Spring Clean #9 Five More Books

This is the next group of books set aside to be donated in my spring clean. Happily, two of these are going to a woman in critique group I’m a member of. So nice to see books go to a happy home.

One more drop-off, and I will have my second shelf cleared. “Cleared” is relative, however. It’s more like I’m making room for books I have scattered around the house.

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How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall (2000) is a how-to on writing fiction. It covers all the basics and includes helpful exercises. It also has an appendix with recommended reading, mainly of classics and other horrors—A Farewell to Arms, The Great Gatsby, and Gone with the Wind are among those listed. I’m sure his advice is solid, but my strongest memory about the book is how boring it is.

Bio: Oakley Hall (1920-2008) was an American novelist who wrote mysteries early in his career and wrote works set in the American West. Two of his most popular works are Warlock (1958) and The Downhill Racers (1963). The latter was made into the movie Downhill Racer in 1969. Hall served in the Marines during WWII. Until he retired in 1990, he directed the writing program at UC Irvine.

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The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris (2004) discusses faith as a pretext for religious violence and, therefore, something to be dispensed with. He equates religious faith with some level of insanity because it demands action based on assumptions without evidence. Does faith lead to religious intolerance and thus to violence? What is the difference between faith and spirituality? Harris prescribes a middle path, which he views as rational and atheistic.

This book has gotten criticism from both faith and humanist communities. I had mixed feeling about it. The author himself said it was written in the dark days following the 9/11 attacks.

Bio: Sam Harris (b. 1967) is an American philosopher, neuroscientist, author, and podcast host. Harris has a B.A. in philosophy from Stanford and a Ph.D. degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California Los Angeles. He has had articles appear in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, and The Los Angeles Times. His books included The Moral Landscape (2010), Lying (2011), Free Will (2012), and Waking Up (2014).

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Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson (2014) is, as advertised, a guide to writing New Adult fiction, a genre first defined as separate from YA and adult novels. It includes many sidebars and exercises. Topics are headlined with large print and underlined, making them easy to find. Chapters are also easy to find, with their titles written in white again a black field that shows up on page edges. 

As for the advice? I think it is helpful if nothing profound. Most useful are the many exercises throughout the book, particularly since the reader can reuse them for different projects.

Bio: According to her site, Deborah Halverson edited children’s books for ten years at Harcourt. Now she is the award-winning author of Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth, the picture book Letters to Santa, and three books in Remix series for struggling readers.

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The Celts: The People Who Came out of the Darkness by Gerhard Herm (1975, English translation 1976) recounts the history of the Celtic peoples from the earliest contacts with Rome to the onset of the Dark Ages. Herm notes immediately that the Roman historians (from whom he derives most of his material about the early Celts) scared the bejesus out of the Romans. In Roman eyes, the Celts (“Gauls”) were half-wild, some of them charging into battle in the nude and keeping the severed heads of their conquered enemies as trophies outside the doors of their houses.

Of course, this is according to their enemies…

While there are some black and white photos and maps, the material is based on literary rather than archaeological sources.

Bio: Gerhard Herm (1931-2014) was a German journalist and writer. He studied at Werner Friedmann Institute and later worked as a television journalist at WDR. He published his first book in 1964. During his time in television, he participated in the production of forty documentary programs. Among his books are The Phoenicians: The Purple Empire of the Ancient World (1975) and nonfiction and fiction books that don’t appear to have been translated into English.

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Memory’s Ghost: The Strange Case of Mr. M. and the Nature of Memory (1995) by Philip J. Hilts is a case study of a patient known as Henry M. In 1953, Henry’s hippocampus and other brain structures were removed to control his epileptic seizures. At the time, he was 27 years. The seizures were severe enough that he could not hold down a job. The surgery seems to have partially controlled the seizures, but it also destroyed his ability to form new memories. However, he could add information to some old memories. For him, the world stopped in 1953. He was institutionalized for the remainder of his life.

This book was written before Henry M.’s 2008 death. It delves into some brain science as well as the poignancy of Henry’s life. For example, he grieves afresh every time he’s told of his mother’s death.

Bio: Philip J. Hilts (b. 1947) is a journalist and author. He’s worked for both The New York Times and The Washington Post. While at the NYT, he received a leaked package from a whistleblower at the Brown and Williamson tobacco company. From it and further research, he wrote more than twenty front-page stories and a 1996 book, Smokescreen: The Truth behind the Tobacco Industry Cover-Up. His other books include Protecting America’s Health: The FDA, Business, and One Hundred Years of Regulation (2003) and RX for Survival: Why We Must Rise to the Global Health Challenge (2005).

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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