been or would you like to be part of a group creative endeavour, such as that undertaken by the architects at the World Fair?

Not really, at least not that I can remember. I draw a bit, but that’s pretty solitary. And I tend to shy away from group projects by nature, as I’m an introvert. But if I could overcome that, it would be pretty cool to be part of something like that.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday! is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey that allows bloggers to post a sort of wrap-up of the past week while also looking to the week ahead. Without further ado…

Last Week: We got my sister moved in on Saturday without too much fuss. The process went quickly, and she’s settled in nicely for now. I’m still a little nervous – you know, new person to adapt to, a little dog that will have to get used to our cat, new routines. But so far, so good.

I’m steadily making progress through Lovecraft’s Tales as part of a roomie reading challenge with Katie – the stories are a bit dense and we haven’t had much time to dedicate to the challenge, but we’ll get there eventually. Same with The Winter People – I’m listening on my extremely short commutes, so it’s taking a while. So it’s a relief to have other shorter, lighter reads that I can zoom through as my “regular” reading.

Posts:

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

Currently Reading:

  • Tales – H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Winter People – Jennifer McMahon (audio)
  • The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire – Julian Assange

Tales The Winter People The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire

Looking Ahead: More of the same. Work. Game night. Reading. Catching up on reality TV. Getting in the Halloween spirit with movies and decorating. Maybe some naps or early nights, if this exhaustion keeps me feeling the way I feel right now.

Ghostlight Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

 

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Doing Dewey’s Nonfiction Book Club – Packing for Mars Part 2!

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One of my favorite things about being part of this community is joining with other bloggers to participate in a challenge or read-along or some other sort of bookish project. I especially love read-alongs because they often expand my reading horizons and I get to answer discussion questions. I love discussion questions! This month over at Doing Dewey, we’re reading Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars.

If you want to read my discussion answers for the first half of the book, check those out here.

Do you have a favorite fun fact from the second half of the book?

Right now, I’m suffering intense lack of memory. I think the second half of the book was so disgusting that my brain has blocked everything out!

On second thought, I definitely didn’t know that Felix Baumgartner’s famous jump from space was actually a test of some equipment for NASA. I thought it was just a world-record attempt and a plug for Red Bull. It’s very cool that he has that sort of job, but also very scary!

Other than other people, what do you think you’d miss most if you had to spend an extended period of time in space?

Gaming. Can you imagine trying to play Smash Up or Ticket to Ride in zero gravity? Also, I frequently use video gaming as a release of anger or other pent-up emotions. Sometimes there’s just no better therapy than logging on and slaying some dragons or sailing the high seas or clearing a hard level. So everyone would suffer from my lack of outlet.

Do you think you’d be good at the meticulous planning required for a mission in space?

Yes. My roommates frequently tease me about how I live my life according to lists and plans. When we go on trips, move to new apartments, or even make weekend plans, it’s usually me doing the logistics. I thrive the most when my life is structured and orderly. Actually, this may be the only thing I would be great at!

Do you like that Mary Roach asks the questions no one else asks (body odor, sex) or would you rather just not know?

Both, if we’re being honest. She certainly doesn’t shy away from the unpleasant topics, and it is rather fascinating to think about these aspects. I mean, I’ve never really seen documentaries or read other books that think so comprehensively (and weirdly) about the topic at hand. But I’ve really learned not to read her books while eating food of any sort. It’s just hard to snack on a delicious chocolate Blizzard while reading a chapter on the problem of defecation in outer space, okay?

Would you be willing to stay in bed for months if someone paid you your current salary to do so?

I can’t remember – does the subject have to lie down the entire time or can they sit up in bed? If I could sit up in my bed, then yes. What better way to catch up on stacks of reading and my backlog of video games? If it’s lying down for months and months, no. I would get so bored…and my salary isn’t that good anyway.

Do you think NASA should be able to recruit astronauts based on their genetics?

Yes, to a degree. I think at the very least it should definitely be a consideration and potential astronauts should be genetically tested. What if something is lurking in a potential astronaut’s DNA that could wreak havoc later due to the effects of space travel?

Also, I think one could take this question deeper – just because I want to be an astronaut doesn’t mean I get to be an astronaut. I think we live in a society where we are told that we can be whatever we want, and that just isn’t true. Genetics obviously have a very real impact on our lives and futures, but what we do also plays a large part. You know, the whole nature vs. nurture debate. So yes, if I have some sort of genetic thing that could be a hindrance to the mission, don’t let me be an astronaut. Sorry, was that too harsh?

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

As always, thanks to Katie for hosting! I’m having a lot of fun and reading things I might never have gotten around to otherwise!

 

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