Cyropaedia

Have you guys checked out Coursera yet? If not, you definitely should. It’s a website solely devoted to providing quality online college courses from real professors from real colleges for free (you can pay for certificates if you want/need them). I’m on my second class now–a class about historical fiction called “Plagues, Witches, and War.” Sounds super interesting, right?

Because it’s a class on fiction, there’s a pretty substantial reading list, and the class is “Go At Your Own Pace.” Now, the professor told us we don’t have to read everything on the syllabus but…come on, you guys know me well enough to know I’m sure as hell gonna try. Or at least the ones I can get for free on Kindle and Google Books.

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First on the list is Cyropaedia, an ancient book written by a student of Socrates. Composed around 370 BC, it is supposedly the first historical fiction novel–a political romance.

The eight books follow Cyrus the Great of Persia from his early beginnings as a rambunctious teenager until he is old and dying. During his lifetime he builds a magnificent empire in what today is the Middle East. He did this not just by conquering nations, but by also gaining the love and trust of his people and soldiers, and thus made many allies.


Image credit:  http://syria.ewas.us/

I never quite understood the “romance” part of the book, though I’m sure it’s buried in there somewhere. However, this book is very much a war epic. I kept wondering if this was required reading at West Point or during any Officer’s Training, because if not, it should be. The military strategy discussed is probably ancient and outdated for use with our technology now, but the motivational speeches made by Cyrus and his generals are some of the most epic I’ve ever read. I did run out of steam towards the middle because of the battle descriptions, as I tend to do with this sort of thing, but otherwise, the characters are absolutely captivating.

Xenophon is not an author we hear about much (ok, at all) in the literary world today, at least for those of us average folk. Plato, Socrates, Cicero, Homer, sure. Xenophon is never mentioned. But this book was excellent, for what it was. Perhaps not to my usual tastes, but it was captivating from beginning to end.

 

Buy it here!

HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hilary Clinton

When you read as much as I do, you start to know a little bit about a lot of things. I might know and read more about some subjects than others, but I have a pretty wide range of random knowledge.

However, I have always stayed blissfully uneducated when it comes to politics. For 25, 26 years, I could give less than two shits about public policy or the elections or any of that stuff. It all seemed like absolute crap to me–no one was every happy with any decisions that were made, we were all just fighting each other anyway, so what was the point? I absolutely HATE salesmen, and that’s really all politics is.

But, maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, I don’t know. I married a man who is obsessed with Fox News (I know…right? He had to have a flaw or two, I guess), so I’m always hearing about current issues, and not always from a slant I agree with. Ok. It’s almost NEVER from a slant I agree with. It’s also impossible to be on Tumblr for 5 seconds without seeing some kind of social activist rant of the day.

And so my eyes are opening and I’m learning. More accurately, I am sucking information in like water through a straw after running a marathon in a desert. I haven’t figured out where I stand exactly on all the issues, but I definitely care what is going on now. Welcome to Adulthood.

Anyway. I was offered a free copy of HRC to read and review, and since Hilary had just announced her candidacy for president, it was great timing. People are so polarized on Secretary Clinton, and I wanted to read more about her work.

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I wasn’t sure going into this that I would understand everything the book discussed. However, the authors are extremely detailed, and it was really interesting to see the nitty gritty goings on. Richard got me hooked on West Wing shortly after we started dating, and maybe that’s why reading HRC felt so familiar. Even though I wasn’t paying super close attention to the current events during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, I do remember some of what the book refers to, and now I understand much more of what happened–the details, the faces, and the controversies.

This book makes me wish I had one for every single candidate in every election from now on. This is exactly what I need–a 400 page account detailing each person’s work in the field, and an epilogue at the end with their platform. The book was serious, but human, and while yes, it has a political bias, I didn’t feel like it was trying to shove Hilary down my throat like “PICK ME PICK ME.” It showed her flaws as well as her strengths. It wasn’t a used car salesman book. I’m sure not everyone researches presidential candidates by reading that much…but sure was helpful to me!

The next election is going to be an interesting one. It’s the first one I am really paying attention to. I have a lot more research to do, but at least now I know what to look for.

 

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

Gallery

Mike Pence’s Dishonesty About the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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Originally posted on Liz Boltz Ranfeld:
After he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana, Governor Mike Pence expressed bewilderment in an interview with the Indy Star: “I just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at our state,” he said. “I’ve been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the…

41: A Portrait of My Father

Finally, a “husband book” that I actually enjoyed! While I am only recently educating myself on current events and politics, R is EXTREMELY political. Oh man. If you bring up that subject at the dinner table, you better be ready for a debate. While he is not super conservative in a lot of things, he is very much a Republican…and so the more liberal I find myself…the more we disagree.

However, no matter what side of the coin I find myself, I will always find the lives of our presidents interesting. They have an incredibly difficult job, and the media twists and scandalizes them so much during their campaigns. At some point, it’s nice to just look back and see what created those leaders we see on our TVs every night.

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George HW Bush was elected when I was 3, so I barely remember him being president. I mostly remember him running against Clinton in the 90s. However, I’ve grown up with him being in the background my entire life, through his charity and political events, especially once George W came into the seat.

41 confirmed what I always imagined him to be:  a kind, grandfatherly figure, much like my own grandpa (they even had similar glasses). George W, of course, lists his father’s political achievements, but really the book isn’t overly focused on policy. It wasn’t hard for me to follow what was going on. There was quite a bit of name dropping, but that is something I expected. Mostly, it’s just a son being proud of his dad, so much so that he followed in his footsteps.

The writing is typical George W, so don’t expect anything super fancy here. For me, that was a good thing, because it meant I was able to understand it! I’ve read political bios where I didn’t make it past the first chapter. I think most Republicans (and maybe some Democrats too) are going to appreciate this book. I know my husband will, once he gets around to reading it. 😉 Happy Birthday, honey.

 

Trees of Reverie September Readathon Daily Bookish Challenges Day Seven

What are the genres or types of books that you read least often or not at all?

Self-help books.

These drive me crazy. Every once in a very rare while I’ll pick one up that is interesting, but for the most part, they all just seem so superficial. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies, but I always have an image of someone doing self-affirmations in an old broken down car after watching a terrible infomercial. And then on the flipside, the big haired, too much rouged (male or female both), over the top self-helpernator.

I know they aren’t all like that. But that’s what I see in my head when I walk into that section of the book store.

Political Non-Fiction

My husband loves politics. He’s one of those guys who has an opinion about everything. I both love and hate it when he gets on fire about a subject because 1) he’s super intelligent and it’s kind of sexy when he gets excited. But 2) I usually have no idea what he’s talking about. I’m learning though…and often times…we don’t always agree. Whoops.

Current events, though, has never been my subject. I am much more of a history buff. I am not good with understanding policy, and and I can never remember which side of the teetertoter everything falls on. Sometimes, it all just seems like everyone is arguing the same points.

So, when R buys books about politicians or current events…I feel like I should probably read them…but I never do. They may make it into the order eventually, but they are not the priority.

 

Book to Movie/TV

My dad has always been more of a nonfiction reader than the rest of us–always reading things on the field he’s interested in at the time (sometimes books on actual fields…since he was a farmer…badaCHING!). Agriculture, business, and now, more and more, politics. But, he instantly latched on to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series when they first came out.

Once his daughters realized how much he was zooming through these books, and we started hearing how popular they were…it didn’t take us long to start fighting over his copies.

It’s no wonder these books were so popular. The chapters are short, and the action is brisk. There are constant cliff-hangers that almost force you to keep turning pages. You don’t want to put the book down because you have to know what happens next. The puzzles are very Sherlockian in nature, and are extremely fun to solve for anyone with an interest in history.

When this moved into the big screen, Tom Hanks was a perfect fit for Robert Langdon. A skitterish professor, handsome, but slightly sweaty, used to being in a dusty college library. Hanks has this awkward stutter he does when the character doesn’t quite know what to say. And I absolutely love Audrey Tautou. Can I have her lips, please?

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Update:  I realized after I posted this that this is actually the question for today’s question for Trees of Reverie too! Woot! Two birds with one stone 🙂