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32 posts from December 2006

December 02, 2006

Notable Books

Here's a list of the most notable books of 2006, according to the New York Times.


How many have you read?  What did you think? C'mon!  Spill!

December 01, 2006

Here Comes the Judge

Here Comes the Judge

By Rebecca the Bookseller

Let's face it - most people are schmucks. Present company excluded, of course. I'm talking about the rest of the people. People are bound to disappoint us, in every way imaginable. Why is that? Do we set our expectations too high? Is it just a counterbalance to the rampant cynicism that surrounds us?

How should I know? I'm asking you.

I think a big part of the problem is our human tendency to pass judgment. No one is better (which means worse, in the global sense) at this than the overtly religious types. Some of them will even start out with "You know I don't judge people..." Look out. That means they are going to tear somebody to shreds. Taken to the extreme, these are the same people who start wars based on allegedly religious reasons. I am no world religions scholar, but other than some of the multi-diety schools of thought, which actually have gods of war, I don't know of a divine being that encourages murder.

And don't try hiding behind political labels or banners either - this is not about any particular person or any particular party. Killing people is bad. See, I'm passing judgment right there. In point of fact, if someone hurt one of mine, especially my children, I wouldn't be able to kill them fast enough to suit my sense of justice.

And don't pull the religious denomination lever either - this crosses all lines. I don't care what building you enter to worship, or whether you do it in the woods, or under water or wherever or never. Most people are moral people, or at least they try to be. That's not what I'm talking about.

This is about people presuming to tell the rest of us how we should behave. This is about people who hold themselves out as the gold standard of humanity and exhort the balance of us to shape up. This is about, for example, people who condemn homosexuality, or condemn people who believe in a different god than they do, or discard as worthless people who 'don't smoke the same cigarettes as me'. The way it breaks down, if you don't agree with these people, you're damned - metaphorically or otherwise.

Many of these people are charming and seductive. They attract many followers who are eager to do their bidding, and buy their books, or their protein drinks, or whatever. Which leads to more judging from the non-followers, who then conclude that the whole pack of them are nuts.

So now we're all in a big judgemental cluster you-know-what. It makes me tired and sad. Or maybe it's just these days of long shadows that make me feel discouraged.

The other thing is that this is THE Season. Such great expections of tidings and comfort and joy and so forth, where every scene has the ending of a Lifetime made-for-TV special. For people who are lonely, or depressed or otherwise unhappy, this is the toughest time of the year. For people who feel obligated to spend time with their families, regardless of how painful that might be, it's downright brutal. And for families separated by time and distance and other barriers, it's beyond bittersweet.

Which brings me back to the whole disappointment conundrum. And being simple creatures at our core, we're all looking for a way to feel better. Reading good books makes me feel better. Whether they make me laugh or smile or sizzle or puzzle or cry, they make me feel hopeful. Good writing will do that - no matter what form it takes - movies, TV, newspapers, magazines, plays, songs - it's all about the words. Words can be the most powerful tool we have for building hope. And heaven knows we need more hope up in this place these days.

So what books - or what else - give you hope?