Recent books I’ve read.

There are books that have an impact on me, troubling books, that I’m glad I read because they increase my knowledge and awareness.

Camp of the Saints is a novel published by French writer Jean Raspail in 1973. It is a controversial novel about the end of western civilisation. It has received international acclaim. The translated first American edition was in 1975. It was an apocalyptic vision of the inhabitants of the Third World rising from their misery and forcing the West to share its space and resources. In 1973 it could have been viewed as science fiction. In 2016 as we follow the events in Europe, with over a million migrants fleeing war and economic disasters, reaching countries ambivalent about accepting them, it is a chillingly prescient novel. It is a haunting book.

A non-fiction book, Year Zero, A History of 1945, by Ian Borumna, published in 2013, is a grim book, well written, that should be read. The end of that horrible world war and the aftermath, tens of millions dying from vengeance, a new world order rising from the ashes, made me wonder if the world had gone mad. There are accounts in this book that have caused me to retreat from the world for awhile, to contemplate and mourn. It is estimated that 60-85 miliion people died. It’s going to take some time before I can turn my thoughts to other books. Now I know that when I was a baby in a crib in Stockton-on-Tees in northeastern England the population around me was seeing newsreels of the death camps and concentration camps in cinemas, with soldiers at the exits to force crying and vomiting people back in if they tried to leave. My imagination of that is too vivid.

So in the weeks ahead I will return to my passion, reading about the moving frontier of medical research and discovery. Reading about a cure for multiple sclerosis within reach, about a cure for Diabetes 1 on the horizen. Not treatments, actual cures. And my mind can find comfort that scientists are working on ways to give to us an optimal healthy longevity.

So as I read about the past, I’ll look to the future with sense of awe and wonder.

February 9, 2016




2 thoughts on “Recent books I’ve read.

  1. I wonder whether there is a difference between readers’ responses based on our reading habits and preferences. You found the novel, while disturbing and haunting, not enough to send you into retreat from the world, while that was exactly the effect of Year Zero, a non-fiction account of the horrific aftermath of a historical event–itself nightmarish. I am a life-long reader and teacher of fiction, and it is a finely-crafted novel that can drive me into a fugue and leave me wandering in an alien world. The subject matter of Year Zero, as you describe it, brings immediately to mind a novel of several years past, The Reader. Anyone who has read it will understand the terrible moral dilemma it poses.

    You raise some intriguing questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, it’s intriguing to me that you retreat from reading history and fiction about our inhumanity to reading hopeful articles about potential new cures for disease. I have just finished a novel that addresses our tendency to do just that. Jackie, the heroine of Sputnik’s Child, by Fred Ledley, was born on the day Sputnik launched. As a six-year-old child she is there when her father’s shop is attacked by rioters, and she participates in “duck-and-cover” drills in case of nuclear attack; her great interest and escape is her immersion in the space program. The book follows Jackie through the decades that follow, as she becomes a publicist for a number of technology companies. Her closest friend from school becomes a lawyer fighting for international human rights, and her husband is a devout Catholic, but Jackie continues to put her faith in scientific and medical advances. When her daughter develops a possibly fatal bleeding disease, Jackie starts a foundation that raises millions of dollars toward its cure.

    The characters are emblems of different ways of responding to the rapid technological change in our world more than they are highly idiosyncratic individuals, so at times the book reads more as an essay thatn a novel. But as someone born in the same decade as Jackie, I found it fascinating the review the waves of change that have defined our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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